Gratefulness Seeds Hope

Lifetree News
Creating Prosperity with Harmony
Alice G. Vlietstra, Ph.D., Editor
November, 2010
Gratefulness Seeds Hope

In This Issue:

1. Welcome
2. Small Seeds, Quality Change
3. Gratefulness Seeds Hope
4. Reseed Your Stories
5. Announcements

1.  Welcome

In the US, this is a time of Gratitude and Thanksgiving. I am most grateful this year for the inspiration I have received through the stories of people rising to their challenges by tapping into their strengths. Honoring your strengths helps you to create stories of resilience, harmony, and purpose. Often, it is just a few seemingly small acts. Still, it makes a tremendous difference in our community and families.

In our culture of individualism, consumerism and the mass media, relationship and community building skills have often been neglected. Untapped is a rich and deep vault of wisdom and guidance in our families and community. It comes from our personal and family stories, especially those of overcoming challenges.Take time this season to honor and cherish them. Reflecting on your stories can be a great source of wisdom and knowledge for building resilience in challenging times.

2. Small Seeds, Quality Change

One of my favorite stories this season is about the green beans from my garden. These are special beans because they germinated from heritage seeds. Some of the seeds were descendants from the seeds brought over on the Mayflower; others were from the Cherokee Trail of Tears.

I tried to grow them a couple of years ago and they didn't do so well. This year I had help from my sisters; and the beans flourished. Then my sisters showed me how to save seeds for next year. This is how the seeds are passed on. In the process we had to work together and share our knowledge. Most of all, we were grateful for the seeds.

Just as seeds have qualities that allowed them to endure, we too have hidden strengths that allow us to grow and endure. They are our character strengths. Gratitude is one of them.

3. Gratefulness Seeds of Hope

In the US, we celebrate Thanksgiving with story of the Pilgrims. Gratitude was important to the Pilgrims. During the first cold winter, almost half of the original group died. By October the following year, with the help of Squanto and the local Indians, they  learned to plant crops and to survive in their new land. The harvest was very successful and the Pilgrims grateful to be able to put away enough food for the winter. They had much to celebrate. The times were tough, yet their gratefulness brought them through.

In 1863, in the midst of a civil war, President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday. It was a statement of political deference to God. Once again, the record acknowledged the importance of gratefulness.  Secretary of State Seward noted the surprising strength of the nation in the midst of war and the unexpected neutrality of foreign nations at the depth of America's weakness. Lincoln's proclamation states, these are "gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger, nevertheless remembered mercy." Times had changed.  Still gratefulness continued to be a powerful source of resilience.

4. Reseed Your Stories

As you gather with friends and family this season, honor your stories.  What are the challenges that you have faced?  What are the strengths that brought you through? What qualities of your family do you appreciate?  Learn about your cultural and family stories, it helps you to know who you are.

Stories also give us perspective. The story of the Pilgrims shows the power of faith, gratitude, courage, and persistence. Through this history we see the qualities that make for success. It helps us to see how far we have come, respect our origins,and gives hope for the future.

When facing challenges, reseed the qualities you want to keep. We all have stories of hard times, dramas, and crises. We can choose to move beyond them by connecting with our strengths. When we do so, we allow ourselves to be used by a purpose greater than ourselves.

Take time to discover your strengths. Are you grateful, generous, courageous, and honest? These are the kinds of qualities that make a difference. As you relflect on your stories, consider the qualities you want to keep. Then reseed them to help to create new stories of resilience, joy and love.

5. Announcements

Teleconference - Monday, December 21: 10:00-10:30 AM, CST.
Build Resilience: Discover Yours stories That Light Up the Dark
Phone 760-569-9000, Access code 308311

Warm Regards
Dr. Alice
 
Resource: Learn more about your strengths.  Take the Brief Strengths Test at www.authentichappiness.org
 
 


Copyright 2010 Alice G Vlietsta

Newsletter Name: 
Lifetree News

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
 

Newsletter Name: 
Lifetree News

Keys to Resilience

Successful Relating:
Fulfillment through Connection and Community
Alice Vlietstra, Ph.D.  Editor

Keys to Resilience in Tough Times

In this issue:
2. Connect with Your Strengths
3. Become Resilient
4. Broaden Your Awareness
5. Announcements

1. Welcome

Welcome. Given the challenges facing our economy, is it possible to be optimistic and realistic at the same time? The focus of this e-newsletter is to give you tips to help your challenges become a stimulus for growth.
  
