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[rethinking Purpose & Passion]: multipotentiality vs. one true calling… *

rethinking passion…*

Last year, both Elsa and I wrote about rethinking passion [here and here]. I argued that childhood should be about exploration, rather than passion. I also cited the importance of hard work, setbacks, and struggles in developing passion. Similarly, Elsa spoke of shifting from a “passion” mindset to a “craftman’s” mindset, which she describes as “a relentless focus on activating one’s unique potential by continually pushing to develop one’s skills and acquire new ones” A craftsman mindset involves deliberate practice of valuable skills.

what is purpose?…*

This year, rethinkED…* has been thinking about purpose and how to instill purpose in students. Yet what is purpose? Personally, I argue against the notion of pushing students to define one unified purpose for their lives. Instead, I believe we should cultivate multiple purposes and overall purposefulness in our students. Rather than having just one purpose, do with purpose.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?…*

Especially in today’s society, it seems rather rare to have just one passion. With this in mind, I was enthralled by a recent TED talk by Emilie Wapnick, a career coach who speaks to those without “one true calling.” Recollecting the overwhelming anxiety of the question “what do you want to be when you grow up,” she explains that it is not that students have no interest but rather than they sometimes have too many. She says that,

“while this question inspires kids to dream about what they could be, it does not inspire them to dream about all that they could be”

This question is part of the overall societal pressure we place upon children to pick one thing, to choose which of the things that they love and make a career out of it. She continues,

“The notion of the narrowly focused life is highly romanticized in our culture. It’s this idea of destiny or the one true calling, the idea that we each have one great thing we are meant to do during our time on this earth, and you need to figure out what that thing is and devote your life to it.”

However, we leave many, many people out of this narrative. People who do many wonderful things across their lives, who have many things they are curious about and many different things that they want to do. People she calls multipotentialites.

MULTIPOTENTIALITES…*

She defines multipotentialites as those with many pursuits, the modern-day “Renaissance” men (and women). Rather than thinking of this flitting from interest to interest as a limitation, Emilie cites three super powers that multipotentialites can possess:

  1. Idea synthesis- Combining two or more fields and finding something new and exciting at the intersection. Innovation happens at these intersections.
  2. Rapid learning- Multipotentialites are comfortable at being beginners or “accomplished novices”.
  3. Adaptability- With many skills, you can morph into whatever you need to be in a given situation.

She states that there are many complex, multidimensional world problems that need solving right now, and the ideal team for such problems is a specialist and a multipotentialite paired together. She concludes by stating

“…embrace your many passions. Follow your curiosity down those rabbit holes. Explore your intersections. Embracing our inner wiring leads to a happier, more authentic life. And perhaps more importantly — multipotentialites, the world needs us.”

ARGUMENT AGAINST THE MULTIPOTENTIALITE..*

Overall, Emilie does not advocate for one path through life but rather believes that we should support individuals who aim for breadth (multipotentialites) as much as we support individuals who aim for depth (specialists). This fits with the idea of exploration alongside passion.

However, one criticism that could be put upon Emilie’s argument is that most students would rather be multipotentialites, flitting from interest to interest, rather than dig in and put hard work into one specific thing. In terms of grit and deliberate practice, it is far easier to shift gears when something gets hard or tedious. In terms of success, research suggests that being gritty and putting in the work is very important.

Purposeful, gritty pursuit of multiple passions…*

Instead, I would argue that the ideal falls somewhere in the middle. We should encourage students to pursue multiple passions, but we should also discourage students from straying from an interest when it simply becomes too challenging. Further, in order to use the “idea synthesis” superpower, students must actively reflect on the themes and ways in which their various interests connect. I am passionate about education research and studio art. I can cultivate these two passions simultaneously. More importantly, I seek inspiration from my artwork in my research. I seek respite from the intellectual rigor of school in the flow state I get when painting. I integrate the two when I design research studies and develop compelling presentations. My overall philosophy on life, truth, and knowledge is inextricably tied to the meaning I’ve distilled from these pursuits.

