Monday, July 17, 2017
Last week my wife and I enjoyed a mini-vacation in Montreal Canada. My primary purpose was to enjoy learning at the International Positive Psychology World Congress. I was thankful for the opportunity to share in a roundtable discussion time my dissertation research on flow activities and at-risk college students. My wife’s main purpose was to rest and relax from her work. The IPPA congress provided a wide range of topics on how to help people flourish in their life journey and how to help individuals focus in on well-being. These are topics that I focus on in my book, Living More Than OK. It was my first time to attend one of their World Congress’s.
This week’s post I will share just a few points that meant much to me from the congress. Several of the initial speakers I listened to spoke of the research that shows the importance of acts of kindness for our well-being. An important happenstance event happened the second day to illuminate what I had heard. My wife and I in the afternoon planned to take the metro train to Montreal’s Botanical garden. We went to the Metro station near our hotel and bought tickets. As we went to the turnstile my wife went through without a hitch. I went through then and the metal bar would not move. We tried the ticket several times. Several people passed by and then a man our age came over and asked in a thick French Canadian accent what was wrong. We explained the situation and he tried that ticket as well. He then told my wife to go down to the train platform and wait for me. He then told me to follow him. We walked down a separate stairwell and he took me to another entry point in the same station where there was a worker in the ticket booth. He explained in French what had happened to my wife and I, visitors from the US. The agent apologized for our inconvenience and let me through and I reconnected with my wife. I thanked the gentleman for his help and he went his way.
The other pictures here are from the Botanical Garden green houses. It was a rainy afternoon but their Garden had the best greenhouses we had ever experienced. Looking back at the event the man’s act of kindness was a true life example of what I had heard from several of the initial speakers at the conference. That kindness towards others is helpful in a meaningful way to all parties in the experience. The man did not have to stop as he could have acted, just as others, who had passed us by. Instead he went out of his way to take me to a ticket agent, who could help with my ticket problem and explain our problem in French. We were thankful to find people like that in Montreal.
Back to other meaningful learning points from the IPPA Congress. One of the more enjoyable sessions was a presenter in one of the round table sessions I attended. There were two presenters at the table and both did admirable jobs on their research presentations. The one I preferred was Annie Norman, who is the State Librarian for the State of Delaware. She was sharing about her state library’s research on the study of lifelong learning of readers in their libraries through a tracking system they have created. They provide useful journals that patrons can use to reflect on their reading. Since, I emphasize being a Bookhead in my book, Living More Than OK, when I saw her presentation listed on-line I could not pass it up. Being an avid supporter of libraries and reading programs I could not pass up her presentation. Her information did not disappoint. It was wonderful to hear from a librarian who understands how the services of libraries can inculcate human flourishing in the lives of the communities they serve.
My favorite session of the ones I attended was Saturday listening to Drs. Steger of Colorado State University & Russo-Netzer of University of Haifa, Israel, speak to the issue of purpose and meaning in their session, “More Than Skin Deep”. They pointed out the reality too often people are busy being busy or live in a survival mode instead of being truly alive. This connected with me, since I emphasize to people to move beyond being just OK to be Living More Than OK.
Their focus from what I picked up focuses in on being mindfully aware of searching and finding meaning in your life. This reminded me of Dr. Seligman of University of Pennsylvania in his keynote discussion where he shared research on the importance of meaning in having a flourishing life. I appreciated their emphasizing being intentional in your life as too many clients I have helped are too often just running on a negative autopilot through life and not being intentional about the choices they make in life. I see this in college students I work with as well. Another important point was encouraging us to take reflection time to visualize and draw out an icon or poster in response to the question “Know your Why?”. We add significance to our lives when we take time to understand the why force in our lives. The presenters made good use of group interaction even though it was a packed room.
Another important point they brought to light was in a discussion to the question “What is being fully alive?”. They helped with the myth on positive psychology that it is about being happy all the time. Some of our life highlights that lead to learning are not always happy. My parents’ deaths were not happy, my job loss in Chicago was not happy, other struggles on my journey have not been happy but finding the meaning in the 20/20 of hindsight adds to the meaning of life.
It was a great vacation to see the beautiful city of Montreal and for my wife to have a much needed break from her work. The congress time also added more lifelong learning to my life experience.
Reflection: What does being “fully alive” mean to you? Take a day sometime just to think through and reflect on “knowing your Why” – draw of a poster or icon about it.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
I always enjoy having the opportunity to hear an author speak about their work. This past Sunday evening my wife, daughter, and I heard author, Laurie Short, present at the Author Series at the Gateway Church South Campus in Austin Texas. Her focus was on her new book, When Changing Nothing Changes Everything. We all had read her previous book, Finding Faith in the Dark. The women’s Bible study my wife goes to used it as a study, then my daughter read it and enjoyed it. I read it last which is odd as usually I read a book first and the other two read it. The time hearing her at Gateway Church was an insightful evening listening to Laurie. In person she is as honest and open as she is in her writings.
