8 March  2016      

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Live and Help Live (an excerpt)
Rachel Naomi Remen

 Mastering Change with Four Simple Steps
Brian Tracy

Strengths
tom walsh

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Young people are apt to think themselves wise enough, as drunken people are apt to think themselves sober enough.

Lord Chesterfield

I was always looking outside myself for
strength and confidence, but it comes from
within.  It is there all the time.

Anna Freud

It does me no injury for my neighbor
to say there are twenty Gods, or no God.

Thomas Jefferson

We can fill each day with grasping or with giving;
with griping or with gratitude.

William Arthur Ward

  

Live and Help Live
Rachel Naomi Remen

Many years ago when I was a teaching pediatrician at a major medical school, I followed six young teenagers with juvenile diabetes.  Most of them had diabetes since they were toddlers and had responsibly followed strict diets and given themselves injections of insulin since kindergarten.  But as they became caught up in the turmoil of adolescence, desperate to be like their peer group, this disease had become a terrible burden, a mark of difference.  Youngsters who had been in diabetic control since infancy now rebelled against the authority of their disease as if it were a third parent.  They forgot to take their shots, ate whatever the gang ate, and were brought to the emergency room in coma or in shock, over and over again.  It was frightening and frustrating, dangerous for the youngsters and draining for their parents and the entire pediatric staff.

As the associate director of the clinics, this problem was brought to my door and I decided to try something simple.  I formed two discussion groups, each consisting of three youngsters and the parents of the other three.  Each group met to talk once a week.

These groups turned out to be very powerful.  Kids who could not talk to their own parents became articulate in expressing their needs and perspectives to the parents of other children.  Parents who could not listen to their own children hung on every word of other people's children.  And other people's children could hear them when they could not hear their own parents.  People, feeling themselves understood for the first time, felt safe enough to cry and found that others cared and could comfort them.  People of all ages offered each other insights and support, and behaviors began to change.  Parents and their own children began to talk and listen to each other in new ways.  We were making great progress in the quality of all the family relationships, and the number of emergency room visits was actually diminishing, when the director of the clinics discovered the groups.

His indignation was painful.  What was I thinking of to overstep the limitations of my expertise in such a blatant way?  Was I a psychiatrist?  What if one of these people had gotten hurt by something that was said, or had become emotionally disturbed?  What would I have done then?  Despite the good results, the groups were disbanded.

There is still a very narrow conception of what a health provider is.  Thinking back on some of those people and the wisdom, kindness, and understanding they offered each other, I am sad.  They were not second-class experts.  And having been ill since adolescence, neither was I.  Our life experience was as valuable as any credential.

I do not think that we will be able to attain health for all until we realize that we are all providers of each other's health, and value what we have to offer each other as much as what experts have to offer us.  In the years since, groups such as these have demonstrated beyond question that problems which are not amenable to the most expert medical approaches may be resolved in community by the very people who suffer from them and therefore understand them.  In such communities, the concept of woundedness breaks down and we are all wounded healers of each other.  We have earned the wisdom to heal and the ability to care.

In a recent talk, Bill Moyers commented that one of the most traditional values of American life--live and let live--can never establish good health for all.  Health requires us as individuals and as a people to go a step beyond this.  To live and help live.
   

Rachel Remen has a unique perspective on healing rooted in her background as a physician, a professor of medicine, a therapist, and a long-term survivor of chronic illness.  In a deeply moving and down-to-earth collection of true stories, this prominent physician shows us life in all its power and mystery and reminds us that the things we cannot measure may be the things that ultimately sustain and enrich our lives.

   

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Mastering Change with Four Simple Steps
Brian Tracy

There is a little poem that reads, "Two men looked through prison bars. One saw the mud; the other saw the stars." The moral: You can improve your ability to deal with change by focusing your attention on the future and by seeing the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.

