Archive for Gratitude

Happy New Year! Don’t get caught in old patterns of thought at the beginning of a fresh decade. This is the time that calls for creative thinking.

Creativity initiates a shift to a new approach. This is so much more than taking information, analyzing and building on it, and instead is based on creating transformational thinking. Creativity opens up possibilities and potential more fully. It can be seen as the difference between renovating a house and building one. It breaks down limitations and finds new approaches. Open minded creativity creates new perspectives, reduces limitations and provides a freedom for the future.

True creativity goes further than merely ideas. It is also putting ideas into practice. Picture creative ideas around you in never ending swirls, waiting to be grasped and secured into material being. Just as you can’t harness the wind without tools for physical capture and energy conversion, ideas will dissipate into nothingness unless a relationship is made to turn the ideas into reality. An environment or community that cultivates and cherishes the creative spirit is how true imaginative creativity and innovation come into being.

New ideas and novel solutions can be stimulated with expressive thinking, resourcefulness, and originality. Put yourself into places, situations, and with people that stimulate your imagination. Creative thinking can be used to meet many of your objectives. It might be doing or thinking about situations in a slightly different way, or from a new perspective. The ability to build something from nothing, is what distinguishes a creator from those who do not create. The brilliant feeling you get when a truly creative idea strikes, is often followed by an intense desire to make it real.

In his extensive research on the creative process and its related environment, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi summarized that ‘creativity leaves an outcome that adds to the richness and complexity of the future’. In his book, Creativity, he ventures well beyond the discussion of mere change, to recommend that readers work to find an emotional response that is stimulating and invigorating as they work to increase creativity. When you recognize your emotions, you provoke and stir creative thought by adding a dimension to your thinking. It is key to recognize feelings for interpretation in order to broaden, not narrow your thinking.

Find your passion, and build on it with ideas you can manifest into reality through the creative process. Csikszentmihalyi noted that individuals are motivated by the challenge of the unfinished, and not necessarily drawn to complete and final resolutions. The unfinished are the more interesting problems of intrigue that appeal to your senses. In addition, you would rather work on, and think about something that you resonate with, and awakening a passion inside you. Your zeal is more likely to draw solutions for you, than an area you are somewhat apathetic about.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the renowned literary figure, utilized creativity throughout his writing endeavors. As an acclaimed American essayist and poet, noted for thinking differently and having broad insights, he wrote Self-Reliance. He stated the importance of following one’s own instincts and ideas, breaking away from conformity and utilizing one’s creativity. Emerson focused on the individual, and famously said ‘The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.’ Make a start, a fresh start and one idea will lead you onward.

David Cooperrider Inquires Appreciatively

By · November 8, 2009 · Comments (0)

Are you familiar with Appreciative Inquiry? It is a term coined by David Cooperrider, Ph.D, a professor in the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. Appreciative inquiry is a revolutionary methodology for achieving sustainable, desired, strength-based change. Cooperrider emphasizes that anyone who wants to make a difference in the world has to aim higher and one way to achieve achieve this is for each of us as individuals to support the building of positive institutions. He discussed the importance of the positive human experience, which includes what is good, has hope, joy and inspiration, and applying it to whole systems.

Cooperrider challenges businesses to be agents of world benefit and teaches that applied positive change has four major components, each with important questions -

  1. Discovery and asking what gives life for the best of what is: Appreciating
  2. Dreaming and asking what might be: Envisioning Results
  3. Design and asking what should be: Co-constructing
  4. Destiny and asking how to empower: Sustaining

Learn all about this innovative approach to change at

Categories : Gratitude, Optimism, Thinking
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An Amphitheater Forever

By · August 17, 2009 · Comments (0)

South Fayette School Outdoor Classroom

I took a walk down to the trail behind the South Fayette High School and was in awe of how beautiful it has become. Every season it is even more scenic, with the school tower above the hollow serving as a guiding compass.

Several years ago I co-founded the South Fayette Conservation Group and together we obtained a grant to build a wetland, educational trail and outdoor classroom that will forever be a part of our school and community.

Here is the amphitheatre, a multipurpose greenspace nestled as a natural classroom in the woods.

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Herbert Kelman

 Another chance meeting. I love chance meetings.

Conflict prevention has been very much on my mind for the past year or so, as it has been for many of us around the globe concerned about violence near and far.

I have appreciated the writing of Herbert Kelman and studied some of his work for a conflict resolution course I recently undertook.

Then low and behold, he walked into a small gathering of psycholgists for social responsibility I was attending.

There he was stanidng next to me, a chief global mediator who stands for peace. Read his answers to ten questions on peace.

Here is an excerpt:

‘I would describe myself as a strategic optimist, and I am distinguishing it from being a naïve optimist, who would say that everything and the world is good. I see optimism rather as a strategy; and if you maintain this sense of possibility, then you keep looking for where the points of entry are, where there are things you can do in order to move forward. And while doing it, you create positive self-fulfilling prophecies.’

