16. Apps and Infographs

Today I am going to bring you all an interactive resource and some fascinating information on how to raise happier children.

Thankfully, they are both at the same site!

The first is an app, called Happify designed to inspire and persuade you  to make yourself actively happy. I have been trying it, here and there, and am somewhat noncommittal, but the site does have inspiring testimonials which (though not scientific) are motivating enough to at least give it a go.

The second is an infographic presented by Happify for raising happier children. It goes into detail about the importance of parenting, how much does resilience count for despite broken homes, and how to properly praise a child. Enjoy the double-whammy!


Vignette 1: the pseudo-alpha

My friend and I walked to a nearby coffee shop one night. The temperature that day had been pleasant (in Canadian terms, that means it was a warm 2 degrees Celsius during the day but had dropped to around minus 4 degrees in the evening). Upon our return to his condo lobby, we waited for the elevator; when it opened, there were three women, early to mid-twenties, and one man, shout, stout, nose stud (strange detail to notice). In any case, my friend and I casually continued our conversation, as we stepped inside the mobile room.
As the door closed, my friend stepped aside, “Oh! I’m sorry,” he said to the guy behind him, “did I step on you?”
“No, bro,” he rolled his eyes, “you were in my space,” he snipped. His posture became a closed and protective one. He put his hands in his pockets, had a listless stare toward his right (at the elevator wall). His foot silently shuffled backward.
“Oh, yeah, I’m a big guy,” my friend quipped to defuse him.
“Yeah,” I replied, looking away, “elevators are not very spacious, in any case.” He never replied back to us.
I was reminded of a scene in the film Annie Hall, where Woody Allen and Diane Keaton’s characters are standing in line for the movies, and there is a particularly loud-mouthed show off talking about communication theory to his date, but he is loud enough for everyone in the line up to hear. These pseudo-alpha types have a need to prove themselves to complete strangers.

15. True Confidence

Often times we hear the phrase “true confidence can only come from within”. We accept this as a meaningless maxim; in other words, we agree to this but many of us do not know what it entails.

We need to establish two definitions: confidence and within. The former serves as a belief that one can successfully accomplish a certain task (paraphrasing Merriam Webster). The latter meaning that the source of said confidence should be self sustaining from ones own self and not from anyone else.

But how does one authentically achieve it? I am going to write up a short series of vignettes in the next few posts all about examples of false vs true confidence. Come back soon!

14. Charming

My apologies for this extremely late addition to my blog. A combination of being occupado at work and being under the charm of the television show Once Upon a Time have delayed this posting. But fear not! For I come bringing an excellent resource!

But first… have you watched the television show Once Upon a Time? It centres around a small town full of fairy tale characters trapped without their magical abilities, like casting charms on people, nor any recollection of their backstories; characters include Snow White, The Evil Queen, Rumplestiltskin, and Prince Charming. The show is a guilty pleasure, with good writing, and a good mix of campy and enthralling acting. It has a certain Charm about it. Speaking of “Charm”, what is  “Charm” exactly?

Looking at its word history, “Charm” is related to the word “Chant“, which in turn, comes from Latin “Canere” meaning “to sing”In English, it means more of a monotonous repetitive singing, like those of monks’ prayers. Prayers and other repetitive chants and charms came with magical baggage. So it is no wonder that we come to see charm as a mysterious force with supernatural properties. 

The Secret Behind the Magic

But let’s ground it in reality. In Brian Tracy and Ron Arden’s book, The Power of Charm, they state “True charm…[is] that ability some people have to create extraordinary rapport that makes others in their presence feel exceptional…[with] an engaging quality to which we respond…”

The book is a short (only 145 pages), and powerful read (you can implement the changes immediately). There are nitty-gritty details such as eye movement/eye contact and body language cues which can be practiced and implemented to maximize comfort for whomever you converse with. But the more advanced techniques which could always stand to be perfected and tweaked include when to stay quiet, and when to speak; and most importantly what kind of feedback to give back to your fellow converser.

Make It About Them

One of the most powerful nuggets of wisdom found in the book is the let go of the need to control the conversation. Most often, when we have an agenda, we have this push from within to direct the conversation to what we wish to talk about. Part of charm is being a selfless conversationalist and allowing people to express their thoughts. One of the most interesting insights after reading the book is that often people who find us charming may not know much about us; this is because those with charm enthrall others by allowing others to express themselves around the charming individuals and not overpower their conversation partners with their own opinions. Think about someone who you find charming. Can you understand why you feel so comfortable around them?


