The Science of Success with Sam-I-Am.

Via Clare Polencheck
on Feb 21, 2011
get elephant's newsletter

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? 


About Clare Polencheck

Clare L. Polencheck is a yoga instructor who strives to live and write from a Christian-Yogic spiritual perspective, and is humbled to share tidbits of her lessons as a teacher of asana, a student of her students, and a pupil of Universe. Learning to go with God’s flow is her dharma code.


9 Responses to “The Science of Success with Sam-I-Am.”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Waylon Lewis and Heather Plett, Barbara. Barbara said: RT @heatherplett: Based on this research, I'm going to say "will I get my work done today?" instead of "I will…" […]

  2. ihaveadog says:

    I think this is great! I'm inspired to question like a child and motivate and goal set like Sam I Am.

  3. Very profound, and of course, very "Yogic" to boot!

    Another one of my kids' favorite books when they were little. (Or was it just one of my favorites, and that's why I read it to them all the time?)

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  4. Nicole_M says:

    Thanks for sharing this insight! Looking forward to reading more of your work.

  5. ARCreated says:

    dr. seuss was and always will be my first guru… ask the question set the intention and let go of the attachement to the outcome…

    I am the lorax and I speak for the trees….and unless someone cares a whole awful lot…it's not going to get better…it's not…

  6. LasaraAllen says:

    LOVE it! Thanks. The new research is great stuff.

  7. […] some myth-busting for a start that will help you frame the experience of meditation to ensure success, ‘cos that’s key. No sabotaging yourself by pretending that meditation means a still, […]

  8. […] like antibiotic and hormone free meats and some source of calcium such as ground bone or whole eggs. Photo: […]

  9. […] cell phones off (unless it’s your timer!), comfortable temperature, etc. Set yourself up to succeed and know that it will cultivate the impression in your mind that there is nothing you are missing […]