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The Science of Goal-Setting, Grit & Happiness – Caroline Miller

Caroline Miller is a pioneer in the areas of goal-setting, grit, happiness and success She is one of the world’s leading experts on the science of goal setting and grit. She’s spent more than 30 years helping individuals, leaders and companies to cultivate grit to achieve their goals and find personal and professional success. Caroline is the author of six books, including Getting Grit and Creating Your Best Life. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, BBC and CNN.

During our chat we discussed the two kinds of goals – learning goals and performance goals – and how grit helped Caroline overcome bulimia at the age of 22. We talked about the value of humility, hope and optimism. We defined happiness and I learned the happiest people are the people who wake up to hard goals – people who have “ikigai”, a Japanese word that means “reason for being”. I was delighted to hear that only half of grit and happiness are hard-wired – the rest we can develop. Caroline mentioned “job-crafting”, a way to find your purpose in whatever role you have. We also got into women bullying other women, and how important it is that women support each other through “active constructive responding” and push each other forward.

At the end of the episode, Caroline makes specific recommendations to build your tribe and help others thrive: for example, find two women you know and share their success stories on two social media platforms #share222; or list 5-6 people you know who are givers and set up a monthly meeting to share goals and hold each other accountable to them – in a kind way.

To take the free VIA Character Survey that Caroline mentioned, head to

You can find Caroline on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Read the Transcript

Note: While When Women Win is produced as an audio recording, we are delighted to produce transcripts for those who are unable to hear. Kindly note that these are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Media is encouraged to check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Rana Nawas: (00:00)
Hello Ladies and gents, my guest on today’s show is a pioneer in the area of goal-setting, Grit, happiness, and success. Caroline Miller is one of the world’s leading experts on the science of goal setting and grit. She spent more than 30 years helping individuals, leaders and companies to cultivate grit, to achieve their goals and find professional and personal success. Caroline is the author of six books, including Getting Grit and Creating Your Best Life. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, The Washington Post, BBC, and CNN. During our chat, we discussed how grit helped her overcome bulemia at the age of 22 and lead her into the science of goal setting. I was struck by two counter intuitive facts about happiness and I was delighted to learn that only half of grit and happiness, are hardwired the rest we can develop. We talked about job crafting to find your purpose in whatever role you have. We also got into women knee-capping or blocking other women and how important it is that women support each other and push each other forward. At the end you’ll find specific actions that you can take to build your tribe, so let’s get into it.

Rana Nawas: (01:16)
Caroline, it is such a pleasure having you on the show. Thanks for dialing in from Washington DC.

Caroline Miller: (01:20)
Oh God, my pleasure. Thanks for having me. I’m so excited about this.

Rana Nawas: (01:25)
Awesome! So I’m not really sure where to start the conversation, Caroline. I mean I think we need like a three or four part series to get through everything you teach at Wharton.

Caroline Miller: (01:33)
Thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be here.

Rana Nawas: (01:35)
Thank you. So let’s start with goal setting.

Caroline Miller: (01:38)
Yeah. I mean in my 17 years in the corporate world, I never got training on how to set goals. Yeah. So this was a wakeup call for me too. I come from an Olympic gold, silver and bronze medalist in my family, my great uncles in the 1912 Olympics. And so I was a competitive athlete and I, and I work with corporations and C suite level executives on goal setting. I’ve always been focused on success. How do you get there? What does it take? And I have a backstory that I think you probably know about, about why it matters so much to me to have hope and accomplished big, hard goals. But when I went back to penn 13 years ago, I was in the first class, at the University of Pennsylvania in the science of positive psychology and masters of applied positive psychology. I was introduced to goal setting theory and I’d never heard of it before. And I was setting goals is a credentialed coach. And I thought, you know, smart goals might be the way to set goals because everybody talks about smart goals and they think it’s a science.

Caroline Miller: (02:37)
Also at this time, law of attraction was really big. I think there were more coaches calling themselves law of attraction coaches when it came to goal setting than anything else. So imagine my shock and surprise to find out that it’s a very well validated, well studied, number one, theory and management is this science of goal setting, AKA goal setting theory. I was so stunned that there was a science to it with proven evidence that I went over to Drexel University. I Xeroxed every single page of the textbook. I was shocked. It up ended my life. I immediately changed my website because I had things like the Harvard study in 1950 as proof of goal setting and writing your goals down and as I did my due diligence, I found out that pretty much every single book on the market on goal setting, and I’m talking Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, all the popular people, Tony Robbins, none of them had footnotes.

