Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Time to Say No

by Anju Munshi, Telegraph India: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1140416/jsp/opinion/story_18190024.jsp#.U07sWVdduZA

Children today are over protected and consequently, what one would call over parented. They are fussed over and unduly pampered, their mistakes are ignored or pardoned for fear of retaliation; very rarely is the child reprimanded and held responsible for unruly behaviour.

Parents guard their children’s interests by criticizing schools, teachers or neighbourhood friends. The result is a generation that has no inner mechanism to drive them on and little or no resilience.

Are we secretly scared of our children? Are we trying to please them without being able to use a simple parental instruction: no, you can’t?

Owing to a lack of time and patience, parents tend to give in to their children’s demands. This gives youngsters the message that they can have whatever they want whenever they want it. Scientific research reveals that children’s brains are tuned to understand the concept, ‘no’.

Dave Walsh, an authority on parenting, points out in one of his books that “instant gratification is not the path to resilience or success. The yes culture leads to disappointment and failure.

When the same kids grow up and go to a college or take up a job they realize that they can’t always have their way and succumb to pressures. But then it is too late to do anything.”

Friendly mistake

A senior executive from a recruitment company observed that nowadays young people break down if working hours are longer than usual, and cannot handle any stress or crisis.

A professor from an institute of technology echoed this, saying that although we think that the new generation is lonely or is being unduly pressurized to do well, the fact is that young people are not resilient, they cannot take the pressure and snap easily.

Over parenting means that one is actually making life difficult for children later in their lives. When a child is constantly cushioned against ‘stress’, he does not learn how to deal with the ups and downs of life. Saying ‘no’ to children on occasion fosters perseverance, patience and resilience.

Social scientists say that the exposure levels today have made children inquisitive; they want to know for themselves, and this has made parents apprehensive about their well-being.

They want to communicate with their kids in a friendly manner without intimidating them, so they avoid saying ‘no’. But being friendly with children is different from being their friends.

For example, parents get unfriended or befriended by their kids on Facebook as they line up to be accepted as their Facebook friends. But why not allow them a private space? Why be so intrusive, over-protective? How can they feel free if parents access their every indiscretion?

Giving young people choices is a better option than giving in totally or not giving in at all. Let them think on their own, as that helps brain development. Treating them as buddies and discussing family and personal problems is like an overload of information that they cannot shoulder. Instead, it makes them feel insecure.

Nowadays we see demands for expensive androids and tablets being met by parents. A 37-year-old father fears his one-year-old child, “It is better to hand over my cell phone to him, else he will scream and shout.” Quite a number of parents express a kind of a helplessness when it comes to dealing with their toddlers.

The comfort of the child is of prime importance in our minds and rightly so. The intentions are noble but somewhere along the way, this model parenting is taking its toll on the well-being of the child, making him feel insufficient and insecure with no sense of self-worth and pride.

Saying ‘yes’ all the time is a form of over parenting and this interferes with the growth of the child’s self-reliance and sense of self-worth. For resilience, children need confident parents who can say ‘no’.

Friday, April 11, 2014

INTERVIEW: Portraits of People Living on a Dollar a Day

by , Mother Jones: http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/04/living-on-a-dollar-a-day-photos-renee-byer-thomas-nazario

 
Subadra Devi left India after a drought killed her crops. Now she's a laborer in the Himalayan foothills.

Living in a wealthy nation, it's easy to forget that a whopping one-sixth of the world's population subsists without stable sources of food, medical care, or housing.

More than a billion people around the world are believed to live on a dollar a day - and often less.

While the circumstances leading to that sort of extreme poverty are varied and complicated, the situations faced by the planet's poorest are depressingly familiar.

A new book out this week painstakingly documents the circumstances of some of them.

Written by Thomas A. Nazario, the founder of a nonprofit called The Forgotten International, and vividly reported and photographed by Pulitzer Prize winner Renée C. Byer, Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World's Poor offers a window into these people's everyday lives, and calls for action on their behalf.

I spoke with Nazario about his motivations, global inequality, and how to avoid the savior complex.

Mother Jones: Tell me a little about why you created this book.

Thomas A. Nazario: It grew out of a foundation I established about seven years ago. I was tired of spending time with people on the street all over the world who had simply been forgotten - by their families, by their village, and by whatever communities they might be associated with. There seemed to be so many of them, particularly in developing countries. It hit me that something had to be done. I wanted to bring to the attention of the world community that every day these people exist on almost nothing. We spend an awful lot of time in malls and taking care of ourselves and our immediate needs, and these people never enter our consciousness. Why does it take a typhoon or an earthquake to wake up people to the truth that far more people die of poverty every day?


In a New Delhi slum, six-year-old Vishal Singh cares for a baby while her mother is away. Renée C. Byer

MJ: What was your selection process like?

TN: I wanted there to be some cultural and ethnic and racial diversity. I certainly didn't want to just focus on places like Africa, or those first places we think of when we think of extreme poverty. I also knew of circumstances that existed in given countries that were really quite compelling. So I came up with 10 countries and began to organize trips. That doesn't mean we caught every story we wanted to catch, but there were also stories we found along the way.


A six-year-old herds cows for his father in Ghana. The family's economic circumstances make it unlikely he'll ever go to school. Renée C. Byer

MJ: Which stories affected you the most?

TN: There are three. One was the kids who live on an e-waste dump in Ghana. That was quite compelling for a variety of reasons, but I think if you look at the book and see those photographs and read that piece, it'll hit you pretty hard. Another piece was a family in Peru that lives on recycling. That, in and of itself, is not a big deal. Recycling is probably the second-largest occupation of the poor. But [the mother's] personal story, about how she had been abused by two different husbands, how her boys were taken away because they were needed to farm, and she was given all the girls - and how her kids will probably not ever go to school. She gets constantly evicted from one place or another because she can't find enough recycling to pay the rent. When we left her - we gave everybody a gift of at least some kind for giving us their time and telling us their story - we gave her $80, which is about as much money as she makes in two months. She fell to her knees and started crying. Not only did I learn that 25 percent of garbage produced in developing countries is picked up by individuals like her, but that one of the biggest drivers of global poverty is domestic violence, and how women and children are thrown into poverty largely for that reason.


