15 February 2018

From the Archives: The Inspired Project Teams Coaching Guide (58-pages & 5 hours of audio, NOW FREE!)

Click here to see sample pages from the Guide and a complete list of all Podcasts included.
This jam-packed freebie (originally $19.95) includes both the Inspired Project Teams Podcast Collection and The Inspired Project Teams Coaching Guide for FREE! The collection includes Challenges that can help you inspire and motivate your project team. In addition, they may help you deal with the contentious, unpleasant, or inappropriate stuff that sometimes plagues project teams. 
The Inspired Project Teams Podcast Collection includes:
  • 30 podcasts (MP3 format audios)
  • Over 5 hours of audio
The Inspired Project Teams Coaching Guide includes:
  • 58 pages in PDF/eBook form
  • Hundreds of inspirational ideas, quotes, and specific Challenges
  • Hundreds of live links** (Just click & go!) to resources for further investigation and study
** NOTE re: Links — This guide was originally published in 2010. While my podcasts and tools should stand the test of time and prove valuable for use with your project teams, some of the links to external references may take you to web pages that no longer exist. Sorry about that! (But the price is right, eh? FREE!!)

TECHNICAL NOTES: The Podcast Collection and Coaching Guide is provided as a single large “zip” file containing 31 files (about 271 MB)! The 30 Podcasts are in MP3 format and the Guide is in PDF (Adobe Reader) format.
  • When you “unpack” or “unzip” this zip file, you will be able to use all 30 podcasts and the PDF (eBook) version of the Coaching Guide. So you can simply copy these files to the appropriate folder on your device. (Almost all today’s computers or mobile devices will automatically “unzip” a zip file when you click on it. However, if you need additional software to open zip files, check with your app store for your mobile device or check out this WikiHow article How to Unzip a File for info about unzipping files on a Mac or PC.)
  • The Coaching Guide is in the PDF file format. You will need Adobe Acrobat or some other PDF reader to view the Guide. My favorite PDF reader is XODO PDF. It’s free and allows me to “mark up” and annotate PDFs, then save them along with the changes. You can find XODO PDF in the Apple iTunes store or Google Play Store. Check out the XODO website for info on using it on your Mac or PC.
  • The Podcasts are in MP3 file format. To listen to them, you’ll need:
    • any MP3 player, including the one that’s already built-in on your phone! (Simply copy the files to your device.) … or
    • software on your computer that will play MP3 files. (Simply double-click on your chosen MP3 file and any reasonably-new computer — Mac or PC — will find an app to play it.)
If you’re like most people, you won’t need any of these additional tools to use the Coaching Guide and Podcasts — You will have everything you need. Enjoy!

14 February 2018

Are You Giving Creativity Time & Space to Blossom?

This is a visual parable about self-imposed constraints to creativity. It was inspired by what happened recently on my local walking path where I exercise each day.

The video’s designed to get you and your project teams thinking and talking about these questions:
  • What boundaries, limitations do you impose on yourself?
  • Should you try removing some of these in order to see what blossoms?

13 February 2018

Best Practice: Identify Your Signature Strengths & Use Them Whenever You Can.

[This book excerpt is from "Taking Care of Yourself:  Managing Your Priorities, Time, & Energy" in The Project Management Minimalist]

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“… the highest success in living and the deepest emotional satisfaction comes from building and using your signature strengths.”
- Dr. Martin Seligman in Authentic Happiness
Seligman, former head of the American Psychological Association and founder of the positive psychology movement and science of happiness, has conducted substantial research on the topic of signature strengths and how they relate to happiness and success. His findings: When you identify and use your signature strengths as often as you can, particularly in your work, you will be more likely to be happy and successful.
Here are four things you can do to leverage your signature strengths:
  • Go to Seligman’s Authentic Happiness website
    ( http://www.authentichappiness.org ), sign up for free membership, and complete the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire.
  • Think about your Signature Strengths and think about the kinds of things people do in your organization.
  • Volunteer to do small chores that use your Signature Strengths.
  • Volunteer for entire projects that use your Signature Strengths.
And remember: If you can’t always use your Signature Strengths at your workplace, you might want to volunteer at a local non-profit or charity that could use your talents. Not only will you be making the world a better place, but there’s clinical evidence to show that you’ll probably be happier!
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[This book excerpt was from "Taking Care of Yourself:  Managing Your Priorities, Time, & Energy" in The Project Management Minimalist]

