Our Veterans

07bruniweb-master768

Sunday was the 15th anniversary of September 11, 2001, our century’s day of infamy. This somber day was remembered in a number of appropriate ways, and talked about in the media.

What we should also remember is that these attacks spawned the global war on terrorism – a war we continue to fight a decade-and-a-half later.

By “we” I mean most Americans in spirit, but only a few in fact. Those few, the less-than-one-percent of Americans who serve in uniform-and thousands who have lost their lives since 9/11.

That’s why a recent op-ed by Frank Bruni, “Elites Neglect Veterans” caught my eye. Bruni explains, “the shameful the dearth of ex-military students in elite universities.”

Our veterans who have put their lives on the line for all of us deserve a chance for a seat in elite universities. We have a long way to go, and Bruni presents some sobering, shameful, stats.

You can read the full article here.

Contemplation Therapy

21mag-21well-t_CA0-tmagArticle

We’ll all heard that mindfulness medication is all the rage. But where’s the science? Is there any science?

The benefits of mindfulness meditation, increasingly popular in recent years, are supposed to be many: reduced stress and risk for various diseases, improved well-being, a rewired brain. But the experimental bases to support these claims have been few. Supporters of the practice have relied on very small samples of unrepresentative subjects, like isolated Buddhist monks who spend hours meditating every day, or on studies that generally were not randomized and did not include placebo­ control groups.

Now, a study published in Biological Psychiatry brings scientific thoroughness to mindfulness meditation and for the first time shows that, unlike a placebo, it can change the brains of ordinary people and potentially improve their health.

To meditate mindfully demands ‘‘an open and receptive, nonjudgmental awareness of your present-moment experience,’’ says J. David Creswell, who led the study and is an associate professor of psychology and the director of the Health and Human Performance Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University.

Read this article here

 

 

The Job You Love!

24VIEW-master768

Full disclosure – I enjoy working. What’s more, for as far back as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed every job I’ve had. And the more I read, the more I realize how lucky I’ve been.

A recent New York Times article spoke to me – and I think you too will find it meaningful. The title, “The Incalculable Value of Finding a Job You Love,” deconstructs this subject in a way that makes sense to me. Here is part of what Frank Hunter shares with the rest of us:

“Social scientists have been trying to identify the conditions most likely to promote satisfying human lives. Their findings give some important clues about choosing a career: Money matters, but not always in the ways you may think.”

“It’s not just that more money doesn’t provide a straightforward increase in happiness. Social science research also underscores the importance of focusing carefully on the many ways in which jobs differ along dimensions other than pay. As economists have long known, jobs that offer more attractive working conditions — greater autonomy, for example, or better opportunities for learning, or enhanced workplace safety — also tend to pay less.”

When most people leave work each evening, they feel better if they have made the world better in some way, or at least haven’t made it worse.”

How’s that working for you?

You can read the full article here

 

Follow Your Bliss?

17selfhelp2-master675-v2

We all want to be happy. And if you watched any of the news coverage of last month’s college graduations you heard a number of prominent people encouraging graduates to follow their bliss. Really? Is this good advice for people who are stepping into adulthood and into the real world? I read a great article in the New York Times where Jennifer Kahn says NO!

Here is part of what she said in her article, “The Happiness Code:”

Most self-help appeals to us because it promises real change without much real effort, a sort of fad diet for the psyche. (‘‘The Four-Hour Workweek,’’ ‘‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.’’) By the magical-thinking standards of the industry, then, the Center for Applied Rationality (CFAR) focus on science and on tiresome levels of practice can seem almost radical. It has also generated a rare level of interest among data-driven tech people and entrepreneurs who see personal development as just another optimization problem, if a uniquely central one.

Yet, while CFAR’s methods are unusual, its aspirational promise — that a better version of ourselves is within reach — is distinctly familiar. The center may emphasize the benefits that will come to those who master the techniques of rational thought, like improved motivation and a more organized inbox, but it also suggests that the real reward will be far greater, enabling users to be more intellectually dynamic and nimble. Or as Smith put it, ‘‘We’re trying to invent parkour for the mind.’’

Read more of this killer-good article here

Scorched Earth – iTunes’ Summer’s Biggest Books

iTunes-Store-icon

iTunes featured Scorched Earth as one of this “Summer’s Biggest Books”, in the Mysteries and Thrillers category. Get your copy today!

unnamed

So That’s It!

17-BKS-BROOKS-master768

Is there a more important question than this: “What is love?” It’s even the title of a popular song (Haddaway – 1993). Is love wile ecstasy – or flannel pajamas?

I think that for most of us, we’d pick the first answer. But then we’d think about it some more and wonder if that’s all there is to a relationship.

I just finished a great book, A Book About Love, by Jonah Lehrer. I decided to get the book – as I did for so many other books I’ve enjoyed – based on book review by David Brooks.

Here’s part of what David said in his review last month:

For Jonah Lehrer, true love is not usually like this. In “A Book About Love” he argues that this wild first ecstasy feels true but is almost nothing. It’s just an infatuation, a chemical fiction that will fade with time. For Lehrer, love is more flannel pajamas than sexy lingerie; it is a steady attachment, not a divine fire. For Lehrer, attachment theory is the model that explains all kinds of love.