Eight-year-old Fati scavenges scrap metal in an e-waste dump in Accra, Ghana, and carries it in a bucket on her head. She is crying from pain caused by malaria. Renée C. Byer

The third story that really touched me was about a woman and her family in Bangladesh. She works in a sewing factory about 8 to 12 hours a day, six and a half days a week, and makes 17 cents an hour. Of course we've heard about these sweatshops. They fall apart, they kill people, the working conditions are terrible; people sleep on the floor. But instead of finding someone who was beaten up emotionally, we found someone who was smiling most of the time because she was getting a regular salary, her husband was working, and she actually had a husband who was a kind and gentle fellow. That made it possible for her to keep her kids in school, to educate them properly, to have some hopes and dreams for them in the future, and to probably break out of poverty - if not in this generation, then the next. That meant the world to her. The truth of the matter is that, even though we hear terrible things about sweatshops and phone centers, in many ways they've done more to lift people out of poverty in the last 20 years than almost anything else. That was a realization that I didn't expect.


Hora Florin, who grew up in Romanian orphanages, spends his nights near underground heating vents to keep warm. Renée C. Byer

MJ: There are many contributing factors to poverty, and gender can be a huge one. Can you elaborate?

TN: It's one of the biggest reasons why women and children live in poverty. Not only do they make far less than men doing the same kind of work - even if they get the same kind of work - but often they're saddled with raising the children, and that keeps them at home. So they have a limited number of hours and they usually work in labor markets that are informal at best. If you couple that with the fact that they are often required to get water for the family - which in many cases takes three to four hours a day - and that they have to get the food and so forth. Many families think of women as a liability rather than an asset, which is why they're often sold as children into prostitution or trafficking.


The women of Nkwanta, Ghana, carry cassava, an edible root that they farm. Renée C. Byer

MJ: Climate change plays a big role, too. People on the financial margins are more likely to be affected. Did you see that playing out at all?

TN: We met a woman in Bolivia. She's over 80 years old. She works her own little farm. She grows wheat and beans. And she frankly didn't like us - largely because we were from the US. Over the past 20 years, she says, her wheat no longer grows, there's not enough rain, there's too much heat, and her beans are almost worthless. She says the biggest reason for this is countries like the United States putting so much carbon in the air. Her climate has changed and made it impossible for her to live. She lives on a mountainside where there used to be quite a bit of rain, snow, and fresh water. Climate change is affecting an awful lot of the poorest of the poor. When you think that subsistence farming is the largest job of the world's poor, it's no wonder they're the first to feel the effects when there's not enough rain or there's more drought or flooding.


Nine-year-old Alvaro helps out with the family's alpacas and llamas since his father died. He was one of the few children in the book who attends school. Renée C. Byer

MJ: According to Oxfam, the 85 richest people have as much money as the poorest half of the world, and 70 percent of people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last three decades.

TN: It seems to be getting worse and worse and worse. When we talk about poverty, we talk about how that is associated with lifespan. If you live in a very, very poor country, you'll probably live about half the time that you' live in a rich country. The other thing that's troubling is that we have a number of billionaires in this country, and they control an amount of wealth so disproportionate that it's frankly immoral. I think the more people learn about that, the more I think we're looking at conflict resolution in parts of the world where these kinds of wealth disparities exist. The more it becomes obvious and the more it becomes troubling, the more people will rally around that and the more it will seem unfair. That's one of the reasons we had the 99 percent movement not long ago.

The Kayayo Girls of Accra collect waste or serve as porters for wealthier residents. They often live in communal settings near or atop the city dump. Renée C. Byer

MJ: We often hear that a disproportionate number of the poor are in the Global South - with one-third in India alone. Why is that?

TN: I think there are some historical reasons - certainly imperialism, and totalitarian systems, and government structures that have used the masses to build wealth have played a part. A country like the US really began to build wealth during the time of industrial revolution - once that happens and you build universities and provide young people with education. Then it kind of snowballs: Countries get richer largely because they have the infrastructure, the education, and the kinds of benefits that you'll find in a wealthy country. Two hundred, maybe 250 years ago, there really wasn't a big difference between rich countries and poor countries, rich people and poor people. We were pretty much all poor. Now we have enormous wealth in some countries and very little wealth in other countries.


Hunupa Begum, 13, and Hajimudin Sheikh, six, beg for food in New Delhi. Begum is blind and Sheikh suffers from abnormal fluid build-up in his head. Renée C. Byer

MJ: There's a concern in the international development sphere about people acting out of a so-called savior complex. How do we separate this from genuine concern?
TN: One of the mistakes we often make is we go in on our white horse and try to dictate what might be best for other people instead of being far more inclusive and spending time with indigenous communities and really asking them. My experience is that most poor people actually have a pretty good sense of what would improve their lives and the lives of their children. They just don't have the money or the means to get there. It's that top-down thing that's a problem, particularly if you have a white face and you're in a community that sees no white faces. You really do have to work with people and come in with translators and get a sense of what the real needs are and help from the bottom up. 


Ana-Marie Tudor in the Bucharest, Romania, home from which her family faces eviction. Renée C. Byer

There are some things that almost always help alleviate poverty, and one is, of course, education. There's almost nothing terribly political or ugly about providing decent schools in villages that have none - or clean water, or things that are so basic that no one's going to argue with. One message in the book is that you don't have to be Bill Gates or Warren Buffet to go out and help. Everybody - particularly those in the middle class - are people who have enough money to go out once a week and buy a nice dinner. All of those people need to make a concerted effort to once a week or once a month really carve out a little of the funds that they don't need and help somebody, whether it's an individual or a family or a village somewhere or a school. We all have a duty to make the world a better place.
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Emotional Intelligence: Using Metaphors to Develop Resilience

Cover of "Emotional Intelligence"
Cover of Emotional Intelligence
by , International Coaching News: http://www.international-coaching-news.net/emotional-intelligence-metaphors-develop-resilience-2/

Emotional Intelligence is a relatively recent behavioural model that rose to prominence with Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book Emotional Intelligence - Why it can matter more than IQ.

