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Month: May 2018

STEPLADDER TO A DREAM

STEPLADDER TO A DREAM

I am reading a fascinating new book, STICK WITH IT:  A Scientifically Proven Process for Changing Your Life – For Good.  It’s by Sean Young, the director of the UCLA Center for Digital Behavior and the UC Institute for Prediction Technology.

For over 15 years, Young and his team have been working on finding ways to help people change their behavior and make those changes last.

In his work and in the book, Young puts together a framework that describes what he calls the “seven forces of lasting change.”  He lays out how you can use each of these forces to develop an effective, unique-to-you way of walking that will lead to the changes you want to see in yourself.

The acronym he uses is S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (mostly, he says, because he wants people to remember that the existence of the forces he’s talking about are actually based on “thousands of validated, peer-reviewed, scientific studies.”)

If all of these forces are used together, Young says, then you will have a much better chance of persisting in the new behaviors that you evolve as you work on making the changes that you want to make in your life.

You might be able to actually keep that New Year’s resolution you make every year that always falls apart three weeks later.

banana-chocolate-sundae
“Banana-chocolate sundae” by Rian Lemmer via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

THE SEVEN FORCES OF BEHAVIORAL CHANGE

  1. People are more likely to change when they can focus on small steps, studies have shown.  However, the small steps do have to be the right kind of small.  Sometimes your “small” may actually be really big.  Young calls the model he developed from this data “stepladders.”
  2. The people with whom you interact are a powerful force when it comes to effecting behavior changes.  Young helps you understand why this is so and gives strategies for harnessing the power.
  3. People change behaviors when the end result they get and the actions they make are important to them.  Young explains what makes something “important” to a person and what that word actually means in real life and how you can use it to foster your own stick-to-itiveness.
  4. Changing your behavior is more likely to happen if the change is easy to do and easy to keep doing.  Young shows you how to build a structure that will make it so.
  5. Young teaches you mind-games – a set of mental shortcuts – that help you reset your brain so you can make the kinds of changes that last.
  6. You have to make any behavior change “captivating” enough so that you will keep doing it.  You have a capacity for getting addicted to all kinds of things. Young gives tips about using that capability for your own good.
  7. Your brain also has the ability to develop auto-pilot moves that don’t require constant applications of strong willpower or steadfast thinking, thinking, thinking.  Young shows you the mechanics of making something routine.

For each of these forces, Young tells you the science behind the concept.  Then he gives examples of how you can use the concept in your life and apply it in your work or business.

Each one is cumulative.  You do one thing, add on another thing, and then another and another and, together, all the moves you make becomes a kind of synergy.

Each force is a part of a process, he says, and it sounds like the process is sort of like a perpetual motion machine, with each part feeding energy to all the other parts.

Every move you make builds on the other ones until one day you look up and you notice that you’ve become more of what you’ve wanted to be.  It sure does sound like a good thing to me.

ladders-to-reach
“ladders to reach” by thefuturistics via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

TAKING THE ONE SMALL STEP

Over the years, the author developed a thing he calls “Stepladders.”  This way of thinking and the process that Young lays out starts from the age-old advice every change-seeker gets: “Just take one small step.”

How many times have you been told that the way to reach a dream is to slice and dice the parts of your walk towards your dream into little bits and then to make goals with deadlines and to set your intention and keep your will strong while you take incremental small steps towards each goal until you kill it?

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“stepladder to heaven” at Kuhstall (Elbe Sandstone Mountains, Saxon Switzerland) by Ralf Schulze via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
That thing’s endless.  To get to the pot of “goals” at the end of that rainbow you are dreaming about, it seems you are fated to keep chunking that dream on down and doing an inexorable walk á la Godzilla.

It works.  It’s real.  Everybody who is anybody did it and keeps doing it.  Uh-huh.  You, however, have been through that drill, usually with less-than-perfect success.

Example.  You really wish that you could lose that extra 15 pounds that have crept up on you after a whole bunch of hearty living.

You are determined.  You’re going to go all in and destroy that weight.  You’re going to get it done in a month, you say, so you can look all svelte and gorgeous for the big do with all of your old friends.  Uh-huh.

Even the healing after you get all the excess fat sucked out is going to take longer than a month, girl, you are told.  Not only that, it hurts big time.  You are not going to be feeling gorgeous much for a while.

You understand, and maybe even accept, that losing all of the weight you don’t like isn’t going to happen in a month.  (Rats!  The dream of you in that dress-to-die-for withers.)

Never mind.  Get started at least.  Okay, so you go looking for the one small step.

