Category rethinked*annex

What Might It Mean To Live and Learn To Change and For Change?

What Might It Mean To Live and Learn To Change and For Change? | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

{ FINAL ROUND OF THE RETHINKED*ANNEX PROJECT – APTITUDES FOR THE CONCEPTUAL AGE } 

It’s time to kick off the last stage of rethinked*annex: Aptitudes For the Conceptual Age. For those new to rethinked, rethinked*annex is a personal side project which I started two and a half years ago (already!) to see how some of the disciplines we have been focusing on in our team work could apply to the individual. The ultimate goal of our team is to rethink and engage with what it means to flourish as a human being in the twenty-first century—a modern take on an ancient question, what is the good life for man? We live in exciting times, a lot of the models and assumptions that upheld the status quo of old are crumbling in the face of accelerating change on all fronts–technological, medical, economic, etc. What does it mean to live and learn to change and for change? Our team has been exploring the possibilities of Design Thinking, Integrative Thinking and Positive Psychology to help us formulate some avenues into this but I felt strongly that the tools we used for our professional aims should also be useful in enhancing our personal every day lives.

And so the idea for rethinked*annex was born– a sort of experiment on living, learning and becoming, which I’ve documented on the blog. I’ve been following a pretty simple format: pick out a few books on the subject; play around with some of the big ideas; find ways to apply them to my every day life and then report back on the experiments.

I am now ready to think about the convergences between these three fields (Design Thinking, Integrative Thinking and Positive Psychology) and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. What skills, strengths and mindsets have come up in all three cycles of my experiment? I’ve narrowed it down to five core capacities, which kept coming up over and over: empathy, creativity, making the ordinary unknown (and the willingness to navigate and embrace it), play and courage (to own and deploy one’s voice). So for this last phase, I’ve (very unscientifically) picked out a few books that deal with these various dimensions.

{ BOOKLIST } 

{ BEYOND ME, MYSELF & I – NEW INTERVIEW SERIES }

One nagging insecurity I’ve had throughout this project has been how self-centered it ultimately is. I’ve been exploring what Design Thinking, Integrative Thinking and Positive Psychology might contribute to my every day life. Of course, the goal is that some of the insights and lessons I’ve learned along the way will transfer outside of my particular circumstances and be of some use to you, but at the end of the day, it’s my thoughts, my feelings, my life, my observations…me, me, me. I’m getting sick and tired of thinking and writing about myself.

I’ve decided it was time to find out how other individuals are grappling with the question(s) of what it means to live a good life. I recently made a list of people I admire–people whose work and ideas have moved me, disrupted my beliefs and assumptions, provoked me to think more deeply and awed me in some form or other. Some of them are friends and some are total strangers, they come from everywhere in terms of geography and fields of inquiry—artists, designers, philosophers, writers, even a midwife. I’ve started reaching out to see if they would be willing to answer a set of questions that touch upon some of the themes that have obsessed me for most of my life and crystalized during the rethinked*annex project. I am floored by the responses. I assumed I wouldn’t hear back from a lot of these people I was ‘cold-emailing,’ but right away, I received enthusiastic answers from total strangers whose work I have admired for years. I am filled with gratitude and excitement for this new phase of the project. You can look forward to seeing their answers published on rethinked over the course of the next few months, starting next week.

There’s a Martin Amis quote from his book Time’s Arrow, which I’ve probably shared about five times over the past three years. I’m sorry if you’re sick of seeing it but every few months, I have an experience that reminds me that these simple words ooze with truth when it comes to framing the “others:”

Mmm—people! It seems to me that you need a lot of courage, or a lot of something, to enter into others, into other people. We all think that everyone else lives in fortresses in fastnesses: behind moats, behind sheer walls studded with spikes and broken glass. But in fact we inhabit much punier structures. We are, it turns out, all jerry-built. Or not even. You can just stick your head under the flap of the tent and crawl right in. If you get the okay.

question & rethink …*

{ 2 Visual Rethinking Prompts } How Might We Empower More Young Female Voices & Create More Meaningful Assessment Rubrics …*

