Making a New Beginning in the Face of Global Recession: Baylor Researcher Creates Scientific 'Joyful' Approach

March 11, 2009
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You may not know it, but there is a science to goal-setting and making your dreams come true. In these times of recession and possible job losses, a Baylor University researcher and positive psychology expert says above all else, never lose hope and view change as an opportunity.

Dr. Michael Frisch, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor, is co-author of Creating Your Best Life, a new scientific self-help book that gives the most up-to-date research on how to build a life of meaning by setting life goals that a person can really accomplish. The book is co-authored by Caroline Adams Miller.

"Creating Your Best Life is a new approach to counseling and coaching for everyday people who need a scientific roadmap to making their dreams come true," Frisch said. "If, for example, you get laid off, use the setback as a chance to reevaluate all of your lifetime goals, including the careers or jobs that suit you best."

When looking for a new job or career, Frisch said you should act like a kid in a candy store by considering all options and find a job or career that is intrinsically satisfying and meaningful to you because success in work leads to greater happiness overall.

Frisch said people can make a new beginning even as they face how the global recession affects them personally, such as the loss of a job or their life savings. The first step in Creating Your Best Life is writing down their goals and sharing them with others. The goals, Frisch said, must be written in a way that will motivate you. For example, the goals must be unique to you and not imposed by others. The goals must also be specific and measurable. It does not work to say, "I'll just do my best," said Frisch.

Frisch said a good way to go about accomplishing larger goals and staying motivated is first get a "happiness booster," or put "joy in the journey" by giving oneself smaller goals that can be accomplished easily. Mediation, daily exercise or journaling can boost your happiness just enough to give you the motivation you need to keep going. Happiness boosters also can help you calm down, focus and increase your creativity and problem solving skills. Breaking down big goals into smaller goals that can be accomplished easily in an hour, week or month can make the task feel less overwhelming.

From the beginning, Frisch said you need to surround yourself with family and friends that encourage you and believe in your potential and ability to succeed. You might also need to take a more dramatic step and "fire your friends" who are not positive as you attempt to accomplish the larger goals.

"It's called emotional contagion," Frisch said. "Our emotions are contagious like a cold. So if you surround yourself with people who are positive, supportive and believe in you, you are more likely to accomplish your goals."

Also important, Frisch said, is to bounce back quickly from setbacks. Though sometimes we all experience failure at some point in our lives, Frisch says your ultimate success is tied to how you rebound from those setbacks. And lastly, Frisch said, track successes as you go about accomplishing your goals. This will provide a reminder and proof that you are making progress. Measuring progress also can help you revise your plans if the pathway you are trying is not taking you where you want to go.

Success in setting and reaching your goals will not only make your life more meaningful and fulfilling, it could have an impact on your bottom line, Frisch says. People who are more materialistic and place being rich as a high value tend to be more pessimistic and unhappy. Frisch found, however, that while money can't buy you happiness, happiness could buy you money.

"Happier people seem to have more initiative and productivity at work, and their customers and bosses are more satisfied with their work, which can lead to a raise in pay," Frisch said.

Some other interesting findings about happiness Frisch found:

? As much as 50 percent of your happiness is inherited from your parents. The other 50 percent comes from fulfilling your most cherished needs, goals and wishes.

? All of us have a genetically programmed happiness "set point" or range. However you can increase happiness within your set range by improving your satisfaction within specific areas like relationships with your relatives or retirement pursuits. In other words, even though you may not have been born perpetually sunny, you can still learn how to become significantly happier.

? There are 16 specific parts of life to consider when making your goals. They range from health to life goals to relationships with friends and loved ones.

? For many, faith and one's spiritual life are vital to happiness and fulfillment. Frisch said having faith allows people to be optimistic, which is another key trait found in generally happy people.

? Helping others and strong, rewarding relationships with loved ones and friends also are key factors.

? The physical setting of your home and other areas of life such as recreation, play and interaction with others also can influence your life satisfaction.

For more information, contact Frank Raczkiewicz, Assistant Vice President of Media Communications, at (254) 710-1964.