13. Having a Personal Narrative

Canadian author Thomas King once said “The truth about stories is, that’s all we are.” In other words, we are all made up of the stories of our past and the stories we tell other people.

This is very true when you think about how often the stories we tell other people reinforce our own emotions, motives and paths in life.

In Romeo and Juliet, by Shakespeare, the play opens with our lovelorn protagonist pining over  the beautiful Rosalind, who has rejected Romeo; he spends the day moping about convincing himself that he will never know so beautiful or perfect a woman.

Or consider the heroic Harry Potter who, upon learning of his past, his magical abilities, and his destiny, embodies the role of magical super-sleuth.

These stories we tell ourselves become internalized, and, just as Romeo and Harry are convinced of their fate, so, too, can we lock ourselves in by accepting a narrative about us, good or bad.

How do we go about (re)writing our own story about ourselves? Well, there are three things that need to happen: we have to live it, we have to say it to ourselves, and internalize our narrative. We have to build a story about ourselves, one that is cohesive, and can guide us in our goal setting.

How do you flip the switch from negative to positive?

I remember a few years back there was a celebrity (I think it was John Meyer) who had a video leaked of his own private Positive Affirmations. He sounded a bit like a narcissist saying things like (and I paraphrase) “you are beautiful! You are perfect!” And while I do think that he was going about it the wrong way, I feel like he was onto something. Keeping a personal journal (one that preferably does not get leaked) where you write our your goals, efforts, improvements, and accomplishments is a great way to see how much you have improved!

This in turn helps you to begin writing out, living, and eventually internalizing your narrative, that is, your personal story about yourself.

Begin with small improvements: “Working out at least 4x a week; make bolder claims: “Impress the boss this month”; write out your ‘destiny’: “Retire with enough to travel every year.”

Please note that this is not junk self-help like “The Secret” or some similar pseudo-scientific “Power of Positive Thinking”/wish fulfillment. This is actually having goals in mind and taking the steps necessary to making them manifest.

Even Romeo resolved to go to a party where he would meet the girl of his dreams (forget how they both died… you cynics); and the Great Harry Potter was just another student of magic before fulfilling his destiny.

We all have trials and tribulations; it’s how we view them, and if we keep track of the improvements we are making that will ultimately determine our perspective.

Here are some other perspectives on Personal Narrative:

Elan Morgan: Personal Narrative and Self-Doubt

Robert Tercek: Reclaiming Personal Narrative (picks up at 8mins)

Susan Conley – Power of Story

12. On Not Caring and Letting Go of Control

Living with family has its perks; no rent, home-cooked food, the company; but there are things that can also irritate you. These include excessive noise, little personal space, and having to guard things you find valuable from people who do not hold the same opinion of those same items.

I once came home to find the entire living room rearranged, the television moved, and with that, my video game system dismantled and the console and wires carelessly tossed into a storage closet buried under items much heavier than it, that could easily damage it. I spent nearly $400 of my own hard-earned cash on these things, yet it did not faze those living with me. They justified their actions by simply stating that loose wires didn’t look nice just laying about. Try as I might, I could not convince them that a sophisticated and expensive gaming system was anything but loose wires unaesthetically strewn about. This made me upset because I could not communicate to them that my opinion also mattered and that they could not simply dictate their decisions with no consultation with me. Out of frustration, and an argument brewing, I gave up. Even now, writing this, it makes me upset knowing that my opinion mattered little.

But…that must have been 3 or 4 years ago.

Today, I came into the living room, much like that distant afternoon, and saw the couch and television rearranged. And, you know what? I didn’t care. In fact, a part of me appreciated the change, not because of the resignation that it’s something that I expect from those living with me, but because I tried to see the positive in the rearrangement. The sectional couch had been changed from a t.v.-centric L-shape to a much more conversation friendly U-shape.

I have tried during this past year to let go of my incessant need to care about what others do. In her book, Defining Decade, clinical psychologist Meg Jay, PhD, talks to people in their 20s and early 30s about how the economy has somewhat stunted our emotional and socioeconomic growth.  Many of us are currently struggling to start our careers, and become independent. This leads us to living with and depending on family well up to and sometimes even past our 30s. In terms of the human animal, this is unnatural and unhealthy. Many of us are struggling to gain ownership of our destinies while having to live under our parents’ roofs. Many have sworn off relationships until we gain autonomy. Some of us, out of frustration, lash out at those closest to us. But this will ultimately not gain us anything.