Your life does not need to be played on a single instrument. Yet only through hard work will you play any one instrument well. And only through learning how to combine the sounds of each together in harmony can you create a symphony…* 

 

“Gratitude is the antidote to fear” – Our Interview With Mario Marchese, Magician …*

"Gratitude is the antidote to fear." - Our Interview With Mario Marchese, Magician ...* | rethinked.org - Photo Credit: David Schloss

Mario the Magician – photo credit: David Schloss

I first discovered Mario and his delightful take on magic by serendipitously watching a short video (now turned into a full length documentary) on his approach to magic. What really struck me about Mario, a self-described, “wandering traveler turned maker/magician,” is the level of artistry and invention that goes into each of his magic tricks. Mario is a true craftsman of magic, deriving pride and joy in creating his own clever and delightful contraptions. If you’re in or around NYC, you can book Mario to come enchant and awe your children with his uplifting, inventive, and highly interactive program for ages 4 to 10. And now, for everyone, here is Mario’s interview –the perfect way to infuse a hefty dose of wonder, gratitude and whimsy into your Friday and kick off the weekend on a magical note. Connect with Mario @MarioMagician.

WHAT WAS THE LAST EXPERIMENT YOU RAN?

I was trying to build an Easter egg finder. I found out that an Arduino micro controller can transmit an AM radio signal around 800Kz. Arduino has become a worldwide go-to tool for experimenting with electronics, and it’s super cheap. I had an idea to make an antenna contraption for kids, with analog gauges that swing like crazy when in proximity of a hidden Easter egg. I managed to squeeze the little transmitter into a plastic egg, but the receiver part was tricky. AM radio waves can get interference pretty easily. I tried to build a super simple receiver that would only pick up the specific station the Arduino transmitted. It was tough! Long story short, I ended up buying a children’s AM radio kit and replaced the tuning capacitor with a fixed one. I added little analog gauges from a 1980’s stereo and they swung around like crazy! It did work, though not as strong as I intended, and I didn’t make it in time for Easter Sunday. Ah well – next year!

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT YOU FEAR AND HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR FEAR?

Keeping my fear in control has been a major focus of mine over the past few years. Starting a family really brings life into full circle. I had to rewire my brain after my first child was born. You know, I spent my twenties breaking every rule I possibly could, and now in my thirties, I spend all my time trying to remember how to follow them again. Reviving the faith of my childhood has been the best life decision I’ve made. Faith in God, Christ, Universe. Because everything we see with our eyes is temporary. People will let you down, always. But people are imperfect for a reason. Innovation succeeds because of imperfection. We are at our best in the midst of crisis and fear. Running away from fear, I fail. Dwelling in my fear, I fail. In hard times, dwelling on things that I’m grateful for changes the direction of my fears. Gratitude is the antidote to fear.

WHAT BREAKS AND DELIGHTS YOUR HEART? IN OTHER WORDS, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN AND SURRENDER TO? 

Being out in the middle of America somewhere, lost in an antique indoor flea market, with 500 dollars cash in my pocket, holding my wife’s hand. In a parking lot at some small town classic car show. Chatting it up with some old man who rebuilt a VW beetle into a custom street machine, all from scratch. Holding my daughter up into the sunlight, swinging her as a street performer is playing his guitar on a Sunday afternoon. When I am about to perform a magic show, squished in a living room in Tribeca. These things delight my heart.

I surrender to the moment. I am most at peace when I have all my tools around my 1967 Bradley GT, and it’s NOT running. When I have pieces on the floor, not knowing why it’s not working. Why do I feel peace when I “should” be stressed? There is something that excites me in this situation. My scattered tools become cold water on a hot day. My unsolved problem, a meal that I take my time eating. It’s a form of meditation that gives me purpose. I surrender to unsolved problems, ones that will lead me to create something that might not yet exist in the world.

CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT A TRANSFORMATIONAL MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?

Being on Sesame Street. But before that… I overheard someone once after a magic show say that I was all hype and no show. It destroyed me. I went home broken. It really stung. I took that and spent two years building my own magic tricks. Using custom electronics, 3d printing, cigar boxes, cardboard, tape, hot glue, bottle caps, etc… Now I am still learning, but at least I didn’t give up. I took something that gave me a lot of fear, and turned it around. And that became me. It became my niche. My handmade props, my original routines and my integration of electronics into my art have started to bring me places I never imagined.

 WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE?

Living in truth. Truth with all your senses. Love. When you receive love it makes you feel supernatural. To love when you receive hate. Love when you receive hurt. Love when you feel cheated. Love when others have more than you. Letting go. Distinguishing what to let go. I know which are my greatest projects… the ones I was able to let go of at the end of the day. I could work through the night, but I wouldn’t be giving it my best. Not spreading yourself too thin. Focusing. Find what makes you lose sleep because you love it so much. Live in that. And grace. Always thinking the best of people. Doing unto others what you would want done to yourself. We forget this rule so much. I know I do – every time I’m driving on the West Side Highway in Manhattan! Haha!

 COULD YOU SHARE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE ABOUT THE ART OF BEING HUMAN?

I have a seven month old son named Bear Gideon. He is the happiest child I have ever seen. We put him on a swing at the park recently. He is really chubby and big for his age. He sat back on the chair like a chubby Buddha giggling as our daughter Gigi pushed him. I watched Gigi push him gently as he giggled more and more. Gigi and Bear live the art of being human. I’m looked at my wife, Katie, and thought, “Damn. We created these little creatures, and now they are entertaining themselves.” I think the art of being human is sacrifice. I honor great leaders who chose to really give rather than receive. I believe without any doubt that Jesus, this homeless man from a small town, died for humanity, then rose from the dead and disrupted everything. I believe Buddha has reincarnated many times. What am I trying to say? Katie and I have chosen a path to have and raise children. This is the most sacrificing decision we have ever made. I chose this path because I believe I have come across something great. A wife that completes me. A career that makes children laugh and believe in new things. I surrendered the idea of being the next Lance Burton or David Copperfield years ago. I loved magic so much that I started taking kids’ shows from other magicians who didn’t want them. Children’s magic is so often looked upon as secondary entertainment. Two years after that decision, we started paying our rent just doing magic. It wasn’t until then that I started realizing that the very thing I was running away from was the thing I was made to do. I LOVE performing for kids. I LOVE it.

WHAT IS YOUR DRIVING QUESTION?

What will I make next week? How will I make it?

 ANY BOOKS OR MOVIES YOU RECOMMEND? 

Benny and Joon. Chaplin’s The Circus. YouTube videos of The Great Ballentine, George Carl, Steve Martin on Johnny Carson, Tommy Cooper.

. . . *

THANK YOU, MARIO!

Rethink { Passion }: Elusive, Idealized, & Obsessed

Having a Passion

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to “have a passion,” and why our society values this so much. As I talked about in my recent post about the construct of “grit”, grit is a character strength defined by passion and perseverance of long term goals. People with grit have sustained passion for one thing and stick to it. Research indicates that people with grit succeed in life, both professionally and academically.

Yet are we jumping on the grit wagon a bit too enthusiastically, at the expense of exploration?

passion

http://goldengatebpo.com/blog/passion-in-the-workplace/

Passion versus exploration

In a NY Times article last month entitled Our Push for ‘Passion,’ and Why It Harms Kids, Lisa Heffernan discusses this strange new notion that, by high school, a child must “have a passion that is deep, easy to articulate, well documented and makes him stand out from the crown“. She jokes that this must happen before he begins his Common App, and anyone who has applied to college recently or helped another do so is awake of this phenomenon. As Heffernan states,

This passion, which he will either stumble upon or be led to by the caring adults in his life, must be pursued at the highest level his time and talent, and his parent’s finances, will allow… This is madness.

She warns that the obsession with seeking a passion comes with costs. Children latch onto “passions” that are not really things they enjoy simply to be able to proclaim one. They feel lost and pressured to find their “one thing” early on. If we are laser-focused on finding one thing our students are good at and then push them to pursue it doggedly, they may miss out on other things they are perhaps more suited to or enjoy more. Childhood is about exploration. As Heffernan concludes,

…childhood isn’t about passion, but rather about exploration. Our job… is to nurture that exploration, not put an end to it. When we create an expectation that children must find their one true interest so early in life, we cut short a process of discovery that may easily take a lifetime.

