Thursday, April 26, 2012

CASE STUDY: A Dream Deferred: The Role of Creativity in the Making of a Los Angeles Gang Member

I Miss My Homies
I Miss My Homies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Kim M Watson

Creativity and imagination can lift us to new and unexpected heights, and when fully facilitated by nurturing and knowledge, can make possible the dreams that spark personal growth and social innovation.

Unfortunately, for today's poorest and least educated Americans, creativity and the dreams it produces are abstract concepts with no relevance in their lives.

This case study and essay is based on my conversations with one Los Angeles gang-member for whom creativity, and dreams of a brighter future, have long been deferred and usurped by the struggle to survive.

*****

I drove south from my West Adams neighborhood, anticipating the conversation that lay ahead, and unsure of exactly what to expect. Exiting the 110 Freeway I swung onto Rosecrans Boulevard and headed east, into a quietly benign Compton, where empty buildings and abandoned businesses lined the once thriving Boulevard.

Compton, like so many of America's urban neighborhoods, had seen the flight of jobs and dollars years before our latest economic downturn. Its 2011 cost-of-living index was considerably higher then the US average and despite a murder rate that had dropped steadily since 2005, violent crime remained twice the national average. It seemed a reasonable assumption that Compton would see little economic growth for some time.

I turned toward the residential section where modest homes sported neatly trimmed lawns with gated windows and doors. Old, scarcely driven gas-guzzlers sat unattended in the driveways of senior citizens, who arrived more than forty years ago with the second great Black migration from the south (1941 - 1970). Compton was peaceful, though the hard stares of several young men tracked me with suspicion as I slowed to read the house addresses.

Exiting my car at my destination, I noticed a large laminated poster mounted on the outside wall of a nearby house. Smiling down at me was a handsome eighteen-year-old in a suit, the suit he wore to church on Sundays, with crisp white shirt and a perfectly knotted tie.

He was so proud, so promising. He was dead. Murdered two years prior by gang members as he ate dinner with his date.

"Where you from?" he was asked as they stared him down. He was shot before he could answer - one week before his High School graduation. The football scholarship and college education he treasured died with him.

Thirty-four year-old Jay (not his real name) stepped outside and we shook hands warmly. Stylish glasses framed his dark round face and his ponytail, usually pulled perfectly into place, was uncharacteristically frayed around the edges.

We first met at a weekly life skills and job training class for ex-felons and gang members. Always neatly dressed and punctual, Jay seldom spoke, but when he did, his voice was soft and his words self-examining. His eyes took in everything while giving away nothing, a valuable skill in a world where silence was power and emotions were a sign of weakness.

We walked into his maternal grandparents' small home where Jay lived with his pregnant wife, their one-year-old son and his twelve-year-old stepdaughter. His son ran up laughing and was swept into his father's arms, bringing to mind my own son's first year. Jay liked to laugh but laughter did not come easily, nor last for more than an instant before it was gone.

"My grandmother's got Alzheimers. My grandfather is in the bedroom watching after her," he informed me, helplessly, as we passed their bedroom and walked out the back door.

At eleven-years-old Jay had moved into their home after running away, and had been well loved and provided for. But his grandparents were hampered by their age and a generation gap.

"My grandparents always been working people. They was tired, they was old. I didn't really look at that when I was supposed to," he confessed. "I had moral guidance right here but I never grabbed it," he told me, describing his Grandparents unconditional love and the heartache he caused them.

Still, after moving in, he returned to the projects daily, seeking his mother's love and attention. He got neither and each night he returned, disappointed, to his grandparent's house. And each morning, he headed for the projects, to try all over again.

Before living with his grandparents, Jay called Watts' infamous Jordan Downs housing project home; a 700-unit center of gang activity and drugs during the mid-eighties/nineties crack epidemic in South Central. Once home to Olympic track star, Florence Griffith-Joyner and a hopeful working class, the projects were surrounded by liquor stores and churches, both unable to quell the brutality that took place in their midst.

"My pops was straight but my mom was cracked out," was his explanation of the family structure and life in the projects. Growing up, Jay witnessed the intimate details of his mother's crack addiction and his families' gang activities as members of the Grape Street Crips. After school, if he went to school at all, he returned to a war zone.

So, why did he not avoid the hostile world of the projects and his family? This question is often asked, and understandably so. To be clear, others have overcome poverty, drugs and violence, but they've often had the benefit of individuals and institutions who've provided some level of stability; instilling and supporting the creative and aspirational thinking that enabled them to dream of a brighter future.

As pointed out in Betty A. Velthouse's paper, Creativity and Empowerment: A Complementary Relationship, which appeared in the publication Review of Business (1990), a creative leap is required in order for one to envision or create alternatives to their current reality or circumstances.

Under his mother's roof, the neglect Jay experienced stifled any notions that he could leave the projects behind or find new solutions to his problems. His world was insular and hostile, regulated and finite, distrusting of alternative lifestyles. Consequently, Jay lacked the belief that he could change his surroundings through his behavior; and was shackled with a self-image that would remain unchanged for over twenty years.

"I ain't never done nothing but wrong," was a typical refrain throughout our talks. Fueled by his mother's crack addition, his father's absence and his brothers' violent gang activities, Jay took to the streets with a vengeance and was fully embedded in the Grape Street Crips, as an eleven-year-old.

"I never had a childhood. I grew up as a man and I was doing whatever grown men was doing, having the same fun grown men was having. All I ever done is wrong," Jay he said, lowering his eyes as we sat in his grandfather's vegetable garden.

In their July 10, 2010 policy brief written by Erica Adams, the Justice Policy Institute identified neglect, witnessing of drug abuse, violence, and the loss of a caregiver as causes of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in children; serving as indicators and contributors to entre into the criminal justice system.

The Institute went on to state that 50 to 79 percent of males who experienced maltreatment before twelve years of age will become involved in serious juvenile delinquency. As predicted, Jay was right on schedule for disaster.

We talked about his mother and their family life; I felt the pull and tug of Jay's emotions. The boy who desperately desired his mother's care and tenderness lay just beneath the hardened surface.

Our imaginations and the understanding of our world owes much to our physical and emotional well-being, and the quality time parents, guardians and loved ones share with us in play.

Stanley Greenspan, M.D., makes a strong case for this premise in his book, Building Healthy Minds (2000), where he contends that the attachment that takes place as we touch, cuddle and laugh, provides the solid foundation upon which children can build an expanded vision of their environment.

It was no surprise that Jay made few references to dreams and aspirations, beyond those which he had seen with his own eyes. He had no basis or context for the creation of new perspectives on his existing condition.

Dreaming of changing his reality would have required that Jay feel empowered to influence his environment. It also would have required that he perceive his environment as flexible enough to allow his vision to actually become that new reality.

Jay was never empowered by his own positive behavior, and instead, felt empowered only when the source of his power was external, via gang affiliations, money from drugs and the peer acceptance those activities provided. To walk away from gang life was beyond his comprehension, an intolerable act of disloyalty to his Grape Street family.

Raised around such chaos and dysfunction, Jay never considered the consequences of his actions, even when those decisions determined life or death. He simply lacked the "context" and examples such consideration required.

He had never seen anyone, that he respected, pause to review his or her options. In Jay's world, decisions were impulsive, responses were immediate and the subsequent actions often irrevocable.

There was little room for a conscience, which typically develops via the influence of parents and other key people in a child's environment. In their absence, ample room was left for the negative people and actions that defined Jay's life.

The question that most of us hear as children, "what do you want to be when you grow up" went unasked; Jay's dream was to follow in the footsteps of his older brothers and uncles, who made their money on the streets.