12 February 2018

Best Practice: Set & Respect "Office Hours"

[This book excerpt is from "Taking Care of Yourself:  Managing Your Priorities, Time, & Energy" in The Project Management Minimalist]
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“Interruption is the enemy of productivity…Those taps on the shoulder and little impromptu get-togethers may seem harmless, but they’re actually corrosive to productivity. Interruption is not collaboration, it’s just interruption. [These] break your work day into a series of ‘work moments.’”  -- Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson in Rework: A Better, Easier Way to Succeed in Business

11 February 2018

Unplug, Change Your Patterns, Press "Reset"

A View of the Valley from the Rainy Mountains:
San Diego County, CA

A while back we decided to get out of the city and do some RV camping in the mountains outside San Diego, CA. Our intent wasn't to "rough it." ("Been there, done that" back when I was younger.)  Instead, we were simply going to hang out and explore the nearby village, apple orchards, and countryside from a relatively comfortable base camp. Shortly after we were all settled in, we discovered that the RV park we reserved was unable to provide the internet and TV it had promised. Worse, our cell phones wouldn't connect unless we drove 6 miles to town!  However, after checking our alternatives and finding all the other parks nearby were booked solid, we decided to stay put and go "cold turkey" on our connections to civilization.

No 'Net, No TV... Nothing!!

So there we were. Five days in our reserved spot with a weather forecast calling for mostly rain for the entire period! For a few hours the quiet was a welcome contrast to the bustle and noise of our home in the city. After a while, however, I got restless. It was almost like I was going through withdrawal... too much silence, lasting too long. Too little stimuli, too much nothingness. No matter how many laps I walked around the campground, an overwhelming sense of wet and rainy emptiness seeped into my awareness. My mood began to be indistinguishable from the gloomy weather!

Then I remembered something I had heard Eckhart Tolle say in a podcast: You must learn to surrender to the moment. Embrace it for what it is. Be here, be now.  So I decided to give that a try. (If nothing else, it would give me something to do -- something to challenge and engage that yammering brain of mine!) At this point my fledgling meditation practice made itself useful. Using my meditation mind-set as a starting point, I just let my brain drift, thoughts bubbling up unchallenged, popping into nothingness, disappearing.

It's Alive!

Eventually, the world around me seemed to come alive, as though awakening from a soggy slumber. Where there had been nothing worth noting, there was now an intricate set of branches glistening with rain drops and bouncing in the breeze. As my eyes traced the route of the branches to their intersections, I witnessed the emergence of larger branches, rougher and tougher bark, and a sturdy, wet trunk. I began to sense the ineffable, living presence of the bushes and trees around me. My ears registered the distant echo of a bird song and the sound of rain on the RV's awning. Some odd-looking insect zipped along the ground, avoiding a rivulet of water that had chased him from his resting place. And finally, after nearly an hour of stillness, I was rewarded with the site of a family of shy wild turkeys that dared come out of the woods and begin a tentative, twitchy-cautious investigation of the park.

My Wild Turkey Visitors: Joining Me in the Stillness

Now the great thing about my awakening to this world around me was that once it began, it was hard to stop... and almost impossible to reverse!  For the next few days I lived in this place of wetness with no connections to civilization, but lots of other connections to the aliveness of the world around me. Ironically, these days spent "unplugged" ended up plugging me in to the the world around me. And this changed my consciousness. It was as if I had pressed the "reset" button on my own awareness.

Residual Benefits: The After Effects of Pressing "Reset"

So now, weeks later, what remains of this mountain-inspired shift in consciousness?  Here are some "before and after" examples to illustrate:

* Before: While working in my home-office, take a break in my backyard and ruminate on my troubles, never really noticing my surroundings.
* After: Take a break and seek out the aliveness of my wife's gorgeous flowers, the cacti, and our palms, while actually hearing our singer-in-residence, that brash and noisy mockingbird.

* Before:  Listen to political talk & analysis while warming up for my workouts. (And get all stirred up by the rants of talking heads!)
* After: Listen to soothing or lively music... or listen to nothing at all.

* Before: Check the news several times a day.
* After: Turn on the news only to find that it's noisy, voyeuristic, gossiping, and jolting to my sense of well-being. Then quickly turn it off.

