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 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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How to Become Your Best Self

The only person you should try to be better than, is the person you were yesterday Unknown

11 Ways To Become Your Truest & Greatest Self

Being precisely who you are, at your highest level, is your ticket to magnetizing the things you want most in your life. This is true for your love life, career, relationships, prosperity, health, and so on. It’s also the magic formula that will enable you to make a more powerful contribution to this world than you ever thought possible.

So here, allow me to present to you my 11 stepping stones toward your truest and greatest self. I hope it’s a helpful reminder of what you already know.

1. Fall madly in love with yourself.

Love is the most powerful energy in existence. Blast yourself with it to full advantage! Beam upon yourself as though you were your own dream lover, ideal mother, precious child, and verrrry best friend. Direct your adoration, light, warmth, healing energy, and nurturing inward, toward Y-O-U. Send yourself the same quality of love you offer to your loved ones. Love yourself actively and you will grow radiant, lighting up the world around you and hence creating a “win-win” for all you encounter.

2. Embark on a journey of self-discovery.

Explore who you are beyond all externally-imposed definitions. Then fully embody, accept, and celebrate who you are. Connect to your wonderfulness: your unique talents, skills, passions, roles, affiliations, personality profile, and one-of-a-kind life experiences. And remember, your soul is a wondrous spark of divinity, connecting you to transcendence, immortality, and dimensions beyond. It’s also the true essence of who you are.

3. Embrace your life’s unique curriculum.

Live in alignment with who you truly are. Be led by the “natural inclination” that’s encoded within your soul. Heed your inner directives. Don’t worry about what other people think. Say no when you need to. Cultivate healthy boundaries everyone in your life, and don’t be afraid to disappoint others when you hold to your intentions and honor your needs. And avoid comparing your life’s unfolding with that of others—we all have our very own train track with our own designated controls, stops, and speed settings.

4. Free yourself through healing and forgiveness.

Healing is the secret to having full access to our life force. Forgiveness means we accept our life’s unique curriculum and the sacred assignment each experience represents. We can even transcend the need to forgive if we proceed instead from radical understanding, compassion, heightened consciousness, and unconditional love. We all have what’s called a “pain-body,” a shadow part of us where all the negativity of a lifetime has built up a residue. When we heal the pain-body, we thrive.

5. Tell your inner critic where to go.

Your inner critic is that voice in your head forever cajoling you to be perfect as opposed to human. As you go to higher levels of who you are, be motivated by love of self as opposed to self-policing. Replace self-criticism with self-compassion. Let inspiration be your fuel rather than self-control. Give yourself a break from your inner judge. Refuse to give power to the bully within.

6. Step into your self-importance.

A healthy version of this much-maligned trait is critical if we are to do anything other than play small. Anyone who has accomplished anything of significance has placed importance upon themselves. It means prioritizing your desires, committing to yourself, and honoring your goals and intentions. It means taking yourself seriously. It means stepping into your full power, splendor, and majesty. It means calmly and humbly being the master of your destiny.

7. Hone your intuition.

Rely upon your sixth sense. It’s your most powerful inner resource. Tap into the divine intelligence and serve ably as your very own psychic. Become a powerful advisor to yourself. Your inner Knowing serves as your high beam headlights. With this additional illumination on life’s road, you can proceed with greater self-assurance, clarity, centeredness, and courage.

8. “Radically Relax” (aka MEDITATE).

“Letting go” on a daily basis is a game-changer. Just 15-minutes is medicine for an entire 24-hour window. A regular practice yields healing along with greater serenity, well-being, and confidence. Your anxiety fades away. Stress is replaced by wherewithal, the capacity to handle life’s demands with grace and aplomb. You grow more patient, less reactionary, and less easily triggered. You deepen your intuition and palpably feel your connection to source.

