Search

The Enchanted Outlook

Tag

politics

Investing in Being a Good Citizen (Investment Charms Series)

citizenship.jpg

I’ll admit, this post comes after a number of failures on my part. Working in the social services field means I’m often seeing the direct, day-to-day impact of policy changes, which can feel frustrating. I’ve gotten lost in my share of ugly internet debates. I’ve burnt out trying to address everything I care about at once. I’ve found myself feeling bitter and even despondent. I don’t think any of these reactions was “wrong,” but, none of them helped me to be a better citizen, nor did they make me feel any better.  So, I went back to the drawing board. What does citizenship actually mean?

Citizenship

  • the fact or status of being a citizen of a particular place

  • the qualities that a person is expected to have as a responsible member of a community

This post is about the second definition. What kind of qualities make someone a responsible member of a community? I’ve spent a lot of time lately trying to figure out what it looks like to be a good citizen and how to have good citizenship in a way that was healthy, sustaining, and encouraging growth, while not shying away from taking responsibility for truths that need addressing. I came up with a combination of four areas of citizenship: ownership, goodwill, education, and action. Focusing on these four areas has helped me to be a happier and more effective citizen, so I wanted to share in case they were helpful to others as well.

Now, by ownership, I mean recognizing the ways in which we benefit (if indeed we do) from being a citizen of a particular governance or organization and then feeling a responsibility for our part in that governance or organization. Maybe we have the opportunity to attend a school. Maybe we can use emergency services. Maybe our area has public museums or parks.  When we do benefit from our citizenship, perhaps this can bring about a sense of both gratitude and responsibility. I like to think that we as citizens of our nations and our communities can take a certain pride and ownership in helping maintain services that are for the benefit of all people. It also means realizing the impact that our decisions can have in the community as a whole and taking ownership of the results of our decisions.

By goodwill, I mean having a general attitude of cooperation and good intent towards others.  This means humanizing individuals from all walks of life. I don’t take this to mean always being agreeable with everyone; in some circumstances, it may mean standing one’s ground or setting boundaries without resorting to disrespect or ridicule. I think that setting boundaries and standing our ground can sometimes be an act of kindness and compassion, if this is done with an attitude of goodwill. And personally, I think it is much easier to have goodwill towards others if we first practice self-love and self-acceptance. I find it is much more difficult to empathize from a place of hurt, shame, or fear.

By education, I mean immersing oneself in the diverse needs and challenges of the community. To me, this means not only consuming a variety of media sources with strong codes of ethics, but also making efforts to reach out to community members from all walks of life. This means going out of our comfort zone and questioning our preconceived notions. If this feels time-consuming, it doesn’t have to be. It can mean making small changes over time, such as as liking social media pages about various social or environmental interests or subscribing to brief email updates, and in turn sharing that information with others. To dig deeper, volunteering can be a great way to learn more about community needs, and can be fun at the same time! Which leads me to…

Action. I find it most helpful to focus on action-oriented solutions. While it’s great to have a general knowledge of community needs, I would recommend picking one or two causes to become actively involved in so you don’t burn out. This means finding effective ways of giving back to the community and also sharing those ways with others. I would also personally encourage statistically significant, data-driven ways of giving back. Look into annual reports and results of studies, if they are available. Action has an added benefit because I find that negative people tend to have a harder time arguing with concrete actions rather than words. Action can be anything from volunteer work to donations, to engaging in community events to, of course, giving feedback and voting on issues. And finally, action might sometimes mean accepting that the way in which we have previously engaged as citizens might be harmful, and making meaningful changes to better the way we interact with our communities.

Now, when I find myself in a political or social conundrum or a disagreement, I move down that list. Am I taking good ownership on the issue as a member of my community? Am I responding in a way that exhibits goodwill to others? Do I have enough education on the subject at hand, and if so, have I taken the time to help educate others? And finally, have I taken action towards effective change rather than just talking about the issue?

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with investments and why I’ve included it in the investment series. Well, as Dr. Martin Luther King once said,

“Whatever effects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

Never forget that when we invest in our community as a whole, we also invest in ourselves. To me, citizenship is a verb, not a noun. There are so many different ways of being engaged citizens of our communities. When we take the responsibility to learn more about our communities’ needs and act accordingly, we are able to pay forward the benefits that being members of that community has afforded us.

Do you like these tenants of ownership, goodwill, education and action? Is there something else related to good citizenship that I’ve overlooked? Or, is there a tactic you use in order to be a happier, more engaged citizen of your community?

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!

