Archive for the 'Resilience' Category

What does it mean to be a strong man?

I have temporarily suspended my sabbatical because I recently heard a story that got me thinking about what it means to be a strong man.

The story goes that a very rich and very, very powerful person (some would say the most powerful person in the world) felt disrespected and made to look weak and it was necessary for the very rich and very, very powerful person to respond forcefully to demonstrate his strength and dominance over the person regarded as disrespectful and over everyone else. 

That got me thinking about what it means to be a “strong” man. (I say “man“ because both individuals in the story are men and because Father’s Day is upon us.)

A strong man:

• Does not need to tell you on a daily basis how smart, intuitive, and very, very powerful he is. Because a strong man is  confident in his strength he does not need to constantly remind others of it.

• Protects those who are vulnerable and in need of assistance.

• Acknowledges mistakes, expresses regret, and apologizes when necessary. 

• Demonstrates his power by consistently advocating for all of humankind, now and in the future, not just for his own family and tribe. 

What would you add or subtract from my definition of a strong man? In what ways would that definition be the same or different if it were describing a strong woman?

Finding our best selves in other people

We are usually happiest and make the biggest difference in the world when we most consistently act on behalf of our highest values, use our most important strengths, and treat others with respect—that is, when we are our best selves.

And the positive emotions associated with those experiences motivate us to be that best self again.

Our best selves can also be inspired by people who display qualities we wish to cultivate in ourselves.

Ask yourself: “What would [insert the name of a relevant person you respect] do in this situation?”

The answer to that question can guide us in becoming our best selves in times when those qualities are most needed.

Which people, near or far, inspire your best self?

Note to readers: I will be taking a sabbatical from blog writing during the next few months to refresh and renew. Best wishes to everyone for an enjoyable summer (or winter if you happen to be Down Under).

Are you a “tuner” or a “spinner?”

At first glance, “spinner” and “tuner” seem like another way of saying extrovert and introvert.

But the explanation of these terms offered by David Brooks, drawing on the work of Harvard Professor Cass Sunstein, offers fresh insights into these temperaments.

Brooks explains the distinction this way:l

“The spinner is the life of the party. The spinner is funny, socially adventurous and good at storytelling, even if he sometimes uses his wit to maintain distance from people.

“Spinners are great at hosting big parties.

“They’re hungry for social experiences and filled with daring and creativity. Instagram and Twitter are built for these people. If you’re friends with a spinner you’ll have a bunch of fun things to do even if you don’t remember them a week later.

“The tuner makes you feel known. The tuner is good at empathy and hungers for deep connection. The tuner may be bad at small talk, but in the middle of a deep conversation the tuner will ask those extra four or five questions, the way good listeners do.

“If you’re at a down time in your life, the spinners may suddenly make themselves scarce, but the tuners will show up. The tuners may retreat at big parties, but they’re great one-on-one over coffee. If you’re with a person and he’s deepened your friendship by revealing a vulnerable part of himself, you’re with a tuner….

“Now if you are looking for friends, the spinners are great. But my questions for the class are: If you’re looking for a life partner, should you go for your same type or your opposite? Should you marry someone who meets your strengths or fills your needs?

“My guess is that if you can’t find someone with both traits, marry a tuner, even if that gives your relationship a little extra drama.”

In Western culture extroverts are celebrated for their outgoing natures and large social networks.

Introverts, on the other hand, are often described as shy, “in a shell,” and even anti-social, qualities for which they are sometimes judged and even shamed.

As an introvert I often find myself explaining and even defending to extroverts (and sometimes even to introverts) the important qualities introverts bring to work settings, families, and friendships.

The notion of “spinners” and “tuners” adds another dimension to that explanation.

What is your experience with these two temperaments and how they are viewed by society and within your work and personal lives?

What are our “basic” needs?

As I have spent time in recent years listening to the life stories of individuals who were in hospice care I realized that their stories of resilience often had roots in the unmet needs of childhood.

Many of those needs clearly fit into Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” which began with the physiological requirements of life and continued with safety, love and belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization needs. (He later added cognitive, aesthetic, and transcendence needs to the list.)