Life coaching with a focus around emotional intelligence is becoming increasingly relevant, because its principles provide a new way to understand and assess people’s behaviours, management styles, attitudes, interpersonal skills, and potential.

Goleman identified the five key elements of emotional intelligence as:
  1. Self awareness - knowing yourself and your emotions
  2. Self regulation - managing your own emotions
  3. Motivation - motivating yourself
  4. Empathy - recognising and understanding other people’s emotions
  5. Social skills - managing relationships through managing the emotions of others and their impact
How people use their emotional intelligence contributes to the manner in which they conduct themselves, their interactions with other people and how they handle potentially stressful situations.

Stress can occur because of the way people use their emotional intelligence. Life coaching is helpful in building emotional intelligence and working through stressful issues and concerns is a good way to do this.

A core component of managing stress is referred to as resilience or mental toughness. Most dictionaries define resilience as “the ability to recover quickly from stress”.

The idea of resilience originates from material science where it describes the property of a material to resume its original shape after distortion. Toughness is an associated word that, in the same context, means the ability of a material to absorb energy and plastically deform without rupture or the resistance to fracture when stressed.

More recently, both the words “resilience” and “mental toughness” have become synonymous with handling with the stresses and strains encountered on a day-to-day basis associated with stamina, a power of endurance and an unyielding spirit.

Resilience is considered to be an ideal trait that should be encouraged and fostered. In times of continuous pressure and change, resilience is often referred to as one of the key attributes of someone with good emotional intelligence leading a successful life.

People who can use their resilience well have the ability to analyse problems, discover root causes, make changes, implement plans and manage the consequences of decisions. Being resilient enables them to quickly recover and move on from difficult situations but not at the expense of necessary change, other people and their emotions.

Coaching is a good intervention that can be deployed to develop, widen and deepen resilience as a life skill. By focusing on the process and outcomes of emotional intelligence development, many fundamentals important in the development of resilience can be explored.

These include being motivated to use self awareness around resilience to regulate emotions and to use empathy appropriately leading to reduced conflict, improvement in relationships and understanding. This, in turn, supports increasing stability, continuity and harmony.

However, resilience can be personal and very context specific. It is often considered too abstract to discuss in depth. One coaching approach that is proving to be very useful is the use of images to encourage the exploration of metaphors. 

Metaphors 

A metaphor is a figure of speech that describes a subject by comparing it to and describing it in terms of another, otherwise, unrelated topic. This definition of metaphor includes similes, parables, analogies, parallels, literary metaphors, etc.

To the person using the metaphor it is often important in one or two dynamic ways that communicate deep, significant meaning. Paying attention and working with metaphor may enhance the results you get because

- Metaphors can represent experience more fully than abstract concepts and so enable more effective communication
-  Metaphors condense information, making things more tangible and easier to work with
- The metaphor for an experience has a similar structure to the experience that it represents
- Metaphors provide an important route into the deeper, more profound levels of a person’s thinking
- When people experience change, both the metaphor and real-life experience generally change in tandem

The word metaphor comes from the Greek word amphora, which is a storage container used for transporting valuable goods. As we use metaphor - as a means to transport meaning from one subject to another - the word metaphor is itself a metaphor.

Human beings appear to be hardwired to think in metaphor often bypassing more conscious, critical faculties. Whenever there is a need to describe abstract, complex or emotional situations, we are likely to use a more concrete metaphor to pass on information to others.

This arises as it is almost impossible to describe our internal states, abstract ideas and complex notions without using metaphor. We are also hardwired to respond to metaphor because of our interest in storytelling, anecdotes, etc. 

Images of Resilience 

Because resilience can be intangible and abstract, an approach that has been found to be helpful in coaching scenarios is the use of images that encourage the use of metaphors.

These can facilitate the exploration of different facets of resilience and its connections with stress, change, challenge and the potential for learning. The dialogue that opens might otherwise be too risky or challenging to be tackled directly.

Good images support discussions around how resilience can be used to enhance experiences rather than leading to ineffective or damaging behaviour. Questions can be introduced that allow for exploration of meaning promoting discussion around how strategies can be developed to build resilience and ways to cope with stress more effectively.

Carefully selected images can be used with individuals or in small groups. Challenging people to think deeper about these images and the underlying metaphors gives rise to insights far beyond those expected.

If any strong emotions are shown towards any image, then investigating what those emotions are and why the person feels them may elicit some very valuable information about resilience.

The coaching focus should be around
  1. what resilience is and what it means for the individual
  2. when resilience is needed
  3. what qualities and skills can be developed to enhance the use of resilience
Use of Metaphor and Clean Language

Everyone’s way of experiencing the world is different yet all communication directs attention in some way. Any coaching that uses metaphor can be enhanced considerably by the use of Clean Language.

Clean Language is ‘clean’ because it keeps the coach from unwittingly introducing their own metaphors, ideas or suggestions into a conversation (no matter how well meaning these may be).

Coaching using Clean Language questions includes the practice of listening and observing with full attention on the words being used (and non-verbal signals) without giving advice, sharing opinions or adding in any assumptions around the metaphors used.

Clean questions encourage metaphors, ideas, self-reflections and any light bulb moments to take shape in awareness. When personal change is the goal, Clean Language invites a coachee’s perceptions to evolve and to change organically - one question at a time.

This is important so that the person can do their very best thinking, can explore their inner world and take responsibility for their own choices.

Using Clean Language is a special branch of coaching in its own right well. It is not an easy technique but, in combination with using images and metaphors, it is well worth the effort.

