Browsed by
Category: Skillful Means

skills and tools for developing mastery and fostering creativity

WALK THE REAL

WALK THE REAL

I’ve been beating my head on the wall I’ve made using the flood of abundance-mindset and positive-thinking books – past and present – that populate my shelves as well as articles and posts and audio tapes and video thingummies and podcasts that lurk in the spaces my computer can reach.

It all sounds so good.  It’s all warm and fuzzy and smiley-face cool.

It’s also cotton-candy unsatisfactory.  I’ve got a really bad sugar-high going and the crash is imminent, looming, and certain.

THERE IS PLENTY – INSIDE AND OUT

It’s a truth, you know.  It really does feel better to understand that, for real, there is plenty for everybody and that we live in a spectacularly abundant natural world.

Understanding that there really is enough for you and yours is a marvelous thing to carry around with you in your head and in your heart.

As a wise old guy I knew once said, “You live most of your life inside your own head, so it makes sense to make sure it’s a good space.”

I’ve always liked that one.  It’s been one of my guiding lights as I wander around in this old world.

lighthouse
“Lighthouse” by Peter Merholz via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
No matter what’s going on outside, if my inside is together and is what Hawaiians call “pono” – righteous and balanced between myself and others – then I can keep on walking and keep on getting to where I want to go and I can walk lightly instead of stomping around like some cut-rate T. rex.  (Dinosaurs are so yesterday, ya know.)

Building up our internal abundance, as Marianne Williamson points out in her book, EVERYDAY GRACE:  Having Hope, Finding Forgiveness and Making Miracles, does, indeed, work to mitigate external lack and turn it around.

She says, “As long as we remain vigilant at building our internal abundance – an abundance of forgiveness, an abundance of service, an abundance of love – then external lack is bound to be temporary.”  She’s right too.

Teacher, speaker, and author Charles Eisenstein has spent a lifetime looking at the Big Questions (Where do I come from?  Why am I here? Where am I going?) and fiercely focuses on themes like civilization as we know it, human consciousness, money, and cultural evolution.

His is one of the best explanations of the effects of so-called “scarcity thinking” I’ve ever come across.

In his book, THE MORE BEAUTIFUL WORLD OUR HEARTS KNOW IS POSSIBLE, he lays it out:

“From our immersion in scarcity arise the habits of scarcity.  From the scarcity of time arises the habit of hurrying.  From the scarcity of money comes the habit of greed.  From the scarcity of attention comes the habit of showing off.  From the scarcity of meaningful labor comes the habit of laziness.  From the scarcity of unconditional acceptance comes the habit of manipulation.”

And that’s another truth.

ABUNDANCE IS NOT ALL THERE IS

The thing is, I do sort of agree with Richelle E. Goodrich, a poet and novelist who does epic young adult fantasy books and has published a couple of collections of musings about life as well.

In one of her books, SMILE ANYWAY, she says, “You can add up your blessings or add up your troubles.  Either way you’ll find you have an abundance.”

wall-full-of-happy
“Wall Full Of Happy!” by Steve via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The whole abundance thing can easily get to be…well…sort of dogmatic.

It’s easy to maintain the mindset when you’re surrounded by supportive group-think folks.  It’s like being in the middle of a wonderful group hug.  It feels really good.

But, the whole abundance movement thing can get hairy when you’re not surrounded by like-minded people and affirmations are a really crummy shield when there are guys gunning for you and acting out of their own sense of scarcity and not-enough.

There are predators in the world.

There are manipulators.

There are bad breaks and you can get blindsided by factors and conditions you haven’t noticed or considered.

At any given time, there are resources that you want and need which are not available to you when you want or need them.

While it is a truth that you create your own world, it is also a truth that everybody else creates their own worlds as well…and together we make the world we all have to live in.

The one thing about being human is that nobody is the sole creator of this consensus world of ours nor are we the progenitors of Life-Its-Own-Self.  Humbling, I know, but there it is.

Some parts of our consensus world are not so good.  It’s a work in progress, after all, and the builders often disagree on what goes where and what happens next.

An old proverb (probably German) tells us, “God gives us everything we need, but he doesn’t throw it into the nest.”

well-hello-there
“Well, hello there” by Bill Collison via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
That one’s been around a long time.  Another truth.  It’s all out there, but you have to notice it.  Then you have to get up and go get it.

I find that I’m leery of the idea that I’m a magnet à la that Law-of-Attraction thing.  I keep seeing images of stuff flying through the air and hitting me upside the head.  Ouch!

MY OWN THOUGHTS

My own thought is that abundance-thinking is just a part of your Living Life toolbox.

What the abundance-thinking mindset helps with is figuring out a way to go for it which does not cause a lot of collateral damage that comes back to bite you or that haunts you until the end of your days.

This, I think, is a very good thing.

Maybe the positivity thing is like vitamins and minerals.  You need a minimum daily dose of the things for your body’s optimal performance and you can take supplement pills to make sure you get them all, but you do have to stay aware that even stuff that’s good for you can kill you if you overdo it.

lucy-in-the-sky-with-diamonds
“Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” by Steven Depolo via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

THE ANTIDOTE TO THE PARADOX

Perhaps the only antidote to this paradox is developing receptivity and looking at the appropriateness of any given action.

“Receptivity” is all about noticing.  You see and accept what’s in front of you.

“Appropriateness” is doing just enough to move something in a certain direction and nothing more.

It’s like an aikido of the mind.  The whole point in aikido is to notice the direction your partner-in-play is making and to help them go in that direction (perhaps more definitely than they want) and, thus, to move them out of your own way.

aikido
“Aikido” by Javier Montano via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Then you’re free to go do what you want to do.

ALWAYS MORE QUESTIONS

Here are some questions to consider before you go off loaded for bear or walk through an outlaw town as the guy or gal without a gun:

  • Is the action you’re planning to take an appropriate response to whatever circumstance you are facing?
  • Are you receptive to the world around you? Are there conditions or factors in a situation that could have an impact on what you are trying to do?  What can you do about them?
  • Are you noticing things that are wonky in another person’s walk? What can you do to mitigate the effects of that?
  • Are you noticing things that you are doing that just don’t work? Can you do something different that might work better?

One of my favorite quotes is from poet Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

That last may be the biggest test to run on any action before you take it:  How will it make other people feel?  Are you good with that?

swirling-a-mystery
“Swirling a Mystery…for Kim Marie and Aunt Hinkle” by QThomas Bower via Flicker [CC BY 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


I WILL KEEP WALKING

 I guess it’s confusing for

Some people in my life.

They’re never quite sure

Whether I am a grizzly

Pretending to be a chipmunk

Or a chipmunk

Pretending I’m a bear.

 

I figure that’s cool.

I think that’s fair.

 

The ones who care about me

Apparently don’t mind:

That creature-feature’s just me,

And the ones who love me embrace it,

Knowing that just as they walk their way

I am walking mine.

 

I figure that’s great.

I think that’s fine.

 

The ones who have agendas

And shoulds and oughts and want

Their opinions to have dominion

Are likely to think twice

‘Bout coming at me sideways,

May think the cost of doing that

Might not be worth the price.

 

I figure that’s cool too.

I think that’s nice.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Making Cotton Candy” by Steven Depolo via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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

Get Social....
GET BACK YOUR KID MOJO

GET BACK YOUR KID MOJO

Children fascinate me.

The coolest thing about kids, I think, is this:  They come into this world as a bundle of wonder and curiosity.

BEGINNER MIND POWER

Kids know they don’t know, they’re hard-wired to find out, and they are absolutely single-minded in their efforts.  They are the epitome of relentless, the very best role models for persistence.

Every one of them is working on mastery.  They all want to know how to do it all well.

It doesn’t stop:  walking, talking, tying shoelaces, making friends, riding a bike, playing games, finding out how something works and why you do this and not that.  On and on and on.

halcyon-days
Halcyon Days” by Sel Felin via Flickr [CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]
They notice everything (especially the stuff the adults would rather they didn’t) and they are interested in every single little thing they encounter.

Their major mistakes are usually the result of ignorance.  They just don’t know enough yet and a lot of their plans fall apart because of that.  (That tends to give the people who care about them the heebie-jeebies, but so what?)

When they’re starting out, kids are determined to catch on and catch up.

determination
“Determination” by Susan Lloyd via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
They want to do it themselves.

