rezəˈlo͞oSHəns #1...

The dictionary defines a resolution as a firm decision to do or not to do something. It’s a word that is mostly used this time of year. It’s an abused word.

The Power Of Habit

My whole life I drove manual transmission cars. Shifting was almost as natural as breathing. I hardly had to think about pushing the clutch with my left foot and changing the gears with my right hand. It was a habit…that is, until two years ago, when I bought my first automatic. The funny thing is, I still sometimes reach for the shifter and insist on putting on the emergency brake when I park. Though driving an automatic car is easier, I still find myself occasionally resorting to old habits. Habits are like police characters in TV shows. Just like there are good cops and bad cops, there are good habits and bad habits. Some we want to break; others we want to develop. By understanding how habits work and what triggers them, we can make conscious changes and get control of our life! That’s the theory behind, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg. I listened to the book over the holidays, which seemed like a timely addition to my toolkit for the new year. The book is a fascinating study into why we do what we do, with real steps on how to change. The book isn’t a pipedream; Duhigg read hundreds of studies on habit formation from social science, neuroscience and psychology, to come up with his theory. What he offers is both insight and practical. His basic premise is that habits involve 3 key steps: cue, routine and reward. Learning to recognize and manage these 3 steps can empower us to make lasting changes. Check out this short video review that reviews the concept. I encourage you to pick up the book (available in hardcover, paperback, Nook, audio CD, Kindle and downloadable...

Enjoying The Holidays...

I could have titled this article, “Surviving The Holidays,” but that had such a negative tone! I also thought of, “Staying Safe Over The Holidays,” but that sounded so pessimistic. How are you planning to enjoy the holidays? Will you enjoy them, or be stressed out? What would it take to actually ENJOY them? I realize this article is mostly for Americans, for where else do people get their panties in such a wad over a season that should be meaningful, sweet and relaxing. This is the time of year we can be vulnerable to potential pitfalls. It is important to enjoy time with friends and family, explore spiritual celebrations, and a get a break from the routine. Here are a few tips to keep in mind: Let it go. People are busy driving, shopping and preparing for Christmas. Some drivers seem to be going especially slow. Others are obnoxious shoppers with whiny children and attitudes. Family members know your buttons and are likely to push them. Let it all go. Don’t take offense. Don’t get frustrated. Let it go. Take a deep breath and relax. Do you really have to have 5 salads for Christmas dinner when 2 will do? What is the worst that might happen if you don’t get everything on your list done? Will you die? Will the world come to a end? Probably not. Watch your back when you’re out shopping. Thieves look for opportunities. Be mindful of your surroundings, keep your keys out and ready, and hug your belongings tight. Never leave a purse or other valuables within sight in your vehicle. NEVER leave your purse, even if you don’t think there is anything of value there. Even a driver’s license or ID card can help someone steal...

The Right Gifts Dec16

The Right Gifts

Gift giving at Christmas has its roots in remembering and commemorating two actions: First is the gift of God’s Son, Jesus, to make right all that had gone wrong in the world. The second is in remembering the gifts the wise men took to the Christ child after traveling far and wide to find him. But manufacturers and merchants have turned this into the most profitable time of the year. You are likely thinking about what gifts to purchase for your friends and family this year. And some of you are tempted to go into considerable debt to do so. How can you celebrate Christmas differently this year? How can you say, “I love you” to those who mean the most in your life without causing harm to them or yourself? Here are a few things you might think consider: 1, Check your motives. Are you really trying to bless others and truly love on them? Or are you trying to impress, outdo, and otherwise spoil? Exercising unhealthy behavior around others is never a good idea, and it likely does more harm than good, even if you don’t intend it. Model sensible behavior that is ripe with good intentions; people will pick up on the love behind the gift, no matter how small. Better to give something small but personalized, rather than something expensive that may go to waste, or even embarrass the recipient. See Dave Ramsey’s article on “4 Competitive Pitfalls To Avoid This Christmas.” 2. Ask yourself if you can afford the gifts you want to purchase. Someone recently wrote nationally-syndicated advice columnist, Amy Dickinson, asking how to handle a mother-in-law who routinely overspends on multiple gifts for her grandchildren, yet who is chronically behind on her mortgage and routinely asks for...

