Posted by: universitymindlab | August 24, 2009

Check out my blog on Psychology Today!

Hey Guys,

I have recently been added as a blogger at Psychology Today (Magazine). Come check out my blog, Communication Central, and leave a comment or two. :-)

Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

Posted by: universitymindlab | January 28, 2009

Try and Relax….

Try and Relax

By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

Relaxing and enjoying the moment is a skill that has to be cultivated. It requires an intention to focus on your surroundings and to become captivated by your present situation. If done often enough it becomes a habit. Once mastered it becomes a personality trait.

As an ambitious person, it is easy to constantly think about the next big thing you are going to accomplish. Being successful takes commitment and without focus it is easy to stray from a disciplined path. However, we have to incorporate tension releasing activities and pleasurable forays into our lives.

As a professor, relaxation is a part of my lifestyle.  Many of the tasks that are required in my profession, I already do for fun, such as reading, writing and researching. Yet, I also strive for a balanced life and have other pursuits that I enjoy immensely like Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, tennis and bike riding. Even on my busiest days I incorporate some fun.

If you don’t have a business or career that allows for relaxation, try scheduling relaxing activities into your day in other ways. A good way to make sure you relax is to schedule a date or activity with another person so you can’t convince yourself to keep working. Setting up a golf  or knitting lesson or perhaps indulging in activities that you haven’t done since you were a teenager such as roller skating or videogames could be an option. Or commit to doing something you have never done before like indoor rock climbing, hiking or a Tai Chi or yoga class.

 It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you are able to clear your mind, have some fun and come back refreshed and ready to go.   

Posted by: universitymindlab | December 17, 2008

What’s Your Can of Spinach?

Download Bakari Akil’s podcasts in iTunes. Type “Bakari Akil” in “Search iTunes Store” box.

What’s Your Can of Spinach?

By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

As a child I watched endless hours of Popeye. My favorite moment in each short would be when he uttered, “I’s taken alls I can stand and I can’t stands no more.” Then he would pop open a can of spinach and set ‘things straight.’

It is not the ‘setting things straight’ that I’m interested in. It is that can of spinach.  Popeye didn’t use spinach just for incredible strength, speed and agility. He also used it to provide himself with unwavering self confidence. This led him to believe that he could topple any opposition.

People who are goal oriented and passionate about achievement usually have a good amount of self confidence. But at certain moments we need that extra push, that extra bit of motivation to put us into a zone. When I played high school football I used to recite an affirmation of strength and visualize that I was surrounded by a clear bubble that would protect me from harm. I did it before every game and it worked for my psyche.

As a professor I often say a little ‘prayer’ before I introduce myself to each class at the beginning of the semester. I want to remind myself that I am there for the student’s growth and to pray for a fun and comfortable environment.  These are just a few things that I do or have done to take my mental preparation to the next level. Most successful people have their unique ritual. Some use rap, house or heavy metal music, others take deep breaths, perform push-ups; sit in silence or shout themselves into a frenzy. It is their personal ‘can of spinach.’

What do you do?

Posted by: universitymindlab | October 7, 2008

What City do you Live in?

What City do you Live In?

Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

Richard Florida, in his book, “Who’s Your City?,” discusses the impact of where you live has on your life. It affects you in so many ways. It determines the type of jobs you can find, the housing market you will enter and what social opportunities are available.

Where you live plays a major role in the quality of life you will lead overall. However, how many people truly evaluate where they live as a major determinant of success in their lives? Many people choose where they want to live based upon where there family is located; where there spouse’s family lives; the job offer they received or the last place they moved to with their parents as a child.

But for those who want a chance at living in a city that truly fosters their growth and they don’t mind travel why not take a more thought out approach? Why not look at the goals, plans and lifestyle objectives you have and match them up according to what cities of the world have to offer you?

Don’t let geography limit your growth.

In my own career as a professor, where I have lived has played a crucial role in my quality of life. I first made the mistake of accepting a position in a small college in a rural part of Georgia and turned down a choice position in New York because my wife and I didn’t want to be that far away from our families. It was a very bad decision. There was very little opportunity for us there.

We vowed never to do anything like that again. I applied for and received a position the following year at a college in Jacksonville, Florida. A city that has the biggest land mass of any city in the United States, 12th largest population in the US and opportunities to do just about anything we wanted to do. As a bonus, most of my family lives there as well.

If I hadn’t received the position, I would have moved to Jacksonville or my wife’s city, Miami, FL, anyway because I realized how much quality of life has an effect on my well being. We also just happen to have family members who live in two of the most populous and opportunity laden cities in the US; which helps. Before I was choosing based upon the job only. This time we chose according to our lifestyle as well as career opportunities.

