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The Enchanted Outlook

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Perceptions

Investing in Helpful Thoughts (Investment Charms Series)

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Last week, I talked about investing in decisions that will lead to less stress and better outcomes in the future. This week, I would like to talk about a different kind of investment: our thoughts.

Thoughts may be a bit more difficult to change than decisions. While we can see the external result of the decisions we make, we may not be as aware of our thought processes. Still, I think there is a lot of value in taking the time to invest in our way of thinking. So often, we work to exercise our bodies, but we neglect to exercise our minds.

What I have done in the past and have found to be helpful is to start with one thought process to work on first. Maybe you would like to change a certain language usage or pay closer attention to the way you treat yourself internally.  It helps to take some time to first be mindful and present with your current thought process. That way, you know where your starting point is and what you would like to change. Consider journaling, meditating, or talking things over with a friend to get started. Pay attention to the way you talk to yourself or to what you think about when you try to make plans or set goals.

Consider also having an external reminder of the change you would like to make, whether that be a written goal, a quote that speaks to your desired change, or even something symbolic, like a piece of art or jewelry. Strange as it may seem, I have used rings before to represent certain goals because I tend to look at my hands frequently as I type or write. I have one ring that I use to represent mindfulness and another that I use to represent self-care. Regardless, it helps for it be be something you notice regularly. Consider setting a reminder on your phone if you would like, or choosing a particular time of day with which to reflect on your goal.

The idea behind this is that changing our way of thinking takes practice and repetition, but it can have huge benefits in the long-run. With some time and effort, you may find yourself feeling better, having a more positive outlook, or finding it easier to meet your goals. Finally, if you are struggling to identify your thought patterns or make the changes you would like to make, consider seeing a licensed counselor, who can help identify any thought patterns that may be maladaptive and offer alternatives.

Is there something you have invested in that you found to be particularly helpful? If so, feel free to share!

The Very Foundations

Money Won’t Create Success

Money Won't Create Success

A controversial quote here, but a new favorite of mine. I love Mandela’s perspective on the prospect of making money as a freedom denied to many due to lack of societal upward economic mobility. We talk about a lot of freedoms in this world, but having the freedom to earn a living or achieve success through working hard is one that, in my opinion, we could champion a lot more. I am thinking of my fellow humans who have been denied that freedom today.

Back to School!

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It’s official: I’m going back to school next year to pursue a Master’s Degree in Social Work. Now, whenever I tell people this, they tend to assume that I’ll be working in child protective services. So, if you’re unfamiliar with  the degree, I’ll give you some information about social work and explain how it relates to what I do here on this blog as well.

Social work can be defined as work done by trained individuals with the goal of aiding and empowering those in need. Lots of different occupations can be considered social work; for instance:

  • positions in nonprofit management
  • individuals in hospitals who develop plans of care
  • government workers who see if individuals qualify for assistance
  • counselors
  • people who work in politics and advocate for individuals’ rights

Social work also encompasses a wide variety of fields, including education, healthcare, mental health, economics, politics, urban development, and more. So, you can imagine it’s a broad degree that is applicable to a lot of areas.

What exactly will I be doing, and how does it relate to The Enchanted Outlook? Well, I’m pursuing a clinical track, and my goal is to become a licensed counselor. There are several different degrees which lead to clinical licensure, including social work, counseling, and psychology; one reason that I chose the social work track, besides the broadness of the field, was because it takes a slightly different perspective. Instead of a primary focus of adapting an individual to their environment, as some other counseling degrees would, a social worker also takes into account sociological factors and aims to help adapt environment to the individual.

For instance, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) counseling a client who had been raped might connect their client with legal resources. An LCSW counseling a client who was disabled and out of work might take some steps to assist that client in finding appropriate employment. LCSWs are frequently found in public and nonprofit settings, but counsel in the private sector as well. While there are a lot of overlaps between this and other forms of counseling, I really liked the sociological perspective that social work provides, especially with where my country is at the present, and the opportunity to advocate for individuals and groups that it gives.

My intent is to have a very balanced approach to my counseling, though, which brings me back to this blog. In The Enchanted Outlook, I talk a lot about cognitive reframing, which is about changing the way we perceive things and viewing them in a more helpful way. This is a technique which I intend to bring into my counseling. I hope that all of my future clients will be able to walk away from their sessions seeing life in a bit more “magical” way. I also intend to share counseling tips and tricks regarding cognitive reframing here, so I hope that having this advanced degree will enrich my blogging and be helpful to you all as well.

I will have two years of school, and then two to three years of post-graduate field work, before obtaining licensure, so this will be a long and arduous journey, but I’m so excited to get started this fall! I am apologizing in advance for inconsistent blogging that is sure to come once I’m in the thick of it, but hopefully the quality of my information obtained through my education will compensate for lack of quantity of posts. That’s it; I hope this wasn’t too boring and that it clarified some things for you. Thanks for stopping by!