Here are two powerful images that popped up this month on our Facebook and Twitter feeds respectively. Each highlights a critical opportunity to rethink, which I hope will inspire you to iterate some ideas and solutions of your own.

question, empower & rethink …

{ 2 Visual Rethinking Prompts } How Might We Empower More Young Female Voices & Create More Meaningful Assessment Rubrics ...* | rethinked.org

Screen Shot of Get Lit’s Facebook Page

 

{ 2 Visual Rethinking Prompts } How Might We Empower More Young Female Voices & Create More Meaningful Assessment Rubrics ...* | rethinked.org

Screen Shot of a Tweet from Brad Ovenell-Carter

 

 

“Empathy is feeling into someone else” – Tiffany Shlain: What We Can Do Today To Rethink Our Potential …*

"Empathy is feeling into someone else" - Tiffany Shlain: What We Can Do Today To Rethink Our Potential ...* |rethinked.org

Screen Shot from Tiffany Shlain’s TED MED Talk, Summarizing our Unique Human Strengths …*

“Let’s do a little cross-disciplinary thinking right now. I want you to sit and I want you to think of your biggest challenge–everyone in this room, we’ve all got a challenge that we’re wrestling with–think of the three people that you’ve talked to about that challenge. Now I want you to try to think of three people in completely different areas that you could talk to about that problem. What would a car mechanic say? What would a biologist say? What about an artist? What about a child? How would they approach your problem? That’s cross-disciplinary thinking and the more you do it, and the more you think that way, the more it will just naturally come. And I think that we’re all talking about multi-tasking but we need to be talking about multi-perspectiving, which is not a word–so, multi-thinking. And how do we bring that more into our everyday challenges?” – Tiffany Shlain

In this inspiring and moving TED MED talk, filmmaker and rethinked …* favorite, Tiffany Shlain, examines some of the things we can each do today to rethink our human potential and evolve ourselves. Stressing the need for cross-displinary thinking and cultivating our unique human strengths, Shlain creates a compelling and hopeful portrait of the potential of humanity to connect as we transcend the challenges of the twenty-first century.

“We are connected to billions of people’s ideas and perspectives that we can cross-disciplinary think with. And when you get that kind of collision of different perspectives, that is when breakthroughs happen. It’s also when empathy happens. And empathy is another incredible thing that distinguishes us as humans, that even the most sophisticated machines can’t experience. I loved learning this when I was researching empathy–empathy is feeling into someone else. I love that: feeling into them. And I think that when you see someone struggling, you’re feeling into them and you want to help them, you want to change their experience. So it’s interesting to think about empathy leads to compassion, leads to action. We need more empathy and action in this world, right? We definitely need that. So how are we going to do that? And the good news is that it’s through stories, through listening to people, through sharing stories, that is the way that you feel empathy. And when you hear a story it activates all these different parts of your brain and also, what it does, is it adapts your thinking. When you hear a story it can change the way you think about something. It can also synchronize your mind with someone else when you tell a story. And we think of our brains as private, as the only truly private thing we have, but we forget that our brains are incredibly public. The brain is a communal organ, it is our window on the world and it’s what allows us to connect with the world and contribute to the world.”

“Fantasies Are For Dreaming, Ideas Are For Doing” Reframing Ideas As the Tools of Action …*

"Fantasies Are For Dreaming, Ideas Are For Doing" Reframing Ideas As the Tools of Action ...* | rethinked.org - Photograph: Elsa Fridman

“FANTASIES ARE FOR DREAMING, IDEAS ARE FOR DOING. START WITH A DREAM AND THEN FORMULATE IDEAS TO MAKE IT HAPPEN.”

-Kenny Rufino

I was quite struck by this quote because I always tend to think of ideas as being for dreaming rather than doing. I do realize how tied up this framework is to my own biases, of course ideas and action are tightly linked, but to me, and I think I am not alone in this, thinking and executing often feel like opposites and I sometimes struggle to find ways to bridge the distance between the two. I found the notion of ideas as tools for doing to be a powerful way to frame the process of creation, especially for people like me, who may feel quite comfortable thinking and a bit challenged acting on these ideas.