Caroline Miller: (03:36)
None of them had research. Everything in them were urban legends and I thought, “Oh my God”. And so I made it my capstone that year: The science of goal setting and its intersection with the science of happiness because another stunning study to me upended my life and another way was that it’s a slam dunk finding, hundreds of studies showing that, it is happiness that precedes success, not vice versa. We don’t become contented, awed, happy, satisfied. After we achieve something. It’s that condition of flourishing, emotional flourishing, the preceeds success in all domains of life. So you can’t talk about goal setting without first addressing the whole science of flourishing. But my capstone project that year was the first time anyone had dug into academia and pulled all these theories out. They were sitting there, sitting there! And I wove it together and it became this best seller: Creating Your Best Life and when that when book came out in late 2008, early 2009 and, I kid you not, still shocks me, first mass market book ever published that had any researcher footnotes in it on how to set and accomplish goals with science behind it.

Caroline Miller: (04:51)
I know what I’ve pulled together and it was groundbreaking and I’m proud of it, but I think to echo what you just started with is whatever company I go into, anywhere, anywhere in the world, everyone’s setting goals. No one’s heard of goal setting theory. Therefore people are shooting themselves in the foot from the get go without understanding what goal setting theory is or how to set goals and it creates the biggest disasters in history.

Rana Nawas: (05:18)
And so what is, how should we set goals?

Caroline Miller: (05:21)

Rana Nawas: (05:21)
What is the theory?

Caroline Miller: (05:22)
Goal setting theory is an open theory. It’s Locke and Latham and it’s simple, but it’s not easy always to get it right away, but basically what it says is that there’s two kinds of goals. Learning goals and performance goals and performance goals are what most people assume they should be setting, which is come up with a desired outcome, with a clear metric of success by a certain date.

Caroline Miller: (05:46)
And so that only holds though when you’re setting goals that you’ve actually accomplished before, you know, how, how to actually get to those different benchmarks and you can set a goal for progress. And that could be a time in a sport. It could be a sales goal if you already know how to sell a certain widget to certain kinds of customers. It could be a variety of things, but the bottom line is that it, it has to be something you’ve done before where there’s no learning involved. So that’s a performance goal. However, most goals are learning goals at least at first. And so that is the one and only time you can actually say do your best because in the beginning you need to be engaged in the process of learning, in creativity, in brainstorming and being mentored, finding mentors, being sponsored in some ways, but, I was listening to your Beth Comstock interview this morning and I also heard her saying that, and I think it’s true, that women’s tendency when they get an opportunity to achieve a big goal that had been given an opportunity in a position that’s been a real reach for them.

Caroline Miller: (06:45)
What their first desire is to go accomplish as much as possible to prove that you deserve to be there, but that’s usually going to be a learning goal condition, which means you should be giving yourself and the organization also should be giving you time to actually learn the ropes. Because we know from goal setting theory that you will always get the absolute top performance for both learning goals and performance goals. If they are challenging and specific outside of your comfort zone. But if you don’t know the difference, you will find that the biggest disasters in business history and also probably in our personal lives, come from people setting performance goals outcomes in learning goal conditions. And I can reference the Ford Pinto were over a thousand people were killed or maimed by a car that was rushed into production through production onto the market by Lee Iacocca and Ford Motor Company.

Caroline Miller: (07:37)
That’s an example. And there are many others of people who had bottom line performance goals attached to people who were actually learning goal situations, who didn’t have time to learn the ropes. That’s when people cheat. That’s when they steal. That’s when their morals are compromised. And that’s when they, you know, skip steps and consequently people become disengaged from those goals and often leave the workforce because they don’t know how to accomplish the goal and they’re flooded and overwhelmed.

Rana Nawas: (08:02)
How do you, how should you set performance goals?

Caroline Miller: (08:06)
Okay, so let’s take an example. My, my seventh book getting grit is I know how to write books. I know how to research books. And so when I got that book contract, I knew exactly what I had to do in terms of cancelling work, setting out writing times, having word count productivity. I knew all those things because I’d written a number of books before.

Caroline Miller: (08:26)
The first time I wrote a book, was 1988? My Name Is Caroline. I’d never written a book before, so it was very difficult for me to know how many words I would write a day, how much time did I need to kind of polish a chapter that was a learning goal, conditions. So the first thing you want to ask yourself is, have I done this before? If I have not, where am I going to go to find the information and flatten my learning curve so that I can set an appropriate deadline a day, a week, a month, a year, so that I can get to a finish line or be in a, “do your best” condition for a while while I learned the ropes of this particular situation. So that’s the first question to ask yourself. Have I done it before? If I have not. It’s a learning goal condition called Do Your Best.

