Harness the power of your sleeping brain in your waking life!

On Tuesday, March 11, Idealist will launch a new network to help practical dreamers all over the world connect and take action on the issues that concern them. Preparing for the debut of this imaginative new effort has gotten us exploring the many facets of dreams: what are their purposes, their powers, their opposites?

Welcome to Dreams Week on Idealists in Action.

“Why is it that we seem to come up with solutions to problems or think in a less inhibited way shortly after emerging from sleep?” asks this recent Fast Company article by Jane Porter.

shutterstock_143416207

These habits will help you catch those good ideas before they float away.
(image courtesy Shutterstock)

Read the post to learn about the creative benefits of sleep and some time-tested ways to harness the power of your slumber state after you wake up. It might make you doubt that setting your alarm clock for 30 minutes earlier each morning is the worst possible thing you could do.

Have you experimented with first-thing-in-the-morning creative or problem-solving efforts? Tell us about them.

Tags: , , ,



It’s not your lack of skill, it’s your lack of confidence… stupid!

On Idealists in Action, we love to tackle your biggest obstacles to doing good. One we hear a lot is, “I don’t have the skills or knowledge to start something.” This week, we’re taking that behemoth down.

Another way you can defeat the obstacles in your path is by joining the Idealist Network—a new online and on-the-ground platform we’re designing to help people everywhere connect and take action on any issue that concerns them, locally or globally. Sign up to attend our online launch on March 11 and see what it’s all about.

The following post was translated from Elena Martín’s original on Idealist’s Spanish language site, Idealistas.

 

Much of your ability to do something is not dependent on whether or not you can actually do it, but whether or not you think you can do it. Someone with all the skills in the world but little confidence in himself will not get very far, while someone with less skills but true belief in himself will usually find a way to meet his goals.

Psychologists call this phenomenon “self-efficacy”—our belief in our capabilities to do what is required to achieve a given goal. Think about yourself: do you more often have the attitude: “I can get this project to work,” or “I can get this job,” or the opposite: “I don’t think I can do this,” or “I’m not going to get a call back”?

If you fall in the first camp, bravo! But if you tend to think more like the latter, don’t despair—for one thing, you’re not alone. Overriding self-confidence doesn’t come easily to everyone. You might be thinking, “Sure, I’d love to have more faith that I can do the things I want, but it’s not like I can just flip a switch. What can I do?”

read more »

Tags: , , ,



A child psychologist’s tips for encouraging kids to be practical dreamers

We recently learned of a Canadian holiday called Family Day, celebrated in many provinces on the third Monday in February. We second the notion that recognizing the importance of family is, well, important, and are pleased to pay homage this week to clans large and small, given and chosen, with Family Week on Idealists in Action.

You’d be hard pressed to find the parent who says, “I want to squash my kids’ dreams every way I can!”

Every dad and mom worth his or her salt wants their children to grow up creative, stimulated, and dreaming big, and they make every effort to encourage these traits. But at Idealist, we’re all about good things getting even better, so we asked child and family psychologist Aparna Sampat for her tips on encouraging kids to imagine without borders.

Here are three zingers we pulled from our interview, straight from the doc herself:

1) Ask, don’t tell.

When young kids are drawing or coloring, they usually start out with everyday sights: say a tree or a house. But if the tree is round or the house doesn’t have windows or doors, a common reaction from parents is, ‘Oh honey, that’s not how you draw a house/tree. Let me show you,’ and they proceed to draw it the ‘correct’ way. This can really stifle creativity; it makes kids think things have to look a certain way to be ‘right.’

So instead of correcting them, try asking questions. ‘Oh, you drew a tree? Tell me about it. Does it have leaves? No? Okay, cool, a tree without leaves. Would a bird like this tree?’

Provocation will make them imagine more, and having to explain their design will get them to think more about its form and function.

shutterstock_98842532

If you can’t quite tell what’s going on in Junior’s picture, try asking him to explain it.
(image courtesy Shutterstock)

2) Couches are for sitting?

I was in a family’s living room once and their two young boys were wreaking havoc on the couch—pretending it was a pirate ship and jumping on and off. The mom became irritated and concerned that they’d damage the furniture or the floor, so she admonished them: ‘Couches are not for jumping; couches are for sitting.’

While I sympathized with the mother’s concerns, I had to think: are these kid ever going to be able to see things outside the box? Where will they be able to exercise their imaginations? They’re at the age when we develop a sense that multiple perspectives exist and not everyone is thinking what we’re thinking—when a banana can become a phone, etc.

