Weapons of Mass Creativity – What if?

What if my friend Margaret hadn’t met Darden Smith at a party in Austin, TX? What if she hadn’t put us in touch with each other after 20+ years so we could discover our shared interest for helping people connect with their creativity?

What if I hadn’t traveled across the country to watch him write a song with Post 9/11 war veterans right at the time I was studying and writing about research into happiness, well-being, strengths, and the life saving importance of community?

And, what if I hadn’t taken the time to put my thoughts into paint on an old wooden panel several years before?

Many “what if’s” here!

Weapons of Mass Creativity, © 2003 By Mary Judd

We do things in our lives and often have no idea what they will lead to. When I painted Weapons of Mass Creativity, I had just begun to paint and was blown away by how much I loved it. It was around the same time that the Iraq War began. My imagination collaborated with my questions and pushed me to my paintbrushes.

There are so many different things we choose to do or not do in our lives. Often we choose not to do things because we just can’t justify them to ourselves. We can’t find a reason to do them. But what if we considered our inklings as sparks or seeds? Maybe they’d ignite positive change, or take root in a needed area?

What if we didn’t take chances?

What if Darden and I didn’t pay attention to the power of that songwriting session with a veteran? What if we didn’t step out of our comfort zone to create a program with more songwriters, more veterans and tools for building happiness and well being?

This would not have happened:

SW:S Military Families Retreat – photo Tyler McQueen
SW:S EOD Couples’ Retreat – photo Tyler McQueen
SW:S Veterans Retreat – photo Stacy Pearsall
SW:S Veterans Retreat – photo Stacy Pearsall
Veterans Retreat – photo Brian Lasky

SongwritingWith:Soldiers — our program that uses collaborative songwriting to build creativity, connections and strengths — would not exist as it does today. All of the people who have been reached by this program, all of the songs that have emerged and the friendships forged, would not exist as they do today. Imagine how different so many lives would be, including ours!

We have had veterans tell us that “something shifted” after they wrote their song. They’ve said things like, “I never thought something so painful could be turned into something so beautiful that could help others.” Imagine what we might find if we study the effects of connecting through songwriting? Hmmm…

Take time to listen to your heart. Take time to “be creative” however that may look to you. Maybe it’s through songs, or paints, or food, or fabric or wood or plants or toys or…

See what follows your own “what if?”

You might be surprised by what you’re able to do for others while feeding your own soul.

Imagine!  (And then go try it!)

 

 

© 2017 Mary Judd

Songwriting as Life Spark

“The possible’s slow fuse is lit by the imagination.”
Emily Dickinson

When veterans attend a SongwritingWith:Soldiers retreat it can be difficult to describe how they feel immediately after writing a song. They have unexpectedly connected with someone they didn’t know and then created something entirely new, together. Something profoundly personal and beautiful—a song, out of some of the worst things they have been through. It’s a big deal.

What we often hear them say are things like, “that’s amazing…I never thought I could do something like this…” and “thank you…” Sometimes their voices are soft and thoughtful, sometimes booming with relief.

What we see is direct eye contact, ease of posture, tears wiped from cheeks and wide smiles.

And then what happens? Continue reading Songwriting as Life Spark

Hope

 

trailThe other day, as I was walking along the trail behind my house, I thought of the many people who have said to me, “You are always so positive.” Or, “I need Mary time.” I thought of this as my feet and knees were struggling more than usual as I set my pace. I knew that eventually my body would find its groove and I’d complete a good long walk because I had dealt with this initial struggle many times, having been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in my 20s. I’d been hopeful then that my body could endure, adapt, keep me moving. That hope was my fuel, and now, 30 years later, I know that it took hold for the long haul.

As I walked and thought of those people who are affected by my hope, the phrase “hope is contagious” found its way into my pace.

Hope. Is. Contagious. Hope. Is. Contagious. I marched along.