Yup, yup, yup.  In your head, you agree with all the varied and various advice-givers in the books and magazines and blogs and vlogs and whatever else who regurgitate checklists and round-ups of stuff you can do to get rid of your extra avoirdupois.

How about getting up out of your chair and going out the door?  We’re not even talking about getting your buns into a gym here.  Just going for a walk around the block or maybe even walking up and down some stairs.  Right!  Boring!  Not going to happen for very long.

If your automatic reaction to just reading about the “small step” is whining, moaning and feeling put-upon, how long is your change campaign going to last?

The future doesn’t look so bright as, yet again, you fail to take the one small step just for you. (Never mind about the one small step for Humankind.)

SMALL IS RELATIVE

Young says one of the problems with that small-step advice may be one of definition.  What, exactly, is a “small” step?

He points out that when you devise a plan of action, it’s a given that the size of the steps you plan to take depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

Most people, when asked to write a list of steps to accomplish something will usually make a plan consisting of three to ten steps.  It doesn’t matter what size the goal is.

Now, let’s say you are focused on a long-term dream, like setting up a food truck business by the end of the year.  Your cousin, on the other hand, is trying to plan a dinner party in the next two weeks.

According to Young, you may both have the same number of steps on your to-do list, but your ten steps are going to be a heck of a lot bigger and harder to accomplish than his.

Because your dream is bigger than your cousin’s goal, even though the steps are similar (decide on a location, plan a menu, buy the food, prepare the food, and so on), the scale of the time, cost, and execution involved in these elements are going to be very different.

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“the large and the small of it” by Roger Smith via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
In light of our tendency to make really short how-to-do lists and to miscalculate how big our “small” steps might actually be, it is no wonder that people can get really frustrated when they focus exclusively on their dreams and then cannot understand why the results they want to see are not happening very quickly.

The whole point of achieving goals is to get the bennies that come from doing them and making it all good.  You do all that stuff so that you can celebrate at the end.

The celebration re-focuses you on doing the whole megillah over again on another project, and another, and another….

Woo-hoo!

THE STEPLADDER MODEL

Young’s solution to this dilemma is to re-define the time it takes to work dreams, goals and steps.

According to Young, dreams are plans that you have never achieved before that typically takes more than three months to accomplish.  Reaching for a dream fuels your efforts to learn and try new things and helps generate the energy and motivation to stick with and persevere in your plans.

Dreams are bigger than goals.  Sometimes they are so big that it can feel like they are never going to be achieved…or, at least, not by you.  Focusing on dreams too heavily can lead to burn-out and to giving up.

That’s why Young recommends focusing most of your energy trying to complete the steps and goals on your way to your dream.

Goals are the intermediate plans people make.  Long-term goals typically take from one month to three months to achieve.  Short-term goals typically take one week to one month.

Note the time-frames.  They are important.

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“What’s the Time” by Png Nexus via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
If you accomplish the short-term goals, you get more energy to keep going for the longer-term goals.

You keep going until eventually the dream becomes real.

Goals are more easily quantifiable than dreams.  You can measure goals.  You know when you’ve met them.

(Goals are actually more fun than dreams, especially if you make a point of celebrating whenever you meet one.)

Young also says something very interesting about this dream-goal dichotomy.  If you’ve accomplished a dream before – say, getting a million downloads for an app – a reiteration of the successful dream plan becomes a goal, even if it takes more than three months to achieve.  (You did it once and so you are much more likely to do it again.  You know how.)

Steps are the little tasks that take less than one week to accomplish, according to Young.  They populate your To-Do List.  As you get them done, you check them off, and are that much nearer to accomplishing your goal.

ladders
“Ladders!” (Mont Blanc) by JWU via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Young recommends that you have goals that take about one week to accomplish and that you plan steps that take fewer than two days.  (You can put your dreams on a vision-board that you hang by your bed.  It’ll help you get up in the morning.)

In his research lab, Young says, the students and staff keep an updated end-of-week chart that describes the goals they have set to achieve for the following week.  This lets them get together at the end of each week to discuss the steps they need to take in order to accomplish their goals on time.

The end-of-week meeting also lets the team see what they’ve already accomplished and gets them excited about continuing the journey towards their dream.

This regularly scheduled assessment of how it’s going so far goes a long way to helping you stay on track.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’ve focused on Young’s Stepladders model here because, for me, it is an exemplary example of Un-Seeing.  This model is a most effective, very different way to look at dreams and goals that allows us to work on them effectively using genuinely small steps.

The rest of Young’s STICK WITH IT is loaded with extraordinary insights into the way our brains work and with other ways to build perseverance and dancing with change effectively.

