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February 21, 2011

The Science of Success with Sam-I-Am.

Would you, could you?

In an article in Scientific American, and an interview with Experience Life magazines, psychologist Ibrahim Senay, PhD, of the University of Illinois outlined his research on various motivations and willpower approaches factor into the achievement of goals.

After studying groups of goal oriented subjects, he found that those who left their goal getting methods open-ended, as in, “Will I [insert goal here] today?” instead of “I WILL [insert goal here] today,” performed much better in goal achievement than the latter subjects who set rigid objectives.

It sounds so counter-intuitive, and even the researchers were surprised. “We initially expected to find just the opposite: that “I will” would be more motivating,” Senay said.

With further inquiry, Senay’s research discovered that the severe structuring of goal setting led the underlying motivational feelings toward guilt and shame, while the open question inspired a sense of inner responsibility. 

“Self questioning can be a powerful motivator for change—one that each of us can employ to create a sense of open-mindedness about our current life choices and priorities,” explained Senay.

Great research Mr. Senay, but any literature loving 5 year old coulda told you this! Throughout the Dr. Seuss story, Green Eggs and Ham, Sam-I-Am gently prods his counterpart (let’s call him ego-Sam) to engage in green eggs and ham. He uses the questioning arrangement laid out Senay’s research.

“Would you eat them in a box? Would you eat them with a fox?” Sam-I-Am asks.

Ego-Sam is repeatedly not ready for this change—trying green eggs and ham.

“Not in a box. Not with a fox. Not in a house. Not with a mouse,” ego-Sam replies. 

Sam-I-Am keeps his promptings open ended and nurtures exploration.

“You may like them. You will see. You may like them in a tree! You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may,” Sam-I-Am encourages.

Eventually ego-Sam dips his fork in and finds that he actually does like green eggs and ham. And even if he doesn’t like them, at least he tried…in his own time and way.

Staying present, releasing harsh expectation, setting intention, and allowing evolution and change…these are the formats for successful goal achievement, for reaching outside of our boxes, and for positive change that lasts.

Give yourself the acknowledgment that you have the power to allow good things happen in your life…and then watch life form. With gentle effort toward change, you might find that delving into your own green eggs and ham could open cans of possibility and positivity.

Might you [insert goal here] today? How may you [insert goal here] today? What if you [insert goal here] today? Would you [insert goal here] on a train, in the rain? 

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