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Adults Need Play in Their Lives, Too

April 22nd, 2016

We write about the value of games and play frequently for the development of youth and of groups.  And there is research to back that up.  But, adults, too, need play in their lives and this article shares way to build in play and reminds you of the research.  Enjoy!

 

http://www.chopra.com/ccl/adult-playtime-6-ways-to-bring-more-fun-into-your-day

Meditation as a Practice in the Classroom

September 30th, 2015

My colleague, Jacquie, shared with me that at her school, a fellow teacher daily starts his class off with a slower pace. As students enter, calm music is playing. He tells the class to simply breathe for one minute, eyes closed or not. Students are then invited to journal for three minutes on whatever is standing in the way of their connecting with class. (It’s good old-fashion brain dump.) If there is still time left before diving into class, then two minutes are dedicated for students to share with a partner or in a group.

 

Peter’s practice is brilliant for various reasons.

 

  1. He creates a bridge into an emotional safe space and invites youth to be actively present in class, present to relationships in the now. Basically he honors the fact that they may have things swirling in their heads that needs to be dealt with before they can move forward.
  2. He is introducing a form of meditative practice that they can use throughout their lives that will help them learn to control their own emotions, deal with them and restore balance. Breathing techniques and brain dumps are both great ways to slow down storming thoughts and return to a calm center.

 

 

Meditation is an increasing practice that youth workers are using not only to feed into brain development but to help with social-emotional balance and learning to control emotions. Once associated only with Eastern religions, many diverse people are now realizing the power of meditation is in the act of slowing down, regulating breathing and calming crazy, out-of-control thoughts. A practice we can all benefit from!

 

Do you use any form of silence, focused attention on a positive thought or breathing, or journaling in your program? If you have a story of how mediation has helped your youth, share it with us!

One Person. One Moment. A Lifetime of Change.

June 24th, 2015

Repost from www.jonathanfields.com:

We tend to think of profound change as a process that happens over time.

Sometimes, that’s true. But other times, deep, lasting change can happen in a moment. I have no idea if there’s a clinical name for it, but I’ve seen it happen so many times, I just started calling it “snapping.” As in something snaps you into a new awakening or state of being.

It could be a deed, a word, an experience. Seconds long. Something that shifts your belief and empowers faith and action. Sometimes that new state is negative or destructive. I’m more fascinated with positive or constructive snapping.

In this week’s episode of Good Life Project™, iconic designer and founder of New York magazine, Milton Glaser, shared just such a moment. Something happened more than 50 years earlier in his life. A moment that lasted no more than a few minutes. Yet, he’s never forgotten it. The impact was that deep.

The story gave me chills as he told it. So, I felt I had to share it here with all of you:

Keep reading the story here:  http://www.jonathanfields.com/one-person-milton-glaser/

Why do you do the work that you do?

June 10th, 2015

A friend asked me a question today: “What is the most important aspect of your work and what does it mean to you?”

My quick answer was something to the effect of “I love taking research and best practices and translating them into  easy-to-use activities and strategies for youth workers and educators. I love working with so many passionate and creative people who care so deeply about young people.”

It’s an important question to ask of ourselves.  Why do you do the work that you do?  What do you love about it?

Listening to our answers holds important keys for how we refuel our energy and maintain our focus over the longhaul!

9 Daily Disciplines for Practicing Happiness

May 20th, 2015
  1.  For every negative thing you say, you must state two positive statements to negate the bad juju and reinstate positive vibes. This tactic comes from counselor Elizabeth Parrot.
  2. Use visual cues to remind yourself to be grateful. Post a favorite quote someplace you can see it every day or put a string on your finger. Wear a bracelet on your arm to remind you to focus on good things. Every time you catch yourself saying something negative, move the bracelet to your other arm as a reminder to start again. Forgetfulness is often the force that blocks us from being grateful, so create a visual reminder.
  3. Use an inspirational daily reading or look at things that make you happy. Some examples are the comics, a favorite blog, stories of kindness, the sunset, or photos on Pinterest.
  4. First thing in the morning, before rushing headlong into the day, jump into gratitude and say out loud or in your head three of four things that make you happy. Name little things, maybe even the ones that you take for granted, such as hot showers, coffee, the coveted best seat at the coffee shop, or the fact that all your toes wiggle just as they should.
  5. Always note the smallest efforts and successes. As you start your day, you can probably bank on the fact that not everything will go perfectly. So, why not start the day by identifying five things you have control over. Examples include brushing your teeth, telling your children you love them as they go off to school, getting in a 10-minute workout at the beginning of the day, saying no to the extra donut. We aren’t perfect. Our days aren’t perfect. But there are gifts in each day and we have a choice: we can look for things to be thankful for, or we can disregard things that happened because they didn’t meet our expectations. If you choose to be thankful and magnify that thanks by acknowledgment, you create more of the very energy you want in your life.
  6. Use the words “happy heart” and “happy day” in your daily conversations to generate happiness and remind yourself and others to think about being happy. We often end phone calls and e-mails with “happy day.” And one of our friends uses “happiness” as her password to serve as a daily reminder.
  7. Refer to your journal for inspiration. If you keep a journal of improvements, growth, observations, and unexpected surprises, refer back to it on the hard days when you need a pick-me-up.
  8. Look for successes around you in your youth, colleagues, and even yourself. Be quick to tell your colleagues about little victories; they mostly likely need encouragement too.
  9. Listen to our Practicing Happiness channel on youtube.

