The Paradox of Strength.

Some lessons happen over a lifetime. Others happen in an instant.

Either way, the paradox of strength is that it develops though pain.

Each misfortune cultivates a renewed appreciation.

Each obstacle fosters a new level of perseverance.

Each sadness teaches a greater depth of compassion.

Each challenge harvests a new field of possibilities.

We must fall down to rise up.

Again and again and again.

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Related Post: I've never met a strong person with an easy past.

Would you rather be liked or respected?

Liked vs. Respected

This question came to mind last week when I took over a college class halfway through the semester.

I know how tough it is for students to have 2 professors over the course of a 12 week semester. 2 sets of rules. 2 sets of expectations.

So it’s more important than ever that I play my “first impression” card right.

Students are more likely to “test the limits with the “new teacher”. Accordingly, I use a more strict than usual demeanour at the start of summer semester.

It usually works well. As my tough love approach becomes more on the love side, and less on the tough side as the weeks roll by.

However, this time I knew my first class authoritarian approach was not going to work.

Suddenly I had my hands full right off the bat. One of my students was not impressed in any way.

After laying down the law, the student looked up at me and said: “I’m not going to like you very much.”

And I said: “Good, because I’m not here to be liked, I’m here to teach you something.”

The student loudly responded: “Good, because I just learned something!

To this day I am grateful for how much this student underscored my purpose in the classroom. 

I am not here to be liked. I am here to teach psychology.

A life lesson in self-worth that applies to us all.

“Self-worth comes from one thing – thinking that you are worthy.”

Are you a highly sensitive person (HSP)?

The first step to compassion is understanding.

Do you experience more stress than the average person? Are you overly sensitive to external stimuli. Chances are, there is nothing wrong with you or your coping strategies.

Instead, your brain may be more sensitive to stress than the average person. You may in fact, be what Dr. Elaine Aron has coined “A Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP).

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Neurological differences found in HSP’s.

Brain scans show that HSP’s have “heightened activity in empathy-related brain regions” including the anterior insula (insular cortex), highlighted in the brain scan below.

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The intensified response of highly sensitive people (HSP) to stress is not a choice – it’s biological. HSP brains are wired differently than the average person. This fact has been clearly supported by scientific research.

Self Test: Are You Highly Sensitive?

  1. Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
  2. Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
  3. Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
  4. Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
  5. Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
  6. Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
  7. Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  8. When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy?        

Source: HSP Self-Test                                                                                            

Harnessing HSP’s Strengths.

The main challenge for most HSP’s is to acknowledge their heightened emotional sensitivity, understand their unique emotional needs, and finally to employ distinctive strategies for coping with stress.

Helpful websites and resources below –

  1. A Guide to the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) by Dr. Judith Orloff
  2. Coping Strategies for the Highly Sensitive Person by Dr. Ted Zeff
  3. How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Dr. Elaine Aron
  4. Highly Sensitive People in the Workplace by Janine Ramsey
  5. With Care, You and Your Sensitivity Will Flourish by Deborah Ward

Cherish your sensitivity. It is your superpower.

You were born to thrive.

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Do not fear challenge or adversity.

Run towards it. Not away from it.

Use it consciously. As a stepping stone.

To ascend. To soar.

To propel yourself forward.

To begin again. 

For strength is ultimately built from challenge, from difficulty, from overcoming.

You were born to thrive!

Watch my video for helpful strategies on how to thrive.

Harnessing positive energy.

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The next time you’re tempted to complain about the same thing (over and over again), direct that same (frustrated) energy into your highest, loftiest goals. Consciously swap one complaint for one baby step towards your dreams. Same energy required. Magically different results. 🎈

Related Post: Set a time limit on negativity.

You hold the key.

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Even though we often have little control over the “outside forces” in our lives, we can always make a positive difference – from the inside out.

Start here. Right here. Right now. Be still. Breathe in gratitude. Be thankful for this very moment. Start small. Notice your passing thoughts. Let go.

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Awareness empowers.

Notice the exact time it is right now. Say today’s date out loud. Look up at the sky. Wink at the clouds. Stomp your feet on the floor. Smile with gusto.

Slowly bring yourself back to this moment.

Grab onto the coffee mug you are holding. Inhale the rich scent of the sumatra you are drinking. Feel the warmth of each passing breath.

Feel the texture of the clothes you’re wearing. Wake up to the sound of your voice. Whisper. Sing. Shout it out!

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Dance a little dance. Stand up tall. Anything and everything that shifts you from outer space to inner spirit. From not enough to overflowing.

Positive change begins within.

Come back to yourself. Back to the grace of your magnificent spirit. Into the beauty of your incredible form. Feel the rhythm of your beating heart. Sense the pulse of life itself. 

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Everything you need to transform yourself and the world already exists within you. You matter. You truly matter. But you have to believe it to see it. Feel it to know it. One gentle, uplifting thought at a time.

You hold the key.

Letting life flow.

Stressful Times.

The one word I hear repeatedly from students this time of year is drowning.

Drowning in bills. Drowning in midterms. Drowning in research.

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Not a pleasant thought. And definitely not energizing.

A sinking feeling that takes student motivation from 100 to 0 in an instant.

By thought alone.

Empowering Lessons.

How can we help students to feel more empowered in the midst of winter weather, too many midterms, and not enough time.

Transforming Stressors.

We meet students where they’re at. By embracing that stressful, drowning thought and transforming it into a peaceful, floating feeling. By helping students feel safe and supported. In and out of the classroom.

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Trusting the Flow.

We remind students of their resilience. We show them how far they’ve come. We encourage them to flow with the moment instead of fighting against the current. Then and only then can the focused learning begin.

Video from today's psychology class. 🌊

What helps you go with the flow?

Your strengths light my way.

“See the light in others and treat them as if that’s all you see.”

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The field of positive psychology has been a blessing for me, both personally and professionally.

By focusing on strengths first, I buffer myself against the  vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue often associated with the practice of psychology. And in turn, my positive approach heightens the resilience and stress hardiness in others. (Boomerang effect!)

Everywhere I go, I’m on the lookout for genius. And I don’t mean genius in the general sense. I mean strengths, assets, gifts, capabilities, multiple intelligences that are unique to each person. (Einstein’s quote below captures it perfectly.)

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For not only is strengths finding essential for illuminating the abundance in others, it is essential for harnessing the bounty in ourselves.

As each time we witness the light shining brightly in another, we see their radiance reflected back in ourselves.

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Reflection Questions

Identify 2-5 strengths that you witnessed in others today. Describe how seeing the strengths in others brought out the strengths in you.

  1. Today I discovered my sister’s ___________.  This illuminated my:
  2. Today I noticed my manager’s  ____________.  This bolstered my:
  3. Today I uncovered my student’s  __________.  This reinforced my:

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Related Post: Positive Psychology on Campus.

If you need help with finding the good in others especially the challenging people in your life click on this this link to a great article in Psychology Today.