Monday, December 17, 2012

The Time Is Upon Us

Something just has to be done….

I’ve written far too many blogs precipitated by horrific acts similar to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday December 14. And while I find myself asking once again, when will this madness cease, I know there is no end date . . . and, sadly, there will continue to be more incomprehensible violence and more senseless deaths.

During the vigil on Sunday, President Barack Obama said, “We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years. . . . And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” While I am heartened by President Obama’s words, the reality is that we are steeped in a culture of violence, with far too many guns in the hands of those who pervert our Second Amendment right to bear arms.

So, let’s do a reality check. When our Constitution was written, “arms” meant muskets. Our forefathers had no way of foreseeing that arms would one day mean a high-powered, semiautomatic Bushmaster rifle, the weapon used in Sandy Hook and also by D.C snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, who in 2002, killed 10 people and critically wounded three.

Our forefathers had no way of foreseeing that arms would mean a semiautomatic Glock 9mm handgun, the weapon found in Sandy Hook and the type used in the 2011 shooting at a shopping center in Arizona that killed six people and wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others, or the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech where 32 people were killed and 17 wounded, or the .40-caliber Glock used by the gunman in the Colorado movie theater in July, where 12 people were killed and dozens more were wounded.

Our forefathers had no way of foreseeing that arms would mean a 9mm SIG Sauer pistol, the weapon found in Sandy Hook and which was used also in the Standard Gravure shooting that left eight people dead and 12 wounded; or the 9 mm semiautomatic handgun with multiple ammunition magazines used to kill six people and wound three at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin and in the execution-style massacre at the Amish school in Pennsylvania.

The list of disturbing examples is far too long and far too sickening to my stomach to continue.

So what can be done? What “meaningful action” does the President have in mind? As Pierre Thomas said, “The genie is out of the bottle.”

“Meaningful action” must be multifold. We, as citizens, must raise our voices and demand by our votes a federal a ban on assault weapons. We, as citizens, must raise our voices demand by our votes that legislators turn their backs on gun lobbyists and turn and face instead those they represent with a commitment to safety; we, as a society, need to address the gaps in the treatment of mental health in this country; and we, as human beings, need to question our ethics when it comes to accepting as normal brazen violence in our movies, our videos games, our music.

Meaningful action . . . . Let us as a nation resolve in the New Year to define what the meaningful action will be, devise an actionable plan, and commit to not giving up on this goal until a safer America is a reality.

Originally written for KidsTerrain

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thoughts of Resilience - Part Three

We all need reminders of the strengths we have. And we can cultivate resilience by embracing these three directives: by knowing what you have, by knowing who you are, and by knowing what you are capable of doing.
  • What You Have: strong relationships and connections to others, structure and discipline, dedication and desire, role models and mentors 
  • Who You Are: a person who embraces that Holy Grail of attitudes – optimism, who has hope and faith, who cares about others, and who is proud of oneself 
  • What You Are Capable of Doing: communicating your needs and desires, being flexible in your thinking, critical and creative in solving problems, demonstrates genuine empathy and good emotional intelligence, fosters good relationships 
Here are a seven tips to learn how you can become more resilient and overcome life's big disappointments:
  1. Avoid seeing crises or setbacks as insurmountable problems. Crises, setbacks, failure happens to everyone. And while at times you may never understand what happened, you can change how you interpret and respond to these events. Looking beyond the present to how future circumstances may be a little better. Look for that valuable negative information that you guide you to greater understanding and better outcomes in the future. 
  2. Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience. 
  3. Be patient and self-reflective. 
  4. Know what you want. If you have goals, it's easier to make plans and move forward. Remember Yogi Berra: If you don’t know where you’re going, you just might end up somewhere else. 
  5. Look for opportunities for self-discovery. Adversity offers one of the best ways we can learn something about ourselves. 
  6. Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals may no longer be attainable. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed and focus instead on circumstances that you can alter. 
  7. Take risks. Be courageous. 
As Aristotle said: Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees the others. Courage without a clear sense of one’s own abilities is foolhardy. Courage without good judgment is blind. It is taking risks without knowing what is worth the risk. Courage without perseverance is short-lived.

It is possible to bounce back from adversity and go on to live a healthy, fulfilling life. And resilience, I believe, just may be the ultimate path to living a flourishing life.

Have a joyful day everyone...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Thoughts on Resilience - Part Two

Each of us has a considerable capacity for strength. And while sometimes it is easier to embrace being a victim of circumstances, that role removes the obligation to change. Resilient people do not let adversity define them. Instead, they rise above adversity—poverty, abuse, neglect violence, molestation or war—and forge a stronger, more durable character.

Resilience is the means by which we are not immobilized by hardship, but rather bounce back from it stronger, determined, empowered, and able to lead gratifying, flourishing lives.

The greatest weapon in our arsenal is our ability to choose one thought over another. But our choices must be wise. So how can you tell if you are making bad choices? To often we get caught in the ‘Different set of circumstance, different situation, same old crappy outcome’ trap, when we are ensnared by the habits that do not serve us. To begin to make better choices it is necessary to go back and examine and reflect on past events in order to find the strengths you have within.

Many psychologists today preach that it's not really until adulthood that people begin to surmount the difficulties of childhood and to rebuild their lives. But let’s set the record straight. That concept goes back more than 2300 years … back to Aristotle.

In the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle writes that there are two times in our lives when our character is shaped. The first is when we are children. At this time our habits and attitudes are shaped by our parents and our early teachers, who taught us the best they knew how based on what they learned. While these early rules and habit formations were central to our character development, sometimes these lessons were negative.

Our adult conception of the world, however, comes from within and is self-directed. Thus, Aristotle states, we need to look back at those early lessons, those habits we developed, and determine if they serve us or if they are habits that do not serve us. And then we must ask ourselves, “Is this the kind of person I want to be?”

Have a joyful day everyone...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thoughts About Resilience - Part One

Resilience is that quality, that ability that enables some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than before. Rather than allowing crises or failure to drain their resolve, they tapped a reservoir of determination that allows them to rise up strong and resolute.

There are several factors that make someone resilient: an attitude of optimism and hope, the ability to manage strong emotions, and the ability to see failure as valuable negative information.

Let’s talk about that F word for a moment. Failure stirs up potent social emotions: humiliation, guilt, shame. Yet, failure is, at worst, a mixed blessing: It hurts, yet, failure can pay off in the form of learning, growth, and wisdom.

Learning is error-driven. Nothing ever invented was created right the first time. I recall hearing the story of Robert Goddard, a physics instructor at Clark University constructed and tested the first liquid fuel rocket in Auburn, Massachusetts, in March of 1926. The rocket flew to an altitude of 41 ft and landed 184 ft away, crashing into the snow. The flight lasted 2.5 seconds. Although the experiment was primitive, the flight was epochal, setting the stage for era of space exploration that’s part and parcel of our history.

The lesson here is that for Goddard, experimental failures were ‘valuable negative information’.

Some psychologists argue that adversity, setbacks, and even trauma may actually be necessary for people to be happy, successful, and fulfilled. There’s even a term for it: "Post-traumatic growth." To support this they point to successful people such as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey – folks who credit their accomplishments to earlier failures and childhood traumas that pushed them to the edge of the abyss. Nietzsche: “When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.”

Setbacks actually force us to take risks, to learn, and to grow. Failure is an opportunity to change course. We must learn to seize it, rather than be seized by it.

Have a joyful day everyone...