Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Q&A with author Caroline Adams Miller

Caroline Adams Miller
Caroline Adams Miller is an author and professional coach. Her books include My Name is Caroline, which looked at her struggle with bulimia as a teenager and young adult, and Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide.

Q: In your book Creating Your Best Life, you discuss the importance of making life lists. Why do you see that as an important tool for someone to use to improve his or her life?

A: I picked lists as a euphemism for "goals," because the book is really the first empirical and evidence-based book on how to set and accomplish goals, and putting them on lists was how the publisher wanted to frame it.  The Bucket List movie had just come out and they were excited about the concept of bucket lists and my work fit the bill. 

Q: You've written about your experiences as a teenager and young adult with bulimia. How difficult was it for you to write about those experiences, and what was your family's reaction to your decision to write about it?

A: I felt compelled to write about my experiences with bulimia and my recovery because there were no resources available when I was struggling.  I wanted to demystify the lives of people like me and provide an inside look at why so many high-functioning, bright people were falling victim to eating disorders, and since no one knew how people got well back then, my book was the first of its kind to shine a light on one possible avenue.  

It wasn't hard to write the book because I'm a writer, and that's how I process things and make meaning.  My family of origin never stood in my way, but they may have had some self-conscious moments at times.  I was careful NOT to ever implicate anyone else in my disorder, so it wasn't a book of blame, too.  Ultimately, my parents saw that my book saved thousands of lives and I think that erased any possible embarrassment.  In fact, not a week goes by - and it's been over 25 years - that I don't get a call or email thanking me for writing that book.  I'm still amazed at the power it had and continues to have in giving people hope, and starting them on a path of recovery.

Q: You received a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) from the University of Pennsylvania, and you work as a professional coach in addition to pursuing your writing career. What was the focus of the MAPP program, and how do you use that material in your coaching work?

A: I wanted to get a rigorous education in the science of happiness because it helped to give my profession a theoretical framework that our profession needed at that time.  Coaching is about getting people to flourish and accomplish goals, and positive psychology involves all of that, and more.  I connected the science of well-being with the science of goal-setting, and was the first to pull together a variety of motivational theories on how to set and accomplish goals, which informs my coaching practice.  I work with men and women all over the world, in a huge variety of professions, who want to make changes in their work and personal lives. 

Q: What advice would you give to someone who knows they want to make changes in their life, but isn't sure how to go about it?

A: My book would be a good place to start.  After reading it, you could make a decision about hiring a coach who is especially trained in goal accomplishment if you couldn't pull off change yourself.  Therapy is more designed to talk about change than actually do it, so I find that many people who benefit from coaching are people who have lots of insight but who never had the ability to act upon that insight. 

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I'm finishing Positively Caroline, which is the sequel to My Name is Caroline.  It will be the first autobiography about how someone got into recovery from an eating disorder and then stayed in recovery.  There is a dearth of role models who can demonstrate long-term recovery, and the field desperately needs it at this point because we still see epidemics of eating disorders.  I'm not exactly sure how much better off we are as a society when it comes to tackling and overcoming eating disorders, and I think that pressures are higher than ever on young women to be perfect.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Everyone should take a course somewhere on the basics of the science of happiness - it's that important.  There's a reason why Positive Psychology was, and remains, the most oversubscribed course in the history of Harvard.  Positive psychology gives people tools to use that can change their lives for the better immediately.  I have a lot of information about where to get started at

 Interview with Deborah Kalb.

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