I also liked what Rufino had to say about failure:

“It can be tough. I’ve been around long enough to know it can be a blessing sometimes. Take advantage of getting knocked down. It’s the best opportunity you’ll ever get to rethink and reset.”

Source: Kenny Rufino via Neue Journal 

Positive Psychology Activities & Cultivating A Growth Mindset Are An Important Part of Living A Meaningful Life …*

At the end of each year, the folks of the Greater Good Science Center round up their favorite insights from the year’s scientific research on happiness, altruism, mindfulness and gratitude, what they group together as the “science of a meaningful life.” Having spent a good portion of 2014 exploring the science and activities of Positive Psychology through my rethinked*annex side project and fangirling over Carol Dweck and her work on the benefits of a growth mindset, I was particularly excited to see the two insights that positive psychology activities do have an impact on enhancing happiness and that a growth mindset is a key in growing our empathy muscle.

{ Activities from positive psychology don’t just make happy people happier—they can also help alleviate suffering } 

Research on positive psychology activities—like keeping a gratitude journal or regular meditation—has offered compelling evidence that it’s possible to cultivate happiness over time. What’s more, during the past year, we saw many different papers suggest that positive activities aren’t just for positive people, and that negative conditions aren’t just alleviated by targeting negative influences. Instead, nurturing positive skills can help pull people out of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. – Source: The Top 10 Insights From 2015

{ People with a “growth mindset” are more likely to overcome barriers to empathy }

According to a recent paper published in the Journal of Social Psychology, our beliefs about empathy are critical to fostering it. People primed to see empathy as a skill—in other words, people given a “growth mindset” about empathy, seeing it as something one can build through practice—were more likely to “stretch themselves to overcome their limitations.” Across all of their studies, they found that people who believe empathy can be developed expended greater effort in challenging contexts than did people who believe empathy cannot be developed, suggesting that our beliefs about ourselves are key to expanding empathy on both individual and societal levels. – Source: The Top 10 Insights From 2015 

You can read the rest of the curated scientific insights from 2014 on living the meaningful life here.

{ Start Walking } Rethinking Uncertainty …*

{ Start Walking } Rethinking Uncertainty ...* | rethinked.org

A few weeks ago, I shared a list of the top five things that walking 500 miles helped me understand in a deeper or different way. Here is a bit more context around the second lesson- start walking.

My biggest personal goal in walking the Camino Frances was to practice growing comfortable with uncertainty. My decision to walk the Camino had been very last minute and, frankly, when I set out I had no idea what I was doing (seriously– did you read my post about how it wasn’t until about 10 pm the night before I was setting out that I realized my sleeping bag wouldn’t fit in my pack?!), where I was going or how I would get there.

WHEN IN DOUBT, FIND A PLACE TO START & BEGIN 

Luckily for me, I got plenty of opportunities to practice being/thinking/doing uncertain. Each day was an unknown, which, of course, they always are, but the stakes felt a tiny bit higher when out on the road. Most days I didn’t know where I would end up or if I would find a place to sleep. I would just start walking and go from one yellow arrow to the next. I had bought a greatly detailed (if insufferably sentimental) guidebook and hoped it would get me to where I was going. It turns out however, that I didn’t even need the guidebook as there are yellow arrows pointing the way to Santiago all along the road. All I needed was to find the first arrow and go from there.

Picasso famously remarked, “To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing.” Drawing, walking, living–all require that one starts somewhere. Often, when we start, we don’t know what we will make, where we will go or whom we will become. We don’t know because we can’t know, because the acts of drawing, walking and living are transformative– we grow and change as we act. And while we may not know whom we will be at the end of our journey, we can be sure that we can make it the whole way one line/arrow/decision at a time.

BE AWARE OF HOW YOU FRAME UNCERTAINTY & RETHINK AS NEEDED

The second thing that I understood from my daily experiments in the uncertain, is that uncertainty is not an either-or proposition, it is a spectrum of options. This seems like an obvious statement, and perhaps it is to you, but whilst walking, I realized that I was unconsciously framing the idea of uncertainty as a highly reductive binary of what I could know, predict and affect versus utter catastrophe. It was a tremendously valuable insight as I realized that I hadn’t even been aware of how I was appraising the concept of uncertainty until I felt my unease and sense of impending doom relax and fade each time an unexpected outcome proved less than catastrophic (which they always did.)

