Lights under bushels

Okay, for years I have been following the scientific process as defined by Hermann Helmholtz, and I didn’t even know it!

Hermann, who?

Helmholtz was a well-regarded German scientist in the 19th century (The century thing always throws me.  I have to stop and say in my head – 19th century, so that means 1800’s, right? I really think they could have come-up with an easier system. Am I the only one who finds it confusing?)  Anyway, Helmholtz used the following stages to describe his scientific discoveries:

Saturation: Research, reading, interviews

Incubation: Reflect on collected data/information ( I love that word – incubation, actually, I like the words incubation period even better –  sounds scientific and cozy all at the same time – I always picture warm lights and ideas popping around.)

Illumination: The light bulb goes off, the “ah ha” moment happens.

This is how I think!  For years I thought I was procrastinating, turns out I was being scientific.

I really did feel bad about using this approach. It bothered me that folks, including my Mom (nine children, always busy), thought I was being lazy when I read/researched/reflected.  I let their opinions overshadow mine.

I hid my style even deeper when I realized that most boys don’t like girls, who like research.

I am bringing it up now, because I am reading Dr. Ben Carson’s book “Think Big”.  Carson is an extremely gifted pediatric neurosurgeon, whose amazing childhood trials and adult triumphs are detailed in the book “Gifted Hands”, which was made into a movie of the same title.  (My friend Malinda highly recommends the movie.)

Carson’s book and mention of Helmholtz, reminded me I had hidden my talents in the past, and that maybe I am not the only person in the world, who has ignored his or her own strengths or style to meet the approval or avoid the disapproval of others.

Have you ever hid your light under a bushel?

If so, perhaps now is a good time to let your light shine, and to celebrate what makes you wonderful and unique.

Celebrating who you are can lead you where you want to go.  Besides, it’s fun, and can make the world a much nicer place to be.

If you aren’t sure what your special talents and strengths are – not to worry, stop by on Friday and I will share some tips from Carson and others to help you discover the best of you!

Gotta go – I am taking my laptop and a few good books outside for my style R&R – research and reflection.

A party in your head

I presented a Wishful Thinking workshop on Saturday to a wonderful group of women in Tampa.  It was a small, intimate gathering at a beautiful tea house.  The women were friendly, interesting and open; I learned a lot!

During the workshop I spent a bit of time talking about positive psychology and recent research related to happiness.  I saw this article later, and wanted to share parts of it with you, because it is a good summary of exactly what we were talking about.

The article was in the June 26 online issue of the Positive Psychology News Daily. Bridget Grenville-Cleave, a Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) student at the University of East London, provided a series of summaries from the 5th European Positive Psychology Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, June 23-26 2010. Here is part of one of her summaries:

“Keynote 2: Barbara Fredrickson (Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA)

How Positive Emotions Work, and Why

. . . Positivity opens us, changing our perceptual horizons. Recent brain imaging research shows that the perception of people in a neutral or negative state is focused in one area, whereas people in a positive state have a broadened focus. The implications of this are as follows:

  1. We can see many possibilities.
  2. We’re more creative.
  3. We’re more resilient.
  4. We perform better. . .

Positive emotions transform us for the better – they’re a source of nourishment for growth . . .”

Well, there you have it – being positive is good for you!  Gratitude and appreciation stimulate wider areas of your brain, meaning you have more brain power going for you – neurotransmitters firing, connecting, interacting.  That’s a good thing.

Picture your brain on happiness – it is like a party in your head, and all the guests care about you and are working to make your life better.

That is what being more positive can do for you, and your brain scans can prove it.

I like that. Party at my place.

Gross National Happiness

Once upon a time in a place far, far, away there lived a wise king.  This particular monarch ascended to the throne of the small, secluded, Buddhist country, Bhutan, which is perched in the Himalaya Mountains between China and India, in 1972 at the young age of 17 when his father died.

Instead of the normal everyday activities of a teenager, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s life soon became filled with thoughts of country and culture, and how to help his people in protecting what they loved – their land and its rich traditions, while finding ways to modernize and prepare for their future.

Throughout his reign he explored the impact of happiness on his people and his country, and transformed his country from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy and then to a democracy.  In 2006 he abdicated his throne to his 28 year-old son.

In 2008 at the coronation of his son, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck the 5th King of Bhutan, the country of Bhutan adopted the Gross National Happiness Index (GNH) and became the first country in the world to include ways to count the “happiness” of their people as an indicator of how successful their country was.

