Latest Blog Posts:
  • Dating for Happiness

    A few months ago, I gave a TEDx talk (third one!) at TEDx Echo Park entitled Happiness Engineering: The Five Pillars of Authentic Success. The first of the five pillars is Intimate Relationships. The other four are Life Purpose, Sleep, Mind Management, and Exercise.

    To be fair, the talk is not entirely about dating. Okay, fine, maybe like 20%. But The Tao of Dating has always been about the whole person anyway, because dating brings into play all of who you are. It’s not like someone can date one aspect of you while leaving out the other ones. I mean, it’s possible that there’s some guy out who’s really hankering for a version of you that’s sleep-deprived, out of shape, mentally unbalanced, and dissatisfied at work, but it’s not terribly likely, y’know? Why do you think half the book is about yoga, meditation, mindfulness, gratitude and other happiness practices?

    Win Dr Ali’s Kindle Library: The Tao of Dating Superfan Contest (for the ladies only)

    So the other day I was reading something that said it’s nice to have fans, but it’s great to have a community. So I’m designating this month as Community Building Month. We’re going to start with a contest to find out who the biggest Tao of Dating fans are out there.

    Some of you have listened to the audiobook over 20 times. Some of you have gotten copies of the book for a dozen friends. Some of you have memorized entire passages. Some of you sleep with a copy of it in your pillowcase, even thought it makes the pillow lumpy.

    Well, I’d like to know who you are! Here’s how it works:

    1. Get points for each of the activities below. If you’ve done the activity already (eg written a review), you still get the points.
    2. Tally them up and leave your total in the comments. If you don’t want the post to be searchable, just include your first name. Only I can see your email address, and it will remain anonymous.
    3. Person with the highest points by 11.59pm on 30 Sept 2016 wins the prize.

    The Grand Prize is Kip, my personal Kindle Paperwhite. I have upgraded to a fancier model, so I don’t use Kip anymore. This makes Kip sad, of course, because he still has 217 or so books on him, and he just wants to be held and read — preferably in your bed because well Kip is a guy duh. So basically, the Grand Prize is my personal digital library, which is over $2000 worth of ebooks (mostly nonfiction). Some of the illustrious titles in this library:

    These are all great books, because life is short and i don’t got time to read crappy ones, ya hear? So just to make this clear: you’re winning a whole library of awesomeness. At $8.99 to $14.99 a piece, this is about $2200 worth of ebooks. And the Kindle Paperwhite itself is worth $120, which makes the whole thing worth over $2300. Get crackin’!

    Below is how you score points. In a comment on this blog post with your first name and email, write up your activities and your total points, eg “Read book 14 times, posted GoodReads and iTunes reviews, joined Twitter and Facebook, 150 points total”. Just remember that if you’re in contention to win, you may be asked to verify your points. Here we go:

    • Join me on Facebook or Twitter(@DrAliBinazir): 10 points. Include your username to verify. 20 points for each friend you get to join (include their usernames to verify).
    • 5 points for each time you’ve read or listened to The Tao of Dating (honor system).
    • Watch one of my three TEDx Talks. For verification, give it a thumbs-up and leave a comment: Awaken Creative Genius (10 points), Love and the Empowered Woman (15 points), Happiness Engineering (15 points). 20 more points for each time you share it on social media.
    • Post a review to Goodreads, Apple iTunes, or Audible: 40 points. To verify, paste the URL to the review and the name under which the review is posted. Old reviews under your name still count. Amazon reviews don’t count for this contest, but if you’re moved to write one, I will be forever grateful.
    • Select The Tao of Dating audiobook for a 30-day free trial on Audible: 30 points
    • Each friend you sign up for the Tao of Dating newsletter: 40 points. Have them join via the free audiobook sign-up box in the upper right-hand corner of the blog.
    • If you believe my teachings contributed directly to a relationship, past or present: 30 points. Mention what the specific influence was. Extra 20 points if it resulted in marriage.

    That’s all the ways I can think of for now. If I come up with more ways to score points, I will let you know. In the meantime, let’s get to know each other a little better and have some fun with this shall we?

    Good luck, Dr Ali

    PS: Later this week, we’ll have posts written by you, the ladies, and next week, a very special interview with one of my readers/collaborators. Stay tuned…

  • The Friendship Test: Figure Out Who’s Good for You with 5 Simple Questions

    Who are your real friends? Who’s a good partner? Who has your back? Turns out that even scientists have a suprisingly hard time answering these questions. In a study by Alex (Sandy) Pentland and colleagues of the MIT Media Lab, 94% of people who nominated someone as a friend expected to be nominated in return. Hey, I may not know the capital of Mongolia, but I know who my friends are, right? Wrong. Only 53% of the people nominated them back. This means that about half the time, the friendship was one-sided.

    So how can you tell? Is someone who offers to pick you up at the airport your friend? How about the person who invites you to his wedding? Or goes through the trouble of attending yours? What if he doesn’t really care about you but just likes a really good party? Is the person who comes to your wedding but doesn’t take you to the airport still your friend? How can you tell?

