A friend of mine, Tom Daly, gave a seminar on teamwork in which he asked us to facilitate a fun and revealing exercise. He took me and seven other volunteers from the group to the back of the room and instructed us: “When I say, `GO!’ I want one leader to stand in the middle, and the rest of you to lock arms with each other in any way you choose around the leader. Then, in collaboration with the leader, you’re going to move this small folding table with the tray on top (and a coffee mug on top of that) from one corner of the room to another.” I immediately had a vision of how it could be done quickly, and when Tom asked us how much time we needed, I said we could do it in two minutes.
When Tom gave the signal to proceed, I jumped in the middle and asked everyone to lock arms and face me, except for the person closest to the table, whom I had turn and face away from the circle but still locking arms with the rest of us. He asked me if one person could pull the whole table and I said, “Yes, absolutely! You can do it.” With little time for processing, I had to be assertive and think fast to get the job done in two minutes.
We proceeded to move en masse toward our goal. Everyone else was laughing as we shuffled across the room and down the aisle, with the guy hauling the table bringing up the rear. Then an obstacle showed up in the form of an overturned chair in our path. Before I could give an instruction, the person at the front of the circle kicked the chair aside. “Good job, macho man!” I shouted, which provoked more laughter from the rest of the room. We reached the corner of the room and I told the team to rotate so that the person with the table would be facing the corner. Then he set the table in place, and the task was finished in a minute and twenty seconds.
This humorous exercise was a great learning experience for all of us. Tom asked me my thoughts about leading the group. I replied that I probably would not have led if not for the clear vision I had for getting it done simply and quickly.
Each person on the team gave their viewpoint from the questions Tom asked of them: Did they feel like an integral part of the team, even though they had no verbal input? One person suggested it was easier to yield to the strategy given by the leader and work with a team of strangers than among her co-workers (perhaps knowing their flaws all too well and the personality dynamics between them). Were any of them tempted to dispute the leader’s strategy? A few were, but said they ceded to the leader due to time limitations. Was it fun? Unanimously, a good time was had by all!
Excerpt from the book, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!”
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Patterns of behavior can be interrupted and changed instantaneously, providing either a much needed sense of levity in the midst of adversity, or even a lasting shift in life perspective.
In 1992, civil unrest broke out in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict. The radio blared the news: Mayor Bradley had just imposed a dusk to dawn curfew in the city. I was driving on the Hollywood freeway during the rush hour, traffic typically bumper to bumper. Looking out the passenger side window, I saw fires ablaze on the horizon. I sniffed smoke from burning buildings that saturated the already smoggy air. I glanced at my fellow commuters, alert to the fear engraved on their faces. Perhaps they were wondering if their houses and neighborhoods were ablaze as well.
The surrounding anxiety was compelling me to respond. Something must be done to ease the sense of despair! But I can’t just leap out of the car and do a stand-up routine on the freeway… I’d probably get run over. Ah…my prop bag was behind the seat. I blindly groped around with my hand and pulled out a show stopper – a two-inch red clown nose. I stuck it on my face. Commuters around me were doing double takes which said, “He must be a tourist. He doesn’t know what’s happening.” I’m sure they were not wondering if I was available for children’s parties. But when I smiled at them, they got the message. I wanted to convey that in spite of the circumstances, we can take a moment to detach and suspend the downward spiral of distress.
The effect was remarkable. People laughed, smiled back, gave the thumbs up, honked horns, nudged their driving buddies and pointed at me. Kids jumped up and down in the back seats and giggled. People of all ages and backgrounds were sharing a moment of fun in the face of adversity. The crowd attitudinal consensus around me had changed. Truly it was one of the finest moments I’ve experienced!
Excerpt from the book, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!”
c 2013 Mental Floss Publications
All Rights Reserved
NOTE TO ALL READERS: This WordPress blog is now making a transition to a new home here By next month the transition will be complete and this blog will no longer be at the WordPress address. Thanks for your continued attention and support!
Consider this an “unrestraining order” from the court of Terry Braverman: Today we are all afflicted to some degree with S.D.S. (Spontaneity Deficiency Syndrome). It is appalling in our society how much we miss enlivening opportunities by censoring our own spontaneity. “Well, I’m trying to find time to be spontaneous,” a harried business acquaintance once muttered. Indigenous tribal people tend to release their pent-up emotions through singing, dancing, chanting, and wearing wild costumes. How many of us would feel comfortable doing that in front of our families?