I thought of places I had recently heard the word hope. Just the night before, Golden Globe winner, Emma Stone, had said, “ Hope and creativity are two of the most important things in the world.” Immediately, I thought of the veterans who had shown up at our SongwritingWith:Soldiers retreats… and by retreat’s end had specifically mentioned hope.

Jaime Santiago, an Iraq war veteran, was one of the first to attend a retreat. He was reluctant to attend, even asking, “Is it OK if I go but don’t talk about anything that happened?” He gradually relaxed through conversations with Radney Foster and together they wrote a song called Perdi. When asked what strength he thought his song represented, he said softly, “Hope.” When you listen to Perdi, you hear a man listing the many things he missed or lost while deployed — children’s birthdays, friends in battle, time. It’s a love song, an apology, a plea for understanding and comfort. Jaime has since returned to every retreat we’ve held near Fort Hood, offering support for other veterans, and eventually writing another song, feeding his hope through creativity.

Joshua Geartz was a Military Police Officer who, like Jaime, experienced unthinkable horrors in Iraq. He was severely injured, and after several years home he felt lost, numb, and was ready to commit suicide. “When I sat down to write a song with Mary Gauthier,” he said, “I told her things I had never told anyone…and as I heard the song emerging, that’s when that little flicker of hope began…”

Just yesterday, I received a message from Josh. It’s been a year and a half since he wrote his song. He has since been writing poetry, organizing fundraisers, and worked as Peer Support at a recent SW:S retreat in Upstate NY, accompanying his wife, also a veteran. His message said, “…I had another doctor visit. They did an ultrasound of the veins in my legs. It showed that everything as far as blood flow is back to normal! Supposedly this condition isn’t treatable and only gets worse. I guess that rule doesn’t apply to me! More HOPE!”

He went on to tell me about posting a poem he had written to his Facebook page and included comments he had received, many saying how helpful his poem was to them. Thanking him for sharing his experiences.

Jaime and Josh, who attended different retreats in different parts of the country, eventually met via email as Josh helped connect Jaime to a service dog resource.

Creativity and hope, scattering seeds.

My own hope is continually fed by what I see happening all around me.

One step at a time. Whether difficult or not, here’s to keeping hope alive. It’s reach is far longer and deeper than we know.

Ever hopeful,

Mary Judd

 

© 2017 Mary Judd

Focus on Genuine Happiness

Why do we need a specific day to focus on happiness?

If you take a look at history, happiness has always ranked pretty high in importance. The Founding Fathers of the United States included “The Pursuit of Happiness” as an inalienable right in their Declaration of Independence. In 2012, The United Nations designated March 20 as International Day of Happiness in order to bring awareness to the importance of taking happiness seriously. Why?  Because when we really stop and think about what we really need to live contented lives, it is not often what we have been pursuing.

I was extremely fortunate to attend the three day meeting at the United Nations where leaders from around the globe strategized ways to increase Gross National Happiness, focusing on areas that matter to people – make for a good life – like health, education, culture, good governance, nature, and more. As someone who has worked very hard to remain happy while dealing with a chronic disease, the experience of being surrounded by people who were committed to finding ways to build happiness around the globe made me very happy. It also fueled my confidence to use the happiness research in my work with SongwritingWith:Soldiers.

You can learn much more about the Gross National Happiness work here:  www.gnhusa.org  and happycounts.org

So take some time to think about when you are genuinely happy…what are you doing? Who are you with? How often do you engage in things that make your heart sing or connect you to others?

Take a look at this poster made especially for International Day of Happiness 2015. See if any of the suggestions speak to you. Pick at least one. Do it! Make yourself happier today — and every day. Then, let me know what happens!   🙂

International Day of Happiness 2015 pdf

© 2015 Mary Judd

Making a List, Checking it Twice: For Me and For My Hero

It’s Christmas Eve. A day of dancing between wonder and stress.

