"Catching Happiness"

Listen to our monthly conference call, "Catching Happiness,"  in which  I interviewed Barbara Altman, author of the book, Cry Depression, Celebrate Recovery.

In this call we explored an approach to growth that rejected pathologizing termonology in favor of a language of hope, individual character strengths, and personal longings directed toward meaningful goals.

Make a Difference: Your Actions Count

Many of us have good ideas.  We want to make a difference, but the action needed seems too big and the ideas get tucked away. Then we feel frustrated, angry, and depressed because the problems did not get solved.   Taking action to make a difference is important.  With the many challenges before us, -- unemployment, declining resources, and the need to rebuild our local communities, we cannot wait for an expert’s solution or a leader’s permission to act.  Others may not know the situation as yourself.  Sometimes you know just what you have to do, and may have no other authority than the good intentions

Everyday Heroic Acts

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

February, 2011
Everyday Heroic Acts

In this Issue
   1. Welcome!
   2. Inspired Action Counts
   3. Story Power
   4. Strength-Based Co-Creativity
   5. Upcoming Events

1. Welcome

Many of us have good ideas. We want to make a difference, but the action needed seems too big and the ideas get tucked away.  Then we feel frustrated, angry and depressed because the problems did not get solved. Today, more and more people are taking action to make a difference. It is spreading like wildfire. We see it in the actions of the protesters in Egypt and the Mideast, and in the United States with the protestors in Wisconsin.

I believe the movement is spreading because people are waking up to a deeper truth. Ordinary people taking action has an effect. When our actions stand for our deeper values and principles, as justice, opportunity, fairness, and dignity, it serves a critical purpose.  It helps to define and defend who we really are.  Then ordinary people become heroes and heroines. This e-newsletter focuses on the importance of everyday heroic acts, and what you can do.  

2. Inspired Action Counts

Taking action to make a difference is important. With the many challenges before us, global warming, unemployment, declining resources, we cannot always wait for an expert or leader’s permission to act.  Sometimes, you just know what you have to do and may have no other authority than the good intentions and caring in your heart. It may not be the most perfect solution.  Still, it is the best you can do. You face disappointments and setbacks and still, you find the courage to keep on.

You may not even be aware of the impact that it has. Yet, when aligned with your deeper character strengths it has an impact because it serves the greater good. When you do so, you access a higher power for life and you become a hero for just being who you are.  Research shows it enhances the happiness and well being of us all.  This is much better than complaining, feeling overwhelmed and depressed.  I call this a heroic act

3. Story Power

When you take action it is important to share your personal story. Often we hear statistics and information on the need to make a change, only to find it overwhelming. Other times we may feel guilty for not doing anything. When you take action and tell your story, it is important because it shows it CAN be done. Even more it gives concrete ideas on HOW to do it. This inspires and fuels the action of others.

I once worked with a lady who came to me for serious depression. When she discovered her strength of generosity, she decided to help with volunteer projects at work. At first only a few volunteered, but soon it caught on, and many others began volunteering too. She got over her depression and made new friends. Her efforts and those of her co-workers helped to create a more humane environment.

We learn and become inspired by each other’s actions. When we share our stories, it amplifies our efforts. It gives us ideas and opportunities to reflect on the deeper truth. This creates more opportunities for change and builds the grass roots community.

4. Strength Based Co-Creativity

Creating change takes many different strategies and styles.  Different people have different strengths. If there is an area where you are weak, find others in that area that are strong.  For example, I am weak in technology.  I was most grateful when I found a colleague in my local area, Craig Caesar, to help me with my website.  I discovered that we shared common values and interest in the community.  Rather than a top down, “find the expert” approach, his co-creative approach helped me to better use my skills and resources.  I brought in my areas of strength while he provided invaluable consultation on technology.  

Many times we can learn technology from the internet, but takes more than the internet, face book, and twitter to get things done.  It takes the expertise and talent of interactive live contact too.  I find that the bonds of real people in the community are stronger than the ties of the virtual world. It is the direct community contact and the deeper bonds that helps us to feel supported enough to take meaningful risks for our values.