I do recommend it.

ladder-man
Photo credit: “Ladderman” by ^bkc via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0] (work by Israel sculptor Tolle Inbar)
Here’s a poem….


GOING ON THROUGH

There is no way to go but through.

I keep telling myself that,

A mantra that lifts my soul

Up once again from where

It’s fallen to the floor.

No whining, no whimpering….

Go through.

That is the whole of it.

 

And it’s a funny thing.

I do get up,

Put my legs under me again,

Put my feet back on the ground.

I stand.

I walk.

And somehow, some way,

Getting through happens.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit: “raise the roof” by super awesome via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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SPOKEN WORD AND BEING HEARD

SPOKEN WORD AND BEING HEARD

In a world of seven billion-plus souls, one of our deepest human needs often goes unfulfilled – the need to be heard.  That may be one reason why the Spoken Word movement, once a subculture on the fringes of the mainstream, is gaining widespread acceptance around the world.

THE RISE OF SPOKEN WORD

“Spoken word poetry” was born in Chicago in 1984, when a construction worker, Marc Smith, started reading poetry at a popular club and encouraged others to join him in sharing their work.  Smith was looking to “democratize” poetry and “bring it to the masses.”

He was following an old road with an ancient lineage that meanders through the underground and fringes of Society among the dispossessed and disenfranchised and the ones who choose to stand different.

The trailhead for this road began before there was writing and paper.  The college theses expounding about the “long-held traditions” of the ancient art of wordsmithing (and all the other hoo-hah that made playing with words seem like it is a probable cause for dyspepsia) were not even a glimmer on any horizon.

Smith was going back to that most ancient of traditions, Word-of-Mouth — just like the tribal storytellers and assorted con artists and bull-shitters sitting around campfires and hearth-fires of the world from ancient times, weaving a yarn for their friends and companions.  And he was inviting everybody else to join him.

campfire
“Campfire” by Markus Pachali via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Smith remembered:  Poetry was, first and foremost, an oral art.  It was an art with a performer and an audience.  The people around him liked that reminder.

Two years after he first got up to tell his poems out loud, Smith approached the owner of a jazz club.  Those readings happened every week and evolved into a competition.

The format gained popularity, but it was the Internet that blew it up big.  A lot of people liked being reminded that poetry is an oral art.

Poetry was originally produced by a human voice, propelled out of a human body with the breath.  It was one person talking to a bunch of other people.

Audiences liked the presentations by the most avid performers that showed that poetry, at its most effective, contains the rhythm and movements of a human heart.

They liked that the beginning and end of a poetic line is often a unit of phrasing and sense-making that is based on the human breath. You need to breathe when you’re speaking your poem.  It is your breath and your voice that animates it.

PAGE POETRY VS STAGE POETRY

Poetry Its-Own-Self has always been a means of often-powerful self-expression.  It grew out of song and prayer and storytelling traditions that continue to this day.  It has been with us forever and because of that it can be difficult to pin down and define.

One cute breakdown, “What Is Poetry? #Poetry Defined” was published in 2015 by Advocate of Wordz.  Here’s the YouTube video:

In my own experience, poetry has been a life-saver.  It continues to be a way for me to find my own clarity in the confusion of everyday life.  Rearranging words on a page helps me to rearrange the thoughts in my head.  It works very well for that.

But, let’s face it.  Over the centuries, page poetry has become stigmatized by many folks as indulgences of the rich-and-snooty.  Books of poetry tended to gather dust on bookshelves.

Page poetry (especially as was taught in schools when I was growing up) could be a yawn-inducing experience.  Poetry – at least the kind pedagogues seemed to favor — had the most gawd-awful and esoteric rules formulated by various poetry-makers in times past, all gathered together by the intelligentsia and assorted acolytes of High Culture.

If your teacher was into it, as mine often were, it was a grand thing; otherwise, not so much.  Teachers who got stuck on guiding their charges through parsing and analyzing some “Great Poem” or other, killed more poets a-borning than any other thing, probably.

Like calculus and philosophical debate, it was stuff for the Big-Brains (or folks who wanted to look like they had some.)

Page poetry was a good thing to inflict on children.  Like regular doses of cod-liver oil or whatever, it was supposed to keep them growing and make them strong.  By the time the children hit adulthood, it was often not a thing remembered fondly.

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“The Poet” by Russell Chopping via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
“Dull” was page poetry’s other name.

