Author Archives: Admin

How to Make Resolutions and Stick With Them

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January is a complicated month. At first blush, it’s like new love. There’s that wonderful, wind-beneath-your-wings feeling, that promise of a fresh start, a whole new you, an open door to the possibility that everything will be different (perfect) this time.

But faster than you can say, “I’m going to renew my gym membership and go every single day!” along comes the other side of January: the bully.

This is the part that shows you the failure, the anticipated crash, the thud, the utter disappointment with yourself as all those good intentions that got your engines started in the first place run out of steam in unglorious and predictable ways. It’s the part that says, make a resolution; I dare you.

Fortunately, January is not the problem. It’s us. Well, our perfectionism, to be specific. Our all-or-none thinking frames our life so that if we’re not succeeding every second, we’re failing. Nobody wants that. But nobody can be that “perfect” person either. Many of us decide that because we break most of our resolutions, we will take the hall pass this year and skip any resolution making at all.

But let’s be clear about what we are missing when we don’t set goals. We aren’t preventing ourselves from failing. We’re keeping ourselves from growing.

Setting goals raises us up from our ground level vantage point and gives us access to a privileged view of ourselves. Rather than being a passive participant reacting to life on autopilot, by setting goals we can imagine different paths, question if where we are headed is where we want to go, and in general take charge of our lives. This may be big questions about the direction we’re taking or, on a smaller scale, fine-tuning the details, or looking for more balance, fulfillment and health in daily life.

So, set some goals, take the opportunity to run your life instead of having your life run you. But to stay in the game and on your feet, don’t let perfectionism be your referee. You call the shots. Aim for sustainable change, not perfection. Lasting change takes time, and you are worth the investment. Your goals and aspirations are worth your persistence. Perfectionism doesn’t understand this, but you can.

Here are six ideas to give your resolutions more staying power.

1. No job is too small.

Lofty are we when making New Years’ resolutions — the bigger, the better. We want the big-splash resolutions, but those life-altering plans are often impossibly impractical, at least in one go. Think smaller. Do you want to have one more meal each week with your family? Do you want to have a gratitude-sharing with your family each week? Do you want to apologize faster, be more kind to strangers — or people you know? We don’t need the goals that would make our lives discontinuous or unrecognizable to our current selves — we want the actions that will make our lives better.

2. Work with your natural laziness: Set up your supplies in advance.

Failure and procrastination happen most often when the supplies we need to get the job done require us to actually stand up and do something (think about how we’ll suffer through a bad movie because the remote is across the room). Improve your chances of success by making things easier on yourself: Get your supplies ready in advance (e.g., grab the remote before you sit down). Prevent that last-minute avoidance/apathy phenomenon from getting in your way. Want to start going to the gym in the next couple of weeks? Get your bag together and put it in your car. Want to start bringing lunch to work? Make it the night before. Want to save money each month? Set up auto-withdrawal.

3. Think short-term.

Why don’t you plan your menus for the next 12 months? Or your outfits? So why are we planning our other goals for such a big chunk of time and then get upset when we can’t sustain it? Try to make a goal for each month, rather than for the year. This way you can make modifications in response to how you’re actually performing on the goal.

4. Give it time.

It takes a good three weeks to establish a new habit or pattern. That’s what researchers tell us. So, especially in the early weeks of a goal, expect that your adherence will experience some ups and downs. Hang in. Habit strength awaits you on the other side of that first launching phase. Build in room for slips, hiccups, and setbacks. If you expect that this is part of the process, you won’t misinterpret your slip ups and invent reasons to give up. You’ll think instead: Right, Momma said there’d be days like this; and try again tomorrow.

5. Think community.

Me, me, me, me. We all get sick of the focus on ourselves — our appearance, our eating habits, our weight. All good things, but expanding the focus beyond ourselves is likely to garner a much more appreciative audience than we can be for ourselves. Community may mean volunteering your time, but it also may be something that requires no planning — being patient and kind in your interactions at work, challenging yourself to see the best in others, doing something each week “just because.” Imagine if we all resolved to do this at the same time.

6. Raise the barn, together.

We are isolated in our desire to change ourselves. And when we fail, resolutions tend to be a source of private humiliation. Hey if we’re all in the same boat, let’s support each other in staying afloat. You can find a gym buddy or a job-hunting buddy if someone is going through similar challenges, but you don’t have to be working toward the same goal. Find a buddy who you’ll write to each week to update on your progress, and they’ll do the same. This will also be the person who will give you the pep talk when you slip up and say no big deal, keep going. (We all need that person).

One last thought. This year, as you approach the question of resolutions, rather than feeling like you’re starting from scratch and that you’re nothing without those changes, see that the better you that you’re looking for is already there. Make the bold move to see resolutions not so much as ways to overhaul your life, but rather as opportunities to free yourself up to locate the best version of who you already are. Cheers to overcoming the obstacles that get in the way of seeing and being that best self. Happy New Year, all!


Personality Traits that Could Get You That Job

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Universum, the Stockholm-based employer branding firm that annually surveys over 400,000 students and professionals worldwide on jobs-related issues, has culled their data to the top five personality traits employers are looking for in job candidates in 2012.

How’s that for a leg up on the competition?

“We surveyed employers to get a handle on the challenges that face them in hiring,” says Joao Araujo of Universum. “What are they looking for in employees and what are they not finding?” By identifying both traits, he says, aspiring job applicants can both identify the most sought after traits—and brush up resumes and interview tactics to best position themselves.

