Iconoculture, a global consumer research and advisory firm, has conducted research ranking the most important values shared across life stages in North America, Europe, South America and Asia/Pacific global regions.
Some key insights they identify are:
- Loyalty, success, honesty, courtesy and equality are top ranking values of North Americans, regardless of age. Meanwhile Latin Americans most value loyalty, authenticity, equality, sustainability and reliability.
- Europeans’ top value set includes loyalty, courtesy, authenticity, honesty, and sustainability. Consumers in Asia/Pacific regions value success, health, authenticity, comfort, and sustainability.
- Authenticity and sustainability are among the top values for everyone except for North Americans.
Given the Occupy movement across the US, I found it interesting those who valued equality the least are the very young, those in middle age and seniors.
In the RSAnimate video, The Divided Brain, Iain McGilchrist makes a fascinating argument that certain activities such as art, emotion and language aren’t uniquely left or right brain functions. Rather, his humorously narrated animation offers a more nuanced explanation for modes of thinking: Our left hemisphere is concerned with narrowly focused attention while the right allows us to maintain sustained, broad alertness of surroundings. Linda Verlee Williams relates this another way in her book Teaching for the Two-sided Mind: The left sifts out the parts that constitute a whole while the right combines those parts to create a whole. Left hemisphere=fragmentation; right hemisphere=synthesis. So what does this imbalance mean?
The more left brain dominant we become, the more we fragment reality so that it can be understood, quantified. We emphasize critical thinking skills of analysis, logic, and accuracy over synthesis, creating, and relating. McGilchrist argues this results in paradoxical conditions: we pursue happiness yet mental illness is skyrocketing. We strive for freedom and technological advances but are weighed down by bureaucracy and loss of privacy. We strive for perfection, but end up feeling empty.
Can we tilt the cerebral scales in favor of more balance? I googled “brain function balance” and was overwhelmed by info touting optimal brain functioning through hormone replacement, electric shock, and i-Phone games. I’ll keep searching and share what I find. In the meantime, I leave you with this from Thomas Merton, “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”
Research shows we’re not good at determining what will make us happy in the future, yet setting and achieving goals is critical to our well-being. Life coach Martha Beck offers a method for setting future goals but shows you how to experience the joy that achieving them brings today. I liked that this exercise brings me back to the present and helps me identify the elements of my life I’m happy with now. These serve as the foundation for all I strive for in the future.
Step 1: Pick your most ambitious goal. Write a sentence for it. My example (please don’t laugh!): I make a living as a writer.
Step 2: Project into the future a few years. Imagine what your life looks like after you’ve achieved that goal. I’m writing in my home office, a simple house filled with light, love, and the soothing sound of waves. I look out my office window. Jack catches a perfect little wave on his favorite longboard. At my feet, a black lab naps in a pool of sunshine.
3. Write at least three adjectives to describe how you feel in this scenario. I came up with content, secure, creative, joyful, loved, strong, humble, grateful, and purposeful.
4. Here’s the interesting part. Beck says to find something you’re doing now that makes you feel those adjectives. My projects to support low-income women achieve economic independence help me purposeful. Yoga gives me contentment and humility. When I do something unexpectedly kind for Jack or take a walk with Hobie I feel grateful and loved. Writing this blog feeds my creativity. Running the gorgeous Colorado trails gives me joy.
Try it and and let me know what you think!
Working the Dream Memorial Light
I woke up a year ago on a sun-soaked autumn day savoring the fact that I had my husband to myself for the entire weekend, a too-infrequent luxury. But in less time than it takes to write this entry, that day and our lives since changed irretrievably as we got the tragic news that Fran Crippen had drowned during a 1oK open-water World Cup race in Fujairah, UAE. Over the past year, there are two things I’ve learned as I’ve watched Fran’s family and friends come to grips with this tragedy:
1. A broken heart can expand outward to help others. Fran’s family and friends are moving through their pain to make sure no one has to go through the preventable tragedy they’ve experienced. They show patience, resolve, and compassion in advocating for safer protocols even as FINA drags its heels. They’ve established the Fran Crippen Elevation Foundation to award scholarships to elite swimmers who share Fran’s passion and dedication to sport. “There is nothing as whole as a broken heart,” said the Kotsker Rebbe. I never truly understood this until now. Their love and loss has transformed the sport for this and many generations.
Fran with his beloved Phillies. Photo: T. Crippen.
2. Love is stronger than death. My husband, Jack, and Fran’s teammate and friend, Alex Meyer, have taken Fran’s spirit with them as Alex works his dream of making the 2012 Olympic team. After placing 3rd in the Viedma (ARG) Open Water Swimming Grand Prix in January, Jack and Alex got back into the water with a treasured photo of Fran who’d won the race the year before. The same photo of Fran accompanied Alex on the 1st place podium at Worlds in Shanghai where he achieved his and Fran’s dream of making the 2012 US Olympic Team. While Fran’s physical body is no longer here, his love for life, swimming, and his friends remains a spark igniting inspiration.
Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Fran made us feel special with a smile, kind words of encouragement and his laughter. His spirit lives on through all of us who loved him.
See y'all in Denver!
Jimmy Buffett and Lucinda Williams in Denver!
One of my favorite lines from a Buffett song resonates with me more and more each year: “Wrinkles go where the smiles have been!” It’s a good reminder that thus far I’ve been blessed with A LOT to smile about.
1. Is stress making you cranky? Henry Kissinger once said, “There cannot be a stressful crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” All of us can relate. But when we’re stressed for extended periods, our bodies release cortisol at levels toxic to the body. This can cause irritability and anxiety which negatively impact work performance and relationships. Elevated cortisol has also been associated with weight gain and heart disease. Studies show yoga benefits stressed individuals physically and mentally through regulating cortisol. Consider which is more important: the quantity of the work you do or the quality?
2. Are you trying to break a habit or establish a new one? Even though my rational brain tells me I don’t need the whole pint of Cookie Dough ice cream or that second glass of wine, I can’t always control myself. Research demonstrates (Slaughter, H. & Davidson, R., 2011) that those who practice meditation showed increased “cortical thickness” in a region of the brain important to controlling behavior. Since yoga is a form of mediation that incorporates poses, or asanas, with controlled breathing, it not only offers the benefits of meditation but offers the positive effects of exercise. 3. Do you have trouble sleeping? I’m sometimes able to travel with my husband to the fun places his work takes him. But upon my return, I have to hit the ground running with work, school and other commitments. In other words, no time for jet lag! I’ve discovered yoga helps me get the most restful sleep I’ve ever had. But don’t take my word for it, there’s scientific proof. A six month study found yoga (60 minute session six days a week, with a 15 minute evening session) helped increase total sleep time compared to control groups.
Maybe it’s time to give yoga a try! If you’re in the Colorado Springs area, I can highly recommend Pranava Yoga Center owned by fellow Texan Charlotte Matsumura and her husband Mike.
Slagter, H. A., Davidson, R. J., & Lutz, A. (2011). Mental training as a tool in the neuroscientific study of brain and cognitive plasticity. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 5(17). doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2011.00017 PMCID: PMC3039118