The problem for the mom in this case was not that her boys were being imaginative, but that they might be destructive—yet that wasn’t the problem she addressed when she disciplined them. She could have explained the actual issue and given them a choice between playing more gently on the couch or picking another place to play—without so narrowly defining what household objects are ‘for.’

shutterstock_144126064

There are lots of “right” ways to sit on couches.
(image courtesy Shutterstock)

3) Use your words.

On the street once, I saw a boy who clearly wanted to get a hold of his dad’s cell phone. The dad took a moment to retrieve it from his pocket, and the boy swatted his hand with impatience. In response, the dad swatted the kid’s hand back! The message he sent there was: when you’re frustrated, it’s okay to lash out instead of crafting a productive reply.

To encourage his son to build his powers of creative communication, the dad could have said, ‘Whoa! Are you frustrated? Did you want this phone sooner than I could give it to you? Tell me how you’re feeling.’ Even if the child just nods in reply, that exchange is a good way to demonstrate how clear, calm communication can help solve problems, but that it does take practice.

When we act out physically instead of taking the time to think about and articulate our problems, we blunt our creativity and put up a wall between ourselves and others. The self-expression that kids—and all of us—can cultivate through our words is usually a more useful tool than an open palm.

 

Sampat sums it all up by saying, “Kids’ minds start out boundless. They don’t impose limits, even unintentionally. So all we have to do is not shut them down.”

“Just think: what would my kids be creating right now if they didn’t think they could do wrong?”

How do you encourage the kids in your life to be practical dreamers? Tell us in the comments.

Dr. Aparna Sampat is a licensed psychologist who works with children, adolescents, young adults, and families in New York City. She can be reached at asampatphd@gmail.com.

*****

Do you like to spread good ideas? Do you like connecting dots and people? Join Idealist on March 11 as we launch a new global movement for action and change!

Tags: , , ,



Meet 3 winter athletes who defy convention (and get bonus points for style)

At Idealist, the sporting world is not our usual beat. The Olympic Games, however, hit us where we live as an inspiring, international gathering of outstanding individuals and teams (not unlike our own new network!). So we’re taking this opportunity to pay homage to excellent athletes, winter beauty, fun games, and a host of other concepts we could tie (even tenuously) to Sochi. Welcome to Olympics Week on Idealists in Action.

Stereotype: Jocks are boring.

Broken by: Hubertus von Hohenlohe, wacky Mexican ski rock star

Hubertus von Hohenlohe gets a gold metal in awesome.

A world-class photographer, pop star, and (incidentally) German prince, he’s also a six-time Olympian in men’s Alpine skiing, and the only athlete representing Mexico in the winter games. And he’s 55 years old.

“We (in Mexico) are 100 million people and the only chance we have (of winning a medal) is up to me, but we don’t have to look at it like that. You have to see it as I’m an ambassador of this country, an ambassador with style and a human force that goes beyond the result,” Hubertus says in this interview for CNNMexico.

To represent Mexico, Hubertus has opted to compete while wearing a special Spandex ski suit patterned after the traditional dress of Mariachi musicians.

By raising some eyebrows this time around, he’s hoping to raise the profile of Mexican athletes in future Olympic games.

140203114818-hubertus-von-hohenlohe-1-horizontal-gallery

What a “style ambassador” wears to compete in the Olympics.

 

Stereotype: You can’t teach old dogs new tricks.

Broken by: Jacki Munzel, 50-year-old speed skating powerhouse

Four years ago, Jacki Munzel was watching the Winter Olympics on TV with her daughter.

“We looked up at the TV and speed skating was on… She said, ‘You could try speed skating.’ And something inside of me, that fire from within, it grew and I was like, ‘Yeah, I could do that’,” Munzel said in this KSL interview.

Jacki had never speed skated before she made the decision to start training for the 2014 Olympics, though she wasn’t totally starting from scratch.

A professional power skating coach who trains NHL players, Munzel has been ice skating her whole life. In 1984, she even qualified to go to the Olympics for figure skating. But tragically, when a life-threatening eating disorder took her off the ice for those games, Munzel put her Olympic dreams to rest.

Then, thirty years later, after much training and re-training, Jacki ranked in the top ten for speed skating nationals and beat her personal best by 15 seconds in the U.S. Olympic trials.

