Serendipity? Don’t “Have” a Nice Day – Make it So!

Make it so

People often say “Have a Nice Day”, as if will just happen. I try to always say, “Make it a Great Day!” To “have” a nice day means hope it works out while “Make” it a nice day means put effort into influencing the days events. I guess I take my guidance from Captain Picard who often remarked, “Make it so”. It was these thoughts that relate to how we can “Create Serendipity” or the occurrence of beneficial events or happenings.

One of my favorite saying is,”Situations turn out best for those who make of the best the way things turn out.” In other words things happen, like my accident that left me paralyzed and brain damaged, but I made the best of it and recovered – did I have a choice?  To me serendipity doesn’t just happen, if we prepare, we can beneficially influence what happens in our lives. We can’t know what will happen but being more skilled and capable provides us with the ability to adapt and use our resources to make it so.

We can’t control many things in life but going with the flow is giving in to the will of others. Most of us, myself included, want to have a positive impact on the world and to have a better life. Better to me doesn’t mean just more comfortable, but more meaningful. Making meaning is not always comfortable because it means pushing boundaries and challenging values and beliefs of ones own and of others. The value of this is that when we live in line with our values and do what we think is important, happiness is a byproduct or side effect without it being our direct intention. In this way we can have meaningful, beneficial results, and desirable side effects.

When we seek happiness, it generally evades us like a soap bar we try to grab in the shower as Kashdan explained in “The Upside of Your Dark Side“. A great read that I recommend because it highlights the value of being a whole person and the benefits of what many have portrayed as negative emotions. Evolution has its reasons.


After our house fire April 2014,  I carelessly said to my wife, we will be better because of this. She didn’t see it and became very upset with me (probably not the right thing to say at that time). But still that was my perspective. I like it when things work out. After a lot of work and effort and times of distress, which is probably where my wife was focused,  I am happy to say, our family and our house are now better than they were. Here is the original story I posted about the fire.

The idea to develop the idea of serendipity was sparked by a Fast Company  article, 4 Habits fo Lucky People and the reading of 2 Steve Jobs books – Steve Jobs and Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart Into a Visionary Leader. Both of the Jobs’s books made it clear that both Apple & Pixar’s success didn’t just happen, he helped cause it to happen. In the case of Apple, they were on the brink of bankruptcy when he took over in 1997. In other words, he influenced serendipity and  beneficial events or occurrences happened – it seems he caused them to happen…

I turned this idea into a presentation, “Serendipitous Wellness: Can We Cause it to Happen?” for the 2015 National Wellness Conference. This presentation was about how we can cause a better life and how. The link below will provide you the PDF of the presentation.

It seems that serendipity happens when we generate comprehensive improvements by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits. Evidence seems to suggest that selfish, selfless, synergy or the practice of paneugenesis is how to cause serendipity!

Contact me if you have questions or want to talk about how to make it happen for yourself and or your organization. I look forward to talking with you and also hearing about how you cause serendipity.

NWC 2015 Serendiptious Wellness Presentation

Yes to Serendipitous Wellness

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker, PhD


Looking forward to 2015 National Wellness Conference in MN

The National Wellness Conference is an anomaly. I have been attending since 1998 and each year it is an amazing experience. I learn a great deal and come away with many new ideas – I hope  you will join us this year in Minnesota.

For the last several years I have had the opportunity to present. Each year my presentations are a learning experience for me because I always propose ideas related to what I am learning about in books I am reading or studies I am conducting that could contribute to wellness. I must do this because submissions are due almost a year before the conference. If they are accepted I then figure out how to make what I learned into a good presentation. This  has helped me learn so much. For example, this year I am presenting: Serendipitous Wellness: Can We Cause it to Happen? and Prevention Can Never Create Wellness: Here is what does.

