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June 27th, 2012 by Robin McGraw

A Whole Lot of Theta Love

The following is a post by my wife, Robin McGraw, who has made our marriage and our growing family her priority in life. Robin’s devotion to “family first” can be seen through her dedicated work as a board member of The Dr. Phil Foundation and national spokesperson for CASA. In 2010, she became a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity, which has donated more than $1 million to CASA over the last 20 years.

Robin

It’s been two years since I had the thrill of being initiated into the Omicron Chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta. For those of my readers who don’t know, Kappa Alpha Theta is the first Greek letter fraternity known among women — founded in 1870 — and my favorite nonprofit, CASA for Children, is Theta’s official philanthropy.

I’m still in awe of the tremendous amount of energy Theta women put into everything they do — especially their passionate support of CASA for Children. (more…)

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April 25th, 2012 by Dr. Phil

Heroes in Pain

HeroesInPainWe’ve received a lot of response about last week’s show, “Heroes in Pain,” which focused on the epidemic of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition that torments so many lives, including soldiers who’ve put their lives on the line serving our country. Some viewers expressed concern, and even disappointment, with the show’s original title, “Heroes to Monsters?” Our intent was to acknowledge the question so often cited in the media, not to make a statement, and to emphasize the severity of the pain and suffering our guests say they experience. In doing so, we unintentionally offended some of our viewers, and have therefore changed the title to more accurately reflect the show’s content.

I’m glad the show stirred so many of you to respond. Our goal is, and always will be, to call attention to the challenges our returning soldiers face, including PTSD. I really wanted you to hear firsthand the effects that PTSD can have on war heroes and their families, and I’m grateful to our guests for being so candid and honest about their experiences. I hope other media outlets will join us in talking openly about these challenges and our need as a society to respond with compassionate action. Two of my three sisters married fighter pilots (Vietnam era), and my nephew flew many missions as a Navy fighter pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan, so the lives of our veterans hits very close to home. (more…)

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December 13th, 2011 by Art Markman

You Can Be as Smart as Dr. Phil

Dr. Art Markman is a guest blogger and the Annabel Irion Worsham Centennial Professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin. He is one of the premier cognitive scientists in the field and has written more than 125 papers. He is a member of the Dr. Phil Advisory Board. He blogs frequently for Psychology Today, Huffington Post and Harvard Business Review

Dr. Art MarkmanFor the past 5 years, I have been a member of the scientific advisory board for the Dr. Phil show, and on January 3, 2012, I had the privilege of being a guest on the show to discuss my new book Smart Thinking from Perigee Books. Before my turn came, Dr. Phil worked with a couple who was engaged in a difficult custody battle, in which their own needs took precedence to the needs of their kids. I watched as he expertly cut through the layers of animosity between the couple, and ultimately helped them see a road in which they served as co-parents to their children rather than using their kids as pawns in their own ongoing argument.

Smart work.

What made Dr. Phil so successful? Does he just have more raw intelligence than the rest of us? Or is it something else?

Based on the research I describe in Smart Thinking, I argue that no matter how well you score on an IQ test compared to Dr. Phil, you’re not going to solve problems of the type he solves unless you engage the three core principles of Smart Thinking.

Smart Thinking requires (1) developing Smart Habits to (2) acquire High Quality Knowledge, and (3) to Apply that Knowledge when you need it. Let me walk through each of these elements.

Smart Habits Most of our habits are good for us. When you drive your car, you want to be able to press the gas and the brake pedals without thinking about it. You want to follow your route to and from work or the store without having to think carefully about how to get there. You want to be able to change lanes or make a turn without thinking carefully about the steps involved in doing that successfully.

Your habit learning system is the one that allows you to develop smart habits. You learn to do something without thinking whenever there is consistency between the world and an action and you repeat that action several times. You can create a habit to press the gas and brake pedals, because the gas is always on the right and the brake is always on the left. If the pedals switched their locations every time you got in your car, you would never be able to create a habit. You can also create habits for actions that promote Smart Thinking.