9. Take care of the temple that is your body.

Treat with awe and wonder the sacred vehicle that is ushering you through this journey called life. Your body is a miracle, without which, you are out of the game of life altogether. Lavish this extraordinary live machine of yours with gratitude for all its amazing functions, every last one of them designed to keep you surviving and thriving. Fuel your body with nutrition, physical movement, replenishing sleep, and pampering. Let your self-care practice be self-love in action.

10. Create a life you adore!

Turn the very life you’re living into a fulfilling, rewarding one you give thanks for every day. From right where you are, create a reality that uplifts and inspires you. Simply do the administration and make the needed tweaks. For when our life supports us at being at our best, we attract the circumstances we are wishing to attract. When we love our lives, we are magnetic for that great relationship, dream job, deep healing, or financial breakthrough.

11. Make the difference only you can make.

The world needs you. Of the billions of people on this planet, only you can offer what only you have to give. Connect to your passions, interests, and to the power of your natural inclination. Make a contribution to those around you accordingly. Moreover, simply being Y-O-U, at your best, will inspire everyone around you and as such serve as a powerful offering to the greater good.

Today’s article was written by Dr. Naomi Pabst and is shared from the following website:

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Creating a Life of Excellence

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit Aristotle

10 tips for creating a life and living your dream

Stop doing things just because others expect them of you.

Your heart must be in it to finish the race. When we do things just because we ‘should,’ we eventually reach a place of resentment, anger, and rebellion.

Get your priorities straight.

Spend your time, talents, and resources with the people, activities, or things that are meaningful to you. Stop wasting these on people or things that are not adding value to your life or that keep you from moving forward towards what you want to be or do.

March to the beat of your own band

The most satisfying experiences in our lives are when we are engaged physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or intellectually. Life is meant to be effortless. If you’re tugging and pulling, and everything feels like an uphill battle, then you’re doing the wrong thing.

Do what you’re good at and the money will follow.

Whether you’re a brain surgeon or a dogwalker, be the best you can be at it because you love it. Your enthusiasm and love for what you do is what will make you successful in the long run. Enthusiastic and positive people attract others to them who want that too.

Share your dream with others, but be discerning.

Realize that not everyone you share your dream with will be thrilled for you. Avoid the nay-sayers and focus on those people who can support you even if they don’t agree with you

Stop making excuses and just do it.

The reason (excuses) for why you have not taken that first step does not matter. What matters is that you take that first step NOW.

Determine what your ideal life looks like.

Most people’s initial response to this is ‘I don’t know.’ If you did know, what would your ideal life be like? Who would you want to live with, who would you like to meet, where would you like to live, what activities/shows/parties/places would you like to experience or be with?

Identify the stumbling blocks that can be turned into stepping stones.

Your past experiences and adversity can create opportunity for you. It’s all in how you look at life and how you choose to use those experiences so that you eliminate the blocks and move on in spite of them. Victory is yours!

Reduce your learning curve.

Learn from the experiences and mistakes of others. Instead of reinventing the wheel, take what you can apply from the trials and challenges others have overcome then tweak the process to fit your own situation.

Align yourself with a role model/mentor. 

Having someone who’s ‘been there and done that’ is one of the best ways to get yourself on track with what you want to accomplish or be. A mentor will be supportive, offer the benefit of his/her expertise and knowledge, and will listen to you when you need the support the most. Author Unknown

The Art of Achievement

You hold in your hand the camel’s-hair brush of a painter of Life. You stand before the vast white canvas of Time.

The paints are your thoughts, emotions and acts.

You select the colors of your thoughts; drab or bright, weak or strong, good or bad.

You select the colors of your emotions; discordant or harmonious, harsh or quiet, weak or strong.

You select the colors of your acts; cold or warm, fearful or daring, small or big.

You visualize yourself as the person you want to be.

You strive to make the ideal in your mind become a reality on the canvas of Time.

Each moment of your life is a brush stroke in the painting of your growing career.

There are the bold, sweeping strokes of one increasing, dynamic purpose.

