My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
purchase it at B & N, Amazon or (click on image of cover)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Good Exhaustion and Flow

I came back yesterday from Chicago where I attended a PhD Colloquial with Capella University. Since the lion share of the course work for my psychology program is online I had been looking forward to meeting face to face with some of my fellow students. The experience was very intense study in formulating and narrowing down a topic for my future dissertation. I came back to Texas very tired and exhausted. As I thought about my exhaustion I felt it was a good exhaustion.

I call it a good exhaustion as it came out of a time of creatively thinking through a dissertation topic that had meaning to me. It was good as well from critically listening to the sharing by those in my general psychology cohort. I loved hearing my fellow classmates’ passion for their topics. The topics were varied touching on topics such as helps for public school students, drug abuse issues and chronic pain, fire fighter families, problems with social media and new tools for psychotherapists to use in treating clients. I could see how each person’s passion for their topic tied into their life story. That is one tip I encourage college students with. When they do a project try to find an angle to the project that taps into their interests and passion. It allows the student to have more motivation for the project and become personally absorbed into the project.

My dissertation topic will be focusing in on a topic I have mentioned in the past that of Flow which was first researched and termed by Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Since I have been emphasizing reading this Summer I will mention one book of his that I re-read this Summer, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. I like the thought of Optimal Experience Dr. Csikszentmihalyi emphasizes in the book. It is living our lives to the full level of happiness which is what I am trying to get at with Living More Than OK. We are meant to live for more than just existing.

As I have mentioned before Flow is the deep concentration and pleasure one experiences when absorbed in an activity they enjoy where they have a competent level of skill. The examples that always come into my mind is seeing a painter absorbed in painting. They may have people walking by them on the beach as they paint the ocean view but they are not distracted as their focus is on the subject of the painting. My flow activities are reading, music, prayer and exercise. The whole concept I feel relates to natural highs that I promote from the website

Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s in his researching of Flow reveals in the book eight aspects of Flow that are important in reminding us the importance to incorporate Flow activities in our person lives. One is where we do activities that we have an inner confidence we can do them. Second is that we can focus in and concentrate on the activity. Three is where we mentally establish clear goals for the activity. Fourth is where we can gain immediate feedback from self or others. Fifth is that it is an activity that we absorb ourselves in and not worry about what is going on around us. Sixth is when we do enjoyable activities we use personal control in doing the activity. Seventh is a paradox of losing the sense of self while doing the activity yet we feel more positive about ourselves after doing the activity. Then the eighth and last aspect is that our perception of the sense of time is altered. The activity is not boring so we lose track of time. Think of when you have done something where you say, “I could do this for hours!” (page 48).

If you think of the eight aspects of Flow you can see how they add to living life abundantly and to the full. Having read through the writings of Dr. Csikszentmihalyi it reminds me of a former Professor I had who spoke of the “Power of One”. Meaning that one person can have a large impact on the world. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s years of work and research on Flow have added so much to humanity in reminding us of the need to break away from passive existence. Examples of passive existence is wasting too much of our time on passively watching television or mindless videos on the internet. His work is an encouragement to actively seek out Flow activities that add meaning to our living and expand our minds and skills.

Reflection: What are your Flow activities? Do you take time to make time in your schedule during the week for activities you enjoy?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Learning to Let Go and Hold On From Phil

This past weekend my wife, daughter and I went to Georgetown, Texas. They were going along to because I wanted to hear my favorite guitarist Phil Keaggy who was doing a concert there. They had heard him from the CD’s I play in the car but have never heard him live. The last time I had heard Phil live was in the late 1990’s when I still lived in Chicago. So I was excited to hear him again.

The concert was being held at Main Street Baptist Church in downtown Georgetown. It was an evening of Phil Keaggy with just his Acoustic guitar. Should I being saying “Just”? Phil is an amazing talent and a perfect example of someone who has tapped into his creative powers. With the looping equipment he uses and the various pedals he uses he turns the “just an acoustic guitar” into a one man band. My wife and daughter were awestruck with his God-given talent on the guitar. That is why in various posts on creativity I mention it is nice to listen to music by cd around the house but always try to find time to enjoy live music to see and hear the artist. With Phil Keaggy I always enjoy his artistry show through as well as his worshipful spirit. In his guitar solos I view him as being in tune with God as he plays. HE is also so down to earth. He took several favorite songs from the audience into his playlist. One was “Sunday’s Child” in which he asked the young lady to come up on stage and do the chorus as a back up with him. It is wonderful to see an artist who sees what is important – people not ego.

That brings me to a short topic for this week as I prepare to travel to Chicago for my first PhD Colloquial. Phil’s final encore song was “Let Everything Else Go”. It looks at the importance of holding on to what is important in life and learning to let go of the insignificant. As always click on the title to listen to a video of the song and then reflect over the words.

