African American Father And son

The Mom-and-Dad Guide to Leadership

People of all ages respond well to the right kind of feedback. As parents and executive coaches, we’ve noticed that certain key concepts of positive psychology are effective in both parenting and work settings. 1. Shine a light on what’s going right. As Margaret and her colleague Dana Arakawa found in their research, thanking people and recognizing their work is directly tied to better productivity. Managers who gave the most positive feedback also ran teams that were 42 percent more productive compared with the managers who gave the least positive feedback. And of course children respond well to your gratitude when they help with chores without being asked. We’ll fill you in on a little productivity secret: It’s more motivating to your team—and to your kids—to be recognized for things that they’re doing well. 2. Give process praise, not person praise. If Margaret could change one aspect of her parenting, it would be how she praised her daughters. She praised their good deeds by saying, “You’re so smart” or “You’re such a good girl,” thinking she was encouraging more of the same behavior. But research by Carol Dweck, Ph.D., of Stanford University, and others, shows that such praise (called person praise) can demotivate people in the long term. Why? Because people may stop working on projects in which they can’t immediately see the payoff of being smart or fast or talented. What’s the solution? Process praise. With our kids, that means giving them specific praise about what they’ve done—something like: “Recording your favorite TV shows the last two nights so you could make flashcards for your test showed dedication, Joey! That extra time and effort really made a difference!” The same detailed feedback works in the office. We’re setting people up for future success by emphasizing that more effort pays off. 3. Change it into a habit. Wendy Wood, Ph.D., of the University of Southern California, is the foremost expert on habits. She finds two major benefits of habits: Emotionally, they remove stress from a task, and mentally, they free our minds to think about other things. The next time you’re looking to change behavior at work or at home, think of habits. When a client wanted to contribute more in group settings, we encouraged her to ask a question or say something within the first 15 minutes of a meeting.In each of our homes, to avoid distractions and foster deeper conversations, we created a family habit: The dinner table is a phone-free zone. We hope you, too, can practice crossover skills that help at home and at work!
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family, gaming and entertainment concept - happy father and little daughter with gamepads playing video game at home