"The dream came true, now I don't even want it," he said, looking back and sharing one of the few dreams of success, as he saw it, he had as a kid. He recalled the day he asked his brothers for candy money and was told that it was time he got his own, just like everybody else. They provided the drugs to get him started and coached him on the fine-points of the drug trade.

In no time, Jay was smoking "sherm" (PCP) with his Grape Street crew and controlled his own drug turf, with a pistol stashed under a bush and a steady stream of regulars that included his crack smoking mother. After years of chronic truancy, Jay officially dropped out, ending his formal education.

Quick to anger and fearless, Jay had no interest in advice from the absentee father who had left when he was an infant. Jay recounted his father's attempt to intercede. "He was talking bad, telling me what I was supposed to be doing, out in front of all these grown men who were slinging drugs. I went over to the bush and pulled out my pistol and he shut up," Jay's shame was clear as he told the story, but so was his defiance as he calmly continued, "I would have killed him if he said something wrong. It was right after that my luck went bad."

It was a morning like most others and Jay left his grandparents, with no intention of going to class. A few minutes later, he arrived at his fourteen-year-old friend's house to play video games. They drove to the projects around 10:00 a.m. and began the daily ritual of drug dealing and chillin.

As the morning warmed up Jay sipped from a bottle of cheap wine, Mad Dog 20-20, and smoked PCP. No one noticed the carload of PJ Crips from Imperial Court as they rolled up, until they opened fire, sending everyone scattering and leaving two Grape Street Crips wounded.

Guns were tossed aside. Drugs we stashed for safekeeping. Threats were made and promises of revenge declared. It was an all too familiar scenario that Jay had witnessed countless times before. The smoke cleared and the proverbial dust settled while police cars arrived with blaring sirens and flashing lights.

As they conducted their post drive-by investigation, Jay and his friend slipped into their car to find the shooters. I asked Jay how his buddy was able to drive when he was clearly too young to have a license. Jay chuckled at my naivite. There was no illegal act that scared him, at least, not enough to stop him from committing it.

His friend drove with a Tec-9 stretched across his lap. Jay rode shotgun, slumped low in his seat with a 357 Magnum. Two boys, one twelve and the other fourteen, found their targets. Jay's purple bandana left only his eyes revealed.

"Soon as my homie stopped I raised up and they was right there, five or six of 'em, on 114th street. We blasted 'em. I was loaded (high). They was eighteen, nineteen-years-old," he told me in a matter-of-fact tone that was, at least for the moment, emotionally removed from the incident.

That day, Jay killed one nineteen-year-old, a new father. A second, the eighteen-year-old, would die later when the family removed him from life support following months in a coma. There was no music or slow-motion cinematography. No gasps from the popcorn eating audience. The blood was real as were the bodies stretched out on the street.

With their targets bleeding on the sidewalk, they sped off and, almost immediately, crashed their car within sight of the crime scene. By one o'clock, that afternoon twelve-year-old Jay was in jail and charged with murder. Nevertheless, he showed no remorse and had just earned a reputation as a deadly little homie.

Within two months, Jay was a convicted murderer and ushered in his thirteenth birthday from inside a maximum-security juvenile facility. The formal instruction he had abandoned in elementary school was quickly replaced by a prison education within a system that currently leads the world in incarceration, while its international standings in education steadily decline.

Jay spent seventeen years in the most heavily secured prisons in the United States; Pelican Bay, High Desert, San Quentin. He rattled them off as easily as a student rattles off the classes he took at his Alma mater. He did nine years straight before he was paroled for the murders he committed. He was on the streets for less than a year before he was arrested for bank robbery and served eight more years.

"When you get out the penitentiary you ain't thinking about going back to your family. You're thinking about women, getting high and getting back to your homies. And they going to pull you right back in," he said.

In one afternoon, Jay had gone from being a boy in need of love and a brighter future, to being a seldom-discussed reflection of personal and societal failure. Behind bars, he kept his mouth shut and gravitated toward the older inmates, learning lessons from men who knew the system and feared nothing.

The prisons were well stocked with Crips, who taught him how to thrive behind bars. Life in prison, where a $12 tin of tobacco goes for $2,200, wasn't much different than in Jordan Downs; there was money to be made and people to be dealt with.

"There's lots of money in prison. And everything else," he informed me. He explained how prisoners not only ran their crews from behind the walls, but received steady streams of cash and drugs from the various enterprises that continued in their absence. "And if somebody needed to be done," he went on, "I was going to do 'em. I didn't need nobody holding my hand."

"Doing" targeted inmates made Jay a valuable commodity. His prison mentors taught him how to kill a man efficiently and supported their lessons with illustrated books, authored by other inmates. The assassination techniques Jay shared with me seemed surprisingly simple. Sitting next to him, he was quiet and controlled.

I imagined him inside, finding a camera-less area and slipping the shiv beneath his targets armpit while passing along a congested passageway. Then, vanishing as he'd been taught to do, before the man hit the floor with a fatal stab wound.

Survival in prison required a strategy and Jay knew what he had to do to make it out alive. Dark talents earned him cash and the power to demand the solitude he desired. He had proved himself a valuable and trustworthy soldier, with only the prison OGs (Original Gangsters) who controlled everything inside and out, to answer to. The multiple assassinations he committed went unpunished and five years ago, after 17 years of incarceration, he was paroled at thirty years of age.

An incoming text flashed across Jay's cell phone. There had been numerous others during our conversation. He read them slowly and with some effort, a reminder that he had dropped out of school by the sixth grade.

Cell phones behind prison walls were prohibited, especially in the level four prisons where Jay's friends were housed. He didn't text back, though he glanced at the numbers as the phone vibrated, time and again.

"Lot a dudes are like, 'Man I wish you were in here with us,' " and we laughed at the truth of the old saying, "misery loves company" - especially in prison.

I questioned weather anyone declaring such a wish was a true friend.

Jay shot back, "You get out of prison with nothing and nobody looking out for you. It's just you. We need some programs when you get out."

Not exactly an answer to my question about friendship, but Jay was making clear, with his "it's just you" pronouncement, that he felt very much alone; a feeling conveyed by his words and body language, throughout our conversation. I felt that my very presence came from his desire to be heard by someone who would try to understand, without judging. The truth is, as hard as I might have tried not to judge him, somewhere down deep, I did.

Jay was right about a need for programs however. Budget cuts over the years had resulted in overcrowding, fewer prison improvements and drastic reductions in life skills, job training and job retention programs for parolees. The texts on his cell phone were ominous reminders that prison's influences were always calling.

"They send a kite (letter) from the pen and they say do something, you gonna get it done. Or they gonna do you. And that's what they look for me to do now," Jay said. He fell suddenly silent. His words had conjured up visions of people, places and things that he would rather forget.

"I'm so messed up from doing so much bad stuff. I have nightmares about all the people I killed. I see their faces. Wake up in a cold sweat," he muttered in a voice tinged with pain and perhaps fear, "Don't never look a man you gonna kill in the eyes. It'll haunt you the rest of your life."

This man, who had taken lives without remorse, both inside the prison and out, wiped away the wet streak left on his cheek by a tear. I wanted to know if he had ever let another man see him cry, but I didn't ask.

A strange thing happened as I interviewed Jay. The crimes he committed were horrendous and intolerable. I wanted men like him locked up, forever, so they could not do in the future, what they had done in the past. Yet, as I sat beside him, I wanted to see his pain go away. When you don't see the Jays of the world, it's easy to ignore their circumstances and our own neglect.

"I be asking God for help but I know I done so much wrong. I wish I had God in me when I was young. I never been to church until a few years ago," he told me.

It was a favorite cousin who took Jay to church when he finally got out of prison. Jay found the sense of community and acceptance overwhelming. He began attending regularly but continued his gang activities, spending Sundays praying and the rest of the week in his old haunts.

