The Stories That Bind Us

In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future. -- Alex Haley

I hit the breaking point as a parent a few years ago. It was the week of my extended family’s annual gathering in August, and we were struggling with assorted crises. My parents were aging; my wife and I were straining under the chaos of young children; my sister was bracing to prepare her preteens for bullying, sex and cyberstalking.

Sure enough, one night all the tensions boiled over. At dinner, I noticed my nephew texting under the table. I knew I shouldn’t say anything, but I couldn’t help myself and asked him to stop.

Ka-boom! My sister snapped at me to not discipline her child. My dad pointed out that my girls were the ones balancing spoons on their noses. My mom said none of the grandchildren had manners. Within minutes, everyone had fled to separate corners.

Later, my dad called me to his bedside. There was a palpable sense of fear I couldn’t remember hearing before.

“Our family’s falling apart,” he said.

“No it’s not,” I said instinctively. “It’s stronger than ever.”But lying in bed afterward, I began to wonder: Was he right? What is the secret sauce that holds a family together? What are the ingredients that make some families effective, resilient, happy?

It turns out to be an astonishingly good time to ask that question. The last few years have seen stunning breakthroughs in knowledge about how to make families, along with other groups, work more effectively.

Myth-shattering research has reshaped our understanding of dinnertime, discipline and difficult conversations. Trendsetting programs from Silicon Valley and the military have introduced techniques for making teams function better.

The only problem: most of that knowledge remains ghettoized in these subcultures, hidden from the parents who need it most. I spent the last few years trying to uncover that information, meeting families, scholars and experts ranging from peace negotiators to online game designers to Warren Buffett’s bankers.

After a while, a surprising theme emerged. The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.

I first heard this idea from Marshall Duke, a colorful psychologist at Emory University. In the mid-1990s, Dr. Duke was asked to help explore myth and ritual in American families.

“There was a lot of research at the time into the dissipation of the family,” he told me at his home in suburban Atlanta. “But we were more interested in what families could do to counteract those forces.”

Around that time, Dr. Duke’s wife, Sara, a psychologist who works with children with learning disabilities, noticed something about her students.

“The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges,” she said.

Her husband was intrigued, and along with a colleague, Robyn Fivush, set out to test her hypothesis. They developed a measure called the “Do You Know?” scale that asked children to answer 20 questions.

Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?

Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush asked those questions of four dozen families in the summer of 2001, and taped several of their dinner table conversations. They then compared the children’s results to a battery of psychological tests the children had taken, and reached an overwhelming conclusion. The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.

“We were blown away,” Dr. Duke said.

And then something unexpected happened. Two months later was Sept. 11. As citizens, Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush were horrified like everyone else, but as psychologists, they knew they had been given a rare opportunity: though the families they studied had not been directly affected by the events, all the children had experienced the same national trauma at the same time. The researchers went back and reassessed the children.

“Once again,” Dr. Duke said, “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”

Why does knowing where your grandmother went to school help a child overcome something as minor as a skinned knee or as major as a terrorist attack?

“The answers have to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family,” Dr. Duke said.

Psychologists have found that every family has a unifying narrative, he explained, and those narratives take one of three shapes.

First, the ascending family narrative: “Son, when we came to this country, we had nothing. Our family worked. We opened a store. Your grandfather went to high school. Your father went to college. And now you. …”

Second is the descending narrative: “Sweetheart, we used to have it all. Then we lost everything.”

“The most healthful narrative,” Dr. Duke continued, “is the third one. It’s called the oscillating family narrative: ‘Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family.’ ”

Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.

Leaders in other fields have found similar results. Many groups use what sociologists call sense-making, the building of a narrative that explains what the group is about.

Jim Collins, a management expert and author of “Good to Great,” told me that successful human enterprises of any kind, from companies to countries, go out of their way to capture their core identity. In Mr. Collins’s terms, they “preserve core, while stimulating progress.” The same applies to families, he said.

Mr. Collins recommended that families create a mission statement similar to the ones companies and other organizations use to identify their core values.

The military has also found that teaching recruits about the history of their service increases their camaraderie and ability to bond more closely with their unit.

Cmdr. David G. Smith is the chairman of the department of leadership, ethics and law at the Naval Academy and an expert in unit cohesion, the Pentagon’s term for group morale. Until recently, the military taught unit cohesion by “dehumanizing” individuals, Commander Smith said. Think of the bullying drill sergeants in “Full Metal Jacket” or “An Officer and a Gentleman.”

