So if we are going to be intentional about the connections we create with other people, it’s important to be aware of how our brains are naturally wired.

Have you ever noticed that at the end of a day, there may have been 30 things that went right but its that one thing that went wrong that you can’t stop thinking about — the mistake you made, the snarky remark from a colleague or the rude driver that cut you off.

Neuroscientists have discovered that our brains are wired with a negative bias. Or as Dr. Rick Hanson puts it, “the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones.”

Our brains developed like this for good reason. Thousands of years ago, being hyper-aware of negative information kept us out of harm’s way (like being eaten). But in today’s world, that negative bias can actually damage our relationships, our work productivity and our inner peace. Here are several tips on how to counteract our brain’s natural tendency to focus on the negative.

 

Happiness increases productivity

Did you know you can be 30% more productive if you are working in a positive state (instead of negative or even neutral)? In our culture we often think, “If I work harder, I’ll be more successful, which will make me happier.” But psychologists say we are thinking backwards and happiness actually produces better thinking and creativity. Check out this humorous insight into the “happy secret to better work” where Shawn Achor talks about the The Happiness Advantage. And feel free to download this template, if you want to try out Shawn’s challenge to rewire your brain in 21 days.

 

Let it sink it

Our brains are structured to hold explicit memories (past events, actions, and facts) and implicit memories (subconscious feelings and beliefs). But because of our negative bias, the implicit memory, which determines our view of the world and ourselves, can grow increasingly dark as it accumulates and stores negative experiences. To coun­ter­act that, we need to actively build up pos­i­tive implicit mem­o­ries to bal­ance this unfair accu­mu­la­tion of neg­a­tive ones. So whenever you have a positive experience (like a kudos from a colleague or an expression of appreciation from a friend) don’t just brush it off. Focus on that positive interaction for 30 seconds to let it sink in to your implicit memory.

 

The magic ratio – 5:1

Research has shown that the healthiest connections have five times more positive interactions than negative ones.  This is true for our personal relationships and our working relationships. In fact, in a recent study were 60 strategic business teams were analyzed for effectiveness, the highest performing teams had 5.6 more positive interactions than negative ones. Just being aware of that ratio can help us balance an honest conversation or constructive criticism with affirmation and encouragement in a healthy way.

 

One of the best ideas I’ve found in Mind Performance Hacks is the idea of memetic sex. The first time I read about this is kind of blew my mind. But after experimenting with this idea in the workplace, I’ve found that it definitely produces a better product. I am fortunate in that I get to work with a talented group of Creatives (graphic designers, developers, interaction designers and video-storytellers) and when we actually took the time to get together and let our ideas combine, and reproduce other ideas, the project that we created together ended up winning a CASE Circle of Excellence Gold Medal.

The basic ideas is that the conversations we have with each other can be a type of cerebral/mental sex that produces ideas (instead of offspring). The term “meme” comes from an analogy to the gene, because just as genes are created in the biosphere during sexual intercourse, memes are created in the ideosphere during social intercourse.  And the result is better solutions, better ideas and better innovations.

Memetic sex is beneficial not only in the workplace (where collaborating with your colleagues produces better solutions), but it’s also valuable in our personal lives (where an exchange of ideas with friends can produce deeper insight into our relationships and ourselves). After experimenting with this idea for a couple years, here are some tips that I’ve found helpful in producing the best interactions and environments for memetic sex (both professionally and personally).

1. Create safe environments – This is huge. Whether the idea generation is happening with a team of colleagues or just between you and a friend, the best memetic sex happens when everyone feels safe enough to throw out their wildest ideas without fear of being judged or ridiculed. I’ve also found that food always helps (eating lunch together or a pan of double-dark-chocolate espresso-brownies at the team brainstorming session).

2. Avoid inbreeding – It’s actually natural to gravitate toward other people who think like you do, but the best ideas comes from an idea exchange with people of different backgrounds, perspectives, values, and expertise.  Professionally, exchanging ideas with people outside your expertise often create a larger spark (or a broader insight). Personally, conversations with people who think differently, actually stretch our own view of the world and cause us to grow.