We certainly hear a lot about change these days. A critical issue in dealing with change is the subject of control. Most of your stress and unhappiness comes as a result of feeling out of control in a particular area of your life. If you think about the times or places where you felt the very best about yourself, you will realize that you had a high degree of control in those places. One of the reasons why you like to get home after a trip is that, after you walk through your front door, you feel completely in control of your environment. You know where everything is. You don't have to answer to anyone. You can relax completely. You are back in control.

Psychologists call this the difference between an "internal locus of control" and an "external locus of control." Your locus of control is where you feel the control is located for a particular part of your life. People with an external locus of control feel they are controlled by outside forces, their bills, their relationships, their childhood experiences, or their external environment. When a person has an external locus of control, he or she feels a high degree of stress. And with an external locus of control, a person is very tense and uneasy about change of any kind. Change represents a threat that may leave the individual worse off than before.

On the other hand, people with an internal locus of control possess a high level of self-determination. They feel that they are very much in charge of their life. They plan their work and work their plan. They accept a high level of responsibility, and they believe that everything happens for a reason and that they are the primary creative force in their life.

Since the only thing over which you have complete control is the content of your conscious mind, you begin to deal with change by taking full, complete control over the things you think. As Aldous Huxley said, "Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you." Since change is inevitable and continuous, it is how you think about what is happening to you that is most important in determining how change affects you — and whether you use it to your advantage or let it work to your disadvantage.

In his book Celebrations of Life, Rene Dubos wrote that we fear change more today than ever before, and for less reason. The reason we fear change is because we are afraid that we will be worse off as a result. No one fears change that implies improvement. For example, if you learned that you were going to have to change your lifestyle because you had just won the lottery, this is not the kind of change that you would avoid or anticipate with dread. It is change that implies unpleasant surprises that you fear and become anxious about, because it causes you to feel that you have lost a certain amount of control in that part of your life.

Your aim is to become a "change master," to embrace change, to welcome change, to ride the tides of change, and to move toward the improvements you desire.

Boat builders know that the deeper the keel of a sailing vessel, the more stable it will be in storms, squalls, and gusts of wind. The same holds true for you. The deeper your keel — or stabilizing factors in your life — the less likely it is that you will be blown over or off course when unexpected change occurs.

You can deepen your keel and increase your stability by setting big goals for yourself and making clear, written plans for their accomplishment. Goals enable you to control the direction of change. With goals, change becomes planned and deliberate, instead of random and haphazard. Goals assure that the changes that take place in your life are primarily self-determined and self-directed. With clear, specific goals, the changes that take place will tend to be positive and move you toward something that you want to achieve rather than blow you off course.

It is inevitable that you will experience a continuous series of large and small disappointments and setbacks in your life. That is the nature of the game. They are unavoidable. Some things work out, and some things don't. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. In spite of your best efforts, unexpected and unpredictable events will derail your best-laid plans. This endless process of change and setbacks begins when you first enter the workforce, and it continues for the rest of your career. Problems and changes in your work are like the rain — they just happen. But if you set clear goals for your work, as well as for your family life and for your personal development, then no matter what happens, you can concentrate your thinking on your goals and take a long-term view of your current circumstances. You can, in effect, rise above the challenges of the moment and keep your eyes on the guiding stars of your life and your most cherished dreams.

With clear goals, you will become multidimensional rather than one-dimensional. A setback or disappointment in any one part of your work will be quickly offset by the fact that you are busy in other areas, and you simply won't allow yourself to invest too much emotional energy in one particular thing that doesn't work out to plan.

Now I'd like to share with you a four-step method of dealing with change:

The first step is simply to accept the change as a reality. Acceptance is the opposite of rejection or resistance. Acceptance keeps your mind calm and positive. As William James said, "The starting point in dealing with any difficulty is to be willing to have it so." The minute you accept that a change has occurred and that you can't cry over spilled milk, you become more capable of dealing with the change and turning it to your advantage.

One of the best ways to deal with the worry that is often generated by unexpected change is to sit down and answer, on paper, the question: "What exactly am I worrying about?"