Find Time for Memory-Making Traditions

In today’s busy world, we sometimes push aside things that are important to us—like family time and traditions. Blogger, author and former teacher Jessica Smartt believes that making memories is the missing piece in today’s families. As the mother of three, she’s worked to build new traditions in her own family and make those moments more meaningful. Her book, Memory-Making Mom: Building Traditions That Breathe Life Into Your Home, looks at how even the busiest family can rethink their day-to-day activities and create memory-making traditions. She joined us on the Live Happy Now podcast to talk about why these traditions are so important and how we can start creating them in our own families. Live Happy Now: What made you want to write a book about traditions and creating memories? Jessica Smartt: I think for a long time I sort of felt angsty and guilty, that I wasn’t fun enough and our house was kind of lame. I didn’t quite know how to fix it and it just kind of dawned on me one day [while] talking to an older gentleman who is on the other side of parenting, how powerful traditions are. They’re like the missing link between what we care about and how to make it actually happen. Everybody has a tradition from their childhood that they remembered. They’re always different and you know, sometimes they’re the funniest things that stick out to people, but it’s really powerful for kids and for parents too. LHN: It falls on the mom typically, to uphold traditions and implement them, so I think when someone says, "I’m going to start doing traditions," they’re like shoot me now, I don’t need one more thing to do. Can you talk about why it’s important to create traditions? JS: Well, I’d be lying if I said that it was always easy because it’s not. What’s easy is to sit on your phone and scroll. But at the end of the day, no one lays their head on their pillow and thinks, "That was a great 20 minutes I spent scrolling Instagram. I’m so glad I did that." But you do say, and I know this from experience, "I’m glad I played that game of Candy Land for the 20th time” or "I’m glad I played catch with my son in the front yard." While it’s not easy, it’s so satisfying. Putting these things into action is a way of choosing the intentional life that really gives us satisfaction and peace. That’s step one. Step two is—I think I have kind of made it a little bit easy with my book—I always say if you’re starting out, pick a couple of things that matter to your family. With your kids, if they’re old enough, come up with a way to implement that. The amazing thing is kids really remember and so they will actually never forget and will remind you forever for the rest of your life if that helps. LHN: What does it do for us as a family when we intentionally set about making memories? JS: Childhood under our roof is so short and so quick. Number one is, you’re giving them things they need with these memories. It supports us, it bolsters us up, it gives us confidence, it gives us a sense of stability and it tells us who we are. It does so many things that we don’t even realize it. Even little silly ones, you know? Doughnuts every Saturday with dad. That’s doing something on a level that I think we don’t always give it enough credit and then part two is, it tells your family members that they matter. For parents who are so overworked and so busy, this is a way of saying I choose us and you matter. It’s amazing, it really works to say, “We’re all going to hop in the car right now and go to the zoo.” Their faces light up like and you can tell it’s like, “We’re doing this together, we matter. Mom and dad actually like us. They’re not just dragging us around because they have to.” LHN: It does change the way that they see the adult world because they’re used to seeing us work and come home and we’re tired and we’re on our phones, we’re on our laptops…so this can kind of changes the way we are seen by them. JS: Exactly. That’s powerful for me to think you know, talk about technology in a couple of years, my kids are going to have phones and they’re learning right now by watching me how to act with technology, you know? They’re seeing if I have hobbies outside. They’re seeing what I do at dinner. They’re seeing if I look people in the eye and you know, they learn much more from what we’re doing than what we’re saying and so this is a concrete way of saying, here’s what matters to us as a family. We’re important and making memories is important and here’s our values. I always fail, I’m not the perfect memory-making mom, but at least now I have the goal. I know what I’m shooting towards. LHN: Obviously it benefits kids greatly, but what has it done for you as the parent to implement traditions? JS: Well, a big part of it for me, as I said, was just making me feel more confident that I am doing this thing, certainly not perfectly, but a little closer in that direction. That’s a really good, powerful feeling that you kind of have, like you just said, your goal that you’re shooting towards. You know it’s been enjoyable. We’ve made some really fun memories and it is fun as a grown-up to do all this stuff that gives us life, like hiking mountains or going on vacation. LHN: You do a great job in this book of giving us ideas. How does someone start deciding what’s right for their family? JS: There are a ton of ideas in the back. And this summer I’m launching a free bullet journal where you can kind of jot down in different categories to what your particular goals are. I would say, just—in the book, you can actually skip around and pick the topic that really interests you. I would just pick one of those ideas. I like to think of it as maybe picking something daily if it fits. Something seasonal, something maybe weekly.…Even just picking two things a year to do is a great start because you get it under your belt, you feel good about it. You are excited. So, I would just say start very slowly but start.
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Restful mother and teen-age daughter lying on the floor at home, self-esteem

4 Ways to Keep Your Self-Esteem While Raising Teenagers

Teenagers can be rough on your self-esteem. While a younger child looks up to you, desires your company, is eager to please and aspires to be like you, an adolescent becomes more critical, more focused on friends, more argumentative, more passively resistant and strives to be distinct from you. Because of this, you might feel like you invest most of your time worrying about, arguing with, negotiating with and nagging your teen. And, you feel like your worthy efforts at parenting either go unnoticed or are not appreciated. So, how can you cope with this blow to your self-esteem? You must first take responsibility for managing it yourself. To do that, try these four suggestions to make it easier for you. Adjusting Expectations You shouldn’t take these changes personally; they are not about you. Instead, you might tell yourself, “I understand that as my teenager is changing, our relationship is changing. This means that close together times might seem harder to come by.” Asking for What You Need When you feel unacknowledged for your efforts, it’s important that you ask for what you need. For example, you might declare your expectation for common courtesy by saying, “When I do something for you, I would like a ‘thank-you’ just as I give when you do for me.” And when the relationship starts to feel distant or disaffected, you can express your feelings and suggest ways to reconnect by saying something like, “How about we go out to get something to eat or go to a movie or do something else together? I’ve been missing fun company with you.” Insisting on a Give-and-Take You should refuse to adopt a role where you do all the giving and the teenager does all the receiving, because this will naturally lead to resentment. Instead, you can simply say, “I expect to live in a two-way relationship with you. This means just as I do for you, I expect you also do for me. And sometimes you will need to do for me before I do for you.” Defining Yourself Broadly You should not allow your self-esteem to depend entirely on the opinion of your teenager and what she or he does or doesn’t do. Instead, you must define yourself broadly beyond only being a parent to an adolescent. You might remind yourself of other aspects of your life, such as your active social circles, hobbies that you enjoy or charities that you are involved with. And you should absolutely not judge yourself through your adolescent’s unappreciative or critical eyes. To keep up your self-esteem, you must evaluate yourself kindly by focusing on your various parenting “wins,” even if they seem small. To keep up your self-esteemwhile raising teenagers, it helps if you ask yourself,“What do I wish my adolescentwould say in recognition for all I do for her?”Then, you should commit to being your own best supporter and affirmatively answer thatquestion for yourself.
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awake boy is shocked because it is too late

