“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
In today’s culture, that Confucian statement endures in fortune cookies, but otherwise flies in the face of society’s attitude toward jobs. The jokes about countdowns to Happy Hour, dreading Monday morning, and needing Lite FM radio to “tune out” of work imply that work is at best a time-filler, at worst a time-waster—just a way to while away the days between camping trips.
But having passion for work is key to living with purpose, and it’s not limited to the elite few who run empires or clinch “dream jobs.” Nor does it mean a job that’s free of challenge, conflict or stress. On the contrary, challenges and setbacks are key to engaging your heart, stretching your mind and igniting your passion. One of the world’s most famous dreamers, Walt Disney, enjoined people to “Think, Dream, Believe and Dare.” The cure for thinking small is to dream big.
Helping others take control of their lives, building something that can change the world, supporting critical missions, creating something of lasting beauty: any job can feed one’s passion, inspiring ways to improve and advance. From entry level to senior executive, it is not the title that counts—but rather, its alignment with core values and passions. Aligning work with passion means matching core values and daily activities. When work is aligned with passion, it confers energy instead of draining it.
One of the most famous career self-help books, What Color is Your Parachute, asks readers key questions such as:
You might wonder why you deserve success in your career; after all, isn’t it just a way to put food on the table? The better question why you do not deserve it. The belief in limited sources – that one’s gain is another’s loss – is a myth. Playing small doesn’t serve the world; it deprives the world of the benefits derived from one’s true talents. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking one’s potential.
Thinking big is the most powerful—and least utilized—technique on the planet. By fulfilling your passion without hesitation, and thinking without limits, you’ll achieve anything you desire. In the spirit of spring cleaning and nature’s renewal, we will dedicate the next few blog posts into upgrading your life.
“Litter: it’s blending into the background of our lives. But what if we brought it to the forefront?” – Jeff Kirschner
It’s not just during camping season that we savor the delight of pristine, unspoiled nature. Whether we’re pitching a tent, roasting dinner, getting our daily step-count in good weather, or just enjoying the view outside the window, we all cringe at the litter that turns landscapes into dumping grounds. On a recent walk in her neighborhood, this blogger found soup and soda cans, plastic cups, chewed straws, crumpled coupons, cigarette butts, and more. And these aren’t just eyesores; they can
What if a community existed to make picking up litter not only worthwhile and productive; but also fun, engaging, and knit into a larger, powerful effort that spanned the globe?
Enter the website Litterati (literati.org)– a global community that is crowdsourcing cleaning efforts. On the website, users take photos of the litter they pick up—and go on to identify, tag, and even map trends in a region’s “litter profile.”
Litterati’s founder, Jeff Kirschner, drew inspiration for the site when he recalled his days at sleepaway camp. On the morning of visiting day, the director would direct each camper to pick up five pieces of trash. It didn’t take long for the camp to look a whole lot cleaner. Kirschner decided to apply that “crowdsourced cleanup model” to the entire planet. To that end, he took a picture of a cigarette butt. Each time he saw a new piece of litter, he recorded each piece—and picked it up. At the end of just a few days, he had 50 photos of trash he had disposed of. The idea caught on, and soon a photo reached him from a user in China. The users, scattered as they might have been, were creating a community. And by geo-tagging and time-stamping each photo, they helped Kirschner build a Google map to plot points.
This data quickly proved invaluable. When San Francisco wanted to collect information on smoking habits to determine tax rates, they turned to Litterati after pencils and clipboards failed them and provoked outrage by Big Tobacco.
Kirschner says every city in the world has a “unique litter fingerprint” – from coffee cups to soda cans to plastic bottles. In Oakland, most of the litter in a blighted area stemmed from a well-known taco brand’s hot sauce packets. So to cut to the heart of the problem, the brand could give out hot sauce only upon request, or install bulk dispensers. Recently, in Oakland’s hills, a user found a Coke can with a vintage design. It had been perfectly preserved since 1966, and points up questions about minimal or more eco-friendly packaging.
If you’re counting the days till camping season, try geo-tagging your litter to observe your positive impact on the planet in real-time!
Communication is tricky, even face-to-face; even without poor cell reception; even between two people who speak the same language.
The definition is simple: any exchange of information, verbal and non-verbal, between sender and receiver. But because humans are so fascinatingly complex, it is virtually impossible for us to convey isolated bits of data.
Every time you speak to someone you are revealing yourself—often before you even open your mouth. It’s your tone of voice, pace of speech, or facial expression; the clothes you select and the way you wear your hair. Are you crossing your legs, folding your arms, cocking your head? Are your hands on your hips or in your pocket? Are your palms clenched into fists, or open for a handshake? All of these are messages in themselves—messages about you.
What’s more, the people we address interpret what we share in light of their own beliefs and values.
