Saturday, November 4, 2017

Inspirational Quote – November 04, 2017

“Colors are the smiles of nature.”

So many colors for our eyes to feast on. Isn’t nature wonderful? The changing of each season as it gradually unveils its own beautiful, inspirational, awesome splendid palette of color for our eyes to appreciate and marvel at. Man can never ever hope to compete with what Nature’s very own specialist art gallery has to offer. From the delicate, intricate patterns to be found on butterflies, insects, animals, birds, plants, trees, etc., to the landscapes that take our breath away. Long may nature’s art gallery always remain open for business. We are truly blessed.

It Was About Friendship, Not The Home

Author Colin Beavan discusses a memoir by Drew Philip called "A $500 House In Detroit" in which the author meets and befriends his new neighbors. The article chronicles Drew's journey, revealing that in his quest to do the right thing, he focused on friendship and worked to transcend and accept differences between him and others.

Friday, November 3, 2017

How to Make Everyday Moments Extraordinary

A new book suggests ways we can infuse more peak experiences into our work and everyday lives.

Our lives are filled with memories of experiences we’ve had; but that doesn’t mean we can recall everything that happened to us. Why do we remember certain experiences and forget others—and how can we create more memories?
Research suggests that we tend to remember things more if they elicit strong emotion—negative or positive—and if they are imbued with meaning. Think of your wedding day, or the first time you spoke in front of a crowd. These are experiences that lodge in our memory, sometimes filling us with happiness or pride or a sense of awe.
Now, imagine if you could experience peak moments like these in your everyday life. Wouldn’t we all like more of that?
This idea is at the heart of the new book The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Their book makes the case that peak moments are essential to a happy life and that we could take steps to create more of them at work and in our personal lives.
Drawing on what we know about emotion, meaning, and memory, the Heaths suggest that we can manipulate our experiences to stand out more by incorporating some or all of these four elements:

  • Elevation: Rising above the everyday and seeming extraordinary.
  • Insight: Challenging our understanding of ourselves or the world, helping us to grow and change.
  • Pride: Capturing us at our best, when we are achieving something important or showing courage.
  • Connection: Strengthening our social relationships.
By doing so, they argue, we can create more peak, memorable experiences for ourselves, our family and friends, and our workforce.

How experiences become memorable

According to the Heaths, we often overlook opportunities to create peak experiences that could have long-term consequences.
Take, for example, a new employee’s first day on the job, which is often a ho-hum experience filled with lots of paperwork. The Heaths suggest doing something like what the John Deere company did to change the first-day experience for their new employees: providing free parking, greeting them in the office lobby, having fellow employees drop by to introduce themselves, inviting new employees to lunch, decorating their desks with gifts, and performing other welcoming gestures to make them feel valued.
<a href=“”><em>The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact</em></a> (Simon & Schuster, 2017, 320 pages)The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact (Simon & Schuster, 2017, 320 pages)
The payoff? A peak experience that communicated a caring culture—something tied to increased productivity, connection, and loyalty to the workplace.
There are certain moments that are ripe for improving, write the authors—like attending the first day of school, receiving a promotion, or retiring after a long career. If we pay more attention to making these events extraordinary, emotionally evocative, and meaningful for those experiencing them, we will increase the chances that these events become “some of the most memorable moments of our lives,” they write. 
Feelings of pride can also lead to peak experiences. How many of us had a teacher recognize some hidden strength in us that instilled pride and motivated us to move forward in school or life? I know I did—I still remember when my dissertation advisor praised my writing and made me reconsider my personal strengths. The ability to recognize what is best in others is an important leadership skill.
In the workplace, the Heaths recommend eschewing formal recognition programs, which seem impersonal and may involve quotas, like “employee of the month” awards. Instead, they suggest giving spontaneous and frequent recognition of a job well done, making sure feedback is honest and personal and involves objective measurements—like reaching a work goal or adding to the kindness quotient at the office.
Positive moments are not the only ones that stick in the mind. In fact, research suggests that negative experiences—like making a huge mistake at work or blowing the first date with our dream partner—tend to stand out even more than positive experiences. Is it possible to turn these into peak experiences?
Yes, if we gain insight from them, say the Heaths. Though we may be tempted to beat ourselves up for failing at something, failure can be an opportunity to dig deep and to uncover lessons about our strengths and weaknesses. That means that we shouldn’t be afraid to stretch ourselves, as long as we’re focused on self-discovery rather than achievement.
“The promise of stretching is not success, it’s learning,” write the Heaths. “It’s the promise of gleaning the answers to some of the most important and vexing questions of our lives: What do we want? What can we do? Who can we be? What can we endure?”
Another tool they recommend is writing a gratitude letter to someone who has impacted your life in positive ways. This is an especially powerful way to offer them all four elements of a peak experience at once: elevation (it’s out of the ordinary), insight (it shows that their kindness matters and generosity has ripple effects), pride (it’s recognizing their gifts, which induces pride), and connection (it gives you both a big dose of closeness). And it has benefits for the letter author, too: Research has shown that the rush of happiness that accompanies this experience can last up to a month later.
The Power of Moments is full of useful tips on how to infuse our everyday lives and work with more peak experiences. Though less scientifically grounded than some other books, it is an enjoyable and inspiring read, providing lots of food for thought. Happily, I read it right before planning my 25th wedding anniversary party, and it made a big difference in what I decided to do for that occasion. Instead of a simple dinner party, we added a slideshow and surprise mini-reenactment of our wedding vows, which definitely elevated the proceedings.
And, just as predicted, I’m still reaping the rewards of that peak experience.

