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values, mindsets, finding your own meaning and mana

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]

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POET LAUREATE KEALOHA (A Journey)

POET LAUREATE KEALOHA (A Journey)

In 2010, Steven Kealohapau’ole Hong-Ming Wong – “the slam poet known as Kealoha” — was designated by Governor Neil Ambercrombie as Hawaii’s first (and, so far, only) official state poet laureate.

The following 2010 YouTube video, published by poetryfan808, shows the multi-genre, multimedia collaboration that opened the 2010 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards Show, the annual premier music awards in Hawaii.  (Think of it as Hawaii’s Grammy Awards.)

The show’s opening act, which was spearheaded by Kealoha, features performances by renowned Hawaiian musicians that include the late O’Brian Eselu, Keali’i Reichel, Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole, Anuhea, Mailani, Natalie Ai Kamau’u, Amy Hanaiali’i, Jake Shimabukuro, Henry Kapono and John Cruz as well as two hula halau, Na Pualei O Likolehua and Halau Na Mamo O Pu’uanahulu.

WHAT’S A POET LAUREATE?

The mandate given to Kealoha at the time of his elevation to “poet laureate” by the governor was this: “As Hawaii Poet Laureate, Kealoha will highlight poetry in all its forms as enriching to our lives and giving voice to our history and way of life in the Aloha State.”

His duties, the governor’s office said, include reading, writing and spreading awareness about poetry appreciation as well as performing at official state events like the dedication of a sculpture garden at the Hawaii State Art Museum and performing at the governor’s inauguration.

He can also be asked to represent Hawaii at similar ceremonial events around the country and the world.

Kealoha was doing all that for years before he was named Hawai’i’s official poet laureate.  It has all been a part of a spirited journey that took some unexpected turns.

long-and-winding-road
“Long and Winding Road” by Khánh Hmoong via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

GETTING TO THE BEST DREAM

Kealoha is a local boy.  He was born and raised in Honolulu.

Like many bright island youngsters he went away to school in the Mainland.  At the time he was dreaming about becoming a nuclear engineer, working on atomic fusion, and changing the world.

He returned home to Honolulu at the end of 2001, after earning a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and after spending a couple of years after he graduated working as a business management consultant in San Francisco for the Mitchell Madison Group, a worldwide company with clients such as Adidas, Visa, Samsung, Mattel, Sun Microsystems and Health Net.

Looking at it from the outside, there doesn’t seem to be much of a connect between business management and his major in nuclear physics (with a minor in writing), but as Kealoha says, scientists and engineers are trained to solve problems.

Corporations value that ability and problem-solvers are well-paid.  At Mitchell Madison, he oversaw marketing, aggressive sourcing, business development, internet strategy, corporate strategy and energy research.

It was in San Francisco that Kealoha discovered slam poetry.  He told PBS Hawaii “Long Story Short” interviewer Leslie Wilcox about that time.

The poetry he heard when he attended his first poetry slam in 2000, he said, just blew him away.  He was instantly hooked.

He said, “…my work just sort of got pushed to the side ‘cause I would spend all my time writing.  I was spending all those late nights, on Sunday night going to these poetry slams.  And Monday morning, going to work all tired.  And I didn’t care; I was living again.  I had something that really inspired me.”

Meanwhile, his work as a consultant had become less meaningful to him.

Kealoha needed to re-think where he wanted to go with his life, so he did what a lot of local kids do.  He did the Full Circle; he came home.

honolulu-airport
“Honolulu Airport” by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
One interesting question that Wilcox posed during her interview with Kealoha struck me as noteworthy.  She asked whether Kealoha had a five- or ten-year plan.  He chuckled a bit ruefully and admitted that he did not.

The guy does not deliberately plan out his path.  He just takes off in the direction that looks like it could work for him and then whales away at it until it does work.  Maybe there is a lesson in that.

HAWAIIANS AND THE SPOKEN WORD

When he got back to Honolulu, Kealoha discovered that the urban poetry and art scene was alive and lively.

At the time of his homecoming, Wordstew, the brainchild of poet-performer Jesse Lipman (recognized as the godfather of Hawaii Slam Poetry), was drawing crowds at the Wave Waikiki nightclub’s open-mic nights.

This YouTube video features a poem by Jesse Lipman, “Jewipino Flowers,” at an early First Thursday gathering in 2013.

Other literati, musicians, deejays, and artists were cultivating “art spaces” where sound and visual artists could meet to collaborate.  Kealoha found a thriving literary and performing arts community.

Its existence was probably due in part to the reverence for the spoken word that has always been strong in Hawaii.

Before there was a written language, all of the native history and traditions were contained in the chants and the mele (song-poems) that were passed down through the generations.

Even when speaking the Hawaiian language was discouraged by those in power over a conquered people, the songs, old and new, could not be silenced.  The habit of word-play continued.

More than one observer has noticed the affinity the island peoples have for it.  Spoken word artist, author and publisher Richard Hamasaki found it to be true when he participated in the state Department of Education Artists-in-the-School program.

