Travels, timelines and tales

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“The flip side of wanting something involves doing something.”

P. Koerper, 8/29/2011

Yes, I am quoting myself, again, but I can’t help it. You see, one week from today, I will be starting a bit of an adventure . . .

First stop the ancient, beautiful, mountainous, country of Macedonia, where I lived and worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) from 2006-2009. I will be visiting my warm and wonderful Macedonian friends and presenting a two-day seminar related to a project I worked on as a PCV. I will also be doing some Wishful Thinking Works presentations, some coaching and hosting an American traveler, who heard me talk about Macedonia at a library presentation this year and decided she wanted to check out this great little country while I am there. (She’s very cutting-edge, Macedonia was one of CNBC – Top 10 Travel Picks for 2011. Plan to join me there next year.)

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Second stop, the Republic of Georgia, where I’m scheduled to head to in September or October for a three-month assignment as a Peace Corps Response Corps Volunteer!  Needless to say,  I’m excited about both journeys!

I’m updating you on my plans because they relate to the Wishful Thinking Works blog in two ways:

1. I’ll be blogging on Mondays about Wishful Thinking Works topics, and hopefully once a week about Macedonia and later Georgia. I will have great internet connectivity in Macedonia and should have same in Georgia, but if miss a post or two, please know it is all part of the adventure. And, I do apologize for missing or posting late, lately, but between Peace Corps requests and requirements and my personal procrastination for gathering or submitting paperwork, I fell a bit behind. (Did you know that rabies shots haven’t been given in the belly for more than 20 years, and there are only a series of three, not the twenty or so rumored in my youth? I learned that first-hand/arm this month.)

2. The second way my travels relate to Wishful Thinking Works is they truly are part of my creating the life I really want. Reconnecting with friends, finding new ways to live and share what I’ve learned throughout my career and through creating Wishful Thinking Works, learning more new things, and being a part of Peace Corps is important to me, and help me flourish. I like that.

That said, it is always hard to leave friends and family behind, to picture the holidays with new faces instead of familiar ones, and to challenge myself in different ways, but the flip side of wanting something involves actually doing something. So I’m packing my bags, thankful that the Internet makes connecting in so many ways so easy and I’m heading back out the door knowing exciting experiences, friends, and tales to be told are waiting for me.

If you don’t hear from me until next week, I’ll be saying good-bye to folks I love and trying to stuff five months of cooler weather clothes into two suitcases.

Talk to you soon.

Patrice

PS Here is a short video about a PCV in Georgia. Looks like I will be comparing Georgian wine to Macedonian wine soon, I like that, too. (Always remember – part of flourishing is having fun!)

 

An intra-cultural look

Did you know that Wisconsin’s Beloit College has been creating the Mindset List for the past 13 years? There is even a book

The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, What Ten Generations of Americans Think is Normal, published by John Wiley and Sons, is an outgrowth of the internationally popular annual Beloit College Mindset List. The Lists, distributed each August for the past 13 years, reflect the world view of 18 year-old entering college students each fall. . .

. . . “One reason we began the List was to remind faculty members and the general public that entering college students have a particular and limited range of experiences,” notes McBride. “This was no less true of the high school classes of 1918 or 1944, and it’s the sort of deliciously ironic thing that our book will showcase. It’s a neat new way to trace American social history. What was it like, for example, to be the first generation to enjoy the luxury of zippers on clothes?”

I like the list. It reminds me that my perspective is not the only one, and it is a intra-cultural, multi-generational guide of sorts.

Here is this year’s Mindset list for college freshmen graduating in 2015. Some of the items on the list are serious, some are silly, but all of them are fact-based. The mindsets listed affect our families, our workplaces, and our lives in subtle, and not-so-subtle ways, all of which I believe is a good thing. I hope you enjoy this historic snapshot.

The Mindset List for the Class of 2015

Andre the Giant, River Phoenix, Frank Zappa, Arthur Ashe and the Commodore 64 have always been dead.

Their classmates could include Taylor Momsen, Angus Jones, Howard Stern’s daughter Ashley, and the Dilley Sextuplets.