* Before: Listen to business or technical podcasts while exercising.
* After:  Exercise in silence, counting reps or working on my "be here, be now..." by truly hearing, smelling, feeling, touching bark on a nearby tree, feeling my feet hitting the ground, etc.

* Before:  Get the creative urge (discover insights, concepts) to solve a problem, create or write something a couple of times a week.
* After:  Enjoy having new ideas bubble up throughout the day, every day, welcomed in by a more peaceful consciousness that makes plenty of room for them.

* Before: Find it difficult to deal with other peoples' issues, problems, etc. (And feel little patience for them.)
* After: Have more psychic energy to listen patiently, really hear and then help others.

Techniques for Keeping the Peace: Unplug on a Regular Basis

Having tasted these deeper levels of peace and reaped the benefits, both professionally and personally, I have become determined to retain as much of this quiet mountain state of mind as I possibly can. Here are some techniques I've found to be helpful:

Unplug Daily

  • Meditate at least 20 minutes every day.
  • Read or meditate before going to bed instead of watching TV.
  • Seek out, then access some welcoming, natural place in your neighborhood.
  • Consciously lose the gizmos, gadgets, media feeds for at least one period each day. (Can you hear the birds? ... see the flowers? ... feel the sun and wind?)
  • Dare to do absolutely nothing for 1/2 hour or more.
Unplug Weekly
  • Make an effort to find at least one new welcoming, natural place every week.
  • Commit to spending at least a few hours or so in one of these natural places.
  • Turn off the TV at least one full day a week.  Just turn it off... Go for a walk, visit a museum, visit a park... anything. Just cut the media feeding tube.

Have an Intensely "Unplugged" Vacation

  • Go without all media feeds for at least 3 or 4 days. (Pay attention to how this feels... what you think about... what you focus your attention on.)
  • Go to bed when the sun goes down. Then get up at dawn. And eat only when you're hungry. (Synchronize your rhythms to Mother Nature's.)
  • Read material that's inspirational and brings you peace of mind.
  • Go for long periods in silence, stillness, just noticing your surroundings.
  • Record your thoughts and feelings in a journal.

What's This Got to Do with Project Management?

Managing a project can be a high-stress undertaking. And if you're going to make good decisions, you need to be present.... fully present... to see clearly what's going on and to hear clearly what your team is trying to tell you. This demands a clarity of consciousness that can best be maintained by occasionally "unplugging" from the ongoing stream of stimuli. 

In short, you need to "be here, now" with your team if you're going to keep your project on track. And the best way to "be here, now" is to unplug and develop the habit of pressing "reset" regularly.

10 February 2018

"Would I Have Them Over for Dinner?" & Other Questions to Ask of Your Movie Choices

[Note: Scroll to the end of this blog post for a list of 18 good-energy movies we strongly recommend!]
20 minutes into the movie, my wife and I look at each other with uncertainty, one of us sending out one of those “Hmmm… I’m not so sure about this…”  looks. Then we do the unthinkable. We hit the “pause” button and ask one of these questions:
  • Would we want to have these people over for dinner?
  • Are we feeling better now that we’ve entered their world?
  • Is their struggle something we really care about… or should care about?
  • Are these people doing things that matter or that will shed light on something valuable or meaningful?
  • Is it likely we will be better off for having seen this movie all the way through to the end?
If the answer to one or more of these questions is “No,” then we’re quite ruthless! We switch from the “pause” button to the “stop” button and simply reject the movie.
Now it wasn’t always like this. Like everyone, we used to be pulled into whatever movie was being promoted at the time — particularly if there was the promise of elaborate special effects and excitement. But after a while we began to realize that our most memorable movies were the ones that had some spark of deeper inspiration. And often these had no special effects whatsoever. No explosions, no epic battles, no other-worldly scenes generated by Hollywood magic. Instead, they centered around real people working their way through real problems and finding triumph in overcoming these.  And the best thing about these movies is that they would often lead us to reinterpret our own lives or see the lives of our friends or family in new ways.  So instead of feeling exhausted or agitated as the final credits roll by, we felt uplifted, encouraged, or challenged to see the positive in the world around us.
So what’s this got to do with inspired project teams? Just this: When I see the struggles and triumphs of ordinary, well-meaning, people portrayed on the screen or when I see flawed characters reap the negative consequences of their actions yet, somehow, manage to overcome these and grow… it’s inspiring! And when I’m inspired I carry this positive energy to my workplace and to the people I interact with. So instead of being drained by the nerve-wracking, negative energy of a typical whiz-bang blockbuster, I shut off my TV and go to sleep feeling encouraged by the human condition and inspired to be my best. And this carries over to the next day when I begin interacting with people in the workplace.
So how about you? What are you watching for your recreational viewing at night? Is it doing its job of “re-creating” your positive energy in some way? Do your movie choices help you feel better about the human condition or challenge you to be a better person? If not, then maybe you and your family should take our challenge: Dare to press “pause,” ask the questions above, and then have the courage to simply walk away from the soul-sucking (but superficially stimulating) Hollywood junk.

