Career Calling, Personal Stories

The Achievement Wheel

The achievement wheel is a treasured American institution.  We are groomed early on in a structured education system to strive for that golden place of success defined by titles and prestige, our own small piece of the American dream.  As the 2010 documentary “Race to Nowhere” points out, these pressured expectations have been produced and reinforced by the culture at large, from colleges to parents to workplaces, and these messages get internalized by kids from a young age.  Many of us continue on this treadmill of achievement and expectations long after we have left grammar school and grades behind…

And I was no exception.

After perfecting my high school educational manifesto and making my way through an Ivy League college degree, the next obvious step for me seemed to be the world of cubicles and commuting.  When I took my first job in 2006 as an entry-level publicist at a corporate book publishing company in New York City, I thought I had made it.

And I had…in a way.

Continue reading “The Achievement Wheel”

activism, Spirituality

The Great Awakening

We are in the midst of an awakening.

As Trump and his colleagues continue to bulldoze their way through governing, more and more people are recognizing what’s valuable and important in true leadership and waking up to the potential of leadership within themselves.  Many are waking up to the state of the world as is, versus what we know it could be.  Despite outer appearances, we are seeing the traditionally individualistic worldview of America beginning to crumble.  We have always known the value in promoting prosperity and peace for ourselves, but now we begin to ask, does that extend to our neighbors too?

“Oneness” is a principle not commonly discussed beyond spiritual circles, and it has now become a primary linchpin of political discourse.  What is the point of extreme division, either via racial, national, or political lines?  Should we or can we wish the same for others we wish for ourselves?  Why would discrimination and inequalities continue to make sense in a world that is rapidly embodying the inter-connectivity and speed of communication that has always existed under the collective surface…

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activism

Marching is the Start

This is the force that will change the world.

I truly believe that. Women and those who stand with women in genuine solidarity will be the impetus that forces changes that have been too long in the making. Spreading love, compassion, and tolerance as opposed to bigotry and separation consciousness is not the purview of special snowflakes or “weak crybabies.” It’s actually the hardest thing we will ever do or ever undertake on this planet of ours.

It is much harder to love and accept the neighbor you disagree with than to spurn and hate them. Liberalism and conservatism are false divides and beyond the point in the larger picture of this planetary play of ours.

What is in our hearts? What is it that we really want to see?

These should be the questions we ask of ourselves and each other everyday. We may differ on how we wish to achieve it or the political talking points but partnering to create movement and change is the important part, even on a very small micro-scale or individual level, regardless of the inevitable dissent and bumps along the way.  And those who oppose equal rights and tolerance for all should be opposed with all the might and force of our ancestors behind us who lived this reality and rejected it.

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General

Creativity: Finding your Flow

The creative force…it’s the unknown magic behind the world’s greatest art, music, writing, poetry, and dance.  It’s something that has baffled scientists and researchers for many decades.  It’s an intangible quality that resides in some more than others.  Or does it?  What is creativity?  What makes someone creative?  Can it be measured?  Is it quantifiable?

In our never-ending search for mental knowledge and answers as a species we sometimes try to study and define the undefinable.  Researchers throughout the 20th century, such as Robert Sternberg, J.P. Guilford, and Ellis Paul Torrance, among others, have attempted to define, place labels upon, categorize, and develop tests of the elusive quality known as “creativity.”

Modern day researchers have linked creativity to constructs and domains such as giftedness, intelligence, reasoning abilities, and inventiveness.  Creativity has been defined by researchers such as Sternberg as “producing something original and worthwhile” or by Guilford as divergent thinking, the ability to generate a wide variety of possible novel solutions from an initial problem state.  Common Western ideas of creativity have also often traditionally included the idea of imagination or bursts of sudden insight, those “light bulb” moments so commonly talked of and so little often found.

These sorts of peak experiences have also been pinpointed by researchers as being something called a state of “flow.”  Flow is a specific state of consciousness defined as being completely absorbed in a singular activity, focused on a state of pleasurable producing where a sense of time seems to disappear.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a primary happiness researcher, discovered that during these optimal “flow” experiences, people are activating their creative abilities and often feel “strong, alert, in effortless control, un-selfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities.”

Continue reading “Creativity: Finding your Flow”

Quotes

MLK on Activism

“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

Emotional Enlightenment, Power of Thought

Leaping toward Life

We are human, and humans like to feel comfortable.  Pretty much all of the time.  It makes sense.  We avoid what feels bad, scary, or hurtful.  In fact, seminal psychological research in the 1950’s and 60’s  by Kurt Lewin and Neal Miller showed that our avoidance tendencies tend to win out even over approaching pleasure, when these two motivators are in conflict.