Two years after getting out, Jay met his first real girlfriend and future wife. She was unlike the women he had known during his brief period of freedom, between arrests. She was neither a gang member nor one of the women they used for sex. She came from working parents with no connection to the world that Jay grew up in.

She was well spoken and welcoming as she offered me something to drink. I wondered what she saw in Jay, and I think he wondered about that too. Perhaps it was the quiet strength that he projected. The kind of focused power and strategic thinking that could have landed him in a boardroom instead of prison, if only his circumstances had been different.

He did not fully understanding his new girlfriend's world but Jay had finally stumbled upon a healthy family. They dated and he did his best to act like a typical boyfriend, shielding her from his gang associates and anything related to that community.

The new relationship and the impending birth of his son ignited a desire for normalcy. For the first time Jay exhibited the kind of creative thinking and counterfactual imagination that could help him transcend his past and move toward new goals, not based of the facts as they existed, but based on how he imagined they could be.

It is this concept of counterfactual imagination (what could be) and counterfactual alternatives (finding new solutions), as presented in Ruth M.J. Byrne's Precis of The rational Imagination: How People Create Alternatives to Reality (2007), that perhaps speaks most strongly to Jay's approach to his past, present and future.

Jay had always operated according to the rules of his world, and that world was built upon a set of facts he knew to be true. Drug dealing was a fact. Murder was a fact. Gang membership was a fact. Prison was a fact. He was incapable of conceiving an alternative to his way of life, or in other words, envisioning a life other than that which he had experienced and had been part of his reality.

Until this point in Jay's life, bucking the system that established and perpetuated what was factually true was beyond his comprehension, for two reasons. First, he had not connected other facts from non-gang lifestyles, with his own ability to change. Secondly, he did not believe he had the power to change the status quo, or convince others to do so.

As stated by Robert J. Sternberg in his 2006 article, Creating a Vision for Creativity: The First 25 Years, "Society generally perceives opposition to the status quo as annoying, and as reason enough to ignore innovative ideas." Jay's fellow gang members were not exempt from this concept.

Still, through his girlfriend, Jay had been exposed to a new set of facts, where families communicated with one another. Mothers and fathers raised their children, together. Everyone had a legitimate job.

To be clear, Jay always knew these facts existed but the distance between that reality and his had been too great. However, he had, at long last, begun to believe that there existed a different way to live.

In a bold and dangerous move, motivated by this new relationship, Jay informed his "old homie", a respected OG, that he wanted out of his gang commitments. Because of the work he had put in over the years, the request was granted and Jay was allowed to stop his criminal activities. But old habits remained difficult to shake.

"All I know is how to talk to men," he said, complaining about his young wife's need to talk and share. "I don't know nothing about relationships. A lot of stuff is new to me. I'm just used to being around men, that's where I feel cool. But that's crazy. You should feel comfortable being around your wife," he said, more to himself then to me.

Just holding her hand caused him to withdraw and grow quiet. His wife accused him of cheating because he didn't seem interested in her anymore. Jay wasn't cheating, on the contrary, he just could not muster the tender words of love that would have put her mind at ease.

The many nuances of a husband-wife relationship baffled Jay; nonetheless, this was the only authentically romantic relationship he had ever experienced.

Despite that, seventeen years behind bars had resulted in difficulty coping with, and not overreacting to, the situations that seemed to pop up daily. Such was the case when Jay's in-laws babysat and his son, a toddler, fell and hurt himself slightly.

Jay loudly accused them of neglect and swore never to leave the child in their care again. He had no reference that would have helped him understand that falling is a part of learning to walk. Everything that seemed so simple and obvious remained foreign to him.

Jay shifted topics to his son and the daughter that was in his wife's belly. I was happy to see him smile as he talked about his children. He appeared to relish the unconditional love he got from his son and anticipated from his, soon to arrive, daughter.

Regardless of the challenges, his family gave him a purpose and inspired the few light moments I had witnessed. Still, it was hard to be a square and leave the old ways behind, particularly because Jay wanted desperately to be the family breadwinner - a goal that remained beyond his reach. He had lost the only job he'd gotten in the last five years of freedom.

Complicating matters, there were constant texts, phone calls and requests that hung like bait, waiting to yank him back into his former world where he would be robbed of family and freedom.

"I've been to 120 funerals since I been out," he stated, "and all my partners got something going on. Robbery, extortion, dope and prostitution. If I get caught up again I ain't never coming home. I'll be gone forever," Jay told me, in a voice that simultaneously conveyed his determination to remain free, yet doubted about his ability stay out of trouble. One more strike would mean mandatory life in prison.

To my surprise, Jay held no bitterness toward the preachers, teachers, and community that ignored the little boy who so desperately needed their help. "That's just the way it was," he said with a dismissive shrug.

But the bitterness was there; aimed at those who did know that little boy, yet failed to love and protect him. Again and again, he wondered aloud, why they had taught him all the wrong things.

He expressed frustration because the nurturing he missed as a child, imprisoned his emotions today, even as a free man. He seemed keenly aware that his childhood was lost forever, like the many friends whose funerals he'd attended.

Jay's mother is now off crack but her heavy drinking upsets him. They seldom speak. His brothers eventually served five and six years each and became law-abiding family men.

"They was scared straight. Wish I had been," he declared, noting the irony of spending more than twice as much time in prison as the brothers who taught him how to gang bang and sell dope.

With pride, Jay told me that he reconnected with his father and they watch the football games together. And he attends church regularly; staying "prayed up".

It was time for me to go. Jay's wife was preparing to leave for one of her two jobs. While she works, Jay will care for his son and twelve-year-old stepdaughter who is the same age that Jay was when he first committed murder. He will watch over them and pray that the phone rings with a job. He wants to be someone they can look up to. He's terrified that he will fail.

I stood to leave and asked what talents he had. "Everyone has some talent," I said.

"I never tried nothing," came his reply, reinforcing my contention that he still lacked the ability to step outside his box, the place where his creativity and imagination could lead to new aspirations and outcomes.

"What about dreams for the future," I nudged.

"I just want a job. I want my kids to have it better than I did," he said as he wiped his sweat-dampened forehead, "But it's hard man. It's hard."

His eyes saddened as he admitted this to me, and himself. I left Jay standing on his grandparent's lawn. Soon after, he stopped attending class and my calls have gone unanswered.

A final thought ...

Creativity and imagination are merely two pieces of a very complex puzzle that influence our success, but they are without question, vital to seeing ourselves not just as we are, but also as we can be.

Jay's apparent failure to make this leap does not negate creativity's role as a facilitator of aspirational and transcendent thinking; psychologists over the years have well documented that connection.

Instead, it illustrates the fundamental need for stable family and community systems that encourage out-of-the-box thinking about themselves, their environments and their opportunities. When coupled with appropriate resources, creative thinking and a properly prioritized society can provide hope, empowerment and actionable solutions for at-risk populations.

References

Betty A. Velthouse. "Creativity and empowerment: a complementary relationship." Review of Business 12.2, (Fall 1990): 13.

Erica J. Adams, M.D., "Healing Invisible Wounds: Why Investing in Trauma-Informed Care for Children Makes Sense," Justice Policy Institute, 1 (2010). http://www.justicepolicy.org/research/1913

Stanley Greenspan, M.D. with Nancy Breslau Lewis, Building Healthy Minds (New York: Da Capo Press, 2000), 199-251

Ruth M. J. Byrne, "Precis of The Rational Imagination: How People Create Alternatives to Reality," Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Vol. 30, (2007): 440-441, 451-452.

Robert J. Sternberg, "Creating a Vision for Creativity: The First 25 Years," Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, Vol. S, No. 1, (2006): 2-7.