They want to get good and they want to show they know what they know.

SMALL IS COOL

Kids start small.  After all, they are little and they are weak and have to depend on the Bigs around them just for survival.  (But, THAT is gonna change!  Uh-huh.)

small-steps
“Small Steps” by john mccaffrey via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Every time they make a misstep, it’s usually just a small hiccup in their forward progress.

The little guys haven’t gotten to the big stuff yet and if they’ve got Bigs who help to keep them mostly safe from the ordinary life-threatening stuff, kids can pick themselves up and try again…and again and again…until they get to where they want to go.

If the circumstances in their lives are harder, more unfortunate, or even downright dangerous, then the ones who survive learn more and they learn faster and often they get even better at not giving up.

ratchathewi-skytrain-stop
“Ratchathewi Skytrain Stop (Bangkok, Thailand) by drburtoni via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Every little win is its own reward.  (One more down, what’s next?)

TIME IS ON THEIR SIDE

Kids know time is on their side.

time-is-on-my-side
“Time Is On My Side” by Daniel Novta via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
They’re going to get bigger.

They’re going to get those flabby muscles built up and that tongue moving right.

They already know how to act cute, and they are going to learn how to make friends and influence all those Bigs too.

They’re going to keep on going until they get there.

Kids only absolutely know they have Now, and Now is when they want to do something, so they work with whatever they’ve got going and they do what they can with it.

They’re going to find out everything they need to know about everything they want to know…just, EVERYTHING.

PLAY AS SERIOUS WORK

Kids also know that play is really serious work.  It’s how you learn what you need to know.

When they get the chance to play, they will go for it.  Why not?  Maybe they will learn something.

hard-at-work
“Hard at Work” by quadrant via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
You can just see the wheels turning as they play.

You can just imagine them thinking, You watch:  I’m going to get out there and I’m going to rock the world!  Yes, I am!

GETTING BACK TO THE MOJO

Sounds familiar, right?

We all started out like that.  Some of us manage to hang onto the wonder and use it to leverage ourselves up and on to doing more and more amazing things.  The rest of us wonder how come we don’t.

There are a lot of lessons you can learn about mastery by watching kids.  Here are some examples:

  • IT ALL STARTS WITH WONDER AND INTEREST.  Even as adults, we know this.  If you are not interested in something, you just don’t pay attention to it and you don’t notice the lessons that are right there in front of you.
wonder
“Wonder” by Cristian via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
  • SMALL WORKS. We’re all little compared to the Universe.  We all have limitations.  We get to where we want to go by doing what we can with what we’ve got.
vancouver-snowmen
“Vancouver Snowmen!” by danna & curious tangles via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
  • NOW IS WHEN YOU DO SOMETHING. It’s the only time when you can.  You can’t change the past.  The future is out of reach.  There really is no other when to do something.
now
“Now” by Kai Schreiber via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
  • PERSISTENCE AND WILL RULES. If you haven’t gotten to where you want to go yet, then that’s a sign that you’re not done yet.
persistence
“Persistence” by Jeff Sandquist via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
  • MIS-STEPS AND MISTAKES THAT DON’T KILL YOU DON’T MATTER. So you fell down.  Ouch!  Now try to get back up.  Not happening?  Well, hell…you can crawl, right?
mistaken
“Mistaken” by Paradis Photographis via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
  • KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. Whatever you know is what you know.  What you know can be used to get to where you want to go.  What else do you want or need to know?  Go get it.
kids-at-deep-space-8k
“Kids at Deep Space 8K” by Ars Electronica via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
  • PLAY IS HOW YOU LEARN.

public-service-announcement
“Public Service Announcement” by Jason Mrachina via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Isn’t it funny that these lessons are the same ones that we hear from all the wise guys and life counselors and self-help books?

FINAL THOUGHTS

My theory is that somehow, on our way to learning how to be adults, we got distracted by the details and have forgotten the power with which we were born.

I get the feeling that power’s still there, waiting for you to notice, and if you’ve forgotten what it looks like, then the Universe has lots and lots of little guys who can help you remember.

My own feeling is, if you’re stuck in the suck of trying to be a cog in some wheel not of your own making, the best thing you can do is watch kids…your own kids, kids belonging to your friends and family, stranger kids doing their thing, whatever.

Watch what they do.   See what works.  Do that.

This YouTube video is a compilation of jaw-dropping performances by some amazing kids.  It was put together by People Are Awesome in 2017.

Here’s a poem:


SAME LESSON

The world is a bigger cup

Than your small hands can manage.

It is heavy and close to overflowing.

The hot liquid heart-blood it holds

Burns your fingers

As you concentrate on not-dropping,

As you try yet again to

Navigate over another

Wide, slick, sparkly-clean floor.

 

Your wrists ache

And you grit your teeth.

You try, try, try,

Harder and harder,

To hold onto that cup

That seems to get heavier

As you walk along.

 

There it goes…

Another splat,

Another slip,

Another mess.

The cup’s lying there, emptied,

And all the stuff’s spread out

In one grand sploosh spattered all over

That proud new pair of shoes

As old issues come bubbling up to blindside you,

 

As the shouting starts you notice that

The issues are not even yours.

 

Toddler lessons revisited:

My small, but not my bad.

It helps to remember that

The world is heavy

And it’s way, way big for small people…

It helps to remember that

We are all small.

 

Hmmm…

Maybe we just need smaller cups.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Power” by BadWolfBobbi via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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

 

Get Social....
GIVE UNTIL IT HELPS

GIVE UNTIL IT HELPS

Here’s a thing from Jay Conrad Levinson’s GUERILLA MARKETING EXCELLENCE:  The 50 Golden Rules for Small-Business Success:  “Give till it helps.

It’s a very different take than the more usual “give until it hurts” that Mother Theresa espoused.

Mother Theresa’s thing seems to encourage a degree of selflessness that’s way over the top.  Some folks take it to mean that you’re supposed to give and give and give until you’ve nothing left to give….and then you give some more.

With that one, I’m not quite sure what you’re supposed to do when you’re totally depleted and unable any more to take care of your own self, your own dreams, and the responsibilities that are yours.

totally-exhausted-fathers
“Totally exhausted fathers” by smumdax via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
I’ve often wondered.

MINDFULNESS AND GIVING

Levinson’s take on the whole giving thing seems, instead, to encourage mindfulness, looking at whether the “help” you’re giving is actually a help to the other person and is not a detriment to yourself.

  • Is this help you are giving effective?
  • Are you empowering the other person?
  • Does the help you are giving encourage the recipient to continue walking their own road?
  • Does it help them to build themselves up so they can tackle their own problems?

Very often, you have to watch to make sure that the responses and moves you’re evoking from the other person as a result of the actions you’ve taken are heading in the direction that can allow them to make the best use of the energy (money, time, talent) that you’ve expended on their behalf.

So, what happens if it doesn’t?  What if your gift keeps the other person from learning the lessons they need to learn?  What if your gift actually diminishes them?

An everyday example of that is the effects of being raised by a so-called “helicopter parent.”

A well-meaning, overprotective parent who does your chores and your homework for you; tries to resolve your every social problem; is your personal rally squad who cheers you on for every little thing you might accomplish and attempts to completely eliminate any sort of contact you might have with frustration of any sort is NOT a help.

If every obstacle is eliminated for you, how are you going to learn how to do your own work-arounds and develop your own strengths to power on through the potholes and hurdles and to fix your own mistakes?

she-climbs-a-tree
“She Climbs a Tree…” by Walt Jabsco [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
If your way of giving involves solving another person’s problems without giving them the chance to face their own challenges, the net result is that your gift can prevent them from developing their own abilities and making their own choices and decisions.

It sends the unfortunate message that you don’t think they can do it without your help.  Is that a message you want to send?

AND WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Also, a major question you might want to ponder is this:  When you are making this gift, are you using your available resources in a way that adds meaning and mana (inherent power) to your own life?

do-i-know-you
“Do I Know You?” by Tom Waterhouse via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg has written about the positive effect generosity can have on one’s sense of freedom and our own sense of self.

When we give, we continually test our limits, she says. “The practice of generosity is about creating space. We see our limits and we extend them continuously, which creates a deep expansiveness and spaciousness of mind.”

