Sunday, December 16, 2018

Food for Thought: Kindness starts with yourself

A few years ago this quote from Maya Angelou welcomed people to the ISHCMC campus. I thought that as we enter the season of Peace, Harmony and Goodwill that this weeks Food for Thought would focus on Kindness.

"At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”

The Maya Angelou quote started me thinking about how the actions we take are then transformed into feelings both for the doer and the recipient. We talk about and encourage random acts of kindness because of the positive impact these can have on people. Whilst I was thinking about this I wondered what does it really mean to be kind? What is left if you separate kindness from an action? What I discovered is that being kind has a major physical impact on yourself and not only makes you feel better at the time but can improve one's own health in the long run. This short TED is a good example of this process.

For the Dalai Lama his whole spirituality is based around kindness. What I discovered reading some of the Dalai Lama's thinking about kindness, and other mindful leaders, is that if kindness is going to play a major role in our lives, and we are going to truly discover what it means to be kind, then we must first feel love for ourselves before we can feel love for others. This is why many of the ancient meditation routines like Love and Kindness start by encouraging us to think about ourselves and then expand out to others, firstly to those who are close to us and then a bigger population.
Here is a a meditation that builds on the love and kindness meditation we learned on the Positive Psychology course (new course starts 15 December)

"When we take positive action and respond creatively to our anger, we are taking good care of ourselves. Taking care of our hearts, minds, and bodies is taking positive action. Learning to be kind and loving toward ourselves is a challenge. It is also part of the lifelong practice of working with our anger.
There is a meditation called the metta bhavana, Metta means loving-kindness, and bhavana means to develop. This meditation teaches us to be kind and gentle by cultivating a positive relationship with ourselves and the rest of the world. Loving-kindness can be the beginning of compassion for ourselves and the way to end anger in our hearts and minds. It is used to begin releasing the toxins of anger, hatred, and fear from my heart. 
Developing Kindness toward Yourself — A Metta Practice
  • Close your eyes, grounding yourself on your seat. Make sure you are fully supported and your feet are placed firmly on the ground.
  • Become aware of the breath permeating your body. Imagine it to be a spray clearing the toxins from your heart.
  • After a minute try to visualize looking back at yourself, or see yourself in a beautiful place that you enjoy. Or just silently call your name. Remember to breathe.
  • After another minute say to yourself, “May I be happy,” then breathe and acknowledge how this feels. Then say, “May I be well,” then breathe and acknowledge how this feels. Then say, “May I be kind toward my suffering,” then breathe.
  • Allow yourself to sit in stillness with whatever arises. After a few minutes say, “May I cultivate more kindness within my heart. May I cultivate more peace within my heart. May I continue to develop and grow.”
  • Continue to recite these phrases, leaving a minute or two between each, staying connected with yourself all the time.
  • After ten minutes bring the practice to an end.
They say that if you practice this weekly it will begin to transform your heart. If you do it daily it will bring about positive change in your life."
Often what we forget to do in our busy lives is to be kind to ourselves. So here are 17 easy ways to be kind to yourself from Daring to Live Fully. See how many of these 17 acts you can build into your lives...perhaps a 17 part New Year's Resolution.

1. Carve Out Some Time For Yourself. Every day carve out some time for yourself and do something that brings you joy. You can draw, journal, write short stories, play a musical instrument, or do anything else that you love to do. Be kind to yourself by giving yourself some “me time” each day.

2. Give Yourself Recognition. Often, we’re quick to acknowledge the achievements of others, but slow to acknowledge our own. That has to stop. Become aware of your own achievements and give yourself recognition.

When you do something you’re proud of, stop for a minute and dwell on it. Praise yourself and relish the achievement. Complement yourself. Pat yourself on the back and say the following: “Kudos to me!”

3. Cultivate Your Inner Advocate. We’re all familiar with the inner critic. It’s that little voice in our heads that’s quick to judge and is always ready with a put down. Well, it’s time for your inner critic to meet your inner advocate.

And who exactly is this inner advocate? It’s another voice in your head: the one that defends you. When your inner critic comes at you with ridicule and scorn, your inner advocate jumps in and presents arguments on your behalf. While your inner critic is against you, your inner advocate is for you.

Be kind to yourself by cultivating your inner advocate (mine wears Armani suits and carries a black leather Gucci brief case).

4. Forgive Yourself. We all mess up. Look at the following:Maybe you did something in the past that you’re not proud of.Perhaps you failed to stand up for yourself and you let someone else get the better of you.You may have missed a great opportunity because you got scared.Maybe you failed to follow through on an important goal.