A Few Inspirational Movies We’ve Recently Enjoyed

Here’s a list of some movie gems we’ve recently discovered on NetFlix. They each left us feeling good and somehow inspired. Not all of them are pure sweetness and light. Sometimes they involve a difficult struggle of some sort that might be painful to watch. However, they almost always leave you with positive energy or optimism about the human condition. (NOTE: I’m not going to review them here, but I’ve linked each to their description in the Internet Movie Database so you can learn more about them yourself.)
OK. You’ve seen our list. Now… tell us about your inspirational picks in the Comments below!

09 February 2018

Take a Break: A Six-Minute Video to Help You Achieve Mindfulness

"Look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it.
How still they are, how deeply rooted in Being. Allow nature to teach you stillness." 

-- Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks 

 There are plenty of well-documented benefits to be had from what Jon Kabat-Zinn calls mindfulness — the practice of bringing your full awareness into the present moment.  For more than 30 years Kabat-Zinn's Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has been used to help everyone, including over-worked managers and senior executives, reduce stress, increase focus, and reap physical benefits such as lowering of blood pressure, etc.

Mindfulness is, in the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, “paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, without judgment.”  (For more, see my podcast, Practice Mindfulness or check out this article at The Greater Good, Why Mindfulness Matters, featuring Kabat-Zinn in a video overview of mindfulness.)

As Eckhart Tolle has said throughout his work, almost any of nature's creations (trees, flowers, plants, birds, etc.) can provide an excellent doorway into the clarity and simplicity of increased mindfulness. You merely need to seek them out, spend a few minutes with them, and let your jabbering, worry-filled thoughts fall away.

Can't leave your desk, you say?  No worries... I've put together a brief, 6-minute video of scenes from Northwestern Pennsylvania's June countryside, along with a beautiful soundtrack featuring Robert Ronnes' "Meditation no 19 – Sunlight Through Cathedral Window."  So now you have no excuse... Take a break, disappear into nature's landscape in this video, and become more mindful!

Watch the 6-Minute Video:
Take a Break: A Mindfulness Meditation in the PA Countryside
(This video is part of my PM Minimalist video collection on Vimeo.)

08 February 2018

The Science of Happiness: Part 3, Train Yourself to Be Happier

"We found specific interventions [i.e., assignments or exercises] that make people lastingly happier, and we believe this study holds implications -- small and large -- for the future of positive interventions and perhaps for clinical interventions." 

Martin Seligman
Founder of Positive Psychology
- from "Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions" a research paper published in American Psychologist by Martin Seligman, Tracy A. Steen, Nansook Park, & Christopher Peterson 

So here's the deal: If you want to train yourself to be happier and you're not sure where to start, here's some very good news: You don't need to spend a lot of energy analyzing and worrying about your weaknesses. Instead, you can simply identify some of your key strengths and build on them by performing some relatively simple exercises that have been proven to increase happiness. 

This is Part 3 in a series of posts on the Science of Happiness. In Part 1, A Little Theory, we looked at the origins and roots of the Positive Psychology movement and the Science of Happiness. In Part 2, Some Fun Stuff, we examined some popular resources from the BBC that provided interesting background and, I hope, motivated you to take charge of your own happiness. In this Part (Train Yourself to Be Happier), we’ll look at some specific steps you can take to increase the happiness in your life.

So let’s get to it! 

Step 1 [highly recommended, but optional]: Become familiar with two books by Martin Seligman.

