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The Problem of Conflicting Goals: A Philosophical Approach

In the 2nd segment of a 3-part series on Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Happiness, Dr. Valerie Tiberius (University of Minnesota) spoke about the philosophical perspective of conflicting goals and well-being. What are our main motivations as goal-oriented human beings? How can we reduce our stress and increase our well-being through addressing our conflicting goals? Dr. Tiberius addressed these questions to a remote Athenaeum audience on Monday evening, April 26th.

For much of history, goal conflict has been talked about with two terms: morality, or wanting to do what’s right, and self-interest, or wanting to do what’s good for ourselves. But “most of our goals don’t neatly divide into these two buckets,” argues Dr. Tiberius. We have multiple goals all throughout our lives and in various sectors of our lives (work, family, school, community, etc.), and not being able to fulfill our most important goals can produce unhappiness and stress. On the other hand, being able to fulfill our most important goals over time can improve our well-being.

So how do we go about fulfilling our most important goals and overcoming our goal conflict? Essentially, we want to look at our values, which are the “relatively stable, ultimate goals that harmonize our desires, emotions, and thoughts,” according to Dr. Tiberius. We want to look at what ultimate values are at stake in our goal conflict. Dr. Tiberius outlines three strategies for reducing goal conflict in relation to our values. First, refine or reinterpret your goals. Dr. Tiberius shared that in their own goal conflict between wanting to please everyone and being successful in the more aggressive field of philosophy, Dr. Tiberius reframed it as: “How can I change how I think about success in philosophy?” Second, you could give up a conflicting goal. We can look at ones that aren’t good for us or our values (e.g., maybe being perfect or having everyone like us). Third, you can prioritize and adjust. “When we have a better sense of what our ultimate goals are, we can think about how to prioritize and pursue them . . . New paths open when we recognize what really matters,” says Dr. Tiberius.

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Money Matters: CMC Alum Shares Finance Strategies That College Students Need to Know

College students were able to learn how to manage money and make smart choices with the help of CMC alum and Certified Financial Planner, Mari Adam (CMC ’80). Adam has worked at several wealth management firms specializing in financial planning and portfolio management, and she founded and ran her own comprehensive wealth management firm in Boca Raton, Florida, for 25 years. Adam recently sold the firm to become part of Mercer Advisors, a leading national investment advisor with 50 offices across the US and over $27 billion under management. Adam joined the Berger institute on Friday morning to present “10 Things Your Parents Never Taught You About Money”, a presentation with 10 tips to help college students, especially women, who are often left out of conversations regarding money, lacking financial literacy and confidence with money, learn how to manage their money.

Some takeaways from the presentation include making sure to get started on saving right away, taking charge of your finances, spending in balance, making sure to invest what you save, and having confidence in yourself. Adam showcased that there are gaps between saving in women and men—women aged 16-25 are 50% less likely than men to have investment accounts; yet 95% of women will also be solely responsible for their own or their family’s finances at some point in their life. Thus, women are often responsible for money but are less likely to know how to manage it, as they are often not taught about money management growing up.

Adam also made sure to really highlight the importance of making a plan and being the CEO of your own money; “money is all about having choices, if you are not in control of your money it is difficult to make your own choices” she said. If you write this plan down, you are more confident about it in the future, and are likely to save two to three times as much money. She also suggested putting your savings on autopilot and opening a Roth IRA or 401k so that you have financial wellness when you retire. Overall, Adam says, have confidence and make the money decisions that are right for you.

Try testing your own financial literacy! Adam suggests taking the GFLEC three questions test: https://gflec.org/education/questions-that-indicate-financial-literacy/.

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The Pursuit of Happiness: What Science Can Tell Us

There’s a reason we’re all chasing happiness all the time. According to Dr. Todd Kashdan (George Mason University), happy people are more successful and creative, have more meaningful relationships, are more resilient, and even have stronger immune systems. In last night’s Athenaeum presentation, Kashdan shared that despite these benefits, we cannot seem to stay happy. Why is that? There are two primary reasons. The first, according to Kashdan, is hedonic adaptation, or the process of becoming accustomed to new situations over time. Say we get a new car. At first it’s exciting – we’re smiling, we’re showing it off to others, we’re having a blast driving it – but eventually that novelty wears off as we get used to having that car in our life. We go back to our original level of happiness eventually, which is different for everyone. The second reason we have a hard time staying happy is due to a concept that Kashdan calls “emotional time travel.” “We’re terrible at predicting how something will make us feel,” Kashdan explains, yet we still try to predict anyway and make decisions based on this prediction.