Hamasaki found that many of the children he encountered in the program had an affinity for word-play.  He said, “They had ingenious ways of combining what they heard on the radio with the language of their culture and they produced work that was honest and alive.”

This is no small thing.  Hawaiians are descended from poets and songwriters as well as warriors, farmers, artisans, and sailors, and even the children can dance with words.

Perhaps this is because, for Hawaiians, words hold power.  There’s an old proverb, I ka ‘ōlelo no ke ola, i ka ‘ōlelo nō ka make. (In the word is life.  In the word is death.)

It comes from a time when the performers of the chants and the mele had to be word-perfect.  They were, after all, the ones who carried the words of the ancestors and of those who held the old wisdoms.  These words held power and magic.

AND THE DREAM COMES REAL

Kealoha joined right in, working open-mic nights, competing in national slam competitions and helping to build a “poetry scene” in Hawaii.

He helped to found HawaiiSlam, a non-profit organization dedicated to showcasing poets from the islands.

HawaiiSlam has been running the nationally certified First Thursdays slam poetry competition, the largest registered poetry slam in the world, and Kealoha has been SlamMaster since 2003.  HawaiiSlam’s ongoing First Thursdays competitions in Kaimuki draws more than 500 attendees each month.

Kealoha has also been on the “Artists-in-the-Schools” roster since 2005, helping to introduce youngsters to the power of words and poetry and he works with young poets who are hoping to compete in the national slam poetry competitions.

HBO’s 2009 “Brave New Voices” documentary produced by Russell Simmons featured Kealoha as the strategic coach for “Youth Speaks Hawaii”, a slam poetry team that won the entire festival that year.

He has ventured into theatre as a director, playwright and actor, has performed internationally as a poet and storyteller, and was selected as a master artist for a National Endowment for the Arts program as well.  The list goes on and on.

FINAL THOUGHTS

In an interview for his alumni on-line newsletter, “Slice of MIT,” Kealoha said that being named the official poet laureate for the state was a great honor.

He also said that he feels most fulfilled when people tell him that his work has moved them or changed their perspective.

“That’s the goal – that’s the good work,” he says.

And isn’t that the best reason to make the journey into your own dreaming?

This YouTube video is Kealoha’s 2012 TEDxManoa Talk which features his poem, “The Poetry of Us”.

 


Header Photo credit:  “Kealoha: Science Poetry Life”  (TEDxHonolulu 2011)

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HOW TO COUNTER CHANGE BLINDNESS — Another IPS

HOW TO COUNTER CHANGE BLINDNESS — Another IPS

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  a growing appreciation of process.  [Creativity and change move through every situation you encounter.  Enjoy the ride ’cause there ain’t no going back!]

Change is everywhere.  Everything keeps changing, little by little.  Like a tree growing, it just keeps on.

The thing is you don’t really notice how big that tree is getting until you find an old picture and are amazed at the difference in that tree your father planted in the yard all those years ago.

tree-at-chellow-dean
“Tree at Chellow Dean” by Tim Green via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
This is true of everything and everyone around you.

A day doesn’t seem very long but changes do happen.  Every day, there’s at least a miniscule little difference.

Things grow this way or that as time flows on – a tree, your town, your partner, your kids, your business, or even you.  There is always a little bit of change.

These changes are often so small that they are easily overlooked.

Then, “suddenly”, one day, you notice that everything is different and you are blown away.

And that is how life tends to come at you.

WHAT?  WHEN DID THAT CHANGE?

Consider what has happened in the last year.  What about the last decade?

Take a look at any chunk of time in your life and the bigger the chunk, the more changes you’ll be able to point to.

Researchers have had a field day for decades studying how people tend not to notice change as it’s happening, in the short term and in the long term as well.

They tell us it’s just how humans are hard-wired.

We notice what’s in our world in bits and pieces in a rapid and dynamic way.

We pay attention to the bits that seem to be important to us at that time and then we build constructs and stories out of our initial impressions.

Sometimes, however, our constructs and the stories we’ve built get in the way of actually seeing what’s happening now.

A fun book to read regarding this phenomenon is THE INVISIBLE GORILLA:  How Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Daniel Simons and Chris Chabris.  The two authors are the creators of one of psychology’s most famous experiments.

This YouTube video, “The Invisible Gorilla” features Daniel Simons talking about that experiment.  It was published by the Beckman Institute in 2011 and won a regional Emmy award.

As Simons says, the human mind pretty much sees what it expects to see.

We are often blind to change because we are focusing on something else that we feel is important and that needs to be processed and attended to.

Distractions that occur within the same time-frame as the change, the age of an observer, as well as the use of psychoactive drugs also may affect whether we notice some change or other.

HUH?

The guys in the lab coats call this mind-trick “change blindness” and, they say, we are all vulnerable to its effects.  It’s an everyday phenomenon.

Drivers fail to recognize changes in traffic lights.  They miss important signs and signals from other vehicles and from their surroundings.  Sometimes they don’t notice pedestrians or other vehicles in their path.