3. Safe (memetic) sex – Just like we have STDs in the biological realm, there is such a thing as memetic viruses–ideas that replicate that are not true – or are just bad ideas (like most movie sequels). To practice good memetic hygiene, always be willing to exercise critical thinking and be intuitive about who you engage with (avoid people who have a toxic/unhealthy energy about them).

4. Respect boundaries – We’ve all been in situations where someone has crossed a boundary and shared way too much (usually its followed by the response “oh… TMI”). Or there is also that person who is always pushing their point of view/agenda in the conversation. In both cases, its kinda of like being violated (memetically).  People have different comfort levels regarding how much information to share so its healthier to use some intuition (even communication) to set and respect each other’s boundaries.

5. Be promiscuous (memetically, that is).  Here’s where the gene/meme analogy doesn’t quick work because memetic promiscuity is actually very healthy and benefits (instead of betrays) your other memetic partners. The more ideas generation happening from a wide variations of places, the better.  And this happens not only during conversations with other people, it can happen with books, movies, music, etc. So have as many “kids” and “a-ha moments” as you can. It’s not only productive…  it’s fun.

For more information, check out Mind Performance Hacks: Tips & Tools for Overclocking Your Brain and How to Think Like Einstein: Simple Ways to Break the Rules and Discover Your Hidden Genius.

 



 

The first summer I started riding the bus to work, I experienced an interaction that drastically changed the way I saw the people around me.

It was a hot afternoon in Tempe, Arizona and my bus was late.  I was new to the mass-transit lifestyle so I didn’t know that buses in Phoenix often break-down in the summer because of the heat. As I was sitting there baking in the 110 degree sunshine, I could feel myself getting irritable and decided to make an intentional choice to be positive and stay open to the unexpected.

It wasn’t much later that an old, Native American man (that looked homeless) walked up to me and asked for some money to buy dinner.  When I told him that I was sorry that I didn’t have any cash, he said something in a language I didn’t understand.  It reminded me of the beautifully fluid sounds I heard on the Navaho reservation when I visited as a kid.

So I looked him in the eyes and said, “Is that Navaho?”  I think he was shocked that I not only knew that, but took the time to ask him because he said, “Can I sit down and talk with you for a little while?  Most people won’t even look at me.”  The pain in his voice made me realize how desperately we all need connection with other people and that he probably hadn’t experienced that for a long time. So I told him, “of course” and tried to reassure him that it was nothing personal, people are just very nervous about strangers these days.

He sat down next to me and told me his name was Ivan (which he hated because “it wasn’t very Navaho”).  And when I engaged in conversation, it seemed like he could tell I was sincerely interested in his life stories.  He told me about his father who was a code-talker in World War II, and how his older brothers were drafted into the Vietnam war so he followed their footsteps and joined the army.  Ivan was a professional sniper for years and traveled the world.  He told me crazy stories about what it was like to stay up in a tree for days just waiting for his “target” to come out of a building.  With each story, he became more solemn until eventually his eyes filled with pain (and tears).

A half an hour went by and the next bus never showed up, so we kept talking.

I felt bad that I didn’t have any cash, so I told him I would go with him to buy some dinner.  He said that “Mother Earth” provided everything he needed and for the last several months he had been living in a tree–he ate the leaves for nourishment and slept in the highest branches so no one could see him.  Ivan said he had been trying to stay on the down low because last year he was thrown into “tent city” because the sheriff thought he was undocumented. I asked him if that was a rough experience and he said, “not after everything I’ve lived through.”

As I continued to ask him to tell me stories, he must of felt a connection and a comfort in being heard because he would often shift into the Navaho language (forgetting that I couldn’t understand him).  And I would have to stop him and ask “ok, what did you just say?”  He told me about the Navaho culture and how they consider words to be very powerful. Which is why they don’t have any curse words in their language–they would never “curse” another human being with the power of their words.  He told me about his mother, and how she was the one who taught him how to pray.  Then he looked at me and asked if he could pray for me.