Take my 11th grade self, for example.  After asking my crush out to prom (approach!), I proceeded to spend the next three months leading up to said prom making sure I did my best to dodge all encounters, of any kind, with said prom date (avoidance!), in order to not deal with the anxiety and discomfort of conversation (or possible reciprocation of feelings).   For me, the fear of possible of awkwardness far outweighed the satisfaction of possible connection and positive interaction.  Phew, exhausting!  (Thank goodness I got past 16).

Aside from prom dates, we tend to avoid in small ways throughout our day, without even realizing it, to our own detriments and enjoyment.  For example, you may put off responding to that email even though you know it’s important, because finding the words is going to be difficult, you may avoid asking for that raise because you know your boss won’t like it, or you may say yes to making plans, even when not feeling it, to avoid the discomfort of a “no.”  These are ways in which our avoidance can become self-defeating, a temporary measure to avoid feeling uncomfortable, with longer term consequences in life satisfaction.

Avoidance can become even more self-defeating, in larger ways, when we put off making big life decisions, like breaking up with a partner we’re no longer compatible with because the break feels more painful than staying, or delaying looking for that new job, despite hating cubicle life, because the process appears too daunting or time consuming (I don’t have a new resume, haven’t bought a new suit in years, can’t possibly live my dream, etc.).

I will raise my hand as guilty as anyone for playing the avoidance game.  It’s sometimes snugly and cozy to remain right where we are, in the status quo (perhaps that’s why we’re still using a 226-year-old document to run our country today)… I digress.

So what are you to do if this is you?

First, look at why you are avoiding.  You may be avoiding a very specific emotion that you do not wish to feel.  Is is anger, fear, sadness, or shame?  Feel the emotion, be with it, and acknowledge it as part of you, rather than some dark, shadowy corner you’d much rather attribute to <insert presidential candidate here>.

Next, what are the thoughts that start to emerge when you even think about taking that step forward that you’ve been putting off?  It’s a guarantee that you’ll never ask your boss for a raise if you’ve somehow convinced yourself it’s already a definite “no,” or it’s going to put your job in jeopardy.   How realistic are these thoughts and how attached to them are you?  There are many ways that we as humans create stories in our heads about certain situations, relationships, and outcomes, mostly rooted in our fears, past experiences, and cultural lenses.  Can you detach yourself from your nightmare scenario long enough to see where your lens has been colored?  Can you brush aside or release the power of the self-defeating thoughts which are pushing you away from your desired outcome?  This will make room for the new ones…

Try to embrace and envision the pleasure and triumph of a smooth and best-case scenario.  While we may not always achieve it, just opening up the possibility of the positive in our brains can make us feel more assured and confident, so that when we do actually take the leap over the avoidance cliff our bodies are not in high-alert, flight-or-fight mode.  Just practicing the small jumps across the rocky terrain towards our desires (and gaining successes, or at least a bolder skill set in handling failure) can build us up for the large catapults.  Leaps are meant to be scary.  They’ll never stop being scary, but if we stop just at the edge of the ledge, we’ll never really know what’s on the other side.  And in taking the leap, regardless of outcome, we’ll always have the satisfaction of knowing we reached, and we cared enough to go for it.

But don’t just take my word for it!  I leave you with words of Theodore Roosevelt….

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

~Theodore Roosevelt

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Inspirational Figures, Personal Stories

Lessons from Beyond the Rainbow

Judy GarlandToday, on the anniversary of Judy Garland’s famously attended funeral in New York City, along with the NYC Gay Pride parade this weekend, it seemed like an appropriate time to devote a blog post to this icon.  She is a deeply beloved figure both within the gay community and to children and adults around the world who have landed upon her classic film, the Wizard of Oz.  I was one of those kids, awed and fascinated by the innocent and beautiful Dorothy in the blue dress.  The Wizard of Oz played on repeat in my home, as I fawned over her voice, her sparkly red shoes, and her metaphorical journey back home. 

As beloved and talented as she was, she was also a tragic figure, dying at the early age of 47 from an accidental barbiturate overdose, with a long string of failed marriages behind her and a history of childhood abuse by studio executives.  As loved as she was, she never could quite seem to muster that same love for herself.  She picked herself up by the bootstraps many a time, only to fall back into the same patterns of addiction and difficult men. Continue reading “Lessons from Beyond the Rainbow”