#SWAAYthenarrative

Five Practices to Help You Thrive in Perilous Times

Career

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, 2017 is likely to be a year unlike any we’ve ever experienced. America has never been more divided, and many people are feeling alienated and anxious. We can’t deny that hatred, cynicism and misunderstanding are present, but we each have the power to transform them. The author and anthropologist Margaret Meade said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”


Let’s make 2017 the year we commit to strengthen ourselves in five key areas, so that collectively, we can create a world where we can all thrive, not just survive, during the coming year.

1

Cultivate a Strong Body

We all need strong bodies because physical strength helps to ground us. It helps keep our immunity high in times of stress so we don’t get sick. Exercising regularly, getting good nutrition each day and making sure we get sound, restful sleep gives us the energy we need to thrive and successfully manage stress and fear.

The Practice: Move your body for a half hour or more at least four times each week and for a minimum of fifteen minutes every day. Walk the dog. Use a treadmill or an elliptical while you’re reading or watching TV. Run. Swim. Play basketball. Do Yoga. Just MOVE. Get good nutrition every day. Say good-bye to fast food. Make sure you’re consistently getting at least seven hours of sleep each night and be mindful of how much alcohol you ingest.

We all need strong bodies because physical strength helps to ground us.

2

Cultivate a Strong Spirit

The poet Rumi said,Come out of the circle of time and into the circle of love.” That’s what building a strong spirit allows us to do.

The Practice: To cultivate a strong spirit, dedicate time each day to communing with your higher power, whatever form that takes for you. Some do this through a regular practice of prayer or meditation. For others, it’s being in community with fellow seekers, spending time with family or communing with nature. A strong spirit can also be cultivated through a regular gratitude practice. Create whatever ritual that enables you to come out of the circle of time and into the circle of love.

Then dedicate at least ten minutes each day to that practice. Think about ways that you can demonstrate compassion in the world and pay it forward, then take those actions. A strong spirit will help you keep your wings in the air and your feet on the ground, especially when you need it most.

3

Cultivate a Strong Mind

The mind is a powerful instrument and we have far more control over what we think than we credit ourselves with having. In this “post-truth” age we’re living in, we must be vigilant about what we choose to consume. The old saying, “garbage in, garbage out” couldn’t be truer.

The Practice: To cultivate a strong mind, take in things that feed you such as inspirational stories, great literature, blogs, or movies that inspire you or give you hope about the world. Calibrate how much news you listen to, how much time you spend on social media, how much media you consume. Stay informed, but don’t allow the media to dictate your life or your mood. Every day, set an intention to be good to your mind by being careful what you feed it. Fill it with things that help expand what’s possible, rather than things that cause you to contract or live in fear. Start your day with an inspirational book, a TED talk or a blogger you follow that gives you hope. Know when it’s time to say “no” to more news, especially when you’re trying to go to sleep.

4

Cultivate a Strong Community

We are all connected, and especially when times are challenging, we need people we can rely on for support. People are reaching out to one another and are willing to be allies for groups of people they may have never considered before. If we’re ever going to come together again as a country, we need to learn how to reach out, engage in dialogue, listen and seek to understand those with different opinions and experiences. Building a strong web of community and support is crucial, because at the end of the day, we are all in this together.

The Practice: Reach out to two or three friends and plan to get together at least once a month and be available by phone as needed. You can also volunteer to host a circle through groups like Dream Corp’s #lovearmy, which are designed to help us support one another and work across differences. If you have skills to volunteer, find a place to give back and pay it forward in your community. If you have kids, take them with you to volunteer at a local food bank or charity nearby where they can also make a difference.

5

Cultivate a Strong Character

Our moral courage reflects our character. These times call for us to be both brave and resolute. We need to know what we stand for and what we’re unwilling to sacrifice, regardless of the cost

The Practice: Spend an hour this coming weekend reflecting on your most deeply held values. Write them down. Then spend time thinking about how you can put those values into action every day, at home and at work. Also, give thought to what ethical lines you are unwilling to cross, no matter the cost. Then each day upon waking, set an intention about how you’d like to show up in the world in a way that is aligned with your values and ethics.

Then do your best to fulfill it.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.

Pre-Read

When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.

Highlight

Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.

Summarize

If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.