Inspirational Quote – November 03, 2017

“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”

Oooo, this made me think! I’m not sure to be honest. What about you? Write a best seller, explore a far flung mysterious island, learn to pole dance, etc? However, I don’t think this is so much about attempting something you know you won’t fail at, as nudging you towards the realization that, just by the very act of making an attempt you have already tasted success! There is success in every failed attempt don’t you think? By the very intent and purpose of aiming for success you have proved yourself successful in thinking, planning and creating something to aim for. Even if it doesn’t prove “successful” in the way you’d hoped in the end, you will have learned valuable lessons and gained insight along the way. So, next time………


Anne Lamott Writes Down Every Single Thing She Knows

If you know Anne Lamott's writing, nothing more in the way of introduction is necessary. If you do not, this list of life lessons will become the magical touchstone you finger like rosary beads every time the world breaks you open in love or loss.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Do You Have a True Self?

And what does it mean to believe that there is a "true self" inside of everyone?

Chances are you have lots of beliefs about yourself and other people. You use these beliefs to help predict why people do what they do. If someone yells at you, you might forgive them because you know they are under a lot of strain. Or, you might mistrust them because you think that this person is always angry at you. Or, you might even think that—deep down—they are an angry person who should be avoided.
That is, there are times when you believe that a person’s actions reflect the situation they are in or their current mental state. But, you also have times when you think that a person’s actions are a reflection of their true self.
Psychologists have been interested in capturing the qualities that people think are part of someone’s true self and also in understanding how the idea of a true self affects people’s actions and their relationships with others. This research was summarized in a fascinating review by Nina Strohminger, Joshua Knobe, and George Newman in a recent paper published by Perspectives on Psychological Science.
Generally speaking, when people think about their true self or the true self of other people, what characteristics do they believe that it has?
An interesting facet of the true self is that it seems to be a belief that is similar across cultures. That is, aspects of the true self have been explored in studies using many different populations around the world, and the beliefs tend to be quite similar.
Two core beliefs are that the true self tends to be moral and good. So, when people make a change in their actions, they are more likely to be judged as doing something that reflects their true self when they change from doing something bad to something good than vice versa. This is why someone who stops abusing drugs or alcohol is often judged as allowing their true self to come through, while someone who starts abusing drugs or alcohol is judged as obscuring their true self.
These beliefs also tend to lead people to assume that someone can change for the positive over time, even if many of their past actions have been bad. That is, we are reluctant to decide that someone is truly evil and prefer to believe that their true self has a moral spark that might someday lead them toward better actions in the future.
An interesting facet of the true self is that our beliefs about our true self and other people’s true selves are similar. This belief differs from the way we often treat our motives versus those of people from a different group. Often, we assume that we and people from our group have purer motives than people from some outgroup. But, we also assume that deep down (in their true self) members of other groups are good and moral people.
Why does the concept of the true self matter?
For one, the belief in a true self affects people’s judgments about what actions give life meaning. A person might work hard at their job and also spend time with family. They might believe that their job is just something they do, but that the importance they place on family relationships is part of their true self. In that case, the effort they put into their family relationships will give them a greater sense that their life has had meaning than the effort they have put into their profession.
In addition, the belief in true self can influence the treatments people will consider for mental illnesses. For example, many college students are willing to take medications for ADHD that allow them to focus on their work. Part of the reason why they take this medication so freely is that few people consider their ability or inability to concentrate as a central part of their true self. In contrast, many patients suffering from bipolar disorder are reluctant to take their medication, because they believe that their medication is changing aspects of their true self.
The authors end this paper by pointing out that while the true self seems to be an important part of people’s beliefs about themselves and others, it is hard from a scientific standpoint to think of the true self as something that actually exists. That is, I may believe I have a true self, but is there actually a true self inside me?
The authors suggest that the idea that there is some deep hidden self that may be independent of a person’s actions for much of their life is probably best thought of as a valuable fiction. It can be useful to believe that we and other people are inherently good and moral, but that doesn’t mean that there is an inherently good and moral person lurking within every person just waiting to get out.
This piece originally appeared Art Markman’s blog Ulterior Motives, which is about the interface between motivation and thinking.