We have largely suppressed or forgotten spontaneity in the maze of our busyness, our plans, our rational thinking, and our control mechanisms. S.D.S. is a major cause of stress in our world. When we are in a lot of physical pain it takes some strong medicine to get relief. If the pain is emotional, we often need a strong jolt to regain our perspective. A dose of silly nonsense may just do the trick.
One time I was on the phone with a rep from a customer service department to lodge a complaint. My frustration was growing and I decided to vent by singing my complaint in an operatic voice. The rep was laughing hysterically and said, “Wait, I’m putting my supervisor on the line!” I continued to sing and the supervisor resolved my issue immediately in the spirit of fun established, as opposed to tension and conflict.
I cringe when I see people being scolded for acting too silly. Of course there are situations that demand an overall serious tone, but more often than not it’s the “grow up and get serious” parental mentality at work, stifling the natural stress relief of playful expression. It will amaze you to know that the word silly comes from the Old English word saelig, which was a blessing. It meant “to be happy, prosperous and wise.” On the other hand, adult comes from the word adulterate, meaning “to corrupt, debase, or make impure.”
Some claim variety to be the spice of life…I say it’s spontaneity.
In my seminars and workshops, it thrills me to witness accumulated stress draining from the faces and bodies of participants. I’ve received a number of positive letters from various companies and organizations, but none were more gratifying than the following:
Your seminar on humor was great. I particularly related to your discussion on stress, and others sharing their experiences of how stress had manifested itself. I identified totally. Since your seminar, I’ve had no more headaches, no more clenched jaws, no more Valium, Xanax, Halcion or sleepless nights. I’ve shared my experience with co-workers. Thanks for a real eye-opening exchange.
I spoke again with Mr. Simons, three years after the fact. He is still free of the afflictions and takes no medication. I think of the workshop as a collective creation between myself and the participants, where credit is due to no one in particular other than group synergy and intent. Making such a dramatic impact on Mr. Simons’ health says a lot for the value of humor and play. Clearly, there was a shift in his thinking that took place in an atmosphere of mirth, causing a positive physiological response. Dr. Deepak Chopra once said, “Our thoughts, without reservation, tend to make us healthy or sick.” I might add that our reservations (doubts), without changing our thoughts, tend to make us sick.
In times of despair, we instinctively turn to humor, comedy, and play for its uplifting effects. For the individual suffering mental and physical anguish associated with their circumstance, humor can lift the spirit and reduce suffering for the moment, if not permanently.
Excerpt from an Amazon best-seller, When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!
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According to a recent study, the only folks getting enough sleep on a consistent basis are those who have stopped working, and are living out their days in relaxation. ABC News reported that the same was true for people whose mental or physical conditions make them unable to work. Surveys done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the amount of sleep for people varies by age, and younger people are getting the least amount of sleep among the tested age groups. The proper amount of sleep, which is about 7-9 hours for adults, is obtained by people upon retirement. Sleep deprivation is typically caused by work, academic, and family stress, plus lifestyle habits, such as late-night television, Internet use, ingestion of caffeine or other stimulants, and late night partying. Some helpful thoughts about getting enough shut-eye:
• Sleep seems to organize memories, as well as help you to recover memories. After you learn something new, sleep may solidify the learning in your brain;
• Parts of the brain that control emotions, decision-making, and social interactions slow down dramatically during sleep, allowing optimal performance when awake. REM sleep seems especially important for a good mood during the day. Tired people are often cranky and easily frustrated;
• Lacking adequate sleep makes the immune system become weak, and the body becomes more vulnerable to infection and disease;
• Some sleep experts suggest that neurons used during the day repair themselves during sleep. When we experience sleep deprivation, neurons are unable to perform effectively, and the nervous system is impaired;
• Growth hormones are released during sleep, and sleep is vital to proper physical and mental development;
• Depression is two times more common for college students, than in the general population, affecting nearly 20% of students. Researchers believe that lack of sleep contributes to this high rate. Additionally, inadequate amounts of sleep cause increased susceptibility to illnesses such as colds and flu;
• Many college students make the mistake of staying up late or pulling all-nighters to prepare for an exam or to complete an assignment. In reality, not getting enough sleep makes it more difficult for them to process, analyze, and retain information, and manage stress;
• Keep regular hours. Try to go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day. Getting up at the same time is most important. Getting bright light, like the sun, when you get up will also help;
• Taking a nap during the day is not recommended because it reduces the amount of time a person sleeps at night. If necessary, take your nap early in the day and for no more than 20-30 minutes;
• Keep your bedroom at comfortable temperature. Not too warm and not too cold. Cooler is better than warmer;
• Do not exercise at least 3 hours before bed;
• Avoid bright light around the house before bed. Using dimmer switches in living rooms and bathrooms before bed can be helpful;
• Bedtime routines are helpful for good sleep. A cup of herbal tea an hour before bed can begin a routine. Sleeping pills and other sleep aids actually reduce sleep quality;
• Avoid looking at the clock if you wake up in the middle of the night. It can cause anxiety. This is very difficult for most of us, so turn the clock away from your eyes so you would have to turn it to see the time. You may decide not to make the effort and go right back to sleep;
• If you can’t get to sleep for over 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring in dim light till you are sleepy;
• Avoid sugary foods like chocolate, which make falling asleep more difficult. If you are hungry close to bedtime, eat a light carbohydrate or dairy snack instead. In small quantities, eating something light can sometimes help you fall asleep. Have you heard the notion that a bottle of milk puts a baby to sleep? The same can work for adults;
• Watching TV or using laptop computers late at night is not recommended. Reading in bed can be a problem if the material is overly stimulating and you read with a bright light. If it helps to read before sleep, try soothing material and make sure you use a very small wattage bulb to read. A 15 watt bulb should be enough;
• Don’t stress if you feel you are not getting enough sleep. Know you will sleep eventually.