But these days the military spends more time building up identity through communal activities. At the Naval Academy, Commander Smith advises graduating seniors to take incoming freshmen (or plebes) on history-building exercises, like going to the cemetery to pay tribute to the first naval aviator or visiting the original B-1 aircraft on display on campus.

Dr. Duke recommended that parents pursue similar activities with their children. Any number of occasions work to convey this sense of history: holidays, vacations, big family get-togethers, even a ride to the mall. The hokier the family’s tradition, he said, the more likely it is to be passed down. He mentioned his family’s custom of hiding frozen turkeys and canned pumpkin in the bushes during Thanksgiving so grandchildren would have to “hunt for their supper,” like the Pilgrims.

“These traditions become part of your family,” Dr. Duke said.

Decades of research have shown that most happy families communicate effectively. But talking doesn’t mean simply “talking through problems,” as important as that is. Talking also means telling a positive story about yourselves. When faced with a challenge, happy families, like happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship. This skill is particularly important for children, whose identity tends to get locked in during adolescence.

The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.

Today’s article was written by Bruce Feiler and is shared from the following website:

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The Importance of Friendship…

A friend is one that knows You as you are, understands where You have been, accepts what You have become and still gently allows You to grow William Shakespeare
One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books, and I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.”

I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran right up to him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him.

Then he looked up, and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, “Those guys are jerks. They really should get a life.”

He looked at me and said, “Hey thanks!” There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before. We talked all the way home, and I carried his books.

He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said yes. We hung all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him. Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, “Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!”

He just laughed and handed me half the books. Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke.

I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship. Kyle was valedictorian of our class and I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak.

On Graduation Day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than me and all the girls loved him. Boy, sometimes I was jealous. Today was one of those days.

I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one), and smiled. “Thanks,” he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began.

“Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach… but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story.”

I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met . He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker, so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later, and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile.

“Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.” I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his Mom and Dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize its depth.

Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person’s life. For better or for worse. God puts us all in each other’s lives to impact one another in some way. Look for God in others.

“Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.”

I agree with this. Your one action can really change a person’s life. or motivate someone. And friends are the most important part about your life. A friend does have a major impact on you. Many times i have found myself being depressed and lonely. I don’t know if its hormones or just me. But a message from a friend on whatsapp or facebook instantly makes me forget about my  depression and I’m all happy and cheerful again. 🙂

Like Aristotle said –

“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god. ”

We are all social animals. I have never found or met anyone who “does not partake of society”. And now days there are so many social networking websites, I don’t think this generation can ever feel lonely, You can always connect with someone online or just call them up.

So, don’t judge people by their appearances, be kind to all and keep smiling 🙂

Today’s comments and inspiring story were shared from the following website:

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5 Ways to Shape Your Life With Positivity

In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility. Eleanor RooseveltThere are all kinds of theories about how to shape your life to get the most happiness, the most peace of mind, the most whatever it is you hope to achieve in your life. And then there is reality.

You get up every day and face the world – the world of traffic, the world of politics, the world of news, and the world of people you encounter socially and professionally. Your world is full of surprises, risks, brave actions and deeds – in essence, the good, the bad and the ugly. Sometimes, as you’re immediately waking up, you might think that it’s just not worth getting out of bed, or it’s too difficult to create the energy necessary to face the day with a positive spin.

The truth: it’s not that hard to cultivate positive attitude—optimism, expectancy, and enthusiasm – because these three mindsets make everything in life and in business easier. Why wouldn’t you want to have an easier life?

A positive attitude can tear into you like a hurricane up when you’re down or lift you up like a rocket when you’re already “on a roll.” People ask me every day how I do so much at 73 years of age. They want to know where I get my energy. How do I do so many things in life? What drives me? Some people take offense that I have a positive nature about what I do and how I feel, so they simply walk away.

But, if you don’t want to walk away from a person who shapes his or her life with positivity, here are 5 ways how to cultivate your own positive attitude, regardless of what’s happening in the world.

1. Control your attitude.

You shape your life with the attitudes, either positive or negative. These attitudes translate into activities that reflect your positive or negative mindset.