Kim M. Watson

http://write2live.org/ features articles on the creative process, maximizing your creative output and creativity's role in improving our lives and the world around us. Write Kim at wewrite2live@gmail.com to respond to articles or inquire about guest lectures on: Creativity, The Art of the Pitch or Introducing Creativity into the Workplace.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

INTERVIEW: How the Power of Positive Thinking Won Scientific Credibility

Optimism
Optimism (Photo credit: hynkle)
by Hans Villarica, The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com

Psychologist Michael F. Scheier reflects on his groundbreaking 1985 research, which provided the scientific framework for exploring the real power of optimism. 

In just the last year, hundreds of academic papers have been published studying the health effects of expecting good things to happen, which researchers call "dispositional optimism."

They've linked this positive outlook on life to everything from decreased feelings of loneliness to increased pain tolerance.

Oddly enough, three decades ago, the outlook for research on optimism didn't look very good. But then, in 1985, Michael F. Scheier and Charles S. Carver's published their seminal study, "Optimism, Coping, and Health: Assessment and Implications of Generalized Outcome Expectancies" in Health Psychology.

Researchers immediately embraced the simple hopefulness test they included in the paper and their work has now been cited in at least 3,145 other published works.

Just as importantly, by testing the effect of a personality variable on a person's physical health, Scheier and Carver helped bridge the gap between the worlds of psychology and biology. After the paper, scientists had a method for seriously studying the healing powers of positive thinking.

In the Q&A below, Scheier reflects on his influential work with Carver and shares how their humble study on human motivation ultimately inspired countless studies on mind-body interactions. He also assesses why their optimism scale was an instant hit in the scientific community, how their findings have been adapted by other researchers, and the future of our understanding of hope and well-being.

How did the research come about? 

Chuck Carver from the University of Miami and I were doing research on human motivation. We were trying to understand how to think about goal-directed behavior, and expectancies were an important part of our approach.

The idea was, and still is, that when people encounter difficulties doing what it is that they intend to do, some sort of mental calculation takes place that results in the generation of an outcome expectancy - the person's subjective assessment of the likelihood that he or she will succeed. We thought these expectancies played a role in the nature of the affect that was experienced and the person's subsequent behavior.

Initially, we considered outcome expectancies in a very circumscribed way. We focused on specific situations manipulated in controlled experimental contexts to validate our ideas. For example, we studied snake phobics who approached a boa constrictor in a cage. We weren't interested in snakes or phobias per se but in how these expectations drove behaviors.

At some point in the early 1980s, things changed. A number of our colleagues in health psychology - my wife, Karen Matthews, included - urged or maybe even challenged us to consider applying some of our ideas to real-world settings, particularly those that might be relevant to well-being.

Our formal area of study in graduate school was also personality, and I started to hear the voice of my advisor, Arnie Buss, in my head gently pushing us to do what it was that we had been trained to do.

This confluence of events started us thinking about expectancies in a broader way that might be more reflective of stable expectancies for positive or negative things to occur. And voila! We found ourselves interested in dispositional optimism, which we define as the general expectation that good, versus bad, things will happen across important life domains.

What were your goals? Was there a research gap you were hoping to fill back then?

Once we knew what we wanted to study, we looked around the literature to see if there was a scale that assessed dispositional optimism that was consistent with how we viewed the construct. We couldn't find anything that was right on the mark, so we set out to make our own measure for dispositional optimism using a self-report questionnaire.

Along with that came the job of establishing the statistical characteristics, or psychometric properties, of the scale. This became part of the purpose of our original paper too.

We also wanted to show that differences in optimism and pessimism predicted some health-relevant outcomes, so we explored the development of physical symptoms reported among a group of undergraduates during a particularly stressful portion of the academic semester.

We were fortunate to get the paper published in a journal, Health Psychology, that enabled a lot of researchers to become familiar with the scale, findings, and ideas.

To read further, go to: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/04/how-the-power-of-positive-thinking-won-scientific-credibility/256223/
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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Finding the Secret to Happiness

Happiness
Happiness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Shannon Miller, MyoneSource.com: http://myonesource.com

Shannon Miller is a stay-at-home mother of three with a passion for writing. She is the co-founder of FreshAllianceWriting.com, a site that provides writing services for other sites. She is also the owner of Country Music Notes blog and writes for several other blogs.

Have you ever noticed that some people seem to be happy no matter what lot in life they currently reside in? Or that some people are able to overcome those major depressive bumps faster than others?

Does it seem like no matter how hard life tries to knock these people down they just don’t stay down for long? Maybe it is because finding the secret to happiness is not as elusive as it may seem and these people have already found the key. So, you ask, how can you go about finding the very same secret?

The truth is, the secret really is not that hard to find. The answer to finding and keeping happiness in your life is to simply live it - think happiness, practice happiness. By turning the following concepts into daily habits you too will find that you are happy more often than you are not.

Count Your Blessings

“Count your blessings” is not simply an expression about being grateful you still have the important things left after tragedy strikes. No, literally count your blessings and do it on a daily basis. It may seem silly, but after a while it becomes a habit to be grateful every day for the things that you have.

You begin to focus on the things that you already have and the over powering desire for things you do not have fades to the background, taking with it any feelings of envy, depression, loneliness, or anger.

Always Be Positive

This probably goes without saying, but keeping a positive outlook even in the face of adversity increases happiness. Optimism prevents loss of hope. It also keeps a person going forward in the event most hope is lost. It is the spark that keeps the eternal flame of hope alive even in the darkest hour.

In fact, a person with an optimistic attitude has a better outlook on life. Those people with a positive outlook on life tend to have less non-content moments than those that do not. They are happier with their jobs, their income, their relationships, and just about every other aspect as well.

Make the Most of Relationships

Be sure to maintain a close relationship with family and close friends. These are the people that make you laugh and feel good on a daily basis. They may not always make you feel happy and may even make you feel sad or angry, but they are always there not matter what happens. They are usually the ones that are quick to forgive and see past imperfections that others refuse to overlook.

To read further, go to: http://myonesource.com/finding-the-secret-to-happiness
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Monday, April 23, 2012

How to Master Intentional Risk-Taking

Dangerous Risk Adrenaline Suicide by Fear of F...
Dangerous Risk Adrenaline: Suicide by Fear of Falling (Photo credit: epSos.de)
By Marquita A Herald

Life would be so much simpler if every choice and opportunity came with a "guarantee" attached to it. That way we'd feel safe and satisfied with all of our decisions.

The problem is that worthwhile growth inherently involves at least some risk, which means there is a certain percentage of failure involved.

Despite the decidedly negative connotation of the expression, it's important to keep in mind all "risk-taking" is not created equal, and there are worthwhile forms that do not involve reckless behavior or inevitable failure. That said, even the most beneficial acts of risk-taking involve a hefty degree of personal commitment; a willingness to venture into the unknown, and a personal desire to grow.

You may have seen terms like 'smart' or 'intelligent' risk-taking. I prefer using the term 'intentional' risk-taking because I think it does a better job of defining the ideal behavior.

Intentional risk-taking = taking risks that are deliberate and planned

For many people just thinking about taking any form of risk is naturally scary, but learning to take well thought out intentional risks is also one of the most important things you can do to build self-esteem and greater confidence in your own abilities to make decisions and overcome adversity.

As with any skill, intentional risk-taking is best developed with practice over time

Keep in mind that risk-taking is to a great degree subjective, for instance finding the courage to ask for that long overdue raise may feel like a huge risk to you, the same way venturing into a new restaurant might be for someone else ... so where ever you start, the goal is for the risk to be meaningful to you and to gradually begin stretching your comfort level with each new risk you undertake.