I thought about all the past conversations I had at the bus stop (from nuclear physicists to the homeless) and no one had ever asked me that before.  And how did Ivan know that I was a person who loved prayer?  So I said, “of course!”  and expected him to close his eyes and whisper a prayer over me. So I was quite surprised when he stood up, spread his arms and started praying in Navaho (quitely loudly, I might add).  But I didn’t care who was around, or how crazy they probably thought he was, there was something about that experience that was surreal and it drew me in.

Afterwards I asked him to explain what he was praying and he said, “I was thanking Father God, Mother Earth, and Brother Jesus, and I was praying protection over your life that you would live many days.” And he said that he could feel his parents (who had crossed over) close to us when he was praying.

Another half-hour passed, and my bus still hadn’t come  (although in all honesty, it might have come while I was listening to Ivan pray).

After he told me about feeling his parents close to him, he started talking about his family’s land up in Northern Arizona–how there was lots of land, and lots of horses, and four sisters that he thought were worried about him. When I saw a tear welling up in his eye, I asked, “Ivan, do you want to go home?”

The look on his face was a definite “yes,” which triggered a quick call to find out how much a bus ticket costed, a trip to the ATM machine, and a way back home for Ivan.  He looked stunned and asked, “Why are you doing this?” I said, “Ivan…  we share the same Father God and Mother Earth–that makes you my brother.  We were obviously supposed to connect today and give each other something.  I know in my gut that this is what I’m supposed to give you.”

My bus finally came so I told him I had to go.  Ivan promised he’d go home (as soon as he got his belongings out of the tree he had been living in). As I got on the bus, he stood there and said something in Navaho and as the door closed I heard him say, “Thank you, Cindi. I love you.”

Wow.  Did that experience ever change me.
It taught me to stay open to the unexpected events of the day,
and to the new people we may meet.

The next day, I was riding my bike home from the bus stop down Shea (an extremely business street) and when I tried to avoid a tree branch I lost control and had a bike accident.  When I fell, my body landed so that my head was in the gutter and all I could see was the rush of oncoming traffic.  I got up, my body rushing with adrenaline, and realized if I had fallen 12 more inches into the street, I wouldn’t be here today.  And I thought of Ivan’s prayers of protection and said out loud…

“Thank you, Ivan. I love you too.”

 

 

 

Bruce Mau is one of my all-time favorite designers. He was the first person who showed me that we could design our actions. Watch this quick keynote from ASU’s Emerge Conference and you’ll see what I mean. He’s absolutely inspiring (and funny).

 

And check out his Incomplete Manifesto for Growth. We have this hanging up in our team space with our favorites highlighted in red. Which ones resonate with you?

 

This has been a challenging holiday season for our family because in the last couple weeks we’ve had more friends pass away than you can count on one hand. And as I sat in a several memorial services last week, surrounded by hundreds of people listening to stories about how deeply we were affected by the lives that have now passed, it was amazing to me how many people one life can touch. It was especially inspiring to honor simple people (who where neither famous or rich) but who selflessly invested their heart and souls into their children, their friends, and their communities.

Our family has a tradition of watching It’s A Wonderful Life together on Christmas Eve, and when we were watching it the other night, I saw a small detail I’ve never noticed before. There was a sign hanging in the Building & Loan that was the Bailey motto, “All that you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.” And as I watched George Bailey continually make selfless choices that affected the people around him for good, I couldn’t help but think of the friends we just said goodbye to… that did the same.

It made me want to be more intentional about giving as much as I can, making decisions for the good of the people around me, and the beauty of creating good ripples.

We are connected more than we realize.

In 2006 Jehane Noujaim, an Egyptian American documentary filmmaker, made a wish for world peace at the TED conference wanting to bring the world together for one day through the power of film. When I listened to Jehane talk about her ideas, they totally resonated–especially the idea that “The first step to world peace is meeting each other.” And when you hear her talk about the people she met while filming “Control Room” you totally believe in the power of “seeing through the eyes of the other.”