Let Everything Else Go by Phil Keaggy

Chasing down hot air balloons on Sunday morning
In pace with a familiar tune I reach for nothing less but something more
All the day and the wind is at my back most of the way, hey-yeah.

Holding conversation with a friend I know is near
Great anticipation fills my soul, it fills my heart, it fills the air
All the day and the wind is at my back ..

Oh, I can't wait to see you, Jesus, face to face
Nothing in this world can take Your place
All the pride of man laid low and all his works of gold
Nothing can compare with what You are
Let everything else go.

Let it all go.

And the wind is at my back ..

Oh, I can't wait to see you Jesus, face to face
Nothing in this world can take Your place
All the pride of man laid low and all his works of gold
Nothing can compare with what You are
Let everything else go.

Let it all go
Let everything else go.

The song has a refreshing melody and a peaceful introspective feel to it. The message of the lyrics is not complex. On a Sunday morning stroll he is thinking through what is important in his life. From following his music over the years since the 1970’s I know from his similar worldview as mine that Jesus Christ is the most important to him. In the early 1970’s the band he was in Glass Harp was gaining popularity. They were following the tradition of the three piece power classic rock bands of the day. He was gaining recognition for his guitar playing. During that time he had a sincere conversion to Christianity and switched over to Contemporary Christian music. Personally I believe and granted I am prejudiced, that he is the greatest rock guitarist ever. Just check out an old Glass Harp video by clicking on this Title Can You See Me Brother. He is just amazing to watch and listen to .

Back to the topic of letting go but I brought that up for a reason. Phil speaks of “All the pride of man laid low and all his works of gold.” I truly believe he and Glass Harp could have been one of the super-rich rock groups. But you can see his attitude towards materialism in that phrase. The most important aspect of his life is his spiritual journey he is on. He is saying the materialism the toys of life le tit go and focus on what is the most important to you. If you think about it is life just about collecting the stuff and toys of life. If you think that visit a garage sale or estate sale. That is where all the stuff eventually winds up.

If we focus on what is the most important in our lives we have a fuller and richer more than OK life. We can also learn to let go of the worries and anxieties we hold onto. Too many of us major on the minors in life instead of spending the most of our energy on the major important aspects of other people, making a difference in the world and I believe personally the importance of our spiritual life. Think over what is the most important aspects of life to you.

Reflection: What are some of the little things in life that you are holding too tightly to? List your top three areas of importance in your life. How much time in your week do you focus on them?

Friday, July 12, 2013

How Do You Greet You Day?

This year I missed the National Career Development Association Global Conference that was held earlier this week in Boston. I have always enjoyed that conference as there are so many informative and practical sessions on various aspects of careers. Instead this July I am focusing on preparing for my first Colloquial for my Capella University PhD program. Yet knowing the conference was going on my thoughts through the week turned to career thoughts.

Those career thoughts connected with a song I was listening to on Amy Grant’s lastest CD. Her new cd is How Mercy Looks From Here. It is full of powerful lyrics to think through and beautiful melodies to enjoy. The song that caught my attention was Greet the Day. The song made me think through “How do I greet my days?” I thought of many work days in the past and to be honest my worst days usually started off with a negative mental attitude. My best days were when I started off with a positive mental attitude. Look over the words to the song. As usual if you click on the song title it will take you to a video where you can actually listen to the song which I believe allows you to gain more insight into the lyrics.

Greet the Day by Amy Grant and Cindy Morgan

Lead me to the ones I need, And to the one who's needing me.
I won't assume the worst is true,, And do the best that I can do.
A word of kindness, I believe,, Is heard throughout eternity...
Hey, hey, This is how I greet the day,, I greet the day...
Lead me to the ones I need, And to the one who's needing me
And everything that gets me through.
Gladly I’ll receive from you.
All the mercy , all the love. Pouring down to fill us up…
Hey, hey, This is how I greet the day,
I greet the day,
Hello sunshine, Hello rain, Glad to see you either way.
Hey, Hey, This is how I greet the day
Come on, greet the day, let’s greet the day.
Hello sunshine, hello rain, hello every single day.
Lead me to the ones I need, And to the one who's needing me.
I won't assume the worst is true, And do the best that I can do.
If you listened to the actual song you can first see how the cheerful melody captures the spirit of the song. The song is very bright, lilting and upbeat. A kind of melody that brings a natural smile to the face. That is how to greet the day. You don’t greet the day by pulling the covers over your head. You don’t greet the day by sleeping in and rushing out the door. You don’t greet the day by having a mindset that says, “something is going to go wrong today”. Something already went wrong by you thinking that.
The way to have a positive workday is to have a positive mindset of greeting the day with a smile and “Hello”! Amy Grant adds to the song in the liner notes by sharing the background of the song was based on a prayer she was taught:
“Lord, lead me today to those I need, and to those who need me, and let something I do have eternal significance.” What a powerful way to start the day!

