The Formula for Happiness

3 posts in one day!  I’m making up for lost time…

Check out the TED video below.  Shawn Achor is funny and quick, but most importantly his formula for happiness is worth putting into practice in our everyday lives.  He has done an experiment which I am considering trying out myself and it’s as simple as this:

1.  Write down 3 new things that you are grateful for for 21 days in a row.

2.  Journal about one positive experience you had every day.

3.  Exercise.

4.  Meditation

5. Random acts of kindness – emailing one person everyday to thank them or pay them a compliment.

Doesn’t seem that hard if it means you’ll come out at the end of 3 weeks with a more positive attitude right?

Shawn Achor – “The Happy Secret to Better Work”

p.s.  For Den and Nadia over at Dear Optimists…thought you might like this.  😉

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Reflections and Resolutions

2011 was a damn good year.  It was my year of FINALLYs.

I finally went on a cruise.

I finally saw more European countries.

I finally got an iPhone AND a Kindle Fire.

I finally started taking Korean classes.

I finally got my root canal fixed! (blog on that to come later)

And many other smaller finallys along the way.

But that is not to say that I am finished.  Not even close.  I actually feel like I am just getting started.  There are still many things that I want to accomplish and figure out over the next 12 months to continue to improve my already good life and to continue building my ball o happiness.

As for last year’s resolutions, I’d say to some extent I accomplished about 25-50% of them.  The biggest success was in the form of travel.  I wanted to visit two new countries in 2011 and I visited 4 (technically 7 if you count airport layovers too).

Here are my aspirations for this year (in no particular order):

1.  Continue my intensive Korean lessons.  This means I should be able to get to level 5 (out of 6) by the end of my employment contract in July.  Also, I want to take the TOPIK test and see how high of a level I can achieve.

2.  Learn more Italian.  I am currently considering doing a 3 month intensive language stint in Italy after my contract ends so that I can achieve a high level of that language as well.  Plus of course the added benefit of not working for 3 months (haven’t been able to do that for 10 years!!) and seeing more of I.T.A.L.Y.  So if anyone has any recommendations on language schools there that have scholarships or work for tuition type deals, please let me know.

3.  Travel even more.  With trips expected to Taiwan and either Philippines or Thailand before the end of spring, this resolution is already in the works.  But I still want more.  I’d like to explore more of Asia while I am here including but not limited to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Jeju Island (Korea).

4.  Live a more minimalistic lifestyle.  Being an expat, and one who likes to live in small spaces, I’m learning to retrain my shopping habits and buy less STUFF.  I’ve talked about this in other posts as well and I want to continue to make this idea my way of life.  (See short, but inspirational TED video below on living in small spaces.  It’s one of my all time favs and I have watched it several times to remind me*).  I prefer to spend my time and money traveling, not cooped up in my apartment, so why do I need so much stuff there?  So this means getting rid of bad purchases, parting with my books and giving up on clothes that I barely wear.

5.  Learn how to balance my moods.  I tend to fluctuate from extreme happiness to extreme sadness and irritability.  This could be attributed to hormones, the emotional swings of a creative mind, a nutritional imbalance or something more serious such as a bipolar or anxiety disorder.  I’m not sure.  So, I need to figure out what it is and control it so that I can live a more balanced life (and stop driving my friends crazy).

6.  Figure out what I want to do with my life.  This will be a hard one to accomplish simply because I figure out what I want to do with my life all the time…and then I change my mind a week later.  (I can see my family and friends laughing and nodding in agreement)  I am known for getting super excited and obsessed about an idea, then changing my mind to something COMPLETELY different.  In the past week alone, I seriously contemplated moving to 4 different countries.

As for careers I am still considering the idea of being a writer, although perhaps magazine writing would be better suited for my attention span than novel writing.  I really enjoying teaching my younger students (1st-2nd grade), so continuing teaching English is an option (just with another company since mine is getting worse by the day).  I am also now researching the possibility of being a flight attendant, not only for the travel benefits, but because I’d like a job where being multilingual (see resolutions 1 & 2 above plus of course Spanish and English) makes me more marketable.  It would be a good fit for me since I don’t mind working holidays and don’t have a significant other, children, pets or a mortgage to go home to so there would be less stress on the scheduling front.  If anyone has any info on that career path let me know.  Also, if you have any other suggestions on what I should do with my life, I gladly welcome any out of the box thinkers.  🙂

I love the prospect of a new year and starting over.  It’s life refreshed.  What’s on your plate for 2012?

* TED video – Graham Hill (only 5 minutes long and worth it!) 

Revamping the Education Systems

Billy Githens.

If I remember correctly, we met in the cafeteria probably over my usual, highly nutritional high school lunch of a soft pretzel and cheese.  He was taller, lean, tousled mousy hair and had an irresistibly boyish grin, dimple and all.  I quickly became quite smitten.  He was always adorably shy when he talked to me, but he was also sweet and treated me very well.  We somehow began dating (this was 15 years ago so the memory has unfortunately faded) and the more I knew of him, the more smitten I became.

We did not see each other often in school though.  We were actually part of different worlds inside those hallways.  I was an A/B student and he was in what they considered to be the “remedial” class.  This was a class where the struggling students went, those who could not keep their grades up high enough to belong in a regular class.  It also included the delinquents and since learning disorders were just becoming the new diagnosable trend during that time, the class also included those who were considered of bad behavior because they couldn’t sit still and often distracted the other students.  This was the class that was considered of a lower level, the place the good students were afraid to end up.