The late poet Maya Angelou once famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

try-my-boy
“Try my boy!!” by matthew Fang via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
What other meaning does the power of giving lend to your life?  Is it worth the cost?

TWO ENDS OF A GIFTING TRANSACTION

It occurs to me that every gift has a giver and a receiver.  The gift is a transfer of life-energy from one to another.

Gifting is always a transaction between the one who gives and the one who receives.

helping-hand
“Helping Hand” by istolethetv via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
The thing is, human relationships are always complex.  Questions to ask yourself before you offer to help someone with more than an easy-fix problem are these:

  • Does the person want your help?
  • Is the person ready to accept your help?
  • Do you have the skill, the time and the inclination to do what is really needed? Trying to help people when you don’t have the skills or the time or the commitment to a project is likely to do more harm than good.

Jumping into somebody else’s life and messing with their “stuff” does require a lot of heavy thinking beforehand.  Be respectful.  Be careful.  That may be somebody’s heart you’re stepping on.

stone-and-flesh
“Stone and Flesh” by Rachel Titiriga via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
HOW ARE YOU HELPING?

Sometimes it’s just a matter of pitching in.  Some project needs to be completed and you are willing and able to lend a hand.

The goal is clear, everybody agrees on the purpose and the method is fairly obvious.  You go.

helping-hands
“Helping Hands” by Andree & Edward via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
However, it does get more confusing and a lot more difficult when you’re trying to help others as they cope with circumstances that are catastrophic or perhaps the result of societal issues over which they have little control.

This YouTube video, “Help That Helps – Giving What Is Really Needed,” was published in 2016 by the Visalia Rescue Mission.  It was put together by people who spend their days providing concrete help in many different ways for the homeless in their area.

The major take-away from this one is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the bigger, more problematic circumstances humans often face.

stew-and-sympathy
“Stew and Sympathy” by Neil Moralee [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Two prominent economists, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, wrote an investigative book called WHEN HELPING HURTS:  How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself. 

The book has a Christian bent.  Its goal is to educate missionaries and ministries as well as other helpers who work in poverty- and disaster-stricken areas about how to effectively alleviate poverty for the long-term.

The authors advise that these helpers need to focus on the resources and abilities a community already has rather than focusing on what the community does not have.

The book is an interesting read for anyone who’d like to gain a better understanding of the different facets of helping those in need.

compassion-and-generosity
“Compassion and Generosity” by K. Kendall via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

HOW TO TELL WHEN YOU’RE GIVING TOO MUCH

Professor Shawn Meghan Burn’s 2014 article in Psychology Today, “Twelve Signs That You are Giving Too Much,” gives a rundown of the signs that the help you are giving to someone may be dysfunctional and unhealthy.

To read what she has to say, click-here

 

The good doctor has also written a book, UNHEALTHY HELPING:  A Psychological Guide to Overcoming Co-dependence, Enabling, and Other Dysfunctional Giving.

You may want to check it out if you think that maybe your giving is not a help.

SOME TIPS ON EFFECTIVE GIVING

Generosity researcher Adam Grant, the author of GIVE AND TAKE: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, describes generosity as “micro-loans” of our knowledge, skills, and connectIons in ways that transform and shape other people’s experiences.

He says the most successful and effective givers are those who rate high in concern for others and also in self-interest.

These givers contribute in ways that reinforce their social ties and they say yes to the things they for which they have the unique skills, resources or time to give.

They also limit what they do.

power-in-the-palm-of-my-hand
“Power In the Palm of My Hand” by Matthew via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Failed givers, Grant says, tend to say “yes” to everything.  Often they end up either overwhelmed, ineffectual, or resentful and put-upon.

LOOKING FOR THE SIGNS

Perhaps Levinson is right.  Looking at the real effects of what you do to help other people can guide you in determining how much you give and how.

  • If what you are doing is truly a help, then it makes sense to keep on doing what you’re doing.
  • If it does not help (either because you’re making stupid or ineffective moves or because you’re dealing with blind people), then it’s probably a good idea to stop whatever you’re doing and reassess.

warning-sign
“Warning Sign” by oatsy40 via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
As one commentator pointed out, if you help the wrong person for the wrong reason or in an ineffectual way, you may miss opportunities to really help the right person who needs the kind of help you can gladly give.

GIVING IS A GOOD THING

We all agree that helping people is a good thing.  We believe that it’s a way to ensure our own happiness.

Wise guys have told us that forever.

There’s a Chinese proverb that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.  If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.  If you want happiness for a year inherit a fortune.  If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

neighbors-helping-neighbors
“Neighbors Helping Neighbors” by Arlington County via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Saints, power dudes and other famous sorts all tout giving and serving others as the way to happiness.

Even scientific research provides compelling anecdotal evidence that giving is a powerful pathway to personal growth and lasting happiness.

The guys in the lab coats have used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) technology to map out how giving activates the pleasure centers in the brain, just like food and sex.

Humans are hard-wired to feel great about giving, it says here.  We like doing it.  Giving makes us happy.

reminder
“Reminder” by Ryan via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
For some people, giving is as natural as breathing.  For others, not so much.

If you feel like you are starving to death and the world is set up to take everything you have away from you, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be moved to generosity very often.

Generosity is a learned response and you can learn it from the people around you.

That’s what research by Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith suggests, anyway.   He concluded that it is certainly possible to absorb lessons for or against generosity.

This 2015 YouTube video, “Joy” was a story presented by Ashok Ramasubramanian in Speakeasy DC’s monthly storytelling series.  It was part of a show at Town Danceboutique, a bar in Washington, DC, on the theme, “The Charismatic Leader: Stories about those we follow for the right and wrong reason.”

The video gives an example of how someone can be influenced towards more generosity.  It’s also an engaging story.

Smith is not completely convinced that the increased activity that happens in the brain when we are being generous is actually responsible for increasing our happiness.

Maybe all that cogitating is triggered by questions like, “Should I?”, “Can I?”, “Is this worth it?”

He’s one of the guys who suggest that, maybe, because generous people tend to view the world as safe, secure and abundant, it could just be that they are happy because they have a generally sunny outlook. Whatever.

It’s a funny thing, though.  Even seeing other people’s generosity tends to be uplifting and induces a bit of teary-eyed smiling.  This sweet video, “The Most Generous Boy in the World,” published by filmmaker Meir Kay in 2017, is a smile-maker that way.

Another science of generosity finding backed by a lot of anecdotes and stories is that the more adversity someone has experienced, the more compassion he or she often feels.  This compassion is likely to increase the tendency to be generous.

One of my favorite YouTube videos is this 2013 short film made by TrueMoveH, “Inspiring Power of Giving and the Power of Veggie Soup” that was published by Get Your Health Up in 2013.  (Got your Kleenex handy?)

Here’s a poem:


FRIENDS

An everyday wonder are the friends of your heart,

They see you and they let you know you are there with them.

They cherish you for who you are

And they honor what you are making of your own true self.

Their love’s embrace is soft,

But the love is solid and deep.

 

Like a gentle bay, they invite you to come and play

On warm, golden sands shaded by tall trees

With leaves that rustle in the softest breezes,

And swim in calm waters ringed by strong reefs.

You can build sand castles there.

You can float in the water cradled between sand and sun,

A peaceful bit of flotsam among the ripples.

 

Like the moana beyond the reef,

The deep, rolling waves of their love

Carry you on your way beyond the horizons

To new worlds that you can only imagine

As you dream on the beach while you watch the sun set.

In your sailing canoe you will go

To where today meets tomorrow

Supported by the love that surrounds you,

The love that knows who you are.

 

Friends stay with you, enfold and embrace you,

Cry for your pain when lovers go away.

Friends will cheer you and keep near you,

When the world hammers at your soul.

They remind you not to give yourself away.

And, you know, it occurs to me:

It would be a very sad thing

To have a world full of lovers

And not a single friend….

by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “Helping” by eltpics via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

Thanks for the visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d share your thoughts about this below.

Get Social....
THE THINKS YOU CAN THINK

THE THINKS YOU CAN THINK

I’ve just read Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s book, THINKING FAST AND SLOW, which is a summary of Kahneman’s lifetime study on how the mind works.