In the absence of any good commercially available support material to enhance resilience through training and coaching, Ei4Change has developed a coaching toolbox with RSVP Design (a global designer of activity-based and experiential learning tools).

Images of Resilience is a set of 16 images supplied three times within the toolbox with supporting coaching notes and a series of carefully crafted coaching questions.

These probing questions allow for an exploration of the metaphor depicted discover what resilience means for the individual, the situations when resilience is needed and the qualities and skills that can be developed to enhance the use of resilience.

The images are intended to be used in close dialogue with a coach / facilitator as part of a development programme to gain maximum benefit.

Further information is available at www.rsvpdesign.co.uk  and www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CbXb0QV5lQ

Article adapted from Pulla V., Shatte A., Warren S. (2012), Perspectives of Coping and Resilience, Author Press (ISBN 8172737157)
———–
Robin Hills is Director of Ei4Change - an organisation specialising in emotional intelligence training, personal development and coaching. He has over 30 years’ experience in sales, marketing and business psychology.
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Give Meaning to Your Life

Happiness means loving yourself and being less...
Happiness (symphony of love)
by Tony Fahkry

Many people believe that to give meaning to life requires a pilgrimage to a desolate part of the world, working with indigenous tribes and being of service.

While I do not discount the value of this selfless work, the truth is that we can give meaning to our life through our own power to define what is important to us.

You already have the power to create meaning and purpose in your life, not so much in what you do, but in what it means to you and the meaning you attach to it.

For instance, a person sweeping floors can define their life as being meaningful if the money they earn provides adequate food and shelter for their family. What you do does not create the meaning - it is the meaning you assign to what you do that is important.

The meaning you hold toward something is represented from a deeper place within you. That is to say that the act or thing does not in itself define you.

For example, many people arrive at a crossroad in their life, which is generally around middle age where they feel they must achieve a certain status or have acquire a certain level of recognition. They cleverly recite their rewards and achievements believing all too well that having accomplished or acquired these things, that they will be more content and have achieved their purpose in life.

In truth, many of these same people feel a sense of lack and emptiness because the pursuit or goal was not imbued with passion and purpose. They failed to acknowledge the deeper meaning behind why they set out to achieve that goal in the first place. They lost their way in the pursuit of it.

You have the power to create and define the meaning you attach to everything you do-including your life's purpose-by creating it yourself. It might contradict what society defines as successful but does it really matter?

Even defining success in itself is arbitrary and may be challenged in many ways. Success is not something you acquire as it remains elusive if you pursue it. Success is a state of being. You can be successful handing out mailbox letter drops if it brings you happiness and fulfillment.

Society has attempted to place a square around what it values as a success and for this reason there are many wealthy, unhappy and unfulfilled people. These same people find joy and happiness when they lose themselves in service to others through volunteer work or any social community charitable work.

The key is to not allow yourself to be defined by what others view as success, since in doing so, you will be living up to an unattainable goal, one that you will never reach. Redefine success by giving it your definition as opposed to someone else's.

The more we attempt to live by a set of rules and precepts, the more we are under the influence of other's ideals. It is essential that one defines their own level of success and not aim to achieve success but rather to become and embody success.  

Have you ever noticed that successful people attract successful situations and events into their life? This is not because of who they are but because of who they are being.

So to create meaning in one's life, it is important that you simplify your life by finding out what is important to you. I suggest that you make a list and take the time to contemplate what the most important aspects of your life are and eliminate anything which competes against the pursuit of this importance.

For example, if you list health, family, relationships and career, then you have a strong representation of what brings you fulfillment, joy and happiness since these are the areas where you feel most appreciated and rewarded.

It holds value that you would spend and allocate much of your resources and energy tending toward these aspects of your life and subsequently give less energy toward other areas of your life.

Simplify life by determining what is important to you. Old people will tell you that they wish they could have given more time and energy to those things that were important to them.

Finally, to give meaning and purpose to your life, choose to live by a set of principles, beliefs and values which are uniquely yours. Do not be swayed or coerced into believing what others believe just because it is the popular thing to do. This will never get you far in life. Some people spend their entire life buying into a concept of what is right for them to find that they had it all wrong after all.

Founder of The Power to Navigate Life, Tony is one of Australia's leading self-empowerment speakers, authors and coach on Mind-Body health.

Discover more Articles and Videos to assist you reach your highest health and well-being potential. Visit http://www.tonyfahkry.com.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Tony_Fahkry
http://EzineArticles.com/?Give-Meaning-to-Your-Life&id=8432246

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Truth About Stress and Resilience

Reaction to Stress
Reaction to Stress (Photo: Celestine Chua)
by , Reverse Thinking: http://www.reversethinking.co.uk/?p=1236

It was Hans Selye who first coined the word ‘Stress’ in relation to non-specific illnesses.

Contrary to popular myth, Selye did not say that ‘Stress’ caused illness.

What he meant was that if the individual fails to adapt to adverse Life Events then a breakdown in body functions could occur.

Examples of ‘bad’ life events include job loss, relationship breakdown, financial disaster, overwork and illness.

However, Selye was vague in defining exactly what stress was. He seems to have borrowed the metaphor from architecture in which buildings which develop cracks in the walls due to insecure foundations, or adverse weather conditions, are held to be ‘under stress’.

But human beings are not buildings and while some people find it hard to deal with adversity others thrive on it.

This points to a fatal flaw in theories about stress: life events do not impact on every person in the same way. Which means, logically, it is not adversity which creates stress but something inside the person.

This last point is related to a still more important point. Which is that the word ‘stress’ illogically refers both to the cause and the effect.

One person might say that an irritable, impatient person is ‘under stress’ while another will add that the person is ‘stressing out’ meaning both that circumstances are causing his irritation and that his irritability is creating more ‘stress’.

But something cannot be the cause of itself. Which leads us back to the realisation that the real cause of what we call ‘stress’ lies in our reaction to life challenges.

