My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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Sunday, April 25, 2010

What If You Ruled The World?

Recently a friend knowing some of my blog postings look at songs and their meanings for our life experience sent me the song, If I Ruled the World, by Leslie Bricusse and Cyril Ornadel that was sung by Tony Bennett back in the 1960’s. The song makes me think of the personal power we have in our choices to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. Shad Helmstetter in his book Choices states, “ Who knows what you could accomplish in life if you made more of the right choices along the way.” Each day by the choices we make, we rule our world. The question is what kind of world are we creating? Click on the title of the Tony Bennett song and hear him sing it and then take some moments to reflect over the words.

Tony Bennett
Words by Leslie Bricusse/Music by Cyril Ornadel

If I ruled the world, ev'ry day would be the first day of spring
Every heart would have a new song to sing
And we'd sing of the joy every morning would bring

If I ruled the world, ev'ry man would be as free as a bird,
Ev'ry voice would be a voice to be heard
Take my word we would treasure each day that occurred

My world would be a beautiful place
Where we would weave such wonderful dreams
My world would wear a smile on its face
Like the man in the moon has when the moon beams
If I ruled the world every man would say the world was his friend
There'd be happiness that no man could end
No my friend, not if I ruled the world
Every head would be held up high
There'd be sunshine in everyone's sky
If the day ever dawned when I ruled the world

Why this song makes me think of the power of our choices, is pondering over what I would do if I ruled the world for a day? As we step out each day don’t we by our choices make rulings on how our individual worlds will be created and run? There are many positive desires and choices, Leslie Bricusse presents in his lyrics that are a guide to the kind of choices we can make in living more than ok.

In the very beginning he pronounces “ev'ry day would be the first day of spring”. Spring is a season of new creation and creativity as flowers and plants bloom. What if we carried that attitude and choice into each day? Looking at each day as a refreshing adventure instead of a dreary struggle to fight through. No wonder stress and depression is so high when the daily attitude is anticipating the grey storm clouds in the daily journey instead of looking forward to the blooming roses in the day’s activities. The phrase, “we'd sing of the joy every morning would bring” reminded me of memories riding the Chicago subway trains in the morning to work. There was never much joy on the faces of people on their way to work. How would the workday change if there was more joy in the attitude choices we make in our day? The song also speaks of smiles as bright as moon beams and happiness. Smiles and a cheery attitude can be a part of how we rule our day for the better in helping to spread joy to the stressed out worker at the cash register, the bus driver, or someone fighting the Monday Morning Blues. Have you ever noticed an attitude in a crabby store worker when you smile and say have a nice day. They immediately for the most part brighten up.

Another standout phrase is “we would treasure each day that occurred”. We should rule our world with the attitude of gratitude that I have mentioned in the past. Treasuring is to savor all the good memories that come to us each and every day. We gain more out of life if we reflect over the good that comes out of each day rather than expanding on the few negatives. Treasuring each day is a positive choice we can make to impact our positive growth. Then the last phrase that stands out to me is “if I ruled the world every head would be held up high”. The thought of the importance of personal self esteem and respecting each other’s self esteem comes to my mind in this phrase of the lyrics. I will delve more into self esteem in the future. In recent years self esteem has been given a bad rap . We need as we go through each day holding our head up high so we can see the roses in our life, the moon beams in the sky, and the beauty of the sunsets that we can apply to all the good things in life. If we insecurely mop around with our head to the ground we will miss so much of what life has to offer,

What would the world be like if you were ruler for a day? What positive choices can you learn from the song, IF I RULED THE WORLD, to brighten your daily journey?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Understanding Your Life Themes Using a Wandering Map

In the past I have discussed Chaos theory as it relates to life and careers. I recently read an insightful book on the topic by Dr. Katherine Brooks of UT Austin entitled, You Majored In What? Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career. As we go through day to day life it can look very chaotic with a mix of happenstance events invading our life. Dr. Brooks points out as you look at the longer journey, the bigger picture of your life, connections and themes can be observed. Patterns are created by the chaotic seemingly random details.

The idea reminds me of reading Edith Schaeffer’s book, The Tapestry, years ago. It is the life of Francis and Edith Schaeffer looking back at their family line and their life together. The book is a delightful read if you can find it in a library or used bookstore. It reminds us as we go through the short periods of life, life looks like the underside of a tapestry – a chaotic mess of tied together fabric. Yet if you turn it over you can see the beautiful pattern.

Dr. Brooks in her book presents a creative exercise that helps us look at our details of life and glean from the pieces important themes and connections that reveal strengths that we can use to guide our lives and career pathways. She calls it the Wandering Map. It is a tool to help us creatively explore our talents and strengths so as to open up new possibilities; helps in savoring past events and gaining personal insight of past events; helps us view themes and patterns in our life journey. This activity will improve your self discovery which is part of Living More Than OK.

I will walk through the elements of the Wandering Map so you can try it out. I encourage you to pick up a copy of the book as it touches on so many other areas of our career life. Or if you know of a college student undergoing angst over their education and career journey recommend this book to them. You can find out more information about the book at her website
First of all get a blank 8 ½ x11 piece of paper or a larger poster board; and some colored markers or crayons to help you be creative with this. Set aside some quiet time to enjoy this brainstorming activity. You can use a table or desk or if your knees don’t give you trouble, you can sprawl out on the floor.

Next, think back over your life from childhood to the present for activities, places traveled, favorite classes, significant people, meaningful books ( a bookhead like me has to include books in the list), jobs, hobbies and ect. Write these items down on the paper in a random manner as they come to you. It will seem chaotic but again this stems from our thoughts on chaos theory, so just let the ideas flow. The paper or poster will soon have an appearance of a Mindmap.