Accidents happen.

accident-in-egan
“Accident in Egan” by Ruin Raider via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Imagine what would happen if an air traffic controller did not notice some important change on their instruments.  Yipes!

Arguments, misunderstandings and confusion are likely between people who fail to recognize that one or the other of them has changed in some way.

Eyewitness reports about any incident will differ radically from each other and, even worse, may have almost no congruence with what actually happened.

The number of big, smart and successful companies who completely failed to notice that their environment had changed is the stuff of legend.

The “buggy-whip syndrome” takes out those entrepreneurs who fail to notice the rise of some new technology or innovation that makes their product or their way of doing business redundant or obsolete. They bite the dust.

SO WHAT’S YOUR NEXT MOVE?

The researchers do say that knowing about your propensity for change blindness is a help.

They also tell us that what you pay attention to can help you navigate better through this ever-changing world.

They agree that you do have to know what is important to you and keep your eye on that.

Some of them also emphasize the importance of knowing how any major change that may occur will affect these important-to-you things.

That could be an overwhelming task, it seems to me.

warning
Warning” by Chris Tse via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Example.  We’ve all heard about climate change and increasingly erratic weather patterns, but what does that mean to us personally?

  • Do we sell our coastal homes and relocate inland?
  • Do we stay where we are, but invest in retrofits and reinforcements?
  • Do we ignore the warnings and hope for the best?

ARGH!

It can be really hard to wrap your head around many of the major world changes and their possible effects on your life.

The final acts of some of the really big world changes are probably set for tens of thousands of years in the future.

Unless it’s your passion, it may be a bit difficult to work up serious personal concern about them in the here and now.

However, many of the challenges of other lesser changes (like you working in a failing or fading industry or your kids hitting puberty or your aging parent’s need for care) can be foreseen.

You can probably suss out at least some of the effects these changes may have on your life.

You are likely to find examples and models of different ways to deal with these sorts of changes that other people have developed and you may be able to construct specific plans that you can use to deal with them.

Doing this can allow you to gradually implement these plans to good effect.

Some Smarty-Pants advocate having an early warning system in place that alerts you to the need to work out what you can do to preserve the important things in your life before a change that could adversely affect them occurs.

I’ve lived all my life with an early warning system set up by the (American) National Weather Service that alerts us island folk of the approach of tsunamis and hurricanes.

The eerie wailing of that siren system as it is tested every month reminds us that the possibility of disaster is a given.

tsunami-warning-system
“Tsunami Warning Siren” by Wesley Fryer via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
I’m not sure how I feel about having a personal early-warning system which might have the net effect of reminding me that at any time in this era of whirlwind changes my life could possibly turn to drek.

Trying to parse out every marginally likely worst-case scenario and then figuring out possible solutions or game plans for a whole array of these changes is more than a little daunting.

(It also sounds massively time-consuming.)

And then, of course, there is the Mike Tyson admonition: “Everyone thinks they have a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth.”  This, too, is a truth.

joe-louis-monument
“Joe Louis Monument” by Amaury Laporte via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

ANOTHER TAKE

This YouTube video, “Getting stuck in the negatives (and how to get unstuck)” features social psychologist Alison Ledgerwood’s 2013 talk at TEDxUCDavis.

It looks at another way to deal with the events and changes that happen and will continue to happen every day in your world.

Listening to Ledgerwood reminded me that change blindness can also keep us from seeing how the circumstances of our lives have changed for the better.

As she points out, we humans tend to focus on the negatives and gloss over the positive, “good” changes that happen (and keep happening) along with the “bad.”  Many of us are naturals at forecasting worst-case scenarios.

Consciously working on noticing the positives may actually be a better alternative than compulsively planning and preparing for every catastrophe and making an archive of back-up and contingency plans that may never be needed.

You only have so much time in the world.  Do you really want to spend it making plans and preparing yourself for dealing with what might happen if The-Sh*t-Hits-The-Fan?

Some people do.  Perhaps you are one of them.

If not, then focusing on practicing and stretching your ability to stay in Ledgerwood’s “gain frame” might be right for you.

AND ONE MORE

Happiness researcher Shawn Achor is well-known for his advocacy of positive thinking.

One of his books, THE HAPPINESS ADVANTAGE: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, points out that starting from happiness (rather than using happiness as a reward) actually may work to boost your productivity at work and your overall general sense of well-being.

He also gives practical pointers on how you can rewire your brain so that the happiness that’s already in your life becomes a sustainable, self-renewing thing.

The following YouTube video is a short animated review of the book published in 2016 by Practical Psychology.  It points out some of the book’s highlights.

Here’s a poem….


I AM NOTICING

I am noticing that

I don’t do “love” poems any more.

Not the spooning-mooning kind

‘Bout you and me by the deep blue sea,

Happy, we, in our mutual blindness.

Not the angst-ridden scouring

Of a heart already rubbed raw

By the windblown sands of a broken hourglass.

Not the whining, wailing love-song gone sour,

The cry from a heart lost in the dark.