This is an excerpt from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

Sparks, Careers and Daily Living

May 13th, 2015

Recently I watched Mike Rowe in a worthwhile interview that I enjoyed (Don’t Follow Your Passion, Live It, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIB2qqcEOFU). One reason I enjoyed it was because I admire Mike Rowe, and it’s a joy to see people using their skills and talents for a greater good. And like it or not, that is the path Mike Rowe has found himself on after years of doing the show, Dirty Jobs. Aware of and an advocate for closing the skills gap between EXISTING jobs that are out there and available (83% of companies report a shortage of skilled workers and predictions for worsening conditions in the next several years) and making those options known and possible for youth, Mike stands in the gap to promote, advocate and help connect youth to skilled trades through alternate education. (Check out his website for job and scholarship information at http://profoundlydisconnected.com/foundation/.) The other reason I enjoyed the interview and other materials of his I was reading is his practical stance on life: know what you believe is important and live in a way that is consistent with that belief. Don’t follow your passion – bring it with you. In our book, Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms, The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth, one of Ann’s and my emphasis is the practicality of helping youth discover their sparks. Once youth know their “sparks” – the passion inside that makes them light up and gives them energy and purpose – then they have an essential clue to their wiring and their belief system. They can indentify what is important to them and make sure that they include THAT thing in their lives. And as Mike Rowe emphasizes, it may not be realistic to follow passion and try to make a living from it. My passion for writing books is what I do on my own time – I’m no Stephen King!; my work life is focused on what I do well and I work hard at that, but my life is fuller when I have time to write. So you won’t necessarily make a living from passion, but youth (and you) can bring their sparks into their daily lives, routines, relationships and downtime. That spark is important to know. It provides personal meaning, can serve as a compass for choices and bring joy to life. What is your spark? What brings meaning to your day? Check out our book for ideas on how talk and engage youth in the discovery of their sparks.

Moving More = Learning Lots

February 16th, 2015

As P.E. gets cut from more and more school days, teachers and afterschool care providers are searching for more ways to encouragement movement with youth.  We love to move and play, so we’ve collected lots of activities to share in this workshop.

Title: Do a Body Good: Moving More = Learning Lots

Description: The latest brain research has a lot to say about the importance of movement. This workshop illustrates how to incorporate movement through relationship building, concept reviews, getting feedback, reflection and energizers/refreshers – all in 5-10 minute blasts. We will give you time to practice creating and leading movement activities.

Audience: youth workers and educators

Time: 1 ½ – 2 hours

Schedule by contacting us at 615-262-9676 or cad@TheAssetEdge.net

 

Contact us if you want to bring this workshop to your organization – 615-262-9676 or cad@TheAssetEdge.net.

 

Engaging Youth: Finding and Connecting with a Sense of Purpose

February 9th, 2015

This has been one of our most popular workshops over the last few years.  Young people yearn to live a life full of meaning and purpose.  Caring adults are critical in helping youth discover and achiever their purpose.  This highly engaging workshop will teach youth workers and educators tricks and tips for helping youth find their sparks and cast a vision for their lives.

title: Engaging Youth: Finding and Connecting with a Sense of Purpose

description: The latest research on “sparks” shows that when youth know and can name their sparks, then good things happen – in schools, in themselves and for their lives. This lively session will educate participants on sparks; how sparks connect to developing a sense of purpose; and ideas for cultivating them in youth. Experience and learn for yourselves some fun, interactive venues for youth to identify strengths, resources and goals for themselves that they can carry with them into adulthood.

time: 2 hours

Audience:  youth workers, educators, parents

Contact us if you want to bring this workshop to your organization – 615-262-9676 or cad@TheAssetEdge.net.

