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On Happiness and Wholeness

The other day, I read this passage online, and it has stuck with me and it has also provided some relief…

I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that—I don’t mind people being happy—but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep” and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself, “Is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.

—Hugh MacKay, author of The Good Life

Sparking More Creativity

One of my favorite things about watching my daughter, Alex, play is that it reminds me how much creativity lies within each one of us — we were born as creative people, whether we have cultivated that into adulthood or not. At two, almost three, Alex becomes totally immersed in building with her Legos and Magnatiles and she continually surprises me with the connections he makes between ideas that would never have occurred to my adult mind. Her natural free play is in stark contrast to the productivity-focused mindset I usually default to.

It has got me thinking about how amazing it would be if this creative spark were brought into our adult lives. I am learning that reclaiming our creativity could actually be a big factor in discovering our passion, finding out what makes us feel most alive, and even being better at our work. Below are some possible ways you can be more creative every day!

Draw, paint, doodle, watercolor

The sheer act of engaging in making art, of any kind, fires up all kinds of connections in the brain, so do not fight the urge to doodle while you are on your next conference call. I have been spending time coloroing with Alex, and it has been very refreshing!

Do something physical

Research has shown that physical exercise helps to force you out of left brain dominant thinking and instead adopt a more creative mindset. Exercise also increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which sharpen mental clarify. Here is a fascinating article that claims aerobic workouts may help stimulate imagination and new ideas.

Embrace boredom

I recently did a two day detox from my devices, and one of my biggest goals for the experiment was to learn how to embrace boredom. Why, you may ask? Because research shows that being bored actually propels us towards deeper thinking and creativity. The theory goes that a bored mind searches for stimulation, which moves it into the daydreaming state, which leads to new ideas. Read more about the studies here.

Instead of filling every extra minute with productivity or scrolling through your phone, give your mind some breathing room. Let your mind wander, and who knows, you just might have the “aha moment!”

Watch a TED talk or listen to a podcast

I often find that tuning into a powerful TED talk or listening to an interview with someone fascinating is a great way to shift my perspective, quickly and without a lot of effort. There are so many inspiring people out there, and nothing makes me more excited about creative thinking than learning from someone who is out there truly innovating in their field.

Make time for play

Studies show that when we fully immerse ourself in just doing what we enjoy — in other words, getting out of our own heads — it stimulates outside-the-box thinking and silences our inner critic. Tinker with toys, build something, get outside…and most importantly, think like a kid!

Juggling Act

I came across this really interesting concept relating to juggling work and kids. Someone asked Nora Roberts how to balance writing and kids, and she said that the key to juggling is to know that some of the balls you have in the air are made of plastic and some are made of glass. And, if you drop a plastic ball, it bounces, no harm done. If you drop a glass ball, it shatters, so you have to know which balls are glass and which are plastic and prioritize catching the glass ones. Nora was not talking about juggling five balls. She was talking about juggling 55 balls. The balls don’t represent “family” or “work.” There are separate balls for everything that goes into each of those categories. “Deadline on project Y” or “crazy sock day at school.”

And her point was not to “prioritize kids over work.” It was some kid stuff is glass and some is plastic, and sometimes, to catch a glass work ball, you have to drop a plastic family one, and that is okay. And the reverse is also true. Sometimes, to catch a glass kid ball, something at work has to slide, and that is okay, too. If you are juggling 55 balls, some are going to drop, so you have to focus not on broad categories, but on the glass balls.

This concept was so freeing for me. You don’t have to find perfect balance; and I do not think that balance truly exists, as things are constantly changing and shifting daily. I just have to try to figure out which balls are okay to drop on any given day, the plastic ones, and catch the glass ones before they break. Sometimes, things just slip, and we can give ourselves grace, and try again the following day!

What is Grit?

You might already be familiar with Angela Duckworth’s relatively recent book, titled, “Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” along with her TED Talk, which has been viewed over 23 million times.

So, what is “Grit?” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, grit in the context of behavior is defined as “firmness of character; indomitable spirit.” Duckworth, based on her studies, tweaked this definition to be “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” 

However, Duckworth’s research is conducted in the context of exceptional performance and success in the traditional sense, so requires it be measured by test scores, degrees, and medals over an extended period of time. Specifically, she explores this question, talent and intelligence/IQ being equal: why do some individuals accomplish more than others? The characteristics of grit, outlined below, include Duckworth’s findings as well as some that defy measurement.

Courage

While courage is difficult to measure, it is directly proportional to your level of grit. More specifically, your ability to manage fear of failure is imperative and a predicator of success. The supremely gritty are not afraid to tank, but rather embrace it as part of a process. They understand that there are valuable lessons in defeat and that the vulnerability of perseverance is requisite for high achievement.

Conscientiousness: Achievement Oriented vs. Dependable

According to Duckworth, of the five personality traits, (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neurotic), conscientiousness is the most closely associated with grit. However, it seems that there are two types, and how successful you will be depends on what type you are.  Conscientiousness in this context means, careful and painstaking; meticulous.