In some ways, the exploration that Heffernan prescribes is antithetical to grit. However, I’d argue that grit is great, once you find something you want to be gritty at. However, we can’t push young students to latch on so quickly, and sometimes it IS more sensible to quit rather than to doggedly pursue.

Find-your-passion

http://idealistcareers.org/category/job-search/find-your-passion/

 

Passion requires struggle

Evidencing the harm that societal pressure towards passion can cause, in a NYMag Ask Polly column last week, Polly assuages a 25-year-old woman’s fear that she does not yet have a passion. The writer calls herself “Life Is Buffering” and worries that she lacks an anchor in life.

Polly takes a different approach to the obsession of passion, explaining that children in the upper middle class who have been coddled by their parents and lived very fortunate lives often have known no struggle. Yet passion is not born from the easy life. She explains,

Passion comes from hard work. Passion bubbles up from intense, sometimes tedious labor. Passion floats in when you’re exhausted from doing something by yourself, for yourself, just to survive… Passion arrives when you stop seeing men and babies as a kind of solution to not having enough passion. Passion materializes once you give up hope and then you’re just sitting there, without hope, and you think, I might as well do something. I have to pay the bills some way, don’t I? 

Polly reminds us that passion is not “something that descends like magic at cocktail hour, when all the work is done.” It is instead an uphill battle through thankless work and setbacks and struggles. 

Moreover, it is okay to not yet know exactly what you want to do. Part of the struggle is defining that purpose. As Polly concludes,

Those people with the biggest question marks are usually the ones with the most passion of all.

Passion: Elusive, Idealized, & Obsessed

Overall, I believe that “finding a passion” is a bit idealized in our society. Moreover, for upper class students who’s parents and teachers are trying to give them every advantage in life, finding a passion can be a bit of a contradiction. Passion is not something you can be spoon fed, and it is not something that should be a item on your checklist for college acceptance. It is born from struggle and hard work, it takes time to develop, and it’s okay if you haven’t figured yours out yet.

This – of course – goes back to my obsession with failure. If we want our students to develop passions, we need to put them in situations where they can fail. We need to take them out of their comfort zones and into contexts where they will struggle. We need to let them explore and remove the expectations and pressures to zero in on one thing so early on. We must rethink what it means to be passionate, why we value it so much, and how to instill passion in our students without smothering them with the label.

{ Playwork & Adventure Playgrounds } Places of Psychological Safety & Calculated Risk That Empower Children Through Play …*

{ Playwork & Adventure Playgrounds } Places of Psychological Safety & Calculated Risk That Empower Children Through Play ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

 

“Think of an adventure playground as an urban countryside, where children can experience all sorts of play that they might have only with great difficulty in the city. Its adult designers should examine the environment around it and compensate for the deficits. If children have no access to trees, then work with them to build something they can climb. (When asked what the big structures were for on his adventure playground, Bob Hughes said, “They are for trees.”) 
An adventure playground should be in a constant process of change, directed, informed, and executed by the children and their playing and supported by the play workers. It is a space that allows for all the different types of play to be discovered by children. It is a place of psychological safety and calculated risk. 
It may be helpful to think of an adventure playground as a Gesamtkunstwerk, or “total artwork,” a space and time where all one’s senses are engaged.  – Penny Wilson, The Playwork Primer 

 

We are in the midst of a play crisis. Recess keeps getting shorter if it’s not cut out all together in schools across the country, while children’s free time outside of school is increasingly scheduled and managed around various ‘enrichment’ programs and activities. Yet, years of psychology and cognition research as well as personal experience from our own lives and childhoods, make clear the importance of unstructured free time and scaffolded risk-taking for children’s growth, confidence-building and cultivating grit to name just a few of the vast emotional, physical and mental benefits of free play. Which makes the The Land, a new documentary by Erin Davis on “an endengered human behavior: risky play” all the more relevant. The Land, which recently premiered at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, explores a Welsh adventure playground where children are allowed and encouraged to play with fire, build and break things, get their hands dirty and maybe skin their knees…you know, be kids.