Kahneman, now in his 80’s, has been called “one of the world’s most influential living psychologists.”  His work – which includes things with names like prospect theory, loss aversion, anchoring, separate mental accounting, the representativeness bias and the availability bias — has helped to shape and continues to influence the field of behavioral economics and finance.

For laymen, the book lays out Kahneman’s insights about two often-conflicting systems we humans use for making decisions.  The book is written in a clear and engaging style that led to the book becoming an international bestseller in 2011.

I’ll probably go back to read this book several more times.  It’ll be a reference book for me, sitting on my shelf.

THINKING FAST AND SLOW is one of those primers that is just chock-a-block full of useful insights that can be applied to regular living.  It’s worth more than one visit.

THE TWO “SYSTEMS” OF THOUGHT

In his book, Kahneman builds mind-constructs that delineate and explain the two main ways we humans use our minds to decide how to move in the world.

These constructs are based on work from the decades-long collaboration he maintained with another brilliant psychologist, Amos Turyev, whose focus of study was decision-making and judgement. Turyev died in 1996 at the age of 59.

Kahneman sticks labels that he got from psychologists Keith Stanovich and Richard West on the constructs – System 1 (the automatic system) and System 2 (the effortful system).

As Kahneman explains them, these systems each have inherent strengths and weaknesses.  They are available to us at all times.  If we can learn how to work with both of them, then we’re likely to reach better decisions than if we rely only on one or the other.

creative-365-project
“09.05.14 (Creative 365 Project)” by Michelle Robinson via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

GOING ON AUTOMATIC PILOT

System 1 operates with little or no effort.  It’s sort of like breathing.  You don’t need to call it up and you don’t have to pay any attention to it.

System 1 is always there, at the ready for action, and it is lightning-fast.

fast
“Fast” by Sandor Weiz via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Because of this system of thinking we are all really good at creating a consistent story from the data and the observations we have on hand.

With that story, we can make up ways of walking and directions to take.  We can create new things, evoking a Something out of the possibilities that present themselves because we have and believe that story.

This is cool and all, but there does happen to be a downside to it.

With System 1 running, we see what we see, throw in memories of old lessons learned and mix in assorted hints and rumors and allegations we’ve heard from someplace or other to build a logical sort of a story that becomes a platform from where we can launch off in some direction or other.

Kahneman likes to call the underlying mode of this system by the acronym WYSIATI for “what-you- see-is-all-there-is.”

cafe-au-lait-and-beignets
“Café Au Lait and Beignets, Café Du Monde, New Orleans” by Viewminder via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Notice how the picture above is an automatic story-starter.  (You can check out the photographer’s story about it by clicking on the caption.  Did your story come close?)

In our almost-immediate story-creating, we do tend to ignore sometimes-critical information.  After all, if we can construct a logical story from the information we have, why bother to see new facts, figures or ideas? Right?

Rebel-psychiatrist R. D. Laing once famously said, “If I don’t know I don’t know, I think I know. If I don’t know I know, I think I don’t know.”  (Read that again.  Like much of Laing’s work, it’s confusing but it does make sense.)

The fact that we are so prone to take things at face value does have a bearing on the problem with just running with System 1. When it comes to making decisions, we can be fearless in our ignorance.

In the absence of detailed, accurate knowledge we can construct stories that support our beliefs and act on those beliefs with a confidence that can border on insanity.

Using System 1, you can effortlessly form impressions and generate feelings that can be used to build complex patterns of ideas that engage your interest and influence your decisions.

You can even react to a threat before you recognize that it is one.  (Sometimes you’re even right.)

The one fly in the soup is this: System 1 is radically insensitive to both the quality and the quantity of information we hold.  All it looks for is a coherent, believable story.

bug-kanchanaburi
“Bug In Soup Bowl” by Paul Sullivan via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
It’s the consistency of the information that matters for a good story, not its completeness.

We can make totally believable stories with next to no facts.  We can even make totally believable stories out of downright lies.

That can be a problem.

Very often in our System 1 parkour-style free-running through life, we neglect to suss out the big drop on the other side of the low wall we’re jumping over and…ouch!  Street-pizza happens.

[This awesome 2018 YouTube video, “Late For Work – Parkour Run,” was published by urbanamadei.  I figured we needed a break from all the heavy-duty thinking.]

WORKING ON THROUGH SYSTEM 2

Kahneman calls the conscious and deliberative System 2 thinking “effortful.”  It is neither automatic nor is it easy.

You would be likely to tap into System 2 thinking when you’re trying to solve one of those durned word puzzles on a math test.  Very often these riddles are tricky.  The first answer that comes to mind is probably not going to be the right one.

Here’s a cute animated YouTube video published in 2017 by funza Academy, “The Bat and Ball Problem That 50% of Harvard Students Got Wrong.”

As the video points out, we really have to push ourselves to get into the process of System 2 thinking.  The mental work involved is deliberate, effortful and orderly.

If you are really grinding on a complex problem, even your body gets involved.  Your muscles tense up, your blood pressure rises, your heart rate increases.  Your pupils dilate. You stress.

It doesn’t stop until you either solve the problem or you give up.

Only the slower System 2 thinking can construct thoughts in an orderly series of steps.  To activate it and use it, you do have to pay much more attention to what you are doing than when you use the automatic System 1.

Think of an American driving in Europe for the first time.  There she goes, driving down what she totally feels is the wrong side of the road.

You’d better believe she is paying strict attention to what she is doing, especially if that road gets busy.

The other thing System 2 can do, Kahneman says, is to overrule the freewheeling impulses and associations of System 1.

System 2 goes into action when you need to control yourself.  When you’ve already made a mistake because of your inattention that requires fixing, you’ll reach for the System 2 thinking.  When you need to be logical and rational, System 2 will be there on-call.

decisions-taichung-park
“Decisions – Taichung Park” by steve: they can’t all be zingers! (primus) via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
System 2 will keep you polite when you’re angry.  When you’re driving at night, System 2 helps to keep you alert.

Also, when System 1 runs into difficulty, when tried-and-true solutions to some problem does not work or when you encounter a question for which you have no answer, System 2 can be mobilized to look for new solutions and for better answers.

The biggest problem with System 2 thinking is the urge to keep looking for one more factoid, one more factor, or one more aspect or angle.  You can get so caught up in analyzing and philosophizing that you forget to get up off your behind and start doing.

“Paralysis by analysis” sets in and you need to call in System 1 thinking to cut to the chase.

they-call-me-a-gear-queer
“they call me a gear queer…” by Alane Golden via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
When you get to the point where all the fact-gathering has you in “Park,” you need to dismiss the System 2 thinking and let the System 1 thinking take over again.  Otherwise you’re never going to get out of the parking lot.

You take all your new insights and information from the System 2 thinking and you build another story using the System 1 thinking.  Then you go.

The following YouTube video, published by The Commonsence in 2018, presents some thoughts on how to work with both of the systems in day-to-day living.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Knowing fast and slow thinking are a part of your mind’s toolbox means that you’ll be able to use them appropriately as needed, it seems to me.

I do recommend Kahneman’s THINKING FAST AND SLOW.  It has a plethora of insights and ideas that can help you understand about how you are thinking and why you do that.  It can also help you direct your course corrections more consciously.

One thing that Kahneman does not emphasize in the book is the part where you take all the insights you’ve worked so hard to gather using the System 2 explorations and figure out how to sink that new knowledge down into your bones so that the insights become a more permanent part of your System 1 story-making.

That one is the result of doing, repetition and deliberate practice — something athletes, martial artists and Makers of every stripe know is necessary to develop mastery.  And that’s a whole other story….

decisions
“Decisions (Story of BA-253)” by Robert McGoldrick via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


SLOW THINKER LAMENT

This is irritating!

 

In a world of fast thinkers and pyrotechnic wizards,

Here I am…

Stuck with a mind that dives deep

Looking for crystal caves and other wonders

Under all that surface stuff.

 

In the alphabet soup of life,

How come everybody else is already

Moving past the letter ‘g’

And I’m still stuck on ‘c’?

 

This is NOT satisfactory!

 

They’re doing shrimp tempura,

Gobbling down the pupus, one and all.

Me, I’ve got a kalua pig in the imu.

 

Pfui!

What’s up with THAT!

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  Decisions 3 by Justin C 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.

Get Social....
TEACH SOMEONE AND LEARN BETTER

TEACH SOMEONE AND LEARN BETTER

Every time I open a book I smile.