As you look at all the items from your life experience you listed, start jotting down thoughts of a few key words that relate to them. Also make sure you write down key turning points in your life experience.

Now put the markers down and silently reflect or if you are musical have some favorite music on and mindfully reflect over the big picture of all that is on the paper. Begin looking for connections that may flow through your childhood activities up to the present. Then draw different colored lines that will connect the differing items on your list that have a connection.
After you have made the connections, list categories that come to mind. Try to make an initial list of 5. For example 5 that come up for my wandering map are – Spirituality, reading books ( what a surprise!), Counseling, music, studying psychology.

Then finally ponder over the categories and see if you can come up with overarching themes for the Wandering Map. You may want to write these down at the top of the map. Here is a sampling of some of the themes Dr. Brooks lists in her book on page 34. Purchase her book for the complete list or brainstorm over theme ideas:

Adventure – taking risks, trying new things
Creativity – self-expression, ideas as in art and music
Family – nurturing, children, family gatherings
Health – exercise and eating well
Independence -- freedom and autonomy
Leadership – organizing, inspiring
Learning – acquiring knowledge, life-long learning
Physical Work – using your hands, building
Security – safety, stability
Spirituality – practicing religion meditating
Wealth – acquiring money, economic security

Jot down a list of your key themes and as I mentioned the themes may make a nice title for your paper or poster if you used poster board. You can do this activity by yourself or you may want to do it as a family or with a group of friends. The important thing is have fun with it and see what new insights you can learn about yourself through the experience.

Take some time to journal about your Wandering Map. What were your primary themes and how are they important to you? What are some feelings you experienced as you wrote your initial list?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Growing in Our Critical Thinking Skills

I recently had a question related to Critical Thinking so I thought I would speak again to this important issue as I believe our thought life is important to Living More Than OK. Here is the question:

One of my friends told me she has issues with not having critical thinking. She was wondering whether it has anything to do with her personality or training deficit. Any thoughts ?

It is not a matter of not having critical thinking it is more a matter of developing our critical thinking skills. We are thinking all the time. Even when we are moving on autopilot the brain is processing the observations around us. The questioner mentions personality. There are personality theories that bring up the point that some people are more predisposed to be to be thinkers while others may be more of doers for example. When we look at those around us we do notice differences in people’s thinking. Some people jump right into different activities or relationships while others think through deeply before they make a move. This just shows we are different and unique. Our thinking skills fall on a continuum and on that continuum we can always rise to a higher level. The important point is that we can all improve our critical thinking skills which will help in every aspect of life, personal relationships, money matters, health, work, future plans, and ect.

Remember that critical thinking is not a negative activity of putting things down or having a negative cranky spirit. Vincent Ruggiero in his book Making Your Mind Matter shows that critical thinking is a positive activity of evaluating ideas from others and yourself in order to improve the ideas and choose the best one. This relates well as I previously mentioned Richard Paul and Linda Elder in their writings bring out that questioning is key to critical thinking. Ruggiero in his book, mentions a thinking style which I feel captures important features of critical thinking as it relates to daily challenges we all face. He calls it the WISE approach. This is one way in which to improve critical thinking in our life.

Wonder - Go through each day with a sense of wonder making note and observations of your experience and thoughts during the day. You may want to record key events problems, and thoughts relevant in a journal.
Investigate – With key problems or important issues do thoughtful research for solutions.
Speculate – Use the power of questions in relation to problems and life issues. Brainstorm creative solutions.
Evaluate - Try out the solutions to challenges you face during the day and look for the most effective ways to improve your life.

Another way to improve our thinking is Richard Paul and Linda Elder’s admonition that we should become a critic of our own thinking. Again this is not a negative hitting ourselves on the head , “Oh, I’m so stupid. I just can’t think!” No it is taking the time to “think about your thinking in order to make it better”, (Richard Paul). Take a seat back and ponder over your thinking, how do you think through issues facing you? What have been the circumstances that resulted from your thinking? How can you improve your thinking quality.

The being a critic of our thinking approach reminded me of a verse in the Apostle Paul’s writing 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV) “... and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” He is looking at our thought life from the spiritual standpoint of actively taking charge and control of our thoughts instead of drifting through our mental life on autopilot. The principle relates to all aspects of thought to be in control of our thinking and actively have our thoughts captive so we know why we believe what we believe and understand the thought process behind our actions.

Another important way to improve our thinking is as I mentioned in one of my early blog postings is to be a Bookhead. Read up on how to improve your thinking. We need to be life long learners. Here are a few book recommendations:

Critical Thinking – Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life by Richard Paul & Linda Elder.
Thinking For a Change by John Maxwell. (Love that title!)
Making Your Mind Matter by Vincent Ruggiero
25 Days to Better Thinking & Better Living by Dr. Linda Elder & Dr. Richard Paul (This is a short book where you can devote a day at a time for 25 days on different aspects of improving your thinking.)

Also make use of Internet resources: This website has numerous resource articles to expand your thinking on Critical Thinking. This is a website about Albert Ellis’ Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). His theory helps us see the need for critical thinking as many of our problems are based in our faulty beliefs. There are very helpful ideas on this website to help improve our thinking process.

Take some quiet time alone to think about your thinking. On a scale of 1-10 what is the quality of your thinking? (1 being very weak -- 10 being saintly perfect). I always tell my students never give yourself a 10 rating on a rating scale as in this life we always have room to improve even if we think we are a 9.99!
Brainstorm ways in which you feel you can improve in your critical thinking skills.