    Although you can’t do a lot about reciprocity, you can tell if someone’s good for you or not. That’s why I’ve come up with these 5 criteria by which you can quickly assess any relationship. The answer to each question is binary — yes/no, A or B — so pay attention to the answer that spontaneously arises, before thinking has a chance to interfere with it. Chances are that your gut reaction to these questions is accurate — and very telling about the nature of your relationship with Aubrey. Um, who the hell is Aubrey? He or she is our stand-in for awkward constructs like “he or she”, “this person”, and the singular “they.” Besides, it’s a nice name. Let’s take this Friendship Test and see how you and Aubrey get along.

    1. Do they have your back?

    The first criterion to consider is simple: Does Aubrey fundamentally support you, or cut you down? I almost feel silly explaining this, since it seems self-evident. But friendship and love bias our judgment, and sometimes we find ourselves the recipient of mixed behaviors — sometimes warm but other times cold. How to tell who’s really on our side? Perhaps some examples would be illustrative:

    • When you make a mistake, supportive people empathize with you : “Oh wow, yeah, I missed a deadline last month, too. Totally understand.” Non-supportive people blame and shame you: “Why would you do something stupid like that again?”

    • Supportive folks give space to your aspirations instead of suffocating them instantly, regardless of how hare-brained they seem: “Oh, so you want to move to Berlin and be a penniless conceptual artist? Tell me more.”

    • Supportive people actively look for ways to make your life better. They’ll offer you a ride to the airport, a loan when you’re in dire straits, a bowl of chicken soup when you’re sick. They help to the best of their ability, vs non-supportive people who will only help if it’s convenient or beneficial to them, if at all.

    • Supportive people have your well-being and safety in mind. They will warn you off toxic partners in business and romance, discourage you from pointlessly risky behavior, and look out for you when you’re in a compromised state.

    2. Are you an option or a priority?

    The text comes in at 6pm on Friday: “Hey dude! Sooo sorry not gonna make it tonight. Something came up. Rain check?”

    Whaddya mean not gonna make it? Aubrey was the one who requested your company — on Monday. And now, a cancellation two hours before you’re supposed to meet? What kind of friend is this?

    Nowadays this is an all-too-common occurrence. So common that Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman has even given it a name: liquid modernity. This is a society in which no commitment is solid, and everything is provisional: jobs, dwellings, spouses, ideologies. And with the ubiquity of instant electronic communication, all appointments are subject to change until the last minute, lest a better deal pops up.

    You also just know when someone is looking for some company or for your company specifically. So prioritize those who prioritize you. You can still be friends with those who mostly treat you like an option, but you probably shouldn’t bend over backwards to accommodate them in your life.

    3. Do they treat you as a means to an end, or an end in yourself?

    My friend Sasha is smart, interesting, sweet and very pretty. But she has the darndest time making friends. Why? Because she has a famous father, and she never knows whether people want to be friends because of her, or to gain access to her dad.

    Even without a famous relative, we’ve all got some special sauce that someone could be after. Maybe you have cute friends that Aubrey wants to meet. Maybe you work in a theater and have free tickets to shows. Maybe you’re rich or famous yourself, or have friends who throw good parties.

    Although part of friendship is to ask for the occasional favor and share in our abundance, real friends will generally value you for the whole of who you are, and not just the perks. They will treat you as if spending time with you is intrinsically worthwhile, as opposed to a means to some extrinsic goal.

    The frequency and nature of contact is one way of telling whether a friend treats you like an end or a means. Do they only call you when they need something, or do they regularly check up on you and include you in their plans?

    If you don’t like feeling used, there are two things you can do. First is to excise the Users from your life. Second is to stop dancing for your dinner. If you feel someone’s so cool that you need to have Cirque du Soleil tickets every time you request their company, you’re really just setting yourself up to be used. Either they’re grateful for your company just as you are, or the friendship’s just not sustainable in the first place.

    4. Do they add life energy to you or drain you?

    The other day my friend Johnny was visiting from far away. I’ve known Johnny for 15 years and shared lots of experiences with him. I’ve even been to his wedding. And yet, after every one of our meetings, I feel energetically spent. The doctor in me has tried to diagnose this, but you know what? It doesn’t matter why I feel drained. What matters is that it happens every time. And it’s not something I enjoy or anticipate fondly.

    Negativity, complaints, gratuitous attacks on your person (especially attacks disguised as helpful suggestions), being pointlessly demanding, constant requests for attention: these are behaviors that can drain your energy in a hurry. If the purpose of friendship is a flourishing of the soul, this ain’t the formula for it.

    You can still be friends with these energy vampires, especially if they’re essentially well-meaning people who just happen to annoy the crap out of you. But just know that, for your own sanity, you want to minimize their dosage. Instead, choose to spend more time with those who add energy to your life. You know who they are — the ones who point out the butterflies on the roadside, call you with a new joke to tell, and can’t wait to take you to try this new dish. You just feel a little more alive around them, and want to spend more time with them, as well you should. Which brings us to the fifth and final criterion:

    5. Does this person bring out the best or the worst in you?

    If I were to walk by you and say, “Hey, I really like your dress,” chances are you’d smile and return the compliment: “Thanks, you look great, too!” On the other hand, if I were to say, “Hey, watch where you’re going, jerk!”, you’d probably return that favor and say, “Screw you, too!”