Her ideas resonated with more than just me because she got her wish and won the TED prize that year (which is $100,000 to help make your wish a reality). This reality was called Pangea Day and became a world-wide film festival that I couldn’t wait to experience. And the truth is, she was right. I will probably never meet this Moroccan iman and his wife face to face, but their ideas about openness, mutual recognition, and conflict resolution have become a part of who I am. Thank you, Jehane, for creating such connections.

 

 

After being a marriage counselor for over 30 years, Gary Chapman discovered the reason many couples were unhappy was because people speak different languages when expressing affection for each other. When I read the The 5 Love Languages several years ago, I was suprised at how much understanding this book brought me – about myself, my marriage, and how to better communicate with people.

Here’s the general idea: we all have a primary love language, and most of the time its different from our spouse’s. Your can figure out your language by analyzing how you express affections to others, and what makes you feel the most loved. Which of these would mean the most to you?

Words of Affirmation – when your spouse tells you how amazing you look, how great dinner tasted, how well you nurture your kids – words that build your self image and confidence.

Quality Time – the most valuable thing is your spouse’s undivided attention and you would rather spend time focusing on each other.

Gifts – you often give people gifts to show your affection and appreciation. When others give you a gift, no matter how big, it means a lot to you that someone was thinking of you and made that kind of effort.

Acts of Service – the most meaningful way your spouse can show their affection is by helping you (with their own initiative and with joy).  Just the fact they are intuitive enough to feel your stress and want to relieve it by helping carry the burden, makes you feel loved and connected.

Physical Touch – sometimes it doesn’t have to be much to fulfill this need and communicate affections – holding hands, a pat on the back, a kiss on the cheek.  The important thing is that its daily contact.

There are also a couple online tests out there if you need help figuring out your primary love language. It’s interesting to figure out your own language, but what’s more helpful is to be aware of the primary language of the people around you.  Whether you’re communicating with your spouse, your children, your colleagues or your friends, having a clear understanding of what’s the most meaningful to them, will help you create better connections.

 



 

A couple years ago our house was totally full of family for a wedding. It was so full in fact, that we ran out of beds. So we offered our bed to the guests and my hub graciously slept under the pool table and I slept outside in the hammock. What surprised me though, was how much I loved it. There was this gentle breeze all night, and instead of that annoying alarm that I beat every nine minutes (for at least a half an hour), I woke up slowly to the sun rise and birds singing. Then it hit me–this is the way we were meant to wake up! It felt so much natural to be connected to the rest of the earth as she woke up.

It was also a good reminder at how much energy we absorb by being enveloped in the beauty of nature. Especially places like the Redwood Forest, the San Juans Mountains, or by the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. Maybe we should be intentional about spending more time outside (even if it’s just our own backyard). It not only rejuvenating for our own energy levels, but it may strengthen our own affection for and connection to the earth.

Tonight, I was reading through this beautifully designed book that I bought a couple years ago about being Human. It’s full of visual explanations the how our body and mind work, plus image-rich descriptions of the cultures and people all over the world.

I love how well this book was designed, and even more, how beautifully we were designed. And looking through this book resulted in an overwhelming appreciation of the rich and colorful texture of humanity all over the world.

It makes you love being human.

Next time you’re at a bookstore, library, or on Amazon, browse through it for a while and you’ll see what I mean. We should celebrate being human more often.

“The deeper we grow, the poorer in spirit we become– the more we realize that everything in life is a gift. The tenor of our lives becomes one of humble and joyful thanksgiving. In conversation, the person who is truly poor in spirit always leaves the other person with the feeling, “My life has been enriched by talking with you.” This is neither false modesty nor phony humility. His or her life has been enriched and graced. He is not all exhaust and no intake. He does not impose herself on others. He listens well because he knows he has so much ot learn from others. ” – Brennan Manning

I first stumbled on this thought in the mid-90s and it changed my whole perspective in relating to people. At that time, I taught graphic design classes at Truman State University and helped mentor a group of design students in the Publications Office. I’ll be honest, being in such positions caused my ego to swell a bit–believing I had a lot of insight that I could impart to my students on many different levels.

