Browsing the archives for the Resources tag.
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About the site

I know I’m asking for it by posting here, but I just weeded my blogroll of blogs that are no longer providing regular posts of interest to readers here, and the remainder is woeful and sparse. What blogs do you know out there that consistently provide useful, reliable information on habits, goals, motivation, and willpower? Feel free to recommend your own blog, but only if you post regularly on that topic and are providing informational rather than mainly personal or reflective posts.

I may have to throw a few other blogs of great interest in there, too. As a matter of fact, I think I will. If you haven’t been to Mayaland or XKCD, I really should recommend them to you. If you’re in the target audience for either one, you’ll thank me.


Useful Resource:


I heard recently from Debra Exner, who does coaching and training work about effectiveness and collaboration, and thought I’d take a look at her Web site, I immediately found some very useful material, for instance in a new series of posts on the site called “Get Things Done: 4 Ways to Collaborate for Accountability,” which includes strategies like “Get-It-Done Days” for organizational work, during which participants check in with each other every hour to report progress and state goals for the coming our; and “Mastermind Groups” of individuals who get together to talk about their individual goals, their progress, and their concerns so that the whole group can provide accountability and brainstorming.

If you’re interested in organization, collaboration, productivity, or creativity, I’d recommend taking a look at the site and perhaps subscribing to posts by e-mail to let Debra and site co-author Maddie Hunter provide some useful ideas.

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Useful Book: Emotional Intelligence


Psychologist Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence may be 15 years old, but the ideas and information in it, far from being out of date, are being confirmed and expanded in psychological research to an extent that might be surprising even Goleman.

When the book first came out, the idea that emotional skills–like patience, self-control, focus, cooperation, and empathy, for instance–might be as important as intellectual skills was one that needed to be argued for. Goleman’s argument seems to have succeeded: these days as a general rule people seem to take it for granted that emotional skills are important for success, but exactly what those skills are, how they’re useful, and how they’re gained is still not common knowledge.

If you’ve read posts on this site regularly, you might find this book unnecessary: most of the information in it has been adopted and built upon by the relatively new field of Positive Psychology, and therefore has been demonstrated or even taken as a starting point in much of the research I’ve delved into over the past few years. However, as an introduction to the subject of emotional intelligence or even self-improvement in general, Goleman’s book covers more of the bases than pretty much any other book I could readily name.

Goleman also pays special attention to how emotional intelligence works in children and to strategies and school programs that can make a dramatic difference in a child’s life. As such, I’d doubly recommend the book to teachers and to parents wanting an introduction to some of the approaches used to help kids learn emotional skills.

A note about editions: I read the original version of this book rather than the revised, 2006 version I link to here, which appears to have some improvements and added, more recent material. Confusingly, there’s an apparently unrelated book called Emotional Intelligence 2.0, which appears to be getting good reviews from readers and selling very well. While I understand the marketing appeal of usurping the name of Goleman’s popular book (which I assume isn’t trademarked), I’m disappointed in the approach. However, it’s always possible that the authors really are working with Goleman or have his blessing and it just isn’t apparent from the book listing. In any case, to be clear, I’m referring to Goleman’s book in this post, and recommend it highly unless you’ve already learned all the basics of the subject.

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15-Minute Online Guided Meditation from Kelly McGonigal


Psychologist and yoga teacher Kelly McGonigal, PhD has posted a very useful resource for anyone interested in trying out or beginning to practice meditation. On her blog, Science and Sutras, you can find a 15-minute, guided, sitting meditation that you can do at your computer while listening to the MP3 file she has posted here:

Basic guided meditation practices like this one are an easy and effective way to start meditating, a practice that pretty much anyone can learn and pretty much anyone can benefit from. Some of the payoffs to regular meditation (or even, heck, sporadic meditation) include relaxation, stress relief, increased focus, serenity, and perspective. I go on at more length about the benefits of meditation in my article “Strengthen Willpower Through Meditation,” which also offers some other resources you can use to get started or to learn more about the subject.

