My article on Duhigg was just published Here!
I am a bit obsessed with this book right now. Charles Duhigg presents cutting edge neurological research to show how we can change our habits – actions we do on a daily basis without even thinking about them.
It adds to my other book obsession, Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself.
Before all the research and brain discoveries, we talked about strong willpower. Add mental toughness to real and effective brain research like triggers and rewards, and I wonder – is there anything we can’t change about ourselves? What do you think?
Every morning my alarm goes off at 6:33 a.m. Some days it goes off earlier so I can run around the block. Then I shower, and while getting dressed, the alarm sounds for the second time. Every morning at 6:33. I have had this alarm clock since college. Gregor hates the way it looks (very 80’s) and keeps saying we need a new sleeker one, but I look at it fondly, and think of all the days it woke me (and my roommates…sorry) up at 5:30 for a military conditioning class, a 7:00 Spanish class, 6:00 to wash my hair. Now I keep it across the room, on the dresser, so I can see the glowing lights, but can’t reach over to whack it for ten more minutes of sleep.
The alarm is not set to that annoying beep, rather, the news. It is often the only news report I get during the day. Sometimes I am barely conscious, slipping in and out of dreamland as the BBC reports on Syria, an author interview, or the latest middle east peace talks. Other times I wake immediately, curious to hear The Book of Mormon musical review, Obama’s speech on tax cuts, Mitt Romney’s latest problem, Whitney Houston. If it makes it to the weather I know we’re in trouble. The weather report means it’s 7 and the quiet napping house turns into a hullabaloo as we have to jump out of bed, shove something that’s called breakfast in our mouths, and hurry children out to the door for school. We all too often hear the weather.
Today I listened to sad news. New York Times journalist and pulitzer prize winning photographer, Anthony Shadid, 43, died as he was carried over the border into Turkey by one of his colleagues. They were out on assignment. Shadid died of an asthma attack and couldn’t be revived. Sad, that they were on their way out. Sad that is was asthma and he may have been saved had he had medical care. Sad for the world, as he wasn’t one of those celebrity-chasing paparazzi. He was brilliant, poetic, and truth-seeking. He was shot in the shoulder on one assignment, captured and abused in Libya, then later rescued by British forces. Out he went, again and again, all over the world on assignment. I love that phrase, “Out on assignment.” It’s scary business. So completely admirable.
I often dream of traveling to foreign lands to report and write a story. I even looked at an opening last month, a job posting for a foreign correspondant intern. You’d live on nothing, in a dingy apartment, reporting on the volatile mideast, staying up all night waiting the latest scoop, in fear for your life. And yet, so appealing! But I could never leave my children to do that. I’m doing the job I wanted most. For now, I can only read about others doing it for us, and subscribe to National Geographic, thanking those journalists and photographers that show me Sudan, Egypt, and France.
There are some people, I believe, who were born to do something very specific. Like Marie Curie, Einstein, Motzart, Lincoln. Most of us though, can choose to do any number of things, pulled in directions that highlight our talents, our obsessions, and especially our weaknesses.
I am reading about the butterfly effect, a scientific theory, and an oft-used fiction device. In Stephen King’s latest novel, 11/22/63, Jake goes back in time to stop the assassination of President Kennedy. But it’s incredibly difficult. The past, he says, is obdurate: stubbornly persistant, resistant to change. If he changes one thing, or if he changes the past too early, even if he thinks it’s for the good, how does that change the future? Will his good intentions actually make things worse? If President Kennedy had lived, would we have had Vietnam? How does one single person change history? We all do it.
Do you ever wonder who you are raising? Will your little toddler grow up to be the homeless man on the corner? The neurosurgeon? The lawyer? Teacher? An absent or devoted father? Mother? Artist? Will your children be depressed? Organized? Hyper? If we had better mothers and fathers, we wouldn’t need journalists covering wars. The little things really are the big things.
From Wikipedia: “In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions; where a small change at one place in a nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane’s formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before.”
Fate versus agency. What is “meant to be,” and what is completely determined by our own choices? I believe in accidents but I also believe God intervenes. But not all the time. Is anyone ever taken before it’s time for them to go?
I did not know Anthony Shadid, did not know if he was a good husband or father, but he was a great journalist and I look forward to reading his memoir that comes out next month, House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East. A great title. Home. Family. The most important stuff. NPR has a great article here.