In medicine, it is said that accurate diagnosis is half the cure. When you sit down and define a worrisome situation clearly on paper, it suddenly becomes less stressful to you, and it will often resolve itself. In any case, when it is clearly defined, you have diagnosed it, and you now can do something about it.

The second step is to ask yourself, "What is the worst possible thing that can happen as a result of this change?" Much worry and stress comes from the refusal to face what might happen as a result of a difficult problem. When you clearly define the worst possible outcome and write it down next to the definition of the problem, chances are you will find that, whatever it is, you can handle it. Often, your worries will begin to evaporate after you have determined the worst that might happen as a result.

Now decide to accept the worst possible outcome should it occur. Mentally resolve that, even if the worst possible consequence ensues from this situation, it will not be the end of the world for you. You will accept it and carry on. The very act of accepting the worst possible outcome helps to eliminate the stress and anxiety associated with the situation.

The third step in dealing with change is adjusting your behaviors and actions to the new situation. Ask yourself, "What are all the things I can do to make sure that the worst does not occur?" Sometimes we call this "damage control." In the business schools, this is an important part of decision making, and it is called the "mini-max regret solution." What can you do to minimize the maximum damage that can occur from an unexpected change or setback? As you begin thinking of all the things you can do, you are adjusting your mind to the new information and preparing to take steps to deal with the change effectively. Write these things down next to the result of step two.

The final part of this four-step method for dealing with change is to improve on the existing situation. Often, a change signals that your plans are incomplete or that you might be heading in the wrong direction. Serious changes, which create real problems, are often signals that you are on the wrong track. There is an old saying, "Crisis is change trying to take place." You will often find that the change is a healthy and positive step toward achieving your goals.

W. Clement Stone, the billionaire and founder of Combined Insurance Company, was famous for his attitude of being an "inverse paranoid." He was convinced that everything that happened to him was part of a conspiracy to help him to be more successful. Whenever something unexpected occurred, he immediately said, "That's good!" and then looked into the situation to find out exactly what was good about it.

If you look into any change, you will always find something good and beneficial for you. Look for the valuable lessons contained within every setback. What is the hidden advantage that you can turn to your benefit? Is this change a signal that, if properly responded to, will save you from a much bigger change or problem in the future? Since your mind can hold only one thought at a time, if you force yourself to look for the positive aspect of any change, you'll keep your mind clear, and you'll keep your attitude optimistic and confident.

Victor Frankl said that the last great freedom of man is the freedom to choose his attitude under any given set of circumstances. You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.

A mark of a successful person is what has been called "tolerance for ambiguity." This simply means that you have the capacity to deal effectively with a rapidly changing situation. The more successful you become — the greater your income and responsibilities, the higher your status and position — the faster the rate of change that will be around you. At every stage, it will be your ability to function with calmness, clarity, and quiet assurance that will mark you as the kind of person who is going places in life.

In the final analysis, your ability to perform effectively in a world of ongoing change is the true measure of how well developed a person you are. As you continue to do this, you will experience a wonderful feeling of self-control and self-determination that your whole life will be bright and positive — and so will your results.

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When we are relaxed and reasonable content, we are naturally wise.  We accept
that life is unpredictable, unreliable.  We say jokingly or philosophically, "Nothing is
sure except death and taxes," or God willing and the creek don't rise," reminding
each other that, notwithstanding the level of planning, we are continually dealing
with being surprised.  We get startled.  We recover.  We are disappointed.
We adjust.  Mostly--with Wisdom intact--we manage.

Sylvia Boorstein

   

 

Strengths

I sometimes have a difficult time convincing students that they have strengths.  Many young people, after consistent battering from their families and friends about all the things that they're doing wrong, simply lose the ability to see that there are many, many more things that they're able to do right.  Because feedback from others is one of the most important formative elements of our young lives, so often what sticks with us are the corrections that tell us that we don't measure up to expectations.

