Monthly Archives: September 2015

Your Weekly Noodle: September 30, 2015

Anthony Cymerys is a barber. He’s 82 year old. Every Wednesday, he brings his chair, his clippers and a car battery to power the clippers to a local park in Hartford, CT. He gives haircuts to the homeless. He doesn’t charge them a penny. All they have to do is give him a hug.

Anthony Cymerys is a barber. He’s 82 year old. Every Wednesday, he brings his chair, his clippers and a car battery to power the clippers to a local park in Hartford, CT. He gives haircuts to the homeless. He doesn’t charge them a penny. All they have to do is give him a hug.

Noodle* on this…
Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. ~Nelson Mandela

Humans beings are born with the instinct for compassion. We are hard-wired to response to those in need. According to the Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkley, the compassionate instinct is a natural and automatic response that ensures survival. Unfortunately, in our complex, speed of technology world, we often lose touch with our compassionate instinct.   As we rush home at the end of a hard day of work, it is easy to not see the homeless person at the edge of the parking lot or to become annoyed at the elderly person who takes so long to cross the street that we can’t make a “right turn on red” and speed on toward home.

What is Compassion?
The word compassion comes from the Latin words  com (with) and pati (to suffer). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means suffering together with another, participation in suffering; fellow-feeling, sympathy.

Compassion includes both empathy and altruism. Empathy involves mirroring the emotions of another person, while altruism is helping another with or without empathy. Compassion is sharing the emotions of another combined with a genuine desire to help the person that moves us to act. Researchers have discovered that compassion involves a biological process.  Feeling compassion lowers the heart rate and stimulates the pituitary gland to produces oxytocin, which promotes social bonding. It stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain, also known as the reward circuit, which makes us happy.

The concept of compassion has exited throughout history and in all cultures. For example:

  • In 500 BC, Lao Tzu wrote:  I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.… (Tao te Ching, #67)
  • Judaism teaches the 13 Attributes of Compassion (Mercy)
  • The New Testament teaches the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25 – 37)
  • The Quran emphasizes compassion and tells us that mercy or compassion is a divine attributes.

The Dalai Lama often speaks and writes about compassion, reminding us that Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.

How will compassion benefit me? Compassion benefits both the person who receives it and the person who gives it (you).  In other words, there is an element of enlightened self-interest in showing compassion for others.  As the Dalai Lama explains, if you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.  It benefits you by:

  • Stimulating your immune system and reducing stress.
  • Helping you be more resilient and less fearful.
  • Helping you build bonds with others, this in turn, increases tolerance.
  • Reducing depression and anxiety by helping you focus on others, rather than dwelling on “me, myself and I”
  • Increasing your ability to accurately identify the emotions of others, thus increasing your empathy.
  • Making you more helpful, thus building connections with others.

How can I be more compassionate?
Although compassion is an instinct, it is also like a muscle. It must be exercised to be strong and healthy.  Here are a few suggestions to help you strengthen your compassion muscle.

  • Practice empathy. Think about a family member, friend, or co-worker who is sick or dealing with a problem. What might that person be feeling?
  • Find common ground. When you see a person on the street; in the mall or a restaurant, find some common ground with that person.  They may be wearing your favorite color or it may be something as simple as being the same gender or having the same hair color. The more we see others as like us, the easier it is to be compassionate.
  • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. How would you feel if you were the one suffering? How would you feel if the other person helped you relieve your suffering or solve your problem?
  • Pay it forward. Regularly do a kind deed for another person just because with no expectation of reward or return. In 1916, Lily Hardy Hammond wrote, you don’t pay love back; you pay it forward. It is also known as doing random acts of kindness.

Another Tip: Learn and Practice the Loving Kindness Mediation. Don’t let the term meditation scare you. This is not the typical sitting meditation that takes years of practice to master. It is a simple brief mediation you can do at any time.  It is so simple, a child in it in about five minutes. Basically, this mediation helps you develop an open, accepting attitude to all those you meet.  According to psychologist Helen Wong and her associates, this meditation, help your develop kind and caring feeling toward others and empowers you to act compassionately. Visit the Greater Good Science Center to learn how to “strengthen you compassion muscle” in just five minutes a day.

Dalai-LamaYour Weekly Noodle Challenge…
Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.~ Dalai Lama

I have written about my friend Suzanne in other posts. She carries a case of bottled water in her car and when she sees a homeless person, she stops and gives them a bottle or two. She told me, it only takes a few seconds to be kind and the look of gratitude on the person’s face is more than worth it. Compassion is addicting, in a good way.

Do at least one compassionate thing this week – pay it forward. How did it make you feel? Share your experience with us in the Comments section below.

* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm.

Anthony Cymerys image courtesy of pickchur.com and Dalai Lama image courtesy of Phayul.com

Your Weekly Noodle: September 23, 2015

Noodle* on this…
Resilient people don’t walk between the raindrops; they have scars to show for their experience. They struggle—but keep functioning anyway. Resilience is not the ability to escape unharmed. It is not about magic.
~ Hara Estroff Marano

What is resilience?
Some people see resilience as a personality trait, others as a learned skill. Actually, it is the process by which we interact with our environment. Resilient people cope with problems in ways support their well-being, while at the same time dealing with the problem or recovering from major live events like job loss, divorce, accidents, injuries, death of a loved one, etc.

Elizabeth EdwardsResilience is not about “toughing it out, having grit or enduring to the end.” Resilient people experience stress, even despair, but they do not dwell on them. They accept that these emotions are normal and then move on to cope with the issue at hand. Resilient people understand that problems are inevitable but suffering is optional.  According to attorney and author Elizabeth Edwards, Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before.

What are the benefits of resilience?
Resilient people have:

  • Strong, healthy immune systems because they are better able to manage stress. This reduces the amount of stress hormones, such as cortisol in the blood, stream.
  • Strong social connections and a network of support to call on in times of trouble.
  • Good personal boundaries. They are open and receptive to others and show empathy without being overwhelmed by the problems of others.
  • A good understanding of their emotions and what triggers them. This means they manager their emotions effectively and are more likely to stay calm in difficult situations.
  • The skills they need to deal with stressful situations and they are able to adapt as circumstances change.
  • An internal locus of control. They are confident that they have the necessary skills to solve the problem and have realistic expectations about the outcome.
  • Good self-esteem and optimism; however, they do not look at life through rose-colored glasses. They are realistic.
  • Primary control – the ability to change a situation as well as secondary control, which means that they can change the way they think about a situation.
  • Survivor’s pride – a quiet sense of accomplishment that comes from overcoming obstacles. It is bittersweet – savoring success, while honoring loss and struggle.

How do we strengthen our resilience?

  • Build and support good relationships with family members, friends and co-workers. This includes being willing to ask for and accept help.
  • Refrain from seeing problems as insurmountable.  Ever huge problems can be chunked or broken down into smaller elements we can work on.
  • Be flexible – accept that change is a fact of life and learn to adapt as needed to support your well-being.
  • Learn from experiences. My friend Ernest, the social worker, constantly reminds his clients and friends that there is no such thing as a bad experience, if you learn something from it.
  • Take action. Even small steps add up. Taking action empowers us and keeps us from developing a victim mentality.
  • Keep things in perspective. Ask your self, How important will this situation be in one week, one month, or one year?
  • Find something to laugh about. Laughter helps us keep our perspective.
  • Take care of yourself. Rest, exercise, eat wisely, pause and breath deeply several times a day.
  • Take time to do something you enjoy – spend time with friends, play with the dog, read a good book or go for a walk.

Your Weekly Noodle Challenge…
When we tackle obstacles, we find hidden reserves of courage and resilience we did not know we had. And it is only when we are faced with failure do we realize that these resources were always there within us. We only need to find them and move on with our lives. J. Abdul Kalam

What hidden reserves of courage and resilience have you discovered? Share your experience with us in the Comments section below.

* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm

Rain image courtesy of Sharon Salzburg.

 

Your Weekly Noodle: September 9, 2015

Two cats working together as an example of humility.

Humility means realizing that we did not “do it on our own” – that we had help along the way and acknowledging those who helped us.

Noodle* on this…
Humility is becoming a lost art, but it’s not difficult to practice. It means that you realize that others have been involved in your success. 
~ Harvey Mackay

Humility is a misunderstood, much maligned and underappreciated virtue. In our ego driven, all about me culture, it is a weakness, not a strength. So, before we talk about what humility is, let’s discuss what it is not.

Humility is not about …
Being weak or allowing others to browbeat us or order us around.

  • Routinely giving up our interests in deference to others (and then feeling put upon or like a victim).
  • Avoiding conflict to “keep the peace” or “be nice.”
  • Repressing our feeling or not expressing our opinion for fear of offending others.

Humility is about…
Recognizing that we are not alone, that others support, encourage us and help us succeed.

  • Being open to new ideas, especially those in opposition to our own.
  • Not being obsessed or pre-occupied with our personal wants.
  • Not putting ourselves above or below others; but, accepting ourselves as we are, flaws and all.
  • A quiet ego according to psychologist Pelin Kesebin, PhD.

Humility is good for…
Building strong bonds because we share credit for successes with those involved.