StockSnap_EWT7K0DQLN

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!

Enchantment in Light and Darkness

StockSnap_QK5BAKUU9P

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.

 

Featured post

New Year’s Resolution: Five Things Learned So Far

bud growth new years resolution

I am now on my third month of my resolution to invest in growth, both in my personal growth and in the world around me. Here are a few things I have learned:

1.Investments come in all shapes and sizes. I was a bit worried about investing in growth this year because my budget is tighter right now than normal and my life has been pretty chaotic lately. There are a few things, like purchasing a news subscription, that I have decided to hold off on. BUT, I have realized that there are so many things we can do to invest in ourselves and the world around us that cost nothing or can even save us money. I have enjoyed consuming a more plant-based diet, simplifying my cosmetic/beauty ritual with more versatile and ethical products like shampoo bars, purchasing re-usable products rather than disposable ones, learning new things through Youtube and Netflix, and becoming more politically active. I know that when I do have more flexibility in my budget again, I will be able to save more money because of these budget-cutting changes.

2. Not everyone gets on board. I’ve shared a lot of my changes with friends and family, with varied results. I’ve had one person ask me why I would shop at a co-cop or farmer’s market when Kroger was so much cheaper. I tried to explain that I shop healthier there and purchase less junk food and less meat, so I actually save money, both literally and in healthcare costs down the road. Got a blank look from that one. I’ve shared some Facebook links encouraging a call to action that got very minimal responses. (Having worked for a nonprofit before, I expected that.) But, sharing information isn’t so much for all the people who don’t respond as for the people who DO find the information useful or inspiring. That makes it worth it.

3. You learn what people DO want to invest in. For all the moments I thought people would respond and they didn’t, there were some that surprised me, like the time I shared the $10/month Mighty Fix subscription I bought back in September and got a HUGE response with tons of comments and even people texting me for more information. Another time, I asked for documentary recommendations for me to watch so I could learn new things and got so many responses I still haven’t watched them all. So, sometimes the things people do get involved with can surprise you.

4. Perfectionism is a thing. Because so much of what I am doing involves self-improvement, I do sometimes feel a little hypocritical when I fall short of my own expectations. I eat fast food with a client about once or twice a week and I am still beating back an insatiable sweet tooth daily. I’ve been wanting to reduce my trash, but have thrown away a lot of trash lately since I’ve been cleaning out my house. I’ve found myself questioning things I say or how I present myself if it isn’t “growth-oriented” and have to remind myself to invest in self-care and authenticity, too. I’ve second-guessed a few purchases that were not the most ethical or the most prudent choices. When these things happen, I just try to remind myself that growth is not linear. The important thing, I think, is not to restrict ourselves or think about what we “should” be doing but rather to enjoy the process of growth and to realize all the ways our lives are enriched by making positive changes.

5. Growth is a mindset, not a temporary change. There is actually a wonderful book that goes into this in much more detail by Carol Dweck. In this process, I have realized that it is not so much about the physical changes I am making, though they have certainly been impactful to me, but in nourishing my ability to affect change in myself and to share that with others. It’s had a huge impact on my perceived self-efficacy. Things like learning new facts that have completely blown my mind, getting responses to emails I have sent out to political leaders, having people contact me to ask questions about changes I am making, figuring out simpler ways to perform everyday tasks- those things have made me realize that investing in growth is a lifestyle change that could potentially have ripple effects within myself and maybe even in my community as well. It’s that realization, even more than the actual changes, that has had a huge impact on my outlook in life.

If You Care About Your Daughter (Transgender Bathrooms and Other Issues)

If you care about your daughter transgender bathroom.jpg

I’m going a bit off the beaten path today because I just found out my state of Virginia is proposing a bathroom bill similar to that of North Carolina. Against my better judgement, I veered into the comments section of a local news post on the subject. The number one complaint was, “What about my daughter? I don’t want my daughter in the bathroom with some man!”