Sometimes, so many variables and hidden messages accrue—casting both light and shadow over any exchange—that the original information is deeply buried. And yet, expressing how we feel and asking for what we need is key to our emotional and physical health. And communication is the thread that binds and strengthens our relationships. How can we effectively communicate our thoughts, feelings and needs?
Slow down. Take a deep breath to get centered, stay positive and focus on the other person and your connection in the moment. Don’t try to conduct an important conversation while doing something else, even if it’s just folding laundry or making dinner.
Speak the truth from your heart. Don’t rush through it, even if it seems tedious or unpleasant. Slow, steady pacing can lend clarity, coherence and calmness without wasting time.
Learn how to listen deeply. Think about the essence of what you heard, and rephrase in your own words. Try to express empathy: “I hear you.” “Tell me more.” “I’m so grateful you told me.” Says Joan Boysenko, Ph.D: “One of the most important ways that we can show respect and love is by carefully listening while another speaks.” Allow the speaker time to fine-tune; and only respond when the speaker seems heard. Listen for the natural pause that implies completion.
Avoid interruptions. No matter how important we believe our contribution is, interrupting squelches the flow of energy and sends a powerful non-verbal message that our thoughts and feelings trump the ones they’re struggling to share.
During the camping season – when school is out and days are longer – it’s easy for families to spend quality time together. But how about in the off-season, when days are shorter, the air chillier, and the pace more hectic?
Incentive to reserve time together may come from an unlikely source: the cold, distant planet Mars. Hear us out!
In a recent TED talk, a spacecraft missions engineer for NASA’s Martian rovers, who guides them remotely from a lab in Los Angeles, discusses the logistics of living and working on “Martian Standard Time” while simultaneously existing on Earth. The Martian day is 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth. This means that the people “working” on this distant planet need to report to work on Earth at the same time every day on Mars. One day that might be 8 am; the next day, 8:40; the day after that, 9:20. It is, says the speaker, “like moving a time zone every day.” Eventually, the dawn of the Martian day will coincide with the middle of the Earth’s night – and the crew will need to report to work at a truly ungodly hour. This forces family life to adjust: foil on the windows, black-out shades, quiet time in the mid-afternoon so Mom or Dad can nap.
The speaker, Nagin Cox, then shared a picture of a NASA director at a beach in Los Angeles with his family at 1 in the morning. Over the school vacation, his entire family had shifted to Mars time. “They had these great adventures,” Cox says, “like going bowling in the middle of the night.” Likewise, once the Mars workday was over, roving packs of NASA-employed “Martians” will cruise the traffic-less freeways to have dinner, or breakfast, at all-night diners.
Having camaraderie and company while living on another planet goes a long way toward countering the grueling physical demands, volatile schedules, and mental isolation of NASA’s Mars mission directors. It may take supreme feats of planning and dedication, but it can be done. And it’s a worthy reminder to really examine our default excuses of “not having enough time” to carve out minutes for the things that really matter—even in the camping off-season. After all, “not enough time” is all a matter of our (Earthly) perspective.
Do your memories of camping involve squares of chocolate melted onto Graham crackers, clinging to marshmallows, and licked from fingers? Does your winter routine involve mugs of hot cocoa after a day of playing in (or shoveling) the snow?
Good news: in the right form, this decadent delight is exceedingly good for your heart, your skin, your performance and your mood. (Okay, that last one you knew already.) Raw cacao nibs, beans and powder may require you to branch off the beaten path, but your brain and body will thank you.
Raw chocolate is actually cacao, the seed of the fruit growing on the cacao tree. And cacao is a certified superfood—one of those foods that boost immunity, pack nutrients and protein, and deliver major levels of antioxidants. In fact, experts say the raw cacao bean trumps the blueberry in terms of antioxidant levels. Here’s why that’s amazing news for chocolate lovers hoping to stay in shape for this summer’s adventures:
Gorgeous glow. Antioxidants can protect skin from sun damage, improve circulation to the skin, promote hydration, smooth imperfections, and imbue skin with that special glow. The higher the percentage of cacao in chocolate, the more antioxidants it packs. Opt for chocolate bars that are 70% or higher in cacao—especially raw cacao made with organic ingredients.
Better mood. Chocolate’s high levels of tryptophan enable the body to release the hormone responsible for making you happy. That’s why chocolate is a natural mood enhancer.
Healthy heart. One square of dark chocolate (70 percent cacao or higher) contains more phenols than a glass of red wine. Phenols help sweep arteries clean from the bad fats that tend to cling there. Chocolate also helps dilate the cardiovascular system, allowing the heart to function at top form.
More endurance. Energy and stamina are always advantages, whether you’re foraging or fishing in the great outdoors or simply fixing a home repair. Recent studies have found that dark chocolate can boost athletic performance. In particular, cyclists who ate dark chocolate prior to hopping on their wheels were more efficient in their oxygen use and were able to bike a longer distance in a timed trial.