Professionalism (86%), high-energy (78%) and confidence (61%) are the top three traits employers say they are looking for in new hires. Kathy Harris, managing director of Manhattan-based executive search firm Harris Allied says these first-impression traits are the most critical for employers to prepare for as they all can be evaluated by a recruiter or hiring manager within the first 30 seconds of meeting a candidate.

“A manager can read you the moment you walk in the door,” she says; from the clothes you wear to the way you stand to the grip of your first hand-shake, presenting yourself as a confident, energetic professional is about as basic as career advice gets. But don’t be off-put by this commonplace advice. Harris, who specialized in high-level executive placement says even the most seasoned of CEOs can get tripped up by the basics. Universum clients agree: confidence ranks highest on the list of skills companies think employees are missing most.

“We remind every candidate of the most granular advice,” she says. The most successful applicant is the one who walks into every interview with her hand outstretched for a handshake, has done her homework on the interviewer and company and is dressed to fit effortlessly into the culture of the workplace.

The remaining personality traits that Universum clients say are critical in the hiring process aren’t ones that can be read on-sight but instead call for both resume and interview preparation. To present yourself as a self-monitoring (58%) personality type, Harris says to adjust resume language to call attention to work experience where you’ve worked independently or excelled without the guidance of direct leadership. “In interviews, chose anecdotes that show how you’ve saved, made or achieved in previous positions… and how self-motivation was critical to that success.”

Intellectual curiosity (57%) is, fittingly, a curious trait for Harris, who says she generally advises clients to tightly edit the “hobbies and interests” sections of their resumes. “I’d imagine that in looking for intellectual curiosity employers are looking for two things,” she says. “The ability to problem solve and the ongoing dedication to learning new technologies or solutions that will continue to advance in the changing workplace.” Employers are asking themselves whether new hires will be with the company for the long term, she says. An employee who will grudgingly adopt a new database is not as attractive as one who is truly passionate about learning new things.


Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

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More than 150 years after Charles Darwin published his theory, evolution remains controversial. Some politicians and religious leaders denounce it and would invoke a higher being as a designer to explain the complex world of living things, especially such specimens as humans.

School boards debate whether the theory of evolution should be taught alongside other ideas, such as intelligent design or creationism.

Mainstream scientists see no controversy. Evolution is well supported by many examples of changes in various species leading to the diversity of life seen today. So just what is evolution, and how does it work?

Chapter 1

In the first edition of “The Origin of Species” in 1859, Charles Darwin speculated about how natural selection could cause a land mammal to turn into a whale. As a hypothetical example, Darwin used North American black bears, which were known to catch insects by swimming in the water with their mouths open:

“I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale,” he speculated.

The idea didn”t go over very well with the public. Darwin was so embarrassed by the ridicule he received that the swimming-bear passage was removed from later editions of the book.

Scientists now know that Darwin had the right idea but the wrong animal: instead of looking at bears, he should have instead been looking at cows and hippopotamuses.

The story of the origin of whales is one of evolution’s most fascinating tales and one of the best examples scientists have of natural selection.

Natural selection

Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is one of the best substantiated theories in the history of science, supported by evidence from a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including paleontology, geology, genetics and developmental biology.

To understand the origin of whales, it’s necessary to have a basic understanding of how natural selection works: It is the process by which organisms change over time as a result of changes in heritable physical or behavioral traits. Changes that allow an organism to better adapt to its environment will help it survive and have more offspring.

Natural selection can change a species in small ways, causing a population to change color or size over the course of several generations. This is called “microevolution.”

But natural selection is also capable of much more. Given enough time and enough accumulated changes, natural selection can create entirely new species. It can turn dinosaurs into birds, apes into humans and amphibious mammals into whales.

Mutations

The physical and behavioral changes that make natural selection possible happen at the level of DNA and genes. Such changes are called “mutations.”

Mutations can be caused by chemical or radiation damage or errors in DNA replication. Mutations can even be deliberately induced in order to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.

Most times, mutations are either harmful or neutral but in rare instances, a mutation might prove beneficial to the organism.  If so, it will become more prevalent in the next generation and spread throughout the population.

In this way, natural selection guides the evolutionary process, preserving and adding up the beneficial mutations and rejecting the bad ones.

How whales took to water

Using evolution as their guide and knowing how natural selection works, biologists knew that the transition of early whales from land to water occurred in a series of predictable steps. The evolution of the blowhole, for example, might have happened in the following way:

Random mutations resulted in at least one whale having its nostrils placed farther back on its head. Those animals with this adaptation would have been better suited to a marine lifestyle, since they would not have had to completely surface to breathe. Such animals would have been more successful and had more offspring. In later generations, more mutations occurred, moving the nose farther back on the head.

Other body parts of early whales also changed. Front legs became flippers. Back legs disappeared. Their bodies became more streamlined and they developed tail flukes to better propel themselves through water.

Smoking gun

Even though scientists could predict what early whales should look like, they lacked the fossil evidence to back up their claim. Creationists took this absence as proof that evolution didn’t occur. They mocked the idea that there could have ever been such a thing as a walking whale. But since the early 1990s, that’s exactly what scientists have been finding.

The smoking gun came in 1994, when paleontologists found the fossilized remains of Ambulocetus natans, an animal whose name literally means “swimming-walking whale.” Its forelimbs had fingers and small hooves but its hind feet were enormous given its size. It was clearly adapted for swimming but it was also capable of moving clumsily on land, much like a seal.

When it swam, the ancient creature moved like an otter, pushing back with its hind feet and undulating its spine and tail.

Modern whales propel themselves through the water with powerful beats of their horizontal tail flukes but Ambulocetus still had a whip-like tail and had to use its legs to provide most of the propulsive force needed to move through water.