I remember.  As a child who was just beginning to learn to read, my favorite time was spent sitting on my grandpa’s lap and “teaching” him how to sound out the squiggly lines on the pages.

He would laugh and hug me as I sternly scolded him and got him to sound out the words as I was learning to do in school.  Together we made it through several adventures of Dick and Jane and Spot.

Papa, I suspect, was severely dyslexic.  He could sign his name, but he never learned to read – in English, anyway.

I think those times when he would sit still and let his baby girl “teach” him from her primer books probably set the foundation for my love of books and word-play.

SEE ONE.  DO ONE. TEACH ONE.

In his book, SMART THINKING: Three Essential Keys to Solve Problems, Innovate and Get Things Done, author Art Markman says that the cornerstone of medical education is, “See one.  Do one.  Teach one.”

When medical students are learning a new procedure, the first thing they do is watch someone who knows how to do it carry out the procedure.  This gives them a general idea of how the thing is done.

The student will then practice the new procedure until he or she can carry it out.  Doing it helps the student understand the various elements and techniques involved that aren’t apparent from just watching someone else do the procedure.

After that, the student is encouraged to teach this procedure to someone else.  This helps the student see whether he or she has enough knowledge of the procedure to show someone else how it is done as well as explain, in a simple, understandable way, why the procedure is useful.

As Albert Einstein famously pointed out, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

I found it interesting that these same principles are also used by tradespeople, craftsmen, artists, performers and cooks to pass along their specialized knowledge as well.

discover-the-possibilities
“Discover the Possibilities” by Georgie Pauwels via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

TEACHING HELPS YOU TEST YOUR OWN KNOWLEDGE

Markman points out that in order to teach somebody else you do need to form a complete and organized, easily-understood explanation of what you’re trying to teach.

It’s like writing down a recipe for making muffins.  Stirring the liquid ingredients into a mound of dry ingredients works a heck of a lot better than vice-versa. It’s a good and helpful thing to mention that to someone making muffins for the first time.

If your attempted explanations confuse your student, it’s probable that you need to work on filling in the gaps in your own knowledge.

  • Perhaps the student doesn’t understand the words you are using. Do you?  Are there other more common words or alternative ways of explaining that you can use instead?
  • Perhaps the student needs more information than you are giving them. Take it back down to a more basic level.  Find out what the student knows and does not know and start from there.
  • Maybe the way you’ve organized and presented the information confuses the student. How can you make the steps easier to follow?  Are some of the important steps in a procedure missing in your attempted explanation?  Are they in the right order?

In 2009, Columbia University professor Simon Sinek was interviewed by Erik Michielsen, founder of Capture Your Flag, a virtual mentoring platform.  The following YouTube Video, “How Teaching Others Build Your Knowledge” is a snippet published around that time.

In it, Sinek says, “Teaching forces you…to break down your knowledge into components that give you a deeper understanding of your own knowledge.”

JUST PLANNING TO TEACH SOMEBODY ELSE HELPS YOU LEARN BETTER

Interestingly, researchers have found that students who thought they were going to be tutoring or teaching others worked harder to understand the material, recall it more accurately, and apply it more effectively.

The guys in the lab coats dubbed this “the protégé effect.”  If we are going to teach somebody else, then we know we need to pay attention to the most important, relevant points and organize them in our minds so that we can present them in a coherent, understandable way.

This way of “relational learning” happened even if, ultimately, the students were not actually required to teach someone else.

This YouTube video, “Why Teaching Others Is the Best Way to Learn” published in 2013 by Art of Smart TV features resident nerd Rowan Kunz explaining the value of teaching others in order to get feedback about your own level of knowledge.

Art of Smart describes itself as a “movement that is changing the world through a new kind of holistic tutoring and mentoring for young people.”

An important point Kunz makes is the one about repetition.  Every time you go back over the material you are teaching someone else, trying to help the other person make sense of it, the knowledge gets embedded more clearly and more deeply into your own mind.

It all helps your brain build neurotransmitter pathways that help you access the information in your head.  Cool stuff!  Perhaps, by teaching (or planning to teach someone else) you’ll find other ways to widen and deepen the knowledge you hold.

ANOTHER TAKE ON TEACHING

There are more than one way to teach.  Some of them don’t use words.

The following YouTube video published by Fred Then in 2014, “Learning By Doing and Not Teaching” dramatizes one little Thai girl’s lessons from her mother, a vendor selling fresh fruits from a trolley at a market in Petchburi province.

The girl, Achara Poonsawat (also known as “Nin”), won a scholarship from the Sarnrak Project that allowed her to complete a Bachelor’s Degree program and become an elementary school teacher.

Nin’s mother’s methods of teaching were not academic since she was herself unschooled.  However, they were based on real-life fact-finding.  Nin’s mother encouraged the girl to observe what others did, analyze why their methods worked and try the methods for herself.

Sarnrak Konkeng Huajai Krang (Good Kids, Good Hearts) is an initiative operated since 2000 by AIS, the largest mobile phone operator in Thailand.  The children targeted by the initiative are “underprivileged children who demonstrate love and close tie to their families.”

While the scholarship recipients go to school, their families receive financial aid from Sarnrak as well since that allows the youngsters to attend school without worrying about having to help support their family.

Here’s a poem….


PAPA AND HIS NET

Papa sits on the gray-green sand.

His skin is leathered by the sun.

Jewel drops of water sparkle in the darkness of his hair.

White salt traces down his arms, his back, his chest.

His rough, brown hands weave the shuttle delicately.

Like a bird, it flies intricate patterns over and through,

As the net grows whole.

 

Papa talks about the fish the net and he have captured.

It is a strong net, his best net.

Not even a big uhu could escape it.

Manini and weke they have caught by the score.

He snagged it on some rocks and it was wounded,

Torn upon the cruel, black pōhaku.

He mourns the jagged tears as his hands deftly flutter,

As the net grows whole.

 

Papa argues with a friend, things fishermen argue.

He swaps lies about the ones he and his net “almost,

And he brags about the ones that didn’t get away.

His eyes twinkle when he shows his teeth in laughter.

They shine in amusement at the whoppers and the toppers

And the ones that flop,

And his hands – his rough, brown hands – keep on flying,

As the net grows whole.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Teach Me” by Giovanna Matarazzo via Flickr [CC BY-NC]

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

Get Social....
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?

stairway-to-heaven
“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.

the-large-and-the-small-of-it
“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.

whats-the-time
“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]

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

Get Social....
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.

molokai-shaka
“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.

 

 

Get Social....
THE TROUBLE WITH PIVOTS

THE TROUBLE WITH PIVOTS

I don’t know.  Maybe I am misunderstanding this new-to-me concept of “business pivots.”

starting-on-the-pivot-line
“Starting On the Pivot Line??” by Pure Geekery via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

WHAT IS A “BUSINESS PIVOT?”

The business pivot was an idea that gained traction after Eric Reis’s book, “THE LEAN STARTUP:  How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Business” hit the entrepreneurial bookshelves in 2011.

Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but the Lean Startup thing seems to start with the premise that it’s a good thing to cobble together a prototype of a half-baked idea that’s “new and different” and offer it up first and fast with the intention of getting the product, service or other offering to Good on the fly.  Hmmm….

Apparently, this methodology is supposed to be a less expensive and more efficient way to gather relevant feedback from potential customers and measure the specific tastes, desires, and purported wants and needs of early-adopter buyers and others who come after as you churn out assorted re-iterations of your product or whatever.

Walking this way, they say, you’ll be all set to tailor your product, service, or business model to meet your customers’ needs and fulfill their wishes better.

The “pivot” is a particular mindset that’s part and parcel of this Lean Startup thing.

You’re supposed to stand at the ready to tweak, twiddle, and change the components and structure of your infant business – the products you sell, how you sell them, the way you communicate with and serve your clients and customers, the way you use your resources, and so on and so forth — in order to capture more and more business.

Really, it doesn’t sound like a bad idea.  I’m just trying to figure out why it does not resonate with me.

IS IT A DANCE THING?

Maybe my problem with this whole pivot thing comes from my knowing dancers and martial artists who use another sort of pivot step.