If you’ve looked through the links in Parts 1 & 2, you’ve undoubtedly come across the name of the man who is usually identified as the founder of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman. His book, Authentic Happiness, is filled with wisdom and specific tools and strategies that can help you create a happier life. Dr. Seligman also wrote another landmark text, Learned Optimism, which examines why you should and how you can learn to develop an optimistic perspective. Ideally, you would get both of these books and immerse yourself in their wisdom to develop a solid foundation for your happiness. However, since this blog is about free training resources (and the books must be purchased), I’ve made this Step “optional.” (But you could at least get them from the library, right?)

Step 2: Identify your “signature strengths” (and don’t worry about your weaknesses!)

“I do not believe that you should devote overly much effort to correcting your weaknesses. Rather, I believe that the highest success in living and the deepest emotional satisfaction comes from building and using your signature strengths.” – Dr. Martin Seligman in Authentic Happiness

So, how do you find your signature strengths? Easy! You go to Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness website (http://www.authentichappiness.org), sign up for your free membership (over 700,000 people have already done so!) and work through the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire. You’ll need a half hour or so, but this will measure your most important character strengths. According to the website: “The ranking of the strengths reflects your overall ratings of yourself on the 24 strengths in the survey, how much of each strength you possess. Your top five, especially those marked as Signature Strengths, are the ones to pay attention to and find ways to use more often.” FYI: There are a whole bunch of other fascinating “scientifically tested” questionnaires, surveys, and scales at the Authentic Happiness website. You can use any of these to “Develop insights into yourself and the world around you…”

Step 3: Work through three key exercises which were used by the researchers (see intro quote from this Post) to help develop happiness in their research subjects.

  • Gratitude visit. You have one week to write and then deliver a letter of gratitude in person to someone who had been especially kind to you but had never been properly thanked. 
  • Three good things in life. Every night for one week, write down three things that went well each day and provide a causal explanation for each good thing (i.e., describe why it happened).
  • Using signature strengths in a new way. Take the inventory of character strengths online at http://www.authentichappiness.org and get individualized feedback about your top five (“signature”) strengths. Then use one of these top strengths in a new and different way every day for one week. That’s it. And sure, they sound fairly simple. But remember, the researchers found empirical evidence that these exercises developed lasting happiness in the subjects who completed them! So, if you follow the steps above… if you really engage the exercises… you are likely to increase your happiness. 

More Information:
  • To read a PDF version of Time Magazine’s “The New Science of Happiness” (including “Eight Steps Toward a More Satisfying Life” …some practical suggestions from University of California psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, based on research findings… Satisfaction (at least a temporary boost) guaranteed!”) go to: http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1015832,00.html

[Thanks to Brian Johnson whose PhilosophersNotes on Martin Seligman’s books Authentic Happiness & Learned Optimism inspired my investigation of this topic.]

07 February 2018

The Science of Happiness: Part 2, Some Fun Stuff

"... positive psychology suggests we can ... actually re-wire our brains to be more optimistic... and we could make ourselves 10-15% happier." 

-- Mark Easton reporting for BBC Two's The Happiness Formula 

This is Part 2 in a series of three posts on The Science of Happiness. In Part 1, A Little Theory, I recommended some resources that provided a somewhat academic overview (including the origins) of the the Science of Happiness. In Part 3, Train Yourself to Be Happy, we'll get into specific steps you can take to train yourself to be happier. In this Part (Some Fun Stuff) we highlight some of the resources available from the website supporting the BBC Series, The Happiness Formula. To be fair, the resources recommended here aren't so much wild and crazy fun as they are entertaining and well-produced, in the typical BBC fashion.

The Happiness Formula, an online resource from BBC News, is an entertaining collection of articles and videos that you can ramble through and get a sense of some of the different dimensions of the new Science of Happiness. Here are some of the materials available:

Videos (May only be available for UK viewers?)
  • The recipe for happiness (8:07 min) 
  • What is happiness (2:26 min) 
  • The power of happiness (10:40 min) 
  • What really motivates us? (2:06 min) 
  • Bhutan’s happiness formula (8:39 mins) 
  • The politics of happiness (10:27 mins) 
  • Think yourself happy (3:13 mins)
Find Out MoreA reading list related to the Science of Happiness

This website provides lots of interesting content. And it’s presented in a light-hearted, though well-documented, journalistic format. If this stuff doesn’t spark your interest in the Science of Happiness, then you’re just not paying attention! URL — http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/happiness_formula/

[Thanks to Brian Johnson whose PhilosophersNotes on Martin Seligman’s books Authentic Happiness & Learned Optimism inspired my investigation of this topic.]