2.  Connect with Your Strengths

Does a depression in the economy mean that people need to be fearful and depressed?  Recent research suggests that negative events, even the Great Depression, DID NOT lead to a downturn in mood, but to an increased sense
of well-being.

David Potts, in his book, "The Myth of the Great Depression" gathered no less than 1200 first-hand interviews, plus scores of auto biographies.  It turns out that large numbers spoke of the time with great affection, claiming that their struggle gave their life meaning. People bond with each other in times of threat. This bonding, more than money, is the real stuff of happiness.

The fact that money eases stress and anxiety in meeting basic needs is beyond question. Once basic needs are met, however, further emphasis on money alone does not necessarily lead to increased happiness. Instead, researchers show our well being is more likely to come from our relationships, a sense of purpose, and community.

We all have certain values and strengths, such as wisdom, loyalty to family, a sense of justice, or courage. When you connect and become aware of
them you will experience a deeper sense of purpose. They help you to rise to the occasion and face challenging times.  As I have shared in previous in my blogs and in previous e-newsletters, these character strengths have stood the test of time.  They help us to survive and thrive.  

3. Become Resilient

Today we have an growing understanding of the early developmental antecedents of emotional stress. We also better understand how it relates
to the unconscious.  New technologies have made it possible to identify emotional pain and undo negative patterns through forgiveness and release,
enhancing healing and resilience.

An appreciation of these early origins promotes compassion and connection. This increases our understanding, reducing judgment and stress. The additional boost to our relationships provides the energy to find new solutions to our challenges.

4.  Broaden Your Awareness

A third source of optimism comes from the recognition of the broadening and building effect of positive emotion. Over time positive emotions have greater
power than negative ones.  Robert Wright has written a wonderful book on this, "The Moral Animal" (1994).  When we become more positive by focusing on strengths, we become more tolerant, creative, and to look for solutions that benefit everyone.  Our focus broadens, and we become more open to new ideas and more able to share.  By placing our challenges in a broader context,
the negative event becomes a stimulus for growth, triggering a upward spiral of conscious expansion.

Stop and consider, reflect on the pictures of people in the Great Depression.  There were no smiles, instead we see the strengths of spirit, community, industry and resolve.  Will we go back to the dour faces of the past?
Not likely.    

Today, we are fortunate in that our survival needs are more easily met.  We can have the happiness that comes from meeting basic needs, savoring life's pleasures, and the deep gratification that comes from community and
a higher sense of purpose.  The downturn of the economy can be a stimulus to bring these resources into our lives. Now, isn't this more optimistic?  
 
5.  Announcements

Come join us for our complementary seminars. Uplift your spirits, connect, and hear new ideas. 

Thursday, October 30 4:00 PM CDT. Attract Opportunities, even in a shrinking
economy. Come hear Dale Furtwengler share "Seven Steps to Becoming Invaluable."   Dale Furtwengler is a well-known author and business consultant.  His tagline is "Increase profits without adding resources." We can use that. 

Thursday, November 13, 4:00 CDT Gratitude - Your Invaluable Gift.  Pick up
the keys to Low Cost Invaluable Giving." 

Warm Regards,

Dr. Alice

References:

Wright, Robert. The Moral Animal. NY: Vintage Books, 1994.

Potts, David. The Myth of the Great Depression. 
     Scribe Publications Pty. Ltd., 2008.

 

© Copyright 2008 Alice Vlietstra.  All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is added or deleted, including the contact information.  However, you may not copy it to a web site without my permission.

Newsletter Name: 
Successful Relating

Tough Times, Tough People

Successful Relating:
Fulfillment through Connection and Community
Alice Vlietstra, Ph.D.  Editor
September, 2008

Tough Times, Tough People

In this issue:
1. Welcome
2. Tough Times, Tough People
3. Becoming Empowered
3. Wise Wealth
4. Announcements

1. Welcome

Welcome. You have heard the news. Times are tough.  Listening to the news on the economy has left us unsettled, When times are tough, some businesses
and relationships fail while others continue to flourish and thrive. What makes the difference?  I believe it is a matter of mindset, the focus of this e-newsletter.  
   