Committing poetry to a page (if you were not an academic sort), was a weird sort of hobby at best.  Solitary you could string the words from your heart across assorted pages and realize all kinds of gains.  Rigorous mental exercise, mastery of an art form, personal catharsis, and insights are possibilities that come to mind.

A common fate for these homemade page poems was to be stuck in a drawer where they moldered until the poet’s death, after which, they were probably tossed by the poet’s heirs.

If you were particularly proud of the page poems you constructed, you submitted them to magazines in exchange for magazine issues, sold them to greeting card makers for pennies, or spent money on producing self-published chapbooks to give to all of your family and friends.

If you got good at producing poems, you might even consider spending time creating them “on demand” as a busker.

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“The Poet” by Garry Knight via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
When the Internet revved up, you could also post them on websites or on social networks and then wonder whether they ever reached anybody.  (The page poem launch very often hits a wall of dead silence.)

The problem with even the best page poetry is that it is only one-half of a dialogue.  The maker makes, but doesn’t know whether anybody is out there listening, doesn’t feel like he or she is being heard.  It gets to feel like you’re talking to yourself.

Stage poetry (as spoken word has been called) is something else.  When it’s done well and the audience is lively, it flies.  Performers and audiences can get caught up in a group hug-fest.

  • Some poets are raucous; they rant and rave, yell and shout. Others are calm and relaxed.
  • There are poets who make you laugh and poets who make you cry. Many of them bare their deepest secrets and rock your heart.
  • Some weave intricate verbal patterns that enthrall you in a web of sound.
  • Others parse out a problem using simple words that drill down into the core of it, reframing and rearranging your mind.

Stage poetry can be inspiring.  A spoken word poem can be stimulating and entertaining when it’s good.

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“Poet” by Taz etc. via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
When several good poets get together it can turn into a jazz jam, a live performance never to be repeated in exactly the same way.  It can be a feast.

More importantly, even when the poetry or the performance is not so good, stage poetry is about connection.  The poet speaks.  The audience listens.  Good performers take their listeners flying; bad performers get a lot of points for trying.

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“The Elders” by Laura Thorne via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

A TASTE OF SPOKEN WORD

To give you a taste, here’s one of my favorite slam poems, “Legacy,” presented in this YouTube Video published by Button Poetry.  It features poet Tui Scanlon performing for Hawaii during the prelims at the 2014 National Poetry Slam.

Button Poetry was founded in 2011 by poets Sam Cook and Sierra DeMulder.  Since then it’s become the largest digital distributor of spoken word in the world.  The Button Poetry videos are shared on websites like Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and NPR.  Their YouTube channel has over 900,000 subscribers.  Click here to check them out:

click-here

SPOKEN WORD INTERNATIONAL

These days, commentators note that spoken word has “gone mainstream.”  Poetry meant to be performed – performance poetry – is winning accolades from audiences of regular people.  Some of those people get up on stage and do their own spoken word pieces before sometimes massive crowds.

All over the world, wherever people gather, there are open mic nights, where folks get up in front of a crowd and share their words – angry poetry, love poems, poems of protest and politics, stand-up poetry, punk poetry, jazz poetry, nonsense rhymes, and rap and hip-hop fusion poetry.

There are regular organized gatherings of amateur and casual poets.

There are poetry slams where the competition and audience participation can get intense.

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“German-language Poetry Slam Championships 2010” by Very Quiet via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
There are shows by professional poets.  At festivals, you’ll find performing poets sharing the stage with musicians, actors, dancers and other performing artists.

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“National Cowboy Poetry Gathering – 2017” by Travel Nevada via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0] (Photo by Sydney Martinez)
On the Internet, the variety (and the sheer number) of posted poetry videos boggles the mind.

There are even spoken word workshops you can attend to become a better performing poet.

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“Slam Workshop” by Tom Astleitner via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
And, in the schools, performance poetry and spoken word has opened a door to the impact and the power of words for children of all ages.

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“Louder Than a Bomb KC Team” by Laura Gilchrist via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Smith’s plan to bring poetry back to the masses worked.   Words were spoken…and more and more and more words keep being spoken, mostly because people are definitely listening.

The quality of the works vary, of course, and that seems to be a part of the whole scene.

THE BEST POEM

My benchmark “best poem” has no words.  It was an exchange between my friend Wide Garcia, who chairs the meeting of the Maui Live Poets that meets in the Makawao Library on the third Wednesday night of each month, and a young man with Aspergers Syndrome.

During one of our regular meetings, we were doing a round-robin, where all of the poets in attendance took a turn to present a poem to the crowd.  A young man came in midway through the first session and sat down in an empty chair.  He sat quietly and watched as the poets read or spoke their work, watched as the audience responded.