The more I got to know Billy, the more I questioned how this wonderful, smart, loving, sweet boy could be in that class.  Then one day he told me how much he hated school.  It wasn’t interesting to him, he didn’t see the point in going and how he was always watching out the window, not wanting to sit in his chair all day.  It was then, as early as the 10th grade, that I recognized that school wasn’t for everyone.  This was an entirely new concept for me because we didn’t have many options besides public school at that time, so everyone was trained to get good grades to go to college to get a good job.  Everyone had to fit that mold.  I became angry.  Angry at the system that this amazing boy was being put down and treated as a lower class because this type of learning environment didn’t suit his natural abilities.  Angry because there was nothing I could do to change it.

I was fortunate to be born as a ‘book smart’ person.  I didn’t need to do much to pass the tests and get good grades.  I rarely studied.  However, since that moment and on into my college and post-college years, I have continued to believe that the education system is seriously flawed, despite it working for my benefit.  I learned information without long-term retention.  I learn more now from documentaries and books than I ever learned from my classes.  I understand how processes work now instead of just memorizing dates and theories.  There is so much more I could have learned if we had better systems.  Systems with variation and options for different types of learners like Billy.  Systems with more creativity that do not breed us solely for the 9-5.

I always thought I was alone in my frustrations with the entire education system.  Even at university level I think it’s a giant disappointment (that’s another topic for another day).  Then, I found this TED talk and sighed with relief.  Finally there is someone with enough power and pull to put the idea out there and make change happen.  This talk is by Sir Ken Robinson.  It is one of the most well known TED talks.  He is entertaining and brilliant in his approach to how education should be done.  It is worth the 18 minutes it takes to watch it.

In conclusion, I don’t know what became of Billy.  I’d be curious to find out.  I just hope that he found a career that utilized his intelligence and his talents far more than public school did for him.  I am glad I dated him, not only because he was hot 😉 and showered me with affection, but because he (without knowing it) gave me my first look at my reality from a new and very different angle and it was the moment when I started to question everything in life.

So I ask you, what do you think needs to change in our education systems?

TED as a modern symbol of hope

TED2010 Bill Gates ©Suzie Katz  #9094_R

Image by Suzie Katz via Flickr

If you watch the news on any given day, it is plagued with problem after problem and can become quite depressing.  I had to stop watching the news because I, a normally paranoid person, was becoming even more afraid of facing the world on a daily basis.  Of course there are problems all over the world and life can be quite depressing, but instead of showing us the same problems every day, why not show us what we can do about it or what is being done about it?

According to the political outlooks, the future of the world is pretty grim.  Some countries are in debt, people are starving to death, global warming is becoming more evident everyday, species are becoming extinct and horrid crimes continue to occur worldwide.  We look to the government to help us out of these crises.  However, there are not many politicians that I hear about who are actually able to inspire their people these days.  It seems like many people don’t trust the politicians anymore and if they are failing to provide the solutions and give us hope, who should we turn to next?

That is where TED comes in.

If you have not yet heard of TED, it is a nonprofit who’s slogan is “Ideas Worth Spreading.”  It started as a conference of experts in the 1980s, but now has become a worldwide flow of inspirational ideas, specifically through their online videos.  The videos feature speakers who have given presentations at the many TED conferences throughout the world, throughout the years.  The speakers are sometimes well known names globally such as Bill Gates, Bill Clinton or Al Gore while others are well known in their own fields as some of the most brilliant and innovative minds today.  The topics range from music to space technology, social media to urbanization.  It covers a wide range of subjects and most speeches are accompanied by a visual presentation as well which helps the layman understand the more complex scientific jargon.  They also help evoke the emotions that both fascinate you and touch you.

So what can a website full of speeches do to give us hope?

The ideas they develop in their speeches are just what we need to turn this world around.  They present ideas you may have dreamt about, but never thought possible in this modern day.  But TED has drawn the interest of many activists, philanthropists and businessmen.  These are the very people who have the finances and/or the audiences to make these innovative ideas happen.  The efforts of the governments may be thwarted by red tape or financial burdens, but the individuals who believe in the ideas they see in these speeches have the means and the freedom to do something about it.  These are the forward-thinkers of our global society and they are ready to make the changes that are long overdue.

Since I was introduced to TED (big thank you to Brian H. for sharing the vids on FB) a couple months ago, I have found myself going there for inspiration and motivation on an almost daily basis.  I’m noticing a change in myself in that I am more aware of what’s going on in the world than I was when I was watching the news.  I am learning and understanding more about science, culture and life than I ever did at university.  I feel more creative and productive in my own life.  I desire to travel even more than before based on pictures or stories I’ve seen on TED.  Most importantly, I have a stronger desire to help because TED makes me believe that I can actually make a difference.

If you are a TED fan, feel free to comment with how TED has changed you and what your most loved TEDtalk is.

If you have not seen the videos yet, I encourage you to do so.  Go and be moved.  The spread of these educational ideas can only make the world a better place, one innovative idea at a time.

For those who are new to TED, I leave you with a sample of some of their most popular talks:

*Disclaimer – I am not a member of TED nor in any way affiliated with it, I am merely a fan and supporter of what they can do for society.*