Although her time wasn’t fast enough to get her to Sochi this year, her story proves that, well, there’s always 2018.

article1_20131228-lt-us-olympic-team-trials-l2-500-0060

Jacki was a fierce competitor against speed skaters younger than her children.

 

Stereotype: Girls aren’t strong enough to ski jump.

Broken by: Lindsay Van, Jessica Jerome, and women athletes the world over

For the first time EVER, women will be allowed to compete in ski jumping at this year’s Winter Games.

This is partially a result of the efforts of two U.S. women skiers, Lindsay Van and Jessica Jerome, who spoke out about the injustice of being excluded again and again by suing the Vancouver organizing committee for gender-based discrimination in 2010.

“I didn’t do it to prove anything, but people needed to see that women in this sport are capable of jumping really far, and we’re capable of having our own event,” Van said for NBC Olympics.

The lawsuit raised enough attention that in April 2011, women’s ski jumping was approved as an official event for the Sochi Games.

We’ll be cheering for all of the women ski jumpers who compete this year as they soar through the air like magnificent Valkyries!

666g8

Lindsay Van flies the length of 1.5 football fields, NBD.
[image via Sparknotes]

What inspiring, kooky, or otherwise amazing athletes are you rooting for this winter?

*****

Join Idealist on March 11 as we launch a new global movement for action and change!

Tags: , ,



5 tips for ignoring haters explained with GIFs

When haters, trolls, and Negative Nancies try to poo-poo your ideas, it’s best sometimes to just put up the blinders.

One of my all-time favorite inspirations for not giving a crap what people think about you (besides my dad) is Julien Smith’s The Complete Guide to Not Giving a F**k. After establishing that judgement is just a part of life and not everyone has to like you, Smith poses the following suggestions to help you “get back your self-respect in five easy steps.”

Here they are, illustrated with GIFs for maximum impact.

1. Do things that you consider embarrassing.

tumblr_lyhrpo0FJA1r6hhu1o2_250

 

 

 

 

 

 

[via tumblr]

2. Accept, or deal with, awkwardness.

tumblr_mjw360lT9u1qgn6tzo1_250

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[via tumblr]

3. Refuse boundaries

232fc0ac7adb0d278ed2a0ed9e87c655

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[via google images]

4. Tell the truth

tumblr_inline_ms5jh0ngWI1qz4rgp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[via tumblr]

5. Begin your new life

tumblr_mjhr60uHEj1qcdan6o2_250

 

 

 

 

 

 

[via tumblr]

And there you have it. Remember, no one ever changed the world by trying to fit in.


What real-life do-gooders inspire you not to give a crap about what people think about you?

Tags:



Make a bad decision last year? Here’s how to cope

When we move from ideas to action, we run the risk of making decisions we regret.

Sometimes regret might seem unavoidable, but it doesn’t have to drag us down. Here’s why regret happens, how to overcome it, and how to make better decisions in the future.

shutterstock_108559643

Bad decisions always have an opposite angle.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

Why we feel we’ve made a bad decision

When it comes to decisions that truly have no right or wrong answer—and there are many in the world of doing good—there are three rationales that can cause us to think we’ve made a wrong choice.

Myopic view of the world

We are all just one piece of a much larger puzzle, but it’s easy to lose that perspective when we’re each responsible for so much in our daily lives. When we think of ourselves as more crucial to a situation than we actually are, the weight of regret stemming from a bad decision can grow.

High expectations

In a world of seemingly endless opportunities, it’s easy to build up our expectations. We might want to come up with a genius idea for a life-saving tool, be influential in advocating for a cause, or leave a helpful legacy to an organization we love. Expectations like these can be motivating, but they also greatly raise the stakes to do well—or risk feeling profound regret if we don’t.

Getting stuck on “what if?”

Even after we’ve made a choice we think is good, part of us can still be tempted to dwell on what we didn’t do: “What if I had gone the other way?” Thinking about the routes we didn’t take can easily lead to making us dissatisfied with the ones we did.

How to overcome regret

We all feel regret about a decision from time to time, but if your sadness and guilt are outstaying their welcome, here are some ways to hit “refresh” and redeem yourself.

Put things in perspective

Make it a goal to come to peace with the fact that you can’t change your past decision. To do this, it can be very helpful to focus on the things you learned as a result of your choice, and how you can use those lessons going forward.

Talk it out

Ask for the ear of a friend, family member, or someone else you trust. Speaking to them about your decision and rationales can create a catharsis that will allow you emotional release from your feelings of regret. Also, explaining the details of your choice aloud to someone may help you clarify and better understand why you did what you did.