Flap your wings, your little butterfly wings. And change the world.
1) It’s not a small thing to be married for 38 years. Congratulations and humble thanks to my mother and father who have made it this far together. My mother was 19 when they married, and one year later she had twin babies. 13 months later my sister was born. I was four when my brother Eric was born, and seven when my brother Patrick came. I used to carry him everywhere, like a mother cat carries her kitten in her mouth. Once a photographer took a picture of me with him on my lap as I rode a big wheel all the way around our long neighborhood block. He was less than a year old. Once we had a blind babysitter. Oh my, times have changed. But my parent’s are still married.
2) Since I’m a big fan of Ben Kingsley, I really enjoyed this article I saw in Newsweek the other day. A reminder: Don’t be average. Whatever you are or do, go beyond what you think you have.
3) My article written for Deseret News was featured as a front page rotater (clap hands and do happy dance now). Thanks for reading, fb friends! The front picture was taken by Gregor. It shows me walking down the hill with Nelson in the stroller and Cope as a 4-year-old. Oh sweet days.
I got the assignment yesterday morning and lucky for me, Paige had a playdate. I set up a tea party, sprinted back to the computer to make sure ‘shot heard round the world’ was actually a revolutionary war reference and not Abraham Lincoln, and back to tea party to clean up milk and sing happy birthday. It was grand and exhilerating.
I suppose we are all hypocrites. We often say one thing and then do another. We pass judgment all the time based on personal experiences, rumors, assumptions, clothing, cars, houses, and the way people behave. But do we judge correctly?
We have to judge. We have to make decisions based on information that we have. But we should make sure we have the right information. Do we see things the way they really are? Is our perception the right perception?
Examples this week:
1. A Southern Evangelical Christian Pastor called my religion a “cult” and said that I was not Christian. To make matters worse he did it on national t.v., tried to explain it (poorly) to Anderson Cooper (who, in my opinion, is such a class act), and then told his congregation who they should vote for in the upcoming political election.
This is frustrating to me. My whole life I’ve gotten some very interesting questions. Do you use electricity? Do you celebrate Christmas? Do you believe in the Bible? The answer to all of those questions is YES. I like questions! I like when people ask instead of assume. What I don’t like is snap judgments that are so far off they’re laughable. What isn’t laughable is when other people believe them.
For the record, “Mormon” is a nickname given to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Click on the link. Watch some great talks. Want a Book of Mormon? It’s not a secret book. You can check it out from the library. I can give you one. You can read it yourself. You can click Here to see frequently asked questions.
If you wanted to learn more about the Jewish people, wouldn’t you, say, visit a synagogue or ask a Jewish person what they believe? Seriously.
2. On a smaller scale, yesterday Cope had a soccer game. From her perspective, a girl tripped her, fell on top of her, then rammed her knee into her shin. The other girl’s mother’s perspective was very different. She screamed for everyone to “take a knee!” Then she leaned down toward a little boy, looked at Cope and loudly declared, “Did you see that mean Andover girl? She tripped your sister who was very brave and got up and walked across the soccer field.” tsk tsk.
Who was right?
I know my daughter. She is not a mean person, certainly not a violent person and in fact, we are often telling her to be more aggressive and less timid on the soccer field. Am I seeing this situation correctly? I know I’m competitive. I love a good game. I love to win.
Even if we all watched the replay, would we see what really happened or would we see only what we wanted to see?
3. This morning the alarm went off, waking me with cheery news: An Iranian terrorist group was arrested for plotting to blow up a Saudi diplomat in an American restaurant.
Wow. How does a group, a people, individuals, get to the point where their perspective is so extreme they are willing to kill others?
Perhaps I am just a pacifist. I don’t like fighting. I like people to be nice.
The great thing about life is agency. We can all act for ourselves. We all have a brain. We can all think for ourselves. That preacher, that soccer mom, that Iranian, this blogger – we’re all entitled to our own opinions. We all have different things we believe in. This is good. It makes life interesting. It forces us to learn about other people and then decide for ourselves.
Be passionate. Stand up for the things you believe in! But lift others, carry them with you. Don’t chew them up and spit them out just so you can get ahead.