06 February 2018

The Science of Happiness: Part 1, A Little Theory

" ...scientists now believe happiness is a skill that can be learned, just like skiing or playing a musical instrument: With daily practice, you get ever better."

(from Willing Your Way to Happiness," DenverPost online) 

If you're like me, when you first hear people talking about taking charge of their own happiness, you think of Al Franken's wacky new-age SNL character Stuart Smalley, who repeatedly chanted to himself, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!" Not long ago such "positive affirmations" were touted as one of many keys to happiness by a pop-psychology press overflowing with slickly packaged little books that were guaranteed to change your life. And while their hearts were in the right place, many of these authors had little or no scientific basis for the practices they were recommending.

In recent years, however, the Science of Happiness has emerged as part of the field of Positive Psychology. Today, Harvard educators teach overflowing classes on the subject to academic groups all over the world. And the University of Pennsylvania offers a Masters degree in the field. As you'll see if you follow the links in this series, there is a solid and growing body of science to support this simple assertion: You can train yourself to be happier. 

This is the first in a 3-part series of posts: The Science of Happiness. This Part (Part 1, A Little Theory) is for all you skeptics that are saying to yourselves, “This is a crock!!” It provides some links to resources that will acquaint you with some of the science related to happiness. (You can skip this part if you don’t need any convincing about the field’s legitimacy.) In Part 2, Some Fun Stuff, I’ll provide some links to some more entertaining information… stuff that’s less focused on scientific evidence and more on getting you motivated to learn about happiness and how you might achieve it. In Part 3, Train Yourself to Be Happy, I’ll provide an overview and some links to specific steps you can take to train yourself to be happy — And yes, it’s really just a matter of training!

I became interested in the Science of Happiness as a result of banging together three ideas that, for me at least, were fairly compelling news. These ideas are:
  1. Researchers using MRI have been able to isolate the portions of the brain that are related to happiness and watch them in operation, in real time. 
  2. We’ve learned that the brain is plastic. Throughout our lives, we can make actual physical changes to the brain’s structure depending on how we use it or what we ask our brains to focus on. 
  3. The new Science of Happiness (based on Positive Psychology) is developing some science-based tools and methods to enable us to train our brains to help create more happiness in our lives. 
Stimulated by these ideas, I began poking around a little more and came across this amazing finding: The left pre-frontal cortex of the brain — the place where we experience positive emotions — can be physically increased in size after 8 weeks of training in mindfulness meditation or even mindful yoga. (This essentially tells me that meditators have bigger happiness muscles!) Then there’s this finding: People who experience more positive emotions have more antibodies in their immune system. (Whoa! That’s very cool, indeed!)

But rather than my rehashing what I’ve been discovering, I’d like to share a couple of great resources that you can investigate for yourself. The first is an article in Harvard magazine. Here’s a couple of quotes from that article about the origin of the broader field of Positive Psychology which has spawned the new Science of Happiness:
“For much of its history, psychology has seemed obsessed with human failings and pathology. The very idea of psychotherapy, first formalized by Freud, rests on a view of human beings as troubled creatures in need of repair….A watershed moment arrived in 1998, when University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman, in his presidential address to the American Psychological Association, urged psychology to “turn toward understanding and building the human strengths to complement our emphasis on healing damage…That speech launched today’s positive psychology movement…The University of Pennsylvania offers a master’s degree in the field. International growth, too, is strong… Though not denying humanity’s flaws, the new tack of positive psychologists recommends focusing on people’s strengths and virtues as a point of departure…Their lab experiments might seek to define not the conditions that induce depraved behavior, but those that foster generosity, courage, creativity, and laughter.”
– from The Science of Happiness: Psychology Explores Humans at Their Best by Craig Lambert in a Harvard Magazine online article:  http://harvardmagazine.com/2007/01/the-science-of-happiness.html

The above article is a great overview of the field and includes interviews with both leaders in the field and friendly critics, as well as lots of links to their books and book reviews. It’s a good introduction to the Science of Happiness. You can get more good introductory material by attending (virtually, of course!) a free 2-hour seminar titled Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness with Tal Ben-Shahar, instructor of psychology at Harvard. In this seminar, Ben-Shahar provides a fairly entertaining, yet research-based, overview of the Science of Happiness, weaving together findings from research studies with examples of how these findings may be applied in relationships and your work life. And he even throws in a few fun experiential exercises to help make the concepts real. The seminar is available in video, audio, or MP3 download from the WBGH Forum Network. Here’s the URL:  https://archive.org/details/PositivePsychologyTheScienceOfHappiness