It’s Wide’s practice to ask everyone who comes to the gatherings if they would like to present a poem.  After the first round was done and the poets were mingling and talking story, he approached the young man, who was sitting there, seemingly detached from the hubbub around him, and asked whether the boy had work he would like to share.

The young man did not answer, so Wide asked again, looking deeply into the teenager’s eyes.

There was a pause.  Then the boy lifted his right hand with all of his fingertips held together like a spear-point and touched the middle of his chest, fingers pointed right at his heart.  He gestured, moving his arm outward towards Wide and opened his hand, palm-up, as if he were offering his heart.

Wide made the same gesture back to the boy and grinned at him.  The boy just looked back at him out of his own world.

And, for me, that became my benchmark “good poem” – the one I remember every time I start constructing another one.  A good poem offers up your heart to another person.  It’s even better when that other person offers up his or her heart back.

Here’s a poem….


ALWAYS THERE ARE POEMS

 Always there are poems.

Not all of them use words.

Sometimes your body builds them.

Sometimes hearts must be heard.

 

The hand that reaches out,

The smile that glows and shines,

The eyes that sparkle in delight,

The hug that says, “We’re fine.”

 

Always there are poems.

All you need to do is see

The wonders of the universe

And the worlds in you and me.

 by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Ballsaal um 20:50” (Poetry Slam) by Sebastian Courvoisier via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
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TALK TO STRANGERS

TALK TO STRANGERS

This YouTube video, “Why You Should Talk to Strangers,” features Robbie Stokes, Jr. giving a TEDxFSU talk at the Florida State University.   It was published in 2013.

In it, Stokes, a former Washington, DC events coordinator for a congressional delegate to the United States House of Representatives, tells how, the year before, he quit his job, sold all of his stuff and chased his dream about wandering around the world and talking to strangers.

Over the course of 110 days, he traveled the world, visiting 17 countries.  He spent his time talking to strangers.  Here’s what he learned….

Somewhere in there, Stokes also created the I TALK TO STRANGERS Foundation with a bunch of help from his friends.  They call themselves a “social movement whose philosophy encourages and challenges individuals to create genuine relationships through meeting new people.”

The Foundation’s “initiatives,” – an impressive array of projects, programs and events organized in North America, Africa and Southeast Asia is detailed in the 2012 – 2017 Foundation Report. 

GROWING UP CONNECTED

I grew up in a miniscule place.  Molokai is the fifth largest island in the Hawaiian island chain.  It measures a mere 38 miles the long way and 10 miles across at its widest point.

A lot of the island is empty.  The people cluster in a few communities scattered here and there on the island.

When I was growing up, the population of the entire island stood at around a little over 5,000 folks.  Wikipedia says a “town” has anywhere from 1,000 to 20,000 people.  Back then, according to this, the whole island of Molokai would have qualified as a small, very rural town.

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“Molokai Shaka” by Samuel Apuna via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
For me, there were no “strangers,” only cousins and aunties and uncles I hadn’t met yet.  Even the grown-ups who weren’t officially related to me were “aunty” and “uncle.”  It was good manners and proper to notice people and to greet them and to “talk story.”

It was only later, when I got off that little rock, that I encountered the rule about not talking to strangers.

I got into all kinds of trouble for acting polite. (“What do you mean, I can’t talk to that guy on the street corner?  We see him every day.  He’s really nice, you know….)

conversation
“Conversation” by Sarah Herman via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
I never did get the “don’t talk to strangers” thing right.  Maybe that was a good thing.

TALKING TO STRANGERS CAN BE GOOD FOR YOU

According to the smarty-pants who study such things, just noticing the folks around you and being noticed is a good thing.  (They can’t “prove” that yet, but there are strong indications, they say.)

In 2014, a study published by psychologists at the University of Michigan was one of the first to look specifically at neighborhood social cohesion and heart attacks (a fact of life for more than 700,000 Americans every year, it says here).

The study looked at all kinds of factors and the neighbor connection was just one correlation, but as researcher Eric Kim suggested, being friendly with neighbors has some pretty obvious benefits.

conversation
“Conversation” by Christine Vaufrey via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Neighbors who know each other tend to check in on one another.  They talk story and share health-related information.  They tend to watch out for each other.  Often friendly neighbors share resources as a matter of course.

conversation
“Conversation” by Lotus Johnson via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
More importantly, the casual hand-wave and friendly “Hi, how are you?” adds up to a feeling that somebody sees you and acknowledges that you are there.

Just the feeling that somebody’s got your back is worth the effort to be friendly, if you can.