A few days ago, I promised myself I’d pause on Christmas Eve to “get centered,” to put things in perspective by reflecting on the good — in myself, in others, and all around the world. So, this morning I decided to focus on strengths. I’d make a list of how I’d been using my Signature Strengths* to keep the holiday season as genuine, loving, and magical as I could.

But, as I wrote out my top five strengths:

  • Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence
  • Curiosity
  • Social Intelligence
  • Capacity to Love and Be Loved
  • Gratitude

…ready to elaborate on my uses of each one, I found myself thinking of someone else.

Nikki and Katie
(Taped to my office wall, photo of Nikki and Katie Shaw with one of my favorite quotes.)

Far across the globe, in some city, or village in Africa, my friend Nikki Shaw is also celebrating Christmas Eve. I have no idea how she will celebrate it. She is a Sergeant in the Army, and was deployed a couple of weeks ago to lead a defense team to fight Ebola.

Today, while I feed my own strengths by decking the halls, welcoming neighbors for carols and cheer, savoring sweets and libations, how will Nikki feed hers?

She’d sent me her list of top five strengths about a year ago:

  • Bravery
  • Honesty
  • Humor
  • Kindness
  • Social Intelligence

She had laughed, as she read them to me, saying:

 “I have never thought of myself as “brave” but it explains a lot about what drives me. Honesty has always been my corner stone. My word is my bond… my name… my core. Truthfulness is so very important and so often forgotten, sadly.  Humor… my catch phrase has always been “I’m fun”… and I think my humor and ability to find humor in all situations has helped me in life a great deal. Kindness… ok that one is true, but I didn’t think it would be top 5. I try to hide that side of me… especially in the Army… Kindness is weakness, but at the end of the day, yes, I will give you the shirt off my back. Social Intelligence, I have always had a knack to “read” people. My first impression is usually pretty accurate. I can typically read a crowd and know how to direct people toward a common goal.”

 Today, as I look at Nikki’s take on her own strengths, knowing where she is right now and what she’s involved in, I am struck by her humility, her perspective. I’m also aware that many of her strengths may be called upon in Africa — needing to read and lead a team of capable adults in adverse conditions; comforting scared and vulnerable people of all ages; lightening the mood with a quick joke or her dazzling smile; finding time to write a note to family and friends far away…

My own strengths of Love, Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, Gratitude, … are all well-fed by zeroing in on Nikki’s strengths. I know I am fortunate beyond words. By simply being herself, she continually feeds so many of us.

I pray that wherever my friend finds herself today that she knows deep in her bones how loved and respected she is. I hope, too, that she doesn’t have much need to use her “top strength” of Bravery, and that she has all the fun she can muster with #3, Humor.

As I move into my day, I will “walk in beauty” thanks to Nikki and the many service members I have met over the past two years through SongwritingWith:Soldiers**. I’ll continue to feed my soul by playing the song Nikki wrote for her sister, Katie, and honor the many others by playing and singing along when I can. A world of strengths exists in these songs… a world of beauty in the many people behind each one.

I am awestruck by the simple and abundant good that is always within reach when we take the time to pause and reflect.

May your days be filled with Peace and Beauty, too.

 

 

* The Signature Strengths survey mentioned can be found at: www.viasurvey.org

** Information about SongwritingWith:Soldiers, and all the songs can be found at: www.songwritingwithsoldiers.org 

 

We Are All Family

Group colorImagine being a child and saying goodbye to your parent who is going off to war? Or being a parent, and saying goodbye to your child before you head off to combat…not knowing for sure when you’ll get home, or if you even will.

When SW:S was asked to hold a retreat specifically for military families, we jumped at the chance. Our interactions with veterans and their spouses at prior retreats made it very clear that deployments and the transition home affect every member of the family. Loved ones share the burden. We embraced the opportunity to help turn their experiences into song, a lasting source of comfort for these families who endure so much – alone and together.