What city you live in plays a big role in that.

Posted by: universitymindlab | September 12, 2008

Keep your Door Open

Keep your Door Open

By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

In my role as a professor there are many choices I have to make daily. One of them is whether I should keep my office door open or closed. It seems like a simple question, not requiring much thought. However, each choice has far reaching consequences.

In my profession, a professor who constantly keeps a closed door signals that they are either never present; unapproachable; or always to busy to be bothered. This also means that their research had better be impeccable if they want to advance in their field.

I choose to keep my door open. Of course there are times when I must close the door in order to conduct a private conversation or practice fine points of a lecture one last time. But, in general, an open door invites greetings, conversations with colleagues, invitations to lunch, opportunities to be social and makes sure we are able to serve the needs of the students. In a broader sense it also demonstrates the commitment to the position. Colleagues also approach with opportunities for research and it increases networking opportunities.

In your own life, do you keep your door open?

How often do we ‘close doors’ to great opportunities because we cling to what is familiar; are too busy to look up or let ourselves become trapped in our own ‘shells?’

An assignment:

Look for ways you can be more open to greater opportunities in your business or job, social networks or with friends and family. You will be glad you did…

Posted by: universitymindlab | September 9, 2008

Do you have a Team?

Do you have a Team?

By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

A team.

All great people have them, even if they are behind the scenes. Politicians, authors, fighters, CEOs all have individuals, seen and unseen, who provide counseling, training and a host of other support services; including a kick in the pants if necessary.

In life, no one can survive on their own and for great accomplishments we all need people to help us along the way. But beyond the ordinary roles people play in helping one achieve a dream, sometimes we need a group of individuals specifically devoted to our cause. People who know what the mission is; know how to achieve it or have a plan; and are willing to put their time and energies into making it happen.

A great team can provide wisdom and insight; they can guide you in the right direction; and they can hold you steady when you are not at your best. A great team helps fill in the gaps in knowledge and skills you don’t possess and can make sure that you will become well rounded.

In my route to the Ph.D., I had a superb team that led me through my dissertation process. I had to assemble a committee of four professors who pointed out skill sets and a knowledge base I would have to master before moving on. They provided much needed direction, tips and pointers on how to proceed through the maze that is the dissertation process. 

They met with me constantly to monitor my progress and provided the necessary nudges I needed when the time arose. They even pointed me to outside experts who could further help in my journey. Without their high expectations and standards I would have never have achieved what I have thus far.

So in your life, who is on your team? —-  Is there something that you’re trying to achieve but are going at it alone? If so,


Assemble a network of people who can lead you in the right direction. A group that can support you in becoming the best you can be. Get the best people you can, give your all and let them help you lead yourself to success.

Posted by: universitymindlab | September 4, 2008

The Importance of “Getting Up When Knocked Down”

The Importance of “Getting Up When Knocked Down”

By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

While watching the Democratic National Convention, Vice Presidential hopeful Joe Biden reiterated his oft repeated theme about, “getting up when knocked down.” No matter how many times I hear that statement from him or from others, it never loses its salience. Biden is absolutely right. We all have been “knocked down” at some point in our lives. However, it is what we have done afterwards that counts.

Do we nurse our wounds until they become phantom injuries that have long ceased to exist or do we get right back up and start moving again. In Biden’s speech he recounted that as a youth when he’d get pushed down by bigger and stronger boys in his neighborhood his mother would send him back outside with the instructions to sock them in the nose so he would be able to walk up and down the street without fear. This statement is not about being a ‘tough guy’ nor am I advocating violence. It is about recognizing the enduring strength of the human spirit and will. It is about not letting anyone or any circumstance influence us to forget our dreams.

Further, this way of living doesn’t have to just apply to extreme situations. It can also be used in the daily knocks that one receives as they strive to obtain their goals. The people who say we can’t achieve something or the person who is rude or gives you a hard time for no reason may knock you down for an hour or even a day, even if it was unintentional. Instead of allowing these moments to alter our moods and affect our productivity and positivity we have to learn to shake it off and keep moving forward.

The ‘shame’ one experiences in life should not be because ‘bad’ things happen to us or that trials disrupt our lives, but for allowing such incidents to destroy our capacity to keep striving for success and achieving our goals and dreams.

Posted by: universitymindlab | September 1, 2008

Past Self ‘Good’ to Future Self

Past Self “Good” to Future Self

By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

How many times have you said to yourself or to someone else; “Ah, I am so glad that I did that, so I don’t have to do it now!” Or what about, “Man, I wish I would have done that earlier, now I’m stuck!”