(Resource: National Sleep Foundation)
“(Political) words are often used in a consciously dishonest way. Without precise meanings behind words, politicians and elites can obscure reality and condition people to reflexively associate certain words with positive or negative perceptions…As a result, Americans have been conditioned to accept the word ‘democracy’ as a synonym for freedom, and thus to believe that democracy is unquestionably good. The problem is that democracy is not freedom. Democracy is simply ‘majoritarianism,’ which is inherently incompatible with real freedom…how many Americans know that the word ‘democracy’ is found neither in the Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence, our very founding documents?” – Ron Paul
“But for the age-old (psychological) question of free will…it looks as if the answer is that we don’t actually have it. Studies now show that the impulse to take the most basic of actions—the movement of a finger, for example—originate in the brain at least a full second before we’re consciously aware of our desire to move it! It appears that the unconscious mind, functioning with an understanding bereft of language, may control far more of our conscious decision-making than we ever imagined—if not all of it.
Philosophers and scientists are speaking out against these results, not so much to deny them but to try instead to salvage the notion of free will by redefining it…there exists good reasons to want them to succeed: studies also show that when we lose our belief in free will, our motivation to act diminishes as well.
…it’s tantalizing to imagine that the elephant of our unconscious mind that we’re all riding and that may be in charge…needn’t only be made to do our bidding against its will, but that we can also train it to want what we want. Perhaps then the greatest potential for freedom lies in creating as much unity between our conscious and unconscious selves as possible.” – Alex Lickerman, M.D.
“(Philosophically), freedom is not that complex of an ideal. But putting theoretical ideals into practice becomes much more difficult; the black-and-whiteness of ideals becomes muddled with the various gray hues of practice’s complexity. I still love freedom, and I adamantly support full-fledged freedom. No matter how you feel about freedom now, I recommend you consider supporting freedom even more. And I beg you to stubbornly resist those who suggest placing limitations on freedom.” – Scott Hughes
Summer is here, and the time is right to commune with family and friends over lavish meals, aided and abetted by healthy gales of laughter.
The positive impact that laughter has on our well-being is nothing new. Throughout history, clowns, fools and court jesters plied their trade not only to entertain, but to heal people, impart wisdom, and exercise diplomacy, acting as ambassadors to other kingdoms for building goodwill and defusing conflict. The court jesters pranced around the imperial courts with a patented blend of whim and wit. It was their privilege to say whatever they wished. Usually a great ruler was surrounded by flatterers, and only from the jester did he ever hear the truth.
The jester’s business was to tickle the royal funny bone, divert the king from the tedium of his daily affairs, and serve a slightly skewed yet enlightening perspective on those affairs of the court. Jesters also assisted his Majesty’s digestion, rubbing the regal tummy the right way with their lively presence at the dining table. “Laughter is one of the most important aids to digestion with which we are acquainted,” said the Prussian professor Hufeland. “The custom in vogue among our ancestors, of inciting laughter by jesters and buffoons, was founded on true medical principles. Cheerful and joyous companions are invaluable at meals; obtain such, if possible, for the nourishment received amid mirth is productive of light and healthy blood.”
Excerpt from the book, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!”
c 2013 All Rights Reserved
Mental Floss Publications