Every month I host a teleconference in which I interview a guest on their character strengths and how they used them to create change.  Last month Craig Caesar shared how he uses his strength of creativity in his unique approach to website work.  You can find the replay at my website.

5. Upcoming Events

On March 15, I will be interviewing Barbara Altman, author of her newly released book, "Cry Depression, Celebrate Recovery."  We will explore an approach to personal growth that rejects the use of labeling terminology in favor of a language of possibilities, hope, individual character strengths, and personal longings directed towards worthwhile goals.  Join us for the interview  -
March 15, 9:00-9:30 AM.  Phone 760-569-9000, Access Code 308311#

On March 26 I will be speaking on “Wise Women’s Happiness” at the Celebrating Women Conference. I will be helping women to find happiness and joy by tapping into their feminine power.  Power is the capacity to act. Feminine power in establishing healthy relating is critical for our well being, as well as for the well being of our families, communities, and even the world.  It balances out top-down power. You will learn how this kind of power can build resilience and increase happiness in your life today.  You can sign up at http://umslce.org/index.php/celebrating-women.

Warm Regards,

Dr. Alice




Newsletter Name: 
Lifetree News

Strength Based Co-Creativity - Interview with Craig Caesar

Creating change takes many different strategies and styles.  Different people have different strengths. If there is an area where you are weak, find others in that area that are strong.  For example, I am weak in technology.  I was most grateful when I found a colleague in my local area, Craig Caesar, to help me with my website.  I discovered that we shared common values and interest in the community.  Rather than a top down, “find the expert” approach, he uses strengths of creativity to develop a co-creative approach.  He helped me to better use my skills and resources while he provided invaluable consultation on the design and technology to best meet my needs.  


Accomplish Your Goals

Life Tree News
Creating Prosperity with Harmony
Alice G. Vlietstra, Ph.D.

January, 2011

Let Your Strengths Help You Accomplish Your Goals

In This Issue:

1.  Welcome 
2.  Discover Your Core
3.  Align with Your Strengths
4.  Practical Steps
5.  Announcements

1. Welcome

January is a time for honoring our higher aspirations for the new year. Often,
we make resolutions, only to find that they fall by the wayside.  This year,
consider aligning your resolutions and intentions with your character strengths.
Research suggests that when you line up your activities with your character strengths, you are more likely to achieve your goals. Even more, you may find yourself a lot happier. The following are three tips to help you.

2.  Discover Your Core

Each person has character strengths that are at the core of who they are.
You can tell when you are in your strengths when you find yourself "in the flow,"
enthusiastic, and become deeply absorbed in what you are doing. Character strengths are deeply held, and are at the core of your being. They are so central to your identity that suppressing or ignoring any of these strengths seems unnatural and very difficult. 

When you do not honor your strengths, you feel diminished. It takes energy from you. For example if you have strengths of integrity and authenticity, not speaking your truth makes you feel less than who you really are. When you honor your strengths, you are more productive, and excited about new challenges.

One way to discover your strengths is to take the VIA Signature Strength Survey at (no cost)  www.authentichappiness.org.  It will give you a description of your top five character strengths.  Then take a moment to reflect on how they have shown up in your life. You will discover that they have helped you to rise to the occasion to meet your challenges.

3.. Align Your Activities with Your Strengths

When you work on your intentions this year, consider aligning your activities and goals with your strengths. It brings in the power of three kinds of relationships: (1) Your relationship with yourself, (2) Your relationship with your significant others, (marriage or life partner, and family), and (3) Your relationship with the larger whole (e.g. work, community).  When you know your strengths and align your activities in each area with your strengths, each area can help to empower you to accomplish your goals.  It also simplifies your life. Instead of seeing each sphere of life separately, you can see them all as ways to express your genuine core.

 First, your strengths help you to feel much more accepting and happier with yourself, This enhances your self confidence in achieving your goals. Second, your strengths shifts you to a more positive outlook which helps you to collaborate and bring in the strengths of others.  Finally, honoring your strengths helps you see how your efforts contribute to the greater good. This gives a deep sense of gratification.