I remember the night that changed, though: we were driving through Kansas on the way back from a long road-trip. I was driving, it was 3 a.m., it was dark and quiet, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the above idea, and I suddenly saw how blind I had been. Memories of every student I mentored flashed by and I realized how much each one of them taught me–how each one of them enriched my life.

I look back now at how much the people in my life have shaped who I am today, and I can’t help but celebrate the thought of how interwoven our lives are. So many beautiful people have become like the threads of influence that now make up the fiber of my personality/outlook on life. Thank you: kathy, lee, jeff, mary, bruce, luci, olive, elnathan, carla, casey, pam, dave, emily, kathy, dan, bee, maryjo, ken, trish, john, linda, lucy, peter, dudley, veronica, tim, keith, rich, jessica, emily, mary, mike, dorothy, nancy, jeff, mutt, margaret, kathy, heidi, tom, mark, doug, jill, david, marlin, kathy, beth, serenity, pam, greg, buddy, jose, winston, teresa, jay, dan, ernest, kris, pat, mark, gretchen, jan, brian “buck”, chris, david, michelle, joe, jason, matt, liz, jim, phil, christina, laura, jennifer, john, chad, abby, tyler, nicole, jessica, steph, abby, madison, kelley, josh, mikey, katie, kara, george, mary, cindy, dawn, mia, jon, shannon, silvia, robert, keith, kelly, kyle, kara, diana, pam, crystal, diana, barb, tara, mike, phil, sarah, susan, t.w., jack, gary, wilma, dee, judith, ben, sarah, silva, jake, nina, cameo, hans, natalie, guy, tanya, linda, jane, jill, stephanie, terri, gini, michael, neal, mark, angela, jessica, erin, nate, victor, linda, ryan, trish, jim, emily, mikey, alyssa, josh, drea, jeff, steve, kate, aubrey, lolly, matt, joey, nate, david, eric, brit, bryan, ben, torey, bobby, phil, delisa, robert, pam, lisa, mary, robyn, alex, shaleen, lisa, nettie, chris, jamie, william,  elijah, matt, rob, john, phil, erwin, john, richard, pete, mike, john, deb, david, tim, eric, brian, wil, leah, courtney, danny, barton, michael and michelle…. such a rich weave. Thank you.

I was reading a book from one of my favorite authors and stumbled on this thought. It was such a beautiful description of connection that I had to post it here:

“Each one of us has a spirit, this power of life in us, and like breath it is not just something that is in us but something that also issues from us. Every man has the capacity to project some of this power of his own life, his vitality, into others. It is the power literally to inspire, breathe into, and although it is invisible and intangible and cannot be put into a test tube or under a microscope, it is perhaps the greatest and most dangerous power that we have…

We can all remember certain people who were not necessarily any more intelligent or eloquent than other people but who had this power to communicate something of their aliveness in such a way that it is part of our aliveness still. This does not come through what they say or through what they do necessarily but through what they manage to be. The word “inspiring” has been so loosely used for so long that it no longer conveys very much, but again, in the literal sense that is what such people are–life-breathing, not through deeds or words so much as through some invisible force that leaps from their lives into our lives like electricity. There are times when this force of a person is so intense that we can feel it when he just walks into a room… In some measure everyone has the power to transform for good or ill the whole life of the community, invisibly, intangibly, but nonetheless really.

And one of the strangest aspects of spirit is that it does not appear to be bound by either time or space. The spirit of a community is the product not only of all who are part of it now but of all who were part of it years ago and whose very names may no longer be remembered. By the power of your spirit, your life can reach out and become part of my life, you can empower me to do things and be things that i could never manage on my own, and this can remain true whether we are six feet apart of six thousand miles, six years or sixty. The spirit of men who died centuries ago can intoxicate us, electrify us, tranform us, as much now as when they were alive.” — Frederic Buechner

That last thought made think of how much I have been “intoxicated, electrified, and transformed” by so many other people… like Albert Einstein, Eckert Tolle, Brené Brown, Brennan Manning, Bruce Mau, C.S.Lewis, Henri Nouwen, Steven Covey, Vittoria Colonna, Richard Foster, Rob Bell… and even more so, by my friends–both new and old… especially the old.