Rana Nawas: (09:12)
Yeah, that makes sense. And you want to understand what you’re getting yourself into before you set… say I want to write a book by, you know, within three months. Well, if you’ve never written a book before, you don’t know how many pages you can write in a day. So you go and you educate yourself. So it’s education before setting the goal, is that right?

Caroline Miller: (09:31)
Yes, and it’s also a certain amount of humility, intellectual humility to know what you don’t know and be able to ask for help.

Rana Nawas: (09:38)
And Caroline, how did you get into goal setting?

Caroline Miller: (09:41)
My back story, my personal backstory that led me to study grit on top of goal setting was in my early twenties, I hit my very last bottom with an eating disorder called bulimia, which I’d been struggling with secretly for seven, almost eight years. What I didn’t realize was that with my history of addiction in my family, I was a sitting duck to be an addict of some kind and eating disorders are very much like addictions and I got into it and couldn’t get out and was too ashamed to ask anyone for help. I mean, when you lose control of such a basic function, it’s humiliating. It feels humiliating and so I was very much alone and also at that time I think people may have forgotten this back then,

Caroline Miller: (10:27)
nobody got better: everyone died. So how did I get into goal setting and grit on a big level was my personal backstory. I guess it’s a founder’s story, where I hit my last bottom at 22. I found myself at a 12 step meeting for compulsive eaters and I heard a woman say a sentence that changed my life and it was just, my name is Betsy and I’m recovering from bulimia one day at a time. She gave me hope and we know, when I studied hope theory at Penn, when I went back to get this master’s degree, when you have hope that you can accomplish something that you haven’t yet accomplished, it builds your self-efficacy, but it allows you to think differently and behave differently. And I went from having a fixed mindset, ala Carol Dweck, to a growth mindset. I had protected my ego at all costs by always staying inside my comfort zone, pursuing goals my family had my swim coaches, my teachers.

Caroline Miller: (11:15)
I got into Harvard, I graduated Magna Cum Laude. None of those things were particularly hard for me. This was my first massive failure where I had to say to myself, “you have to persist, with passion, to live”. And so I learned how to fail and get up and fail and get back up and persist and develop resilience and ultimately grit because now I’ve been in recovery for over 30 years unbroken, and that was my lesson in learning that grit is not talent and success, that you can cultivate grit and anyone can do it. Because only about half of our ability to be gritty is hardwired, and so that’s how I think goal setting and grit meshed together for me because I realized it’s a game changer to learn how to set big goals and accomplish them and cultivate grit because that’s… All the inflection moments in someone’s life, usually involve big goals and grit and everyone has a right to learn how to be that person.

Rana Nawas: (12:17)
Well that’s an incredible story, Caroline. At 22 you had to save your own life. Let’s talk about grit. For many of our listeners, English is not the first language. What do you mean by grit?

Caroline Miller: (12:29)
Oh, that’s a great question. My definition of grit differs a tiny bit from Angela Duckworth, a friend, and mentor of mine who wrote the best selling book, just Grit, and she defines it as passion and perseverance in pursuit of longterm goals. Because I’ve worked with people to cultivate grit and because I had to cultivate it in myself, I had to sit back and ask myself is that all we need to know about grit? And I realized that there’s good grit and bad grit and I needed to break it into two different camps to help people first understand it. Secondly, cultivate it. So my definition of grit is what I call authentic grit, and authentic grit to me is still about passion and pursuing hard goals outside of your comfort zone and taking risks to accomplish those hard goals. But here’s where I veer a little bit off into a slightly different area.

Caroline Miller: (13:20)
I believe that grit is only good, when, if other people witness you in pursuit of those meaningful hard goals that they are somehow positively impacted by witnessing it or hearing about it and that they then ask themselves, “Wow, what if I dug a little bit deeper? What if I took bold risks to live my best life? What if…” And I think Malala Yousafsai is a really good example of authentic grit, because she had the passion and persistence and the willingness to take risks, but in that process awed and inspired other people to do big, bold things. So there’s stupid grit, which is a bad form of grit where people persist, persist, persist, but it’s summit fever and mountaineering, you know, they don’t take changing weather situations or other people’s lives into account. It’s about winning at all costs. That’s a bad kind of grit and there are two other kinds of bad grit.

Rana Nawas: (14:19)
So I was going to ask why is grit a good thing? But I think you answered that.