With regard to the Serendipitous Wellness presentation I was reading about luck, serendipity, Steve Jobs and of course wellness and thought they must be related. I learned a tremendous amount and believe the evidence is clear – we can cause serendipity as it relates to wellness if we are prepared. In this presentation, I will share what I have learned. With regard to the Prevention Can Never Create Wellness presentation, this is similar to many other presentation proposals I have submitted over the years about the need to cause and create wellness by focusing on more then prevention. Previously those presentation had been rejected – this year it was accepted. I had thought it would be a very easy presentation to prepare since it is the focus on my entire career, however, I found it far more difficult than anticipated. In developing this presentation, I learned a tremendous amount about what can possibly create wellness and how it can and should be measured. I will be sharing what I learned in this presentation. Below I have shared the write up of what I am presenting for each, if you are interested.

I hope to see you in Minnesota at the NWC, if you there please stop me and say hi. I am also going to make one more post about what the NWC has meant to me and my career. Make it a great summer!

Presentation Descriptions for June 15-18 National Wellness Conference

1.  Serendipitous Wellness: Can we cause it to happen? – at 1:00pm on 6/15/2015

Presentation PDF

Brief Description

Serendipity, a word coined by Horace Walpole in 1754, is the occurrence of chance beneficial events. Serendipity is associated with the surprising discovery of penicillin and also can be applied to wellness. At this presentation you will learn strategies like those used by late Steve Jobs to organize your work environments, develop communication styles, and lead a life that makes serendipity more likely. Even if you don’t create serendipitous wellness, you will learn how to build a better life.

Long Description 

Serendipity, a word coined by Horace Walpole in 1754, is the occurrence of chance beneficial events, or fortunate happenstance. Serendipity is associated with the surprising discovery of penicillin and other discoveries and it can also be applied to wellness. Wellness is progress toward a desired life, and this presentation will discuss how to cause serendipitous wellness or chance good things to happen. The current understanding of serendipity and the title of this presentation are purposely misleading and incomplete. Serendipity is misleading and incomplete, because the full definition explains how good events, such as discoveries, occur by accident AND sound judgement and perception. The presentation title is misleading, because if serendipity is luck or happenstance, how can it be caused to happen? In a similar way, some believe Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” misled readers by encouraging the reader to trust their gut without first developing the requisite expertise. Of course there is no way to guarantee a desired serendipitous outcome, but evidence suggests the probability of it occurring can be increased just as we can make it more likely someone can become a high performing “Outlier”.  In other words, luck plays a role, but serendipity is not entirely reliant on luck. This presentation will explain how to influence what and when the unexpected happens by choosing how we develop ourselves. Serendipity, after all, is the interaction between chance and the prepared, which means serendipitous wellness becomes more likely when we are ready and able for it to happen. While being prepared cannot guarantee serendipitous wellness, without preparation, it is unlikely. This presentation will outline strategies like those used by late Steve Jobs to organize your work environments, develop communication styles, and lead a life to make serendipity more likely. Of course, even if you don’t create serendipitous wellness, these ideas will help you will build a better life.

2. Prevention Can Never Create Wellness: Here is What Does! at 2:30pm 6/16/2015

Presentation PDF

Brief Description

By definition, prevention is the action of stopping something from happening.  Therefore, if prevention works, nothing happens.  Although, prevention is important, it cannot create positive health or wellness. Even without a prevention focus, multiple fields create better outcomes that also prevent without focusing on what to avoid. This presentation will review the evidence of these effective positive strategies and provide you with an idea of how to use these ideas in practice.