Think positive thoughts

Norman Vincent Peale’s classic book The Power of Positive Thinking, first published in 1952, isn’t on the bestseller list anymore, but its central idea remains a powerful tool for determining how we feel. Even if you think you have a real reason to be unhappy, you can still choose to be happy.

How to make good decisions

After making a “bad” decision and experiencing regret, it’s time to get back on the horse. Here are some steps you can take to help ensure you feel more confident in your decision-making going forward.

Don’t procrastinate

Yes, it’s good to take time and think thoroughly about your options, but don’t let that be an excuse to not make a decision.

Imagine yourself in each scenario

If you’re deciding between two options, try them both on for a minute. Imagine you’ve chosen option A: what does the result look like? How do you feel in the position it brought you to? Which additional doors did it open, and which did it close? Do the same for option B, and compare the results.

Create a pro and con list to help you evaluate

Write out the benefits and liabilities you can foresee with each option. Then tell family, friends, and mentors about your situation and see if they have any experience or pros and cons to add—they might reveal insights you never would have thought of. (Of course, take any advice as only one slice of your decision-making pie. Don’t let anyone pressure you into a decision you’re uncomfortable with!)

Be confident (or act like it if you aren’t)

Once you make a decision, don’t allow yourself to entertain distracting thoughts of how life might have been if you had gone a different way. Learn to love your choices, and you’ll love your life!

Alicia + PageAlicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for WebpageFX and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her work has been published by the Association for Business Communication, Business Insider, and Ask Miss A. You can find her on Twitter (@Alicia_Lw) and Google+.

Tags: , , ,



In a creative rut? 52 ways to get unstuck

unstuck

We all get stuck.

Whatever the project, sometimes our creativity is less like the juice that’s supposed to be flowing and more like the pulp that gets caught in our teeth.

So how do you start clean again? Especially when that fundraising event is right around the corner or you have to write the story of how your social enterprise started right now?

In his book Unstuck, artist Noah Scalin offers ideas for 52 exercises to help you get out of the rut and keep taking those steps forward. From the six-word memoir (30 seconds) to a photo mashup (two minutes) to blackout poems (30 minutes) to making a creativity shrine (one hour), each activity is selected to fit with your (obviously busy) schedule.

The idea for the book came from Scalin’s year-long project of making skulls out of everyday objects: stencils, hands, trash, pumpkins, chains, and more. From the process, he learned a lot about staying committed to a project—even when you don’t feel like it.

Here are his seven tips:

1. Let go of preciousness. The reality is that treating your creations as precious little things to protect keeps you from the world of possibilities that comes from trying new things out, making mistakes, and getting things wrong.

2. Freedom comes from limitations. It’s only from narrowing down the options that creativity becomes possible, as you are forced to push against the walls that close you in.

3. Get out of your environment. No matter how inspiring your workplace is, there’s only so much creative work that can be done within it.

4. Get out of your comfort zone. At some point in our lives we’re probably told not to make a fool of ourselves, but the fact is that’s one of the most effective ways to get creative inspiration!

5. Get things by giving them away. The more I gave away, the more people gave back to me.

6. Collaborate. Some of best things I got out of doing my own project were the wonderful new friendships and the deepening of my existing friendships that came from incorporating other people into my work.

7. Inspiration is everywhere. Once you start practicing, the ability to find ideas in even the most mundane environments gets easier and easier.

Go to Noah’s website, Make Something 365 & Get Unstuck, for more inspiration or to show off a project of your own.

What tips do you have for getting unstuck?

Tags: , , ,



How to slay your self-doubt

This week’s spotlight: all things death.

shutterstock_71283640

Illustration by Jan Hyrman

When you think about why you’re having trouble getting started on or continuing with a project, do the reasons ever sound like, “I just don’t have any good ideas,” “No one will believe this is going to work,” or “I’ll never be able to see this through.” If so, you may have some self-doubt dragons to slay!

Check out these ideas and tips from Authentic Coach Samuel Collier on how to boost self-confidence and turn obstacles into stepping stones.

 ***

While some of us are already living a life filled with confidence, many of us only ever fantasize about being sure of ourselves. More often than not, we are plagued by an annoying, nagging voice inside our heads telling us we aren’t capable of or worthy enough to do the things we want to do.

So how do we get over our self-doubt and claim the life we’ve always dreamed of?