Here are a few very specific steps to help you become skilled at intentional risk-taking:

• Know your ultimate goal. Why are you considering the risk and what it is you want to achieve in terms of an outcome?

• Evaluate the risk level. Intentional risks are about weighing your chances of success, understanding what's at stake and the potential loss if you fail. If the potential loss is greater than you are willing to accept, then you should re-evaluate your options.

• Determine the potential for achievement. Sometimes even if you take a risk and fail, you end up winning anyway, because there are valuable lessons or skills to be learned in the process.

• Consider the consequences of NOT taking the risk. Almost all personal growth and achievement comes with risk no matter whether you fail or succeed. Just remember, the regret of never having tried is usually much harder to live with than failure.

• Take decisive action. While planning is important, mentally re-running the risk without taking action is self-defeating. If you find yourself unable to take action, go back to the beginning of this process and decide if this really is a risk you're prepared to take, and if so spend some time thinking about why you're stuck. Whatever the reason, keep in mind, not acting is in itself a choice with consequences.

• Own your decisions. Great personal growth does not come from perfection or always winning it comes from trying despite the odds. This is the sign of a survivor and someone who has tremendous long-term resilience.

• Learn from failures. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our risks don't work out. Realize that failure is part of the risk taking process. The key is to dissect your results so you can see what happened, learn from your mistakes and move on. Whatever the outcome, take time to celebrate because you've gain confidence and courage just by making the attempt!

All of life is a risk of some kind. The issue is not whether to take risks, but rather how to take the right risks for the right reasons in pursuit of a meaningful objective. The beauty of choosing to take control of your life in this way is that what may appear to be an overwhelming obstacle today ... will in time reveal itself to be merely another stepping stone on your journey toward developing greater resiliency.

Marquita is a writer, entrepreneur, coach, world traveler, avid reader, lover of dogs and the blogger behind IGG - Tips, Tools & Tantalizing Ideas. To learn more about cultivating resilience in your life, please visit her at http://www.inspiredgiftgiving.com and look for the Free special report - 12-Step Guide to Building Resilience.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Problem With Goals

Cover of "You Don't Need a Title To Be a ...
Cover via Amazon
By Mark Sanborn

There are problems with goals. Suggesting that is heresy to many.

Goal setting has been such an important concept in the vernacular of success that some have come to view it as sacred.

Goals are good, but there are some often ignored downsides. Technology is good but can be used for bad. Food is good, but eat too much of even the best foods and you'll experience problems. Once you know about the risks, you can deal with them.

Just as Socrates said that the unexamined life isn't worth living, the unexamined use of goals can prevent us from achieving the success we desire.

Let's start with a look at the positive aspects of goals. They give us something to aim for. Assuming what we're aiming for is worth hitting, that much is good. Goals bring focus and structure to business and life. They allow us to benchmark progress or regress, and increase the odds of achieving success intentionally rather than accidentally.

Goals should guide us, but they should never control us. That's one potential problem with goals. It is possible to go from goal-oriented to goal-obsessed. Rather than controlling our goals, our goals control us. When we become fixated, we risk paying too much to achieve a goal, or even lose sight of the reason behind the objective.

One benefit of goal-setting is what we become in the process, whether or not we achieve the goal. I would argue we often learn more from failed attempts than successes.

I believe goals can and sometimes should evolve. While I'm not an advocate of purposeless activity, I do believe, as the old saying goes, that luck favors momentum. I think it better to be in the ocean splashing around than sitting on the beach planning a swim.

Many of the best things that have happened in my life have evolved. I have always been goal-directed, but never goal obsessed. On the few instances where I wanted a goal too much, I found myself disheartened and bitter when I didn't achieve it. Oddly, once I relaxed my grip on that type of goal, I often achieved it at a later-and better-time. And the goals I didn't achieve I often found to be far less important than I had imagined.

Another problem with goals is that they really don't motivate us. The purpose of the aspiration is what powers us; the motivation is in the reason for the goal.

I could give you a goal to earn a million dollars in the next 12 months and it would have little power in your life unless you had a compelling reason to do so.

If, however, you had a son or daughter who needed a life-saving medical procedure not covered by insurance that cost $1 million, you would suddenly and surely be motivated to achieve that objective.

We need to make sure that the reasons for setting a goal are sufficient to motivate us. Compelling reasons result in completed goals.

Can goals hinder performance?

Consider this: what happens if you achieve your goals for the year by the middle of the year? What do you do for the rest of the year? There is something about the security of the achieved goal and human nature that causes us to relax a bit and lift off the gas pedal of achievement. In that funny way, goals can limit our achievement: we stop at goal achievement without achieving our true potential.
If we don't set them high enough, we achieve them too easily and too soon. As a result we miss achieving more and learning more through the process.

Of course if you set a goal too high, you'll be demoralized. When you realize your goal is unrealistic and unattainable, you'll simply quit trying. The hardest part of goal setting is balancing stretch with attainability.

One way to avoid the let-down of goals realized too early or too easily is to simultaneously pursue your potential while going after your goals. Instead of just asking yourself how good you've become, ask yourself how good you could be.

And if you get audacious aspirations - that you aren't quite sure you're capable of achieving - then include some short-term goals that will give you quick and consistent victories. These smaller goals will help you build momentum to go after the big, audacious ones.

Like any good tool used well, goals and goal-setting can enrich your personal and professional life. But the process isn't perfect and the potential problems I've outlined can help you both avoid the downsides and make better use of how you effectively use goals in your life.

Mark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio for leadership development. He is an award-winning speaker and the author of the bestselling books, "The Fred Factor: How Passion In Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary," "You Don't Need a Title to be a Leader: How Anyone Anywhere Can Make a Positive Difference" and "The Encore Effect: How to Achieve Remarkable Performance in Anything You Do."

His book "Up, Down or Sideways: How to Succeed When Times are Good, Bad or In Between" was released October 2011. Visit Mark Sanborn's YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/markhsanborn to watch his videos about how you can develop as a leader in business and life. To obtain additional information (including free articles) for growing yourself, your people and your business, visit http://www.marksanborn.com.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Five Different Varieties of Self Growth

Unknown Growth
Growth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Marc D Termine

A lot of people tend to think that self growth only comes in one shape and form. It's this abstract concept that just vaguely means something like self-improvement or self-development.

The truth, however, is that there are quite a few varieties to this act of becoming a better person! Below are just five of the many kinds for you to choose from:

1. Self growth as a lover

If you haven't had a boyfriend or a girlfriend since birth, then growing and developing the courage to get into a relationship is definitely a priority in your quest to become a better person! Similarly, people who are already in a steady relationship should definitely embrace improvement and progress instead of letting things get stagnant between the two parties.

The last thing you would want to happen is to realize a few years down the road that you have lost that spark and no longer have anything decent in common. Stop your relationship from backsliding as soon as possible!

2. Self growth as a learner

If there's one thing every person should be certain about, it's that there's always something more to learn about the world around them. It doesn't matter if you already have three PhDs under your belt, or if you've never even set foot in a classroom.

In order to be a better person, you have to develop that thirst for knowledge, and this thirst should never, ever go away. Don't rest on your laurels when it comes to learning. No person can never know too much about this world; there's just so much we can know, and so much the human race itself still doesn't understand, so there's no chance of you ever hitting the ceiling in this department!

3. Self growth as a giver

One of the biggest signs of true development in a person is their ability to give rather than to receive. Selflessness is an intrinsic aspect of becoming a better person, and a special kind of focus needs to be given to this aspect if you really want to improve on the whole. So, what kind of things should one do in order to progress as a giver?

First off, the very idea of being selfish should really be toned down as much as possible. Secondly, the idea that we are tied to our things should also be toned down. You should be able to free yourself up and stop being so materialistic in order to be able to share your wealth with others.