These two sources will provide you with good overviews of the solid research and theories behind The Science of Happiness. In the next Part of this series, Some Fun Stuff, I’ll share some web-based resources that will get you a little more involved and motivate you to tackle the resources in Part 3, Train Yourself to Be Happy. [Thanks to Brian Johnson whose PhilosophersNotes on Martin Seligman’s books Authentic Happiness & Learned Optimism inspired my investigation of this topic.]

05 February 2018

Paulo Coelho's Inspirations: The Warrior of the Light

As you may have concluded if you've read many of my posts, I'm essentially an optimist. Most of the time I believe that problems can be solved, challenges can be overcome, and people generally want to do the right thing. What's more, I believe (at least the majority of the time) that the universe itself is animated by some Source, God, or whatever you want to call that positive energy field that seems to be helping every living thing to evolve and improve itself in that brief moment while its flame burns bright.

Still... I live in this world. I've had stubborn clients who made me crazy and caused me to wonder why I chose my career. I see family or friends desperately struggling to make ends meet or trying to overcome illnesses that attack them from out of the blue. I get angry when I observe corrupt politicians and greedy executives. And worse, I sometimes do stupid, petty, or short-sighted things that directly contradict my own ideals. In short, there are plenty of times when I find my essential optimism challenged... times when I wonder what's the point of it all... times when I ask myself, "Does it really make sense to cling to optimism and continue trying to learn, grow, and keep doing the right thing?"

When I begin to slip into this negative place, I revisit this passage from Paulo Coelho's Warrior of the Light: A Manual: "Every warrior of light has felt afraid of going into battle. Every warrior of light has, at some time in the past, lied or betrayed someone. Every warrior of light has trodden a path that was not his. Every warrior of light has suffered for the most trivial of reasons. Every warrior of light has, at least once, believed that he was not a warrior of light. Every warrior of light has failed in his spiritual duties. Every warrior of light has said 'yes' when he wanted to say 'no'. Every warrior of light has hurt someone he loved. That is why he is a warrior of light, because he has been through all this and yet has never lost hope of being better than he is."

So. There it is in a nutshell. The struggles, the failures, the bad results all coexisting right alongside the hope of perfectibility. I find this extremely comforting. And I find it an inspiration and cause to persevere and retain my optimism as I push on in my personal journey.

In Warrior of the Light: A Manual, Paulo Coelho writes: "What is a warrior of light? ... He is someone capable of understanding the miracle of life, of fighting to the last for something he believes in..." And at the same time "... a warrior of light values a child's eyes because they are able to look at the world without bitterness. When he wants to find out if the person beside him is worthy of his trust, he tries to see him as a child would."

In his Warrior of the Light: A Manual, Paulo Coelho presents a collection of proverbs, quotes from the Tao Te Ching, the Bible, the book of Chuang Tzu, the Talmud and many other sources to create an encouraging "How To" guide for the reader who is trying to retain her strength on her own warrior's quest.  One of the best features of this great little Manual is that you can jump into it almost anywhere, spend a few minutes, and renew your energy and inspiration. You don't need to set aside large chunks of time for reading. In fact, this is one of the work's great strengths: That it can be picked up, read almost at random, and provide quickly-digested wisdom when you are feeling a bit down.

Here's the book's summary from Feedbooks.com:  "Warrior of the Light: A Manual is an inspirational companion to The Alchemist, an international bestseller that has beguiled millions of readers around the world. Every short passage invites us to live out our dreams, to embrace the uncertainty of life, and to rise to our own unique destiny. In his inimitable style, Paulo Coelho helps bring out the Warrior of the Light within each of us. He also shows readers how to embark upon the way of the Warrior: the one who appreciates the miracle of being alive, the one who accepts failure, and the one whose quest leads him to become the person he wants to be... Paulo Coelho is one of the most beloved storytellers of our time. Now, in the long-awaited companion to his first novel [The Alchemist], Coelho presents a collection of philosophical stories that will delight and guide seekers everywhere."