Inspirational Quote – November 02, 2017

“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.”

So simple, so true! I believe that we all begin life with the ability to achieve. Unfortunately, some of us are born into circumstances of poverty, careless or cruel parenting, physically handicapped, etc., therefore opportunities to achieve, if any, may be few and far between. That which defines us is not where we begin but where we ultimately end. If we use whatever we have, even if it is the single ability to overcome and endure, then that’s wonderful. We are utilizing what no one can take from us, because it is within us, ours to hold and nurture. We are all, every one of us, very, very special indeed.

The World's First Elephant-Friendly Farm

Tenzing dreamed of transforming his family's paddy and vegetable farm into an organic tea farm, though he was told that growing tea organically was impossible. When Tenzing saw the harmful effects pesticides had on his workers and farm animals, he persisted with his dream. In 2007, after a number of challenges, Tenzing's tea farm became the first and only farm out of 12,000 others in Assam to grow organic tea. Tenzing has created such an open and welcoming environment that even the elephants stop by to munch on his tea leaves, and he doesn't mind! Read on to learn more about this heart-warming spirit and the miracle he has created.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

13 Things That Scare the Pants Off of You (and Why)

Roller Coasters

Our lives aren’t quite as exciting as they used to be -- no more running from predators, for example. But our brains are still wired for that chase. A thrill ride puts you in touch with your primal self: You get the rush of being scared without the stampeding woolly mammoth.

Horror Movies

These scary things don’t just appear -- we seek them out and pay money for them. Why in the name of Linda Blair do we do that? An older theory goes that some people aren’t afraid of horror as much as they’re excited by it. But a newer idea is that we can feel both positive and negative emotions at the same time: Some of us seriously enjoy being scared.


There’s just something creepy about a clown’s face -- close to normal, but not quite. Scientists have a word for this: “uncanny.” Whether it’s a clown or a mask, things that are uncanny often creep us out and make us uncomfortable.


A fear of being up too high is good for you -- it keeps you from playing hopscotch at the edge of a cliff. But taken too far, it can be irrational and unhealthy. Say, if you refuse to move to your company’s new high-rise office, for example. That would make it a phobia -- when you’re really afraid of something even when it isn’t that dangerous.


Many of us aren’t wild about going up in the air in a bus with wings. But if the fear is so strong that it causes a problem with your job or keeps you from visiting family, you may have aviophobia. It starts with a panic attack -- sudden, intense fear -- on a plane. It often happens after a major life event (a wedding, funeral, or divorce, for example). If you have one, there’s a good chance you won’t want to fly again.