  1. There has always been an Internet ramp onto the information highway.
  2. Ferris Bueller and Sloane Peterson could be their parents.
  3. States and Velcro parents have always been requiring that they wear their bike helmets.
  4. The only significant labor disputes in their lifetimes have been in major league sports.
  5. There have always been at least two women on the Supreme Court, and women have always commanded U.S. Navy ships.
  6. They “swipe” cards, not merchandise.
  7. As they’ve grown up on websites and cell phones, adult experts have constantly fretted about their alleged deficits of empathy and concentration.
  8. Their school’s “blackboards” have always been getting smarter.
  9. “Don’t touch that dial!”….what dial?
  10. American tax forms have always been available in Spanish.
  11. More Americans have always traveled to Latin America than to Europe.
  12. Amazon has never been just a river in South America.
  13. Refer to LBJ, and they might assume you’re talking about LeBron James.
  14. All their lives, Whitney Houston has always been declaring “I Will Always Love You.”
  15. O.J. Simpson has always been looking for the killers of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
  16. Women have never been too old to have children.
  17. Japan has always been importing rice.
  18. Jim Carrey has always been bigger than a pet detective.
  19. We have never asked, and they have never had to tell.
  20. Life has always been like a box of chocolates.
  21. They’ve always gone to school with Mohammed and Jesus.
  22. John Wayne Bobbitt has always slept with one eye open.
  23. There has never been an official Communist Party in Russia.
  24. “Yadda, yadda, yadda” has always come in handy to make long stories short.
  25. Video games have always had ratings.
  26. Chicken soup has always been soul food.
  27. The Rocky Horror Picture Show has always been available on TV.
  28. Jimmy Carter has always been a smiling elderly man who shows up on TV to promote fair elections and disaster relief.
  29. Arnold Palmer has always been a drink.
  30. Dial-up is soooooooooo last century!
  31. Women have always been kissing women on television.
  32. Their older siblings have told them about the days when Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera were Mouseketeers.
  33. Faux Christmas trees have always outsold real ones.
  34. They’ve always been able to dismiss boring old ideas with “been there, done that, gotten the T-shirt.”
  35. The bloody conflict between the government and a religious cult has always made Waco sound a little whacko.
  36. Unlike their older siblings, they spent bedtime on their backs until they learned to roll over.
  37. Music has always been available via free downloads.
  38. Grown-ups have always been arguing about health care policy.
  39. Moderate amounts of red wine and baby aspirin have always been thought good for the heart.
  40. Sears has never sold anything out of a Big Book that could also serve as a doorstop.
  41. The United States has always been shedding fur.
  42. Electric cars have always been humming in relative silence on the road.
  43. No longer known for just gambling and quickie divorces, Nevada has always been one of the fastest growing states in the Union.
  44. They’re the first generation to grow up hearing about the dangerous overuse of antibiotics.
  45. They pressured their parents to take them to Taco Bell or Burger King to get free pogs.
  46. Russian courts have always had juries.
  47. No state has ever failed to observe Martin Luther King Day.
  48. While they’ve been playing outside, their parents have always worried about nasty new bugs borne by birds and mosquitoes.
  49. Public schools have always made space available for advertising.
  50. Some of them have been inspired to actually cook by watching the Food Channel.
  51. Fidel Castro’s daughter and granddaughter have always lived in the United States.
  52. Their parents have always been able to create a will and other legal documents online.
  53. Charter schools have always been an alternative.
  54. They’ve grown up with George Stephanopoulos as the Dick Clark of political analysts.
  55. New kids have always been known as NKOTB.
  56. They’ve always wanted to be like Shaq or Kobe: Michael Who?
  57. They’ve often broken up with their significant others via texting, Facebook, or MySpace.
  58. Their parents sort of remember Woolworths as this store that used to be downtown.
  59. Kim Jong-il has always been bluffing, but the West has always had to take him seriously.
  60. Frasier, Sam, Woody and Rebecca have never Cheerfully frequented a bar in Boston during primetime.
  61. Major League Baseball has never had fewer than three divisions and never lacked a wild card entry in the playoffs.
  62. Nurses have always been in short supply.
  63. They won’t go near a retailer that lacks a website.
  64. Altar girls have never been a big deal.
  65. When they were 3, their parents may have battled other parents in toy stores to buy them a Tickle Me Elmo while they lasted.
  66. It seems the United States has always been looking for an acceptable means of capital execution.
  67. Folks in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have always been able to energize with Pepsi Cola.
  68. Andy Warhol is a museum in Pittsburgh.
  69. They’ve grown up hearing about suspiciously vanishing frogs.
  70. They’ve always had the privilege of talking with a chatterbot.
  71. Refugees and prisoners have always been housed by the U.S. government at Guantanamo.
  72. Women have always been Venusians; men, Martians.
  73. McDonalds coffee has always been just a little too hot to handle.
  74. “PC” has come to mean Personal Computer, not Political Correctness.
  75. The New York Times and the Boston Globe have never been rival newspapers.