Caroline Miller: (14:24)
I could answer it with a little bit more definition that would be helpful to your listeners, I think. Can I just go there for a minute? So when I wrote creating your best life, I found some fascinating research that showed that the happiest people wake up everyday to hard goals, not easy goals, hard goals. And so what matters when you talk about that is that the good life is not the easy life. It’s not the the life where you go to the mall or pursue things inside of your comfort zone. It’s about doing hard things. That’s the meaningful life, that’s the good life. And if you’re going to have hard goals, you have to cultivate this x-factor: grit. Otherwise you’ll never be able to accomplish those hard goals. So that’s where it all ties together in terms of being meaningful, important, and part of a flourishing life.

Rana Nawas: (15:09)
Wait, the happiest people are people who wake up to hard goals. Can you explain that a little bit?

Caroline Miller: (15:16)
Yes. Okay. So there was a longitudinal study then by a man named Bruce Headey, and he’s not the only one, but I include the research, there’s lots and lots of footnotes in Creating Your Best Life; so that was my fifth book about this goal setting and flourishing. And so what he found and others have found is that when you unpack flourishing people, happy people, people who say they have a good life, whose self report is somewhere around a seven or an eight, they are not waking up too easy goals. They’re waking up to goals that call upon themselves to take risks, to use their strengths and to accomplish something meaningful. They feel purposeful. Other research has found that at the end of every day we all scan our days subconsciously, sometimes consciously for what we did that day that we are proud of. And why do we do that? Because we’re looking to build our self esteem.

Caroline Miller: (16:06)
We’re looking to feel masterful. That’s self determination theory right there. We, we strive to be masterful in our environments and we don’t master things that are just easy. We’ve get confidence from doing hard things, finding out what we’re made of. And so at the end of every day, we code our days for whether or not we’re proud of ourselves and the things that build what’s called authentic self esteem are the things we did outside of our comfort zone. So matter how no matter how you slice a flourishing life, a happy person, a person living a meaningful life, you find hard goals and overcoming setbacks right at the heart of the good life. And you can’t talk about those without then, quickly segwaying into, well, what is grit? It’s been called the secret to success. Angela Duckworth gave a brilliant Ted Talk about it that has over 10 million views. If that’s the secret to success with these hard goals, how in the heck do you get it? I have the only evidence based book on actually how to do that. And that’s a piece of why I’m so proud of that book because it’s a meaningful book and I think it could be the most important call to action any of us ever hear, either for ourselves or for the next generation because we find that it’s not a particularly resilient gritty group. Particularly if you grow up without having to do a lot of hard things.

Rana Nawas: (17:30)
You mentioned earlier, what percentage of Grit is hardwired that you’re born with?

Caroline Miller: (17:38)
Well, Angela Duckworth found that it’s about 50 percent and I’ll give an example, and the same thing is true by the way, for happiness, about half of our ability to flourish and be happy is also hard wired. You know, the optimism, pessimism, but that also contributes to people with grit. Being more optimistic tends to give you more persistence and zest and pursuing hard things. And so the other half, and I spend most of getting grit, talking about how do you learn the other important components because I had to sit back and unpack authentic grit and say, “What are the things we need to know and do in order to have the right kind of grit?” Humility is one of them. The science of goal setting is one, learning how to flourish and positive psychology, the interventions that exists, those are all part and parcel of becoming grittier, all of which we don’t have time to go into all of them, I’m sure, but everyone can learn those qualities. Is it easy? No. Is it worth doing? Yes,

Rana Nawas: (18:38)
So I find more and more I find optimism to be really important as I age and as I work and as I interact with more and more people, I’m starting to find, you know, before I would think in the corporate world it was your technical ability and then it became your leadership skills and then you start thinking, okay, well what about leadership skills? What does that actually mean? You know, and it’s being authentic and this and that, but for me, my personal development optimism is probably number one. I think in terms of inspiring others and getting them to rally behind you, what’d you think about that?

Caroline Miller: (19:11)
Couldn’t agree more because when I said that woman saved my life by giving me hope. Just, you know, I recovered from bulimia. She didn’t have to say much more than that. It gave me hope, and so when you look at the definition of optimism and particularly in the VIA character strength survey, it’s hope, optimism and future mindedness. Those three all go together and also to add onto that, when you look at leadership rankings, you know, how do people get promoted into leadership positions? If you just look at the military, for example, in the United States half of your ability to be promoted as whether or not you give people hope that they can do things they haven’t yet done before. Building their self efficacy and inspirational leaders can do that through speeches. I mean if you think about JFK and we know we’re going to put a man on the moon. We had more phd’s per capita in the US and the 10 years after that speech than any other time in history because he made people believe they could play a role in putting a man on the moon. So inspirational leaders learn how to give people hope, optimism, future mindedness, but they also begin to identify with the role they can play in making that big goal happen. And that is a huge challenge worthy of anyone who wants to be a leader.