Instead of looking at their Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which focuses on economic standards to tell them how well their country was doing, they began counting things like:

Psychological wellbeing indicators Ecology indicators Health indicators
Education indicators Culture indicators Living Standards indicators
Time Use indicators Community Vitality indicators Good Governance indicators

In my last post, I introduced you to “Joie De Vivre” (Joy of Life) hotelier, speaker and author Chip Conley, and his TED talk about counting what matters.  Conley’s talk also introduced me to Bhutan’s concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH).

I found it intriguing that since Bhutan developed the GNH index, 40 other countries, including France, have begun studying their country’s GNH.  I liked that, and it got me thinking.  . .

What if each of us had a personal GNH index?

What if we used what we valued and counted to create our own GNH and then used it as a guide to create the life we want?

What if everyone in our big, beautiful country did that? What if we became the Shangri-La of the western world?  Could we?  Should we?

I do not have – nor do I believe Bhutan has – all the answers, but I do believe the questions are worth asking ourselves again and again . . .

What would my life look and feel like if I knew and counted only the things that really, really mattered to me? (Some of you might be thinking that “counting” anything is a bit mercenary and unnecessary, and you might be right, but I think since we already tend to do it, it may be a good tool to use to refocus our attention.)

How would I like to spend my time? What do I need to do to make that happen?

What am I interested in learning more about? How will I go about doing that?

What do I value in nature, and how do I recognize and honor that?

What am I doing to create happiness and fulfillment in my life or in the lives of the people I care about?

What am I doing to take care of my health? Do I do it consistently?

What does “community” mean to me? What are the moments of community I enjoyed as a child – or as an adult?  How did my community impact my environment, my education, my life?  Do I support those activities now?

Have I determined what living arrangements and what amount of “stuff” I need to be comfortable and happy? Do I have it? Have I reached a point of diminishing return?  Have I worked to adjust my life accordingly – up or down?

What is my family’s culture – my family of origin and the family I have created?  What do I want to preserve?  Change? Who and what do I value in life?  How do I show it?

I believe asking matters and that it defines who we are, and can help us create who we want to be.

I also believe it is a very brave thing to do.

What we count, counts.

Chip Conley’s TED talk reminded me that I am happiest when I am counting what really matters to me.  

Conley founded “Joie de Vivre Hospitality” (Joy of Life) and is a leader in the hospitality industry because of his perspective that joy has a central place in the workplace. He is an international speaker and the author of a number of books, including his most recent, “PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow.” (I haven’t read it yet, but it is next on my list.)

His talk also reminded me that I am happiest when who I am aligns with what I am doing

When that equation is seamless, I am me, and I am at my best.

Each of our formulas may be different, but as long as both sides of our personal equations (I value = I do) are equal, we are being true to ourselves.  And, I believe when we are being true to ourselves, we make the world a better place for all of us.

If you haven’t already, take some time to figure out what you really value, and then spend some time determining if that is what you are “counting.”

$$$$$€€€€€££££££    Money?

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥      Love, relationships, family, friends?

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦      Diamonds, bling?

™©® ™©® ™©®       Designer clothes, foods, furnishings?

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞      Religion, spirituality, meditation?

ΑΒΓΔΕΖΗΘΚΛΠΣΥΦΨ    Education, learning?

↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑      Upward mobility?

↑↓→← NSEW  ↑↓→←     Travel?

What do your signs look like?   Are you happy with the “sum” of your symbols?  Do they add up to who you want to be?

If your equation is working, celebrate!  

If not , don’t worry, and please, please don’t let “test anxiety” keep you from examining your life. (I have done that at times – not such a good idea.)  Instead of letting regrets or fears get the best of you, begin moving in the direction of who you really want to be.  Each step you take toward creating the life you want, makes the next step a bit easier. You can do it.  This is real life – not a test, and in real life, you do not need to get all the answers right, and I believe we get bonus points for trying!

Take time to explore your values.  What do you really care about?  How can you make what you value a part of your life or your organization? What can you do to bring your values and actions into alignment? 

If you need help getting started, check out my brainstorming worksheets or email me at wishfulthinkingworks@gmail.com

Signing-off for now,

Patrice, ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞ΑΒΓΔΕΖΗΘΚΛΠΣΥΦΨ↑↓→←NSEW ↑↑

PS More thoughts about Conley’s TED talk ahead.