Not the golden content of love grown old,

Rubbed down by an ocean’s worth of waves and storms

That have smoothed away all the extraneous

Lusts and desires that seemed so important once.

None of that, now.

No more.

 

I’m noticing, too, that

I don’t do protest poems any more.

‘Bout all the darkness in this old world.

No longer do I peer through the gloom

With spinning post-apocalyptic eyes,

Looking for the spark of some other, brighter paradise.

No longer am I pronouncing jeremiads

Excoriating vile evils and dark deeds,

Invoking wrathful deities.

I have stopped using my head as a battering ram,

Beating against the walls of the obtuse,

Trying to fix the unbroken universe.

I am done with that.

Don’t go there any more.

 

The passion still sits, burning in my gut.

I can feel it.

(I’m pleased to report it has not leaked out, that passion,

Like some body fluid running down my leg.)

 

Now, though, it’s some giant burning bird,

Turning raptor eyes on this mirror-world.

Tiger, that old warrior, sleeps soundly,

Sprawled at my feet, snoring.

He’s tired, spent, and worn.

The intensity’s still there, but now it’s coiled around me,

A quiescent Turtle-Snake in cold sleep,

Before the warmth of yet another spring sun touches him.

 

I wonder if I am gaining

That thing the wise guys call “perspective.”

That’s a GOOD thing, right?

It could be that I’m turning jade-hard, jade-strong –

I’ve been ripped out of my earthly womb

Where the rough and raw crystalline me

Grew through the millennia,

And I’ve gone lustrous after being

Shaped and polished by some artisan’s hand.

I sit now, an art object.

 

I am finding it….unsatisfactory, I think.

I would rather be ravaged by starlight

And bruised by butterfly wings.

I would rather be riding my Dragon.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit: “Kapalua, Maui Sunrise” by Mark Cameron via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

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

 

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.

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“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.”

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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THOUGHTS ARE YOU

THOUGHTS ARE YOU

I know, I know.  You’ve heard it before and will almost certainly hear it again:  You are the creator of the world you inhabit.  You become what you think.

Every motivational video and podcast producer focused on self-improvement is probably going to whack you upside the head with that one.

Here’s an especially good one published in 2017 by Tom Bilyeu as part of his “Impact Quotes” series.

Bilyeu is an American entrepreneur, the co-founder of Quest Nutrition, maker of a best-selling protein bar.  He is also a powerful motivational speaker and life-trainer.

CLICHES ARE TRUTHS REPEATED SO OFTEN THEY TURN INTO BABBLE….

Every advocate for positive thinking and optimism and every feel-good therapist of every flavor, backed up by all the guys in lab coats who are into probing the secrets of our brains and other aspects of our lives, will haul out this old chestnut at some point.

Even the wise guys who aren’t telling us we’re a bunch of delusional creatures will tell you this.

They’ve built all kinds of thought-constructs that prove that it’s true.  You’ve gotta believe them.  They know, right?

My own favorite is American entrepreneur T. Harv Ecker’s take on the matter.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before.

Ecker has said,

“Thoughts lead to feelings.

Feelings lead to actions. 

Actions lead to results.”

Therefore, once you’re aware of the thought-to-feeling-to-action-to-results progression, you are in a position to change your thoughts.

This will lead you to new feelings and perspectives that will affect the actions you take and the moves you make.

Using this progression, you can get to the results you want…it says here.

Okay.  Fine.  Right.

BUT THEN THERE’S THE PRIMAL QUESTION

I have to confess that I always get a bit squirmy and fidgety when I get yet another hit of this particular bit of nebulous wisdom that pushes me forward onto center stage as the “World-Creator.”

That sort of implies that the burden is on me to get my own world right.

The thing is, it seems to me that it would be a heck of a lot easier to get a handle on being a big-shot World-Creator if I could just figure out the answer to the Primal Question:

SO, WHO AM I AND WHAT DO I REALLY WANT TO DO IN THIS LIFE?

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“Question Mark Block” by Jared Cherup via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
There are, of course, many opinions, positions and theories about how you can find the answer to that question.

There are all kinds of tools you can use to figure out “The Big HUH?”.  Every self-development book probably contains a dozen or so.

Many people have explored this question and returned from their journeys to explain and expound on the answers they found for themselves.  Some may even ring true for you.

ONE OTHER DIRECTION TO EXPLORE

At the start of the 20th century, University of Michigan professor and sociologist Charles Horton Cooley (1864 – 1929) went against the trend of thought held by his fellow sociologists of the time.  They were firmly committed to considering the development of individuals and societies as separate processes.

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“Charles Horton Cooley” by unknown photographer (1902 Michigansenian, page 8) via Wikimedia [Public Domain]
The classic utilitarian (and selfish) individualism of economics, which was promoted by the theories about the dynamics of social interaction held by other sociologists of his time, did not make sense to Cooley.

Cooley argued that society and the individuals in them were not phenomena that can be separated.   He said they were “different aspects of the same thing, for a separate individual is an abstraction unknown to experience, and so likewise is society when regarded as something separate from individuals.”