4. Self growth as a leader

Everyone, believe it or not, has a bit of a leader inside of them. This doesn't necessarily mean that every single person has the capacity to lead a 50-person corporate team, or be the life of the party every single night. This simply means that everyone has the capacity to take the initiative on certain endeavors, or be able to tell other people what to do should the need arise.

If you feel like you are far too introverted to develop such a trait, then you'd better start trying to be a better person ASAP. Everyone can and should lead in one way or another, and if you stifle yourself in this aspect, then you won't be living much of a life.

5. Self growth as an educator

It doesn't matter if you're actually not a professional teacher. People tend to teach lessons or facts to other people all the time, and it is important that they grow and develop their teaching skills one way or another.

Why? Because the world is an ever-changing, ever-shifting place, and we need to be able to adapt to these changes and be ready to share our knowledge to other people regarding such changes. You'll be a better person if you become a better educator, because it's a sure sign that you really care about the people and the world around you.

When it comes to self growth, you should know that there are so many avenues and so many possibilities for growing into a better person, that there should be no reason for you to just give up and take things for granted. Open up to the world around you and dare yourself to improve!

Marc Termine shares important tips on how to achieve self growth and development. Get the right attitude today so you can succeed in life and be an inspiration to others!

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Leadership Coaching: What Are The Rewards Of Altruism?

Helping the homelessHelping the homeless (Photo credit: Wikipedia)By Mike Krutza and Jodi Wiff

In difficult times when somebody has to think about self-preservation, is it better to give than to receive? Can somebody actually forgo themself like that and put other people first? That seems unreasonable for many people.

When you yourself have problems, can you even think of helping others? It makes sense to do so, and it's been backed by research. The studies show findings that if a person has problems or burdens of their own, they would feel better if they help others.

Being altruistic has its rewards. Doing altruistic deeds will relieve your stress and improve the quality of your life. What are the benefits of altruism?

Rewards Of Altruism
  • Better psychological well-being. Your emotional well-being improves if you're kind to other people, according to studies. Your mind becomes more peaceful. One study was conducted wherein results indicated the increased personal growth and improved emotional health of dialysis and transplant patients that volunteered to support other patients. In another study, it was also found that multiple sclerosis patients that supported other MS patients experienced pronounced improvements in their self-esteem, self-confidence, self-awareness and depression. Their daily functionality also significantly improved.
  • Improved social support. Being good and kind makes you gain favors from others too. That is, you will reap the rewards of your altruistic deeds. People who have been reputed to be altruistic even receive favors from those they have not directly helped. Sacrifices done because of altruism makes you gain the favor of more people and you get increased social support, not to mention that you'll feel good for doing good deeds.
  • Better attitude and outlook. Being exposed to varied situations, you'll be able to compare, which makes you gain a better perspective. You may be staying in a modest house compared to the extravagant ones you see in the glossy pages, but when you see the rundown houses in poor areas, you won't feel so discouraged. In fact, you'll feel more fortunate. It's about learning to appreciate your blessings. It makes you feel good to help those less fortunate than you and you'll learn to focus less on what you do not have. Lending a hand to people who have problems makes you gain more insight about your own situation and you become more positive in your attitude.
  • Building a positive and supportive community. The good deeds you have done goes beyond yourself and the people you helped. It extends to the whole community wherein people you helped become inspired to help others, too. You have begun a chain reaction of altruism.
By the way, do you want to learn more about leadership in your company? If so, download your FREE eBook here: Guide to Elegant Courage Leadership

Jodi and Mike specialize in executive coaching with individuals and teams. http://lighthouse-leadership.com

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Case for Living Life Without Complaining

Cover of "A Complaint Free World: How to ...Cover via AmazonBy Donald Ardell

You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses - Ziggy

A REAL wellness perspective on complaining is a mindset that boosts quality of life while enhancing your well-being. A REAL wellness view of anything fits this standard.

REAL wellness is simply a way of thinking and functioning that protects and enhances your sense of exuberant living, personal freedoms, positive relationships and common decency.

With this understanding, let's look closely at complaining. What might a REAL wellness perspective on complaining entail?

Thanks to my friend and colleague Lutz Hertel, founder of the German Wellness Association and leading European expert on REAL wellness advances at worksites and destination spas, I recently became aware of Will Bowen, author of A Complaint Free World: How to Stop Complaining and Start Enjoying the Life You Always Wanted.

Bowen's work sparked a worldwide movement to reduce the volume of complaints, a goal at which he has enjoyed more than a little success. Alas, while there is still plenty of complaining going on, there would have been more if this book had not unleashed a campaign to knock it off. The good news is the campaign continues.

Mr. Bowen's advice is simple but sweet - stop complaining. Eliminating or even reducing complaints will make your life simpler, pleasanter and more enjoyable. Who could argue with that?

Of course, urging readers to do something obviously wise and sensible - stop smoking, lose weight, get fit, love life, eat less and so on because it's good for your health and makes life simpler, pleasanter and more enjoyable is usually not enough.

So Bowen went further - he created a campaign! Really. He promoted no complaints with purple bracelets and, thanks in part to appearances on Oprah, The Today Show and endless media exposure, sales and giveaways of bracelets (and his program) took off. At last check (today), about ten million bracelets have been distributed.

At this point, you might be wondering if there is credible evidence, scientific research or studies that support the beneficial claims for not complaining? Well, not really. However, there are plenty of sensible behaviors that have not been subjected to double-blind, randomized trials that are, in fact, effective nonetheless. Sometimes, that which is seemingly obvious is a good as it appears.

Besides not complaining, Bowen urged his readers to avoid chronic complainers and become more competent as a bulwark against needing to complain. He identified four stages of competence:
  1. Unconscious incompetence.
  2. Conscious incompetence.
  3. Conscious competence.
  4. Unconscious competence.
Bowen said it takes from four to eight weeks to advance from one stage to the next for any particular skill, including eliminating complaining from your life. Complaining a lot or even at all has consequences, among them being:
  • It traps you in a state of something is wrong that never seems to go away.
  • It makes you a manipulator.
  • It can make you angry and stressed.
  • If done with no tact or skill, it can get you thrown out of a bar or worse (e.g., your own house).
Among the major advantages of eliminating complaints are:
  • Doing so promotes finding solutions rather than staying stuck in the problem. It helps you get out of a rut and move on. The discipline of no complaints trains your brain to search for solutions. Bowen quotes Maya Angelou, a big supporter of no complain campaign: "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain."
  • It makes you less of an ego-maniac. You realize that you are not the center of the universe. It helps you get over yourself and get on with life in constructive ways. Prisons (and the halls of Congress) are filled with complainers.
  • You become more interesting and enjoyable to be around. Nobody loves a whiner. Furthermore, just talking about the advantages and processes of not complaining will benefit your friends and confound your enemies, if you have any.
  • You will be a wonderful role model and attract positive people.
  • You will think more creatively. It's just too easy to complain, gripe and whine - and such a pattern is a dead-end neural pathway. When you commit to being complaint-free, your brain lights up looking for new ways to see things (this is not an accurate scientific description of brain physiology but you get the idea).
Naturally, any program that goes over well on Oprah must have it's elements of goofiness, psychobabble and religiosity, and this program is no exception. Being a priest, I suppose one should expect advice from Bowen like, "God will provide." That is part of his counsel for dealing with the difficulties when operating without the crutch of complaints.

All things considered, the book is a good read and a fine antidote for negativity.

There is a very nice website devoted to the cause with a video featuring Dr. Maya Angelou. I recommend it.

Be well, complain not and choose instead to look on the bright side of life.

Publisher of the ARDELL WELLNESS REPORT (AWR) - a weekly electronic newsletter devoted to commentaries on current issues that affect personal and social well being from a quality of life perspective.