Copyright© 2011 Beloit CollegeMindset List is a registered trademark

PS The photo on the left side of my blog is a clue to some exciting adventures ahead for me. I will share the details on Friday.

Thoughtful challenge epilogue

The “Thoughtful Challenge” survey results – as totally unscientific as they may be – were 100% negative, which indicates that negative thinking is our most common internal conversational approach.

We tend to spend a great deal of time telling ourselves what we should have done; blaming ourselves for a wide variety of situations, which may or may not have been our fault; predicting the worst; and remembering and ruminating about the one bad thing that happened on an othewise perfect or pretty good day.

Why does it matter how we talk to ourselves?

Here’s a few words on the subject from an article titled “Positive thinking: Reduce stress by eliminating negative self-talk” from the Mayo Clinic web site:

“The health benefits of positive thinking

Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:

Increased life span

Lower rates of depression

Lower levels of distress

Greater resistance to the common cold

Better psychological and physical well-being

Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease

Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

It’s unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body. It’s also thought that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and don’t smoke or drink alcohol in excess.”

As noted in the article above, the jury is still out on the details as to why positive thinking has so many emotional and health benefits (We do know it increases brain growth and neural connections.), but researchers tend to agree that in most situations, positive thinking is the way to go.

So how do you turn those nagging negatives into precious positives?

  1. Become more aware of your thought patterns. The “Thoughtful Challenge” is a good first step.
  2. Start small, but think big. Don’t expect to change overnight, but do predict better for yourself and start picturing yourself doing and feeling better. Spend a few moments a day picturing wonderful things happening to you – finding the parking space, arriving on time and prepared. Picture projects, meetings, events and appointments working out well, and friendships and relationships blossoming. If that all sounds too Pollyanna for you, ask yourself why you find it easier to accept a Cruella de Vil approach to self-talk than the possibility of living life sunny-side-up. Then ask yourself if your answers hold-up, or are they simply hold-overs from your childhood, parents, relatives, etc.? Who taught you to be timid about being happy? Why does being cynical seem fashionable? What is scaring you out of a life of fun, flow and fulfillment?
  3. Enlist the help of the three “H’s”: Humor, Health and Happiness. Laugh more – especially at yourself. Create a  healthier lifestyle – eat better, exercise more. And, last but not least, become aware of the good things in your life by developing an attitude of gratitude. Begin focusing on what is going well rather than what is “wrong”; notice what makes your heart sing and makes you feel good and then find ways to bring more of what you love into your life, instead of complaining about what’s “wrong”.

And, don’t worry if your glass is half-full or half-empty. Either way there’s room for more good stuff, and if you fill it with what you love, you will never mind if it overflows.

Have a great weekend!

A thoughtful challenge, II

I warned you this would be coming back . . . take some time to take the challenge. 

For the next 24 hours listen to what you tell yourself. Pay attention to the voices chattering away in your head. Notice your words, their frequency, and your tone. Keep a pad of paper with you, or a post-a-note with the following headings:

  • “+”   (a plus sign) for positive,
  • “N”  for neutral,
  • “-“    (a minus sign) for negative. 

Every time you notice yourself thinking, quickly review your thoughts and put a slash mark under the appropriate heading. 

  • Fun, happy or pleasant thoughts = “+”
    • EX: “OMG, I’m looking good.” “What a pretty day.”, “Mmm, this coffee tastes great.” 
  • Cranky, cynical or critical thoughts – of yourself, others or your circumstances = “-”  
    • EX: “I hate . . . “; “What a . . . ” “Why do I always . . .”;  “This isn’t fair, I . . .”; ” I would never . . .” “He/She/This really makes me …”
  • Instructional, general, non-emotional = “N”  
    • EX: “I need to fix the sink.” Time to change the oil”, “Hmm, do I need to turn left or right?”; “I need to buy new shoes.” (Oh, wait for some of us buying shoes might be a happy thought. I’ll let you decide.)  

Be honest, and go with your first assessment. If a thought starts positive or neutral, but ends negative, or vice-versa, count it in the category where it ends. 

I realize that noticing how often we are talking to ourselves and categorizing what we are saying can be both bothersome and, well, challenging, but I think you are up to it!  