The answer is by “growing up.” This is not the same type of growing up we all went through during childhood where our parents and schools raised us, taught us how to survive, and how to be good people.

This growing up is about reclaiming our childhood and our natural birthright of confidence and curiosity. It’s also about redefining our relationship to fear through the choices we make.

Growing up is a process. It takes time to transform from being a person who doubts him or herself into a self-realized person of courage, curiosity, and confidence. But this journey is possible, and it’s all about the choices you make.

Courage may come easy for some, but both courage and confidence can be generated in everyone. All it takes is the commitment to begin changing with small steps towards the life you want and building a state of mind that will sustain it.

We should first recognize that fear is a survival mechanism, not a character flaw. Most anxiety and belief systems are an adaptation to stressful situations we learned in childhood. So we just need to upgrade our systems. How do we do that?

1. Redefine all fear as positive.

Courage does not mean the absence of fear. Courage means being afraid, but doing it anyway. Without fear, life would be dull, drab, and static. Fear is a core emotion for a reason and it gives life much of its color. If we had no fear, there would be no potential for growth.

2. Remember that real fear has a purpose.

Ninety nine percent of the time the fear you’re feeling is a false fear, meaning one that is not based on any immediate physical danger. When you are feeling afraid you should gauge the likelihood of your worst fear coming true. Most of the time, you will see that it is unlikely ever to happen.

3Face fears gradually and gently.

Break down insurmountable tasks so they become manageable. Use baby steps and follow a schedule that isn’t overwhelming. A more gradual process will strengthen your resolve and I guarantee the sense of power you begin to feel will be enough to keep you going.

4. Become friends with failure.

You alone have the capability to start facing your fears, so don’t give up when you fail. Recognize that when you fail, it’s not permanent—it’s part of the process of learning how to do better.

Befriend your failures, your fears, and the process and you will be rewarded!

-1

Samuel Collier is the Authentic Coach, helping people awaken to their self-confidence and activate their hidden potential. Visit his blog and website, or email him at samuelbcollier@gmail.com.

Tags: , , , ,



This experimental brain stimulator won’t make you superhuman, but…

Changing the world is a real brain workout.

So what if you could “improve everything from working memory to long-term memory, math calculations, reading ability, solving difficult problems, piano playing, complex verbal thought, planning, visual memory, the ability to categorize, the capacity for insight, post-stroke paralysis and aphasia, chronic pain and even depression” at the touch of a button?

Transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) may offer just that opportunity.

shutterstock_106115951

tDCS: like “jumper cables for the mind”?
(image courtesy Shutterstock)

The experimental technique—which works by delivering extremely low dose electrical stimulation to the brain via electrodes—has been in development since 1981. It still can’t be found outside a lab, but research has lately made some big strides. Read this recent New York Times Magazine article about the past and future of tDCS.

“tDCS will not make you superhuman, but it may allow you to work at your maximum capacity,” says one doctor at Harvard’s Laboratory of Neuromodulation at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where tests are currently being performed.

“It helps you achieve your personal best level of functioning. Let’s say you didn’t sleep well the night before. Or perhaps you’re depressed, or you suffered a stroke. It helps your brain reach its peak performance.”

What would you do if your brain was running at peak performance?

Tags: , ,



Why being mediocre might help you change the world

Speak

(Image via piccsy.com)

In James Altucher’s recent piece on The Rumpus about “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Mediocre People,” he argues that mediocrity can be a good thing.

Yet nobody likes to think of themselves as average, myself included. The serial entrepreneur encourages us to think otherwise.

We can’t all be grand visionaries. We can’t all be Picassos. We want to make our business, make our art, sell it, make some money, raise a family, and try to be happy. My feeling, based on my own experience, is that aiming for grandiosity is the fastest route to failure. For every Mark Zuckerberg, there are 1000 Jack Zuckermans.

The Jack and Jackie Zuckermans of the world procrastinate, zero-task, fail, are unoriginal, don’t network a lot – all things that might seem counterintuitive, but can actually work to your advantage. Especially when that little nagging voice in your head tells you you’re not good enough to make your big ideas happen.

Here’s what Altucher would say to that: You are enough. What matters is your ability to be real.

Being mediocre doesn’t mean you won’t change the world. It means being honest with yourself and the people around you. And being honest at every level is really the most effective habit of all if you want to have massive success.

So let’s be honest for a moment, Idealist community. Which of these habits speak to you, and how have they helped you in your journey to make a difference? Any more you’d add?

Tags: , , ,