Other studies since then have shown that people who talk to the other people around them rather than staying inside their own little bubble when they travel on public transportation or zoning out in a checkout line or hiding behind a book at a table for one, report that they enjoy their daily commutes, doing non-recreational shopping, and feeding their faces more.

conversation
“Conversation” by Bernard Laguerre via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The everyday nitnoy annoyances get less stressful when you’re all in it together, it seems.  If you can include and engage with familiar strangers (like the guy working the cash register, the barista serving up your fancy coffee fix, or even the person you see on the bus every day), there’s a warm fuzzy feeling that trails around after you all day long.

CAN TALKING TO STRANGERS MAKE YOU SMARTER?

Not only that, but all kinds of studies have shown that talking to strangers might even make you smarter.

It’s all based on a thing called the “confirmation bias.”

Every one of us tends to think the same thoughts over and over again.  We look for evidence that our thinking is “right.”

We also tend to hang with people who think the way we think, act the way we act, and so on.  It’s comfortable.  You don’t even have to go into spasms about it.

Strangers, on other hand, “think different.”  Often, that makes them annoying obstructions and challenges that you just want to ignore because they take you out of that comfortable space.

conversation
“Conversation”) by Mark Zastrow via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Sometimes, however, their different way of thinking may be just what you need to help you get past your own blind spots when you’re wrestling with a complex problem.  Sometimes strangers can present some other way of looking at a thing that helps you move forward on some project.

You do the same for them.  It isn’t a one-way street.

It could help you to think of strangers as exotic resources you can tap.  What do they see?  Why is it so different from your way of seeing?  Is there something in there that you can use?  Hmmm….

This could lead to exploratory journeys into parallel universes, you know.

Peace
“Peace” by Bart via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

WHAT IF YOU DON’T KNOW HOW?

I have figured out, though, that a lot of people really do have a hard time just talking to people who are different.

Take a look at this YouTube video posted by The Atlantic magazine in 2016.  It is an episode of its If Our Bodies Could Talk series.

In it senior editor James Hamblin (who is apparently not so good at talking to strangers) tries out different techniques suggested by Kio Stark, author of WHEN STRANGERS MEET:  How People You Don’t Know Can Transform You.  Stark is really good at talking to strangers and she knows all kinds of ways to develop that skill.

The video was shot in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

The fact that talking to strangers is a skill is an important concept.  A skill can be learned.

It does take a bunch of practice stepping outside your comfort zone.  It also requires a certain recognition of other people’s boundaries as well as an acknowledgement of your own …..

Sure it looks funny at first.  You do get better at it.

TWO CAVEATS

Okay.   Now for an important message from your Inner Smarty-Pants….

First of all, if you’re going to get outside your comfort zone, you still have to pay attention to what your body, your head and your heart is telling you.  If a person or a situation gives you the shivers, do not, not, NOT ignore those feelings in the name of “open-mindedness.”

Whatever else, fear is always real.  You are feeling it and it is giving you a very important message.  Your fear is your early-warning-system and it deserves your attention.

The fear you feel may not even raise a blip on somebody else’s radar.  But, then, it’s not somebody else’s fear.

Get out of there and then when you can breathe again, check in with yourself and try to figure out what set off the alarms.  Was it something tangible, something that makes your backing away a sensible move?

If so, thank your fear and get on with your life.  If not, then take the fearful reaction as a signal that you need to slow down and take smaller steps towards your goal of being more open to experience.

Just ‘cause you’re trying to be more open-minded does not mean you want your brains to fall out nor do you want to fall into a vortex of new experiences that confuse you so much you can’t even think straight.

open-minded
“Open-minded” by Eddi van W via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Keep practicing as you can.  It’ll get you accustomed to testing and challenging yourself .  It will also re-set your fear monitor.

Of course, as with all these types of things, it’s always important to remember boundaries.

  • Don’t spark up a conversation with someone who’s not interested.
  • Don’t push it if people don’t reciprocate.
  • Be respectful of other people’s time and mindful of other people’s boundaries.

If you’re lucky, you might find someone else interested in sparking up a random little conversation as well.

conversation
“Conversation” by Michèle Chauffaux via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Here’s a poem….


not strangers

people with the same loves

are not strangers,

even if we’ve never met.

our worlds dance to rhythms

that mesh and climb, overflowing

into other spaces, other times

that we recognize when

we finally, at the last,

touch each other with our minds,

a hall of mirrors, each to each,

reflecting one another’s span,

refracting and expanding into many,

the penultimate one.

 

awww…that just sounds too esoteric,

makes it seem like angels flying.