In my blog this week I want to share a couple of reflections on her book Finding Faith in Dark Places. In our life journey we have bright and cheerful times as well as dark and bleak times. The bright times are full of happiness and joy while the dark times fill our hearts and minds with despair, sadness and questioning. Unless your purpose in life is to out-gloom Eeyore of Winnie-the-Pooh fame, we all prefer and enjoy the bright and cheery times. But the reality of life brings to each of us dark times. How do we react to them? Do we cave in to despair or rise up to victorious faith?
Laurie in Finding Faith shares multiple stories of people’s times of traveling through their dark times. She also shares throughout the book her own dark faith journey. I won’t say what it is to keep you in suspense to read her book.
One of my favorite portions of the book was the chapter “God of the Present Tense”. Her thoughts here were a positive reminder that we too often neglect being attentive to the present moment. We dwell on the past that we cannot change or spend too much time wishing about the future. It is making wise choices in the present that help us obtain the future we want. I emphasize that often in my book, Living More Than OK. I like how she says it on page 57 “Most of our emotions are tied to something that was or will be—until that rare moment when something demands all our attention, propelling us to live in the now. These can be the most promising moments, for it is in the now that God can be found.”
She illustrates this with the story of Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3. Moses finds himself in a wilderness time as a shepherd when in his past he was in the palace of Egypt. I wonder how often he thought back as to why he was out in a nowhere land of wilderness when in the past he enjoyed the glories of the palace. In this Exodus passage Moses is forced to be in the present as he hears his name called out from the burning bush. “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said “Here I am”. “Do not come any closer.” God said. “Take off your sandals you are on holy ground.” (verses 4 & 5). In that moment God was calling him while he was in his wilderness experience. In that time God was with him and came to him with new direction for his life. The passage reminds me as many other parts of Laurie’s book – that God is with us in our dry desert experiences of life when we feel all alone.
Further in the book she brings out a thought from Henri Nouwen. She brings to light Nouwen’s thought “that at every turn, we must open our hearts to the voice of God. This is the voice that whispers to us in the dark,’I have a gift for you, and I can’t wait for you to see it’. When we listen for that voice… every choice becomes an opportunity to discover the new life hidden in every moment, waiting to be born.” (pg 86). If we are mindfully aware we will be ready to hear God when he speaks.
There is so much more in the book to learn from for those who look at life from a Christian perspective. If you have stopped by this blog and you are not of a Christian worldview there are still principles in her book that points to what we can learn by mindfully being aware of the dark times in our lives. Every person no matter their worldview has dark times and the important thing is to not cave in from the darkness. Instead we can have the faith to keep on keeping on and resiliently move into brighter times in our lives.
Reflection: Reflect over a dark and dry time in your life. What did you learn from the experience. Who or what helped you bounce back into a brighter movement in your journey?
Friday, July 7, 2017
I am a big believer in encouraging people to follow their dreams. The thought comes across in my book, Living More Than OK, in the chapter on Goal Setting. I also promote following dreams to students that I teach. So the book, Live Your Dreams, by Jean Criss caught my attention easily and I had to read it.
Jean Criss exudes the entrepreneurial spirit in her life and in her book. According to her website, jeancrissmedia.com she has over 25 years in the career of media services. She lives in New Jersey and works in New York City.
Her book Live Your Dreams is a third book in her My Pain Woke Me Up Trilogy. I have not read the first two books but I am sure they are as enjoyable and insightful as this one. This title focused in on entrepreneurship, creativity, dreaming Big and living out your dreams. An important few phrases that stood out to me were found on page 36, “Believe that no matter how well you do something, you can always do it better. And chances are you will! Make change happen and believe in your dreams.”
Those are powerful thoughts. To live your dreams you need to really believe in them. Then in living the dream there is the reminder in her thought to keep growing and improving so that you are always spiraling up to new heights in your life. If you are living a dream filled life you do not settle for plateaus but keep spiraling up. I speak much about that in Living More Than OK.
In Jean’s book she is refreshingly honest that to Live Your Dreams does not mean that you have an easy life. She is transparent about her past struggles with relationships, her battles with health problems in battling cancer and her winding road of her career journey. You read of her initial passion in starting a jewelry business and then the progression into work in media. She provides useful resources for Business and Women’s Entrepreneur Organizations for readers with that interest for follow up.
Her emphasis in Live Your Dreams is found in the doing not just keeping the dream a wish inside that never comes to fruition. On page 71 her doing spirit shares, “In life, we need to make the magic happen, remember. What you are doing is most likely for your family or a loved one. … We live our lives to their fullest. We stop to smell the roses. We live our dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t live your dreams. If they do, run the other way. Don’t look back.” My thoughts on this is we have to be active in living out our dreams. They are not going to happen just sitting in the recliner flipping through channels. She is also reminding us to not listen to the negativity. That is not to say, if a concerned person has an honest critique -- do listen and grow from it, but her focus seems to be on the “You Can’t” people who try to pull us away from dreams we are following. Run from them.
Live Your Dreams is an inspiring story that can help motivate and encourage you to dream big and live out the dream that is in your heart.
Reflection: What are a couple of dreams that are inside your heart that you want to move forward living them out? Is there any negativity coming at your dream life that you need to move away from to move towards living your dreams? What was the last rose in life that you took time to smell?