Kelman on Peace Mediation

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De-Stress During Difficult Times

By · August 12, 2009 · Comments (0)

When hard times hit, managing your stress level is more important than ever. With issues and difficulties of many types coming at you from a multitude of directions, your overall stress level can increase significantly, and finding ways to counter the stress you feel is an important priority.

The American Psychological Association just released their annual Stress in America Survey, and no one is surprised that stress levels have increased in the last year in the US. People reported more fatigue, anger and irritability and more than fifty per cent of respondents said they lay awake at night, unable to sleep because of stress.

Combined exhaustion, irritability and anger can result in different behaviors by different people and understanding the effects of stress in yourself, your family and your community is critical. People who otherwise manage their feelings and keep their stress in check may find it hard to do so.

Here are five simple ways to prevent and manage stress. Practice these techniques for yourself, but also share them with others, as you support those around you who are also feeling significant stress:

1. When some things are not working, take time to recognize what is working, and going right. Focus on the good things in your life, and what you appreciate.

2. Understand that many difficult situations are temporary and not permanent, to help keep perspective. Choose your response to events to keep things in balance.

3. Keep news and television watching in check, to prevent specific details from taking over your thinking.

4. Engage in calming activities, such as finding pockets of quiet time to read, or talk with someone you respect and who is supportive of you.

5. Become resilient by accepting what is, and cannot be changed. Try to take away a learning and move on.

The best way to manage your personal stress level is to not allow yourself to become overcome by negatives, but take on an approach that is continually hopeful, in spite of difficult times. Be resilient.

Carefully manage the thoughts you have to keep your stress in check.

Maria Berdusco supports others through challenges and can be reached at 412-221-3376. Visit Maria’s website.

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Marty Seligman and Maria Berdusco

Marty Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology

When the Bridgeville tragedy occurred last week, I felt grief, sadness and deep sorrow for individuals, families and the community. It was a senseless shooting.

Then, just a few days ago I had a fortuitous conversation with the worlds greatest optimist. Marty  Seligman is best known as the father of positive psychology and is often credited with turning the discipline of psychology from the state of what is wrong to what is right.

Seligman started his career studying helplessness and was perplexed that in difficult environments not all subjects became helpless. His work transitioned from observing negatives to the study of positive psychology, which is about positive emotion, positive character and positive organizations.

I explained the scenario of the recent shooting to Dr. Seligman, and needed to know how would he explain it, his perspective and how to move forward. He was well aware of the shooting and immediately asked if paranoid schizophrenia was causal. Seligman’s perspective is that crime is based on interpretation of past experiences and intervention includes the perspective of starting with today and creating the better future you envision.

A message to the suicidal gunman might have been ‘What if you were born yesterday?’ and ‘Imagine a future that is different form your past.’ This supports breaking out of a pattern of thinking that is negative and can be detrimental. Notably, we can not easily do this alone, but often need someone to show us the way, to support in us a sense of positive expectancy, and a vision of what life could look like if it were better.

Positive psychology is much more than optimism and hopefulness, or positive expectancy. It is also intervention. It is about creating an alternate future for yourself, which when embraced by all leads to positive outcomes for your community or organization, and collectively for nations and the world.

I learned from my brief conversation with Dr. Seligman to be even more diligent and courageous in teaching possibilities and hope.

Do you have a tragedy or trauma? Do you have a sense of desolation or despair? Do you know someone who feels empty or desperate? Does there sometimes appear to be no solution?

Be supportive of yourself and others. Find support, personally or professionally. Seek out the optimists for help.

Find a positive. Now.

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APA Past Presidents

Seligman, Farley & Zimbardo

The club of past presidents in almost any organization, community or country represents not only significant brain power for the individuals who have achieved the role, but also the synergistic strength of their collective knowledge and experience.

Zero in on not just any organization, but the American Psychological Association (APA), founded in 1892, and now with 150,000 members, who gather annually to celebrate new data on the human mind.

When I listened to Marty Seligman, Frank Farley and Philip Zimbardo, all APA past presidents have a conversation this morning about the state of things, it felt as though the collective truths they shared was not their just their own. They represented the progressive and cumulative learning of the previous presidents of the APA.  There was a sense that it was not just three of them on stage, but also William James, Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Albert Bandura, and over a hundred contributors who have filled this role to take psychology to where it is today.

The conversation flowed like that of old school chums, or even brothers; comfortable, trusting and willing to dialogue openly, knowing they were on call to teach the past, present and future of psychology, but humbled by the responsibility and determined to represent the best of what psychology has to offer. There is great learning to be gleaned from listening to a clever conversation.

They talked about undoing the constructions of the past, overrating of the past and childhood, and imagining a future different from the past to live optimally. They discussed creating alternate futures, and that much is determined by how one interprets the past, present orientation and future perspective.

Thankfully, psychology is no longer based on the medical model of what is wrong, but instead on what is right and building on it. They talked about strengths, time perspective, Mount Everest, and sex on Sunday, bantering until they summarized with, ‘Start your life today, create your future’. They concluded that the key is to instill hope and dispel fear because future gazing is at the heart of being human. Seek hope and have positive expectancy, they said.

