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Patrice Koerper, American Corner, Bitola, Macedonia

That’s me. Happy and fulfilled because I was using my strengths and was very grateful to be where I was, doing what I was doing – talking about positive psychology at the American Corner in Bitola, Macedonia to a great group of people!

For my next project I am heading to the Republic of Georgia for three months as a Response Corps Volunteer with the United States Peace Corps. I love the Peace Corps; 2011 is their 50th anniversary. Who knew during the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps I would be a volunteer with them again! That’s the fun of creating the life you want, it is often a mystery – until it unfolds in front of you, like Macedonia and Georgia have done for me.

I will live in the capital of Tbilisi, and will work with the Ministry of Environment Protection writing a public relations plan for them. Before becoming a life coach, I worked in public relations for 25+ years, but could never have predicted I would someday be using those skills in Macedonia or in Georgia.

Georgia and Macedonia have a number of things in common, they have both been republics since 1991, and they are both beautiful mountainous countries with lots of vineyards; wonderful, warm people and rich histories. Their climates are similar, and much like Cleveland, Ohio were I was born and lived for 36 years.

I cannot wait to begin my assignment in Georgia, but it is just as difficult to say goodbye to Macedonia and my friends and “family” here, as it was to leave my family and friends in the States. Change and courage go hand in hand with each new adventure. We can never be certain where our journeys will take us, but I know that happiness is my constant traveling companion if I only remember to open my suitcase!

I hope wherever you are in the process of creating the life you want, you are experiencing fun, flow and fulfillment and are surrounded by friends and are finding ways to use your strengths, because as noted on the screen in the above photo those five things combined are the key to creating the life you want, PERMAnently.

Below is the next stop of my journey, where will yours take you? (Please remember, the internal places we travel and the friends we make are as important, and are usually more life changing and lasting, than the locations we visit.)

The Republic of Georgia

And, in true Georgian tradition, I will toast to you and your journey as soon as I can in my new location. You see, in Georgia . . .

“Toasts, however, are not simple declarations; they are expected to be speeches mixed with mirth, spoken verse and insight. Toasts are usually made with wine, toasting with beer is an insult to the one toasted. We are very generous with our wine, but since toasts are the only time you are supposed to drink your wine, we have many toasts (we have always been a practical people). In fact, we will use just about anything as an excuse to toast, a foreign guest happens to work quite well. So get used to your family, your country and friendship and your character being toasted. ”


And, since Georgians never toast without a table laden with delicious homemade food, I know I will be feeling at home very soon!

PS  This post is filled with interesting links and videos about Georgia and posts about Macedonia and Wishful Thinking Works. Please take a minute to scroll up and click to learn more about where I am heading next, where I have been and what I’ve been thinking about along the way.

Your tower of strengths

Whether we know or acknowledge them, we all have them –  those unique attributes, characteristics, talents and strengths that set us apart from everyone else.

  • For many of us our strengths lie dormant for years, never fully explored.
  • Some of us use our talents daily, but still do not recognize their true value nor the powerful potential they have for our lives.
  • Then there are others, who have not only discovered their strengths, but have used them to create the lives they really want.

Dr. Ben Carson, a professor and the director of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins Medical Institutions, is one of those people, who discovered and pursued their talents early in life and in his case, against great odds.

By fifth grade Carson was labeled the dumbest kid in his inner-city Detroit classroom. He had decided to accept that title, until his mother, who was working three jobs and had never learned to read, pushed he and his older brother to read two books a week and write a book report about them. Carson’s reading skills were so poor he had to begin with picture books, but within a short period was reading the chapter books of his choice. Carson used reading to begin exploring his interests, and later to help him discover his strengths. He shares his life story in the book “Gifted Hands”, which was also made into an inspirational movie, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. in the lead role.

Carson believes that a big part of creating the life you want, is understanding and using your talents and strengths. I liked what Carson had to say about discovering ours in another of his books, “Think Big: UNLEASHING Your POTENTIAL for EXCELLENCE”. He suggests we set aside the time to write the answers to these questions (The [brackets] are my additions.):

a) At what have I done well so far in my life?

b) In what school subjects [activities, jobs] have I done well [or did I enjoy]?

c) How did I choose those subjects [activities, jobs]?

d) What do I like to do that has caused others to compliment me?

e)What do I do well, and think of as fun although my friends [or colleagues] see it as work – or as a boring activity?

Carson encourages self-assessment, but also notes – if we are having trouble coming-up with answers or if we want a broader perspective, talking with someone we trust might be helpful. Asking folks we respect and who care about us their opinions about our strengths and talents might feel uncomfortable, but it is well worth the effort; they may see us in ways we do not yet see ourselves.

Simple steps overall, but they can make a big difference in your life.

Whether you are 15 or 50 I think Carson’s advice is sound, and agree with him that self-analyzing and reflection pays off.  It is so easy to get caught up in our day-to-day commitments and lives that we often overlook or ignore our true feelings, interests and aspirations.

If you want to further explore your personal strengths, check-out Martin Seligman, Ph.D.’s web site Authentic Happiness, which  has a number of great self-assessment tools, including the VIA Survey of Character Strengths that measures 24 character strengths.

Seligman is the “father” of positive psychology, world re-known author, lecturer,  researcher, professor and Director of the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center. You have to register to take the test and it takes about 30 minutes, but it is free and the same tool professionals use. You can take the test as often as you like – I suggest taking it two to three times about 3 months apart for the most comprehensive feedback.

Whether you are planning to make major life changes, or simply exploring your options, you can increase your self-knowledge and confidence by taking time to answer Carson’s questions and the VIA survey.

And, just like Carson discovered, your small and no-cost investment of an hour or two spent identifying your talents, can help you build your tower of strengths, which you can use to create a lifetime of happiness. I like that.

PS for Parents . . . Carson reminds us to let those we love, especially our children, discover their own paths. His questions work well for teens, who are wondering what their futures hold – and Seligman’s web page offers a free VIA Strength Survey for Children.

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.

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