How to coax a frog out of slowly boiling water -or- Why don’t we always do what’s best for us?


Why don’t we always do what’s best for us?

This was the questioned asked of Dr. Vic Strecher in a TEDMED Blog interview. Here is Strecher’s response:

What, are you an expert on boiling water?

We know that the choices we make can slowly kill us, like frogs that will stay in water that’s slowly heated until they literally boil to death without jumping out of it. And we’re learning that one reason we resist health messaging is defensiveness. We have this wall around our ego for evolutionary reasons, and ironically our wall has been getting thicker with all the societal messaging we’re getting. With the barrage of junk information and all the choices we face, we’re less able to make competent decisions.

Using the frog in slowly boiling water metaphor, the interviewer asked Strecher how to symbolically coax people out of warming water. Here Strecher relies on his own research:

There’s a relatively new idea being explored called self-affirmation theory. It says that the process of affirming your fundamental beliefs — core values — reduces defensiveness. For example, if you write down or are rating your core values, such as your faith or your commitment to family, and then are exposed to a health message that you may normally process defensively, you’re more likely to accept it.

When you start to put things in writing, you realize, “Hey, my values differ from my behaviors, don’t they?” Research shows that cigarette smokers who affirm their core values are more open to anti-smoking messaging. People are more likely to participate in diabetes risk assessments if they have just completed their values list. So how can we get people to start making that kind of connection?

Later this month Dr. Vic Strecher will be presenting at the 16th Annual McPhee Lecture and Workshop.

Learn How Finding Your Purpose in Life Leads to Better Health and Overall Happiness with Acclaimed Author & TED Lecturer Dr. Vic Strecher at October Lecture, Workshop

After losing his daughter at age 19, Dr. Vic Strecher felt he had lost his purpose in life. In the wake of this loss he went on a journey that led him to a new purpose: to help others live the fullest life. Now the author, entrepreneur, professor and director for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan School of Public health does just that. This lecture and workshop will focus on how defining your purpose can create more resilience, health and vitality in your own life.

Life On Purpose: How Living for What Matters Most Changes Everything will be the topic of his lecture from 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, at Austin Presbyterian Seminary. Tickets are $50; $35 for students and nonprofits. What is a life worth living? Socrates said that an unexamined life isn’t worth living. Aristotle went further to say that a purposeless life isn’t even worth examining. Vic Strecher explores ways of creating greater life purpose and the daily energy and willpower to live for what matters most. Ancient philosophy meets the most modern science and technology as Dr. Strecher creates a new vision for health and well-being across the lifespan.

Giving Yourself S.P.A.C.E. for More Energy and Willpower will be the topic of his workshop from 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, at Austin Presbyterian Seminary. Registration is $300; $275 for students & nonprofits. Aristotle suggested that excellence isn’t an act, but a habit. Excellence in our modern era requires engagement with personal, family, work, and community purposes. And it isn’t easy. Full engagement in life requires vitality (energy) and self-control (willpower). Increasingly, these two concepts are viewed by researchers as muscles that can be strengthened, trained, depleted, and fueled.

In this workshop, participants will learn and practice specific strategies for improving their S.P.A.C.E. – sleep, presence, activity, creativity, and eating – five positive behaviors shown to improve energy and willpower.

Register for Lecture & Workshop combo!
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The McPhee Lecture and Workshop is sponsored by Seton Cove’s Institute for Soul-Centered Leadership. Seton Cove is a non-profit, interfaith spirituality center and a member of the Seton Healthcare Family.

The McPhee Lecture and Workshop was established in honor of Sr. Mary Rose McPhee, founder of Seton Cove. This annual series is an opportunity for leaders in business, health care, education and the community to reflect on spirituality and work.


Russ Moxley, Parker Palmer, Margaret Wheatley, Wayne Muller, Robert Wicks, Richard Rohr, Naomi Shihab Nye, Ronald Rolheiser, Mark Nepo, Otto Scharmer, Ilia Delio, Margaret Benefiel, Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Michael Carroll, Cindy Wigglesworth

About Seton Cove

Seton Cove, an interfaith spirituality center, was created in 1995 to be a place of hospitality and solace for people seeking to integrate spirituality more fully into their daily lives. Seton Cove is recognized as a leader in Austin for spiritual formation, creative learning, and holistic renewal.

The Cove believes that while not all people are religious, we are all spiritual. Our spirituality has to do with our deepest, truest center where our values are formed and held. Spirituality is not about believing certain doctrines or obeying rule; rather, it is about leading the authentic life in right relationship with the mystery we call God, oneself, one’s community, and the creation. Spirituality is about waking up and seeing all that one may be blind to. Spirituality is a process of becoming.

There is an increasing awareness within society of the healing role of spirituality for individuals and communities. As individuals experience a greater sense of wholeness, they bring renewed spiritual vitality to the whole community.

Vic Strecher’s TEDMED talk on connecting leadership, purpose and health