When I was little my parents taught me how to cross a street: Slow down. Stop. Look both ways. Then cross. Let us be careful…for it has been said in the preeminent Christian text, that with what judgment we judge others, the same judgment will be used against us.
Lynn G. Robbins said, “The Savior often denounced those who did without being – calling them hypocrites: ‘This people honoureth me with their lips, bur their heart is far from me’ (Mark 7:6). To do without to be is hypocrisy, or feigning to be what one is not – a pretender.”
Today was my half-marathon in Bristol New Hampshire, the site of the one and only full marathon I have run, and the race that convinced me that I’d never run another! Guess what? It was awesome and I’ll be back next year. The half is the race for me. The training is manageable and works for my life right now.
I haven’t run a half for a year, not since Applefest, when I totally bonked. I lucked out: it was cool and raining, my favorite kind of day to run.
I ran the way I wanted too. I ran the pace I wanted and felt happy in the end. It is such a great feeling to prepare and see the preparation pay off. I walked (limped) away feeling inspired and wanting to run more halfs, to train more, so I can get faster. And that’s a great way to walk away from a race.
Here’s what I like most about running: When I’m out there on the road, it’s quiet and I can think. Thoughts come into my head that remind me that God gave me a body that can move, can RUN, and can teach me many many things. It reminds me of the famous Eric Liddell telling his sister, I believe God made me for a reason, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.
Running is so mental. Today I cleared away any angst, and I just ran. There were two guys ahead of me; Red shirt man was about 100 feet ahead, White shirt man was about 30 feet ahead. I said, keep them in sight. They are your pacers.
Every so often a new man would emerge: Blue shirt man would come from behind, his feet hitting heavy on the ground, pass me on the right, then rest for awhile while I passed. Then we would repeat this cycle a couple more times. I think he was just trying to confuse me. But I kept my eyes on the prize.
I tried to keep Red shirt and White shirt in sight at all times. They were holding steady paces. I never let myself start to slow. I kept saying, Hold that pace! Which is kindof like, duh, of course you hold the pace, but have you ever really tried to do it? It really helped me. You do not allow yourself to go any slower than the pace you want to run. You get in your groove and you hold it. You make your body get in that steady rhythm and not let up.
As we approached the last three miles, the pace started to pick up. I stayed with my guys. Hold the pace. Speed up and relax on the downhills. My friend Brian rocked the race with a 6:40 pace and was the one who convinced me to sign up saying, “It’s a net down hill, a few short hills and the rest is downhill.” I kept thinking, “You totally lied, Brian! Here comes another hill!” But I digress…
We came into the last mile and I knew I could finish, but suddenly Red shirt man was taking off and White shirt man stopped! Oh dear! Keep going! he yelled at me as he rubbed his calf. I felt bad for White shirt guy. He had this race…was so close and had brought me to the finish line. I never saw him again. I never saw Red shirt guy either but was grateful for one thing: They paced me the entire race. Don’t stop, don’t give up! I wanted to keep saying, I’m right behind you and I need you right there ahead of me!
We are all pacers. We don’t even know the people we are leading and inspiring. People everywhere are looking for someone to follow, something to believe in. People everywhere are watching us, observing our actions.
I didn’t look behind me in the race, but I wondered…Am I pacing anyone back there?
I thought of my children in this race. I am leading them. I am pacing them through life. I can’t quit. I can’t pull over to the side of the road and say, “I’m sorry. I can’t do this.” I have to finish this race for them.
I thought of when I was child and life was more simple, when I was unaware that there was such a thing as a social status. I just wanted to be happy and have a family and friends that loved me. I was less concerned with what others thought of me – if they liked me. I think that was when I was the most liked, when I didn’t care so much.
Somewhere along the line, we become aware of the opinions of others. This isn’t entirely bad; we need to be socially aware to a point. But I remember in 2nd grade a boy sneered at me, “Why are you wearing your pants backwards?” I looked down. I was not wearing them backwards, but there was a pocket in front and they kindof looked backwards. And I almost switched them around just because he said that. I’m watching my kids now. Their peers hold great power over them. But I want to whisper in their ears…They are looking at you…they need a pacer too…Be the one…
Look behind you. You are a pacer for someone else. Maybe it’s one person, maybe it’s millions. But someone is watching and following. Look ahead of you. Make sure that person ahead is the right pacer, that they’re going to where you want to get to.
Make sure you are running the right race.