Here is my response for those who are citing concern for their daughters as a reason to support this bill:

  • If you care about your daughter, teach her to be an empathetic person. Encourage her to read. Encourage her to learn. Encourage her to ask questions about the world. Encourage her to make friends from all walks of life. Encourage her to be the type of person you can be proud of.
  • If you care about your daughter, teach her to be an ally. Teach her to be the kind of person who knows the plight of transgender people and will stand up for their rights. If she ends up being transgender herself, she will thank you for being so accepting and this will help her (his) own journey as well.
  • If you care about your daughter, raise her to think critically. Ask her questions. Get her a subscription to National Geographic or sit down and watch some documentaries with her. See what she thinks. Encourage her to pursue the facts relentlessly. Teach her about media bias.
  • If you care about your daughter, teach her how women should be treated. Be a good example and role model for your family. Let her know what to expect in a healthy relationship. Support politicians and community leaders who value women’s rights and treat women with respect.
  • If you care about your daughter (and all daughters in the world), educate your son. Raise him to be respectful to women. Raise him to be the kind of son you would trust one hundred percent alone in a room with a woman he doesn’t know. Raise him to be a feminist and to stand up for equal rights for women. Raise him to respect jobs traditionally held by women, such as secretarial positions, nursing, teaching, and stay-at-home parenting, and teach him the value of these roles. And raise him to respect women who are in traditionally male-dominated workplaces as well.
  • If you care about your daughter, teach her to fight. Teach her to fight for her rights. Teach her to fight for equal pay. Teach her to fight for her own body. And yes, teach her how to fight physically, so that maybe if she sees a transgender person being beaten in a bathroom one day, she can swing that ponytail and darn well do something about it.

To learn more about bathroom risks and transgender rights, check out these links below:

http://www.npr.org/2016/05/15/477954537/when-a-transgender-person-uses-a-public-bathroom-who-is-at-risk

http://time.com/4314896/transgender-bathroom-bill-male-predators-argument/

http://www.hrc.org/resources/transgender-faq

http://www.glaad.org/transgender/transfaq

 

Daily Gratitude: Integrity

in-life-you-always-have

I have grappled a lot this week with the direction I want this blog to go. When I revamped my blog, one of my main goals was to “stay on subject.” With that, I didn’t want this to become one big political platform. However, this week has been, in no uncertain terms, unusual circumstances.

Here’s the thing. This IS a blog about finding life’s magic and so much of finding life’s magic is about finding the good in life, standing up for what is right, and defeating our monsters, whatever they may be. So much of fantasy, and of happiness, is rooted in adamant beliefs in the importance of altruism, open-mindedness, interconnectedness, and the seeking of truth.

I woke up very clear-headed this morning and the anxiety I had all week was replaced with a dauntless integrity. I made some promises to myself, to my readers, and to the world at large. Some of them were hard to make but I will try my best to stick to them. They are as follows:

1. I just subscribed to NPR and plan on making a donation to them as well. I am going to do some hard research into various news sites to make sure the information I consume and share is reputable, truthful, well researched, and supportive of diverse opinions and contrasting views.

2.I will continue to engage in respectful discourse with those who have opposing views than mine because that is the only way we can all move forward. I will try my very best to listen. I will continue to try my best to support the rights and interests of all Americans regardless of political affiliation, so long as those interests don’t infringe upon the inalienable rights of others.

3. I promise to try my best to vote with my dollars, to support local businesses, to support fair trade, to put my money where my mouth is.

4. I promise to stand up for the safety of my fellow Americans from all walks of life regardless of their political views, sexuality, skin color, or gender. Provided the American government also stands up for these inalienable rights, I promise to support them as well.

To these promises I would kindly ask my American readers to consider doing the same because the only way we can all move forward together is with integrity, empathy, understanding, open-mindedness, and in being as informed on the facts as we possibly can be in an era of media misinformation.

Tomorrow, I will go back to “programming as usual.” Today, I faced my greatest monster, my own uncertainty, and I can now put my sword back in its sheath, sling my shield on my back, and walk away in good conscience.

Today’s Gratitude: Peace of Mind

river-bath-peace

I just voted and I already feel a tremendous weight lifted off my shoulders. One thing I learned from working in crisis intervention was that when we are in crisis and the brain is not “in equilibrium,” so to speak, making a decision in and of itself can resolve the crisis. In other words, the process of making a decision often feels more stressful than the actual decision, even if the decision we make is the wrong one or leads to more stress in the long run.

I do feel that I made the best decision I could, and truthfully, it was a decision that I made in my head a long time ago, but I didn’t get to act on it until today. I know a lot of Americans have felt stressed and out of sync lately, and with the exception of those who voted early, today is the one day we get to really, truly, take action about it. That is a beautiful thing, because it puts the control back in our hands. Obviously I will be watching with baited breath to see the outcome, but for me personally, I feel a great sense of relief in knowing that I put in as much effort as I could to make the most informed decision I could, and that there is nothing further I can do. I am also grateful for the opportunity to play my own very small part, and grateful for the women who fought so hard for suffrage so that I am able to have my own very small piece of democracy.

What are you grateful for?

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