Church

How do you know you’re on a good personal track? What are the markers of your spiritual growth? What do you think it means to be a person of faith? How do you nurture growth in your life? I had breakfast with a friend the other day that expressed concern because I don’t attend church services on a regular basis. Certainly she is not the only one to have voiced such fear. This friend followed up her statement with, “There’s a lot of stuff out there; what if you get off?” I then launched into a 5-minute defense of my spiritual life. We have social litmus tests for all sorts of things. And the common one for your faith is whether or not you go to church. (Interesting how church has become something you go to instead of who you are.) I’m cool with my friend, but our conversation topic makes me crazy! I think people and ideas and consciousness evolve. (I’m so glad we don’t believe in human slavery and are past the Crusades.) So a question is worth asking: To what extent can our understanding of God and faith evolve? I think that just as the universe continues to expand, so can our understanding of ultimate reality. Do you still believe that participating in certain rituals is a good test of your relationship with God, what you believe, and how you live your life? Jesus said people will know you are his disciples if you love one another.* But today, being right has become more important than being loving. And many people outside the church (however you define that growing group of folks), is, unfortunately, dare I say, sometimes nicer and kinder than those inside. Ouch! I’m not here to rag on church...

Personal SWOT Dec07

Personal SWOT

SWOT is an acronym for an assessment often used in teams; it stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. But a SWOT analysis is not just a business tool. It can be a use personal exercise to help you land a job! In preparing for a career move, my colleague and friend, MJ, put me through a mock interview. Suddenly all the great communication skills I know and teach went flying out the window; I was a rambling disaster! She assigned me the homework of doing a personal SWOT analysis. Like many people, I am uncomfortable describing or selling myself. But the job interview is a situation when you must do both of these! You only have a few minutes to tell about yourself in ways your cover letter or resume cannot. I found the exercise of doing a SWOT analysis extremely helpful. The first two are internal components: Strengths According to Forbes.com, you must picture yourself as a product in the marketplace. This is your opportunity to differentiate yourself from all the other applicants. I think you have to get past the idea that you’re being arrogant if you detail your strengths. These are some ideas that might get you started. Use personality profiles you’ve taken. I relied on the results of my Strengths Finder results, a book, test and philosophy that identifies 34 top most common talents. (Buy the book, read it, and use the code at the back to take the test online. The results will uncover your top five strengths so you focus on them to build a successful life and career.) Mine include the ability to woo (win others over) and great communication skills. Ask others. Because I’m a college teacher, I asked my students. They said I know how to...

Fear of Failing

I have a saying that people who never fail, never do anything. That’s because failing is inevitable. When I heard a student give a brilliant speech on the topic, I asked him to turn it into an article for you. Here you go. Here is Elijah Petty: We all have places we’re going, and dreams of who and what we want to grow to be, but most of us will fail before we get there – at least at first. The fear of this failure can cripple us by keeping us inside our comfort zone, when usually our dreams lie outside of it. Unfortunately, failure is unavoidable. Nobody gets everything right on the first try, but the way we treat our failures is crucial if we want to succeed in the end. We’re afraid of failure. It’s discouraging, and the higher the stakes are, the worse the letdown is. I speak from experience when I say nothing’s more demoralizing than spending months of hard work to make the most of an upcoming opportunity, and then showing up and doing my best only to find out that my best isn’t good enough. The fear of that demoralizing failure can sometimes stop us from trying – and also stop us from succeeding, because trying is the first step toward any goal. On the other hand, failure is one of the best opportunities to learn. When working on one of his inventions, Thomas Edison said, “Negative results are just what I want. They’re just as valuable to me as positive results. I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.” If you get something right, that’s great, but where do you go from there? It isn’t always obvious how...