That one is modeled in the following YouTube Jazz Dance video “How to Pivot Turn” (published in 2012 by Howcast).  In it, director and dance choreographer Liz Piccoli shows you how to do a pivot step.

(Note that the step Piccoli is showing is labeled as a “beginner jazz dance move.”)

Maybe I’m stuck because I’m having a hard time getting away from using this dance step as a metaphor for the “business pivot.”

It does seem to me that if doing business is a dance, then there’s got to be more to it than just doing the pivot this way and that until you get the walk “right” (according to your audience) even with the added body-English.

Doing the pivot step over and over and over looks like “twirling around.”  To me, it just seems like a good way to get dizzy.

Hmmm….

US CREATIVES DON’T DO IT LIKE THAT…OR DO WE?

Maybe my problem with the thing is the whole engineering-world, feature-creature taste of it all.  Frankly, getting feedback from assorted others as you’re building your vision sounds wrong-headed to me.

both-powered-by-the-breath-of-the-earth
“both powered by the breath of the earth” by byronv2 via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Wanna-be Creatives have always been exhorted to “find your own voice.”  Expressing your own self and being “original” is supposed to be the end-all and be-all of the Creative gig.  “Authenticity” and being “genuine” is a basic tenet of Creator-hood, it seems to me.

As a Creative hopeful, you believe that the “meaning” of your work is all bound up in you – how you see and feel things and your own conclusions about why the World is as it is.

Your Job Number One is, basically, figuring out where you stand and why.  F’r real, it is confusing and frustrating work.  It’s all about slog, slog, slog, and wandering around in heavy fog.

Looking for feedback too early in your process is likely to keep you from finding your own voice.  (My own thought on it all is if you’re going to do all that hard work in the first place, what’s the point of speaking with anybody else’s voice?)

As you develop your own voice and your own vision, you’ll be moved to send out “reports” from that place that is unique to you.  This could result in any number of “products” – pictures, sculptures, pots, performances, books, poems, songs, Rube Goldberg-y inventions, whatever.

With them you are trying to reach out to everybody else, using whatever skillful means you’ve developed, to produce a body of work that allows others to see the world as you do.  Your purpose in all of that is to get them to buy into that vision you’re sharing.

(The deal is, if enough of these folks buy something you’ve made, you can keep on doing what you do.)

A FEEDBACK SOURCE

Of course, none of this necessarily means that your vision or your work will mobilize and move the world to do anything other than what it is already doing.

That’s when feedback comes in handy.  Asking for feedback from other folks and being open to suggestions can help you in a lot of different ways.

  • Maybe you’ll find venues to showcase your work because of a thing someone or other points out to you.
  • Maybe you’ll try different ways and means to refine how well your message connects with and influences other people, winning their support for your work.
  • Maybe you’ll find soulmates and partners in surprising places who help you expand your horizons.  You might even find your tribe.

tim-devlin-frontside-pivot
“tim devlin frontside pivot” by andrew hutchison via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Some things will work.  Others will not.  You’ll keep doing the things that work and maybe you’ll try other new things as well to get your work into the hands of your supporters.

Instead of pivoting willy-nilly, you’ll use the vision you’ve developed and ride herd on it as you test and try out other people’s suggestions that help it evolve.  You’ll use your vision to make sure that everything you do – your work and the marketing of it — aligns with the direction you are wanting to go.

That’s a good thing, don’t you think?  I do.

PIVOTS AS THE WAY BACK

I do think, however, that sometimes you as a Creative may find the pivot is useful for getting back to the vision and voice you’ve already developed.  When you have gone off-course, it may be the only way to get back to moving in the direction you want to go.

My own favorite example of a pivot of that kind is the one made by a long-distance solo sailing legend, Bernard Moitessier (1925 – 1994).   He was inducted into the Single-Handed Sailors’ Hall of Fame in 1988 for his life achievements, but he is most famous for not finishing a race.

In 1969, the British Sunday Times sponsored the first international Golden Globe yacht race.   The fastest single-hander sailor to complete a non-stop circumnavigation of the world stood to win £5,000 (the equivalent of £82,500 nowadays).

The Golden Globe trophy, also sponsored by the Sunday Times, would be awarded to the first solo circumnavigator to do the round-the-world voyage.

Notoriety, adulation, and fame was expected to follow in the wake of both of these awards.  Book deals, speaking engagements, endorsements, sponsorships and the rest were bound to follow.

Moitessier, who was already a sailing legend as well as a noted author, had planned his own world-circling voyage on his custom-built 39-foot steel ketch “Joshua” before the race was organized.

The timing of his around-the-world trip coincided with the newspaper-sponsored race which was apparently structured to automatically include all of the sailors who were attempting to sail single-handed around the world that year.

The sponsors of the race prevailed on Moitessier to participate in the race and he reluctantly agreed even though he made it clear that he felt that doing so was somehow compromising what he considered his special relationship with the sea.

Moitessier was on the last leg of his circumnavigating journey and many say he would have won the Golden Globe race as both first and fastest if he had finished his trip.  Instead, he changed his vessel’s course and continued sailing eastward.

He ended up completing a one-and-a-half circumnavigation of the world which took him around Cape Horn (again) and on to Tahiti.

It took him 301 days to complete the voyage.  In doing so, he broke the world record for the most miles sailed solo non-stop.

Meanwhile, another legendary yachtsman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, became the first winner of the Golden Globe race, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this summer.   Sir Robin’s voyage took  a “stately” 312 days.

Moitessier wrote a note to the London Sunday Times when he turned away from winning the race.  He delivered the note by slingshot onto a passing ship.

In the note he said, “My intention is to continue the voyage, still nonstop, toward the Pacific Islands….I am continuing nonstop because I am happy at sea, and perhaps because I want to save my soul.”

His book, THE LONG WAY, chronicled his 301-day voyage.  It sold very well.

This YouTube video, uploaded in 2011 by GMGB68, features images taken by Moitessier himself during his nonstop solo voyage around the world.

Here’s a poem:


CIRCLES

I figured out something:

I move in circles like the sun because

I want to see everything there is to see.

Like a hunter in territory unfamiliar,

I move slowly, with caution,

Stopping, stooping, seeing the tracks

Of the wild beasts and other things,

Finding the paths they walk,

Following to where they lead me.

I glide softly through the bushes,

Stepping quietly, walking lightly.

 

I stop and listen to the sounds around me.

Let them touch me, let them flow.

My breath is deep; it fills my belly.

Calm I am, a part of the One.

I move with no thought, no expectations.

What am I stalking?

I don’t know.

There is something waiting for me

Out there, somewhere,

When I have traveled full circle,

Perhaps I shall see what it is.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Sunflower” by Mikael Hvidtfeldt Christen via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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

Get Social....
DO-BE, DO-BE, DO

DO-BE, DO-BE, DO

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  You’re busy, I’m busy, everybody’s busy.  In fact, it seems like everybody’s drowning in busy, busy, busy.

We bounce around doing this, handling that, rushing through our days, knocking off all of our bullets on that mile-long to-do list, steam-rolling through the obstacles, knocking off the challenges and so on and so forth.  Rolling, rolling, rolling ‘til we drop.

But, it’s good, right?  Yup, yup, yup!

Or…is it?

THE NEW DEFAULT

In this TEDxFurmanU talk, “The Busy Identity,” published in 2016, the presenter is Lexie Harvey, then a sophomore at Furman University.  Lexie tells us we need to take a rest.  We need to remember that we are human beings, she says, not human doings.

It got me thinking, this video.  It does, indeed, seem to be the new default for a lot of people.  It’s become a bit of a pissing contest, actually.  “My busy is bigger than your busy.  But, it’s all good…”  (Cue the big grin.)

That “human-Being vs human-Doing” thing has been around for a long time.  It’s a clever phrase that wanna-be wise guys toss around, looking all holier-than-thou.  Another pissing contest.  (Sigh!)

The thing is, humans are not one or the other.  We’re a bit more organic and a lot more integrated than that.  What we choose to Do affects how we Be and the how we Be often dictates what we choose to Do.

There doesn’t seem to be any way around it.

The very wisest of the wise guys and the smartest of the smart guys all agree:  you are (or you become) how you walk in the world.  As Henry David Thoreau pointed out, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

This irreverent and very silly BuzzFeed Video was published on YouTube in August, 2015.  It does seem to capture the essence of busy quite nicely:

The video was put together by the BuzzFeed Motion Picture video team.  As you probably know already, these guys are the awesome crew that puts together the daily posts on the BFMP’s flagship channel.