Throughout my journey, I sometimes arrived in tiny towns where every last bed was occupied, but something always worked out–I slept on dusty mattresses on gym floors and wrestling mats in locker rooms. While neither of these options come close to my idea of an ideal place to sleep, I must say that those nights spent on gym floors were some of the best sleeps I had the entire journey and some of my fondest memories of laughs and bonding with fellow pilgrims. Not only was the uncertain and unexpected not catastrophic, it often proved delightful, better even than what I could have been certain of.

start, take a chance & rethink …*

{ Travel Lightly } Being Aware & Selective with What We Let In to Our Lives, Both Physically & Mentally …*

{ Travel Lightly } Being Aware & Selective with What We Let In to Our Lives, Both Physically & Mentally | rethinked.org

“All our worries are left here” – Rock found on the side of the road …*

A few weeks ago, I shared a list of the top five things that walking 500 miles helped me understand in a deeper or different way. Here is a bit more context around the first lesson- travel lightly.

It was not until the night before I was to set out for Santiago that I realized my sleeping bag would not fit in my pack. After spending a good hour trying various alternate packing arrangements and a panicked last minute phone call to my father, I decided to tie the sleeping bag on the exterior of my pack, which was already covered in extra stuff, “just in case.” I struggled a bit to get my pack on, stepped on the scale and discovered it was 14 kilos, well over the recommended five percent of one’s body weight. But caught up in a glowing feeling of victory after having managed to tie my sleeping bag (however precariously) to the outside of my pack, I felt quite sure the five percent recommendation did not apply to me.

Over the next two weeks, I hauled my absurdly heavy pack up and down mountains (some significantly larger and steeper than others). My collarbone bruised, my feet became swollen, and my back ached. I persevered until the fateful morning when I woke up to find that my feet had become so swollen that no amount of pushing and pulling would get them in my boots. Listening to the advice of new friends, I decided it was time to part with some of my stuff. I shipped ahead to my destination my sleeping bag (!) and some other things I hadn’t used. The moment I left the post office after having surrendered my gear, I immediately began to imagine worst case scenarios of myself shivering with cold while being devoured by the bed bugs which were rumored to be found all along the Camino. What happened for the rest of my trip truly surprised me—I was not cold and I did not get bitten by a single bed bug. Everywhere I stayed, the people running the Albergues (pilgrim hostels) lent me blankets. One night, the person sleeping on the bunk below mine caught bed bugs, but somehow, even without my permethrin treated sleeping bag, I emerged bug free.

{ CAN I AFFORD TO CARRY THIS EXTRA WEIGHT AROUND WITH ME? }

A few weeks after shipping my sleeping bag, I had dinner with a lovely man who was also walking to Santiago, an Australian sculptor in his seventies. We talked about various aspects of the experience we were sharing and he asked me how I dealt with the never ending snoring in the Albergues. He admitted that he sometimes would get aggravated by the snoring and shared with me a mental trick he used to deal with negative feelings as they crept up. He imagined each negative feeling as a weight, some weighed 400g, some 200g, some a kilo. Each time he felt annoyed about something, he asked himself if he could afford to carry this additional weight around with him. More often than not the answer was no.

I loved this little mental trick to let go of negative emotions, and I have practiced it often since learning about it. It has had two main effects; the first is that I simply let go of petty annoyances. The second benefit of this new method, is that if I find myself carrying the extra weight of anger or resentment and I cannot seem to just shed it on my own, I now feel much more inclined to speak up and resolve the issue rather than steam quietly. Either I drop it or I address it, but I’ve understood that I can’t afford (neither do I want to) carry superfluous weight on this journey.

{ TRAVELING LIGHTLY = LIVING DELIBERATELY } 

There’s a quote from Jonathan Harris that I love and which I’ve previously shared here on rethinked:

“We have these brief lives, and our only real choice is how we will fill them. Your attention is precious. Don’t squander it. Don’t throw it away. Don’t let companies and products steal it from you. Don’t let advertisers trick you into lusting after things you don’t need. Don’t let the media convince you to covet the lives of celebrities. Own your attention — it’s all you really have.” 