Selective Empathy

Every time I think I have a healthy view of others, something reminds me of the darkness of my own heart and my need to adjust my thinking. Just when I think I’ve reached maturity, I get a glimpse of how much my character still needs developing. While I usually write on timeless issues, I must present this topic in light of recent events—terrorist attacks. All humanity is facing the reality of an energized movement committed to world domination. To them, it’s a holy war not only sanctioned, but commanded by God. How members of ISIS can excuse their actions is likely a topic for another day; it does show the propensity of humankind to justify belief systems—no matter how diabolical—and to control. The same predisposition exists in us all. But the topic at hand is how we parse out empathy and compassion willy-nilly. After the Paris bombings, Facebook, the press and the Western world in general were awash in chatter, prayers, moments of silence and monuments lit up in the colors of the French flag. There was a huge outpouring of love and support. But where was any sense of Western compassion when 14-year-old Ali Awad and more than 40 others lost their lives in double suicide attacks in Beirut the day before? It hardly made the American news. A Lebanese doctor wrote in a blog article titled, A World That Doesn’t Care About Arab Lives, “When my people died, no country bothered to light up its landmarks in the colors of their flag…There was no global outrage…Their death was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in those parts of the world.”* Another group dismissed was the Russian tourists. Where was the international outcry when it was...

Shit Happens

Why do people question their faith when shit happens? Why do we get angry with our sources of comfort at the very time we need them–when we suffer?! Why does bad stuff even happen? I have some friends who are struggling with serious health issues right now. We all know folks in similar circumstances, or suffer the same afflictions ourselves. There are certainly times we think we have exhausted our “rope,” with little left to hang on to and life has seemingly left us hanging (out to dry). The very people and sources we look to for answers and comfort often let us down. The preachers and the clichés and the well-meaning friends do not always help. In fact, they often create or magnify the very struggles we encounter. To be honest, they are no help at best and disgustingly annoying at worst. There is a lot of bullshit out there. And when shit happens, the last thing you need are some bullshit explanations or pat answers. I think a lot of the stuff we, and others, struggle with are just really stupid ideas. Here are a few I have identified that perhaps you can identify with. First of all, shit happens. We live in a really messed up world where even good intentions often result in lousy situations. We have a great need for answers. And when we can’t find answers or struggle to make sense of senseless situations, we make up stuff. The human mind is outstandingly creative, and when given time and thought, can come up with all sorts of answers, whether they’re true or not. We buy into myths. That’s right, we believe all kinds of stuff in an attempt to make ourselves feel better. The problem is, these contrived...

Quantum Entanglement

We are all connected in ways we are oblivious to. So I am immensely interested in the cross-section between science, social science (the study of humans) and spirituality. I love subjects of inquiry such as that surrounding quantum entanglement, which attempts to explain the ways that we are, indeed, connected. So I have to share this most recent article by Franciscan, Richard Rohr: Just as different ways of interpreting scripture and various types of truth (e.g., literal vs. mythic) are valuable for different purposes, so scientific theories have different applications while seeming to be paradoxical and irreconcilable. For example, we have the Newtonian theory of gravity, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and quantum theory. Physicists know that each of them is true, yet they don’t fit together and each is limited and partial. Newtonian mechanics can’t model or predict the behavior of massive or quickly moving objects. Relativity does this well, but doesn’t apply to very, very small things. Quantum mechanics succeeds on the micro level. But we don’t yet have an adequate theory for understanding very small, very energetic, very massive phenomenon, such as black holes. Scientists are still in search of a unified theory of the universe. Perhaps the term “quantum entanglement” names something that we have long intuited, but science has only recently observed. Here is the principle in layperson’s terms: in the world of quantum physics, it appears that one particle of any entangled pair “knows” what is happening to another paired particle–even though there is no known means for such information to be communicated between the particles, which are separated by sometimes very large distances. Could this be what is happening when we “pray” for somebody? Scientists don’t know how far this phenomenon applies beyond very rare particles, but quantum entanglement...