Want to maximize the benefits of chocolate on your next camping trip? Make your own heart-healthy, mood-boosting, stamina-stoking trail mix with raw cacao nibs or beans, gogi berries, mulberries, raw nuts and seeds. Let us know how it turns out!
“Every food a person might eat either fights or contributes to disease.” – Stephen L. Kopecky, MD, cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic
Does it surprise you that most Americans would rather pop a pill than adjust their eating and exercise regimens.
While it’s true that medications like statins work—and are far easier to “swallow” (no pun intended) than major life overhauls—it’s a fact that the right kind of diet and exercise will maximize the benefits of any cholesterol-lowering drug, while providing a broad swath of protection against heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
The Mayo Clinic cardiologist quoted above endorses a Mediterranean diet, one that typifies the eating habits of people living in Greece and Italy. In those countries, it’s not uncommon to eat an average of nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables, as well as seafood each day. They enjoy healthy, heart-protective fats but treat processed foods as a rare indulgence. Besides the heart benefits, studies suggest this kind of diet reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s, cancer, Parkinson’s, arthritis, diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome that’s a cluster of pre-diabetic risk factors.
Should you want to dip a toe (or more) into the Mediterranean this month, here are ways to tweak your eating regimen without complete mutiny:
Taper your reliance on red or processed meats. There’s no need to swear them off; but make your primary protein source either fish, leaner cuts, or vegetable protein like lentils, black beans, and split peas.
Humans form an emotional brain long before a rational one, and a beating heart before either.
Last month, we talked about the destructive nature of stress – against body, mind and spirit – and the power of positive emotion to unravel the knots of negativity. As with any skill, positive thinking grows stronger and faster with practice. It may seem awkward or forced at first. But eventually, through dedicated practice, you will feel as comfortable in this “positive framework” as you will feel ill at ease in the negative one. It’s easy to get sucked into the downward spiral; but on the flip side, it’s just as easy to hold fast to the “upward spiral” generated by positive thinking.
How does HeartMath (heartmath.org) factor into the equation? And why is it exciting that HeartMath has just released an app?
The HeartMath Institute began 35 years ago as an inquiry into post-operative heart surgery patients. But along the way, researchers bumped into a key component of the heart and how it plays into our emotion—and how it helps us become good parents and good partners; focused athletes; and high-achieving students who don’t fall prey to anxiety. Heart intelligence, the theory goes, is the source of emotional intelligence and logical thinking. (The head and the heart don’t clash as much as love songs would suggest.) And when cultivated, it can help us bridge the connection between heart and mind; and build a connection to the hearts of others.
Like the gut, the heart has a direct line to the brain; and the two are in constant communication. But the heart relays far more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. Specifically, heart signals target the brain centers involved in decision-making, creativity, and emotional experience.
Early HeartMath research found that negative emotions threw the nervous system out of balance—creating disordered and jagged rhythms on the study’s heart monitor, and clouding thinking to the point of irrationality and confusion. Positive emotions, by contrast, were found to increase order and balance in the nervous system to produce smooth, harmonious heart rhythms that not only reduced stress; but also enhanced people’s ability to perceive the world around them. Positive thinking hones creativity, affords clarity, and boosts concentration. The coherence of synchronized systems—brain, heart, nervous—can yield reduced blood pressure for hypertensive patients, improvements in asthma, enhanced well-being, increased emotional stability, and improved cognitive performance. It can reduce anxiety and “helplessness” in favor of logical thinking underpinning plans of action. In short, it can help us feel completely at peace…with strength. What better Valentine’s gift to yourself and your loved ones?
Visit www.heartmath.org to learn more.
“A teacher affects eternity. He or she can never tell where his or her influence stops.” – Henry Adams
Whether we have sons or daughters, we want our children to maximize their potential and cultivate their natural talents, innate gifts, and proven “knack” for anything from language to leadership. But a spate of recent research has shown that by the age of six—in other words, by the time most kids are in kindergarten, barely on the threshold of grade school—girls are less likely than boys to view their own gender as brilliant; and they start to rule out certain activities as “not for them” by virtue of not being smart enough. They may be absorbing cultural stereotypes about brilliance. If they watch television, they may realize that geniuses portrayed on television are almost exclusively men (think Sherlock Holmes or Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory”). And if they watch their parents, they may be picking up on the stereotypes that Mom and Dad imperceptibly uphold and advance.
Think modern parents aren’t guilty of gender bias? Aggregate data in 2014 from Google searches reveal that American parents are two and a half times more likely to Google “is my son a genius” than “is my daughter a genius.” And this is despite the fact that girls consistently show larger vocabularies and use more complex sentences from an early age.