Walking 500 miles helped me understand these words in a new–or perhaps simply more immediate–sort of way. Our attention and our physical capacities are limited. It may sound a bit trite, cliché to the point of banality even, but it’s an unavoidable characteristic of our human condition. We can only carry so much, both on our backs and in our heads. The wonderful thing about being human however, is that once our basic needs are met, we have the freedom to choose what we will carry. Some of us may not realize that we have the agency to choose what we carry, and too often, even if we are aware of our power in owning our attention, we forget about it and get swept up in squandering it on things and emotions that do not help us thrive and flourish.

Travelling lightly then, to me at least, means living deliberately; it means being aware of and selective with what we let in to our lives, both physically and mentally.

5 Things I Understood While Walking 500 Miles …*

5 Things I Understood While Walking 500 Miles ...* | rethinked.org

It has now been nearly a month since I reached Santiago. Since ending this bit of my journey, I have spent the past few weeks attempting to digest the experience and reflect on some of the things I understood during my walk, which I hope to translate into daily habits and behaviors in my life and work moving forward. I’ll write a longer post about each of these five reflections in the coming weeks to provide some context and, hopefully, avenues for further exploration. There’s nothing truly groundbreaking about these observations, in fact they are things that I have been thinking and writing about often on the blog. This is why I am using the term ‘understood’, rather than learned, because these reflections are things I’ve learned a long time ago, but the beauty of the walking and thinking combination, is that it gives one a different kind of understanding of previous knowledge. Without further ado, here is what walking 500 miles has helped me to understand differently and more deeply.

 “My thoughts go to sleep unless they and I wander.” – Montaigne

*

T r a v e l   L i g h t l y – One can only carry so much

*

S t a r t   W a l k i n g – You can make the whole journey one step/arrow at a time and besides, in the end, the best part is not knowing where you’re going or how you’re going to get there

*

B e   O p e n –  To Yourself, Others & the Unknown – You don’t need to travel far to unhouse yourself

*

S t a n d   B y   Y o u r   C h o i c e s – When the going gets tough, lean into the discomfort, after all, you’re the one that chose to put yourself in this situation

*

G r o w   I n   P e a c e – Transformation, it turns out, is astonishingly banal

*

{ Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage, Blisters & Permethrin } A More Nomadic Iteration of rethinked …*

{ Liszt's Années de Pèlerinage, Blisters & Permethrin } A More Nomadic Iteration of rethinked ...*  |rethinked.org

“My dream is to walk around the world. A smallish backpack, all essentials neatly in place. A camera. A notebook. A traveling paint set. A hat. Good shoes. A nice pleated (green?) skirt for the occasional seaside hotel afternoon dance.” – Maira Kalman

Kaixo (“hello” in Basque), rethinkers *

We’ve gone silent on the blog rather abruptly these past few weeks and an update is long overdue. If it is any excuse, the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of preparations for a long journey and an updated more nomadic version of rethinked * 

A couple weeks ago, as we got together to dream and discuss the next iteration of rethinked * we decided it was time to get hard about living out the * ideals. From its very beginning, rethinked * has been grounded around several core principles–among them: smallness, w[o/a]nder and Δ– which we have aimed to explore and express as both dreams and questions in our work, lives and learning. This year, we decided to really push what it might mean to fully live out these principles. Which brings us to the Basque country, from which I am now writing this post.

I am taking rethinked * on the road and living out, in a very literal way–think rethinked*annex on steroids–many of the things we have been thinking and writing about these past two years (from the fascinating link between action and imagination; the connection between movement and creativitythe human impulse to w[o/a]nder; the function of changing environments in keeping us active thinkers; trusting in the processbeing in the world as a knowmad; traveling lightly and thriving within our individual tensions and contradictionstransformation processesdealing with the fear of change; our innate restlessness and embracing the spiritual aspect of walking). It is time to balance out our intellectual exploration of these ideas with a more emotional understanding of what all these things might mean.