Be a Consciously Irresponsible Parent

Stress, disorganization, frustration, and anger; are these part of your morning routine? Getting sleepy, uncooperative children out the door on time in the morning can try any parent’s patience, and it is especially difficult when both parents have to get out the door and off to work themselves. Have you ever muttered, “There’s got to be a better way?” Well, there is. Picture this: Your children wake up on their own, get dressed by themselves, take turns fixing breakfast (including yours) and get their lunches (which they fixed the night before) from the fridge. They then pick up their homework and gym clothes (from the place where they had them all laid out the night before) and give you a kiss as they leave for school with time to spare. Sound good? This could be your home—or very close to it. A win-win situation In Positive Discipline, we teach the importance of “winning children over” instead of “winning over children.” Winning over children invites rebellion or giving up. Winning children over invites cooperation. Winning your children over does not mean giving them what they want so that they like you and are more likely to do what you want them to do. Winning your child over means you created a desire for cooperation based on a feeling of mutual respect. One of the best ways to win children over is to do things with them instead of to or for them. Doing things with them means respectfully involving them in finding solutions that work for everyone such as chores charts and set routines. Not my job Another great way to help your children learn responsibility is for you to be “consciously irresponsible.” Parents sometimes spend endless energy and time being responsible for their children. They set their alarm clocks for them, shake them out of bed in the morning, issue incessant reminders to get dressed, eat breakfast, find their shoes, pack their backpacks, and grab their lunch, and still they find themselves driving children to school because they missed the bus. It’s a good system for the kids (at least on the surface). But children aren’t learning self- discipline and motivation and often become discouraged about their own competence, and parents are becoming cranky, frustrated, and resentful. Lead by Example To be consciously irresponsible, let children know what they are capable of doing on their own and take time for training. Then, don’t do it for them. Don’t set the alarm clock, don’t remind them to get dressed or eat. As they experience natural consequences, they may choose to be more responsible themselves. After an initial uncomfortable learning stage, they will likely start to enjoy their growing skills and confidence. This is a great way to acquaint them with their personal power in a positive way. Imagine how much more relaxed and contented we can be both in the home and in our professional lives when we let go of a bit of control and empower others.
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Happy couple.