But where to begin when family participants range from ages 7 to 40+ years old? Our songwriting collaborations with service members are based on intimate conversations, deep listening, and often the sharing of never-before-told details and feelings about rough situations. Our songwriters’ respect for the truth, the universal struggles, pains, and pitfalls of life, is what makes them masters of their craft. But this approach could be difficult with the range of experiences, family roles, and expectations we’d be working with. What would teens discuss in front of their parents? What would a veteran who’s been in combat reveal in front of his or her kids?

As I thought about that question, I turned to my background in Positive Psychology for insight. As human beings, we can learn so much about our selves and one another by focusing on strengths. “Let’s start with what’s right about them as a family,” I suggested to the songwriters. “Let’s help them create a sort of family crest, a symbol of who they are, through song.” It took only a moment for the songwriters to wrap their heads around this approach. We had our starting point.

On the first morning of our retreat, each songwriter found ways to mine the truth of what made these families strong. It began with getting to know the family members, and asking a few questions: Tell me about your family, what makes you, you? What makes your family strong? How do each of you cope with the demands of military life?

Darden Smith sat downDS with Estradas with the Estradas. Glen Estrada, a retired Navy veteran, attended with three of his seven children, Angelica (Jelly), Jessica, and J.P. (His wife, their mother, had to work and we hope to meet her another time!) When Darden asked what connected all these family members, each child tossed out lines about things that held them together, repeatedly returning to love. Within two hours, they had their song, “Big Love.” The session inspired Glen and older daughter Jelly to collaborate with Darden on another song, “Oh Brother.” This song revealed the pain felt after a family member leaves home.

Jay Clementi listened closely as Mel and Marie Lewis described the awe they felt about all they’d built together over the years, in spite of many difficulties. The parents and their three daughters, Kelly, Lauren and Ruby, came up with lines about each family member, with Jay weaving the pieces into a bluesy, foot-stomping song called, “We Built This.” Later in the retreat, Mel and Marie each wrote songs of their own. Marie confided to Mary Gauthier the difficulties of enduring life apart from her husband, and from that evolved a powerful song, “Our Whole Family Serves.” Mel shared a humorous perspective with Darden about how veterans spot each other and trade endless stories about military service, which became “Veteran’s Disease.”

“We go on road trips,” the Wilson family explained to Mary Gauthier who asked how they celebrate when Chad, a Navy hospital corpsman, comes home after deployment. Soon, all five family members, Chad and Jamie, and the kids, Alexis, Sydney, and Emmett, were offering their contributions. Favorite old van! Fishing in the Dells! – which Mary shaped into a catchy country song called “Road Trip.” After that song wrapped, parents Jamie and Chad remained with Mary and Darden to write about how they’ve stayed so connected during tough times apart. “Love Will Abide” was the touching result. Both of their teenaged daughters each wrote a song with a new friend they made at the retreat, including one called “Daddy’s Girl,” with the line “love is thicker than blood” – a tribute to the man who became the father the family needed.

teen songOn the final afternoon of the retreat, the Estrada and Wilson teens pulled songwriters Jay and Darden aside and opened up about the unexpected difficulties faced when their parent returns home after combat. A simple event like a screen door slamming can set off a torrent of fear. Within two hours, “The Battle Rages On” was completed and recorded. The astute observations and deep feelings of the teens were finally expressed – in a song that their parents could hear, a song they could talk about as a family, a song they could all sing, together.

That song, like each and every song written during the retreat, educates us all. When the songs are shared, we believe they will help other military kids relate to their parents, and help parents open up dialogue with their children. One of the most common feelings among service members and their families is nobody understands what it’s like. Throughout the weekend, the families bonded over common experiences and emotions. Through the creative act of storytelling and songwriting, a community was forged.

And now these families have their own songs, an enduring expression of what holds them together, what makes them unique. At the same time, these personal family tributes, written by military families, can comfort so many of us. That is the power of art. Its ability to capture the truth of our shared humanity. Through song, we are all family.