You don’t have to get up in the morning with a negative attitude about what’s going to happen that day. You have a choice. Of course, there are challenges, struggles, and unpleasant encounters, but you can choose a positive approach to each detail of your life. By steadfastly holding on to your strong and grounded core beliefs, you can achieve what you truly desire every day. This is the way you honor your life with a profound sense of self.

2. Control what you let into your life.

Your core beliefs about who you are and how you present yourself in your personal and professional world will consistently keep away the negatives and firm up the positives. However, if you choose to let in the bad energy of arguments and other people’s anger, you will slowly sink into quicksand. Your life will be stall mode. Nothing accomplished. Nothing gained.

Today’s world is full of haters and seekers of division. Avoiding situations that cause you to feel bad about either yourself or others is crucial in maintaining the positive. Limit the bad stuff and keep your inner life in positive control.

Caution: too much exposure to news and media can result in flooding your mind with negativity. Negative exposure limits your ability to maintain a positive attitude; it actively interrupts your brain and makes you more apt to have a negative mindset. Turn off the television, radio, and monitor how much social media you take in. Read a book, ride a bike, go for a swim and decompose.

3. Create a litany of positive thoughts.

One of the most effective ways to strengthen a positive mindset is to meditate 10 minutes a day. Let all negative thoughts go by, release their hold on you, and focus more on positive mantras instead of limiting opinions.

The ability to let thoughts go by without labeling them as good or bad gives you time and space for inspiration, and even perhaps, motivation to create the most positive mindset. If you do this regularly, you’ll have consistent clarity of thought and the ability to manage your feelings when events don’t go exactly the way you’d prefer. Then everything takes on a positive spin. My yoga teacher used to say: “It’s all good.”

4. Watch your words.

Do you think you are more hard-wired to think negatively? If you do, you will certainly use more negative words on a daily basis. But turn that around and describe yourself as hard-wired to think positively. If positive is your bent, then the words that come out of your mouth aren’t just a reflection of what’s in your brain—they’re programming your brain how to think. Therefore, if you want to have a positive attitude, your vocabulary must be consistently positive.

It takes full awareness, full consciousness to process your emotions and put them into the appropriate emotional context. Most negative words relate to fear, shame, guilt and disgust and require more mental processing than does using positive words.

Try taking a mental assessment of how many negative words you use during the day and see if you can determine the ratio of negative to positive words you use. What’s interesting is that you have more negative words available to you than you have positive words. Hint: avoid the shaming, blaming, hate words. Focus on neutral words to express unpleasant situations, such as, “I’m annoyed,” and not “I’m enraged.”

5. Ignore whiners and complainers.

There is nothing worse than listening to whiners and complainers. To ward off people who have an ax to grind with the world, listen closely to how whiners and complainers couch their emotions. You can usually spot a “negativo” within the first five minutes of conversation. They spread their “poor me” life before you and tell you everything that’s wrong with their existence. And they want everyone who can hear them to be as miserable as they are in their world because they can’t bear to see somebody else happy and satisfied.

So next time someone asks you how you are or “how’s it going,” tell them that you never felt better – and mean it! That’s when you are shaping your life with the positive.

Today’s article was written by Joan Moran and is shared from the following website:

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Understanding God’s Plan of Happiness

If you understand the great plan of happiness and follow it, what goes on in the world will not determine your happiness Boyd K. Packer

The Great Plan of Happiness

Questions like “Where did we come from?” “Why are we here?” and “Where are we going?” are answered in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Prophets have called it the Plan of Salvation and “the great plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8). Through inspiration we can understand this road map of eternity and use it to guide our path in this life.

The gospel teaches us that we are the spirit children of heavenly parents. Before our mortal birth, we lived as the sons and daughters of the Eternal Father. We were placed here on earth to work toward eternal life. These truths give us a unique perspective and different values to guide our decisions from those who doubt the existence of God and believe that life is not part of an eternal plan.

Our understanding of life begins with a council in heaven. There the spirit children of God were taught his eternal plan, the “great plan of happiness,” as Alma called it. We had progressed as far as we could without a physical body. To realize a fulness of joy, we had to prove our willingness to keep the commandments of God in a circumstance where we had no memory of what took place before our birth on earth.

In our lives here on earth, we would become subject to death, and we would be soiled by sin. To reclaim us from death and sin, our Heavenly Father’s plan provided us a Savior, whose atonement would redeem all from death and pay the price necessary for us all to be forgiven of our sins if we keep his commandments and repent of our sins.