High Quality Knowledge The second component to Smart Thinking is acquiring High Quality Knowledge. The most important thing to learn is information about how the world works. Psychologists call this kind of knowledge causal knowledge. Dr. Phil has dedicated years of his life to understanding human behavior and motivation. When guests come on the show, that knowledge helps him to determine how people’s actions are affecting the people around them. That was the kind of knowledge that allowed him to help the couple on the show I attended.

Without knowledge about the way things work, even people who score incredibly well on IQ tests will not solve problems effectively. I can’t speak for Dr. Phil, but I know that I have no understanding at all of how the engine in my car works. If I try to start my car in the morning and it makes a funny noise before wheezing to a stop, I can only stare at it in frustration. I have to take the car to a mechanic who really understands how my car works in order to get it fixed. My mechanic has knowledge about the world that I don’t, and so he is able to solve problems that I can’t.

Apply Your Knowledge The third aspect of Smart Thinking is Applying your Knowledge when you need it. Sometimes, you are in situations that are almost exactly like ones you have been in before. Each drive home from the grocery store is probably almost identical to past trips you have taken. In that situation, it isn’t hard to apply what you know.

Sometimes, though, it is harder to figure out whether you know anything that might help you solve a problem.

Take the case of James Dyson. In the 1970s, he noticed that as the bag of a vacuum cleaner fills up, the vacuum starts to lose suction. The dirt in the bag clogs the pores in the bag. Eventually, the vacuum won’t clean any more until the bag is emptied. Vacuum designers who wanted to improve the performance of vacuums typically tried to design more effective bags that wouldn’t clog as easily.

Dyson didn’t think about the problem as one of making a better bag. Instead, he thought broadly about the problem that a vacuum cleaner is trying to solve. He described the problem as the vacuum taking in a combination of dirt and air and having to separate the dirt from the air. Once he described the problem in this more general way, he was able to use his extensive mechanical experience.

He realized that sawmills have to solve the same problem. When logs are being milled into lumber, the large saws generate a lot of sawdust. Vacuums suck the sawdust out of the mill, where the sawdust is separated from the air using an industrial cyclone. This device uses a cone to create a spinning column of air that forces the sawdust to the sides of the cone where they slide into a receptacle. Dyson created a miniature industrial cyclone in a vacuum cleaner, and in the process developed a multi-million dollar business.

In this case, not only did Dyson know about the way sawmills work, he was able to re-describe his problem in a way that let him be reminded that his knowledge of sawmills could be used to make a more efficient vacuum.

In the end, you can become smarter — and maybe even as smart as Dr. Phil. The exercises in Smart Thinking can help put you on the path to being more effective in whatever you do.

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April 13th, 2011 by Dr. Phil

Rory McIlroy: Dignity in the Face of Defeat

rory_1I’m a big golf fan, and on Sunday, I did what I do every year during the first weekend of April: I watched the final round of the legendary Masters golf tournament at Augusta National. Even if you’re not a fan of the sport, you may have heard about this year’s dramatic outcome, because the big story wasn’t about who was awarded the green jacket — Charl Schwartzel of South Africa — it was about who lost it.

With a four-shot lead going into the final round, Irishman Rory McIlroy was on the brink of winning one of the world’s most prestigious golf tournaments. But his game began to melt down. At one point, when he knocked his drive into a small tributary, he dropped his head on his right forearm, his body slumped in confusion and embarrassment, and by the time he stepped off the course, he had fallen to a tie for 15th place. It was one of the greatest collapses in Masters history. (more…)

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March 21st, 2011 by Dr. Phil

Little Avery Turns 1!

Avery-bdayI know it’s been a while since my last blog posting — I know. I know! — but I can’t resist sharing this special day with all of you. This past weekend, Robin, Jay, Erica, Jordan and I gathered friends and family to celebrate little Avery’s first birthday, and let me tell you, she had a ball!

Thank you to Mother Nature for holding off the rain, which came on Sunday. I mean, we got pounded, pouring all day with winds on the mountain up to 50 mph. So blessed we didn’t get blown away on Saturday.

What an incredible day. It’s hard to believe an entire year has gone by since that little girl came into this world and just stole my heart. Yeah, and my friends are still shaking their heads and asking what’s happened to me! HA! I admit it, she’s got me wrapped around her finger like never before — but look at her there with the cake all over her face. I know I’m biased, but is she not the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?! (more…)

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