To Cooley, studying how people develop and behave separately from how a society operates was a lot like dissecting a frog in biology lab class

frog
“Frog” by Becca C via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
He said, “Our life is all one human whole, and if we are to have any real knowledge of it we must see it as such.  If we cut it up it dies in the process.”

Out of this way of thinking, Cooley developed the concept of the “looking glass self,” which has become known and accepted by most modern psychologists and sociologists.

Cooley’s theory expanded William James’s idea of the self having the capacity to reflect on its own behavior.

According to Cooley, we see ourselves as other people see us, as if reflected in a mirror.  People gain their identity and form their habits by looking at themselves through the perception of society and other people with whom they interact as well as by directly considering their own personal qualities, he says.

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“Ask Answer Choice” by Rita M. via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Whether our beliefs about how other people see us are true or not, it is those beliefs that truly shape our ideas of ourselves.

The following YouTube video, “Charles Cooley Looking Glass Self | Individuals and Society” was published in 2015 by khanacademymedicine.  It gives a good, easy-to-understand explanation of Cooley’s theory.

 

HOLDING UP THE LOOKING GLASS

Tom Bilyeu, who was featured in the first video, is also the host (as well as co-founder and CEO) of Impact Theory, an interview video series exploring the mindsets of the world’s highest achievers.

This next video, “I Am Not What I Think I Am,” was published in 2018 by Fearless Soul  and features life coach Jay Shetty in an interview with Bilyeu.  It presents one way to use Cooley’s “Looking Glass Self” theory to find the life-direction and path that holds the most meaning and mana for you.

Jay Shetty has been called “one of the most viewed people on the Internet internationally.”  Among other things he hosts his own daily show, “HuffPostLive#Follow the Reader.”

In the video, he points out that all of us “live in echo chambers.  We’re just surrounded by the same thinking.  We meet  people who are just like us most of the time.”

Shetty outlines three steps you can make to counter that condition:

  • Expose yourself to new experiences or role models.
  • Find the experiences or role models with the most meaning for you, that you can be passionate about, and take seriously.
  • Ask, “Yes or no? Does that work for me?  Do I want to, for-real, live the life my hero/heroine is living?

This will at least keep you from unquestioningly following what you think the people around you are saying about who and what you are and what you “should” be doing with your life.

It can help you judge for yourself whether a particular lifestyle, with all of its inherent pros and cons, is really how you want to spend your days.

It might put you on the road to finding the life that has meaning and mana for you.

Here’s a poem….


THE WORLD IS MY MIRROR

I have come to the conclusion

That the world is my mirror.

In its many-storied face I can find

Bits that resonate in me,

The hapless spectator with the flat feet.

 

I am like a harp wire, tightly wound,

That awakens as the air is stirred by

The sound of just one other string

Plucked by some insistent hand

That thrums and vibrates through me.

 

The stories are all around me,

Playing themselves out,

No more mindful of me

Than a stream is mindful of

A fallen leaf floating in it.

 

But, here’s the deal:

The stories I NOTICE are the ones

That tell me a thing or two

About what I am and who I am

And why I do my walk.

 

It is the fact that the story snagged my attention,

Raised up banners high,

Started horns tooting,

And fire-bombs flaring…

THAT’S the thing that needs attending.

 

Like the overly-sensitive, alarmingly bleeping parked car

In the middle of a quiet night in the ‘burbs,

It is mine to sort out.

I am the one that has to go deal with the durned thing,

Because it’s my car, my alarm, my concerns, my fears.

 

The world is my mirror.

What is it showing me?

created by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Through the Looking-Glass” by August Brill via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Thanks for the visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d share your thoughts and comments.

 

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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.

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YOUR TURN TO TRY

YOUR TURN TO TRY

Here’s another way of Un-Seeing, one involving time and space.

Google what “Hawaiian time” means and you will probably get some variation of “late.” Sometimes the definition comes with a fifteen-minute grace-period added and, often, there’s a bit of humor-filled tolerance included.

As more than one entry so delicately puts it, we island people are afflicted by a “relaxed indifference to precise scheduling.”  Uh-huh.

These days, many of us have speeded up some.

Some of that is just modern living.  As things crowd in and everything moves faster and faster around us, even the slower-moving ones pick up speed.

traffic
“Honolulu Traffic” by Charlie Boy Criscola via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Time gets chopped up smaller and smaller and we are compelled, it seems, to cram more doing into those little bits of time.

Some of it’s about getting more in tune with goal- and future-oriented thinking.

Some of it is just another facet of being a different kind of polite, another way of showing respect.

THEY GOT IT WRONG

The thing is, all those folks on Google got it mostly wrong.

For Hawaiians, at least, time flows deep and wide.

As an ocean people, we are aware that we are sailing off into unknown waters pushed by winds and wave, guided by the stars and by our own knowledge, sustained by our skills.

We depend on each other to help all of us deal with whatever we encounter.    We are on the same boat and the ocean is very big.