Also available at Feedbooks.com is the more recent collection Warrior of the Light, Volumes 1 - 3.  Feedbooks.com summarizes these as follows: "'Warrior of the Light: Volumes 1 - 3' is a collection of texts that, for the first time, are gathered from the internet writings of Paulo Coelho. In his inimitable style, Paulo Coelho helps us to discover the warrior of the light within each of us. In these volumes readers are invited to to travel through the life and imagination of a pilgrim writer."

Like the earlier ... Manual, Warrior... Volumes 1 - 3 need not be read straight through to be enjoyed and to provide inspiration. They take the form of brief travel tales, parables, folk tales, etc. from many different cultures and locations around the world. In fact the wide-ranging philosophical, religious, and cultural sources for these volumes makes them particularly powerful, since the reader can quickly see the universal struggles and truths that are engaged by warriors of light from many different traditions. (They help the reader see that "We're all in this together!")

When I'm going through periods when I need a kick of encouragement, I like to read a little from one of these works right before bed. This seems to help program my spirit for a more optimistic world-view the next day. To get your free eBook downloads of Warrior of the Light: Volumes 1 - 3, go to these links at Feedbooks.com:
To get Warrior of the Light: A Manual, go to:
To learn all about Paulo Coelho's work, life & social media contact info, go to Paulo Coelho's website:

04 February 2018

I'm talking to myself! Should you be doing the same?

We've recently been going through some tough times in our family (deaths, illnesses, relatives struggling with financial woes and joblessness). And I gotta admit it's sometimes a struggle to keep a positive attitude. But this much I know from my daily exercise (a mental and physical life saver!) while listening to podcasts: To change what you're feeling, you must change what you are doing!

For years I've been listening to Brian Johnson's PhilosophersNotes during my workouts. This practice has effectively doubled the power of my workouts! Instead of simply refreshing my body, I've also been refreshing my mind and spirit.

Listening to my "best self"
Recently, I tried something that felt a little weird at first: I began playing my own podcasts during exercise. And what I discovered was amazing!  Let's say I'm feeling negative and discouraged before the workout.  As I cue up one of my podcasts, I plug in my ear buds and hear my own voice coming from this amazing positive place!  The positive muse (or Source or God) that helped me write the podcast, then record it, is really there as a presence!  And the more I listen to myself, the more I can feel my energy shift. I get back to the place of positive energy and strength from which I created the podcast. It's wonderful! And it lasts the rest of the day, carrying me through the challenges that I face and helping me be much more positive and supportive of those who need me.

How to Hear Your "Best Self"

But you don't need to be a podcast producer to get in touch with your best self. I challnge you to try this:
  1. Look at my list of podcasts.
  2. Ask yourself: "What's missing here? What would I add to this guy's podcast list?"
  3. Then just start writing. Sketch in all your ideas, quotes, powerful inspirational concepts, etc. (Or use your phone's or tablet's audio recorder to make yourself a recording of your thoughts.)
  4. Print and save your article or podcast script or recording so it's easy to find.
  5. The next time you feel negative or discouraged, read this article or podcast script or listen to your recording.
I'm betting that you'll find, as I have, that the muse that takes you to that positive place where your "best self" lives will show up again when you revisit this good stuff you've written.

So go ahead! Start talking to yourself!  And be sure to listen.

The Podcasts That Help Me "Pick Myself Up"

Here are the podcasts that I use to inspire myself:
  • 10 Specific Actions That Can Help You Become Happier -- When individual team members are happy, the entire team will likely be happy! But how can you become happier? In this podcast I share 10 specific actions that I’ve taken to create more happiness in my life.
  • Consciously Choose Your Attitude  -- A project team’s attitude can make or break the project. In this post learn how you can consciously choose your attitude instead of simply allowing it to overtake you as a collection of random feelings.
  • Practice Mindfulness-- Focus:  the power of mindfulness — the practice of bringing your full awareness into the present moment – and how you can expand upon your inherent ability to practice mindfulness
  • Accept What Is-- You must first accept a difficult situation for what it is before you can handle it effectively. Accept it, see it clearly without denial and hand-wringing, and then you can take appropriate action.
  • Just Do It!-- Get moving… get unstuck… & just do it! If you and your project team members are sometimes plagued with fits of analysis paralysis or procrastination, then this post/podcast is for you.