    Same person, two very different reactions. Psychologists even have a name for this: the Pygmalion effect. Our interactions have the capability to draw out dramatically different versions of people.

    Similarly, whenever I hang out with my friend Sonia, for some unfathomable reason I find myself complaining about the world, mocking passersby, and being a generally snarky version of me. Whereas when I’m with Gail, I feel my vision expand, my thoughts ennoble and my heart open.

    Again, I’m not quite sure why this happens, but I do notice the consistency of the effect. Sonia brings out the snark; Gail brings out sweet.

    As far as I can tell, the purpose of friendship is the flourishing of the spirit, meaningful fellowship, and interactions that lead to our personal growth. So it makes sense to spend less time with those who make us feel like meaner versions of ourselves, and more time with those who bring out our kindness, generosity, and expansiveness of heart. To that end, we would do well to select for friends who have our back, make us priorities in their lives, treat us like worthy ends in ourselves, and stoke us with more of the energy that allows us to be a force for good in the world.

    All the best, Dr Ali

    PS: Therapy Thursday continues by popular request. If you have an issue that you think could benefit from a one-on-one consult via Skype, send a message to drali at taoofdating.com with “TT” in the subject line and I’ll see what I can do to accommodate you. There are 3 appointment slots per week, and they happen on Thursdays and Fridays.

    PPS: If you don’t have it already, you can get The Tao of Dating audibook for free when you sign up for a 30-day trial with Audible.

    PPPS: I will soon be holding a contest in which I give away my personal Kindle reader, along with my digital library of 300 or so books. Stay tuned :)

     

  • Replay of “Design the Love Life You Want” Webinar

    Thanks to all of you who made it to the live webinar of Design the Love Life You Want. As promised, here’s the replay of the seminar:

    Or you can download the mp3 here (84min, 40Mb). The last 20min is Q&A which you’re welcome to skip.

    In the meantime, my profuse apologies to all of you who signed up way in advance and tried to get on the webinar but couldn’t. This was the first time I was using this software for a live class. What I did not know was the 100 person cap on the webinar capacity. In anticipation of glitches (because that’s what software does), I had put up a conference call number on the welcome page and Facebook, which some of you were able to use. In retrospect, I should have sent the call-in number along with the original mailing. Live and learn.

    Because of the glitch, I’m doing a second call this Thursday, 14 July at 12 noon PT/3pm ET/8pm London to accommodate all the folks who missed the first one, as well as the folks in Europe, Australia and Hawaii who made the request for a live session. Additionally, all offers mentioned on the call will be good until the end of day on Friday. We’ll still use the webinar interface for its ease of sign-up and ability to field questions, so please click here to sign up. But if it gives you any trouble at all on the day of, use the call-in number:

    DATE: Thursday, 14 July 2016, 12 noon PT/3p ET/20.00 London/21.00 Berlin
    Conference line: +1 712 432 3066
    Access code: 667202

    I look forward to catching up with you!

    All the best,
    Dr Ali

     

     

     

     

  • Webinar: Design the Love Life You Want, Tue 12 July

    Recently I got back from a 3-week trip, during which I read a few life-changing books. One of them was Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. I’m not going to do a full review of the book here – for that, you can either join my Brainiacs Book Club on Facebook or read my personal blog. However, there was one concept in the book that struck me as paramount – especially since I have been teaching it for years without knowing about the science behind it.

    That is the concept of mental representations. Basically, whenever someone excels in any endeavor, a big part of their success involves having a strong mental representation of their target performance. What should this Beethoven piano sonata sound like? What should this dish taste like? Where should my body be positioned as I’m making this high jump?

    As it turns out, the concept of mental representations also extends to the realm of courtship and love. Who are you, really? What kind of partner would you like? What does partnership with him look like? How do you like to be treated in this relationship?

    So on Tuesday, July 12, at 6pm PDT/9pm EDT, I’m holding a no-charge webinar to give you the tools to Design the Love Life You Want. In it, I will cover:

    • Who are you?: Self, identity and values
    • Self-love: the foundation for lasting relationships
    • Finding the Good Guys: Who, Where and How
    • Meeting the Good Guys
    • Attracting Good Guys into your life

    You’ll be getting tons of info you can use immediately, with special application of the science of Peak to your dating life. Sign up for the webinar here. I’ll be doing live Q&A during the call, so be sure to sign up! If there’s enough demand, I might do another earlier time slot more convenient for my European readers.

    This also serves as a preview of what’s coming up in the live cohort for the Project Irresistible course starting July 19 (note new date). If you’ve had it in the back of your mind to do Project Irresistible, or did it before and now want to go through it with a bunch of like-minded folks, join us on Tue July 12 to get in the right frame of mind!

    All the best, Dr Ali

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