We know.  We are all in this together and each of us depends on every other one to try to help us all get to a better place.

Each of us gets a turn to try.

ocean
“Ocean” by Mark Howard via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

TIME (AND SPACE) AND ANOTHER WAY OF UN-SEEING

There is a Hawaiian proverb that says, “I ka wā ma mua, ka wā ma hope.”  One translation of that phrase is this: “In the past, the future is.”  An even looser one is, “We look to the past as a guide to the future.”

However, the proverb itself, when translated literally, is layered with meaning and reveals itself as something of a paradox.

The term for the past in Hawaiian, “i ka wā ma mua,” literally means “the space/time in front of your body” and the one for the future, “i ka wā ma hope,” means “the space/time in back of your body.”

petroglyph-puu-loa-trail
“Petroglyph, Pu’u Loa Trail” by Colleen McNeil via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Hawaiian historian Lilikala Kame’eleihiwa was one of the first modern-day native scholars to point out and elaborate on this concept.  She said, “It is as if the Hawaiian stands firmly in the present with his back to the future and his eyes fixed upon the past, seeking historical answers to present day dilemmas.”

It sounds like Hawaiians look forward into the past and walk backwards into the future, doesn’t it?

But, in a very pragmatic way, the people who are sensitive to indigenous ways of walking and who look towards the traditions of their culture for solutions to complicated modern problems accept the reality that we humans are blind to the future.

The best of the wise ones are also aware that many of the problems we now face were once addressed quite handily by the people who lived before us.  (Trying to live a “sustainable” life, for example, is a supposedly “new” solution that native peoples lived every day for centuries.)

Often, those who honor cultural traditions will choose to look at and pay attention to the old ones’ solutions when they brainstorm ways of dealing with the newest iterations of age-old problems.

NON-LINEAR NATIVE TIME

This concept of looking to the distant past for solutions to present-day and future problems may be a bit confusing for more modern-minded folks.

It directly contradicts the Western view that the past is “behind us” and our future lies “before” or “ahead” of us.  It refuses to agree that the past is something we need to let go so we can get on with doing the future.

To many native peoples, however, time is not particularly linear.

The native view involves cycles within cycles, day and night, season following season, generation following generation.  Time spirals outward, accompanied by the rhythm of continuing heartbeats and the ins-and-outs of breaths.

big-ball-of-stardust
“A Big Ball of Stardust” by Kevin Rheese via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
The past and the ancestors are remembered.  They are honored and respected as much as the ones who stand beside you now and the ones who are coming up behind you.

TOEING THE LINE

The aboriginal peoples of Australia, who are arguably among the oldest peoples in the world, call modern people “the line people.”  To these ancient cultures, Line-People Time is a relentless progression, always looking and moving ahead, never stopping, never doubling-back.

Every new iteration of an old problem the line people encounter demands “better” and “improved” solutions than those tried in the past. All of it is supposed to be guided by visions of what-might-be.

It does work.  Sometimes, though, the baby gets thrown out with the bath-water.

One example of this is the Big Agriculture “solution” that swallowed up small, sustainable family farms and ranches, erased a wide diversity of food-crops, and eliminated farm animal breeds that were not so profitable.

industrial-rust
“Industrial Rust” by M. Francis McCarthy via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Visionary, forward-looking solutions that were supposed to help feed more and more people often created present-day monster-problems as farmlands become less and less productive, as foods become less nourishing, as problematic pests mutate and proliferate, and as resources that once renewed themselves no longer do.

LOOKING BACK INTO THE FUTURE

In the backward-walking conceptualization of time, telling the old stories and lessons learned as well as trying some variant of the old way is at least as important as racing off, blinded by visions, and flinging yourself unthinking into new.

This other way of seeing allows a person (and a culture) the time to integrate the best of the new with what is still valuable in the old.

It lets a person and a people keep track of who they are and helps them stay connected with their deeper humanity as they flow along the streams of change into the brave new world forming all around them.

iao-valley
“Photo Walk: Iao Valley” by Kaiscapes Media (Peter Liu) via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
For many, it is not that the traditional solutions that have worked in the past are the only ones worthy of consideration as we face the complexities of our problems today.

What is important, however, is the idea that perhaps the effective solutions we are seeking for our current problems have already been tried in the past and might still work if they are adapted to new circumstances and situations.

Poet, writer and Hawaiian activist Dana Naone Hall, in her book, LIFE OF THE LAND:  Articulations of a Native Writer, expresses this idea beautifully, “In my thinking, traditions are not monolithic.  They must be continually refreshed at the roots by the present and next generations.  This is your challenge and birthright as ‘Ōiwi (people of the bone) in the twenty-first century.”

THE FIRST HAWAIIAN VOYAGING CANOE IN SIX HUNDRED YEARS

This YouTube video, “Worldwide Voyage, History of Hōkūle’a and Polynesian Voyaging” was published in 2014 by Oiwi TV.