This is one reason why in recent years attention has shifted away from ‘stress management’ towards the study of resilience - the strengths and skills possessed by people who have learned how to master adversity.

Here are five key skills:

Social skills

The key here is that the person can draw on the support of friends and family in hard times. To do that they have to have good relationships in place. From that it follows that they have empathy, good communication skills and are ‘there’ for other people. They also tend to have a good sense of humour.

Problem-solving

Problem-solvers look carefully at the facts, make close decisions based on those facts and always, always, keep the end in view. They are also good at getting other people to look at the problem and come up with fresh ideas.

Self-reliance

The independent person does not go along with what other people think. Instead they follow their own ideas, trusting in their own thoughts, emotions and intuitions in order to find their way in life. As such they are good decision-makers.

A ‘can-do’ attitude

This is sometimes called ‘Optimism’ in some manuals but it is not really a matter of seeing the best in situations. Rather, it has to do with pro-actively looking for ways to make a bad situation better, focusing on what the person can influence rather than on what they can’t. You can take an Optimism Test here.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence supports the other four skills. Emotionally intelligent people are good at reading others, avoid dramatizing problems, trust in their own emotions and focus on what they can do rather than on fantasies. You can take an Emotional Intelligence Test here.

Finally, I remind my readers of the importance of Mindfulness in regular practice. It really is a ‘stress’ buster. My last article - 7 Keys to Mindfulness - with a link to a free tape - you can read here.
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Monday, April 7, 2014

Why Everyone Should Climb a Mountain

Sunday morning view of Camelback Mountain from...
Camelback Mountain near Phoenix (Wikipedia)
by J


I did not go on my first hike until my mid-30s.

I could blame it on the fact that I grew up on the Great Plains of South Dakota and North Dakota.

But mostly, to be honest, I just wasn’t interested.

Having never gone, I didn’t see the value and always declined when asked.

I went on my first hike a few years back while living in Vermont. At the urging of my wife, and with my two young kids, we walked a beautiful forest trail on a cool August morning. I carried a small backpack with water and snacks.

When we reached the top, we ate lunch together overlooking a perfectly still pond and a scenic Vermont landscape. And I fell in love with climbing mountains.

A few weeks ago, my 11-year old son, my 61-year old dad, and I hiked Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. Last weekend, I hiked down the Grand Canyon with my son along the South Kaibab Trail.

And later this week, my wife and daughter will join us to walk Waterfall Trail in the White Tank Mountains. (There are definitely some benefits of living in Phoenix during the winter).

Now, just to be clear, by no stretch of the imagination would I classify myself as an expert hiker. Most of our hikes last 2 hours. And I have no plans to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or walk the Appalachian Trail. But waking early on a Saturday morning to walk 3-5 miles along a forest trail with lunch in your backpack is a journey I’d recommend for anyone.

It is a healthy physical exercise that creates wonderful memories. It provides opportunity to slow down and disconnect. And given the chance, hiking teaches us important truths about life. 

Life Lessons Learned Climbing Mountains

Many have gone before

Every time I hike, I find myself grateful for those who have gone before and have smoothed a trail for me. And I am reminded, in life, we all stand on the hard work of those who have walked before us.

Many will come after

I am not the last to walk this trail, climb this mountain, or witness these views. While I am thankful for the work of those who have gone before, I also sense an important obligation to those who will come after - to leave the trail, the mountain, and the earth in better condition than I found it.

Not all paths have been traveled

Just for fun, I try to build a rock sculpture somewhere during each hike. I look for unusual places where the balancing rocks will remain undisturbed but still noticed by observant hikers in the future. To accomplish that, I always pick a spot just off the beaten path. Each time, I am reminded there are always new paths to be found in life and new discovers to be made.

Sometimes quiet is the best noise

I love the stillness and calm of an empty trail. It reminds me how much I love hearing no noise at all.

You can travel farther and accomplish more than you think

Uphill trails only leave two choices: reach the top or turn around. Reaching the top only requires the perseverance to keep putting one foot in front of the other. When life gets tough, I try to remember all we can do is put one foot in front of the other and just keep going.

Healthy fuel is important

Hiking spurs intentionality in the food and drink I choose to consume. I eat a healthy breakfast. I bring water, thoughtful snacks, and a light lunch if necessary. I choose healthy fuel so my body will function properly during the hike. Plus, there’s something that just doesn’t feel right about eating artificial foods while being present in the natural world.

Pack light

The weight of physical possessions is clearly felt when they are piled on your back. Wise travelers carry only what is needed for the journey. May it be true of me while packing - and in living.

Choose your steps carefully

While hiking, each step is clearly chosen. I focus intently where my next foot is going to land - sometimes even calculating 2-3 steps in advance. This intentionality helps me avoid unnecessary harm. And I hope the decisions I make with my life’s direction will be made with the same precision and care.

Age is only a number

I’ve seen hikers under the age of 7 and I’ve seen hikers over the age of 70. I am learning more and more that age only represents the number of years you have been alive. It does not serve as a litmus test for opportunity. Those who decide early in life to care for their bodies and not allow age to limit their potential will not be handicapped by it.

If you can climb a mountain, you can do anything

While not technically true, the mantra still goes through my head constantly during a hike. Reaching the top of a mountain (any mountain) is an impressive physical, mental, and emotional accomplishment. And it is motivating. It reminds me I can accomplish important things with my life if I dream big and put in the work.

Go climb a mountain. You’ll love it.

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less. Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.
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Saturday, April 5, 2014

5 Habits of Highly Compassionate Men

Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh
by , Greater Good Berkeley, Yes! magazine: http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/five-habits-of-highly-compassionate-men

I remember being a very compassionate child. While watching "The Little House on the Prairie," I cried my eyes out when Laura couldn’t give Pa a Christmas gift.

But 12 years of physical abuse and being forced to the confines of the “act-like-a-man box” wrung most of that compassion out of me by the time I reached adulthood.