4 Ways to Keep a Happy Relationship

Most of us are willing to put real effort into relationships that we value. But trying too hard can put the relationship at risk. This is especially true in the case of romantic relationships because the self-disclosure and vulnerability we feel when becoming close to another person may make us wary of those who make demands that we’re not sure we’re ready to meet. “Trying too hard” is related to attempting to control where a relationship goes. It’s generally seen in micromanaging behavior and almost always causes a “distancing” by the other partner, who becomes more ambivalent and ducks the controlling behavior. This, of course, exacerbates the issue by causing the “controlling” partner to lean even more into controlling (or “fixing”) the relationship, which only increases the anxiety and ambivalence of the other partner. The following tips are designed to help ensure that both parties remain comfortably on the same page in developing needed give-and-take in a relationship: Openly discuss the status of your relationship. Build in a habit of checking in with each other about what you think and feel about how your connection is proceeding. Frankly discuss feelings such as anxiety, insecurity and (perhaps most importantly) ambivalence. This may seem strange at first, but it is valuable for getting to know someone and vital for maintaining a healthy long-term relationship. Decide how and when you’ll have these talks and stay open to taking a timeout when the other person is feeling anxious and ambivalent. This not only promotes trust, but reduces the likelihood of triggering crises down the road related to unresolved feelings or issues. Cultivate a practice of mindfulness of how each partner is experiencing the relationship, so that neither party feels in danger of being either depleted or overwhelmed. Such a practice can be initiated by calling a timeout and sitting quietly with one another for short time, say three to five minutes. Follow this up with a period of alternating shares (also timed) in which each party talks about what it was like to sit quietly with each other without taking one another’s inventory. With practice, this builds a safe space for couples to practice the unconditional acceptance of where each person stands in the relationship. Give each other permission to speak up if one of you feels that the other is over-managing what’s going on between you. Indicators of over-management can be as subtle as one of you always deciding who does a household chore to something as significant as deciding when you’re going to have sex or how you’re going to spend your vacations. Remember to maintain focus on how one is experiencing the other’s “over-management.” For example, instead of an accusatory, “you never pay attention to what I want,” (which probably will elicit a retaliatory accusation) verbalize your own feelings only: “I feel as if my ideas about how we could spend our vacation don’t matter to you” or “it hurts my feelings when you push me away when I try to kiss you.” Sticking to verbalizing only your own feelings without blaming leaves open an avenue for jointly analyzing and finding solutions to problems. Don’t act as if “everything is fine” when it isn’t. Few behaviors have more “blow-up potential” than ignoring your own feelings to keep the peace. At the same time, avoid insisting on raising an issue in a time and place that’s likely to create more discomfort (as well as resistance and resentment) rather than relieve it. With practice, the three previous techniques will create an interpersonal environment in which virtually any issue can be processed in a calm, nonaccusatory way, and in almost any setting. Problems are then solved in real time, undercutting the danger of ignoring or stewing in our feelings. Each time you address a problem or potential problem in this way, you’ll have taken a giant step forward in building both connection and mutual trust. You may have noticed that safety is the cornerstone of everything we’ve said here. But feeling safe isn’t automatic: It’s built over time, and the four points above can keep the process on track. The unconditional hospitality you create, no matter what each of you is feeling, becomes the beginning, the way and the goal of making your relationship better.
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Live Happy Dog Trainer Shares Tips