Rana Nawas: (20:28)
All right, well let’s talk about the science of happiness now. How do you define happiness?

Caroline Miller: (20:34)
There’s so many definitions of happiness. I just call it emotional flourishing. The ability to be more positive than negative, the ability to be a seven or an eight or a nine or a ten. The ability to be connected to other people because we know the happiest people are also the most grateful who build bridges to other people. So for me it’s a big picture. It’s about being more hopeful than not helpful. Be more optimistic than pessimistic, being more grateful than ungrateful, but basically having hope that if you take yourself out of your comfort zone and do things that are meaningful, not meaningless. Because a lot of people wake up to somewhat meaningless goals for the pleasant life. They don’t individuate you in any way. They don’t contribute to other people’s wellbeing. Those people don’t necessarily have good lives. We find that people who are flourishing wake up to an ikigai: that which I wake up for. That’s a Japanese word, and they wake up because there’s something they offer the world that makes the the world better.

Rana Nawas: (21:33)
Sorry Caroline, could you repeat that? I really am really curious to hear more about this Japanese word.

Caroline Miller: (21:37)
Okay. So I’m taking it straight from Dan Buettner’s books. And the first one that I’m referring to is Blue Zones where he went around the world, as a national geographic explorer, and he looked for where are the highest functioning or the most flourishing, oldest people in the world, how do they live, not just long lives but long good lives? And he unpacked the common denominators in these settings. One was Okinawa, Japan, and one of the common denominators is this Japanese word ikigai. And what it translates into is that which I wake up for. The happiest people wake up because there’s something pulling them that’s bigger than themselves, where they feel that they have a unique skill or gift that they can then use to help themselves, not just develop, but also contribute to other people’s wellbeing. For example, I was told early on in my recovery from bulemia that I couldn’t keep what I didn’t give away.

Caroline Miller: (22:33)
Very simple slogan. You can’t keep what you don’t give away. So what it really boiled down to was great, Caroline, that’s great that you’re overcoming bulimia. That’s fantastic. But who are you pulling along with you? And this is where I become very focused on how can women help other women? How do we turn around and pull other women with us? And that’s a whole different conversation we can have. But you know, the flourishing piece has to involve somehow helping other people to also live better lives. And that was the pivotal point for me in studying grit was grit is not good unless there’s a collective plus that people get from witnessing or being in an environment where someone’s doing something hard. It can’t diminish you, it has to uplift you: to witness it, hear about it, be in the presence of it.

Rana Nawas: (23:26)
How do you suggest that people working in the corporate world or entrepreneurs building businesses… How do you suggest that they access that? If they’re in a job that’s, you know, they’re cogs in the wheels, right? Of a large corporation, how can they access this part of something meaningful that improves the world around them? Can they do that while they’re working?

Caroline Miller: (23:51)
Well, I could quote Amy Wrzesniewski work on job crafting, for example, where people can take a job that feels meaningless and then use their strengths and turn it into, “I’m not just a hospital janitor; I’m somebody who improves the quality of the lives of people who are recovering from surgery. I play a meaningful role in the lives of other people to promote their wellbeing and give him comfort at a time when they’re uncomfortable and sad”. So that’s called job crafting where you take a job that feels like a job and you turn it into a calling simply by virtue of how you redefine what it means to you and to the world. So that’s one way to do it. Some organizations like KPMG, a big accounting firm, have really taken a look at how do we create not just a corporate strategy where it’s about, you know, return to investors and good bottom line profits, but what do we do in this company that makes the world better?

Caroline Miller: (24:41)
And they undertook a huge strategy to find out what is it that they do that makes the world better. And Harvard Business Review did a great case study on what they did and they trickled down to the rank and file. And I know this because my oldest son also works at KPMG and I’ve asked him very directly what’s it like, what’s it like to be there? And one of the things he told me when he was working on the BP oil spill, because he’s based in Houston and there was this huge oil spill that killed a lot of wildlife, was when he’s sitting in his cubicle looking for fraud or kind of uncovering, you know, wrongdoing in the world. There were pictures of birds with a covered in oil posted around where he was working. So he wasn’t just Haywood Miller: working on uncovering fraud and bringing bad people to justice or righting wrongs.

