Celebrating Change

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we are in the middle of celebrating the fall harvest. We enjoy seeing the colors of the trees and the fruits of our hard work.  When I think of the harvest, I think of the successes I have seen in the couples and families with whom I work.  Every dream has seeding times, growing times, and harvesting times.

It is deeply gratifying to me to celebrate the harvest of families who have grown their relationships. This continues to be a source of inspiration, healing, laughter, and joy for me and helps to create the kind of caring community that is needed for well being and flourishing of everyone. I have discovered five well worth celebrating in creating 
successful change:  They are character, committment, connection, communication, and co-creative solutions.  Learn about these five aspects of change in my October newsletter.  Go to the seminars section and listen to the recording a lively teleconference on how these principles apply to your lives.

Becoming Resilient

LifeTree News
Creating Prosperity with Harmony
Alice G. Vlietstra, Ph.D.
October, 2010
 
 Becoming Resilient
 
 1.  Welcome
 2.  Becoming Resilient
 3.  Key Essentials for Change
 4.  Relationships Build Happiness
 5.  Announcements
 
 1.  Welcome
 
 Fall is here.  In the Midwest US, trees are displaying their beautiful red,
 yellow, and orange colors and the days are sunny and crisp. Autumn is one of
 my favorite seasons of the year.
 
 Autumn is a time of harvest.  This year's harvest has more people choosing
 life by questioning the cultural influences that have driven our behavior. 
 The old story of money and stuff as leading to happiness has lost its appeal.
 Now people are seeing it for what it is, a fabricated story developed by
 advertisers to get you to buy. It also is a story of corporate domination
 and exploitation. Rather than relying on Wall Street, people are now actively
 creating change on Main Street.
 
 I am very happy to see this. It awakens our capacity for cultivating real wealth
 -- healthy children, families, communities, and ecosystems. The need to question  our culture became very clear to me last June when once again I was doing an  investigation as an expert witness. In addition to working with individuals and  families who want to expand and grow, I am sometimes asked to do developmental  investigations for young adults in prison. 
 
 Their developmental histories shows a consistent pattern - troubled childhoods,  family disruption, little community support, gangs, drugs and alcohol, violence,  and crime.  Today, the United States has one of the highest crime rates in the world.  In our current days of mass incarceration, it has been estimated that one out of every 31 US adults in the justice system (Alexander, 2010).  This does not make me happy. The lioness within me began to roar. We have the information needed to do a better  job. While we cannot change the past, we can learn from this information how to create change for the future. I began coordinating information on our strengths.  A book is forthcoming.  Meanwhile, let me give you a few basics.
 
 2. Becoming Resilient
 
 Economist, David Korten recently came out with the new expanded edition of his book,  "Agenda for a New Economy." It is issued as a report for the New Economy Working Group.  In it Korten gives the rationale for the kind of change most likely to be successful.  The most critical change needs to come from the bottom up. When society is organized  by dominator systems, the impetus for change rarely comes from within.  It has to come from the people.
 
 Korten finds that that most successful projects do not come from a large,
 well organized plan.  Instead they come from the dedicated efforts of many people,  each finding the role that best uses his or her gifts and passions. 
 The connections are maintained by the framing ideas and mutually supportive
 relationships. The knowledge comes from the people's heads, that is, our heads,  not from outside experts. The challenge is to recognize, organize, and use it in  effective ways. New ideas gain traction depending on what works and what does not.
 
 3. Key Essentials for Change
 
 Korten believes a successful strategy for change has three key elements. The first  is to identify and question the stories driving our culture.  Exploitive dominator  structures are based on our culture's stories about who we are and the nature of man.  What is the story that the media is giving us?  Is it that we are hedonistic,  dependent, little beasties in need a strong leader?  Research gives a picture that  is quite different.  More and more it is showing that we are wired to care and connect; to create and to do.  We grow and develop in the context of our relationships.   Questioning our cultural stories is critical for change.  It happens as we individually engage in conversations in our neighborhoods, at our meet-ups, in our religious institutions, and in our families. Take time to question and decide what makes sense to you. 
 
 A second critical source of change is in the support we give to the businesses and  activities in our local communities.  You can have a significant impact by supporting your local farmers, shopping locally, and getting involved in initiatives for building  your neighborhoods. 
 
 The third way is to get engaged politically.  Gather information; talk with your
 neighbors, and work to elect leaders that will enact real policy changes. Be sure
 to vote.  All of this activity helps to create the kinds of change that supports life.
 
 4.. Relationships Build Happiness
 
 The good news is that these kinds of changes lead to increased happiness. More and  more research is showing the critical importance of our relationships to our happiness.  Last week a study by Wagner (2010) reported that people who decided to prioritize goals around good relationships and good health were happier, regardless of major  life events.  Those who focused primarily on being able to buy what they wanted or on being successful in their careers reported less happiness. 
 
 In this study, the less people were involved in relationships, the less happy they
 got.  The lesson is, if you want to be happier, consider changing your life goals.
 Concentrate on helping others, your relationships, and family, rather than on
 material possessions as a priority.  People who are active in their churches
 and communities and in social and political activities also report higher levels
 of life satisfaction.  Get involved.  Working to make a difference can give you
 internal rewards: A sense of satisfaction, connection with others, and a feeling
 of aliveness in creating an effect.
 
 5.  Announcements
 
 Upcoming Teleconference - I will be interviewed by Joe High, 4th Quarter Financial Coach, Tuesday, October 12, 2010 9:00-9:30 AM  Phone 218-548-0869, Access code 978836#
 
 Topic:  Put Your Relationships First:  Have a Healthy Financial Discussion with Your Spouse.
 