We have all had times in our lives where our past actions have either rewarded us or made us suffer from the consequences. Some people refer to putting tasks off as procrastination. Others, as doing things at the last minute. When you do complete tasks in a timely matter and long before deadlines I like to refer to it as the past self being good to the future self.  I admit it’s a habit that requires daily vigilance. Yet it also yields daily rewards. It can be practiced anywhere, at anytime and pertain to anything. It is a way of being kind to yourself; but in the future.

Of course it requires balance. You don’t want to overload yourself with daily activities only related to your future. However, if done correctly, it may only take a few minutes or an hour or two (depending upon the project) out of your day.

At work it could be tackling minor tasks early so it leaves ample time to handle ‘heavier tasks.’ It could even involve setting up everything you will need to get started the next day at the office so you can be productive right away. At home it can be as simple as having all of your clothes dry-cleaned for the entire week or meals prepared for breakfast and dinner the next day.

As a writer and blogger I often generate more material than my agreed upon amount (self-contract) so I can have blog posts a week or two in advance and pages for my chapter when something else comes up, such as an unexpected invitation to lunch or the beach. The beauty of this habit is that you can tailor it to your unique circumstances.

Some examples of the past self being good to the future self are:

Working on tasks daily so they remain manageable – Exercising daily – Setting aside funds for a vacation – Programming your DVR – Proper nutrition – A good night’s sleep – Car maintenance – Reservations and appointments to places with long waits –  Dental checkups – Saving and investing 10% or more of your income.

Developing the habit of looking out for your future well being is a very satisfying one to practice. It helps to reduce stress, maintain balance and demonstrates that you care about yourself. —- One thing I can guarantee is that your future self will thank you for it…..

Posted by: universitymindlab | August 27, 2008

The Achievement List

The Achievement List

By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

Imagine, the goal or outcome you desire is somewhere off in the distance. You may want to create a new challenge for yourself or continue at something you already have experience with. Yet, your confidence to begin or carry on may be low to non-existent.

What do you do?

At times we lose sight of the big picture because of a momentary setback or even a series of setbacks. An event may occur at just the ‘wrong’ moment or may be so overwhelming that we figure accomplishing our goals may be impossible.

During these moments, I ask that you step back and re-focus. In order to gain a different perspective, take a different approach. If you are thinking about something new but are lacking confidence, try this. Take out a sheet of paper. Then think about your life and list all of the numerous achievements, big or small, that demonstrate that you are capable of meeting, finishing and excelling at any activity you have set your sights upon.

If you are having doubts about some goal that you have been working on for a while, say a sport or educational goal, list all of the successes, no matter how minor, you have had up to this point. By doing this exercise it allows you to see the growth and development you have already achieved. It also helps you to change your mental state and realize that facing difficulty is not a new experience and one that you have successfully mastered before.

Review your list as necessary and if you want you can transfer it to index cards or a small sheet of paper that you can review wherever you go. Sometimes we just need a little reminder of just how great we really are…… and that we can accomplish what we will.

Posted by: universitymindlab | August 23, 2008

Exploding the Age Myth

Exploding the Age Myth

By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

One of the most inspirational stories of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing is that of Dara Torres. The forty one year old swimmer, who won three silver medals this year, has won 12 medals over the course of her Olympic career. Not only is she the oldest female swimmer to ever compete in the Olympics, she first competed 24 years ago.

What is most amazing about her story is not her accomplishment, but her attitude. When being interviewed after her 4×4 relay team’s silver medal win she was asked what she wants her two year old daughter to pull from her achievements. Without missing a beat she told the reporter that the most important thing she wanted her to know is that, “You don’t have to put an age limit on your dreams.”

That deserves to be repeated:

“You don’t have to put an age limit on your dreams.”

That is an absolutely fabulous statement. As time passes in our lives we start to question our abilities to do what we have always been able to do or may question our ability to tackle a new task or goal. I think her response to that question is the approach we need to take when we ask ourselves this question. In a field where she often was more than double the age of her competitors she was at times the fastest or the favorite for her events.

When it comes to age we often tend to believe what others tell us about our bodies and what we should be doing with our lives. This may even be in the face of ample evidence to the contrary. It is even possible that we may let ourselves atrophy physically, mentally or otherwise because that is the trend in our society or others state that we should acquiesce to traditional ideas of when someone should take themselves ‘out of the game.’

Forget that!

Break the mold. Determine your own destiny. Chase and catch the dreams that grab your heart and don’t let go. Remember the journey is the pleasing part of life. The destination is just the ‘icing on the cake….’

(Sorry for the pun.)

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