If you’re angry at yourself, you need to show yourself kindness: stop blaming yourself, resolve to do better from now on, and forgive yourself.

5. Take Good Care of Yourself. One of the best ways to show yourself kindness is to take good care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat fruits and vegetables, and get some form of exercise on a regular basis. In addition, choose a way to release stress, be well groomed, and look after your appearance.

6. Respect Yourself. Self-respect is valuing yourself for who you are, and not allowing others to dictate your value. It’s trusting yourself, thinking for yourself, forming your own opinions, and making your own decisions. In addition, it’s refusing to compare yourself to others.

Finally, self-respect is about keeping your promises to yourself and following through on what you tell yourself that you’re going to do. Be kind to yourself by deeply respecting yourself.

7. Treat Yourself. I’m not advocating shopping therapy, or consumerism. However, if you see something that you really want, treat yourself. If it’s expensive, save up for it. You don’t have to wait for someone else to give it to you as a gift. Give it to yourself. (You get bonus points if you get the shop to wrap it in colorful gift wrap.)

8. Soothe Yourself. Did you have a tough day? Did you get into an argument with a co-worker or a friend? Did you bomb your presentation? Was it one of those days in which everything that could wrong, did go wrong? Be kind to yourself by soothing yourself. Do the following:Soak in a hot tub. Add scented bath oil.Give yourself a scalp massage. Rub your feet.Make yourself some hot cocoa with little marshmallows in it and sit back with a mystery novel.Lock your bedroom door, turn on some music, and dance around in your underwear.

After all, nobody knows how to soothe you better than you.

9. Remind Yourself of Your Good Qualities. Maybe you’re a little heavier than “the ideal body type”, but you have long, lustrous hair. Maybe you’re not great at sports, but you’re an ace at math. Maybe you have a tendency to be melodramatic, but you have a great sense of humor.
Always remind yourself of your good qualities.

10. Lift Yourself Up. When you fail, make a mistake, or do something wrong, you have two choices. You can tear yourself down, or you can lift yourself up. People who are kind to themselves choose the latter.

Tell yourself it’s going to be OK. Give yourself a morale boost by reminding yourself of your past successes. Then, come up with a plan for dealing with what happened, and take action.

11. Tell Yourself, “I Am Enough”. We’ve all had times in our lives when we’ve thought, “I’m not good looking enough, or smart enough, or strong enough to get what I want.” Stop it with the “I’m not enough” self-talk and replace it with the following;“I’m enough, just as I am.”“I’m worthy.”“I deserve to be happy.”“I deserve to have everything I want.”

In addition, tell yourself that nothing has to happen to make you worthy. You are already enough.

12. Honor Your Dreams. People who respect themselves–people who are kind to themselves–honor their dreams. That is, they don’t downplay their dreams by labeling them as silly fantasies. Instead, they take their dreams seriously by turning those dreams into goals, and creating a plan for achieving those goals.

13. Find the Sweet Spot Between Acceptance and Striving. Part of being kind to yourself is acknowledging your potential. As was stated in the previous point, you should know what you want and go after it. However, never being satisfied with where you are, or with what you have achieved so far in life, is being unkind to yourself.

Be kind to yourself by finding the sweet spot between being happy with who you are, while taking action to become even better.

14. Stop Trying to Be Perfect. People who set a standard of perfection for themselves are setting themselves up for failure. After all, perfection is unachievable. Can you think of anything more unkind than making success impossible for yourself?

Instead of setting a standard of “perfection” for yourself, aim to improve, one step at a time.

15. Show Yourself Compassion. In the book, How to Be Your Own Best Friend by Mildred Newman and Bernard Berkowitz, the authors recommend that you befriend yourself by showing yourself compassion. The best way to feel compassion for yourself is to imagine that someone you love is feeling hurt. Look at the following:What would you say to them?How would you treat them?How would you reassure them?How would you make them feel cared for and loved?

Now, do that for yourself — show yourself compassion.

16. Believe In Yourself. Part of being kind to yourself is wanting the best for yourself. And in order to get the best, you have to believe in yourself. Have faith in your own abilities and in your own judgment. Think highly of yourself: believe in yourself.