The Land (2015) is a short documentary film about the nature of play, risk and hazard set in The Land, a Welsh “adventure” playground.  At The Land children climb trees, light fires and use hammers and nails in a play-space rooted in the belief that kids are empowered when they learn to manage risks on their own.

The documentary highights a growing movement, Playwork, which aims to create a paradigm shift and turn play into something that we take more seriously.

Playwork is a practice and a profession that removes barriers to children’s play.  It has a decades long history in Europe and a hearty library of fascinating theory. Playworkers make adventure play possible.

To create an adventure playground in your own community and learn more about the theory and history and the playwork movement, check out Penny Wilson’s The Playwork Primer and Pop-Up Adventure‘s Pop-Up Play Shop Toolkit –  a workbook designed to help you transform an empty storefront into a thriving community play space.

play & rethink …*

The Importance of Playing With Fire (Literally) from Play Free Movie on Vimeo.

When asked what she hopes people will take away from the documentary, director Erin Davis answers:

Landscape matters. Access to the elements matters: trees, water, fire. Agency and empowerment matter. Variety and change in a playspace matters. The Land, and places like it, push the envelope of what is possible. 

I also simply hope people leave the film excited to interact with the children in their lives in a new way. A way that is bold, compassionate and enriching for both the child and the adult. 

Source: Inside a European Adventure Playground

Finding Inspiration In A Tiny Radical Act of Rethinking …*

Finding Inspiration In A Tiny Radical Act of Rethinking ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

This Tuesday, on the corner of 16th and 7th, I found fully deployed that yet unnamed cluster of capacities that animates the rethinker * A dynamic mix of courage, hope, curiosity, grit, and childlike wonder. It came in the form of a woman wearing a Post Office uniform. She was walking a few steps ahead of me, each of us braced against the strong gusts of wind blowing down Seventh Avenue. Right as we reached the corner, she bent down to pick up and examine a discarded lottery ticket that was blowing down the street.

I was struck by that tiny act, which to me encapsulates the essential impulse of rethinking…* What are the chances that someone would get a winning lottery ticket and throw it away or lose it? It seems the odds would be lesser still than actually getting a winning lottery ticket. Yet she picked it up in a glorious leap of faith, a radical act of rebellion against the status quo. In that tiny action was an infinite and definitive stand against believing that things will be as they have always been, that they should be as they are. Probably not, but what if? Fortune could be found floating on the corner along with the plastic bags and other detritus of the city. You won’t know unless you check.

R E T H I N K  . . . *

How Might We Ensure That Our Young People Thrive Rather Than Becoming Just Part of a Credentialing System?

“I remember David Levin, one of the founders of the KIPP charter schools in the United States and a co-founder of The Character Lab talk about dual-purpose teaching: the idea that you can teach “character skills” such as grit, optimism and self-control while one teaches disciplinary subject matter. Great teachers do this naturally. Most of us just have to plan more intentionally to foster good character simultaneously as we develop our students’ academic capacities. He represented this dual-purpose teaching as a double-helix, a double-helix that has become part of the icon of IPEN.

As we continue to work on implementing strategies and cultural experiences within our schools that have people develop character skills, I think it is a multi-purposed approach. We need to suffuse “character thinking” throughout schools. We need to change our school missions to explicitly focus on the development of character skills. Faculty members need to model these strengths in their own lives and their school lives. We need to understand how small moments and interactions, micro-moments, have such strong potential for learning about character, and we need to look at the system of school, the macro-structures, that support or diminish a focus on character skills development. This is important work. It is work that we have all done, but it demands more intentional focus and attention within all of our schools.”

Dominic Randolph

This excerpt is taken from a recent article, Butter Late Than Never, that Dominic wrote for IPEN (International Positive Psychology Network). In the article, Dominic raises three critical “how might we” challenges that we should all be keeping front and center as we collectively rethink learning for the 21st century:

How can we ensure that our young people thrive rather than becoming just part of a credentialing system?