Aging the Wabi Sabi Way

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Three things happened to me this past week that were a wake-up call:

  • I overheard a volunteer at my work refer to me as a “lady.”
  • A younger coworker commented that I “looked tired.”
  • I wasn’t carded when I ordered a wheat beer at a restaurant.

All of those things were true. I’m not a girl; I’m a lady. I was tired. I’m not twenty-one; I’m thirty.

So why did I feel bad? Maybe because I’m not at the point in my professional life where I thought I’d be at this age? Maybe because life hasn’t exactly played out how I’d anticipated it would? Maybe because society pays attention to (or objectifies) younger women while ignoring older women? Or maybe because I have a husband who still gets carded when buying video games?

Rather than sit in the muck for too long about this, though, I turned my attention to Wabi Sabi. If you are unfamiliar with Wabi Sabi, it’s a Japanese philosophy that states three principles:

  • Nothing is perfect.
  • Nothing is permanent.
  • Nothing is complete.

In short, it’s a reverence for the transience and imperfection of life. Wabi Sabi philosophy believes life is all the more beautiful for its continuously changing state. The bumps, cracks, and rough edges of Wabi Sabi objects make them all the more beautiful. You can find Wabi Sabi in a patched dress or a cracked mug that has been repaired.

We can also find Wabi Sabi in ourselves. We are all imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Rather than having that be a source of stress, it can be a source of beauty. The cracks and bumps we acquire, inside and out, can make us all the more beautiful. The wisdom we have accumulated over the years shows up not only in our minds, but can be seen on our faces. I think that is a beautiful thing, and something worth celebrating.

Find-a-place-inside

Enchantment in Light and Darkness

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I have been studying the concept of magic and its connection to the concept of happiness for about four years now.  It has been an incredible journey so far and has lead me down all sorts of paths I never thought I would travel. I would like to revisit one aspect of the subject today and clarify an opinion that has… not so much changed, but has lately been easier to put into words.

I have defined enchantment in relation to how the term is used in fantasy literature. In fantasy, an enchantment is a type of magic that alters the perception of the individual, rather than altering the world around them. When a person is enchanted, they see things differently. In this way, The Enchanted Outlook is a term I made up for the concept of learning how to alter our perspectives to see things in a more imaginative and positive way. In other words, it’s about cognitive re-framing.

However, because  I have spent my career working in settings where I see social injustice on a daily basis, one concept that I have personally grappled with is where cognitive re-framing fits in with inequality and injustice. Certainly, to suggest that any person suffering from an external cause would have their problems disappear by simply shifting their perspective is irresponsible and blames the wrong source. Trust me: I’ve been given this advice myself during times of grief and loss and it wasn’t comforting. Changing how we view the world does not make the world change, and it does not make the monsters go away.

I turn, instead, to one of my favorite passages, from G. K. Chesterson about the power of fairy tales for children:

Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.

You may have seen this condensed as the quote, “Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.”

I don’t present the concept of an Enchanted Outlook because I don’t know the world can be ugly or because I want to blame those who suffer at its expense. Rather, I present this concept because I DO know that it can be an ugly place. I hope that the Enchanted Outlook serves as inspiration to defeat whatever monsters may be out there through offering hope.

And so, with this blog, I offer a shift in perspective that I hope will provide courage to face the world with a renewed spirit, regardless of your circumstances or your beliefs. For, whether you are trying to make small changes in your life, or you are going through a terrible darkness that feels completely out of your control, we all need a spark of hope and happiness in order to fight our own dragons.

 

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Maslow 2

5 Tips to Start the Work Day Right: Work Charms Series

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Today’s Work Charm is all about starting the day off on the right foot. I’ve added a few tips that I find helpful to make sure my workday is a success.

1. Practice acceptance. In any workday, there will be things that are out of our control. We can accept this and focus on what is within our power to change. There is no point in getting upset over things outside of our control. A little self-love goes a long way.

2. Make a list. Focus on the things that are the most important and the most urgent first. Check out this quadrant from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People if you haven’t already. It will keep you from getting stuck in the rut of email-checking for hours on end.

3. Eat your frogs first. This means do that difficult task that you know you will be dreading all day first so that the rest of your day you won’t be stressing over it. For more information, check out this post.

4. Consider flow. Flow is a state when we are “in the zone” that has been shown to increase our happiness. In order to achieve flow, your task needs to be engaging, challenging but not TOO challenging, and have clearly defined goals.

5. Find your challenge. In the book, SuperbetterJane McGonagal talks about viewing obstacles as a challenge, rather than a threat. Threats trigger your cortisol, making you feel stressed and leading to myriad health problems. Challenges, in contrast, trigger the reward center of your brain, releasing dopamine, which is correlated with happiness. So, the next time you have a difficult task ahead of you, try to view it as a challenge, rather than as a threat.

How to you make sure you start your work day off right?

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