For example, I have strengths of purpose, perspective,and optimism.  Coming from a developmental perspective, I enjoy pulling together information to size up the next developmental step to share with others.  As soon as others see the picture, they naturally jump in because the want to contribute their strengths too. This leads to strength-based co-creativity in honoring our higher intentions in serving the greater good. In the process, we energize our productivity, create meaningful relationships, and accomplish our goals.  

4. Practical Steps

Here are a few practical steps on what you can do. First, align your goals and
activities with your character strengths.  Plan to stick to your intention or
resolution for at least 6-12 weeks, so you can get a good start at establishing
the habits you want. Next, break down your big goals into several smaller, short-term goals that are easier to do. Then, use the power of your strengths to design activities to help you to follow through. As you go along, be sure to celebrate your successes.     

Suppose you want to lose weight.  First, you are more than a number on the scale, or a label as "overweight."  You also have qualities of spirit.  When you honor your character strengths, it helps you to capture this spirit. You become more accepting of yourself.

Rather than focusing on food alone, you also can bring in the power of your
relationships with others. For example, I have a client who used her strength of
"to love and be loved" to effectively handle overeating at family functions. 
Instead of heaping up piles of food on her plate, she chose to give love. 
She greeted family, talked with them, and found ways serve them. This kept her
mind off of food.

She also began to include more vegetables in her diet, and served more vegetables at family meals. This tapped into her deeper sense of purpose by encouraging healthier eating. Consciously aligning her goals with her strengths not only helped her to lose weight, it enhanced her relationships.

This year, consider aligning your activities and goals with your character strengths.  In addition to helping you accomplish your goals, it will enhance your well being.    

5. Announcements

Join us for our Teleseminar on January 18, 2011 from
9:00-9:30 CST.  Phone number 760-569-9000, access code 308311#

Playback Number (760) 569-9999 Access Code 308311.

Warm Regards,

Dr. Alice

Reference: Linley, P. A. Nielsen, K. M. Gillett, R. Biswas-Diener, R. (2010) Using
signature strengths in pursuit of goals.  International Coaching Psychology Review. 5(1). 6-15.

Copyright 2011 Alice G. Vlietstra, All rights reserved.




Newsletter Name: 
Lifetree News

Empower Yourself: Align Your Intentions with Your Strengths

January is a month for setting new intentions and goals.  These intentions reflect our higher aspirations.  A major challenge in carrying them out is handling the obstacles, disappointments, and setbacks that inevitably occur.  Success is more than setting an intention and visualizing the positive.  It requires us to persist in following our goals, transforming our challenges into a positive direction.

Happy Endings, New Beginnings

As we come to the close of this year, take a moment to reflect on what went well and what you would like to change.   It will give you clues and insights for your direction for next year.  One of my colleagues, Connie Green, believes that the last seven days of the year are the most important ones when it comes to planning for the next year.  Consider what you accomplished, what was the most gratifying, and where you want to grow and change.  Then write it down and develop a written plan on what you would like to accomplish next year.  Writing it down is critical for firming it up in your mind.

Adversity - Meet it With Strength

Napoleon Hill once said “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”  Adversity is part of life. Adversity gives us opportunities to connect with others and use our strengths to rise to the occasion and overcome it. When we are clear about our values and character strengths, we can hold things together, for the best interest of all, to come out stronger on the other side.

Change Your Focus, Change Your Life

One of the biggest findings in happiness research is that once our income is beyond poverty level, further increases in money does not lead to increased happiness.  Other ethical principles also are proving to be empirically sound.  Giving makes people happier than self-indulgent pleasures, and the strongest determiner of happiness is showing itself to be meaningful relationships.

Become Empowered: Accept and Define Yourself

One of the keys to success in your personal life, your family life, and in your business is to be able to accept and define yourself. This is called differentiation. It is your ability to define your own life goals apart from the influence of others. You see it when you stand up for what you believe when others are pressuring you. For example, if you are being pressured by the kids to buy products you are not comfortable, you can firmly and calmly give them an alternative and tell them, “no.”

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