MAYBE “BUSY” IS THE NEW “LAZY”?

Sometimes I think the reason we have gotten so awfully good at doing ‘til we drop is mostly because busy is easy.

That’s right.  Think about it.

When your days are filled to the overflowing with that incredible To-Do List you’ve constructed that is way longer and much more varied than the ones any other two people you know are toting around, who has time or energy to even think about what it is you’re actually doing or who you are actually being?

The Real is, it’s not like our one True Self is sitting in some dark recess of our minds waiting to be “discovered.”

Getting still and doing interior explorations is a very useful and ultimately beneficial set of skills for all kinds of reasons, but reports from the guys who actually did that are sort of nebulous and unclear.

Most of them seem to end up advocating dumping Self in favor of connecting to the Oneness of it all or something like that.

If that’s what you want to do, that’s great, but if you’re a bit more concerned with trying to get to your own meaning and mana your own way, it might not be satisfactory for you.

The really cool thing about being human is that we can be lots and lots of different selves.

The best thing about that is if we’re not satisfied with the Self we happen to be doing at any given time, we can actually choose to grow into some other Self we like better.

male-b&w
“Male B&W” by Nuuna Nitely via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

There’s only one problem.  Growing and changing and transforming ourselves takes time.

As fitness guru Jillian Michaels points out, “Transformation is not five minutes from now, it’s a present activity.  In this moment you can make a different choice, and it’s these small choices and successes that build up over time to help cultivate a healthy self-image and self-esteem.”

beauty-of-time
“Beauty of Time” by Hartwig HKD via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Michaels is right.  It takes time to build a new body.  Every wise guy there ever was all say it takes time to build a new self.  It very often takes a lot of hard choices, all made one at a time.

Our “busy” may be just a convoluted, very tiring way to avoid making the changes we need to get to the life of meaning and mana we want.

GETTING TO NOT-BUSY

So what does it take to get to not-busy?

One of the simplest and best ways to get free from busy is a thing ordinary folks can understand and do quite handily.  It’s called “selectivity.”  Its other name is “making choices.”

It’s an old and simple truth:  Time is the ultimate resource.  Time is your life.  In fact, time is all that life is.

The price tag for whatever activity you are doing is time.  That means that for each thing you do, you are paying for it with your life.

time-goes
“Time Goes” by giulia gasparro via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The question then becomes:  Is it worth it?

I listened once to a conversation among a group of old friends – unconventional outliers all – as they shared story after story of their many and varied adventures.  Laughter and heartful moments piled up and we were all feeling well-pleased with each other.

Then one guy, in a pensive moment, said, “You know what I’d like?  I’d like to buy back all the time I was paid to work for someone else.  I wonder what I would have done with all that time.”

Another put in that he’d buy back the time he had wasted on frivolous distractions that have little meaning for him now.

A third said she would take back the years she had spent following a path someone else had set for her.

The evening ended with an explosion of laughter when another said, “But, guys, look at where we are now!  Hasn’t it been a great life?  If I ever get the chance, I know I’d do it all again!”

And I had to think, as I looked at this madcap crew of adventurers and makers and smarty-pants oddballs and quirky spirits, that every one of them had grown into a marvelous human of one sort or another by choosing again and again to follow their own hearts.

bliss-with-a-sunshine-eclipse-heart
“bliss with a sunshine eclipse heart: marco cochrane’s work, treasure island (2014)” by torbakhopper via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

DE-CLUTTERING YOUR TIME

Getting free of meaningless “busy” means cutting down and weeding out the extraneous stuff in order to focus time and energy on the people we love and the things we want to do.  Actually, it’s an advanced level of de-cluttering.

Instead of organizing your desk, your room, your house and the rest of your environment, using selectivity you can shovel all the detritus out of your time and your life-doings.  (Coincidentally all the other stuff tends to get re-organized too.)

shovel
“Shovel” by Tom Rydquist via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
All selectivity requires is noticing.  Take a look at what you are doing during your day.  (You may even want to start one more list.)

When you’ve got some breathing space, take a look at your list and choose one activity.  Think about it.  Then start asking yourself some questions.

The two most important ones are these:

  • What do you give to this thing you’re doing?
  • What does it give back?

Other things that might be worth asking are:

  • How does this activity feed you?
  • Does it help?
  • Is it inspiring?

Or:..

  • Does it stoke your fears?
  • Does it bring you down, distorting your worldview or negatively impacting your disposition?

Asking these questions, especially about the things that have become habits or routines, and revisiting the things you sort of take for granted, can help you see what your life is made of.

If you’re satisfied with the results that a particular activity brings into your life then, by all means, keep on doing it.  If not, maybe you want to send it to the recycling bin.

Sometimes as you remove one activity, you’ll notice that a whole chunk of related activities end up in the recycling bin as well.  That’s a bonus.

After a while of doing this you’ll notice that you’re starting to breathe easier.  You’ve got more time to do the things you’ve decided to keep.  Life gets more interesting and more fun.  You can enjoy yourself and savor the life you’ve built.

the-world-around-me
“The World Around Me” by Akhilesh Ravishankar [CC BY-ND 3.0 Unported]
Give it a shot.  What do you want to lose?

Here’s a poem:


DO-BE, DO-BE, DO

There’s a thing going ’round these days;

The Do-Bug is its name.

If you don’t watch out, it’ll get you too

And you’ll never be the same.

 

Your eyes get red from the strain

And tics make your face twitch.

Your ears are blocked by a roaring

And you start acting like a witch.

 

Your body moves in fits and starts

Your stomach will lurch and roll,

And your heart will shrink to a peanut

As it drains your innermost soul.

 

Your hands reach out like claws

That hold on to things real tight,

And your legs can’t keep still…

You want to run out of sight.

 

You hurry-scurry in a flurry,

Rushing here and there,

And you never stop to ask yourself

The how, the why, the where.

 

It attacks all your nerve endings.

It festers in your brain.

And as it progresses,

You frequently go insane.

 

Do this!  Do that!  Do the other!

Do it for this cause or for that!

Do it now or lose forever!

Why’d you do it, you dirty rat?

 

The Do-Bug latches onto you

And shakes your fundament,

Makes you think you’ll get to Heaven

And it’ll use you until you’re spent.

 

The cure is very simple.

There’s no need for pills or booze.

Just stop whatever you’re doing,

Let be, and take a snooze.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Hurry” by Christer 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.

Get Social....
THAW THE FREEZE

THAW THE FREEZE

It’s famous…the Fight or Flight reaction dichotomy that happens  every time the adrenaline starts pumping through your system as you’re facing yet another new crisis or unfamiliar situation.

It’s a human thing.  I mean, look at us:  Bad eyes, really limited smelling ability, can’t hear well, small teeth, no claws, weak muscles, can’t run, bad at climbing, and on and on.  In a world of predators, we tend to be a lot wary.  We’ve got good reasons.

Depending on your own propensities, you may want to believe that you’ll stand firm and fight your way through whatever obstacles and challenges you must.

Courage and perseverance and never say die…all the full-blown, pump-’em-up motivational stuff plays in your mind as you keep on trucking on.  Forward, forward, always forward.  A valuable and viable option.

Or maybe you want to believe that you will be wily and smart enough to pull a dig and peel on outa there when the odds are overwhelmingly against you.

Retreat and you’ll live to fight another day.  You’ll be able to choose your battleground and marshal your resources more effectively.  Fall back, regroup, and try again.  Another valuable and viable option.

AND THEN THERE’S THE FREEZE

Then there’s the third reaction that doesn’t get quite as much show-time.  It’s called the Freeze.  Think deer in the middle of the road, caught in the headlights of an oncoming sixteen-wheeler.  Few people want to emulate the soon-to-be street pizza, but very often they do.

deer-in-the-headlights
“Deer In the Headlights” by Shena Tschofen via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The Freeze arises from the fact that we think…a lot.  It’s another very human trait — the one, in fact, that has put us at the top of the food chain and made our species the biggest, baddest predators of all.