 

Inspiring Youth to be Bold and Courageous

January 28th, 2015

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

–Mark Twain, author

 

Encourage young people to be brave and try new things. It’s easy for people to get stuck in a rut, doing the same things they have always done. Sometimes that stems from complacency, insecurity, or fear. Challenge your youth to be adventurous and be bold. If they express fear about something they have always wanted to try, ask them to consider these questions:

  • What’s the worst thing that could happen if you tried it?
  • What’s the best thing that could happen if you tried it?
  • What would give you the courage to try it?
  • How can I or other adults support you in your adventures?

Sometimes that little push is all a young person needs. Remember that for some young people, trying new things is a scary adventure. Be the cheerleader and the encourager as you guide them into the unknown. They just might discover a whole new part of themselves along the way.

This is an excerpt from our newest book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

 

Wise Words on Flexibility in Education and Youth Work

November 5th, 2014

“You have to be aware of where your group is and be ready and willing to throw the plans and curriculum out the window when there are issues to be dealt with today. Forging ahead with your plans without acknowledging their issues simply shows that you are unaware, or worse, don’t really care. Adapting plans and being present builds trust and commitment for tomorrow when it is time to get back to work. Being present and being flexible are crucial.”

– Anderson Williams, entrepreneur, artist, and educational consultant

Quotable on Real Riches

October 22nd, 2014

“We all have riches. Some have them in money . . . but most have riches in talent, ideas, creativity, loving, caring, wisdom, or beauty.”

–Sara Teasdale, poet

Summer Days 12

October 20th, 2014

Summer Days are a 12-part blog series focused on lessons of gratitude passed on from dog to human. This human is still trying to embrace daily the lessons of gratitude, so much so that gratitude gets an entire chapter in the book I wrote with Ann Saylor for educators, youth leaders, and parents called Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working With Youth. In there, lessons of gratitude are shared as a tool for maintaining personal power and strength . . . and teaching youth to do the same.

Summer, our tail wagging, body wiggling, four-pawed bundle of pure joy, showed up in our lives, in our opinion, to share with us how to live from a deeper place of gratitude and to enjoy life’s moments happily.

Summer, a beautiful black and white border collie/lab, has been THE Gratitude Coach for 12 ½ years of our lives who was sent to teach us personally. When you are daily confronted with unconditional love, acceptance and enthusiastic eagerness just because you exist, you tend to pay attention to what that person – or dog – has to communicate.

To date, Summer’s time with us has passed on these lessons:

  1. Show love first thing each morning.
  2. Be joyfully exuberant when doing what you love.
  3. Delight in the now.
  4. Always show appreciation to others.
  5. Work and contribute.
  6. Presume friendship.
  7. Just be.IMG_3955
  8. Sleep and eat regularly.
  9. Offer presence.
  10. Be patient.
  11. Play. Always play.

And it was only in a traumatic, life-changing event that Pete and I were able to articulate a final parting lesson from Summer . . .

Lesson #12: Enjoy everything, no matter what.

It was on a Tuesday, after a long weekend of Summer being sick (unusual for her because she always bounced back after a max of two days), that we went into the vet and were shocked with the news that no dog owners want to hear: our sweet dog was terminally ill and the kindest thing we could do was let her go. I won’t belabor the particulars, only enough to make her lesson point. Summer gave no indication that she was doing poorly over the weeks or months leading to her passing. She followed all the rules of the lessons she had taught us, although some days might have been slightly slower and she did sleep a little bit more (both of which we chalked up to the nearing of her thirteenth birthday). Regardless, she religiously continued to show enthusiasm for each moment and to live each moment to the fullest that she was capable of doing.

It was on her last day – armed with the new knowledge that she had probably been sick for awhile – that we were struck at how she exemplified enjoy everything, no matter what. Never did she show pain in the time leading up to this Tuesday. And on this Tuesday, while lethargic in the morning and obviously not feeling well, she enthusiastically got into the car for every trip we made that day (four total including two to the vet – a lot of jumping in and out!).

Knowing it was her last day, we made sure we had one more play day together so that she could enjoy her favorite dogs, places and things to do. At the park, she explored and made her own path off the beaten trail. At our friends’ house, she exchanged sniffs and licks with her doggie friends and received head rubs from her human friends. Tired afterwards, she pulled away to herself to rest but allowed me to read to her and be near her while we waited for the time to go back to the vet. And going back to the vet? She eagerly looked out the windows and showed every sign of enjoying the ride and being with us. Even at the vet’s, she showed interest in other dogs and humans who were around.