Caroline Miller: (25:30)
It was also about saving wildlife. But individually we can do that as well. And right at the heart of this, I really do believe that using the VIA character strength survey, which ranks your character strengths from one to 24 and it’s a free strengths assessment. And I’m, I really believe in this character strength survey because it uses words like kindness and leadership and zest and love of learning and curiosity and creativity and words that we can all relate to. And if we know what our top five strengths are and we look at them and we say, how can I use those strengths to be successful, to be my best self today? That’s also when people can begin to emerge and create more meaningful lives, pursue goals differently and connect with people differently. So those are just a few of the ways that come to mind for me.

Rana Nawas: (26:19)
Oh, we’ll definitely include the link to that test in the show notes. Thanks for that. You mentioned women supporting women. I know we’re going to talk. We’re going to go there. I know. It’s a whole other conversation. What do you mean by that?

Caroline Miller: (26:34)
Oy vey!

Rana Nawas: (26:36)
Do you want to go there?

Caroline Miller: (26:38)
We have to go there. Two years ago I was invited to a salon for female graduates of Harvard and Yale here in Washington DC, the first topic they picked was women undermining other women and it was mobbed! It was sold out. There was a free for all. How do I get into that? And I got one of these tickets to get there and it was just astonishing to me that I was… And it’s not like I didn’t know that women knee-cap, other women, I know that women are the primary bullies in the workplace. I had been the victim of adult female bullying: I get it. You know, and there’s research associated with scarcity theory and is it that women knee-cap, other women, because there’s only two seats at the table of power and you have to preserve your seat at all costs. Is it a biological thing where women are wired to destroy competition?

Caroline Miller: (27:24)
What is it? My challenge and my problem with that and I’ve continued to work on this, is that we are the solutions. We can talk endlessly about why this is so. And I have to say I’ve spoken at lots and lots and lots of women’s gatherings. And when I say “How many of you think women undermining other women is a problem?” I get a hundred percent of the hands going up because women know this is a problem, and it’s the elephant in the room, because it’s easier for us to now point to long overdue movements around Time’s Up, you know, Me Too. Those are all valid. It was time for those to come up and the election of Donald Trump has really put a spotlight on how women are treated and how they are discussed and how they are marginalized and how they’re called liars. This most recent incident incident has been a problem, but I really do think we also have to look at what are we doing to each other inside the tent because we’re not a monolithic block.

Caroline Miller: (28:18)
We are not all, not all women support other women and it’s high time we talked about it and did something about it.

Rana Nawas: (28:24)
The challenge with this is that, you know, men will look at this and say, see, there is no gender discrimination. It’s a women kneecapping women. That’s the problem. Men Aren’t doing anything at all here.

Caroline Miller: (28:35)
There’s plenty of proof that that’s not true. You know, men who say there’s no sexual discrimination in their organizations, you go and prove that, you know, women are actually going backwards in terms of fortune 500 CEOs and the world economic bureau said it’s going to take 170 years for women to achieve economic parity. I mean, there’s all kinds of research refuting that. It doesn’t mean we can’t bring this up because every woman I talked to agrees that it’s a problem, so I think instead of looking away from it, we have to look right at it and say it’s not just men or sexual discrimination, but we also have to say, not all men are predators.

Caroline Miller: (29:10)
Not all men are the enemy. In many cases, men will will serve as tremendous sponsors and role models and mentors to women. We can’t just shut them all out. We have to look at Me Too, Time’s Up, say, yep, there’s a lot of evidence that there’s a lot of sexual discrimination and, and we have to talk about the elephant in the room here. And one of the things that I think is so important is that the research in positive psychology has given us some answers about how to discriminate between some women who are not positive, not supportive. We have to wake up and say, okay, Shelly Gable at UCLA has given us fabulous research on how to tell if someone’s in your camp: Active, constructive responding. You know, so she looked at what happens when you have good news and she found that there’s only one right way to respond and that’s with curiosity and enthusiasm.

Caroline Miller: (30:03)
So if somebody shares their good news with you, a big accomplishment, the only one right way to say, to respond that signifies that this is someone in your camp. This is someone who should be to use another Japanese word in your moai, your group of people who have your back. We don’t do this. I had been studying this now for quite a while and this is going to be I’m helping to run a big global summit at the International Positive Psychology Association next July and it’s called Thriving Women Thriving World and we are going to unpack through appreciative inquiry what are the ways in which women can create thriving relationships with other women? Because when you sculpt other women with praise and curiosity and enthusiasm that is directed in the ways they want to be seen, the way they want to be recognized, it’s called the Michelangelo effect. You sculpt people when you do that. I believe we will then uplift each other and then have more seats of power because an Atlantic article, an Atlantic magazine article said just this week that it’s not a confidence problem.