Although I was what therapists call “high-functioning,” my lack of compassion was like a cancer that poisoned my friendships, relationships, business affairs, and life.

At the age of 46, I hit rock bottom.

Unemployed and on the verge of divorce, I found myself slapping my four-year-old son’s head when he wouldn’t listen to me.

As a survivor of abuse, I had promised myself that I would never lay a hand on my children, but here I was abusing my beloved son. I knew I had to change. I started with empathy, which led me to compassion.

I committed to a daily meditation practice, took the CCARE Cultivating Compassion class at Stanford University, and completed a 10-day silent meditation retreat. I read and researched everything I could find on compassion.

I found that the more compassion I felt, the happier I became.

Convinced that I had found an essential ingredient to a happy and peaceful life, I started to interview scientific and spiritual experts on compassion, trying to find out what made a compassionate man.

Interviewees included Dr. Dacher Keltner, co-founder of the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center; Dr. James Doty, founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University; Dr. Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness; Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence; and Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist monk nominated by Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.

From these interviews and research, I compiled a list of what makes a compassionate man.

1. Learn to see compassion as strength

Most events I attend that discuss compassion are predominately attended by women. When I asked Thich Nhat Hanh how we could make compassion more attractive to men, he answered, “There must be a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of compassion because compassion is very powerful … compassion protects us more than guns, bombs, and money.”

Although many men in society see compassion and sympathy as feminine - which translates to a weakness in our patriarchal society - all of the compassionate men I interviewed view compassion as a strength.

Dr. Hanson noted how compassion makes one more courageous since compassion strengthens the heart - courage comes from the French word “coeur,” which means heart. Dacher Keltner argues that Darwin believed in “survival of the kindest,” not the fittest.

Dr. Ted Zeff, author of the book Raise an Emotionally Healthy Boy, believes that only compassionate men can save the planet. Zeff argues that “the time has come to break the outdated, rigid male code that insists that all men should be aggressive, thick-skinned, and unemotional” - an excellent description of the act-like-a-man box that I tried to live in.

The compassionate men I interviewed agree with the Dalai Lama when he said, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

2. Have compassionate role models

All of the compassionate men seemed to have role models that supported their compassion instinct. Marc Brackett gives credit to his uncle, Marvin Maurer, who was a social studies teacher trying to instill emotional intelligence in his students before the term "emotional intelligence" was coined.

Over 30 years after teaching in middle school, Maurer’s “Feeling Words Curriculum” acts as a key component of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence's RULER program. Similarly, Marshall Rosenberg, author of the book Nonviolent Communication, constantly mentions his compassionate uncle who cared for his dying grandmother.

A role model doesn’t necessarily have to be living, or even real. Chade-Meng Tan, author of Search Inside Yourself, cites Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of Gandhi as a role model for compassion.

Dr. Rick Hanson posits Ender from the science-fiction novel Ender’s Game as a compassionate role model. Certainly, Jesus and Buddha are obvious role models of compassion. The key is to treat them like role models.

Role models are not meant to be worshiped, deified, or prayed to. They are meant to be emulated. They pave the way for us to walk a similar path. Can we turn the other cheek and love our enemies like Jesus asked us? Can we transcend our ego and see all things as one, like the Buddha did?

In contrast are individuals who were not guided by positive role models. In his book From Wild Man to Wise Man, Franciscan friar Richard Rohr describes what he calls “father hunger”: “Thousands and thousands of men, young and old … grew up without a good man’s love, without a father’s understanding and affirmation.”

Rohr, who was a jail chaplain for 14 years, claims that “the only universal pattern I found with men and women in jail was that they did not have a good father.”

Scott Kriens, former CEO of Juniper Networks and founder/director of the 1440 Foundation, concurs: “The most powerful thing we can do for our children is be the example we can hope for.”

3. Strive to transcend gender stereotypes

All of the compassionate men interviewed broke out of the "act-like-a-man" box. At a certain point in his life, Dr. Rick Hanson realized that he was too left-brained, so he made a conscious effort to reconnect with his intuitive, emotional side.

When Elad Levinson, program director for Spirit Rock Meditation Center, first encountered loving-kindness and compassion practices, his first reaction was one he claims is fairly typical for men: “Come on! You are being a wuss, Levinson. No way are you going to sit here and wish yourself well.” So the actual practice of compassion instigated his breaking free from gender stereotypes.

Ted Zeff cites a study that found infant boys are more emotionally reactive than infant girls, but by the time a boy reaches five or six years old “he’s learned to repress every emotion except anger, because anger is the only emotion society tells a boy he is allowed to have.”

If society restricts men’s emotional spectrum to anger alone, then it is obvious men need to transcend this conditioning to become compassionate.

Dr. Doty points to artificially defined roles as a major problem in our society because they prevent men from showing their vulnerability. “If you can’t be vulnerable, you can’t love,” says Doty.

Vulnerability is a key to freedom from the "act-like-a-man" box, for it allows men to remove the armor of masculinity and authentically connect with others.

Both Dr. Doty and Scott Kriens emphasize authenticity as a necessary pathway to compassion. Kriens defines authenticity as “when someone is sharing what they believe as opposed to what they want you to believe.” This opens the door to compassion and true connection with others.

4. Cultivate emotional intelligence

In his book Raising Cain, Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson argue that most boys are raised to be emotionally ignorant: “Lacking an emotional education, a boy meets the pressure of adolescence and that singularly cruel peer culture with the only responses he has learned and practiced - and that he know are socially acceptable - the typical ‘manly’ responses of anger, aggression, and emotional withdrawal.”

In contrast, most of the men I interviewed were “emotionally literate.” They seemed to see and feel things with the sensitivity of a Geiger counter.

Tears welled up in Doty’s eyes a number of times when he talked about compassion. Hanson explained how he landed in adulthood “from the neck up” then spent a large part of his 20s becoming whole again.

Much of Chade-Meng Tan’s Search Inside Yourself training that he developed for the employees of Google is based on emotional intelligence developed through attention training, self-knowledge, and self-mastery.