 

Let’s get real:

Howzit, braddah?

How you, sistah?

What?  You like play?

by Netta Kanoho

Header Picture credit:  “The Conversation” by David Schroeder via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

 

 

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WORRY-BUSTING (Another Inner Peace Symptom)

WORRY-BUSTING (Another Inner Peace Symptom)

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  a disinclination to encourage catastrophic thinking and worrying.  [Worst-case scenarios rarely happen.  Allowing yourself to get caught up in mind-loops about them just makes you dizzy and paralyzes you.]

THE HUMAN DIFFERENCE

I am reading a book, BODY INTELLIGENCE:  Harness Your Body’s Energies for Your Best Life by the renowned body energy expert and holistic psychologist, Dr. Joseph Cardillo, PhD.  A fascinating read.

It starts from the premise that “you are energy, your world is energy, and everything in your world is energy.”  It goes on from there.

In it, the good doctor combines Western science, technology, psychology, holistic medicine and ancient wisdoms as well as years of experiences and stories to teach you how to tap into your own inherent human energy.  He presents helpful suggestions and strategies that enable you to access this energy and help you live your best life.

One interesting concept Cardillo points out is this:  Unlike other animals, humans have the gift of visualization.  Lucky us.

We humans can imagine events that haven’t happened and we can actually see them in our mind’s eye.  We can build whole worlds in our heads that don’t exist and plop ourselves right inside them.  We can make up epic stories about what can happen to us in these worlds we make up.

The reason you can do this, Carillo explains, is because of your brain’s attention network which relies on information you’ve stored in your memory as well as all the millions of bits of external information that’s available to you and how you gather this information together.

We humans are all so good at doing this that we can trigger very real emotional and physical reactions in ourselves.  Consider this.  In the middle of a strong visualization you can have all kinds of feelings and thoughts about the imagined scenario.  You just naturally consider all kinds of possibilities – some good, others bad.

Because we are such integrated creatures and since our minds affect our bodies as much as our bodies affect our minds, visualization can be a blessing or a curse.

You can ride so high on a tide of bliss that you lose your way, like a balloonist tossed around in high winds.  (Bliss feels really, really good.  Mostly, though, you can’t steer well when your head’s all spacey like that.)

Ideally, if you are able to ride out the less-idyllic aspects of your visualization, you can use the swift kick in the behind that’s the gift that the uneasiness and queasiness we call “worry” carries to sharpen your focus on the situation you’re imagining, to enhance your comprehension of its nuances and ramifications, and to effectively execute actions to overcome assorted real-life challenges that you are likely to face on your way to your envisioned goal.

Alternatively, you might be overwhelmed and drown in the anxieties that arise as a result of your visualization of all of the possible disasters, catastrophes and other worst-case scenarios that your mind can conjure.  This last can cause serious damage to your body and your mind.

worry
“Worry” by Kristian Dela Cour via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

THE DOWNSIDE OF WORRYING

Anxiety, which is a natural consequence of worry, triggers your body’s flight-fight response.  This causes your body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol, which can boost blood sugar levels and triglycerides (blood fats) that can be used by the body for fuel.

Physical reactions (in alphabetical order) could include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Nervous energy
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Trembling and twitching

Studies have shown that if the excessive fuel in your blood caused by chronic anxiety and all that outpouring of stress hormones is not used for physical activities, there can be severe consequences.  Muscle tension, premature coronary artery disease, and heart attacks are possible.  Your digestive system gets wonky and your immune system gets compromised.

Not only that, but short-term memory loss is not uncommon.  If the excessive worrying and high anxiety continues, they can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts.

Catastrophic thinking, worrying, and anxiety is not a good alternative.

dont-worry-be-happy
“don’t worry, be happy” by anthony fain via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

BACK-TO-THE PRESENT METHOD

This You-Tube video, “Three Steps to Overcoming Worry” was published in 2014 by depression counselor Doug Bloch who is, himself, prone to anxiety, worry and depression.

Again, here are Bloch’s Big Three:

  • Reel in your mind to the here-and-now, where you are safe.
  • Acknowledge that your catastrophic thoughts are not real.
  • Positive self-talk or action that allows you to focus on the outside world rather than hanging out in your interior spaces help break the hold of a persistent worry.

FIGHT WORRY WITH KNOWLEDGE

Another way to deal with the tendency to catastrophize and worry is to develop mastery.

Joshua Slocum was a solo sailor who set out to sea from Massachusetts in a stubby oyster sloop just shy of 37 feet on April 24, 1895.  He said he was going to circumnavigate the planet by himself in this small sailboat.  Everybody thought he was insane.