Starting our day is not about just rushing out the door to find a cup of coffee to hold onto at work. It is not about assuming the worst concerning the guy who is travelling too slow on the highway. It is not about assuming the worst of our co-workers or boss. Starting the day is to take a few minutes to breathe up a prayer seeking God’s guidance to touch lives and to make a difference. How can you better serve the people who come into your path each day so they can learn to “greet the day” should be on our mind at the start of the day.

The phrase that states, “Gladly I’ll receive from you. All the mercy , all the love. Pouring down to fill us up…” is another prayer reminder. We start each day needing a new filling of mercy and love for people from God so that we can do our best in our people interactions through the work day. It is those people interactions that have lasting consequences so they need to be filtered by mercy and love.

Her repetition of “Hello sunshine” and “Hello rain”, reminds me of the verse in Matthew 5:45 “In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” The immediate context is in relation to how we should love those around us even enemies who hate us. We are all faced with good and bad things that happen in our day. I have mentioned Dr. Jim Bright’s Chaos Theory of Careers in the past. We live in a chaotic world. Much of life we do not have control over. The important thing is how we react to the happenings of life. This song is a reminder to greet the good and bad with a “Hello” and do our best with each circumstance we face.

Reflection: How do you face your days whether you are working or not? Do you take time to spiritually meditate on the day ahead? How can you improve on “Greeting your day”?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Are You A Decoding Reader Or A Deep Reader?

This week I will continue on the topic of reading. Recently as I was reading news on the internet I came across an article from a recent issue of The Atlantic. The title read , “How Reading Makes Us More Human”. It is written by Karen Swallow Prior. I have the link to it listed under the reflection so that you can read it as well. I encourage you to do so as I am only touching on a few points that personally stood out to me.

The first major idea that struck me about reading is that reading is one activity that differentiates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. When was the last time at a zoo you saw a monkey reading a cookbook on recipes with bananas? Or have you seen an elephant reading a book on how to increase memory skills? Reading is uniquely a human activity.

From the title of this blog post comes another thought from the article to ponder. She speaks of deep reading and defines it as “…slow, immersive, rich in sensory detail and emotional and moral complexity…”. The contrast to that is decoding reading which is “the mere decoding of words…”. The writer states that most reading that is done is of the decoding type. She especially points this is the sort of reading done in schools. It makes sense that in schools and I would say even work settings, most of the reading we do is to decode so we can process as fast as we can the basic meaning of what we are reading. Most workers working on reports and students are under the gun, so with the little time in their schedules they want to speed read to glean information for tests and reports. So I would say I have and still do, my share of decoding reading.

Still my joy of reading rests in taking my time through a book on a topic I deeply enjoy. This is the time where I want to go into the depths of what the author is discussing. When I read like this a nonfiction book I find myself mentally having a discussion with the author. Sometimes questioning what the author is saying or excitedly agreeing with the author is part of this reading process for me. With a fiction book I always take it slow so I can use my imagination to place myself into the story and gain a feel for the places and persons in the story. I had never thought of it as deep reading. Two words stand out to me in the definition she stated, “Slow, immersive…” . In our busy world this type of reading can be a helpful de-stressor. Slowing the mind down to enjoy the story to the fullest. Slow down to understand better the topic you are wanting to understand better. This slowing down allows the mind to then be immersed, defined as “Involve oneself deeply in a particular interest”. I feel this allows us to enjoy the deep joy of reading.

Karen Swallow Prior also expands on deep reading showing that it taps into the depths of our humanness on the spiritual plane. In doing this she quotes Eugene H. Peterson, a prolific writer and poet, who is most well known for being the writer behind The Message paraphrase of the Bible. She lists this quote of his about reading, “reading is an immense gift, but only if the words are assimilated, taken into the soul – eaten, chewed, gnawed, received in unhurried delight.” This quote reveals the joy of reading in the power of story, the growth we gain from reading others ideas and concepts. Reading is a powerful force to bring a deeper understanding of our fellow travelers on life’s journey. This type of reading we can improve our own creativity and critical thinking to make the best choices possible for living a more than ok life.

So as you look at reading understand that it is alright to be a decoder as seeking meaning and analyzing data of what we read is important in our work and school. If the boss wants a report done in a week it will not help on your next review to say, “Boss, can I have a month to read through this information I have found. I would like to slowly immerse myself and deeply enjoy the data”. The Boss will probably say that we can easily be replaced if we can’t turn in the report in a week. However the article is an important reminder that we need to find time in our lives to rejuvenate our minds and spirit with deep reading as well. As a Bookhead the article reminds me that one way to help people enjoy reading is to encourage them towards deep reading.

Reflection -- Do you take time in your weekly schedule for some deep reading? What is a fiction book you deeply enjoyed and learned from the story new meanings or understandings for your life?