The film documents the start of a journey to circumnavigate the world by Hawaii’s most famous modern-day traditional sailing canoe, which was built by a group of enthusiastic volunteers over a two-year period and first launched in 1976 from Kualoa Beach Park in Kaneohe on Oahu.

Three men — artist and historian Herb Kane, nautical anthropologist Ben Finney, and writer and rough-waterman/sailor (Charles) Tommy Holmes — had a dream more than 40 years ago.

They wanted to answer a question:  How did Polynesians settle the far-flung islands of the mid-Pacific?  By accident, as some scholars claimed?  Or by design?

After the canoe’s first voyage to Tahiti, from May 1, 1976 to June 3, 1976, with the skillful master Micronesian wayfinder Mau Piailug guiding the canoe using his traditional knowledge of the stars, the waves, and the winds, they had their answer: The islands of the Pacific were not settled by accident.

[For more about the sailing canoe’s worldwide voyage, you can check out Sara Kehaulani Goo’s article on the NPR (National Public Radio) online newsletter, “Hōkūle’a, the Hawaiian Canoe Traveling the World By a Map of the Stars” by clicking the button below.]

click-here

NATIVES NAVIGATING WITHOUT INSTRUMENTS

The sailing canoe’s maiden voyage also helped to spark a continuing and evolving interest in old island ways and the practices of their native peoples.

A historic connection between all of the native peoples of the islands of the Pacific as well as along the coastlines of lands bordering the ocean was renewed and revitalized and continues to strengthen with time.

The native peoples are remembering.

They have become acutely aware of a traditional perspective of time and space that reflects the spiral (a key metaphor especially in Polynesian poetry and arts) which some say represents a doubling back and a reconnecting with the past for the benefit of the future.

tree-fern
“Tree Fern Almost Full-Grown” by David Fulmer via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Traditional crafts and native practices and mindsets flourish and, for many people, they have become ways to help make sense out of the confusion of modern life.

WHY BOTHER?

Each person, regardless of their culture, fashions their own life using legacies left to them by those who came before.  How not?

It is a basic truth that our ancestors live on in us in our DNA.  This brain and heart and body are structurally the same as those possessed by human beings 150,000 years ago.

Is it such a mind-wrench to go from there to the possibility that this brain, this heart, and this body works and feels and functions in the same way that theirs did?

Is it such a mind-boggle to believe that the ways our ancestors lived their lives might hold answers to the dilemmas we currently face?

spiral
Spiral” by Richard via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

NOW IS OUR TURN TO TRY

The thing to remember, I suppose, is that each generation spends their time in the world trying to live their lives the best way they know how.

We are, each of us, a part of a journey that began a long time ago.  The journey will probably continue long after we are gone.

In the meantime, while we are here, remaining mindful of our ancestors might bring us to the understanding that this time now is just our turn to try. 

At some point in the future, each of us will become an ancestor to the generations that follow us.  Perhaps we can hope that they, too, will remember and honor us and the way we lived.

THREE WAYS OF WALKING WITH THE ANCESTORS

Every one of us humans walks our own walk.

Here are three You-Tube videos about the choices made by individual Hawaiians who are taking their turn at trying….

The first video, “Hula Is More Than a Dance – It’s the ‘Heartbeat’ of the Hawaiian People,” is a short film by filmmaker Bradley Tangonan which was featured in the National Geographic Short Film Showcase in 2018.

The film features kumu hula (hula teacher) Leina’ala Jardin, who explains what she feels is her “kuleana,” her responsibility, to pass on the traditions of Hawaiian dance.

 

This next video is a trailer for “Sons of Halawa,” an award-winning feature documentary about elder Pilipo Solatario and the old-style life he and his family continue to pursue in Halawa Valley.

It was produced by Molokai filmmaker Matt Yamashita (QuaziFilms) and was broadcast on PBS in 2016.

 

This third video was published in 2013 by Tomorrow Ancestor and features Cliff Kapono.  At the time the film was made, Kapono was pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemical Biology at the University of California San Diego.

 

Here’s a poem:


HAWAIIANS TEACH BY LIVING

Kuli, kuli…too much noise,”

Tutu would always say

To the loud and curious grandchild

Who ran around all day,

Looking for the answers,

Wanting to know NOW,

Always looking for shortcuts,

Grumbling about ‘as how.

 

Too much questions,

Too much talking,

Too much namunamu.

Close your mouth, move your hands.

One day you will understand.

 

One day…

 

Lessons you learn in silence,

Watching hands move

With graceful skill.

 

Lessons you find in silence,

Hearing old voices,

Talking long and slow.

 

Lessons you see in silence,

By doing it over

Again and again.

 

Lessons you feel in silence,

Wondering, pondering,

While the old ones play.

 

Hawaiians teach by living.

It’s the only way they know.

 

If you want to learn, be still.

When you stop making noise,

They will show.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit: “Kahoolawe, Hawaii” by Justin De La Ornellas via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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

 

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YOUR WALK TALKS — Another IPS

YOUR WALK TALKS — Another IPS

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  a growing awareness that the only thing that abides is the way you walk.  [How are you walking and how is your walk talking?]