. . . *

How might we develop a sense of permission in our students that allow them to develop as engaged and motivated learners? 

. . . *

How might we reframe challenge positively for young people and have them understand that positive challenges lead to expertise, purpose and meaning? 

. . . *

{ Keep Going } The First Rule of Anything Creative: Forgive Yourself For the Horror of the First Draft …*

Here’s a little creative inspiration for your Tuesday in the form of this lovely animation from The School of Life on the need to overcome “the horror of the first draft” and just keep putting in the work to slowly bridge the gap between our vision and what we are producing.

This video reminded me of Ira Glass’s advice:

“Nobody tells people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me, is that all of us who do creative work, you know we get into it, and we get into it because we have good taste. But there’s a gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great, it’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean? A lot of people never get past that phase, a lot of people at that point they quit. And the thing I would just like to say to you with all my heart, is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. It didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have. And the thing what to do is everybody goes through that. And for you to go through it, if you’re going through it now, if you’re just getting out of that phase, you’ve got to know it’s totally normal and the most important possible thing you can do, is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you’re actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions. In my case, I took longer to figure out how to do this than anybody I’ve ever met. It takes a while. It’s going to take you a while. It’s normal to take a while and you just have to fight your way through that, ok?

– Ira Glass

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

rethink, work, create …*

{ Testing Commitment Contracts } [Mis]Adventures in Motivation, Integrity & Anti-Charities …*

{ Testing Commitment Contracts } [Mis]Adventures in Motivation, Integrity & Anti-Charities ...* |rethinked.org

stickK.com homepage screen shot

Sometime last month, I read an article in the New York Times about StickK–an “online Commitment Store,” which helps you set and achieve your goals by enabling you to create a commitment contract with yourself.

The Commitment Contract concept is based on two well known principles of behavioral economics:

1.People don’t always do what they claim they want to do, and
2.Incentives get people to do things

[ …]

A Commitment Contract is a binding agreement you sign with yourself to ensure that you follow through with your intentions—and it does this by utilizing the psychological power of loss aversion and accountability to drive behavior change.
By asking our users to sign Commitment Contracts, stickK helps users define their goal (whatever it may be), acknowledge what it’ll take to accomplish it, and leverage the power of putting money on the line to turn that goal into a reality.

I was intrigued by the idea and since my last mostly self-devised motivation strategy (eating one (or several) donuts as a reward for each time I went running) had completely backfired and turned me into a bona fide sugar addict, I decided to give StickK a try. The service is very simple to use– you create an account on StickK.com; select a commitment; decide how much money you will pay each week if you fail to fulfill your commitment; select either a charity or anti-charity for your money to be donated to; add friends to your network of supporters and are given the option of nominating a referee to report your progress. A referee is someone who will report whether you have indeed fulfilled your commitment each week, but since I couldn’t think of who could reliably vouch for me, I opted to self-report on the honor system. Finally, you pick a day of the week to report whether you’ve met your goal for that reporting period and each week StickK sends you an email prompt to remind you to report your performance. That’s pretty much it, all that’s left is to actually go out and fulfill your commitment.

You can set as many commitments as you like but I decided to try this out with a single goal: to exercise three times a week. I like this goal, it’s achievable, has big payoffs for mental, emotional and physical well-being but it’s also one of those things that I tend to forgo when I feel stressed or overwhelmed by other commitments. I figured StickK would help me reframe this goal as a top priority and give me the little nudge I needed to transform this goal into a lifelong habit. I selected an anti-charity that I despise and set my weekly fee at $10. It’s not much, but the thought of giving so much as a penny to this organization makes my skin crawl with disgust.