Caroline Miller: (31:18)
It’s not that. It’s that in the workplace, women who toot their own horns are slaughtered. There’s blow back, there’s envy, there’s, you know, there’s all kinds of things. We all know what I’m talking about, so my solution is to find two women at work in your network. People you don’t necessarily know, and if they’ve accomplished a goal that’s important to them, that has involved grit, that was a big goal that they’re proud of: share their success on two social media networks because that’s where women are. Build their networks with the hashtag #share2to2: two women’s success, to two social media networks every week do it. The more we circulate those women’s achievements, the less they have to do it for themselves, which we know is a well known way to get excommunicated. People are envious, they’re angry, they’ve, you know, fear that, what does it mean that I didn’t get that? It’s natural. Override it. Override it and automatically share that to two social media networks and you know what the takers will out themselves if they don’t turn around and do it to other people because you can’t keep what you don’t give away. Those people will filter out and then we will create a community of unified givers. We have to do it because we’re not going forward. We’re going backwards in some ways.

Rana Nawas: (32:45)
I wonder Caroline. I wonder whether women know that tooting your own horn gets bad results, because you hear corporations and guests that have been on my show and myself, that women have to self promote, self promote, self promote. So this blowback is not what women are hearing today I think.

Caroline Miller: (33:06)
You know, read the newest Atlantic magazine article. I’ll send it to you because she would be a great guest for you, but I have seen this personally. I’ve seen it in the research and I, there is blow back. Just take a look at Facebook for example, or Linkedin when somebody has the audacity to say that something great happened to them. A lot of people who will hit like if they went on a nice vacation or their child was successful suddenly go mute in the face of another woman’s success. If you don’t believe me, watch it. And I don’t think we always know what we’re doing by going silent and mute. It’s a cruel form of interacting with someone, you know. How often do women see one woman’s success and go beyond the like and actually share it with theirs so that, that woman’s success is then shared with a broader network. Not very often. And so…

Rana Nawas: (33:55)
Isn’t that a little weird though? I mean, wouldn’t that be a little weird to share someone else’s success unless you know her really well?

Caroline Miller: (34:03)
Take a look at my share2to2s this year. There has been, for example, a janitor in Atlanta, Georgia who found that there are a lot of homeless teens coming to school washing up in the bathroom. She started a care closet and so her care closet idea is expanding because people are sharing that story. That’s a share2to2. I swim with and trained with ironman athletes. I share their success. So, no, I do that personally. I do it professionally. It’s not weird, but I think what’s important is that a lot of women are solo preneurs. A lot of women are entrepreneurs quite often to have flexibility so that they can help raise their families or be more whatever it is. So they really do rely on word of mouth getting word out. And I think it’s a creepy thing to constantly be tooting your own horn.

Caroline Miller: (34:52)
I don’t like doing it, but I know that even in a book contract you are required in your contract to say that you will promote yourself. It’s creepy. It feels bad. I’d much rather have somebody be an active constructive responder for me. So I’ve turned around and said, I would love to have this, but instead I’m going to give it to other people. I’m going to try to start a movement where we’re more invested in uplifting other people and being givers at broadening their networks, letting people know that there’s a skill that they have and I know it’s making a difference because I’m hearing it’s making a difference. People are getting jobs, people are getting work, people are getting recognized because I’m doing this. And a few other people have started to do it too, but it does feel unnatural because it’s not normally what we do.

Rana Nawas: (35:39)
Also, men, don’t do it for each other.

Caroline Miller: (35:41)
There was great research done on when Hillary Clinton was preparing to run for president of the United States. Arguably probably the most powerful job in the world. She consulted historians, a psychologist, presidential historians, and she said, what should I expect? And universally, she was told that a woman is hated. The more successful she is, the more she is hated. The more successful a man is, the more he has admired. So there’s a whole different dynamic to men who support or share or network with other successful men. That’s a big gender difference.

Rana Nawas: (36:20)
And is that hated by men and women equally?

Caroline Miller: (36:25)
Well. Take a look at some of the comments that came up when Hillary Clinton was running. It wasn’t a backer qualifications. Was she a flawed candidate? Absolutely, but she certainly was qualified for the job. What you heard was a lot of criticism of her looks, her voice, and it came from both men and women.

Caroline Miller: (36:44)
You didn’t hear the same things about Donald Trump. A lot of women ended up voting overwhelmingly for him. There’s a whole different response to successful women from both women and men that men don’t see.

Rana Nawas: (36:56)
I’m trying to think of the solution. Yeah. We can promote each other. That’ll have impact over time. And what can. What’s a quick win? Is there one?