But some of their stories revealed unmet “needs” that, while implied in Maslow’s hierarchy, are worthy of special emphasis:

• Being seen and known for who we really are,

• Feeling accepted and appreciated for those qualities, and

• Being treated with dignity and respect.

Because those needs emerge during our earliest years, they have important implications for schools.

Therefore, it is essential that principals and teachers:

• Create classrooms that ensure that all students are known, appreciated, and respected; and

• Establish school cultures that satisfy teachers’ needs in those areas because without such a culture young people are far less likely to have those needs met in their classrooms.

In your experience, what do people “need” to lead physically and emotionally healthy lives, and what roles do schools play in satisfying those needs?

What is your preferred style of conversation?

Most of us have one or two favorite styles of conversation.

1. Some people prefer fast-paced, serial monologues during which what each person says may or may not be linked with what the previous speaker said.

2. Other people like to recount the facts of their days.

3. Still others tell stories.

4. Some people prefer to ask questions.

5. Less common, in my experience, are people who prefer conversations in which they and others disclose important but often invisible things about themselves.

6. Even less common is a conversational approach in which speakers offer a point of view in the spirit of dialogue, not to convince others but to stimulate their thinking and to better understand their points of view. In short, to be influenced as well as to influence.

Style 1 seems ego based. Style 3 offers speakers a way to share experiences through compelling (hopefully) narratives that move beyond recitations of facts, while style 4 is driven by curiosity.

I personally find styles 5 and 6 the most engaging because they enable participants to move beneath surface appearances and understandings.

While resilient people are often skillful in blending styles (for instance, telling a story, asking an open and honest question, and seeking a deeper understanding through dialogue), most of us rely on one or two approaches.

Which style or styles of conversation do you prefer?

4 reasons why willpower is overrated

[O]ne of the easiest ways to conserve willpower is to make a behavior into a habit. When something is a habit, we don’t have to use self-control or make decisions; we’re on automatic pilot. I don’t use willpower to get up at 6:00 or to skip dessert or to post to my blog or to wear my seat-belt. Those are habits, so they happen without any conscious effort on my part. —Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin elaborates: “Some people say to me, ‘I want to learn to go through my day making healthy choices.’ And I answer, ‘No, you don’t!’ Every choice is an opportunity to make the wrong choice. Every choice is a struggle that requires willpower. Choose once, then stop choosing. Make important behaviors into habits, and save your willpower for complex, urgent, or novel situations.”

Many people believe that when they or others fail to achieve an important goal it is because of a lack of willpower. Or they believe that resilient people have more willpower than the rest of us.

But the effectiveness of willpower is vastly overrated. Here’s why:

1. Willpower is finite. That means that we can overwhelm its reserves when we try to achieve too many things that depend on it or to do any one thing that requires vast quantities of it.

2. The power of a compelling purpose can never be overestimated, particularly when that purpose is larger than self interest. Willpower doesn’t have a chance without such a purpose.

3. Habits and routines are in the long run far more effective in changing behavior. Once we have established a new habit or routine we no longer have to make a decision, as Rubin points out, which in combination with other such decisions, leads to willpower fatigue.

4. When willpower fails, as it inevitably does, we tend to attribute the problem to shortcomings and even to character flaws in ourselves and others.

What is your experience with the effectiveness of willpower in achieving important goals?

Our last good day

A hospice patient very near the end of her life after an extended illness told me that she regretted not having been aware of her last good day until it was well behind her.

That day went unnoticed because it was likely the same as many other days that also went unnoticed.

What she was sorting out for herself, I think, was that like most of us she had not really appreciated what she had until it was gone.

That conversation encouraged me to develop the habit of reflecting each day on the things for which I am grateful, a very simple exercise that draws my attention to the presence of many things I would otherwise take for granted.

Living in the moment with an awareness of appreciation requires vigilance and discipline.

Fortunately, when we drift away from the moment, as we inevitably do, each new moment is an opportunity to reclaim that awareness and gratitude.

What do you do, or might you do, to notice and appreciate the moments of your days?


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