Parents also Google “Is my daughter overweight?” roughly twice as much as “Is my son overweight?” Again, this is fueled by bias – not reality. 33 percent of boys, and 30 percent of girls, are overweight. But parents see, and ruminate over, what they want to see.
In an Illinois study, ninety-six children were told two stories: one about a “really, really smart” person and one about a “really, really nice person.” The children were shown four pictures (two boys, two girls) and asked to guess which one might be the person in each story. At age five, boys and girls were equally likely to associate intelligence with their own gender. But at six, the likelihood of girls picking other girls as the “really, really smart” one sharply declined. Many girls, and most boys, picked the boy. And this remained consistent across all races, parent education and family incomes.
Another test asked children to play a game that was either for “really, really smart” people or one that was for children who “try really, really hard.” Girls were less interested in the former game, indicating a strong preference for the latter.
All the more reason for parents and teachers to make a conscious effort to battle ingrained, even unconscious stereotypes; encourage girls to develop broad interests; and take as much an interest in our daughters’ minds as in their bodies. E-commerce giants like Amazon has launched a subscription service for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) toys. Despite recent gains for women in the workforce, women in STEM are still under-represented. We can change that with a few adjustments to our thinking.
“Health is not only to be well but to use well all the powers that you have.” – Florence Nightingale
We all know January is the “time to chill.” But in this post, we’re going to discuss chilling as a means of reducing stress, tension, anxiety and negativity in your life. To that end, here are some key facts about stress:
The good news: positive emotion is the antidote to stress in every way, and this mode of thought and reaction grows stronger with practice. And because it utilizes the same receptors as stress, it’s literally impossible to feel stress while you’re cultivating positive emotion and positive thinking. One strategy to do so is a combination of deep breathing and gratitude for the joyful things in our lives. Place your hand on your heart, visualize your breath moving in and out through your heart, and think of a person or place that brings you joy. You can use this practice before you fall asleep, when you wake up in the middle of the night, to prepare for an important communication (from a meeting to a mingle), and to recoup or recover from a stressful situation. Studies show it leads to improved relationships, improved sleep, improved performance at work and at play, and a greater sense of balance and ease.
Most of us approach the new year with a resolve to lose weight—but it gets difficult when popular diets undermine and contradict each other. We should go meatless but eat like a caveman? We should avoid sugar yet indulge on fruit? We shouldn’t eat between meals, but we should subsist on frequent snacks?
And so our weight loss gets stalled before it begins. How can we possibly decide whether to embrace or avoid fats, carbs, sugar, dairy, gluten, wheat, grazing, and snacks?
In a recent article, Greatist.com counsels to “think of dieting like dating.”
“You wouldn’t choose to be in a relationship with someone you despise from day one, so why would you do that with the foods you eat. Every. Single. Day. You will quit the plan, you will learn to hate healthy eating, and you’ll probably end up more frustrated and confused than when you started.”
So if you love bread and pasta, don’t attempt to restrict your carbs. If you love dessert, avoid restricted sugar eating plans. If you enjoy waking up to a hearty breakfast or ending the day with a late-night snack, don’t buy into diets that prescribe huge lunches.
At the end of the day, “diet” is the wrong approach. But enjoying your food, honoring your hunger, and observing portion size – day in and day out – will all help you lose weight without finding it again, without the drama and heartbreak of a toxic relationship. To that end, remember these general guidelines:
Drink water, eat fiber. Both water and fiber-rich foods can battle bloat and better sync your gut and your brain so you stop eating when you’ve had your fill. Try crunching on zucchini and cucumber (not chips), popping frozen grapes as a late-night snack, and warming up with peppermint tea instead of soda.
Beware the “health halo.” That’s the blinding light surrounding certain foods that beguile us into eating badly when we think we’re making a healthy choice. For example: granola bars, protein shakes, veggie chips, fruit juice, and frozen yogurt. There’s nothing wrong with having these in moderation – just watch your portion size; otherwise sugar levels can approach that of a king-size candy bar.
Keep it real. Consoled with fat-free or sugar-free versions of your favorite food? The health halo strikes again. When food makers take out fat, they replace the lost flavor with sugar and salt. When they take out sugar, they replace the lost flavor with fat. All experts say to eat the regular version of anything, from cheddar to chocolate, in moderation. You’ll be far more satisfied.
Savor and socialize. No need to shy away from dinner with family or friends! When you enjoy every bite, and every conversational bit, you will feel fuller much faster.
Don’t skip meals! It messes with your metabolism and sets you up for more overeating. If you over-indulged at lunch or dinner, it’s okay. Make the next meal “green and clean”: lean protein, fish, vegetables, fruits, to keep your energy up and your willpower strong.
Get enough sleep. Besides suppressing hormones that fuel hunger, eight hours of shut-eye means less incentive to nosh late at night, sharper focus in the morning, and more energy to jump into activities you enjoy.