So lets all celebrate our connections. Take a minute, and leave a comment with the names of the people who have inspired and transformed you–people who are “a part of your aliveness still.” … and if you happen to have NPD (Nervous Posting Disorder, ha!), feel free to post as anon.



Kory Floyd, a professor of communications at ASU, has done some incredibly interesting research on the effects of communicating affection. He says that “affection can be a simple, non-pharmaceutical, cheap way to reduce stress.”

This research was a collaboration of professors in kinesiology, psychology, and nursing who measured the effects that affection had on stress. They took a group of people and increased their stress (which resulted in increased blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol). Then they divided the groups into three: one group wrote an affectionate letter to a loved one, the other just thought about people they love and why they love them, and the last group just sat quietly. The last two groups’ stress levels remained the same or even increased… but the group that actually expressed affection dropped sharply.

Researchers have known that oxytocin is a chemical that our bodies release during affectionate touch and it can combat stress hormones and lower blood pressure.  But Kory found that affectionate words also release oxytocin in both the sender and the receiver (if the receiver cares about the person who sent it). Even people who aren’t naturally affectionate can reap the health benefits of affectionate communication.

I read about this several years ago and decided to implement this practice into my own stress management. Whenever work gets stressful, I’ll take a 5 minute break to send a quick text/email to a friend and tell them what I love about them. I’m convinced it works.

So the next time life feels too overwhelming, take five minutes and send some e-affection to a friend. It will not only generate a little oxytocin hit for both of you (and reduce stress), but you will also intentionally strength your connection.



 

A couple years ago, I had a conversation with my brother-in-law (who is super funny and a little uncomfortable with how openly affectionate our family tends to be). During a couple rounds of witty banter,  I told him, “you know what the problem is… you’re emotionally constipated.” And his reply was, “well if that’s that case, then you have emotional diarrhea.”  That counter-point not only made me laugh but it got me thinking about the balance between restraining and blurting our emotions and affections towards one another.

Then I was talking with one of my friends who got to the point where she took the leap of saying “I love you” to her boyfriend.  Unfortunately the other person wasn’t ready to reciprocate, which hurt, but she was glad that she was true to her own feelings. I guess I forget how hard the “L” word is to say for some people. And as I realized how our culture makes such a big deal about actually saying “i love you” to someone, I wondered if i freak my colleagues out sometimes. Because, the truth is when I feel it, I just blurt it out. Last night when I was looking through my twitter stream for a link I posted last year, I laughed when saw how much I tweat the word “love.”

Ok, so here’s my question: 
Does love work in a different economy?

Gold is valuable because it is so rare (supply and demand theory). But I can’t believe that love becomes less valuable the more its felt and communicated? Surely it isn’t ruled by the same value principles that the market uses for price determination.

Maybe the more we communicate and act on love,
the more we experience and feel it for ourselves?



I was reading through my journal this morning and found an entry from 2007 about the people/ideas that influenced me to switch to mass transit. I was so glad that I wrote those ideas down because it reminded me of how connected we are to other people and how ideas can reproduce other ideas. Because who would have thought that a line from a movie about crashing and a YouTube video about hugging strangers would influence someone to start taking the bus. And since then, I have loved getting out of my private-spaces (my house, office, car, personal comfort zone) and interacting with the rest of the world… .

And as I re-watched this video that influenced me years ago, I find it still deeply resonates. And its not just me.  This resonated so deeply with people that the idea rippled across the world.

Maybe the truth is that we are all tired of feeling so disconnected from each other.

And I’m wondering what would happen to our culture if we were all more intentional about being open to the person next to us (especially the ones we don’t know yet).