The achievement-oriented individual is one who works tirelessly, tries to do a good job, and completes the task at hand, whereas the dependable person is more notably self-controlled and conventional. In other words, in the context of conscientious, grit, and success, it is important to commit to go for the gold rather than just show up for practice. 

Long-Term Goals and Endurance: Follow Through

It is important to note that long-term goals play an important role. Duckworth writes:

“… achievement is the product of talent and effort, the latter a function of the intensity, direction, and duration of one’s exertions towards a long-term goal.”

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory and Duckworth’s findings align to the hour. However, one of the distinctions between someone who succeeds and someone who is just spending a lot of time doing something is this: practice must have purpose. That’s where long-term goals come in. They provide the context and framework in which to find the meaning and value of your long-term efforts, which helps cultivate drive, sustainability, passion, courage, stamina, and grit.

Resilience: Optimism, Confidence, and Creativity

Of course, in pursuing a long-term goal, you likely will stumble, and you will need to find a way to get back up. But what is it that gives you the strength to get up? Resilience. So, while a key component of grit is resilience, resilience is the powering mechanism that draws your head up, moves you forward, and helps you persevere despite whatever obstacles you face along the way.  In other words, gritty people believe, “everything will be alright in the end, and if it is not alright, it is not the end.”

Excellence vs. Perfection

In general, gritty people don’t seek perfection, but instead strive for excellence. In general, perfection is someone else’s perception of an ideal, and pursuing it is like chasing a hallucination.

Excellence is an attitude, not an endgame. The word excellence is derived from the Greek word Arête which is bound with the notion of fulfillment of purpose or function and is closely associated with virtue. It is far more forgiving, allowing and embracing failure and vulnerability on the ongoing quest for improvement. It allows for disappointment, and prioritizes progress over perfection.

So, how much grit do you have? You can find out here!

Mother’s Day Wish

I cannot believe Mother’s Day is already upon us.  All mothers and mother figures deserve to be celebrated on Sunday.  Mothers that have been blessed with babies; mothers who’s babies left too soon; mothers who are waiting to meet their special baby; mothers who are yearning to become a mom; fur moms; and those who are mother figures.  We need all types of mothers to help us through this life.  The journey towards motherhood is not always freshly paved. The path towards parenthood, for us, was filled with unexpected twists and turns, which made for a long and complicated journey.  We thankfully got our “one,” and she is certainly “the one.” There were previous Mother’s Days where our hearts ached after experiencing loss.  As a result, we are so very grateful for Alex and Victory and for this season together. I feel so thankful that I have the privilege of being a mom, which I never take for granted.  So wherever you are in your journey, you are worthy of every celebration held in your honor.  Happy Mother’s Day, to every type of mama out there!

“In all the world, there is  no heart for me like yours.  In all the world, there is no love for you like mine.” — Maya Angelou

Below is Alex and I together on our first and second Mother’s Day together.

A Dog’s Life

Below are some fun quotes relating to our beloved furry family members! Victory, our rescue sheltie, enriches our lives in so many ways, and we cannot imagine life without her.

“Like many other much-loved humans, they believed that they owned their dogs, instead of realizing that their dogs owned them.” —D. Smith

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring — it was peace.” —Milan Kundera

“A dog is not ‘almost human’ and I know of no greater insult to the canine race than to describe it as such.” —John Holmes

“While he has not, in my hearing, spoken the English language, he makes it perfectly plain that he understands it. And he uses his ears, tail, eyebrows, various rumbles and grunts, the slant of his great cold nose or a succession of heartrending sighs to get his meaning across.” —Jean Little

“The dog has an absolutely uncanny knack of knowing what we are thinking, even what we are feeling.” —Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald

“Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished.” —Dean Koontz

“In a perfect world, every dog would have a home and every home would have a dog.” —Author Unknown

“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” —Agnes Sligh Turnbull

“One could say that dogs see the world faster than we do, but what they really do is see just a bit more world in every second.” —Alexandra Horowitz

“When the world around me is going crazy and I’m losing faith in humanity, I just have to take one look at my dog to know that good still exists.” —Author Unknown

“A dog is like an eternal Peter Pan, a child who never grows old and who therefore is always available to love and be loved.” —Aaron Katcher

“The dog has an enviable mind; it remembers the nice things in life an quickly blots out the nasty.” —Barbara Woodhouse

“After yers of having a dog, you know him. You know the meaning of his snuffs and grunts and barks. Every twitch of the ear is a question or statement, every wag of the tail is an exclamation.” —Robert McCammon

“No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does.” —Christopher Morely

Dogs: Lessons Learned

Below are several quotes about lessons learned from our dogs. Victory is an integral part of our family and she goes with us everywhere and we are so blessed she is in our lives. She has taught me so much about life, especially during this pandemic. And, Alex is learning greatly about love and animals through her experiences with Victory.