Keep your eye on the prize

We need to know what our ultimate goal is, and gain, what Dr. Jay calls, Identity Capital and Social Capital. The first lets us take inventory of what we have: friends, dreams, choice of career, etc; the second is required to fill in the gap to achieve our dreams and careers and gain social connections to that end, such as meeting people with common interests.

Back to the U-shaped couch

The couch, much like the video game system, much like any minor nuisance in life, is a symptom of this much larger lack of ownership of one’s life. We lose focus of our path and focus instead on tiny, side issues because, really, the major issue is personal fulfillment, which is hard to achieve. By looking at Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs, we can gain some insight as to why we allow ourselves to lose focus of the end-game. We wish to be Self-Actualized, but we have not climbed the mountain past Love and Belonging (some of us, sadly, start even lower than that!)

Stop caring about that U-Shaped couch and focus on what matters. You can buy your own couch and another gaming system one day (or whatever you want out of life). In order to gain independence you have to start living for yourself!

This does not mean becoming an uncaring jerk; on the contrary, you have to care, but about yourself first and foremost! Put yourself first; give yourself permission to say “I love me first, then I love others.” Make decisions that you feel right with and that are right for you! Let other people gossip if they wish. It is no use trying to control others’ opinions (see the Anthony Hopkins quote below). At the end of the day, you and only you can take care of yourself! You are your most important priority!

*I have talked about this topic before, but I wanted to share the couch story and the resource of Dr Meg Jay’s Defining Decade. Here is a WikiHow on some great advice about how and when not to care.*

For anyone who is between 16-30, please do read Meg Jay’s Defining Decade.  Better you read it sooner than later. It is an essential for gaining insight as to how to go about directing your 20s and not end up in an existential crisis at 30.


11. Gaining a new life skill

Childhood vs. Adolescence

In my line of work the greatest challenge is to get young people interested in taking on challenges. There is always resistance.

I remember reading an article (citation will be found once searched) that said that when we were all little kids, 12 and younger, we loved taking on challenges and did not particularly care for what those around us thought of us. Playing video games as a kid was a chance to explore ways to manipulate the laws of the game universe to win. But something weird happens when we become teenagers.

Our brains requires social acceptance. In middle school and high school, teen culture teaches us what those around us think matters. We started to question our judgement and look to those around us for approval.

Personal story segment

I vividly recall a group of so-called popular girls in grade eight who criticized my friend’s economic outfit in comparison to my Adidas gear. But my friend felt devastated and even though I stood up for her, I could not help but feel a little elated in the recognition of my “threads”. It is not something I look back on fondly; my current self wants to slap my past self. But that is the way socialization works.

Stopping the cycle

We need to realize that what others around us think does not matter. When it comes to gaining life skills, others’ mockery should never play any part because their limitations and their willingness to act as sheep will contain their life experiences in a very narrow field of play. For those who wish to expand their life experiences, we need to first recognize that we only have one life to live and we have to make the most of it in the here and now.

Steps to take

This means that we must first want to commit to a personal goal.

Next, we must start the learning process, and simultaneously realize that it will not be an easy road. If we’re still in are early to mid twenties, our brain has not completely finished developing its prefrontal cortex. As such, we can still learn many complex things, including languages, math skills, and playing an instrument. However, even if we’re past the point of maximum cerebral elasticity, the brain can still learn, though, not nearly as quickly as it would have earlier. But we must recognize this in order to progress to the next step.

Practice regularly and have specific targets in mind. Learning the piano? Pick an easy piece (like Chopsticks… or Ruff Ryders’ Anthem) and practice it ad nauseum to the point of near mastery.

As you get better, pick much more complex works and try them out. You may feel like you have plateaued, but don’t let it discourage you. You might not be the best musician, or linguist, or mathematician, but you will at least have done well for yourself.

Keep it up, Ace! You’re on your way!

A more detailed article can be found here at lifehacker.com.

Don’t remember what it was like being a kid and having first time experiences? Put yourselves in her shoes:

Personal Growth, Inspiration and Affirmation of Life