In his book about his adventure, SAILING ALONE AROUND THE WORLD, Joshua said, “To know the laws that govern the winds, and to know that you know that you know them, will give an easy mind on your voyage round the world; otherwise you may tremble at the appearance of every cloud.”

The young man giving a review about a book called THE WORST CASE SCENARIO SURVIVAL HANDBOOK in this You-Tube video published by 190 granary in 2009 obviously agrees that the best strategy is to figure out what you’re going to do ahead of time.

The book was written by Joshua Borgenicht and David Piven.

TO-WORRY LIST

Everybody has a number of concerns that are important but not in-your-face-urgent.  They’re the stuff you know you need to address at some point when you’ve got some breathing room.

The problem is Urgent has a tendency to overshadow Important – things like de-cluttering your life, developing a saner budget or diet, putting together a will, getting your important files and papers organized or upgrading your education — get buried under more mundane things like “What’s for dinner?” and “What are we going to do about _____________ (fill in the blank with some cliffhanger dilemma).”

Martial artist Jim Brault, author of several books about martial arts mindset including A PATH OF MASTERY:  Lessons on Wing Chun and Life from Sifu Francis Fong, suggests constructing a To-Worry List.

Brault says the reasoning behind constructing a To-Do List is that once you write the thing down on your list, you know you will be coming back to it and you will be addressing it so you don’t have to think about it until it’s time to do the thing.

The To-Worry List is a list of stuff you know you want or need to attend to.  These are things that you know you want to address.

They are important, but they don’t have to be done right away.  They’re the things that nudge and poke at you every once in a while or lie there waiting for you to notice them again and again and again.

The To-Worry List, he says, is a promise to yourself that you really are going to look at each issue again.  Write them down.  Let them sit.  Revisit the list and put in some time considering different approaches.

Make decisions as you figure out what you want to do as the next step to move each one forward.  Do one step and finish that step.  Keep on coming back, making decisions, do another step.

Do that often enough and your mind will begin to believe that it can let go of the worry the issue evokes.

A WORRY-FREE LIFE

My favorite take on this whole thing is this YouTube video, “The 5-Letter Secret to a Worry-Free Life” posted by Goalcast in 2017.

The video features His Grace Gaur Gopal Das, a former software engineer who became a monk, a student of the Vedas and a disciple of Radhanath Swami.

Here’s a poem.


CONTROL

Control…ummm…

What we talkin’ here?

Who is being done to?

By whom?

And who be doin’ the doin’…

Or the not-doin’.

 

Are we talking structural constraints?

Are we talking mile-high walls

And fences with concertina wire on top?

Are we talking moats?

Are we talking dead-ended cul-de-sacs

And mazes filled with man-traps

Built like cockroach motels?

Are we talking barred and shuttered windows?

Are we talking triple-padlocked gates?

Are we talking doors with twenty-seven assorted locks

Plus electronic surveillance connections

And flying spy-drones buzzing ’round?

 

Are we talking border guards and canine patrols –

Or maybe squads of trained jackals and baboons?

Are we talking shackles and chains?

Are we talking those restraining jackets and sticky stuff

They dress you in when you go mad because

There’s no place you can catch your breath

And no place you can stand up straight?

 

Are we talking economic privileges and sanctions…

A whole other can of nasty?

Are we talking societal mores and pronouncements

Set in ersatz-stone

That damn you ’cause you do

And damn you ’cause you don’t,

All of them promulgated by the fearful

Who hope to turn the Mystery into Disneyland –

Oh, of course,

“For our own protection….”

Trying really hard to shrink the infinite

Into comfortable little boxes

Available at Wal-Mart as a set of four for $5.99?

 

Are we talking mind-games?

Are we talking emotional push-buttons and whack’em down hammers

Wielded by little old blue-haired ladies in tennis shoes

And their stiff old Robber Baron honeys –

The Guardians of Propriety – in their bastions of status quo?

Are we talking poisoned slings and arrows

Shot by the stainless-steel cute crowd –

The ones with the amassed “buzz?”

Are we talking bitter, bile-laced flamethrowers

In the hands of the designated Victims of the World,

Who are on some perpetual whine or other

About how it is all Somebody Else’s fault

And how, now, THEY gotta pay?

 

Or maybe we’re talking ’bout

The prove-you-love-me moves,

The expectations and the if-then slides

From the ones in whose hands you have already placed

Your raw and bleeding heart.

 

Gee, wow.

I’m not a fan.

Does it show?

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Maui” by Francois via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

 

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