17. Accept Yourself. Accept yourself as you are. You have strengths, and you have weaknesses. Sometimes you succeed, and sometimes you fail. Sometimes you’re right, and sometimes you’re wrong. Allow yourself to fully be who you are.Conclusion

There’s only one person in the world you’ll always have a relationship with, and that’s yourself. Therefore, you better start making sure that you’re a good companion to yourself. Live your best life by being kind to yourself. You can get started with the 17 tips explained above.

Finally, this short motivational video build on everything above and hopefully embeds the key message about being kind to ourselves and from that being kind to others will flourish. Again this is very much linked to our Positive Education work that we will do in January because if we are flourishing as individuals we are in a better position to make a difference for others.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Food for Thought: How gaming links to storytelling in the modern gaming world.

This week's Food for Thought is short and fast, linking gaming to human emotion and modern story telling. Here is a TED by David Gage where he talks about story telling and how his work with gaming is leading to a new form of storytelling for our students through gaming. Whilst watching I also wondered whether this was how in the future we will be encouraged to accept AI as part of our lives.

Thought you might also be interested in this background to another of David Gage's characters Kara and how she is made to be so human.

Finally, Fortnite is a game that has captured the imagination of millions around the world of different ages. It was first recommended to me by Will Richardson last April and i introduced it to my son. Since then it has completely taken off and of course each session creates its own story.  However, it is quite addictive and hence sharing this with you. I shared the whole article from Commonsense Media with parents on my Parent Food for Thought. It is a good resource if a parent talks about their child's addiction to you.

"As parents of Fortnite players know, getting kids to stop playing can turn into a battleground of its own. According to a new Common Sense/SurveyMonkey poll, about one in five parents says it's at least moderately difficult to get kids off the game. About a quarter say they're concerned about how much time their kid is playing, and the same number express worry over their kid's exposure to violence in the game. Here are a few other key findings:
  • Fortnite is super popular -- but still not as popular as Instagram. More than six in 10 teenagers (61 percent) say they have played Fortnite, coming close to the percentages of teens who say they use Snapchat (73 percent) and Instagram (74 percent), found in a previous survey.
  • Girls play, too! (But not as much as boys.) Although teen boys are much more likely to say they've played (75 percent), 47 percent of teen girls say they've played. Of teens who play, about 22 percent of boys play at least once a day, compared to 9 percent of girls.
  • It might be more tempting than geometry. More than one in four teens (27 percent) say they've played Fortnite during class at school.
  • Swearing happens. A third of teens (33 percent) say they've been exposed to inappropriate language or harassment while chatting with other players.
  • Fortnite = friends (especially for boys). Half of teens (50 percent) say playing Fornitehelps them keep up with their friends, 50 percent say it has helped them learn teamwork, 44 percent have made a friend online, 40 percent have improved their communication skills, and 39 percent have bonded with a sibling. But boys are more likely than girls to claim positive benefits from playing Fortnite. Notably, teen girls are more likely than boys to say they have bonded with a sibling by playing Fortnite."

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Food for Thought: Disobedience or Compliance?

This is a deliberately provocative Food for Thought. Simply, if we continue with traditional education systems we will produce students who are not creative, inquisitive, curious, inventive or free because they just end up playing the game of school, feeling successful and becoming compliant. This documentary about what is happening in China will be quite likely be similar to their future. Again, as with so much of AI, it has already started and not just in China as this quote suggests, "More than 200 car manufacturers, including Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Mitsubishi and US-listed electric vehicle start-up NIO, transmit position information and dozens of other data points to government-backed monitoring centres, The Associated Press has found."

This video focuses on China but don't be mislead.

Or perhaps it is time to encourage more and more disobedient thinking ie creativity by changing the systems and hidden curriculum that still dominates education today. This passionate and emotional TED talk again emphasizes how we so often shut creative thinkers down because they are different and reward and support those who don't ask difficult questions. This talk ends with a very powerful Oscar Wilde quote:

"For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” 

Shortly after returning from the Barcelona Heads Conference I woke up one morning feeling the way the dreamer feels in this quote. I felt for us as a school, feeling isolated following a path which to others appears unnatural. There are others who want to hold us back, punish us for being on a different track, this is because it is easier for them to reject those who refuse to follow the norm and keep doing what they have always done. Although I know we are seeing the  dawn, ie truth, earlier than others, it suddenly felt tiring to keep trying to justify our vision. My feelings of discouragement came from looking around and realizing how few people are really seeing the truth in the world of education, and for a moment I felt like a voice crying in the wilderness, and started to question our vision. But having stopped, reflected and researched more I have moved beyond this frustration and come to terms with others not seeing, and being glad that we are able to dream together on our moonlight path.