THE FREEZE HAS A FANCY NAME

The Freeze is such a prevalent behavior pattern that the smarty-pants scientists even have a name for its extreme form — “tropophobia.”  It’s a genuine, actual condition that can be extremely debilitating and cause all kinds of problems for you.

“Tropophobia,” it says here, is “the fear of moving or making changes.”  People who suffer from it don’t handle surprises well.  They suck at dancing with change.  Even minor changes can cause a complete breakdown.

Tropophobia can be triggered by things like moving to another country, state, city, or even another house in the same neighborhood.  Changing schools or jobs are major obstacles.  Relationships that are changing are excruciating for these folks.

Getting a different vehicle, changing doctors or insurance companies, having new neighbors move in next door, making small changes in set routines, changing your mind or entertaining a new idea….anything that’s different, anything “new and improved” can throw you into a tailspin when the Freeze is your default response.

This is not good.  It’s hard to do your dance when your head’s whirling around and around and you’re feeling dizzy and nauseous.

hurricane-season
“Hurricane Season” by jamelah e. via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

ANATOMY OF THE FREEZE

To some extent, every one of us humans can get overwhelmed by changes that keep coming and coming.  Most of us develop work-arounds and strategies for it that allow us to keep on moving through the changes in outward circumstances or changes in our own feelings and internal landscapes.  Some of us just can’t.

One of the most common traits of people who are affected badly by the Freeze is extreme stubbornness.  Their “Yes-Book” is very small; their “No-Book,” very large.  Things are supposed to happen a certain way and no other way is going to work.  Rigidity is their middle name.

The general anxiety that happens when faced by any change gets blown up into major crisis proportions.  If the anxiety level gets too high a panic attack may set in.

Your heart beats faster and faster.  You have difficulty breathing.  Weakness, fainting, dizziness, tingling or numbness are common occurrences.  You start sweating a lot and may experience chest pains.  Extreme terror grabs you and you spin out.  ACK!

One cause for the condition that stands above the rest, according to the smart guys, is trauma.  Something happened to the sufferer that convinced them that moving made them a target somehow.

Any kind of movement that calls attention to their presence feels dangerous.  For them, it feels better to hide out in the bushes or behind masks rather than to risk an attack that might cause some kind of harm or suffering.

Just the possibility of future suffering or the repeat of suffering that previously occurred gets magnified so badly that they become unsettled and very wobbly.  Who wants to move when the ground under your feet is rocking and rolling and cracks are opening up in front of you?

cracked-earth
“Cracked Earth” by Gerry Thomasen via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
An extreme need for consistency makes people who suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder prone to getting driven into a frenzy by any change in daily routines.

Others may just be terrified for no real reason at all.  You don’t need a reason to be scared.  Sometimes you just are.

Hey…let’s face it.  Despite our current status as top dog of the world as we know it, humans are basically descended from a long line of brainy runners and cringing scaredy-cats.

The ones who were brave (and unlucky) didn’t survive long enough to HAVE descendants.  Freeze-genes are part of our DNA.

We honor the fearless ones mostly because the majority of us know that inside our own selves there is a terrified heart prone to a heck of a lot of trembling and moaning.

hikers-at-pilot-rock
“Hikers at Pilot Rock” by Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington [CC BY-2.0]

SO, HOW DO WE DEAL?

Therapy is one solution touted by the smart guys.  Cognitive-behavior therapy can be helpful.  This type of therapy changes the way you react to a feared stimulus by helping you sort through the options available to you when you are confronted with whatever scares you.

Often, by using these techniques, you can even get some insights into what causes you to freeze up like that.  You use your mind to calm your mind by developing routines and workarounds that help you cope with some feared change or other.

Things like shock or exposure therapy have also been used to treat tropophobia as well, but that just sounds like a refined sort of torture.  (The kid’s scared of the water?  Easy solution:  throw him into the middle of a deep pond.  Watch him drown.  End of problem.)

Medication’s another solution.  Specially designed anxiety medication and/or anti-depressants can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.  They can also help with the physical symptoms of panic attacks like difficulty in breathing.

However, the side-effects of the drugs can be gnarly and, for real, popping a pill every time you get scared just shoves the fear under the rug for a while.  You’re going to keep tripping over it…again and again and again.

Relaxation techniques, including the beginning stages of meditation and yoga, listening to music and various breathing exercises have been found to be very effective at alleviating anxiety and other symptoms.  Many people choose these as quick and easy methods for coping with various situations as well.

The problem with all of these methods, practices and techniques is that they are coping devices.  When you use them, you relieve and mitigate the assorted symptoms of the problem, but you are still stuck with the basic problem, which is your fear.

It sits there, a raging stream that cuts across your path and the dream you’re chasing is on the other side of the stream.  Treading water in the middle of the stream just doesn’t get you to the other side.

raging-river
“Raging River” by Szoki Adams via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

WHAT ELSE?

Marketing maven Seth Godin had an interesting take on this whole issue in his book, POKE THE BOX.    He points out that things are always moving and flowing.  He calls that flow “flux” and says that engineers can measure the flux of heat or molecular change by measuring movement.

One example he uses is putting an ice cube in a cup of hot tea.  The heat moves from the water into the ice.  The ice melts.  That’s flux.  That’s movement.

iced-tea
“Iced Tea” by EmberEyes via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The problem is that people often confuse the natural flux and movement of the evolving world around us with risk, and, for real, “risk” is just a state of mind.

The feeling of “risk” is the result when we put some value on a particular outcome.  We want that outcome very badly.  If we don’t get to that particular outcome then we feel we have lost something somehow.

Risk always involves winning and losing.  And risk always brings with it the possibility of failure.  Chances are, the more risks you take the more likely it will be that you will fail at some point.

If you’ve been trained to avoid failure, Godin says, you will be especially averse to taking risks.  Your wonderfully agile mind starts in, showing you all the ways this move or that move could lead to failure.  Not only that, the people around you, who probably don’t like change any more than you do, are likely to chime in as well.

You start getting anxious.  You’re going to lose, Lose,LOSE…oh, no!  So you don’t move.

Anxiety, according to Godin, is “experiencing failure in advance.”  Your mind is doing a ju-jitsu number on you, throwing you for a loop.

Godin likens the reactions of the risk-averse to acting like a rock in the middle of a flowing river.  He says, “People act as though flux – the movement of people or ideas or anything else that’s unpredictable – exposes us to risk and exposes us to failure.  The fearful try to avoid collisions so they avoid movement….”

He tells us, “Like a rock in a flowing river, you might be standing still, but given the movement around you, collisions are inevitable.”

He points out that a log floating down that same river is in the flow of movement and change, but that log is likely to experience a heck of a lot more calm around it when compared to that rock.  Moving with the flow it doesn’t get banged up so much by the floating debris and it can land in a pretty cool place eventually.

its-too-cold-to-jump-in
“It’s Too Cold To Jump In” by Jamie McCaffrey via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Godin’s solution to thawing the Freeze is this:  Flex with the flux.  Move.  You are more likely to get to somewhere else pretty much intact.

ANOTHER TAKE

This YouTube video, “Numbing Pain and Joy” presents an important concept:  when you numb pain (or discomfort or fear) you numb joy.

The video was published by KirstyTV, the You-Tube channel for internationally known motivational speaker Kirsty Spraggon whose main focus in her talks and as an interview talk-show host is vulnerability and working through the issues connected with being a bonafide, genuine human being.

Here’s a poem:


PAY ATTENTION

Pay attention!

This is SERIOUS!

Here you are lollygagging down this road

on your way to your Doom.

 

You are ignoring all the smarty-pants prophets.

They tell you how foolish it is to be

refusing to be ruled by inevitability,

refusing to heed their fingers pointing at your fate,

ignoring their gloomy and direful predictions of your predicament.

 

So what happens?

 

This road of yours takes a left.

then it takes a right…

an unexpected corner – OOPS!

pothole here, mud bog there,

mist and shadows,

caves and heights.

 

You move one more jot

along your meandering trail

going hither and yon along yet another cliff edge,

then down some rocky beach,

under the pretty trees,

totally unaware of that stupendous bunch of heavy coconuts

that just misses your head because

YOU stopped to watch some hyperactive orange-and-black butterfly

zigzag-zipping along through the zinnias.

 

Ya know…

This is not so bad.

 

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Glacier” by Douglas Scortegagna via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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

Get Social....

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)