Similarly, Father Richard Rohr leads initiation groups for young men that force initiates to face pain, loneliness, boredom, and suffering to expand their emotional and spiritual capacity.

It is no coincidence that these initiations are held in nature. Nature seems to be an important liminal space that allows boys and men to reconnect with their inner world. Dr. Hanson is an avid mountain climber. Ted Zeff advocates spending time in nature with boys to allow their sensitivity to develop.

5. Practice silence

Almost all of the men I interviewed regularly spend some time in silence. They’d hit “pause” so that they can see themselves and others more clearly.

When our interview approached two hours, Dr. Rick Hanson asked to wrap it up so he would have time for his morning meditation. Meng Tan had just returned from a week-long silent meditation retreat a few days before our interview. Scott Kriens started a daily sitting and journaling practice almost ten years ago that he rigorously practices to this day.

Father Richard Rohr practices Christian contemplative prayer, which he says leads to a state of “undefended knowing” that transcends dualistic, us versus them thinking.

Rohr argues that true compassion can’t happen without transcending dualistic thinking. “Silence teaches us not to rush to judgment,” says Rohr.

Self-awareness through mindfulness practices like meditation, silent prayer, or being in nature allow compassionate men to embrace suffering without reacting, resisting, or repressing. Thich Nhat Hanh says that mindfulness holds suffering tenderly “like a mother holding a baby.”

That poetic image is backed up by more and more research, which is finding that mindfulness can help foster compassion for others.

So the path to making more compassionate men is clear: Understand compassion as a strength, get to know yourself, transcend gender roles, look for positive role models - and become one yourself. If that sounds too complicated, 84-year-old Marvin Maurer sums up being a compassionate man in five easy words, “Be in love with love.”

This article was originally written by Kozo Hattori, M.A., for Greater Good, where it originally appeared. Kozo is a writer and counselor at PeaceInRelationships.com. His current book project is titled Raising Compassionate Boys.
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Friday, April 4, 2014

What is Resilience? 6 Icons Tell the Story

English: Resilience of nature Despite falling,...
Resilience of nature (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Kate Raworth: http://www.kateraworth.com/2014/04/03/resilience/

The call for creating resilience is everywhere - from the financial system to the world food system.

So what exactly is it, and how can we take inspiration from the resilient systems that are all around us?

If we are to stand a chance of living in the doughnut - that safe and just space for humanity - then we need to harness all the tricks that resilient systems can teach us.

I’ve been brainstorming with folks at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (big thanks to Garry Peterson) to come up with 6 iconic objects that illustrate 6 key qualities of resilient systems. Here they are - a whirlwind tour in under 3 minutes.



What other qualities should be added - and what iconic objects capture their essence?
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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Enjoy Your Life Every Day, With the Bonus of Building Your Resilience

Enjoying Life
Enjoying Life (Photo credit: cheesy42)
by Jerry Sheridan, On Resilience: http://onresilience.com/2014/04/01/enjoy-your-life-every-day-with-the-bonus-of-building-your-resilience/

We have a friend who gave up a tenured position as a full professor, with no assurance that a comparable position would open up in his new location.

With a full professorship, the pay and benefits are quite good though not great, but it is very hard to fire you.

It takes many years of high-level performance to get a full professorship.

Nevertheless, he moved to the West Coast to be close to his family. In particular, his sister was important to him.

As it turned out, he had to make do with insecure and relatively low-paying part-time teaching positions, and to drive many miles to their locations to accumulate a viable income. It took many years for him to find a stable, full-time position.

Faced with this kind of situation, most of us would, understandably, have spent a good deal of time worrying, fretting, and complaining, and regretting. Not him. I asked him one time how he stayed so upbeat through all of this. He said, “I never let a day go by without doing something I enjoy”.

He is a master teacher. He taught the most challenging courses in his field, the ones that often result in a lot of anger on the part of the students because the content is hard to understand, and the teachers are often insensitive to the barriers that get in their way.

Nevertheless he was the only teacher in higher education we have ever known who got standing ovations at the end of at least some of his classes.

I asked him what it was about his teaching that produced such results. His answer was that he only taught in ways that allowed him to enjoy the teaching process.

So our theme in this post is that enjoying yourself regularly can improve your effectiveness, but also make your life more gratifying, and also give your resilience a boost.

In our research on resilience, those who are highly resilient tend to affirm that they often get to enjoy themselves.

Let’s suppose that you want to increase your resilience, but do not routinely enjoy something every day (or maybe even every week.) What can you do about it?

Well, our friend showed us one way. Make a serious effort to be close to someone you really care about, and who cares about you. Just having regular contact with those you love is a powerful source of joy.

There are also many mundane activities that can make a day enjoyable. If you haven’t read our previous post, take a look at it. It guides you to actions that many people have found to make them feel better when they were distressed.

We would suggest that you try applying the lessons in that post first. But, if you need more help, and are willing to commit some serious time and energy to testing out this technique,  you should take a look at the method of dealing with depression developed by Peter Lewinsohn and his colleagues.

Lewinsohn’s work focused on depression, though we think it is much more widely applicable. His view was that depressed people experience too few pleasant events, especially positive social experiences.  He believed, and went on to demonstrate, that more enjoyment leads to better mood, and less depression.

Keep in mind, we are talking about making your life better. Not many things are more important than that. You only have one life.

There is a great deal of research showing that “cognitive behavior therapy” is about as effective as medication in dealing with depression, and the best results occur when cognitive therapy is added to the use of the more traditional use of anti-depressive medication.

The core of cognitive behavioral therapy is changing the way we talk to ourselves, or, in other words “think” about distressing situations.

Lewinsohn’s approach emphasizes the importance of changing not only your thoughts or “self-talk”, but also what you actually DO. Its focus is on getting people to do more things they enjoy, to increase their experiences of “pleasant events”. More enjoyment leads to less depression.