Despite these setbacks to happiness, Kashdan assures us that “you can get better at achieving this thing called happiness.” Two helpful pathways that have come out of scientific research are gratitude interventions and kindness interventions. Writing in a journal once per week about who you’re grateful for and what you’re grateful for can lead to more happiness (but be careful not to make this more frequent as that can actually decrease your happiness, warns Kashdan). Acts of kindness can also boost your happiness, but only if there’s consistent effort and variety in what you do. If you only donate food to a food pantry and it’s only when you remember, then you won’t get that happiness boost. But consistently doing different types of acts of kindness, like donating, holding the door for someone, leaving a large tip, etc. will help. Even better? Make the activities match your personality. Are you outgoing? Optimistic? Do activities that fit well with who you are so that you’ll really feel the benefits.

This presentation was part of a 3-part series on Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Happiness. Follow @bergerinstitute for updates on future events!

Networking Strategies for the Digital Age

The digital age dictates and transforms our connections with others, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, many students and professionals are actively looking for ways to keep up. Grace Park, Associate Director at CMC’s Career Services, lent a hand on March 19th by presenting tools and strategies for digital networking. From establishing one’s interest and purpose in connecting to how to have a successful informational interview, Grace outlined practical steps in connecting with other professionals in one’s field of interest.

Consider the importance of the diversity of your connections, Park emphasized. “Make sure that you’re talking to people with varying years of experience,” Recent students can share about their experience transitioning into the workforce, but senior administrators and directors can share more about the structure of their companies and how they got to where they are now.

Park also emphasize the importance of capitalizing on social media. LinkedIn is a crucial resource. Students and alumni can often utilize their college’s networking data within the LinkedIn application, and the application shows mutual connections, which can be beneficial. “You can reach out to that mutual connection and say, ‘I would like to do an informational interview with so-and-so . . . Would you mind connecting us?’” suggested Grace. Whether one uses a mutual connection referral or not, networking can be helpful for gathering more information about one’s field and potentially finding great opportunities.

To get more great tips and resources for networking or career strategies, feel free to reach out to Grace Park or any of the Career Services staff at careerservices@cmc.edu or (909) 607-7038. This event was co-sponsored by CMC’s Soll Center for Student Opportunity and the Berger Institute for Individual and Social Development. Follow @bergerinstitute for future event information!

How Purpose Can Be Your Protector

Almost a year after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, many of us are still experiencing stress and uncertainty. The idea of what purpose means during this stressful time was explained in a well-attended, virtual lecture on Friday, February 19th, by Dr. Anthony Burrow, Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development at Cornell University.

Studying purpose, he argues, has revealed “both ancient and nascent ideas”.

Purpose is associated with greater levels of happiness, personal growth, and learning engagement. Research has even shown that purpose has physical health benefits as well—including lower risk of stroke, lower risk of Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline, and even better sleep. Dr. Burrow work also demonstrated that individuals with a sense of purpose are less likely to feel uncomfortable with different outgroups and their self-esteem is less likely to be affected social media engagement. A sense of purpose he argues, gives people a sense of “stability”. In essence, it serves as compass that directs their life, and protects them from life’s up and downs.

It doesn’t seem to matter what the purpose is, just having a sense of purpose appears to be an asset for those who possess it. One question from the audience was how we can cultivate purpose in our day-to-day lives. Dr. Burrow answered that the idea of “finding purpose” does not have a lot of evidence correlated with it; rather, it is cultivation of purpose that tends to be more achievable. Dr. Burrow continued by explaining that there are three main pathways towards purpose: proactive (building purpose through gradual engagement), reactive (building purpose as a result of a positive/negative experience), and social learning (building purpose through observing other purposeful individuals).

Attendees learned a tremendous amount from Dr. Burrow on this important and timely issue, and were thankful for this opportunity. This event was co-sponsored by the Empower Center and the Berger Institute. Follow @bergerinstitute on Facebook and Instagram for future updates on events!