Category Archives: Good ideas

What if you didn’t view conflicts as a problem?

You could view conflict as a sign that someone or something is wrong. That attitude makes conflict something to avoid and the solution would seem to be to control the other person or people.

Or you could see conflict as natural, occurring because people care. Something that can be handled. And if handled by “win-win” methods, conflict can be enriching and can help create new ways to cooperate.

In a conflict, it’s important to see what you have in common. If nothing else, we’re all human. Stay connected to the other person’s humanity.

That was one eye-opening message I took home from the first night of a 6-week course being taught by Kit Miller and Malik Thompson from the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in Rochester.

It’s so easy to see conflict as a problem. It mucks things up, right? But how much happier life could be if we can see someone’s contrary view as a sign that he or she really cares about the issue. Look for each person’s underlying needs. Assume we can find a way to meet them that serves both of us.

The course: Nonviolent Communication, an approach and training created by American psychology Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D.  (1934-2015). Special thanks to First Unitarian Church of Rochester for hosting the classes.



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Filed under Being grateful, Good ideas, Learning


When you’re paying attention to something, you start noticing it everywhere.

I’ve been thinking about heroism lately. The obvious heroes save or protect people despite personal risk, such as firefighters, police and security people. Others who likely never expected to be called to such action rise in a moment of need, such as Alabama school bus driver Charles Poland, who was shot and killed last week while trying to protect students from the gunman.

There are many everyday, quieter heroes. My friend who takes care of her superdad and sonmother as her needs increase due to dementia. Parents who set aside their own needs to respond to their ill children. People who behave ethically when nobody’s watching and it would be easier to not follow the rules. Individuals and groups who work to improve their community and the world.

Any of us can be a hero. Be inspired by the great work and the opportunities around you. Don’t wait for a burning building or until you’ve figured out how to do something “just right.” Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good (a proverb commonly attributed to Voltaire).

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The idea that happiness comes from success is backward

I wasn’t in the best mood today. But I just received a wonderful gift: a link posted by friend Sara M. to this great (and funny!) TED talk on happiness by Shawn Achor, a psychologist whose younger sister is a unicorn.

(You have to watch the video to understand.)

His message:

“[It’s] the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.”

We hear that we should work hard to be successful, which will make us happy.

But Shawn Achor, CEO of Good Think Inc., points out that if you succeed at something, then the expectations get set higher. Happiness remains on the far side of the ever-rising bar.

Reverse it, he suggests. Change your outlook and become happy now — and you’ll work and learn better and faster.

He outlines the ways research has proven that people can train their brain to become more positive:

1. Each day for three weeks, write down three new things you’re grateful for. This retrains your brain to scan for positive things instead of negative things.

2. Journaling (writing) about something positive you’ve experienced in the past 24 hours allows your brain to relive it.

3. Exercising teaches your brain that behavior matters.

4. Meditating helps counter our attention deficit hyperactivity culture.

5. Doing acts of kindness, such as sending one e-mail a day thanking someone, builds positive feelings.

A big thank you to Sara M. for helping me refocus! Here’s the link:


Filed under Being grateful, Good ideas

Six habits to boost happiness

This stuff makes sense, and it’s backed by scientific research.

Six habits that help people cultivate happiness in their lives:

  1. Pay attention.
  2. Keep friends close.
  3. Drop grudges.
  4. Get moving.
  5. Practice kindness.
  6. (No surprise!) Give thanks.

For more:

Thanks to First Unitarian Church of Rochester for sharing that link from the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, The center sponsors groundbreaking scientific research into social and emotional well-being and helps people apply this research to their personal and professional lives.

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Filed under Being grateful, Good ideas

Weekend food for needy children

Poor children can get free breakfast and lunch at school. So how well do they eat on weekends?

Colleagues of mine heard of an effort elsewhere that sends home nonperishable food with needy students on Fridays. In a wonderful coincidence, we discovered that Foodlink (the regional food bank) has a grant to start BackPack Food programs here. Studies have found that when kids eat better on the weekend, they do better in school.

There were obstacles to getting the program going. The application required a pile of documents. Details seemed to change each time we talked to a coordinator at Foodlink. We had to work out delivery plans. My church is sponsoring the program at the two schools where we provide volunteer tutors, and we had to decide whether we could afford the fees.

But thanks to great work by Tracy Smith and others, it’s happening. Today we delivered the first bags of food to one school. It looks like everything will be in place for our other partner school to start in January.

I’m grateful that people were willing to try something new that will help children have nutritious food.

ImageImageThis shows what was in one bag (for one student).

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Kindness: Charity, Philanthropy, & Social Responsibility –

Kindness: Charity, Philanthropy, & Social Responsibility –

Does your parent, sweetheart or sibling really need another sweater? Consider alternative approaches to gifts.

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