Monday, January 14, 2002

No Ice Can Be Nice

I'm in a fishing slump. I have been for about a month and a half. Here in Northern Michigan, the lakes have not safely frozen yet (as a couple of snowmobilers proved over the holidays). But there's too much snow and ice on the lakes to get the boat out. Besides, the trailer registration expired in December. Sigh. So what to do? The dogs have kept me busy with two walks a day but there's still a gap. This is the time of year I fill the gap with some extra reading and reflection.  Nature is going deep and protecting her roots right now, I'm following suit. Over the holidays I read four books I want to share with you.

So, when folks ask me, "How was your holidays and what did you get?", here's what I say:

I got that my IQ, my cognitive intelligence, has less to do with my future than my emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman, in his book Emotional Intelligence, suggests that factors like self-awareness, self-discipline, and empathy “add far more to the qualities that make us more fully human.” Faced with a particular situation, it's our emotions in balance with reason that guide us through the situation better than our ability to use reason alone. In fact, Goleman states, “intellect cannot work at its best without emotional intelligence.” I see this all the time when coaching. I love it that someone is doing the research and writing about it. A word of warning, this is a research book and there's quite a bit of preliminary information on how the brain works. But the author gives you permission to skip that part. There's a whole section of the book devoted to developing emotional literacy in children. This is the book I recommended when my friend called to complain that she couldn't spend one more hour of Christmas break with her highly intelligent but emotionally charged 20-year-old daughter.

I got that any change we want to make comes in stages (precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and termination) and we don't move through each stage consistently. Change is a spiral process rather than a linear one. For those of you making New Year's resolutions, this book, Changing for Good by James Prochaska, John Norcross and Carlo DiClemente, will increase your odds of success. The other great insight in this book is how little emphasis we put on the important preparation stage of change. Many of us skip right over preparation and go directly from contemplation to action. No wonder resolutions so often fail by February. So if I ever go back to making New Year's resolutions, my resolution will be to hit the preparation stage by the first of the year, not action. I love the idea of saving action for spring.

I got that Rule Number 6 is “don't take yourself so goddamn seriously” and that there are no other rules. I passed on that bit of wisdom from Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander’s book The Art of Possibility when one of my fishing buddies called to complain that there was nothing to do, no good ice and the love of his life was in the garage without her engine. Chapter One, It's All Invented, gets right to the heart and the point of this book. “It is through the evolved structure of the brain that we perceive the world. And the mind constructs. The meanings our minds construct may be widely shared and sustaining for us, but they may have little to do with the world itself. Furthermore, how would we know?” Thanks Patt Osborne, for suggesting this book!

I got that the very act of telling my emotional truth, changes my truth. I've been playing with this one and it happens almost as fast as the words come out of my mouth. I try to talk about how I'm feeling and before I've finished I often don't feel that way anymore. I'm a walking, talking contradiction and it's fun. In his book, Radical Honesty, Brad Blanton takes telling the truth to three levels; Revealing the Facts, Honesty about Current Thoughts and Feelings, and Exposing the Fiction. I caught the tail end of a short interview with Blanton on National Public Radio. I really can't remember much about what he said, it was his style of speaking that moved me to blindly buy his book. And I liked the title, Radical Honesty. Anyway, I've got to tell you this book may offend you and others around you. Blanton challenges you to take truth telling to a level that might be uncomfortable and even hurtful. He'll probably shock you with his liberal “cussing” and radical suggestions about telling the truth so don't say I didn't warn you. But he'll definitely provide you with some insights and make you laugh.

So there you have it. It's taken me awhile to put this newsletter together and I still can't fish. I'm off to take the dogs for a walk and then I'm heading to the library to pick up some good fiction. Yup, it's time for a nice long novel while I wait for “good ice”. Any suggestions?

“It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“It is with the heart that one sees rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~Antoine De Saint-Exupery. The Little Prince

“For every complex problem there is an easy answer, and it is wrong.” ~H. L. Mencken

“How fascinating!” ~Benjamin Zander

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