He also sees marriage through the prism of attachment. Marriage itself, Lehrer argues, is not about finding a soul mate, or your mystical other half. It’s not even about finding someone like yourself. As he writes, “A 2010 study of 23,000 married couples found that the similarity of spouses accounted for less than 0.5 percent of spousal satisfaction.” It’s about finding someone with steady emotional tendencies and then being stubborn in the face of the nagging incompatibilities that will be there at the beginning and will never go away.

The book’s out there in most libraries. I’m all-but-certain you’ll enjoy it!

You can read the full review here

Turning Point

work eat sleep repeat

Go to school, work hard, succeed, get a job, work hard, succeed, raise a family, pay the mortgage, repeat….  Sound familiar. How many of us get on the treadmill and stay there, without finding out what we’re passionate about, let alone acting on it. Clare Ansberry offers some thoughts on the subject – compelling thoughts. Here is what she shares:

A dream prompted Martin Seligman, psychologist and author, to shift his research to humans from animals. Archaeologist Joyce White was drawn to Southeast Asia by an image of the Thai countryside in a slide presentation. A chance encounter with an elderly homeless man led physician Lara Weinstein to her work treating marginal populations. “It was almost like a transcendental experience,” says Dr. Weinstein, a family doctor in Philadelphia.

Such events are more prevalent than one might expect. A 2006 Gallup poll of 1,004 adults, the most recent it has done on the subject, found that 33% of Americans said the following statement “applies completely” to them: “I have had a profound religious experience or awakening that changed the direction of my life.”

The experiences vary. A revelation, directive or message comes unexpectedly. A series of unlikely synchronistic events occur. Some people sense a divine presence, and others feel deeply connected to something larger than themselves, be it nature or others around them, and pursue more altruistic work.

People of all ages and faiths, agnostics and atheists, have such experiences, yet they rarely talk about them. They’re concerned others will dismiss them as delusional or won’t take them seriously. Sometimes words fall short of conveying the intensity of what they felt.

Read the entire article here.

Be Yourself – Really?

05grant-master768

Most of us give and receive advice. It’s human nature, as much of who we are as breathing. But is all advice good. What about “Be Yourself.” Sounds like an easy yes. Maybe not.

We are in the Age of Authenticity, where “be yourself” is the defining advice in life, love and career. Authenticity means erasing the gap between what you firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world. As Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, defines it, authenticity is “the choice to let our true selves be seen.”

We want to live authentic lives, marry authentic partners, work for an authentic boss, vote for an authentic president. In university commencement speeches, “Be true to yourself” is one of the most common themes (behind “Expand your horizons,” and just ahead of “Never give up”).

Be authentic, but realize that this doesn’t mean just being yourself without consideration for those around you.

Read more of this insightful article here

Time to Reflect?

12FUTURETENSE-master768

We all lead busy lives. Most of us would welcome – with open arms – more time to think, to reflect, and perhaps some time for true introspection. But how do you get it?

The multiple devices we have all-but-attached to our bodies don’t help – phones, tablets, beepers – even our watches now – all work to distract us at every turn.

“Finding moments to engage in contemplative thinking has always been a challenge, since we’re distractible,” said Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows.” “But now that we’re carrying these powerful media devices around with us all day long, those opportunities become even less frequent, for the simple reason that we have this ability to distract ourselves constantly.”

Neuroplasticity (or the brain’s ability to change) due to technological use is a hot topic. Usually the tone is alarmist, though sometimes it’s optimistic.

Nevertheless, he sees our current direction as indicative of “the loss of the contemplative mind,” he said. “We’ve adopted the Google ideal of the mind, which is that you have a question that you can answer quickly: close-ended, well-defined questions. Lost in that conception is that there’s also this open-ended way of thinking where you’re not always trying to answer a question. You’re trying to go where that thought leads you. As a society, we’re saying that that way of thinking isn’t as important anymore. It’s viewed as inefficient.”

Mr. Carr observed that, for decades, Rodin’s 1902 sculpture “The Thinker” epitomized the highest form of contemplation: a figure with an imposing physique staring abstractly downward, hunched over to block out distraction, frozen because it’s a statue, of course, but also because deep thinkers need time and don’t fidget. It’s hard to imagine a postmodern update called “The Tweeter” being quite so inspirational.

Read more of this killer-good article here.

No Doubt!

No Doubt

Many of us are beset by self-doubt. It manifests itself in many ways – few of them good.

Do you struggle with giving yourself a compliment? Think of the last time you told yourself something critical or negative. Then think of the last compliment you gave yourself. Which is easier to remember?

Many of us—whether due to genetics, brain chemistry, our experiences or coping skills—tell ourselves way too many negative thoughts. We ruminate, thinking the same negative, unproductive thoughts over and over.

With intent and practice, you can create another path. Psychologists call the technique cognitive reappraisal. The result will be stronger neural networks devoted to positive thoughts, or a happier brain.

People who do this have better mental health and more life satisfaction, and even better-functioning hearts, research shows. This technique is at the heart of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy practiced by many psychologists. The good news is that you can practice it at home.

Try it…what have you got to lose….

You can read the full article here.