  • Reducing strains that arise in personal relationships because we are less likely to compete or try to dominate the other person.
  • Improving our health and well-being because we are less stressed and more tolerant.
  • Life and work success because humble people are more focused and more likely to work well as part of a team.
  • Building a positive reputation – humble people are seen as kind and generous.

ghandiThe power of humility
When Mahatma Gandhi died in 1948, journalist Edward R. Murrow spoke eloquently about him and the power of humility:

…(he was a) man without wealth, without property, without official title or office. Mahatma Gandhi was not a commander of great armies nor ruler of vast lands. He could boast no scientific achievements or artistic gift. Yet men, governments and dignitaries from all over the world have joined hands today to pay homage to this little brown man in the loincloth who led his country to freedom.

Your Weekly Noodle Challenge…
Humility is the true key to success. Successful people lose their way at times. They often embrace and overindulge from the fruits of success. Humility halts this arrogance and self-indulging trap. Humble people share the credit and wealth, remaining focused and hungry to continue the journey of success. ~ Rick Pitino

Humility is like a muscle – it must be exercised regularly. Who do you need to thank or acknowledge? Who has helped you along the way? Who has contributed to your success?

Thank you Chris!

Thank you Chris!

My manager Chris helped me for nearly 13 years. She encouraged me to develop my skills and gave me opportunities to try new things. MUCH of the knowledge, skills, and abilities  I use TODAY were developed thanks to her encouragement and support.

Use the Comment field below to exercise your humility muscle. Who contributed to your success?

* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm

Image courtesy of E Animal Ekstrax.

Your Weekly Noodle: September 2, 2015

Road sign excellenceNoodle* on This…
I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection.  Excellence I can reach for. Perfection is God’s business.  ~ Michael J Fox

Once upon a time, I worked with a woman, I’ll call her Lillian and she always appeared tense. She rarely smiled and was often involved in disagreements. One day we were discussing a work issue and I said something with which she strongly disagreed. It was a minor matter and I was stunned by the strength of her disagreement.  I asked, what is wrong? She replied, I have to be perfect. I can’t be wrong! When she realized what she said, her face turned bright red and she mumbled something about a meeting, then rushed away. 

For days, she avoided me. So, rather than follow-up on her comment, I let it go and behaved like she never said it. Eventually, she stopped avoiding me. But her comment intrigued me. I have to be perfect!  What an odd thing to say and what a stressful way to live. No wonder Lillian was always tense. She was putting incredible pressure on herself. 

In a way, her attitude is understandable. We live in a society that values perfect. Gymnasts and ice skaters relentlessly pursue the elusive 10. Pitchers want to throw the perfect non-hitter. The movie “10” about a gorgeous woman (Bo Derek) and an ordinary man (Dudley Moore) was a huge hit in 1979. Our fascination with perfection goes on and on.  Since we messy, imperfect human beings, the idea of perfection may be appealing; but, it is unattainable and its pursuit may lead to pain and depression. 

What is the alternative?  How about the pursuit of excellence?  The following table defines and compares the pursuit of perfection and the pursuit of excellence.  Which will you choose? 

PerfectionismExcellence
Definition: The belief that perfection is attainable.Definition: The quality of being outstanding or extremely good.
Perfectionists set unrealistic goals for themselves and beat themselves up when they fail to meet those goals.Those who pursue excellence set high, but realistic goals for themselves. If they fail to achieve their goal, they look for what they can learn from the experience.
Perfectionists tend to suffer from depression, anxiety, social isolation and are at greater risk for workplace accidents than non-perfectionists.Excellence pursuers experience personal and professional growth. They find satisfaction in their work, interact well with others and are more productive.
Perfectionists tend to give up when dealing with obstacles.Excellence pursuers keep going and problem solving when faced with obstacles.
Perfectionists value themselves for their accomplishments.Excellence pursuers value themselves for who they are.
Perfectionism is about a goal – winning or being #1.Excellence is about constantly getting better.
In perfectionism, there is only one way to do something.Excellence is about doing something in the best way possible.
If you look for perfection, you'll never be content. ~ Leo TolstoyExcellence is an art won by training and habituation. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. ~ Aristotle

Your Weekly Noodle Challenge…
Knowing that perfect does not exist, or believing that creations (including ourselves) are perfect in our imperfections, let us make a good thing as we can, rising our work to the highest level our abilities allow. Then, we are able to call it complete, release it and move on. ~ Judy Reeves, A Writer’s Book of Days, 2010

Share your pursuit of perfection or excellence experience with us in the comments section below.

* To noodle: A verb meaning to mull over, think about, contemplate, ponder, puzzle over or brainstorm.

Image courtesy of Bolt Signs.