The emphasis is on REAL wellness, which is also the topic of Don's latest book. Read about it here - https://www.createspace.com/3478226 - The "REAL" acronym reflects key issues embraced and advanced in Don's philosophy, namely, Reason, Exuberance, Athleticism and Liberty. Sample copy of Don's latest edition by request. If you like it, you can sign up - the price is right - free. Contact Don at awr.realwellness@gmail.com

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Do You See The Obstacle Or The Goal?

Stephen Hawking during the press conference at...Stephen Hawking during a press conference at the National Library of France (Photo credit: Wikipedia)By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal ~ Henry Ford

What happens for you when you get a great idea about something you want to do-a new business, a creative project, a vacation and so on? If it really is a great idea for you, you likely feel a sense of excitement about it.

I've learned that my feelings of excitement let me know that this idea is a good one for me - that it is on the right track regarding what is in my highest good.

What often happens next?

One of two experiences might occur:
  • Thoughts and images pop into your mind of all the obstacles - of how hard it will be to accomplish what you want to do.
  • Thoughts and images pop into your mind of how to achieve what you want - regardless of any challenges that might come up.
Which one most often happens for you?

Focus on Obstacles

Does the part of you - your wounded self, who is afraid of mistakes and failure - take over? What does this sound like?
  • I don't have what it takes to make this happen
  • I don't want to make a fool of myself
  • I don't have the money to make this happen
  • It's too much work. I feel tired already
  • It's too hard
  • I will never find the time for this
  • It will never work - it's a bad idea
  • What if I fail - then what?
  • Who am I to think I could do this?
  • Other_____________________________
How do you feel when you tell yourself these things? What happens to the excitement? Do you end up feeling down and discouraged?

I've learned that feeling down and discouraged is my inner guidance letting me know that my thinking is off course. I've learned not to pay attention to negative thoughts - to say to my fearful wounded self, "I'm not listening to you. You don't know what you are talking about."

Focus on the Goal

As I said, when I'm excited about an idea, I know that this is my inner guidance letting me know it is a good direction for me. I trust my excitement, and I also trust that my inner guidance lets me know I've gotten away from what is in my highest good, when I focus on obstacles and feel down or discouraged.

Focusing on the goal, and the excitement about the goal, is what opens me to the ideas of how to get there. In my experience, it is this excitement and openness that help me find the way to do it. Some call this "The Law of Attraction" - that like energy attracts like energy. I have found it to be invariably true that focusing on my excitement about an idea brings me what I need to carry my idea into fruition.

My inner thought process, instead of focusing on possible obstacles, goes something like this:

"I REALLY want to do this! What do I need to do to make this happen? How can I learn what I need to learn to achieve my goal? Who can be of help to me?"

Once I see a direction, then I often pray for the people and situations to come into my life to support me in my goal. I have complete trust that this will happen-and it always has. However, it's rarely instant. I have to stay focused on the goal rather than on the obstacles, and maintain my level of excitement about the idea, no matter how long it takes.

Henry Ford faced many obstacles before he invented the Ford. He went bankrupt before he was finally successful. We all know what would have happened if he had allowed the obstacles to stop him.

Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a best-selling author of 8 books, relationship expert, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding process - featured on Oprah, and recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette.

Are you are ready to heal your pain and discover your joy? Click here for a FREE Inner Bonding Course, and visit our website at www.innerbonding.com for more articles and help. Phone and Skype Sessions Available. Join the thousands we have already helped and visit us now!

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How to Tell the Difference Between a Goal and a Nice Thought

Sunday Morning(Photo credit: jspaw)By Debra J Wallace

I remember many years ago attending a motivational seminar on goal setting. The speaker bounced onto the stage (like they do) and the first words out of his mouth were, "of all the people who set goals, 95% will never achieve them."

I remember then doing a quick headcount of the room and seeing around 200 people. So if 95% of us would never achieve our goals, does this mean that 190 of us might as well leave now?

I actually don't remember much of what he said, may have been the shock, but I will never forget the motivating 95% statistic.

That experience though created a very positive outcome for me - I was determined to be part of the 5% of people who did achieve their goals.

Like most things in life, they work well when they are part of a system, so I set about creating my own system for not only setting but more importantly, achieving my goals.

Let me share it with you.

Failure is not an option

When you can say to yourself "I am going to achieve this goal, regardless of circumstances", you are already on the path to success. Who has gone to bed on a Sunday night telling themselves that when they get up tomorrow they are going to lose weight, exercise, go to bed earlier, finish that project this week, only to get to the following Sunday night and have the exact same conversation again?

We let ourselves off the hook too easily, thinking that there is always more time. When you are ready to set a goal where not achieving it is not an option, you will create the circumstances you need to achieve it.

Make it specific

"I am going to exercise and get fit" is not specific. Your goals need to be detailed. "I am going to get up one hour earlier Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, go the gym and run on the treadmill, with a goal that by my birthday on August 8, I will be able to run for 30 minutes without stopping" is a specific goal.

One of the benefits to setting specific goals is that you can accurately see what you need to do to get from where you are today to where you want to be. If my birthday is in August and it's now April, I have four months to get to my goal of being able to run for 30 minutes. I can then plan my training to achieve my goal.

Write it down

Don't keep your goal in your head. It's too easy to become over looked with the thousand other thoughts floating around up there. People who achieve goals ALWAYS document them.

I love goal cards. You can buy blank cards that are the size of a business card, or you can make your own. Write your goal on a card and put it somewhere where you can read it daily. Great places include:
  • on your bathroom mirror
  • next to your bed on the bedside table
  • on your computer
  • in your wallet
Every time you go to the bathroom, go to bed, sit at your computer or open your wallet to make a purchase, you can read your goal card.

Become emotional

Have you ever set a goal, not achieved it and then felt disappointed in yourself? It's not a great feeling is it? Let's turn that feeling around to how you feel when you achieve a goal. Which feeling do you prefer?

If you have made a decision to achieve a goal, have made it specific and written it on a goal card, it's time to love it!

Let's say your goal is to save $5,000 by August so that you can book a holiday for your family to a tropical destination. After you have worked out how much you need to save each week or month and have an idea of where you want to go, it's time to take the holiday in your mind.

Go to the travel agent and get the brochures, decide where you are going to stay, find out exactly how much your holiday will cost and start imagining yourself there. Get your family involved. Have regular conversations around 'I can't wait to go snorkelling or to lie near the pool and read a book'.

When you can become emotionally attached to your goal, not achieving it is not an option.

Set big goals

We get one life so let's make the most of it. I am a prolific goal setter, I have lots of them. I love to stretch myself to achieve my goals and I love the feeling of ticking off a completed goal.

I also have a few big goals though. These are the things that, from where I am right now seem like a huge stretch of reality. What they do though, is keep me from staying in my comfort zone. If you want to achieve something great in your life, chances are you are going to need to have times when you are very uncomfortable in order to achieve it.

Let's say you are currently earning $60,000 a year and you have a goal to be earning $200,000 in five years. Is it achievable? Yes of course it is, however if you just keep doing what you are doing right now, your chances of achieving this goal are remote.

You may need to increase your skills, change your career path, become self-employed or even create something and earn an income from it. You may also need to make some quite radical changes to your personal beliefs and habits.

If you are addicted to watching TV every night but would love to use your evenings to create a business whilst still keeping your day job, you may need to change some habits.

If you believe that earning a lot of money will be hard and you are not good enough to do it, chances are your goal date is going to come and go and your income won't be much different to what it is today. Decide to turn off the tv three nights each week and spend three hours creating your own business and your results will more than likely be a lot different.