And then she called it a day. But it was a great day. Despite feeling awful. Despite having given up eating a couple of days before. Despite the cancer eating away inside her which was causing her to waste away. Despite it all, Summer lived her life out to the fullest, and it was in this last day that we shook our heads with amazement at how long she had been showing us how to enjoy everything, no matter what.

No matter what physical pain may grab you; no matter what disease may try to ravish your body; no matter what age you may be; no matter what job you may have or not have; no matter what obstacles life may hand you . . . you can still enjoy the life you have. You can be in each moment and savor it or devour it or inhale it. You can choose. It’s your choice. It’s within you to do it.

And that may be the best example of grateful living in action that I’ve ever seen lived out. The challenge now is to follow that example. Evidently Summer thought we were ready. Are you?

Today, live in answer to her challenge. Follow her example.

Summer, July 9, 2002 – June 17, 2014

If you need a dog in your life or want to support abandoned dogs and cats, consider one of the agencies that help support strays and abandoned animals. We got Summer from Freedom Farms who set up at Pet Smart in Rivergate on Saturdays. Good people who are doing heroic work in caring for animals.

 

Summer Days 11

October 13th, 2014

Summer Days are a 12-part blog series focused on lessons of gratitude passed on from dog to human. This human is still trying to embrace daily the lessons of gratitude, so much so that gratitude gets an entire chapter in the book I wrote with Ann Saylor for educators, youth leaders, and parents called Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working With Youth. In there, lessons of gratitude are shared as a tool for maintaining personal power and strength . . . and teaching youth to do the same.

I read the other day in an article on play that dogs play their whole lives and never forget play in their routine. It’s simply part of who they are and what they do. My personal experience proves this to be true especially with my Summer Girl, my border collie/lab, who came into my husband’s and my life as one of our two canine kids.

In Summer Days 3, as we talked about delighting in the now, we mentioned that Summer often created her own form of “play”:  stalking the edge of the forest to look for stray crickets to chase as we walked, or hunting for bunnies and nosing frogs in water holes. In addition to these acts, Summer has been known to play with her food (bringing it from the bowl into the living room, dropping food on the carpet to get one kernel at a time). She has been known to dive into her bed and attack it; play with chew toys or rawhides (of course!); or play with Lacey and us. We have chased each other in circles around the house. But our favorite game involved guard duty.  We could literally look outside, WHISPER the signal “Lacey, Summer – squirrel” or sometimes simply “squirrel” and the two dogs would tear off to go outside and chase the offending squirrel or squirrels out of the backyard (usually across the top of the fence around the yard to a particular tree).

Did you notice I said, whisper?  How in-tuned to the idea of play is that? A mere whisper could bring it out of her!

Obvious to anyone who owns or owned a dog is his or her inborn ability to play and thus we have:

Lesson #11: Play. Always Play.  IMG_3973

We had to name it, even if it’s an obvious lesson because it’s still a valuable lesson. There are high connections between play and gratitude. When we play, we are less stressed, more present, more alive and more in the moment. Those playful moments bring about gratitude as a natural response. And yet we often neglect to play as we get older in order to work. (And if you want ideas on how to play, check out our books, Great Group Games, Great Group Games for Kids and Great Group Games on the Go.)

IMG_2245How do you like to play? How do you define it? What does it look like for you? Reading a book? Watching a movie? Playing board games or cards? Being silly with a friend? Taking a moment to run backwards in your workout? Having the windows down and the wind whipping your face? Today as you go about your normal routine, don’t forget to take a moment to play – whatever that looks like for you. You know what play is. It makes you smile, lightens your heart and makes you feel free and young. Put it on your list of “must do” today: go play.

You can read all the gratitude lessons we’ve learned from our four-legged Gratitude Guru and learn for yourself how to: show love first thing each morning; be joyfully exuberant when doing what you love; delight in the now; always show appreciation to others; work and contribute; presume friendship; just be; sleep and eat regularly; offer presence; be patient; and play.

Summer Days 10

October 6th, 2014

Summer Days are a 12-part blog series focused on lessons of gratitude passed on from dog to human. This human is still trying to embrace daily the lessons of gratitude, so much so that gratitude gets an entire chapter in the book I wrote with Ann Saylor for educators, youth leaders, and parents called Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working With Youth. In there, lessons of gratitude are shared as a tool for maintaining personal power and strength . . . and teaching youth to do the same.