Adopt a New Best Friend This Month

Having a dog as a friend can be a fun and meaningful way to add more happiness in life. According to the journal Scientific Reports, having a dog around can reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease by keeping us company in times of loneliness and nudging us to be more active. Jeff Franklin, one of the world’s leading dog trainers and subject of the new book Franklin: The Man Behind the United States Commando Dogs by Matthew Duffy, says dogs can be the “most nonjudgmental, loving and loyal creatures on the planet. We all want more of those qualities in our lives.” For dogs, being a member of a loving home keeps their tails wagging. Unfortunately, millions of good dogs are living in shelters waiting for that forever home. Jeff explains that many dogs end up in shelters because people underestimate the responsibility of being a dog owner. “Our shelters would become fairly empty if dog owners realized the amount of time it takes to work with a new dog to integrate them into their new ‘human’ type of life and requirements,” he says. “We have worked with shelters and their dogs for over 20 years and the number one reason for dogs being there is because they simply do not have the life skills they need to be the assets they are capable of being in our lives, such as house breaking, not pulling on the leash, not jumping, not barking, destructive chewing, etc.” Every October, the ASPCA celebrates Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, to raise awareness about the importance of adopting a shelter dog. If you are thinking about adding a new four-legged friend to your household, Jeff offers his tips for finding the right pet for you. What should we look for in a shelter dog?  The best thing to do is to look for a dog that generally fits into your lifestyle. If you are picking a shelter dog because they are cute, or sad, or you feel sorry for them, it may not be the correct fit. If you’re busy and social, pick a dog that likes that as well.  If you’re more of a homebody that prefers to stay indoors, then pick the hangout kind of dog. There are many personalities of great dogs that need homes of all types. What are the benefits of caring for/adopting a senior dog? I believe this is a great unselfish act to do. Sure, we all go to shelters and run straight for the adorable puppies, because baby animals leave an impression on us. For me, I have given a home to several senior dogs and the experience was incredibly rewarding on multiple levels. Of course, the down side is that they were only with me a few years, but having the pleasure to give them a great home environment for their last years was priceless…not to mention so much easier than a feisty puppy. What is a training tip you can share with us? Teach your dogs to behave, have good manners and life skills.  Commands (sit, down, stay) are good, but overrated compared to just having a well-behaved canine friend. Dogs that behave well usually spend a substantial amount more time with their owners on a regular basis—not to mention the fact that these dogs do not usually end up in shelters. Make your dog an asset by great training at the beginning of your relationship together and you will always have a faithful companion to care for and spend time with. Where did your ability to communicate with dogs come from? It sounds cliché, but it is just a natural gift. I can teach people how to work with animals, but truly reading and communicating is a naturally given trait that can be enhanced with experience. I’ve been lucky to spend most of my life working with dogs and this has given me invaluable insight into how they think and behave.  What’s most satisfying to you about your work with dogs? I am most satisfied when I work with a canine family or K9 team and the results are a happy dog and happy handlers that perform well at whatever their desired task is—whether it be a family pet, a service dog or a working dog.
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Girl relaxing on grass in the shade

Dare to Be Different This Labor Day

When I was a kid, Labor Day meant the end of the summer. My father was a foreman in a ball-bearing factory. He was never home on a Monday, except for this one. We’d visit our grandparents, have a family picnic and then get home early to lay out our first-day-of-school outfits. The meaning of Labor Day was lost on me. When I became a working adult, Labor Day simply meant a much-needed day off. Back then you had to work a full year before you earned any vacation days. Yet, Labor Day was founded more than 120 years ago with a specific purpose. According to the Department of Labor, the holiday on the first Monday of September was “a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.” Unfortunately, Labor Day has transformed into just another shopping holiday. How could something that was so hard-fought turn into something so meaningless? What if this Labor Day you truly unplugged? Why We Don’t Unplug and Why We Need To For many workers around the globe, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. has been replaced with 24/7. From coaching hundreds of business leaders, my co-author, Senia Maymin, Ph.D., and I have found four common reasons why people don’t unplug, even when they have a day off: Feeling anxious about stepping away from work Believing working more will make them more productive Unrealistic workplace expectations Striving to be a perfectionist But, like a muscle, our brains need rest to perform optimally. Don’t Recuperate—Instead Rejuvenate and Reprioritize My coaching clients often tell me that when they do take a day off they need to recuperate, as though work is like an illness or surgery. When we lose interest in people and the things that once brought us joy and happiness, it is our wake-up call that we need to reprioritize, not recuperate. This Labor Day, I challenge you to stay out of the stores and totally unplug. Take a mental health day to honor the American worker instead and reflect upon what’s important to you. What does Labor Day mean to you and how will you spend it? Five Simple Ways to Unplug Cultivate one or more of these healthy mobile phone habits and notice what happens to your overall happiness: Put away your phone for at least one hour every day. Put your phone on sleep mode to trick yourself into thinking your phone is dead. Turn off all social media, text and email alerts. Never, ever put your phone on a table or desktop when having a conversation. Never open an email on your phone (even though you may be tempted to do so) if you know you can’t possibly respond to it in the moment. Curiosity killed the cat.
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Happy Kids