In addition to her Science and Sutras blog, Dr. McGonigal offers good material on her Twitter Feed and in her The Science of Willpower blog on the Psychology Today Web site. (And if you’re adding Twitter feeds, you may be interested in my own, quieter one at .)

Photo by Vitó


Useful tool for Nutrition and Fitness: SparkPeople


SparkPeople, a free nutrition and fitness site. SparkPeople allows users to track what they eat, how much they exercise, and what kind of exercise they do (including both cardio and strength training categories), weight, measurements, and other fitness metrics. It’s well-suited both to weight loss and to other fitness goals and offers charts and totals of helpful values like calories, fat, protein, cholesterol, sodium, vitamins and minerals, calories burned in exercise, and more. There are other features I haven’t used extensively, including recipes, forums, goal-setting, and tracking how much water you drink. All of these features are free; to the best of my knowledge there are no paid membership options on the site. SparkPeople is supported by noticeable but well-behaved advertising.

Personally the most useful feature for me is the Nutrition Tracker, where I can tap into a very large database of foods and record exactly what I’m eating in as precise amounts as I can figure out. This allows me to receive detailed nutritional reporting. The tracking on this site takes me a little longer than my notebook method because I previously counted only calories, and I had memorized the calorie counts of most foods I ate, but it has several benefits. One is that it gives me much more information than I had on my own, protein and cholesterol totals being especially useful to me. Another is that, interestingly, I feel compelled to track everything every day–even on the days when I exceed my calorie goal, when the total is less appealing–because if I track a partial day, it feels like I’m being misleading: it would appear that I had only eaten however many things I tracked instead of that I stopped tracking. Using my paper system, there were days that I didn’t track. I like this slight extra incentive to be consistent.

A third benefit is that I’m forced to write down the specific foods I eat rather than, for instance, writing “omelette” and estimating total calories: my numbers are more precise using this system.

While I find some of the tools a little cumbersome–speaking as a techie, for instance, I’d love to see the tool for adding foods integrated into the Nutrition Tracker page as an iFrame–all in all they have been fairly easy to use and quite useful. Of course you have to have access to the Internet to update the system, but they have a good mobile phone interface that I’ve barely used but that might do the trick for people who don’t always have access to a computer.

Speaking about motivation specifically, notice that this site provides some key pieces: one is supporting detailed tracking and regular review of tracked information, which is a rudimentary feedback loop (a more sophisticated feedback loop would just add free-form discussion or journaling about what led to good and bad outcomes and how to change or stick with behaviors for best results in future). Another is the community that’s available there for encouragement and cameraderie. Yet another is focusing attention on nutrition and exercise issues, since more attention often translates to more and better motivation.

Since there are a lot of features on this extensive site that I haven’t used, I hope other SparkPeople users will post their impressions and tips in comments.


Free Goals and Habits Coaching Available This Month


Update, 3/18/2010: My coaching schedule is now full for the time being, and I’ll be sure to announce when I have openings again. If you’d like to join a waiting list, just send me a note letting me know.

During this month and for a limited time going forward I’ll be providing free, one-on-one goals and habits coaching through e-mail. I don’t know about you, but I often find it easier to work through issues by talking with someone who is interested and has specialized knowledge they can bring to bear. Through coaching, I’m able to assist in identifying obstacles, determining tactics to overcome those obstacles, and providing resources to help inform the process.

Coaching services are entirely free: the benefit to me is in expanding my understanding of how individual people face issues with goals and habits in their own lives. To participate, it’s necessary to be willing for our discussions to be drawn on and quoted in my further writing on these issues, with the understanding that participants will be kept completely anonymous at all times.

A full explanation of the service is available under the Free Coaching tab at the top of this page. There are no strings attached, and I’m not offering any fee-based services at this time. If you have questions, please get in touch through the contact form.

Please feel free to repost this or information from the Free Coaching page anywhere you think it might be of interest. As a matter of fact, I’d consider it a favor.

Photo by Philo Nordlund

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