A picture is worth a thousand words . . .

This weekend I added a bit of info and some photos to my Where tab. And, since a picture is worth a thousand words, I thought I might let them speak for me today.  Don’t forget to check-out Macedonia, More Macedonia and Ohio.

Hope you enjoy.

Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend.

Got that song in my head.  Can’t get it out.  Don’t know why I am having this particular musical flashback, but it got me dancing, so I figure it can’t be all bad.

It also led me to think about a radio ritual started by Kid Leo, a famous Cleveland, Ohio DJ (1974-1988 – had to look that up), who dominated the airwaves daily on an iconic Cleveland radio station, WMMS.  (I was born and lived in Cleveland until I was 35, please bear with me.)

In the 70’s and 80’s WMMS was well-known for giving airtime to new bands, covering live concerts and later for being one of the driving forces for bringing the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to the shores of Lake Erie.

Kid Leo was known for many things, but the one I remember best was his weekly habit of playing Born to Run as his signature sign-off song at 5 p.m. on Fridays.   This sweet little act united and motivated drivers throughout Northeast Ohio (this was a time and place where everyone, who was anyone, listened to FM in the car) by providing us with musical and philosophical weekend guidance from The Boss, “Nobody wins, unless everybody wins.” 

So why am I dragging you down my musical memory lane?

Because even though I now work a completely relaxed and flexible schedule, Fridays still feel special to me (just like the return to school each fall whether or not I am returning), and are the perfect time to create a weekend ritual.

Rituals connect us to each other and act as a bridge from the past to the future by allowing us to honor or recognize moments in the present.  I like that.

They are a formalized version of mindfulness, and they remind us, and tell the folks around us, that we value what we are celebrating. 

Think about starting a weekend ritual. 

Make it something that transports you from one state of mind to another, even if the flow for you from workdays to weekend is flawless, stopping to honor the transitional moment can signal your brain and those around you that you are aware of the value of each.

How do you begin a ritual?  I think of rituals as having three major components.

1. Meaning

2. Timing

3. Activities

Begin by identifying why you want to mark the moment – what do you want to honor or celebrate?

Pick a time and maybe a consistent place, and then decide what you want to do.  Make it simple and easy to recreate, and if you want others to join in, make sure you include them in the planning process. 

Then test it out.  Don’t give-up if the first few times the ritual doesn’t seem to gel, just rework and revamp it until it feels right. Make changes along the way until your ritual becomes something you (or everyone involved) look forward to, is easy to execute and enjoy, and brings you a sense of connection to something larger than life or at least bigger than yourself.

One of my favorite rituals seems pretty silly, but it gave me the feeling of connectedness I was looking for. For years I began my weekend with an early movie, then dinner out. I was out of my office by 4 p.m. (I made sure to start early or stay late ahead of time to make this possible – rituals take some level of planning, which may actually increase their value to you), and was cozily ensconced in a movie theater seat by 4:30 each Friday. 

I was faithful to this practice with or without a companion, but was lucky enough most of the time to have a girlfriend, date or boyfriend join me.  For them it was a fun escape, for me it was much more – it meant that I was taking time to do exactly what I enjoyed doing, in a way I enjoyed doing it – I was celebrating me and the passage of time and the events that had allowed me to be more comfortable than ever being me!  My little ritual led me to many, many other rich and rewarding choices in my life. 

Please do not underestimate the value of recognizing who you are and what you like.  It is the key to creating the life you want. 

So whether your weekend ritual involves the gentle glow of candles, the healing aspects of water, the soothing value of meditation, games with the kids, special foods or treats, or the simple fun of a good movie, make it your own and let it transport you to the place you truly want to be.

Stop, drop and roll

Something happened to me this week that reminded me just how much happier I am when I realize that  – sometimes – the lenses I use to see things and the filters through which I experience them can be a bit cloudy.

And, those clouds can get into my eyes and my sweet little soul, and distort my views and my experiences.

And, pausing for a moment or even a split second to take-off my emotional lenses and clean them or to shake-out my mental filters to freshen them – is a good idea.

So, to remind myself to take a reflective approach I have learned to stop, drop and review my responses and reactions before I let them roll, which has greatly reduced the number of fires in my life and the time and energy I have to spend putting them out.

I like that.

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