God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
I like Victorian-era cemeteries, and whenever I visit one the Serenity Prayer enters my mind.
In those days there was no cure for tuberculosis, which was romantically called “consumption” and which along with other infectious diseases filled the churchyards and necessitated the creation of vast new burying grounds.
Victorian cemeteries were intended as parks where families could picnic and visit their departed loved ones on Sunday afternoons.
These are the simplest pieces of wisdom in this whole collection, and they are amazingly powerful.
Oh, how I wish I could relive those days in my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s (days?…actually years) of chronic weariness, when I was heroically trying to “do it all” and muddling through on way too little sleep.
Love may seem magical, whimsical, steered by the forces of fate, timing and chemistry…but, in fact, love thrives when people behave well towards one another and withers when they treat one another badly. (Duh!!)
I make my living working with kids, and it’s my impression that most of them have little clue as to what they want to do with their lives, and that they find the very question terrifying.
I’m part of that generation of women who were told we could have it all and actually believed it.
When I was a kid math was not my forte, and in eighth grade I was struggling and failing at algebra. So my mom went to the local bookstore and bought me a review book (picture the mid-1970’s version of Algebra for Dummies).
For one thing, due to our limited powers of attention (see Day One) we never get the whole story to begin with. Then, every time we recall an event our minds edit and interpret and embellish, like a fish story.
And we do an especially inaccurate job on emotionally loaded events; we freight those memories with so much emotional baggage that they become personal fairy tales more than actual recollections.
People use words as weapons, to defend themselves. It is common for people to attack with anger when they are afraid and to become insulting when they are hurt or jealous. -Dr. Shirley Glass
When we are anxious or angry we can’t think straight. This means we ought to avoid taking action or having heavy conversations while immersed in these mood states.
The emotions of fear and anger trigger our internal fight-or-flight mechanism, which sends epinephrine (adrenalin) gushing through our bloodstream. Our heart races, our blood pressure shoots up, our platelets ready themselves to clot in case we are injured…and our higher-level thinking skills shut down. After all, it doesn’t take a lot of brainpower to run from a saber-toothed tiger.
Although we move through our days believing we are awake and aware, there are severe limitations on the amount of data our brains can process. This means that we miss out on all but a tiny fraction of what goes on around us.
…it is possible to process at most 126 bits of information per second…It is out of this [limited amount of available attention] that everything in our life must come – every thought, memory, feeling, or action…[and] in reality it does not go that far. -Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, pg 29
Enter a party in progress and it sounds like a random, muddled buzz, until you choose to join one conversation; then, miraculously, the background noise tones down and you can engage with your companions. You may even manage to eavesdrop on another conversation or keep an eye on an attractive person across the room, but that’s about where your attention capacities will hit their wall. Everything else happening at that party will pass you by as if you weren’t there.
So creating a happier, better life for oneself begins, very simply, with being selective about how you choose to spend your attention.
…the information we allow into consciousness becomes extremely important; it is, in fact, what determines the content and the quality of life. -Flow, pg. 30
Here’s a sampling of articles and videos, each exploring ways in which you can become more aware of what you’re doing with your precious 126 bits of attention and how you might refocus your attention for the better:
Dr. John Gottman very humorously describes the Critical Person who has developed the bad habit of automatically searching for the negative in other people.
Dan Heath shows us how we can seek Bright Spots and build on them.
Dr. Martin Seligman explains the options we have for how we respond to our loved ones, and the impact of these choices on our relationships.
This hilarious and eye-opening TED talk by Barry Schwartz …