17 Things Our Kids Teach Us About Happiness

Parenting isn’t easy. We wonder if we are doing a good enough job while we juggle multiple responsibilities and watch our kids grow up too fast. Sometimes we are so caught up in teaching our children that we forget to pause and ask ourselves what we can learn from them. What if children hold the secret to a meaningful and fulfilling adulthood? Here are 17 things you can learn from kids: Stay present. When a child wakes up, they are not stressing about what’s on their to-do list or how to get it all done. Kids just naturally live in the moment. Adults can choose to as well. Be spontaneous. While we may not want to emulate our kids when they go from temper tantrum to happy in a matter of seconds, we can follow their lead when it comes to unplanned fun. Forget the workweek drudgery and the fun-is-for-the-weekend mindset and seek more moments of joy within each day. Find your voice. Our kids are always vying for our attention. They want to be seen and heard. Adults need to know they matter, too. Surround yourself with people who value you and what you have to say. Don’t worry about what other people think. Watch a 4-year-old select an outfit, and you quickly realize they don’t care about what other people think. Blue sparkle pants can go with a black and white polka dot shirt and orange rain boots. Make decisions based on what you like and not what the critics might say. Dance. Don’t wait for a dance club or ballroom lessons, let the music play and dance in your kitchen or down the street. Kids delight in movement, anywhere, any time. Be open to some playful dancing just because. Start with a blank slate. Even if little ones go to bed pouting, they often wake up happy without holding on to what happened the day before. A new day is a chance to start again. Be silly and laugh for no special reason. It’s easy to make kids laugh. Adults? Not so much. Booked schedules and multiple responsibilities can make adults too serious. Let yourself be silly for no special reason. Laugh with your co-workers. Crack a joke. Watch a comedy and laugh out loud. Be playful with your spouse. Laughing is good for your health. Go outdoors. Remember when you were little and you’d come inside smelling like fresh air? You probably had dirt on you, a fresh scratch or two and you were exhilarated from a day of running around outside nonstop. Seek out nature more often to recharge and awaken your spirit. Love unconditionally. Even when we don’t have our best day as a parent, our children love us anyway. Instead of being so tough on yourself, choose to love yourself and others without conditions. It feels so good when your child says, “I love you.” Offer that unconditional love to others around you, too. Do what you love. Kids are inherently drawn to what they love doing. They will ask mom or dad 100 times in a row if they can do that activity. Too often adults let what they love doing slip to the bottom of their list—buried under responsibilities and daily habits. Get back to doing what you love—it’s often the path to your purpose. Play. Children often view every environment as an opportunity to play. What if you began filtering your world (and days) looking for opportunities to have some fun? Make messes. Enjoy the freedom in making a mess. (Note to neat freaks: You can clean it up!) You don’t have to destroy your kitchen with a food fight. Channel your inner child by riding your bike through a puddle, running through the sprinkler, playing in mud with your kids or painting without worry that colors will drip on your clothes. Get excited. How often do you get crazy psyched for something? Anticipation and excitement are skills kids have mastered. (Picture wide eyes, big smiles, jumping up and down and shrieking.) When is the last time you felt that excited? Put some things on your calendar that make you giddy with childlike excitement. Notice the joy all around you. Kids find joy in the smallest of pleasures—from a firetruck that passes by to a butterfly landing near them. Children delight in cloud shapes, a rabbit that hops into the yard and rainbow sprinkles on ice cream. Start noticing and appreciating the simple little joys that surround you every day. Accept others exactly as they are. Children are drawn to adults who show an interest in them. You don’t have to look or be a certain way to be loved and accepted by kids. Take a tip from the little ones: Don’t judge others. Take an open-minded and kind-hearted interest in other people. Be curious about the world. Kids have a natural wonder and curiosity about the world. Be a sponge and love to learn like your kids do. See every new person you meet as someone you could learn something from. Look for new experiences and opportunities to absorb knowledge. Be authentic. Some adults spend their lives learning to be who they are. Children just know who they are unapologetically. Find your way back to who you know yourself to be.
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In Search of Wisdom