Long Description
By definition, prevention is the action of stopping something from happening or arising.  Therefore, if prevention works, the anticipatory actions result in complete avoidance of the undesired event; or, simply put, nothing happens.  Although, prevention is important for stopping the bad, it cannot create the good – positive health or wellness. While it is morally imperative to stop bad things, such as disease, depression, infirmity etc. from happening, doing so, does not directly result in good things happening. Wellness is a positive outcome, and research has demonstrated in fields such as education, business, and health that by working to create positive outcomes better than previously experienced, a more effective way to create desired outcomes and prevent  is used than one that focuses on what to avoid (i.e. prevention). In the field of business, W. Edwards Deming demonstrated that creating the positive of higher quality was not only the most profitable way to conduct business, it was also the most effective way to avoid and prevent waste, problems and costs. Cass Sustein and Richard Thaler demonstrated that public policy that “Nudges” people toward making better choices for themselves and society not only helps them and society function better, it also prevents and avoids many difficulties. In health, Aaron Antonovsky demonstrated that moving toward health with salutogenesis, or the study of the origins of health, not only creates better health or wellness, it also helps prevent or avoid diseases and infirmity. While prevention cannot create wellness, multiple fields have demonstrated that using strategies to develop and create positives better than current experiences is effective, and a byproduct of these positive strategies is prevention. This presentation will review evidence documenting the effectiveness of positive strategies and the outcomes generated that do more than just prevent. You will leave with an idea of how to use these ideas in practice.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

Experiencing Wellness = Progress Toward Desired


For as long as I have been in the field, since the late 80’s, there has been debate about what wellness is and how it should be defined and described.

When I first learned about wellness, like health, it was described as a process of making better choices to create a life of optimal health. However, upon reflection, a process was not very exciting, desirable or motivating to most. After all, does it mean if you have wellness you have a process? Most of us are more interested in what that means to us and others. In other words most of us think about what a process produces or provides.

In getting my PhD, my professor challenged my thinking and changed my understanding of wellness from a process to a product. He explained to me that because wellness is a         -ness word, it means it is a state of being. With that understanding I went on to categorize illness as a state of negative health and wellness as a state of positive health.

The state of being status however seemed limiting because of the relative dynamic state of life and well-being. Around this time, 2006, Lester Breslow, one of the fathers of public health, published an influential commentary, Health Measurement in the Third Era of Health. In this article he explains that, “…health must be clearly differentiated from health status, because health  has a dynamic potential for increasing or at least maintaining whatever health status is in place…” Taking this information I inferred then that wellness must be Positive Health Potential and Illness as Negative Health Potential.”

When I described wellness as a potential, I analogize it by explaining how a wedding provides the potential of having a life partner, a degree creates the potential of having a career, and health creates the potential of having a desired life. Health after all is a resource for life. I then explain to have the life desired, a fulfilling career or a desired life partner, effort is needed to make it happen. This again left me wondering. W hat do we achieve by having wellness or health? Is it just a possibility and would those possibilities be motivating?

Through my history I have moved from seeing positive health or wellness as a process, to being a product or state, to then being a potential. Although I have liked thinking of health and wellness as positive potential, I have had some reservations about its ability to motivate or to feel pride and accomplishment for its achievement. In my recent review of a dissertation, I came to a new realization about wellness and what it is.

The National Wellness Institute defines wellness as:  

an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.

The World Health Organization defines wellness as:

the optimal state of health of individuals and groups. There are two focal concerns: the realization of the fullest potential of an individual physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually and economically, and the fulfillment of one’s role expectations in the family, community, place of worship, workplace and other settings (Smith 2006)

These organizations describe it as all – the process, the product, and potential. To me these definitions make wellness ambiguous and difficult to understand, conceptualize, and or quantify. By reviewing all this, I had come to realize that really when I experience wellness and what it has always been and what motivates people to work to achieve wellness is PROGRESS. It is when we do things that help us move toward where or who we want to be that enables us to experience the positive, relative, dynamic state of wellness.

My recommendation for wellness suggests we should describe, define and view wellness as PROGRESS. If wellness is progress, then all health promotion and wellness efforts would be focused on creating processes, programs and efforts to enable and create PROGRESS.

Please let me know you thoughts about wellness as progress and how we can continue to improve toward creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits.
I look forward to hearing about how you use pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions to generate All Good so everything and everything benefits!

Thank you.
Be Well’r,
Craig Becker