There are the lights and shadows that make your life deep and strong.

There are the little touches that add the stamp of character and worth.

The art of achievement is the art of making life – your life – a masterpiece.

The Art of Achievement was written by Wilferd A. Peterson. Materials from today’s post were shared from the following website:



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How to Autograph Your Life with Excellence

Every job is a self portrait of the Person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence UnknownHere lived a great street sweeper who did his job well

I had been working much too long on this job. I guess things could have been worse. I certainly wasn’t doing hard labour. But going door to door asking questions as a representative of the federal government wasn’t the most satisfying position either. It was August. It was hot. I had to wear a tie.

‘Hello. My name is Bob Perks and we are doing a survey in this neighbourhood.’

‘I’m not interested! Good bye!’

You can’t imagine how many times I heard that. I finally caught on and began with

‘Before you slam the door, I am not selling anything and I just need to ask a few questions about yourself and the community.’ The young woman inside the doorway, paused for a moment, raised her eyebrows as she shrugged her shoulders confused by my rude introduction.

‘Sure. Come on in. Don’t mind the mess. It’s tough keeping up with my kids.’

It was an older home in a section of the valley where people with meagre income found affordable shelter. With the little they had, the home looked comfortable and welcoming.

‘I just need to ask a few questions about yourself and family. Although this may sound personal I won’t need to use your names. This information will be used’

She interrupted me. ‘Would you like a glass of cold water? You look like you’ve had a rough day.’

‘Why yes!’ I said eagerly. Just as she returned with the water, a man came walking in the front door. It was her husband.

‘Joe, this man is here to do a survey.’ I stood and politely introduced myself.

Joe was tall and lean. His face was rough and aged looking although I figured he was in his early twenties. His hands were like leather. The kind of hands you get from working hard, not pushing pencils. She leaned toward him and kissed him gently on the cheek. As they looked at each other you could see the love that held them together. She smiled and titled her head, laying it on his shoulder. He touched her face with his hands and softly said ‘I love you!’

They may not have had material wealth, but these two were richer than most people I know. They had a powerful love. The kind of love that keeps your head up when things are looking down.

‘Joe works for the borough.’ she said.

‘What do you do?’ I asked. She jumped right in not letting him answer.

‘Joe collects garbage. You know I’m so proud of him.’

‘Honey, I’m sure the man doesn’t want to hear this.’ said Joe.

‘No, really I do.’ I said.

‘You see Bob, Joe is the best garbage man in the borough. He can stack more garbage on the truck than anyone else. He gets so much in one truck that they don’t have to make as many runs’, she said with such passion.

‘In the long run,’ Joe continues, ‘I save the borough money. Man hours are down and the cost per truck is less.’

There was silence. I didn’t know what to say. I shook my head searching for the right words. ‘That’s incredible! Most people would gripe about a job like that. It certainly is a difficult one. But your attitude about it is amazing.’ I said. She walked over to the shelf next to the couch. As she turned she held in her hand a small-framed paper.

‘When we had our third child Joe lost his job. We were on unemployment for a time and then eventually welfare. He couldn’t find work anywhere. Then one day he was sent on an interview here in this community. They offered him the job he now holds. He came home depressed and ashamed. Telling me this was the best he could do. It actually paid less than we got on welfare.’

She paused for a moment and walked toward Joe. ‘I have always been proud of him and always will be. You see I don’t think the job makes the man. I believe the man makes the job!’

‘We needed to live in the borough in order to work here. So we rented this home.’ Joe said.

‘When we moved in, this quote was hanging on the wall just inside the front door. It has made all the difference to us, Bob. I knew that Joe was doing the right thing.’ she said as she handed me the frame.

It said: If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep the streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’ Martin Luther King

‘I love him for who he is. But what he does, he does the best. I love my garbage man!’

Today’s inspiring story was written by Bob Parks and is shared from the following website:

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