Here is a shortened and simplified way to try increasing your “pleasant events”:
  • Think back on your own experiences, and make a list of those you enjoyed. In particular, make at least part of this a list of relatively simple things that you can fit into a day’s routine.
  • Review lists of actions that have helped others calm and sooth themselves, a list like the one we described here.
  • Pick out ones you can do regularly, and try to do at least one of them each day.
  • Keep track of your practice of daily (or nearly daily) enjoyable activities and the impact they have on your life.
  • Stick with the ones that have the calming and soothing effects you need to live a more comfortable, happier and therefore more resilient life.
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bad News: Negative Indigenous Health Coverage Reinforces Stigma

Aboriginal Art
Aboriginal Art (Photo credit: Roel Wijnants)
by Melissa Stoneham, Curtin University

Think of Aboriginal health and you’ll probably recall messages of large gaps in life expectancy, increasing rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease and asthma.

Or that the last ten years has been a “wasted decade” for Aboriginal people.

It won’t be too much of a surprise, then, to learn that 74% of media articles about Aboriginal health are negative.

That’s the finding of a media study by my colleagues and I at the Public Health Advocacy Institute Western Australia (PHAIWA).

No one would argue it is difficult to generate negative stories about Aboriginal communities when the data shows:
  • the estimated gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people’s life expectancy in Australia is greater than in New Zealand, Canada and the United States
  • Aboriginal people are four to five times more likely to die between the ages of 25 and 54 years than non-Indigenous Australians
  • Aboriginal employment rates fell from 48% in 2006 to 46.2% in 2011
  • More than 26% of Australia’s adult prisoners are Aboriginal, even though they represent just 2.5% of the country’s total population
The news is bad. But does the media do all it can - or make enough of an effort - to look for positive stories?

My colleagues and I analysed all articles relating to Aboriginal health from print media in The West Australian, The Australian and The Sunday Times (WA) and from the ABC Online news service during 2012, a total of 335 articles.

We found that overwhelmingly, the articles were negative in their portrayal of Aboriginal health, with 15% of the coverage positive and 11% neutral. The most common negative topics were alcohol, child abuse, petrol sniffing, violence, suicide, deaths in custody and crime. The most common positive topics included education, role modelling for health, sport and employment.

The media plays a significant role in framing the way we think about issues. When Aboriginal people are persistently portrayed as drunks, welfare dependents and violent perpetrators, it can fuel racist attitudes among the wider population and this type of racism has a major impact on the health of Aboriginal Australians.

In some cases, these stereotypes can be internalised, creating a sense of shame and presenting barriers to participating in mainstream society. This perpetuates the cycle of disadvantage. Yet it would not be appropriate to blame the media in isolation for negative portrayals of Aboriginal health.

Drawing attention to problems experienced in Aboriginal communities is a legitimate and well-tried approach for those who seek to generate action.

Media coverage of disadvantage and negative outcomes is often presented by journalists as a response to comments by advocates for action, and as a means of expressing and generating concern and outrage, and seeking change.

There is also a legitimate role for media in reporting evidence-based information relating to disadvantage.

Although these issues are important to highlight, particularly from an advocacy perspective, they tell only half the story and rarely provide positive aspects or hopes for the future.

So, how can we positively influence the way in which Aboriginal health is portrayed in the media?

One strategy to overcome the sense of hopelessness created through negative media, is to focus on positive models of change and commitment in Aboriginal communities.

There is great value in capturing positive changes, in collecting and amplifying the voices of Aboriginal people and organisations who are role models, and who run successful ventures in their communities.

The West Australian Indigenous Storybook, produced by PHAIWA, does just this. The storybooks portray only positive stories and are written largely by Aboriginal public health or community development practitioners.

The books look more deeply into issues and illustrate responsible and less sensationalist reporting on a diverse range of topics and issues that affect health including personal journeys, Aboriginal art, language, education, sport, environmental stewardship and preventive health projects. These achievements are worth talking about.

Upskilling Aboriginal advocates through media training is also required, particularly when, by nature, many are shy. Aboriginal corporations should consider this within their annual budgets and professional development plans.

In Western Australia, this training is provided free of charge by PHAIWA but in other states, budgets may need to be allocated. This training is important to balance the power relationship between journalists and Aboriginal people.

Encouraging journalists to talk with Aboriginal people about their life, culture and concerns may result in news stories that are more accurate and portray a less distorted and stereotypical view of Aboriginal communities.

One effective training method is the integration of a visit to an Aboriginal community during cadetships or university training, where students talk directly with them about their hopes, fears and problems.

This has been trialed in a partnership between the Combined Universities Centre for Rural Health (CUCRH) and Edith Cowan University, where eight final-year journalism students spent a month with Aboriginal communities in two Western Australian towns.

We also need to develop ethical media policies and procedures that promote fair reporting of issues relating to Aboriginal communities, such as the clash of media and Aboriginal cultures, timelines, values and trust.

An organisation such as the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance which already has a code of ethics could lead the charge and provide regular training on how journalists can better promote cultural diversity in reporting.

A precedent has been established with the reporting of suicide. Mindframe aims to inform appropriate reporting of suicide and mental illness, to minimise harm and copycat behaviour, and reduce the stigma and discrimination experienced by people with mental illness is working. So, we know it can be done; now we just have to make it happen.
The Conversation

Melissa Stoneham receives funding from Healthway.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Strong not Tough: Building Resilience in Families and School Communities

Resilience training aims to build stronger Fam...
Resilience Training (Fort Rucker)
by Brisbane State High School: https://brisbaneshs.eq.edu.au/news/2014-03-28/strong-not-tough-building-resilience-families-and-school-communities

On Tuesday 11 March, Prof Barrett gave a very informative talk about ways to assist children to be more successful with school work and to develop positive relationship skills with peers, teachers and family.

The response from those in attendance was extremely positive. A copy of Professor Barrett’s Power Point presentation is now available.
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