Warm Regards,

Dr. Alice

 Resources:
 Alexander, M.  (2010) The New Jim Crow.  New York:  The New Press.
 Kasser, T. (2010) Making a Difference Makes You Happy. www.yesmagazine.org
 Korten, D. (2010)  Agenda for a New Economy:  From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth, San Francisco, Ca:  Berrett,-Koehler Publishes, Inc.
 Wagner, Gert (10/4/2010) Happiness Levels Are Not Set in Stone.  www.livescience.com
 

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Achieve Success by Composting Your Stress

Do you see change as a source of stress?   Often we have aspects we want to leave behind, like garbage, that we see as stress. Thich Nhat Hahn, well known for his wisdom, suggests we might want to compost our stress. He says:

The Strengths of Change

Lifetree News
Creating Prosperity with Harmony
Alice G. Vlietstra, Ph.D.
February, 2010

The Strengths of Change

In This Issue:

1.  Welcome
2.  The Faces of America
3.  Connecting with Strengths
4.  Shifting Your Perspective

1. Welcome

Have you been experiencing the challenges of change? Last month we referred to it as, "The Blessed Unrest." Paul Hawken uses this phrase to describe the
actions of millions of people who are creating a better world. Concerned and
aware, individuals are acting independently, following no one leader, set of
beliefs, or centralized organization. Their impact has been largely hidden,
yet it is becoming a significant source of change.

Actually, the "Blessed Unrest" is not new.  It is at the foundation of our
country and is the basis for expansion and growth. This e-newsletter looks at
the strengths that have been feeding it and how you can apply them to your life.

2. The Faces of America

One way to appreciate the "Blessed Unrest" is to look at history.  When we
understand our history, we better understand ourselves. PBS is currently
showing a series called "Faces of America," developed  by Dr. Henry Louis
Gates Jr. In this series, Dr. Gates explores the ancestry of twelve
celebrities to help us better understand our roots.

Why examine your history? First, America is largely a melting pot. Coming to
the United States as immigrants, many of us have lost touch with our roots.
When we get in touch with our roots, we see ourselves as more connected, not
only with our ancestors, but also globally. It helps us to find our place,
to better understand the impact of world events, and our purpose today. 
Second, history, unexamined, repeats itself. By understanding our past, and
the factors that influenced it, we can choose to create a new path. 
We can look at our lives and create a new story.

Our ancestors left their homeland and families to build a new life in a
foreign land. Why? Religious oppression, poverty, hardship, and war were a
few of the reasons. America brought hope for a new life, equality, freedom,
and a place to express their dreams. It brought with it many trials and
tribulations. Not to be defeated, the unrest led to the development of
strengths of character.

For example, this month, in the USA, we celebrated the birthdays of two
presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, as well as St. Valentine.
George Washington led the American Revolution to gain independence from the
oppression of England; Abraham Lincoln led us through the Civil War toward
greater equality. In celebrating these holidays we honor character strengths
of leadership, courage, and justice in our Presidents. With Valentine's Day
we honor the character strength of love. These virtues continue to inspire
our activities today.

3. Connect with Your Strengths

As I watched the PBS series, I could not help but see how character strengths
connected the family members across the generations. Chef Mario Batali described his Italian mother who made exquisite ravioli with "calves brains, sausage, and Swiss chard." Not quite my taste, but it certainly gave inspiration for the great chef. Yo-Yo Ma, a cellist, was inpsired by the passion of his father,
a violinist. All are connected through the character strength of an appreciation
of beauty and excellence. They honored their parents through the generations
through this strength. Giving and sharing their passions and strengths helped
them reach new levels of success.

Now, think about your own ancestors, what strengths did they exhibit? 
You can continue to be actively connected with them by honoring their
strengths?  Not sure of your strengths?  Take the brief strengths test at
www.authentichappiness.org. It will help you identify the character
strengths you use most frequently.

4. Shifting Your Perspective

As you watch these historical series and reflect on your own roots, there
is a bittersweet element to it. While it is incredibly moving to get in
touch with our past, it also has a sad undertone that reminds us of our
limited time on this planet. We can also see the hard work put in by our
ancestors, and the pain and difficulty in their lives, the fruits of their
work in our lives that they did not get to enjoy.

By contrast, if when you look at history with an appreciation of strengths
and contributions of our ancestors, the picture becomes different. Our
awareness of universal character strengths and virtues has helped us to
move beyond the limitations of place and time to see our history from
the perspective of the evolution of mankind.  You can see the patterns
of pain and stress, the times of “Blessed Unrest,” and how new solutions
evolved to promote the well being of all.  We all have some aspects of
these strengths, so everyone gets to contribute. What I find is most
fascinating is that the actions everyone are significant.  

Take a moment to get in touch with your passions.  Do they reflect a
deeper, more universal strength? Did you see them expressed in your
family?  How did these strengths help your family overcome their
challenges in life?  Can you honor them by using them in your life? 
Strengths bless our unrest. Through these strengths you can contribute
to a better world in a way that goes beyond place and time. They can
give you much joy and happiness.

Warm Regards,


Dr. Alice

Resources:

Hawken, Paul.  The Blessed Unrest. NY: Penguin, 2007

Peterson, C. &  Seligman, M. Character Strengths and Virtues:
A Handbook and Classification. New York:  Oxford Press, 2004.

Authentic Happiness Website – www.authentichappiness.org

Public Broadcasting Station -  www.pbs.org/wnet/facesofamerica

 

 

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