Synaptic Scholars Lightning Talks: Creating a Positive Identity by Judy Chen and Maude Plucker

by mdillard
Mar 09

Sunday’s Synaptics meeting featured two lightning talks that explored positive psychology and one’s identity and purpose.

In Judy’s lightning talk, she shared the practice of the Five Minute Journal (5MJ), a journaling system from the startup Intelligent Change. The intent of the 5MJ is to start the day with gratitude and positive intentions, and to end it with reflection. The 5MJ starts the morning asking for three simple things: what are you grateful for, what would make your day great, and daily affirmations. It is an opportunity to start the morning with a mindful intention that sets the tone for the day.

The creators of the 5MJ were inspired by research in positive psychology and cite findings from The Greater Good Science Center at UC Davis that quantified the positive benefits of gratitude journaling. Judy began practicing 5MJ last September. Along with other mindfulness practices such as sitting meditation, she has experienced a powerful, positive impact from 5MJ.

Maude’s lightning talk introduced a series of questions that ultimately help explore one’s identity and purpose. There are many advantages to exploring your identity from this conscious contemplation of your life’s purpose. One of the main advantages is what psychologists refer to as “identity achievement”, which essentially allows the individual to develop a strong sense of self and be confident in the choices that they make.

Some questions included:

  • If you had a business, would you find it very difficult to fire loyal but underperforming employees?
  • Generally speaking, do you rely more on your experience or your imagination?
  • Do you believe that it is more rewarding to be liked by others than to be powerful?
  • In a discussion, should the truth be more important than people’s sensitivities?
  • Do you think that everyone’s views should be respected regardless of whether they are supported by facts or not?


Next, she asked everyone to think about 5 characteristics that they value most and discuss the overlap. Some notable ones included: curiosity, compassion, gratitude, and honesty. Finally, she recommended that in searching for one’s purpose, one should ask the following three questions:

  1. What do I value?
  2. What makes me happy?
  3. What am I good at?