“The dogs in our lives, the dogs we come to love and who (we fervently believe) love us in return, offer more than fidelity, consolation, and companionship…They offer, if we are wise enough or simple enough to take it, a model for what it means to give your heart with little thought of return…Perhaps it is not too late for them to teach us some new tricks” —Marjorie Garber

“We try to teach our dogs new tricks when there’s so much we can learn from them.” —Robert Coane

“We derive immeasurable good, uncounted pleasures, enormous security, and many critical lessons about life by owning a dog.” —Roger Caras

“If your dog does not like someone, you probably shouldn’t either.” —Author Unknown

“If I could be half the person my dog is, I’d be twice the human I am.” —Charles Yu

“Everything I know, I learned from dogs.” —Nora Roberts

“In a world of hypocrisy and betrayal, dogs are direct. They never lie.” —Erica Jong

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” —Mark Twain

“Dogs. They are better than human beings because they know but they do not tell.” —Emily Dickinson

“Dogs come into our lives to teach up about love. They depart to teach us about loss. New dogs can never replace a former one — they merely expand the heart. If you have loved many dogs, your heart is very big.” —Author Unknown

“The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.” —M.K. Clinton

Loving: Spring 2021

Happy Spring! Below are a few things I have been loving this spring, thus far!

1. Magic Spoon Cereal — I love this cereal! In fact, everyone in our house loves it, including Victory! It is a healthy cereal that tastes great, and is very reminiscent of your childhood favorites with no sugar!

2. Lululemon Top — I really love this top from Lululemon that I recently got. It is very comfortable and it comes in a variety of colors.

3. Noto Lipstick — I love this light lip stain, an earthy pink hue, which is perfect for everyday wearing!

4. Loosing Alice —  Doug and I loved watching “Loosing Alice,” a captivating Israeli show.

5. Lake & Skye Perfume — This perfume is a new find, and I really love it! It is sheer, clean, and uplifting with an ethereal vibe.

6. Highlights – High Five  — Alex loves getting her “High Five” magazine in the mail, which was gifted to her by a friend. The content is great, and Alex loves the “find its,” included in each issue.

You can view other things I love here!

Dog Illustrations: Kim Hye-rim

I recently came across these interesting dog illustrations by Kim Hye-rim, which take you to zen places. She captures life with our furry family members during the simplest, most enjoyable moments, illustrating the steady companionship we have with our furry family members, which likely has blossomed even more during this pandemic. Each colorful illustration typically features only one person often with his/her dog, with faces turned upward, while pondering. Her images display a person and his/her dog — strolling side by side through the streets at night; sipping coffee at a corner cafe, watching the world wander by; and stretching out together on the sofa. You can view more of Kim Hye-rim’s work here; and a few of her images are shown immediately below.

All images courtesy of Kim Hye-rim.

How to Prepare Our Dogs For When We Return To Work

There has been an increase of “pandemic puppies” during this pandemic, where people have been adopting dogs seeking companionship due to social distancing. There are also many dogs that have been part of our families since before the pandemic started. So how do we prepare our dogs for the day when some of us finally head back to the workplace and leave them home alone?

This situation is similar to dropping your child off at school for the first several times. Without preparing your child, in advance, it could prove to be really difficult on your child to have a huge, sudden change thrusted upon the child. Similarly, just as you need to prepare your child for big changes, many dogs, “pandemic dogs,” who have been adopted during this pandemic, have been home with their human companions for over a year now, and they do not know life with their human companions any other way. Dogs are creatures of routine, like children, and they have likely gotten very accustomed to having their humans around the house all day during the pandemic. As a result of the pandemic and the introduction of vaccines, some people may be working from home for a really long time, and others will transition back to work at some point. Therefore we need to prepare our dogs for this new routine. Below are some ideas that might help you make this transition with your dog, if you must return to the office.

Slowly introduce workday routines — Schedule waking up, feeding and walking as you might for your expected workday routine, then introduce a consistent departure schedule that builds on that routine.

Practice departures — Practice short departures on a daily basis and gradually extend the time you are gone. Give a small treat just as you walk out the door to condition the dog to find it rewarding when you leave. If signs of anxiety — such as destructive activity — occur, do not punish your dog. Instead, shorten the time away and slowly build up to longer periods. Stay calm when leaving or returning home.

Exercise and play time — Before leaving, engage in play and activity. Burning energy can help keep dogs calm and relaxed.

Consider a dog walker or doggie day care — Most of our dogs have been used to being let outside by their humans for potty numerous times a day during this pandemic. So, if you introduce a new person for care of your dog, you will need to make sure that you and your dog feels comfortable and safe with this new person providing care. And, while the risk of dogs becoming infected with COVID-19 is believed to be low, as a precaution, if you intend to have a dog walker or send your dog to daycare while at work, treat your dog as you would a human family member to protect them from possible infection with COVID-19.

Keep them engaged — Long-lasting treats, food puzzles, and automatic feeders can help keep dogs occupied during the day while you are not home.

Create a safe space — If you have typically used a crate when you were gone but have not been crating your dog while at home, now is a good time to either explore not using a crate while you are away (gradually increasing the length of time you are away) or reintroduce crating while you are still working from home by making it rewarding for the dog to go into the crate for short periods of time.

Look for signs of stress — Excessive barking or whining, agitation, destructive behavior, and inappropriate urination/defecation can all be signs of stress. You may need to consult your veterinarian to figure out how to best help your dog with his/her anxiety.