 

 

(The songs are available online at www.songwritingwithsoldiers.org  Learn more!)

© 2014 Mary Judd

Finding Home


Songwriting with: Soldiers

“Chasing meaning is better for your health than avoiding discomfort.” – Kelly McGonigal

 

 

“I never leave my house…”

No matter how many times we hear these words from veterans arriving at our SongwritingWith:Soldiers retreats, it is always a jolt. We want to ask why? Why do these exemplars of will and courage get to the point of shutting themselves inside? What must be going on in their lives?

We want to ask these things, but we don’t. Their guarded body language cues us to wait. Instead, we welcome our veterans, tell them how glad we are that they did leave their houses to come to the retreat. We know that soon, it’s likely many answers to our questions will emerge.

Such statements of solitude came up at our recent May retreat, our first geared specifically to female military members, many of whom were mothers. Hearing I never leave my house from a mother is especially alarming. Our classic vision of motherhood—whether career women or stay-at-home moms—has them bustling around town with children in tow, playing in parks, assisting in classrooms. What happens when a mother feels too isolated, or too afraid, or too tired to leave her house?

While we can’t know the home lives of the veterans coming to our retreats—mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, spouses, singles, friends—we do know that they have overcome a variety of obstacles to get there. From facing agoraphobia, to getting leave for the weekend, to finding a babysitter, they all persevere to get themselves through our door and into a songwriting session. Again the questions arise. How did they do it? What propelled them out, at last?

Only when the group begins to relax, slowly “retreating” from the stress of their lives, do we let the questions lead the way. Over dinner, over morning coffee, our songwriters break the ice: “So where are you from? What was it like there? Did you know…?” Further questions build the bridges: “Where did you serve? What was the hardest part? What do you want us to know?”

Small groups naturally form at picnic tables, on couches. Guitars begin to strum as stories and questions volley back and forth. Often a fellow veteran is within earshot and joins in or quietly takes a nearby seat, staying longer than intended, captivated by the magical process that is songwriting.

When the final words and chords ring true enough to satisfy all, a song is born. We hear deep sighs and see obvious relief on faces. Shoulders relax. There’s usually more than one hug and a knowing nod from a fellow participant.

At this point, “I never leave my house” becomes “I thought I was the only one who felt that way,” or “When that happened to me…” These exchanges prompt veterans to sit down to eat together, or wander off side-by-side for a walk outside. By telling stories and writing songs that capture shared truths, our veterans realize they are connected, and that their service to their country and support of each other is truly meaningful.

“When we connect with others during times of stress, we create resilience,” says psychologist Kelly McGonigal in her Ted talk on stress (recommended viewing).

Helping our veterans create meaningful connections is immensely rewarding to us. We feel golden as we watch them move from sitting alone upon arrival to pulling up a chair and supporting each other while a song is performed; to see them sing the words to someone else’s song, to exchange embraces and emails as they leave.

On the final day of our May retreat, the woman who started out the weekend by stating “I never leave home,” spoke up during our farewell circle. She told the group: “I feel like a better person. I got my voice back.” Her eyes as bright as her smile.

We feel hopeful for her, for her family, as she heads home.

© 2014 Mary Judd

Ode to My Hero, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

gabriel-garcia-marquez-02Who are your heroes? How can you emulate them?

Today I write in honor of one of my heroes, my favorite author of all time, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I rarely state a favorite of anything, preferring to keep the possibilities for unyielding love wide open. I find it impossible to choose a favorite color when each represents entire worlds of emotions and characteristics. Impossible to choose a favorite song as each to me evokes unique memories or inspires various actions – from dancing to painting to sitting still or writing something of my own.

But years ago, I openly stated that my favorite author was Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of masterpieces such as One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, and many others.  It was after reading his glorious autobiography Living to Tell the Tale that I made my definitive statement. The book allowed us access to the brilliant, willing, generous writer’s life, from its most humble beginnings in Aracataca, Cloumbia (in a world as fantastically magical as those he created in his Nobel Prize winning works) to his rise through the country’s elite schools, bustling newsrooms and eventually to the love of his life, Mercedes.