Assorted studies have shown that the way you walk down the street increases your chances of being a victim, a target for challenge, or a welcome addition to a group.

If that’s so, it seems to me, then all of the possible different ways you could walk are likely to evoke responses from the people around you and might even determine how you’ll be treated by them.

STUDYING THE MOVES

This video, “100 Different Ways to Walk,” is actually an “animation reference” put together by stop-motion animator and self-styled video wizard Kevin Parry in 2017 as a way to remind himself of the wide variety of ways a humanoid might walk.

It’s a thing Parry uses to develop the action in his stop-motion animation films.  It can also be a way for you to pay attention to the emotions and reactions different ways of walking might evoke in you.

Check it out and think on how you might react and what you might feel about a person if you happened to see someone walking past you using one of these different ways of moving through the world.

What would you think about this person?  What is your likely reaction to him or her?  Your responses to each of these ways of movement might be surprisingly different.

If you like Parry’s work, you may want to check out his official website.  click-here

My thought is that if the way you move your body can evoke emotions and reactions from other people who are watching what you do, then it’s likely that the way you are moving yourself through your world  – your actions and the ways you deal with others around you, the choices you make and the paths you take – can also cause other people to react to you in very different ways.

YOUR TALK STAYS TALK IF YOU DON’T DO THE WALK

The thing is, as American author, speaker and pastor John C. Maxwell succinctly put it, “Your talk talks and your walk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.”

“I have to start doing that!”  Oh, yeah.

“I NEED to do that!”  Uh-huh.

You hear that all the time, right?

talking-over-supper
“Talking Over Supper” by John Flannery via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Every time there’s some new study and whenever some new idea or concept starts making the rounds, the noise level gets louder and there’s a flurry of “Me-too, me-too, I’m going to do it!”

What’s your initial reaction to all that?  Maybe you throw a little bit of a cynical grin?  Maybe a little snort or snigger?

I bet you don’t really take all the foo-fah-rah seriously.  You’ve heard it all before, after all.  People tell you what they’re going to do or what they need to do and how they are going to really, really do it…but, then, they never get around to it somehow.

Or maybe they tried something and it didn’t go as they expected.  It was really hard and the results were not what they wanted.  It was disappointing and not at all the thing.

So these folks are going to try this next great thing, and this time….hoo-hoo!  They will do it.  Right.

After a while, the blathering tires out your ears.

In our younger days we might have been surprised and even disappointed by the lack of follow-through.  Eventually it’s very likely that we pretty much stop paying attention to the pronouncements and declarations filling up the airwaves.

Instead, we start paying attention to the way the people doing all that talking are walking.  We give a heck of a lot more credence to the other person’s consistent action over a long period of time.

WASH, RINSE, REPEAT

Fact.  If you change back to your old behaviors every time you hit a speed-bump, nobody is going to believe you want a different world.

Talk is inexpensive.  All of us say things all the time about who we are, what we can do, what we’re going to do and on and on.

Walking is not so easy to fake.

walking
Walking” by oatsy40 via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
If you stay the course (as hard as that is to do) you will gain credibility.  The longer you keep walking towards that goal you say you’re heading towards and the fact that you keep on doing it no matter what is very convincing.

When your words and your actions match each other and they demonstrate who you are, then people will start to believe that what you say really is what you do.

Positive thinker Ralph Marston, who puts together the popular positivity blog, The Daily Motivator, says it well: “What you say can make a big difference, but only if it is fully supported by what you do. Walk your talk, and both your walking and your talking will get great things done.”

This YouTube video, “Why Our Actions Speak Louder than Words” was published in 2016 by biologist-turned-filmmaker Rob Nelson.   It adds another take on the matter.

Rob and his collaborator Jonas Stenstrom, another biologist-cum-filmmaker, put together a channel on YouTube, “52 Things” which is specifically geared towards “making better science storytellers with photo and video.”  They are producing a series of videos to help other science bloggers become better filmmakers.

Check out their Patreon page.  If you’d like to become a patron and support them in this endeavor, click here:

click-here

Here’s a poem:


NOTHING COMING

Hey, Braddah….

I’m sorry to see that I was right.

(I had so hoped I was wrong.)

You’re showin’ you cannot handle

Dealing straight with the trust

You were given.

 

The excuses and rationalizations

Are flying so thick,

I cannot even talk.

I have no advice for you…

No it’s-gonna-be-all-right,

No absolution.

This one’s yours

And you’ll have to fix it –

A D.I.Y. project.

 

You’re feeling guilty.

I can see that,

Uh-huh….

The shaky structure you have built

On this shifting sand of maybes and couldas and shouldas

Is getting washed away,

Undermined by the waves of murky thoughts

Generated by too many issues

That have nothing to do with me.

 

I’m sorry, man.

You’re the one who keeps on digging the hole.

And, for real, I’ve run out of hands to help.

 

Guess you’re gonna have to deal, Braddah-man….

Created by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Haleakala Sunrise by lwtt93 via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and let me know what you think.

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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]

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