If you don't want to be part of that 95%, take a careful look at your goals. Are they real goals or are they just nice thoughts?

To ensure they are real goals, you need to:
  • decide that failure is not an option;
  • make them specific;
  • write them down;
  • become emotionally attached.
Do these things, along with setting some big goals that will stretch you and you will find that you are living your best life yet!

Debra Wallace is a home-based business coach who has a passion for helping women create their own businesses working from home. She is an advocate in the area of personal development and helping people to be the best they can be.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Some Days, Inspiration Hits You 'Like A Storm'!

AN IMPROMPTU GUITAR SESSION PROVIDES A LITTLE ...An impromptu guitar session provides a little music for passengers in the lounge car of the Lone Star (Photo credit: Wikipedia).By Steve G Gamlin

Last week I attended one of the greatest concerts, ever. The music rocked, the crowd loved the show, the food was amazing ... and there were no long lines for the bathrooms!

On Monday evening, a dozen fans were invited to my friend Brad's apartment for a special evening of music with musicians he'd met at a concert last year.

The band 'Like A Storm' is a trio of brothers from New Zealand (Matt, Kent and Chris Brooks). They reside in Vancouver, British Columbia, and are currently on a tour of American living rooms.

Yes, you read that correctly.

These brothers, who have enjoyed huge applause as an opening act for such major artists as Creed, Alter Bridge, Shinedown, Staind and more ... were now playing, unplugged, in my friend's house. And maybe yours?

No nosebleed seats here.

I claimed front row on the couch (the most comfortable concert my butt has ever enjoyed). What we received (in addition to some KILLER food from Brad the chef) was an evening I'll never forget. We were treated to a one-night-only experience or pure authenticity and passion!

As much I love (as a professional speaker) to take every stage and share myself straight from the heart, these three took that joy to another level.

During their mid-twenties, they left home to bring their music to a great big unknown world. If they had mission-stopping fears of failure, they were left on a luggage carousel in a New Zealand airport.

Between songs, they made us laugh with tales from the road, memories from home and stories of their family. Their grandmother LOVED seeing them living out their dream so much, she'd stand at the front of the stage with her camera as other bands asked: "Who is that old lady?!?"

When she passed away, the brothers found themselves unable to return home for the funeral. In appreciation for her love and support, they put pen to paper (and hearts to guitars) and created the song 'Galaxy' in her honor.

The song blew me away. They shared that it was the easiest song they ever wrote. I can understand. I had 'that' grandparent who believed in me. I also had a close friend who believed. Both are now gone, too soon to see the success I wished to create.

And it is up to me to continue sharing my message anywhere I can, on any stage, because they inspired me to do so.

Another highlight from the evening was a cover of CCR's nugget "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" As the boys sang and played, they invited us to share the chorus several times over.

Was every voice perfect? Nope, except for Matt, Kent and Chris. Did we have fun and create a 'moment' that I will remember forever? YES!

Who is singing in YOUR living room these days? Who comes into your life sharing their message in such a way that you realize you may not be sharing yours as powerfully as you can? Are you listening ... and singing along?

Grab yourself a comfy seat, because YOUR show is about to begin, in a whole new way. You already have a rotating roster of artists sharing your stage with you. Some will inspire your heart to soar with happiness. Others may cause you to sing the blues. But ALL are here for a limited time, so please enjoy the show!

Here is a message from their song 'Galaxy':

"Whenever the rain is pouring on me,
You'll be shining in my memory.
Wherever I go, you're always with me
You'll be shining in my galaxy."

Some days, when you least expect it ... inspiration can hit you, Like A Storm. Shine on Matt, Kent and Chris!

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

10 Ways to Turn Goal Setting Into Goal Getting

Asturianu: El viaxeru. D'Eduardo ÚrculoAsturianu: El viaxeru. D'Eduardo Úrculo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)By Elizabeth A Wright
"Never tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon." unknown.
Goal setting never seems much fun until you learn how to get really good at goal getting.

What's the difference? Want to know how I traveled to 24 countries in 18 months, without having to book an air-fare ticket for myself and only having $30 to my name when I left the country? Here's 10 quick tips to get you started.

1. Think of a goal that you want to carry out (no matter how big it is) and think of 1 smaller action step you can take towards moving toward that goal. If travel is your goal, what is the first thing that needs to be done? If money (or lack of it) is in your way, what is one thing you can do to start saving today? Put a plan in place.

2. As Steven Covey says, "Begin with the end in mind," and then write it down! This is an extremely important part of the process. It is has been scientifically proven that we have a better chance of making commitments when it is written down and signed on paper. Have you ever had a sales man hand you a contract to fill out even though you hadn't agreed to buying anything yet? Guess why? He knows you will have a much more likely chance of purchasing because your subconscious mind has already committed to the process. The more detailed you can write out your plan, the better. Instead of losing weight, how many pounds, and by what date? Have a deadline that is realistic but will still push you toward excellence.

3. Take action, or as Nike Air used to say, Just Do It! Get started as soon as it is possible, even if its just the smallest step in the process. When I made the goal to start traveling, I had no money and didn't know even know where or when I was going, but I needed a passport before I could do either, so guess where I was the next day? In line at Walgreens getting my passport photos. Then when I had enough money the following week, I went to the post office to get the passport. They were baby steps, but they led the way very quickly into the bigger ones.

4. Celebrate! If you go out tomorrow and accomplish that goal, even if its just a small step in the process, then pat yourself on the back! This will begin to create momentum and help keep you inspired. Set the next goal and continue building momentum and moving forward. Many small goals will be easier and more manageable than just having a larger goal that just seems out of reach.

5. Who do you surround yourself with? Are they people who will support you or will they suck your energy away? Surround yourself with positive people and those who have already accomplished what you have set out to do. If you don't know anyone in person, find forums and groups online. www.Meetup.com is a great way to meet people with similar interests and goals and you may have an instant support group. Specifically look at groups on success, goal setting, turning dreams into reality, etc. You will have a safe place to dream as little or big as you want without someone telling you that its not possible.

6. Don't be afraid to fail. Nearly everything has a learning curve. You wont be a success right out of the gate, and you might have a few bumps and bruises along the way. It's normal and part of the process. Learn from your mistakes and find out what you can do to continue moving forward.

7. Keep a gratitude journal, or at least get in a regular practice of listing the things that you have already accomplished, and the things you have in your life now that you are grateful for. Positivity will open many more doors than negativity ever will. The more you focus on what you don't have, the more resistance you will subconsciously create for yourself.

8. Keep faith in the process. There are some answers you won't always have. Faith is taking action even when you can't see through the fog. It will allow doors to open that you wouldn't have even thought possible. If you are a religious person, you should understand this process, but even if you aren't I hope you can accept that there is a higher power or force that will work to align things. It may not always go according to your plan, but how do you know that your plan was ultimately the best plan? Remember, when one door closes, another one always opens in its place.

9. Make sure you are clear on the reasons why this goal is important to you. This will be the driving force that moves you through the "mud" and the more difficult times. If you aren't clear, it will be really easy to give up and quit half way through.

10. Don't be afraid to try, even if it's not easy at first. More importantly, don't be afraid of the success. As a very wise man once said to me, "Success is nothing sure I've cried, it's failure that will win when nothings tried" (thanks Dad).

Elizabeth A Wright is a newly published author and is currently working on several projects. She writes inspiring articles on her own travel blog found at http://www.lizwrightnow.com where she shares travel tips and her adventures from two years abroad. For a free chapter from her upcoming book: "Encumbered: Traveling the world without limits" please visit her website and subscribe today for valuable information to begin planning your next adventures.

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http://EzineArticles.com/?10-Ways-to-Turn-Goal-Setting-Into-Goal-Getting&id=6988574
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