It all went well for the first two weeks, and riding the high of new resolve, I fulfilled my weekly commitment with gusto. It all went well, until it didn’t, and I failed to meet my goal one particularly busy week. Sunday afternoon (my reporting day) arrived and I realized with horror that I had only exercised once that week. All those “tomorrows” on which I’d promised myself to exercise had flown by unnoticed and I hadn’t fulfilled my commitment. I considered exercising twice that day. And yes, I considered lying. What if I said I’d met my goal, and then promised myself to exercise six times next week and never again mess up? What would be worse? Lying or donating to this organization that stands so directly against what I believe in and value. This wouldn’t be a big lie, no one would be harmed by it and in fact no one would ever know that I lied, other than me. The problem with integrity, of course, is that you can’t opt out when doing the right thing is inconvenient. After having spent most of the day going over this, (time I probably could have used to exercise twice…however shady a strategy that may have been), I finally decided I wouldn’t lie on my report, it just felt too dishonest. And so I reported that I had failed and $10 went to that dreadful organization.

I felt guilty and disgusted with the idea that I had donated to this organization, and in an effort to assuage my guilt, I donated another $50 to the counter charity. Bringing my total that week for not exercising to $60 on top of my regular gym membership, plus about three hours of my Sunday trying to do mental (moral) gymnastics over how to resolve this issue, plus–and by far the heaviest cost–the sense that I had really let myself down. It wasn’t so much that I hadn’t fulfilled my commitment–I’m convinced exercise is good for me physically, mentally and emotionally and I hold it as a value, but I’m also not a fanatic about it and missing two work-outs is not catastrophic by any means. What made me feel really disappointed was the idea that I donated to this anti-charity even though avoiding that ‘punishment’ was really quite simple and only required exercising three times a week. Yet, that week, I somehow didn’t make what I value and believe in a priority, and as a result, I gave money to a cause I find abhorrent. It wasn’t the missed exercise, it was the ethical dissonance between what I believe in and my failure to act on it that I found crushing.

This all took place about three weeks ago, and I’m glad to report that since then, I have fulfilled—even exceeded—my commitment every single week. Whenever I try to find a way to talk myself out of exercising I Just remind myself how dreadful that Sunday felt and then I’m practically running to throw on my sneakers.

If you need a little nudge to keep you committed to your long-term goals, I’d definitely encourage you to give StickK a try. Have you tried it? What did you think? Let me know …*

A Simple Trick For Nurturing Better Relationships, Becoming a Better Listener & Growing Your Empathy Muscle …*

In this lovely animated short, Brené Brown, gives us a simple hack based on her research to enhance relationships, become a better listener and grow your empathy muscle: stop blaming. Sounds easy enough, and to some extent, it is.

How many of you go to that place—when something bad happens, the first thing you want to know is whose fault is it? I’d rather it be my fault than no one’s fault. Because why? Why? Because it gives us some semblance of control. […] But here’s what we know from the research: blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain. It has an inverse relationship with accountability. Accountability, by definition, is a vulnerable process. It means me calling you and saying, “hey, my feeling were really hurt about this,” and talking; not blaming. Blaming is simply a way that we discharge anger. People who blame a lot, seldom have the tenacity and grit to actually hold people accountable because we expend all of our energy raging for 15 seconds and figuring out whose fault something is. And blaming’s very corrosive in relationships. And it’s one of the reasons we miss our opportunities for empathy. Because when something happens and we’re hearing the story, we’re not really listening, we’re in the place where I was, making the connections as quickly as we can about whose fault something was. – Brené Brown

One of the findings from Positive Psychology that struck me the most was the notion that venting negative feelings is actually completely counterproductive. In Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman highlights various studies disproving our culture’s view that airing grievances is cathartic:

Dwelling on trespass and the expression of anger produces more cardiac diseases and more anger. Anger is another domain in which the concept of emotional hydraulics was critically examined. America, in contrast to the venerable Eastern cultures, is a ventilationist society. We deem it honest, just, and even healthy to express our anger. So we shout, we protest, and we litigate. “Go ahead, make my day,” warns Dirty Harry. Part of the reason we allow ourselves this luxury is that we believe the psychodynamic theory of anger. If we don’t express our rage, it will come out elsewhere—even more destructively, as in cardiac disease. But this theory turns out to be false; in fact, the reverse is true. (69)