After spending the past two weeks geeking out at REI; saying goodbye to friends in New York; watching YouTube videos on the proper way to apply permethrin to gear; packing my backpack, trying to lift it, stumbling around hunched over, taking stuff out only to put it back in an hour later; downloading four different versions of Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage (I bought Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage at JFK, devoured it on my flight over and decided last night, in the midst of a bout of jet lag induced insomnia, that I absolutely must have the full set, in multiple versions, to listen to over the next few months) and giving myself a blister from writing down (hoarding) poems and quotes to take with me–all the while seeping in all sorts of existential questions–I am finally ready. Or as ready as I’m likely to ever be. Tomorrow, I will set out on the Camino Francés from Saint-Jean-Pied-De-Port and walk my way across Northern Spain to (hopefully) reach Santiago.

I will not be writing on the blog for the next two months although I will be taking with me a journal and a space pen, which, as its name suggests, allows one to write in every imaginable condition, space included. So the blog won’t be updated daily, but you can look forward to a couple posts from my teammates each week.

Finally, if you’re in Europe and would like to meet up to share ideas, food and moments, get in touch – elsa@rethinked.org –I will have some free time the last two weeks of October and would love to check out the intriguing projects and questions you’re exploring.

get lost & rethink …* 

Rethinking “Someday” – On Courage & Letting Go …*

Rethinking "Someday" & Making Room For Flow ...* | rethinked.org

“About six months ago, I sat down and wrote some really audacious lists: one was Dream Mentors; another was People with Awesome Mystical Powers; another was Stuff I’d Like to Do Before I Die; and the last was Stuff I’d Like to Do Someday. On my dream mentor list, I had a mutual connection to one of the people, so I emailed her. For the mystical powers people, I wrote a cold email to four of them to ask if they’d like to do a weekly call with me for accountability and support. On the things I’d like to do before I die list, I created a plan. I literally backed my way into how to make those things happen. I put the things I’d like to do someday into a pile and threw them away, because who has time for someday? The very next day I heard from my dream mentor and we went out to lunch a week later. I don’t think people realize how close at hand their dream mentors can be.” – Elle Luna

Over the course of this past week, for National Simplify Your Life Week, I have been using the quote above by Elle Luna as a sort of compass for simplifying my time and my things. I went through my closets and let go of all those “just in case” items that I never use but feel an irrational need to hold on to because someday, in some improbable situation, I may need them. In the great, wise words of Elle, who has time for someday? So off they go to the Salvation Army where hopefully someone will be able to make use of them now, today. Conversely, I looked at some of the things I’ve been wanting to do but have felt “not enough” to begin–not enough time, ability, resources, knowledge, courage–all those things I’ve been dreaming about and saving for someday when I’d feel enough to start. I let go of most of the items on my “someday” list, but there were a couple dreams and projects on there, which when I considered abandoning, made me feel heartbroken. I took this as a cue for action and transferred them to the ‘things I’d like to do before I die” list. I am now in the process of backing my way into making these things happen. Step one, I decided, was to eliminate the many ways in which I mindlessly spend my time, those default activities utterly devoid of intent, flow or growth. 

I’ve decided to go a month with no TV watching. I don’t own a TV but between iTunes, Amazon Instant, Hulu and Netflix, I spend an ungodly amount of time watching bad TV shows. I’ve canceled my Hulu and Netflix memberships (did I ever really need both?!). 

I’ve gotten rid of email on my phone. Instead of having a constant stream of interruptions throughout the day popping up on my screen I’m going to allot two chunks of time for email, one in the morning, one in the evening. 

I’m also going to try going a month without using Internet at home. Given that some days I work from home, I think this one might be the toughest, but it will be a good excuse to get out of the house. I’d like for home to feel more like a sanctuary, a space and time to focus on passion projects with calm and intent.

I’ll see after a month if these are habits I want to shed for good. I think it is likely that I will, but after years of running experiments on myself, I have learned that I need to break down change into small, achievable steps if I want to follow through.

What have you been doing to simplify your life? Any good tips? Let me know …* 

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