But we all have strengths.  We all have elements of our lives that come naturally to us, that we do very well naturally--and if we work at improving our abilities in those areas, we definitely will become experts.  I work with many students who have a very difficult time distinguishing between a noun and a pronoun, yet who are able to analyze a complicated piece of literature and share its meanings as if it were a three-sentence fable.

   

We all have strengths and weaknesses.  The best advice
is to embrace, focus on, and nurture our strengths.
Unless, of course, those strengths include exploiting the
weaknesses of others.  Then I suggest discovering new ones.

Charles F. Glassman

   
Unfortunately, in our educational systems, we take a student like that and say "This guy can't distinguish between parts of speech, so let's spend the whole year working with him until he's able to do so."

But what would happen if we were to say, "This guy can't distinguish between nouns and pronouns, but he's great at analyzing literary works.  Let's keep working with him on the parts of speech, but let's focus primarily on his literary analysis skills--after a year of work, he's going to be among the best in his age group at that skill."

What would happen if we did this with all our young people?

What would have happened if people had done this with us when we were young?
    

If you spend your life trying to be good at
everything, you will never be great at anything.

Tom Rath

    
I have a hunch that I know what would have happened if this had been our approach all along in education.  Fewer bored students.  More engagement in classes.  Higher senses of accomplishment and self-esteem.  More extremely well qualified students coming out of our school systems.

But that's all theory.  What concerns me right now is the reality of the right now--you and I also have problems with ourselves and our strengths and weaknesses.  Sometimes we focus so strongly on the things that we do wrong that we neglect our strong points.  Sometimes we get so caught up in doing the work that we do--which may or may not be among our strengths--that we don't even try to improve our skills or knowledge in our strength areas.
   

“Play to your strengths."
"I haven’t got any," said Harry, before he could stop himself.
"Excuse me," growled Moody, "you’ve got strengths
if I say you’ve got them. Think now. What are you best at?”

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

   
What are your strengths?  What are your passions?  What would it take for you to get much, much better in a strength area?  Could you grow stronger if you were to  practice or study for 30 minutes a day?  Sixty minutes?  The answer there is, most definitely.  But then the next question becomes, then why don't we give that time to becoming better at what we're good at?

   
More on expectations.

   

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I want. . . to endeavor to speak
truth in every instance;
to give nobody expectations that
are not likely to be answered,
but aim at sincerity in every word
and action--the most amiable
excellence in a rational being.

Benjamin Franklin

  

Things to Do

Sing a new song; dance a new step; take a new path.

Think a new thought; accept a new responsibility; memorize a new poem.
Try a new recipe; plan a new adventure; entertain a new idea.

Learn a new language; blaze a new trail; enjoy a new experience.
Make a new fiend; read a new book; see a new movie.
Climb a new hill; scale a new mountain; launch a new career.

Find a new purpose; fill a new need; light a new lamp.
Exercise a new strength; grasp a new truth; practice a new awareness.
Add a new dimension; encourage a new growth; affirm a new beginning.

Discover a new answer; envision a new image; conceive a new system.
Dream a new dream; chart a new course; build a new life.
Open a new door; explore a new possibility; capture a new vision.

Start a new chapter; seek a new challenge; express a new confidence.
Write a new plan; turn a new page; follow a new direction.
Watch a new program; be a new person; radiate a new enthusiasm.

William Arthur Ward

Failures

'Tis better to have tried in vain,
  Sincerely striving for a goal,
Than to have lived upon the plain
  An idle and a timid soul.

'Tis better to have fought and spent
  Your courage, missing all applause,
Than to have lived in smug content
  And never ventured for a cause.

For those who try and fail may be
  The founders of a better day;
Though never theirs the victory,
  From them shall others learn the way.

Edgar Guest

   
  

The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at
your feet, duties at your hand, the path of God just before you.  Then do not
grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that
daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things of life.

Robert Louis Stevenson

    

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