Caroline Miller: (37:05)
I think so. I think every woman should create or be in a, mastermind group, you know, meet monthly with shared screens or in person with several like-minded individuals who are givers, not takers, in a confidential way with psychological safety. Say, here are my big goals in life. Here are the things I want to accomplish. Help me brainstorm ways to get there, and when I hit setbacks, help me get around them and not give up. Every woman should be in a group like that and very few women take the time to be in that.

Caroline Miller: (37:32)
That’s a quick win. There’s something called the Shalane Effect that explains it. And this is, it came as a result of Shalane Flanagan a very elite runner who won the New York City Marathon. What really came from that win was this study finding that she invited her competitors to train with her, I think in Oregon. And they would come out when they had injuries or wanted to quit or had a bad day. She didn’t say, “Oh, it’s better for me”. She talked to them back into training to staying focused, telling them why they should, you know, remain, you know, in the sport that better days were ahead, etc. Etc. Etc. The remarkable thing about what Shalane Flanagan created in that training group is, and they’ve never seen it anywhere else, is every single woman who went to train with her has now done their absolute best times made the Olympics.

Caroline Miller: (38:24)
You know, become even more elite. That doesn’t happen. We need to have the Shalane Effect. 84% of women confess to being surrounded by frenemies: friends who are enemies. I’ll tell you another thing that I think really matters and that is we’re in a historic shocking time for women. Middle aged women, there is a huge number of statistics have come out from the centers for disease control and elsewhere here in the U.S. showing that for the first time, middle aged women are dying younger than previous generations, and why is that? They’re dying from diseases of despair. That’s what they’re called. Diseases of despair. They feel like they don’t have purpose, they don’t have passion for their own goals. They have eating disorders, alcoholism, opioid addiction, you know, suicide, depression. It’s despair. We’re seeing, and this is a historic first, women are living shorter lives.

Caroline Miller: (39:18)
We have to create more passion and purpose among women and we have to do that with relational grit, support other women’s goals. Find out what they are. Why do people don’t even know what their friends goals are? Why not? Why don’t we know that if we don’t know that we don’t really know them and find ways to help support each other. So you said quick win today list three people you know, are givers and ask them if they want to be in a monthly mastermind group with you and then run it like a business meeting and then check in every single month. Treat it seriously. It will make a difference.

Rana Nawas: (39:50)
I love it. That’s a call to action for everyone listening. List three people you know who are givers and set up a monthly meeting to help each other meet your goals.

Caroline Miller: (39:59)
Yep. Keep it small. Keep it to about five to seven people. You can do shared screens on Skype or Zoom. You can do it in person. I’ve done both. It really, really makes a difference because you know people have your back. No matter how many women’s groups I talk to, when I say “How many of you are in a mastermind group?” I would say one, maybe two hands go up. And yet when you look at something like Botswana, there’s something called The Grannie Project. You know, there’s big issue: the number one thief of productivity among women in the entire world is depression. Gallup has found this out. And so in Botswana, all these women are suffering from depression, you know, childbearing and raising kids by themselves. It’s, it’s hard, you know that I know that and you don’t get a lot of thank you’s at the end of the day. So they started The Grannie Project, which is simply they’re park benches were grandmothers sit and when they sit on the end of the park bench, that’s the signal that other women can come up to them and just have a shoulder to cry on, someone to ask for help. It’s brilliant because when we come together in that way, we’re all uplifted and I’m just calling for it to be formalized

Rana Nawas: (41:06)
Share two to two, start a mastermind group. Even this Grannie Project. I love that idea that comes from Botswana because that gives purpose to the grannies and support to the younger ladies. So it’s definitely win-win. Caroline, thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I have learned, you should see my notes right now! I have learned so much. I’ve written, I don’t know how many pages I’ve written. Where can listeners find you?

Caroline Miller: (41:30)
The easiest place to find me is my website I would love to get more followers just to see how much fun it is to get more followers on instagram where I post often happiness tips of the day, goal setting tips of the day. My instagram handle is @cmcoaching and twitter is @carolinemcoach and I’m also on LinkedIn. Everyone should be on LinkedIn. I’m there too, but if you start at, you can go anywhere from there. Right?

Rana Nawas: (41:59)
Brilliant. I love it. Alright, thank you again. Caroline it’s been fantastic.

Caroline Miller: (42:03)
Thank you and thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

Rana Nawas: (42:06)
I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. I’d love to hear from you. So please head over to to give feedback. While you’re there, you can find all episodes and show notes and sign up for our monthly newsletter. Wherever you’re listening right now. Do remember to hit the subscribe button to be notified of future episodes. And please write a review when you can to let others know what to expect. Thanks and have a great day.

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