Even if you know it’s harmless, you probably get a little creeped out when you think of one crawling on your arm. Your cortex is trying to reason with your fight-or-flight reflex (controlled by your amygdala). Sometimes, the amygdala just wins.


For a moment, your reaction may be the same whether it’s a snake or just a curvy stick in the backyard. Before you have time to figure it out, your amygdala sends a lightning-quick response that says, “Danger!” If it really is a snake, that extra split second might save your life.


Maybe you’re scared he’ll say you need some painful work done. Or you don’t like the idea of someone’s hands in your mouth. Or maybe it’s the bill that follows. Whatever the reason, it’s a real fear. There’s even a word for it: odontophobia.


Feel lightheaded or faint when you think about getting a shot or see blood? You’re not alone. It’s called blood-injection-injury phobia, and up to 10% of adults have it at some point in their lives. Some may have had a lot of blood tests or allergy shots as children, but not everyone has a reason for this fear.

Sudden Loud Noises

A bang! can cause a “startle response,” which puts you on high alert and can make your muscles tense and even jump. Your conscious brain (cortex) tries to make sense of the situation: “Don’t be dramatic,” it says. “That was clearly the neighbor’s old clunker backfiring in the driveway.”


Humans are more aware of things that can cause immediate harm. So we’re likely to be more scared of Jaws than, say, heart disease. That was once a good thing. But in the modern world, we may not even think about the biggest dangers to our survival, much less be afraid of them. (Hint: More people die of heart disease than shark attacks.)


The fear and superstition linked to black cats is a pretty recent -- and mostly American -- thing. They were sacred animals in ancient Egypt, and people in many places in Europe and Asia still think they’re lucky. But if you have ailurophobia (a fear of cats), you may invite trouble without knowing it: They love people who sit still and don’t look at them!


Fear of an aggressive dog is a good thing. But intense fear of every dog, no matter how small or unthreatening, could be a sign of a phobia. Exposure therapy helps some people get past it. A mental health professional puts you near a dog for a short time, in a safe place, and then slowly brings you closer for longer periods.

Social Security Matters: Is that Phone Call From Us?

It’s the morning of a busy day at home and you get a call from an unknown number. You answer only to find yourself on the receiving end of a threatening message saying your Social Security benefits will stop immediately unless you provide your personal information. It happens every day to thousands of Americans.  And it’s not Social Security calling.
Scammers have many ways to lure their victims into providing information and then stealing their identities. Sometimes they call under a guise of helping you complete a disability application. Protecting your information is an important part of Social Security’s mission to secure today and tomorrow. Any request from our agency will come to you as a written notice first. If you do receive a call from one of our representatives, they will provide you with a telephone number and extension.
The Acting Inspector General for Social Security, Gale Stallworth Stone, urges everyone to stay vigilant of impersonation schemes and to not be afraid to hang up.
You must always remember that you’re in control. Also remember that Social Security will never do any of the following:
  • Call you to demand an immediate payment;
  • Demand that you pay a debt without the ability to appeal the amount you owe;
  • Require a specific means of payment, such as requiring you to pay with a prepaid debit card;
  • Ask you for your personal information or credit or debit card numbers over the phone; or
  • Threaten you with arrest or deportation.
If you receive one of these scam calls or emails, do not provide them with any information. You should:
  • Hang up immediately;
  • For Social Security impersonations, contact Social Security’s Office of Inspector General at
If you receive a notice from Social Security, please use the telephone numbers provided in the notice sent to you. You can also call 1-800-772-1213 or visit for how to contact Social Security. Remember that scammers try to stay a step ahead of the curve. You can do the same by protecting your information.

Worst Foods for Constipation


If you get constipated often, do yourself a favor and take a look at your diet. Among the foods that may block you up: too much cheese and milk. But you may not have to give up dairy -- just eat less of it and change your choices. Try yogurt with probiotics, live bacteria that’s good for your digestive system. It may help relieve constipation.

Fast Or Prepared Foods

Does your busy lifestyle have you eating on the go? Those readymade meals may be convenient, but they could cause a backup. Most are low in fiber, which you need to help food move through your system. By taking time to slow down, you may speed up your digestion.