My Gratitude Guru, Summer, has one particular trait she has exemplified over and over throughout her doggy days. My husband was the first to name this particular lesson that she has been trying to teach us:

IMG_3972Lesson #10: Be patient. Our border collie/lab is the very essence of patience. When it’s time to eat, Summer has always let Lacey, our rat terrier, eat first while she patiently sat to the side waiting her turn (no need to fight over food – there’s enough for everyone). She would patiently sit and stare at Pete every evening starting at 7:00 p.m. waiting for him to give her evening treat at 8:00. On walks, as we ran into neighbors who want to chat, she would gently lie down and wait for us to finish our conversation.

These are just a few of the daily examples of the lesson she has tried to convey to us to teach us to be happier and more content in our lives. In her early days, she tested our patience as we got used to her. As a pup, she was a very nervous, insecure puppy that had been abandoned (and rescued by Freedom Farm) and needed to know she was safe and secure. In fact, it took two years before we thought of her as more than “Lacey’s friend.” It was two years before she began to warm to us and truly became part of the pack. In those formative years, we learned we couldn’t yell at her to not do something. Yelling resulted in an immediate squat and pee.

Summer taught us to be gentle with her and to have patience as she grew and overcame her fears. Once she knew she was safe and loved, she bloomed and emerged as the Gratitude Guru who then outdistanced us and returned the favor (of offering safe, loving support and friendship) by beginning to teach us to become more of who we are. And patience is one of the keys to a happy life: patience with self, with family, with quirks, with timing . . .

Where are you most impatient? Why? Where do you need to breathe deeply and show patience? What might happen if you let go of control or expectations and simply offer patience and let things unfold as they will?

Today, be grateful for the trying moments that try your patience and recognize that within that moment is a lesson just for you waiting to teach you what you need to learn. Maybe it’s to be gentler with yourself or others. Maybe it’s to accept differences. Look deep into that challenging moment that stirs you and wonder what in you is begging to change. And give thanks for the moment and the opportunity to behave differently.

Summer has taught us many lessons as our Gratitude Guru. Read all the blogs to learn how to: show love first thing each morning; be joyfully exuberant when doing what you love; delight in the now; always show appreciation to others; work and contribute; presume friendship; just be; sleep and eat regularly; and, offer presence.

Summer Days 9

September 29th, 2014

Summer Days are a 12-part blog series focused on lessons of gratitude passed on from dog to human. This human is still trying to embrace daily the lessons of gratitude, so much so that gratitude gets an entire chapter in the book I wrote with Ann Saylor for educators, youth leaders, and parents called Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working With Youth. In there, lessons of gratitude are shared as a tool for maintaining personal power and strength . . . and teaching youth to do the same.

There have been many joys in hosting a Happiness Teacher in my home for 12 ½ years. Short, adorable and easy to get along with, my border collie/lab, Summer who conveyed so much in the past decade has taught us much about making life worth living every day. The gift-wrapped lesson that has been the most significant on a daily basis to me has been:

IMG_4090Lesson #9: Offer presence. 

Every day whenever I’m around the home, she offers presence. If I’m in my office on the computer, she comes to lie down on the rug near me. If I do bills at the dining room table, she comes to lie down near my feet with her head touching my foot. If I’m working out in our workout room on the mat, she has been known to come and lick my head as I do sit-ups, walk through my legs as I stretch or be near by as my legs scissor across the top of her body. If I have been too long on the computer writing on my next book, she comes over, nuzzles my hand for “lubbing” (love + rubbings) and if possible to pull me away from work for a quick break. Sometimes I pet her and then absentmindedly tell her to go away. Sometimes I agree that I’ve been at it too long and take a few minutes to play or walk outside with her to get the mail. If I’m too busy or focused and can’t do much petting, then she “talks” to me to voice her complaint and then she will plop down at my feet.

Her lesson in presence has been a daily occurrence. “I’m here. I’m letting you know I’m here. I care.” Nothing beats that example of simple loving presence to let me know I’m loved.

In the “human” world, we often forget how valuable presence is. We feel like we have to have the right words, say the right thing, or do the right thing. Sometimes not having the right words or actions in mind will stop us from being with someone. And the truth is: simple presence is enough.

Where can you offer presence? Who shows you support that you take for granted? When is the last time you’ve told them how grateful you are that they are in your life?

Today, express gratitude to those who show you support. Tell them how much you appreciate their friendship and presence. Look for ways you can offer presence to others. Trust in the power of presence and don’t worry about having the right words or actions if it’s a tough situation. Simply sit or be with them. Let your presence speak for itself.

Practice all the lessons of Summer Days: show love first thing each morning; be joyfully exuberant when doing what you love; delight in the now; always show appreciation to others; work and contribute; presume friendship; just be; and, sleep and eat regularly.