The truth is, most of us really don’t know what’s going on in our pretty little heads. We don’t have a clue of the messages we are sending ourselves. Accepting this thoughtful challenge is a quick and relatively easy way to see how we are shaping our minds, our outlook and our lives. I say, go for it.

Once you’ve tracked your thoughts for 24 hours, post your results below. Feel free to take part in the poll, even if didn’t categorize each and every thought, but did pay more attention than normal to them. Just be honest about your summary.: 

Stop back on Friday to view poll results, and learn what you can do to create some wishful whispers, which are softer than most of the noise in our heads, and much more relaxing, rewarding and productive.

A thoughtful challenege

We are going to hit the ground running today. Here’s the plan.

For the next 24 hours listen to what you tell yourself. Pay attention to the voices in your head that chatter away, incessantly. Notice your words, their frequency, and your tone. Keep a pad of paper with you, or a post-a-note with the following headings:

  • “+”   (a plus sign) for positive,
  • “N”  for neutral,
  • “-“    (a minus sign) for negative. 

Every time you notice yourself thinking, quickly review your thoughts and put a slash mark under the appropriate heading. 

  • Fun, happy or pleasant thoughts = “+”
    • EX: “OMG, I’m looking good.” “What a pretty day.”, “Mmm, this coffee tastes great.” 
  • Cranky, cynical or critical thoughts – of yourself, others or your circumstances = “-”  
    • EX: “I hate . . . “; “What a . . . ” “Why do I always . . .”;  “This isn’t fair, I . . .”; ” I would never . . .” “He/She/This really makes me …”
  • Instructional, general, non-emotional = “N”  
    • EX: “I need to fix the sink.” Time to change the oil”, “Hmm, do I need to turn left or right?”; “I need to buy new shoes.” (Oh, wait for some of us buying shoes might be a happy thought. I’ll let you decide.)  

Be honest, and go with your first assessment. If a thought starts positive or neutral, but ends negative, or vice-versa, count it in the category where it ends. 

I realize that noticing how often we are talking to ourselves and categorizing what we are saying can be both bothersome and, well, challenging, but I think you are up to it!  

The truth is, most of us really don’t know what’s going on in our pretty little heads. We don’t have a clue of the messages we are sending ourselves. Accepting this thoughtful challenge is a quick and relatively easy way to see how we are shaping our minds, our outlook and our lives. I say, go for it.

Once you’ve tracked your thoughts for 24 hours, post your results below. Feel free to take part in the poll, even if didn’t categorize each and every thought, but did pay more attention than normal to them. Just be honest about your summary.: 

Stop back on Friday to view poll results, and learn what you can do to create some wishful whispers, which are softer than most of the noise in our heads, and much more relaxing, rewarding and productive.

PS Like those nagging little voices in our head, this post will automatically repeat on Wednesday as a reminder.

Psychological tipping point

I’ve mentioned Dr. Barbara Fredrickson a couple of times in previous posts. She’s the researcher, who developed the “Broaden and Build Theory” of positive psychology, which states that positive emotions broaden our awareness and perception thereby increasing our curiosity, creativity and choices.

The “Broaden and Build Theory” is the other side of the coin, so to speak, of the “Fight or Flight Theory”, which notes that we are designed to focus and narrow our vision and responses in short-term, quick-decision, dangerous situations. Both emotional responses have value – there are times when we need to react quickly, with precision and almost instinctual intent and when we need to allow ourselves the freedom to fully enjoy and explore life and its options.

The good news is, our brains are hard-wired for both. The bad news is, many of us have allowed the occasional need for fight and flight responses to spill over into many or all of life’s everyday activities. We are constantly on the lookout for emotional and physical threats, or have come to believe that bad news (i.e., psychological danger) is lurking around every corner. Our preoccupation with all things negative, stresses our bodies and may be leaving us feeling frustrated, angry or depressed.

Not to worry, after identifying and qualifying the value of positive emotions, Fredrickson took her research one step further and in her 2009 book Positivity, she quantified their value. Fredrickson and her team of researchers formulated the 3:1 positivity ratio of positive to negative emotions. The ratio is a simple but valid mathematical equation for revealing happiness levels. I like to think of it as the psychological tipping point between getting by and soaring high. 

“80% of Americans fall short of the ideal 3-to-1 positivity ratio.”

Yikes! According to Fredrickson, 80% of us are not at our best. That’s not to say we are miserable, we’re not, but we are also not as happy or fulfilled as we could be.