Fried Food

Aunt Helen’s chicken is almost impossible to pass up, but consider opting for an entrée with more fiber if you’re having a tough time on the toilet. Fried foods are full of fat and are hard to digest. When food moves through your colon slowly, too much water can be taken out of it. That makes for a hard, dry stool.


They’re high in protein but low in fiber. You don’t have to take them off the menu. Just add some high-fiber foods into the mix. Try an omelet with fresh spinach and tomatoes.

Tender Meat

Full of protein and fat but lacking in fiber, that juicy steak needs to be balanced with a side of broccoli. That’ll help herd it comfortably through your digestive system.


Add possible constipation to the many reasons a sweet dessert should be an occasional, not regular, thing. Pastries, cookies, and other treats with refined sugar are low in fiber and fluids, and high in fat. That’s no good if you’re having trouble keeping things moving. Satisfy your sweet tooth with strawberries and yogurt. Your tummy will thank you for it.

White Bread

Too much of this will give you hard, dry stools. It’s made with low-fiber white flour. Go for whole-grain toast instead. It may help your next trip to the bathroom go more smoothly.


A couple cups of coffee makes some people race to the bathroom, but it can have the opposite effect, too. The caffeine in coffee and soft drinks can keep your body from holding onto water, and you need H2O to stay regular. If you’re constipated, skip that second cup until things pass.


Like coffee, booze can make it hard for your body to hang onto water. That can spell trouble for your bathroom visits until you get hydrated again. If you’re going to have a cocktail, nurse a glass of water at the same time to keep things flowing.

How to Enjoy Being Alone with Your Thoughts

It’s hard to think pleasant thoughts—but a new study suggests a quick way to make it easier.

Be optimistic. Think happy thoughts. Lots of happiness advice makes it sound as if we could flip a switch and fill our heads with puppies and rainbows—and wouldn’t that be great?
But it turns out that positive thinking isn’t so easy. In an infamous 2014 study where people had 15 minutes to mentally entertain themselves, about 40 percent chose to help pass the time by—no, not meditating—receiving an electric shock.
In fact, a recent study found that only 13 percent of people’s thoughts are positive and inner-directed, and they enjoy those thoughts more when they arise spontaneously. (In other words, they prefer that happy thoughts come naturally rather than putting in the effort to “think positive.”)
Could this process be easier and more enjoyable? It’s not an idle question: According to the researchers behind the new study, if people were better able to generate pleasant thoughts, they might rely less on technology for constant stimulation. It could help those who have trouble falling asleep, or who start pounding the steering wheel in traffic.
The researchers didn’t find a magic switch. But they did discover a simple trick.
Across four studies, more than 250 college undergraduates and 800 online participants started by listing eight topics they’d enjoy thinking about, including memories, fantasies, and things they were looking forward to. People wrote down everything from their wedding day to Valentine’s Day, their family or the summer, eating decadent cake, or living in the World of Warcraft universe.
Next, participants (alone in a room) were instructed to entertain themselves for four to six minutes with thoughts about the topics they had listed. “Your goal should be to have a pleasant experience, as opposed to spending the time focusing on everyday activities or negative things,” the researchers advised.
That was it, except for one small difference: Half of the participants had access to their list of topics, either written on notecards or displayed on a computer screen one by one. The other half didn’t.
Afterward, participants rated how pleasant the activity was (how enjoyable, entertaining, and boring) and how cognitively difficult it was (how hard it was to concentrate, how much their mind wandered, and how much time they devoted to irrelevant topics).
Ultimately, the researchers found that the group who could look at their list of topics found the experience more pleasant and less cognitively demanding. All the participants had made lists in the first part of the experiment, but having access to that “thinking aid” was key.
“Often when we have a few free minutes, we reach for our cell phones to entertain us,” says Erin C. Westgate of the University of Virginia. “But with a little planning ahead of time, we might be able to use our own minds instead.”
She and her co-authors (including Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University) speculate that the list might have made it easier for people to concentrate; to remember their go-to, happiness-boosting topics; or to decide which one to think about when.
After reading this study, I’m tempted to put up some kind of poster in my apartment and fill it with images of loved ones, Paris, swing dancing, and cats. Those are certainly better than an electric shock!