The overt expression of hostility turns out to be the real culprit in the Type A-heart attack link. Time urgency, competitiveness, and the suppression of anger do not seem to play a role in Type A people getting more heart disease. In one study, 255 medical students took a personality test that measured overt hostility. As physicians twenty-five years later, the angriest had roughly five times as much heart disease as the least angry ones. In another study, men who had the highest risk of later heart attacks were just the ones with more explosive voices, more irritation when forced to wait, and more outwardly directed anger. In experimental studies, when male students bottle up their anger, blood pressure goes down, and it goes up if they decide to express their feelings. Anger expression raises lower blood pressure for women as well. In contrasts, friendliness in reaction to trespass lowers it. (70)

Source: Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment 

Since learning about this, I have made it a point to be more aware of the emotions I express and focus on. It’s not that I suppress or ignore negative emotions–I still get angry, frustrated, sad or whiny–but I try to be aware of what I’m feeling and when I notice one of these emotions, I ask myself what I can do about it; what I can learn from the experience that triggered the emotion? Then I fix what I can, make a mental note to avoid repeating any identified mistakes and I move on. If I’m having a really bad day or difficult time with something, I make myself move– either at the gym or I go for a long walk, which I’ve found really helpful in getting rid of the way negative emotions feel in one’s body. I also try not to complain to others. Whereas before I might have sought out a close friend to vent to after encountering some setback or upsetting situation–“can you believe this?!”–I now avoid such conversations; and, it turns out, I don’t miss them (and neither do my friends, it would seem).

I have noticed feeling markedly more serene overall and I’ve been surprised by how much easier it was to choose not to dwell or express my negative emotions than I had anticipated. Now, I’ll add blame to my list of negative emotions to let go of.

Try it for yourself and let me know how it works out for you …*

thoughts on { grit } : sustained perseverance & passion …*

This past week I had the opportunity to hear Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, speak about her wildly popular construct, grit. As Elsa summarized in a post back in 2013, grit is “passion and perseverance for very long term goals.” More importantly, her research indicates that people who have grit are more successful professionally and academically, and that having “grit” is more important than having mere high ability. In her talk at Teachers College, she discussed the nuances of this term and explained how it leads to success.

image from www.biggestjob.com

What is grit?

To understand what grit is, it is important to understand what it is NOT. It is NOT self-control, which is an important ability in momentary conflicts. Grit instead is the disposition to pursue challenging, long-term goals.

Grit involves stamina of both effort and interest. Gritty people persevere in the face of setbacks and obstacles and understand the importance of sustained hard work. However, they also have stamina of interests and passion: their interests are focused and stable. A gritty person will not abandon a goal in pursuit of something new and exciting.

This idea is not new. As Prof. Duckworth explained in her talk, Francis Galton and Charles Darwin were describing a similar thing back in the 1800s. As Darwin explained in a letter to Galton, “…I have always maintained that… men did not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work…”

How does grit lead to achievement? 80% of success in life is showing up

Duckworth explains the relationship between grit and achievement using the formula:

Achievement = f (talent x effort)

She compares this to the formula for distance, (distance = speed x time), with the idea that some people learn things very quickly (speed or talent) but only through cumulative learning (time or effort) can knowledge be accumulated.

As can be seen in the slide I photographed during her talk, one’s skill at something is a function of deliberate practice, and around 10 years of this sort of practice is necessary to reach mastery levels.

IMG_5434 (2)

Duckworth finds that people who are gritty do deliberate practice of their craft, which is characterized by:

  1. having a specific stretch goal
  2. concentrating 100%
  3. immediate, informative feedback
  4. practicing repetitively until fluency

In other words, experts know what they are working on, and they put on their blinders when working on it. Deliberate practice is often hard and rarely fun.

Future directions…*

Future directions for this research include looking at various ways to build grit, investigating how social supports relate to grit, and determining whether communities can build a culture of grit.

 I’d like to talk a bit more about this idea of grit, and what I like and don’t like about it over the next few weeks. For instance, when do you give up? How long should one doggedly pursue a singular goal if one’s effort are fruitless? Additionally, we should think about times when having a diversity of passion is useful, such as for creative endeavors.

Until next time…*

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