When we understand the Plan of Salvation, we also understand the purpose and effect of the commandments God has given his children. He teaches us correct principles and invites us to govern ourselves. We do this by the choices we make.

We who know God’s plan and have covenanted, or promised, to participate in it must desire to do what is right, and we must do all that we can all our lives. When we have done all that we can, we can rely on God’s promised mercy.

Today’s article is from a talk by Dallin H. Oaks and is shared from the following website:


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The Power of Diligence

The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools Confucius

DILIGENCE. Do you always do your best? Do you remain focused on your goals? How often have you given up when things seemed difficult?

In 2007, I finished my doctorate in World Religions and became Dr. Kennedy, or “Dr. Terri K.” as my friends are calling me. As a busy entrepreneur, I had to be focused to get the work done in-between leading corporate workshops, speaking at events, coaching private clients, teaching yoga classes, and writing this column and other articles. It wasn’t easy and often required me to sacrifice “play-time” such as catching the latest movie, for “cerebral time” which usually included taking an exam or researching for another paper. Since it was a goal I wanted to achieve, I worked steadily on it over the last few years. It took diligence.

Diligence (from the Latin, industria) is defined as “devoted and painstaking effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent personal attention; a decisive work ethic; a zealous and careful nature in one’s actions and work.” It is the opposite of negligence. The Psychomachia (“Battle for the Soul”) – an epic poem written by the ancient Latin poet Prudentius (c. 410) – outlines diligence as one of the Seven Contrary Virtues. The others are humility, kindness, abstinence, chastity, patience and generosity. Practicing these virtues is alleged to protect one against temptation from the Seven Deadly Sins, with each one having its counterpart – hence the term “contrary.” In this context, diligence is said to fight against “sloth.”

Sloth is not a word we often hear in modern vernacular. However, in ancient times it had a rather strong meaning. Medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas defined sloth as “sluggishness of the mind which neglects to begin good… [it] is evil in its effect, if it so oppresses man as to draw him away entirely from good deeds.” Basically, sloth can be equated with procrastination and physical and/or intellectual laziness. A sloth also happens to be a medium-sized mammal from South and Central America. Let me give you a word-picture… A sloth looks somewhat like a bug-eyed monkey. It sleeps from 15 to 18 hours a day and moves only when necessary – and then very slowly, about 0.5 to 1 foot per minute. It has a very large, slow-acting stomach, and usually eats, sleeps and even gives birth hanging from tree branches. It comes to the ground, to urinate and defecate, only about once a week. I hope this does not remind you of anyone you know!

Just as we perform “due diligence” in business when evaluating a prospective investment, you should perform due diligence on your own life. Are you at times exhibiting sloth-like behavior? Have you gotten lazy in any area of your life – in what you eat or how you communicate with your partner? Are you putting things off “for a later date” or quitting when things get tough? As my Mom says, “Time will go by – you might as well make the most of it.” This is your life… make it count! If you have debt, clean it up. If your energy is low, take control of your health. If you’re in a bad relationship, end it now. If you have a dream in your heart, start pursuing it today! Avoid negligence in your own life. Monitor your activities. Develop a zealous commitment to prosperity. Sometimes we want things to simply be given to us – like having the hope of winning the lottery. Well, as Benjamin Franklin said, “Diligence is the mother of good luck.”


  • Evaluate your habits. Develop a check-list for your life covering the five dimensions of Power Living: spiritual, mental, physical, emotional and environmental. Determine whether your habits are supporting your growth in those areas.
  • Set reasonable goals. If you want to change something, then make a commitment. See the big picture and then take small steps. Congratulate yourself along the way as you hit milestones.
  • Stay focused. Success is based on perseverance. Keep your personal vision at the forefront of your activities. Work on your agenda instead of allowing other random people’s agendas to work on you.
  • Learn from mistakes. Failure provides a greater challenge to personal diligence than success. If things don’t go quite the way you planned, learn from the detour – you can still get to the destination!AFFIRMATION:Today, I act with diligence.I understand that I have the power to create prosperity in all areas of my life. The choice is mine. Every day I work on sharpening my tools so I can perform at my personal best. I set reasonable goals and take consistent action. I push past obstacles and learn from unplanned detours. I am devoted to self-less service and unconditional success.Today, I act with diligence.

Today’s article was written by Teresa  Kay-Aba Kennedy and is shared from the following website:



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