A while back, I someone walking across the ASU campus wearing a shirt that read “I am not what I own” and was surprised at what an impact that statement had on me. Its so easy to get caught up in our culture of what we own… to find our identity in the car we drive, where we live, the clothes we wear, and the computer we own.

One of my daughters met an ASU student in class who told her that she lives out of a hammock. She found herself so attached to her stuff that she wanted to make a radical lifestyle change just to make sure she could live without her possessions. So she condensed everything she needed down to a backpack and a small box of items, and sleeps in a hammock in her friend’s back yard. That amazes me.

I was also thinking about all the people that I love who have struggled with eating disorders, and how hard it is to be a female in our culture that idolizes the thin and beautiful. There are so many expectations we have on ourselves, and we are continually analyzing and judging (both ourselves and each other). Which made me realize that just as “I am not what I own“ it is also true that:

I am not what you see.

Who we really are has very little to do with what we can see in the physical. How amazing would it be if we could look past each other possessions and the way we look and see each others heart/soul instead? Actually, if you could see mine, I think it would be an old, overweight, African American woman who loves to laugh and calls everyone “honey.”

I love the work of Simon Hoegsberg, a Danish photographer, who has a gift of capturing connections between people. One of my favorites is The Thought Project where he stopped people in New York and Copenhagen and asked “What were you thinking about the second before I stopped you.” His goal was to encourage us to look deeper at the people we pass on the street, and question our assumption that their thoughts are trivial. Personally, I just think people are beautiful and I love the connection that  Simon captured in the eyes of these people!

 

One of my favorite books is Mind Performance Hacks: Tips & Tools for Overclocking Your Brain, and one of the most helpful techniques this book taught me is this concept of playing mind music when you are working. If you are in a job where your output is creativity/solutions/knowledge, I’m sure you can relate to those days when you just can’t pull focus. The idea behind this hack is to condition your brain by only listening to a certain kind of music while you are thinking. Then when you are having trouble concentrating, you can create a conditioned response (kind of jump start your brain) by turning this music on. It took me several weeks to find the right music to think to, but I absolutely fell in love with Yo-Yo Ma’s interpretations of Bach’s Cello Suites. Its so beautiful, I find myself wanting to work, just so i can listen to it.

I noticed that I accidentally did this to myself with stress-relief as well. Whenever work feels overwhelming, I always play Sigur Rós… Yep.  Songs sung in “Hopelantic” will soothe your soul.

A couple years ago, my friend Nina invited me to her bellydancing recital (I bet you’ve never been to one of those before). Nina decided to take lessons after dancing at a Persian wedding and realized bellydancing was a great work out. Nina was fantastic (as you can clearly see) and the whole event was such a great time. But the one thing that really intrigued me was the way the small children who were present could hardly contain themselves–they had to just get up and dance too. Nina also explained to me that in the Persian culture, anytime families would congregate, they would dance together (even when several of them were just getting together for dinner). How cool is that?

A couple months ago, a bunch of us went to Disneyland to celebrate life (and our eldest daughter’s recent engagement). One of my favorite places there is the dance pavillion. It was amazing to watch these old couples in their 70s, a mother and her teenage son, and even a guy in a wheelchair out dancing–not caring who was watching. Their carefree attitudes were contagious and we had to jump in. As I was watching my four daughters, my sister, nieces and friends all out on the dance floor having a fabulous time, I thought about how deeply dance is engrained our collective consciousness.  I’ll mean humanity has been doing this together for thousands of years (and all over the world). What is it about dancing that we love so much?

Does music open us up more to connect with each other? I’m not sure, but I love it that its cross-cultural and no matter where we are from, or what our culture, dancing connects us (like Matt proved in this video).

A couple years ago, I switched to mass transit. That small change in my lifestyle caused some bigger shifts in the way I think about time, space, and people. Here’s a quick video talking about those changes (from the Ignite ASU event last fall). And here is a link to the presentation (the graphics are more interesting that my goofy mug ;)

 

What have your experiences been in making small shifts, and seeing the world differently?