I feel I should be writing in rainbow fonts to honor his colorful life that so influenced the world through his vibrant South American prose.

Please oh please tell me he had just completed the second half of the autobiography, that it began the day after he got married and that it led up to the very minute he passed away from our world. Actually, let it travel on, revealing where his fertile soul journeyed forth – likely on a blanket of admiring and wise butterflies – after he took his last earthly breath.

With Garcia Marquez, that must be possible! He must still be writing, carrying us along in the new, luscious, multi-layered world that he now inhabits.

He simply can not really be gone.

 If anyone can make me a believer in an afterlife, it would be him. For he was so masterful at revealing the multitudes of dimensions to our day to day life here on earth that it was as if he truly was from another realm equipped with 3D Vision that could see and uniquely describe things that most of us cannot –complicated, compassionate, contradictions of humankind.  Through characters like Fermina Daza and Colonel Aureliano Buendia he made me want to be smarter and more creative and less concerned about outer criticism.  He was a reason I obtained my teaching certificate in Spanish after earning one in English and Speech. He’s the reason I know words like lugubrious.

I wonder how many other people around the world are handling the news in this very way. No choice but to sit down and put pen to paper or fingertip to keyboard. Hurriedly writing with near abandon in order to capture their very own uninhibited feelings about the man and express them in as accurately magical manner as possible. (Then without edits or rewrites posting them to share with other like minded fans.)

What would he think? Would he chuckle and kindly ridicule our clunky need to honor and mimic at the same time. Our desire to hold on to or own our loved ones for fear of losing ourselves when they are gone.

Garcia Marquez will never be gone, really, because of the magic that he truly was able to create, to reveal in our earthly reality. He lifted veils on life, and showed us our rich banana-filled, butterfly-filled, radiant flower-filled, coffee-fied, humid world and our passionate courageous violent lonely tender heroic humble silly divine selves. (And could do it with a few select words.) He did all of this with an air of authority laden with levity. He was the Master, as comfortable with world leaders as he was with kindergartners. I imagine that he felt they were one and the same. And that each could see and learn from the beauty and complexity of butterflies, if only they acknowledged they were there. If they believed they were there and pondered all that they re-present, well then, life was far beyond the here and now.

And today, I must believe that is so.

I never met the man, of course. But, I am so saddened to hear that he is gone. I took comfort knowing that that brilliant man, one who so adeptly shared his life – our lives – with us was still witnessing, processing, and recording our world in his magical way.  Today, I feel more responsible for being brave, thorough, and creative, for humanity’s sake.

 

Rest in Peace and Splendor, Señor Marquez.

 

And a special thank you to Edith Grossman, who so eloquently translated his words.

The Power of Support

3

 

“I am standing here today because of SongwritingWith:Soldiers.”

 

Sgt. Nikki Shaw shared these moving words as she introduced Half-Horse Town at our September SongwritingWith:Soldiers fundraiser, a song she co-wrote at a retreat with Darden Smith and Radney Foster. We want to share this video of Nikki’s speech because, in truth, her tribute belongs to all of you who have supported our efforts.

Thanks to your support (financial, artistic, emotional, social, culinary, and on and on), SongwritingWith:Soldiers has been able to invite service members into peaceful retreat and workshop settings where they have shared their darkest stories about combat and the return home with professional songwriters. Through an almost magical process, participants have transformed their private pain into creative expression. It is a process that, Nikki tells us, “saved my life.”

With your help, SongwritingWith:Soldiers is standing today, looking back at a remarkable first year devoted to our military men and women — and the power of creative expression. You have our deepest gratitude.

Have a Happy New Year, full of joy and music and new songs by soldiers!