2. Tough Times, Tough People

Have you ever found that listening to the news leaves you fearful, depressed,
doubting your abilities, and the future?   Does it leave you feeling constricted?
 It does not need to be that way. You can also use it as an opportunity to become
empowered, think for yourself, gather information, connect with friends and family, and act to find a solution that works for you.

Some people are resilient. They can handle adversity well and use it to expand their options. Others often become overwhelmed with fear.  When you are in fear, it can limits your options. What makes the difference?

Three factors stand out to me. The first is perspective.  People who are resilient
honor their strengths and are positive.  When you look at your higher intentions and strengths, you become more aligned with your spiritual resources. 
Then you are not as reactive to the immediate circumstances. By taking a broader perspective you can also build upon the current situation by
transforming it into an invaluable experience from which you can learn, grow, and share with others.

Second, No shame and blame. If a problem arises, it may not be your fault. Research shows that those who recognize that adverse events often result from factors outside themselves are more likely to see negative events as temporary and to take action.  For example, the economic crunch is a problem of both individual spending and government policy.

Third, discover your sources of community. We are all in this together. The combined concerted action of a small group in pursuing a common goal empowers us, even if it is only the support of one person. A shared focus on
using individual strengths in the service of the common good brings a deep personal gratification for everyone involved. It gives you the support
and faith for finding a solution to the problem.

3.  Becoming Empowered

Everyone has strengths. It is a focus on these character strengths that inspires us to work together for the common good.  In learning how to overcome adversity, I have been discovering stories that are just amazing.

For this reason, I have started a series on "Roots: Discovering the Hidden Strengths That Guide and Empower your Life."  You can check out the series by clicking on the blog tab above. 

Last week, I did a teleseminar where I interviewed Kimberly Schneider, an outstanding manifestation coach in our area. You can catch the replay on
the post on "Celebrating Gratitude." The story of her father's heroism in maintaining a positive attitude while struggling with illness was an
inspiration to us all. 

This week, I posted on Paul Newman. What a legacy of generosity! You will discover how his focus on character strengths has revolutionized business.

4.  Wise Wealth

Wise wealth is more than money.  It includes our relationships.  Indeed, research has shown that a focus on money alone does not lead to
increased happiness.  In order to promote well being, material wealth also needs to be balanced with strong relationships that promote the common good.

In previous newsletters I have written on the gender differences of single focused (men) and diffuse awareness (women). I believe this shows up in our orientation towards money.  As is often noticed, men earn more than
women, and women shop.  Today, many individuals are shifting their
orientation to one that collaborates on the strengths of gender rather than focusing on just one or the other. Indeed, research shows that solutions that build upon the strengths of gender far more lasting and profitable than either one alone (Romig, 2001).

One big challenge to this shift for women is that we still are impacted by old patterns of thinking from the past.  A generation or two ago the men were the
breadwinners and the women took care of the children. In today's economy, women do both.  Suze Orman says, however, that women often follow
an old map that no longer works.  Other writers, such as Babcock and Laschever, says it shows up when women don't ask. 

For this reason, I have organized a workshop for women: Secrets to Wealth and Wisdom. The focus this workshop is to become aware of our old map, release it and learn new approaches towards negotiation that bring out the best of gender.   If you are a woman who is uncomfortable asking for what you want, you will not want to miss this workshop. 

5.  Announcements

 Workshop For Women: Saturday, October 18. Secrets to Wealth and Wisdom:
Asking For What You Want - Money. It will be held on October 18, 1-5 PM. at
"A Gathering Place,"  12131 Dorsett Road, Ste 101, in Maryland Heights, MO. 63043.  Email me for a flyer.

To Your Success,

Dr. Alice

References:

Babcock, Linda and Laschever, Sara. Women Don't Ask.  .Princeton University Press, Princeton University, 2003.
Orman, Suze.  Women and Money.  Spiegel & Grau, New York, 2007.
Romig, Dennis. Side by Side Leadership, Bard Press: Austin TX, 2001. 

 

 

© Copyright 2008 Alice Vlietstra.  All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is added or deleted, including the contact information.  However, you may not copy it to a web site without my permission.

Newsletter Name: 
Successful Relating
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