How to Be Compassionate Toward Difficult People

I am often asked the following question: “I want to be compassionate and kind, but how do I do that when I’m confronted with ingratitude, bad faith, hostility and ill will? How do I feel altruism for the ruthless barbarians of ISIS?” In the Buddhist teachings, we are often given the advice not to inwardly own the wrongs that have been done to us. There is the story about someone who insulted the Buddha many times. The Buddha finally asked him, “If someone gives you a gift and you refuse it, who in the end is the owner of the gift?” A little disconcerted, the man replied that it’s the person who is trying to give the gift. And the Buddha concluded, “Your insults—I don’t accept them, thus they remain yours.” Dealing with ingrates, boors and nasty people, it seems to me we have everything to gain by maintaining a compassionate attitude. By remaining calm, courteous and open to the other, in the best-case scenario, I will disarm their hostility. And if they don’t change their attitude, I will have at least kept my dignity and my inner peace. If I get into a confrontation, I will myself commit the faults that I deplore in the other. The usual pattern in confrontation is escalation. You keep shouting louder and louder, I reply shout for shout, the tone worsens, and the next thing you know, we’re moving in the direction of violence. If we fight hate with hate, the problem will never end. It Is Possible to Be Compassionate Toward Others Without Conditions • Don’t be frightened by the practice of unconditional altruism and say that it is beyond your reach. Don’t ever think, “The suffering of others is none of my business.” • Don’t blame yourself for not doing what is beyond your strength, but do reproach yourself for turning away when you can do something. • No matter what level we start from, kindness and compassion can be cultivated just like any other physical or mental aptitudes. • We should make use of our natural ability to be compassionate toward those near us as a starting point for extending our compassion beyond our family and those we love. Excerpted from In Search of Wisdom: A Monk, a Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on What Matters Most, by Matthieu Ricard, Christophe André and Alexandre Jollien. Sounds True, June 2018. Reprinted with permission.
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Father's Day

The Best Father’s Day Gift

Every holiday—just like every day—is an opportunity to nurture relationships. The way you experience others in the present is largely guided by information your mind processes from your past, present and even your future, all of which you associate with and bring to bear upon present moments. This processing has profound effects. It shapes what you think, feel and do. And this largely determines the outcome of events. Such mental activity occurs mostly under your radar and at very high speed, in just milliseconds. Acting mostly on automatic pilot, this processing is evolution’s answer to the overwhelming amount of information streaming at us all day long. By the time you get an idea of how you will act in a given situation, you are likely already in motion, for better or worse. Most of us just go through the day and do what we do, not giving it much thought. And that’s usually fine with us, especially if things are going well. But as soon as plans and behaviors start going awry, we get antsy. All experiences are not equal. Some of the usual places your mind can go are: To old memories of similar moments and your responses to those; to old emotional files that merge with the details of your present situation and also to related future expectations. One of the best gifts you can give dad on Father’s Day is to preload your mind with patterns that generate more closeness, joy and peace. Behavioral and emotional patterns will emerge. The more each behavior has been repeated in your past, the more predictably and powerfully a similar situation will ignite it in the present. This is why you hear people say things like, “I always have a slow, long breakfast on holidays,” or say, “We always wind up quarreling on the holidays, then making up and then trying to make what’s the best of the remainder of the day.” The truth is, the mind will repeat a pattern over and over until it gets the message that you want to do things differently. It’s not much different than when you choose to sit in a certain spot in your favorite restaurant or say the same thing, word for word, when someone asks, “How are you?” But sometimes you want more control and a better, more meaningful pattern. One of the best gifts you can give dad on Father’s Day is to preload your mind with patterns that generate more closeness, joy and peace. A nice way to do this is to clean out old dysfunctional reactions and replace them with warmer, kinder ones. Use these guidelines to build more positive moments into Father’s Day—and every day. Energy Bites for Father’s Day: DON’T Use devices too much. Try to have a “mostly” device-free day and go for more organic family and personal time. Your mind and body and relationships will be glad you did. Let unwanted memories invade your day. You can start to identify some of the usual invaders the night before. Then tell yourself that when they arise the next day you’ll be ready for them and not allow them entry. Plan a positive response instead so it will kick in when you need it. DO Take a small day trip to a place where you and Dad have had special moments in the past. Remember good times. Tell stories or look at photo albums together. Say something loving. Take time to savor the positive details of the day. Listen often without having to respond. Find something—a conversation or common sports interest—to build on later. Create pockets of peace and quiet and soak it all in.
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