 

You may view Nikki’s speech by clicking on this link. WATCH NOW

 

Listen to Half Horse Town here

Stay tuned for some new stories from our workshops — participants  talking about their own strengths and the strengths of each other!  (Like gratitude, kindness, humor… 🙂  Inspiring!

A Gift of Strengths for You!

I thought it might be fun for you all to try intentionally using your character strengths during the holiday season (and beyond, of course).  I have used these activities over the years and always found them to be enjoyable, elevating, and inspiring.

 

 A Gift For Family and/or Friends Dinner talk —  – Take time at a meal to talk about “what went well today (or this week)”. Take turns sharing one thing at a time. When each person shares something that went well, challenge yourself to associate their highlight with a character strength (or more). If you feel comfortable doing this verbally, let them know what strengths you see coming into play in their good occasions. This helps you (and others) build awareness of the character strengths that are active in our daily lives. It also helps others hear someone else acknowledge their strengths in unexpected ways. This can build confidence, bravery, gratitude, and positive emotions, in general.)

 

NOTE — If you are single and often alone, you can do this with your own “what went well today” — make a note on paper of what went well, look at your signature strengths and see if any of them came into play in your good occasions. Perhaps you actively used a strength? {Perhaps others used a strength and you were the beneficiary. By acknowledging the goodness, you are practicing gratitude, too, which is shown to increase positive emotions.)

 

 A Gift for You  – Strengths Date — you can do this with a partner (friend, spouse, child, etc.) or for yourself.  Commit to taking at least a few hours for this gift to yourself. Look at your top five signature strengths — pick at least two to focus on. Plan a dream date for yourself/partner where you do something that allows you to use these strengths in a way that you will enjoy. If this sounds tough to do, keep it simple so you will be sure to do this for yourself. Small steps lead to new places!  (This is a great gift to give someone, if you are looking for an “experience” gift.

 

Examples: 

If one of your top strengths is spirituality — Perhaps you would like to take yourself to a place you feel is sacred. Spend time meditating/praying/singing, whatever fills your heart with inspiration and peace. (Or, perhaps you can use the time to begin creating your own spiritual space in your house?)

 

If one of your top strengths is Capacity to Love and Be Loved — Perhaps you have a favorite movie that speaks to your heart and inspires you to connect with loved ones. Perhaps you can make a game out of finding ways to genuinely compliment those you come in contact with during your outings? Perhaps you can spend the afternoon with a close friend and offer to help them with a project they need help with?  Perhaps you need to spend some time taking care of yourself! Take the time to pamper yourself in a special way that nurtures you. So often we feel selfish, but if we take care of ourselves, we are better able to be there for others, too.

 

If one of your top strengths is hope and optimism – Perhaps you can take a walk/drive and look for signs of hope in your neighborhood. (Do you see signs for upcoming events? What hope do these signs/events represent?  Do you see people exercising? What hope does this represent? Do you see animals? What are they doing? What might they be hoping for 🙂  Are there ways you can help others fuel their hope?

 

If one of your strengths is honesty – Perhaps you have a favorite person, place or group you’ve always wanted to acknowledge for what they do well or that has improved your life. Plan some time to visit them or write them a letter to share your positive feedback. Maybe you are into movies or books — what characters exemplify honesty? What is the result of their honesty? Perhaps there are others where honesty is lacking? Explore the intricacies of honesty and integrity.  If you enjoy people watching — take time to sit at a coffee shop or other favorite place and look for examples of authenticity. What strikes you about others who appear to be genuinely comfortable in their skin?

 

Think about what sounds really (genuinely) fun to do (either by yourself or with someone else) — add a dose of your top strengths and see what happens! The most important step is to commit to the time for this positive action for yourself!

Need more ideas — contact me!

 

cousins

CHEERS! to these happy cousins  🙂  Reunited after many years of growing up…

using their strengths of humor and playfulness, capacity to love and be loved…and ZEST!

Focus On Strengths