Fredrickson’s research shows that we need to have 3 positive emotions for every 1 negative emotion to flourish. I like that. Her work indicates that our world’s do not need to be perfect for us to flourish – negativity can still be present (as represented by the “1” in the 3:1 ratio), but as long as the ratio is 3 to 1 we are good to go. 

Fredrickson notes that a 2:1 ratio means we are getting by. We might be happy, but not at our best. Is the difference between 3:1 and 2:1 important? Here’s what Fredrickson has to say on the subject (I’d love to hear your thoughts, too.):

” . . . experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio to negative emotions leads people to achieve what they once could only imagine. Far from frivolous, tapping into one’s own unique sources of positivity is a wise and healthy investment in the future.”                   

And, here is the truly important aspect of Fredrickson’s research, with simple changes and targeted tweaking we can move ourselves from a 2:1 to a 3:1 ratio – proving it is possible to create the life you really want! You can improve your internal environment and enhance your external landscape by:

  • becoming more aware and savoring what is good in your life;
  • focusing on your strengths and what you and others do well;
  • predicting better for you and your loved ones;
  • adding a bit of mediation to your daily mix;
  • doing more of what you love – even the simplest little things,
  • and maintaining and enriching your relationships. (See also PERMA.) 

If you are interested in assessing your positivity ratio, Fredrickson has created a free online survey to help take our emotional “temperature”. (My word not her’s). To get a true “temperature” reading, Fredrickson suggests taking the survey once a day for two weeks. The survey only take three minutes to complete. If you would like to give it a try, click away. (Taking the survey even once, provides valuable insight because it shares specific examples of positive and emotional states; I highly recommend it.) 

If you would like to learn more about the “Broaden and Build Theory” or the positivity ratio, click here to listen to an online interview with Barbara Fredrickson discussing her theories and research.

In the meantime, spending five minutes a day reviewing what you do well or is going well in your life can raise your positivity level. I think that’s a wise investment, even in the current market situation.

PS I know I am a day behind, but for the moment, I’ve decided to focus my attention on all the things I am doing well in my life . . . There, I feel better, already, which is kind-of refreshing and actually makes me feel more confident about tackling my to-do-list. Hmm, this stuff really works. :-)

Friday night specials

 

 

For years, I started work early every Friday morning so I could be seated in a movie theater by 4:45 p.m. watching the latest movie release by 5 p.m.  

An early movie, followed by a leisurely Italian meal with great wine were my segue to the perfect weekend. This combo provided me with a simple yet effective transition from my professional world to my personal world, and somehow made my weekends seem longer, richer and more relaxing. My weekends became mini-vacations to me, even if they were filled with chores and other mundane activities, because they always began on a high note.

Part of the effectiveness of my habit was I had a plan, which gave me something to look forward to each and every weekend. Even something as simple as movie and dinner can feel fantastic, if you love them both. Never underestimate the value of having a plan, especially a fun one.

Another positive aspect was my plan was easy to execute. Dinner and a movie were doable without a great deal of effort and fanfare. (I know movie and dinner out for those of you with young families isn’t easy – perhaps your plan could include family movies and a picnic style dinner on the family room floor. It doesn’t matter what you do, just that it is easy and fun for you, and signals a segue way from school and work to a less structured weekend schedule.)

Last but not least, and maybe I shouldn’t be admitting this, but I did feel a slight bit of added excitement, because my plan included leaving work early. There was something exotic and exciting to me about slipping out before the crowds. I was pretty much a workaholic at this point in my life, and being able to leave it all behind on a Friday night felt oh, so good. Other benefits of my early departure included dramatically reduced traffic and wide-open parking lots. I felt like I was getting away with something, like I was one step ahead of the rest of the world, and in a way, I was. I’m not sure my feeling was completely healthy, but I have to be honest and admit it made my early exit feel a tad clandestine and my activities a bit caperesque – and I liked that!

So perhaps as the summer winds down, creating an exit plan for the fall weekends ahead might not be a bad idea. In fact, designing a Friday night ritual for your last few Friday nights of the summer, might be just the thing to make the summer of 2011 more memorable. Whatever you decide to do, make sure:

  1. You and yours truly enjoy your plan, so it is worth looking forward to;
  2. It’s easy to execute; and
  3. It includes a bit of the unusual and feels like a slight escape from the rules and routines of everyday life.

You may find that crafting the perfect Friday night specials for you and/or  your family is the easiest way to get the most out of each and every weekend.

Have a good one!

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