Reality Check: The Helping Professions

Many people have a genuine wish to be helpful; that is, to take actions that are of service to others.
Wanting to help is a fine aspiration. To be of service benefits both the helper and those who are helped. It gives purpose to the helper and it provides value to the helpee.
On top of those individual benefits, a helpfulness mindset makes everyone’s interactions more pleasant. If you’re a big picture thinker, you might even see it as making the whole world a nicer place. Continue reading

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Reality Check: The Joy:Cost Ratio

There’s a little guy who occasionally passes by my office door. Whenever he does, he exclaims, “I’ve got my thinking cat on!”
It’s adorable. No matter how busy or stressed or distracted I am, I get pure joy for those few seconds when he’s out there.
Here’s the context. Our building has a daycare; thus little people occasionally pass by my office. On the bulletin board outside my office, I have a picture of a sad-looking dog with a cat sitting on his head. The caption: I’ve got my thinking cat on. You probably have to see it to fully appreciate it. Continue reading

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Reality Check: Upsides and Downsides

Is there such a thing as too much optimism? Does optimism have a downside?
My general belief is that there are upsides and downsides for most everything. Thus the process of making choices is pretty simple, in theory anyway. All you need to do is figure out the upsides and downsides of a choice, weigh them, and then choose the path that makes sense based on what matters most to you.
It sounds like a nice, sensible process. Yet, in reality, we often have a problem with figuring out those upsides and downsides. We may not have all the facts or know how to get them, and when we do, how do we know they’re true?
For example, is coffee still good for us? Is milk bad now? Maybe we should just drink wine. (Please don’t take that as advice. I’m mostly joking.)
Besides, who has the time to work all this out? We could spend every waking hour trying to avoid making mistakes in even minor decisions. Continue reading

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Reality Check: What does your mind rest upon?

Dr. Rick Hanson writes a regular email newsletter called Just One Thing, subtitled, “Simple practices for resilient happiness.”
In a recent publication, he said, “There is a traditional saying that the mind takes its shape from what it rests upon.”
To say “the mind takes its shape” brings the interesting implication that the mind can change in fundamental ways. If so, then if we control what our mind rests upon, we also control the “shape” of our mind.
Where does your mind go when it’s at rest? For example, if you lift your eyes away from this column and let your mind wander for a moment, where does it go? What pops up? Continue reading

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Reality Check: The Things People Say

Everybody’s heard about Treena’s embarrassing situation. At least, that’s her perception. Her boss, neighbours, relatives, friends, and acquaintances know that she did something bad and was caught.
It was even in the paper, ensuring that every single person knows it. She is sure she’ll never get her reputation back.
Treena knows and accepts that what she did was wrong. She had other, better choices. She just didn’t think things through. Continue reading

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Reality Check: The Face of Kindness

A common bit of advice for living a good life is, “Be kind.” I certainly agree. Kindness will likely result in better relationships, quality of life, and more happiness than being nasty.
It’s obvious what it means to “be kind.” Or is it?
Specifically, what does kindness look like? How do you know when you are treating someone kindly? Is that warm, fuzzy feeling enough evidence? When faced with a difficult choice, how do you determine what action is kindest? It’s not always a simple determination. Continue reading

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Reality Check: Much Ado About Recognition

The onset of summer is a great time of year. There’s fresh grass, baby birds, the promise of warmth, and maybe even some leisure time!
For me, this time of year often coincides with finalizing some activities and interactions. Thus, it provides a great opportunity to acknowledge, recognize and thank the people I’ve been involved with, to share what I’ve observed, and to offer suggestions for moving forward.
When we deal with people over an extended period of time, it’s easy to assume that they know what we think of them (and vice versa). But this is not necessarily so. It’s sometimes astounding to realize what people believe about themselves and others. Continue reading

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Reality Check: An Attitude About Forgetting

Last post, I used a personal example to discuss the challenge of forgetfulness. I had devoted considerable time learning how to use a piece of software. But by the time I needed to use that knowledge, it seemed that all I’d learned was forgotten. To say I was annoyed would be an understatement.
Sometimes we try to remember by cramming. Have you ever experienced a late-night cramming session before an exam? All that important knowledge flies out of your head the moment the exam ends. Hopefully, not before.
We can forget so quickly. The “forgetting curve” shows that we lose so much information shortly after learning it.
Even though forgetting is normal, it would be helpful if we had some control over what we remember. Are there conscious actions that we can take to help us? Continue reading

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Reality Check: The Challenge of Forgetfulness

Do you believe that you are forgetful? If so, do you find that troubling?
Recently, I explored some research around learning and what we might do to help people retain what they’ve learned. I had looked at this research before, several years ago. Ironically, I had forgotten about it until I came across it again.
Learning is so important. The fact that we can continue to learn throughout our lives has an impact on our quality of life; our relationships; our very survival.
Yet, so much of what we learn seems to quickly slip away. If we haven’t used old pieces of knowledge for a little while, they seem to get replaced by new information that’s captured our attention. Even when it’s something that we know is important, it can fade so quickly. Continue reading

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Reality Check: Helpful Habits

What are your habits? What actions have you practiced so much that they are now a regular, perhaps even a mindless, part of life?
Some habits are deliberate; we’ve consciously initiated them. For example, perhaps you practice the beneficial habit of exercising every day. Previously, I have suggested writing three new things that we’re grateful for every day and found that to be a surprisingly useful new habit.
Habits can also be a little less beneficial. Maybe you have the habit of a cigarette after a meal or a big bowl of ice cream whenever you watch TV. Even if you don’t want that habit, it can be so engrained that it could feel as if you have no control over it. Continue reading

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