Not bad for a trio of leaders who have authored thousands of peer-reviewed papers.

It was unscripted, reflective, fully supportive and so natural that one could not help but acknowledge the great wisdom of this band of brothers. They  represented learned, highly credentialed researchers who’s common bond is that each have served a lifetime of studying human behavior.

One could not help but think that Seligman, Farley and Zimbardo modeled human behavior optimally. They created amongst each other a perception of the closest achievable bond among us, that of family.

What a pleasure to experience the conversation and somehow with 10,000 APA conference attendees, I felt as though I was attending a family reunion, even in the midst of academia, with the family being one of those who deeply care about humankind.

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stephen-covey-7-habits-pittsburgh-july-29-09The first time I recall having a front row seat at a major event was at a production of le Miserable. The event was especially memorable because I watched in rapture as a feather dislodged from a dancers costume and wafted slowly down from the stage and landed right in my lap.

Ever since, securing a front row at any event has been a delight and an honor, coveted, and hard work, but well worth it, because it puts you right up close with the action.

I have found over the years that obtaining a seat in the front row requires lots of extra effort and even then happens only occasionally. It means arriving very early, reserving far in advance, paying more for the privilege, knowing someone special, or even by helping the planners out. I didn’t expect though, that my profound feather experience would ever be repeated, and yet it happened again just this morning. 

It was uncanny, serendipitous and synchronous, when a feather dropped from Stephen Covey’s ‘Indian Talking Stick’  as he waved it to the audience, emphasizing its strength. I have read Covey’s books many times over the decades and hearing him speak live at 77 years old meant a lot to me.

There I was somehow ready for the unexpected, front and center, and  managed to catch a photo of Stephen Covey and his stick. A shiver went down my spine as I recognized the beauty of the moment, it’s wonderful alignment and congruency and I knew that I was in the right place.

Covey reminded us with the warmth and wisdom of a sage of the timeless ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’:

Dependence to Independence

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive: Principles of Personal Choice 
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind: Principles of Personal Vision
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First: Principles of Integrity & Execution

Independence to Interdependence

  • Habit 4: Think Win/Win: Principles of Mutual Benefit
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood: Principles of Mutual Understanding
  • Habit 6: Synergize: Principles of Creative Cooperation

Continual Improvement

  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw: Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People was published 20 years ago and is still a best seller in business and leadership. Five years ago, Covey followed with The 8th Habit, which is finding your voice and inspiring others to find theirs. When we asked him how he came to develop the extra habit Covey said he sensed a lack of emotional commitment to what people represent, and felt compelled to teach personal significance and passion.  Covey delivers his message with a quiet, knowing conviction, and I felt drawn to his personal passion.

You may be wondering what the ‘Indian Talking Stick’ is all about? Ask someone to hold a talking stick, and then ask them to talk until they feel that you completely understand what they are thinking and feeling. ‘I am serious, try it,’ Covey said. The talking stick is a tool for conflict resolution, empathy and improving relationships.

A marvelous message from a feather.


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How to Think Like a Leader Workshop

By · July 10, 2009 · Comments (0)

Thanks to all  attended the How to Think Like a Leader workshop today!

Workshop 3  Workshop 2

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We Love Birthdays…

By · June 8, 2009 · Comments (0)

albert_einsteinAnd we love celebrations! Celebrate successes as you achieve them. Celebrate summer on its way after a long, cold winter. Get outside and breathe deeply into the new day.

Albert Einstein said that there are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle, and the other is as though everything is a miracle. This is the ‘half-full or half-empty’ approach to looking at a glass of water, and at the world. This may remind you of the power of your choices, and your imperative to manage your thoughts, not having thoughts manage you. Einstein understood the influence of gratitude. He had a full appreciation of the scholars that had previously laid the groundwork and set the stage for his own discoveries and breakthroughs, when he noted:

A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.

Gratitude can help you to have appreciation for all that you are, do, have, and perceive. Like Einstein, it may spur you to a response of action, but it can also make obstacles in your path much less difficult. By having a sense of appreciating what is working, you are less likely to be pulled down by that which isn’t. By focusing on gratefulness for how far you have come, and what you have accomplished, it becomes easier to take steps and embark on the remaining portions of your journey and tasks. This allows you to take necessary initiatives for achieving your goals. Being grateful also serves to immediately make you feel a charge of goodwill and confidence.

Another birthday, another year, and another reason celebrate life.

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beaA fascinating discussion on the future of books and reading took place today at Book Expo America in New York City, the world’s largest book conference. The conversation, called ‘Keys to the Kingdom’ featured authors Chris Anderson, Editor of Wired, Lev Grossman, Time Magazine Book Critic, Steve Johnson, of ‘Invention of Air’ fame, and Tom Standage, Editor of the Guardian.

While discussing the future of books, Johnson noted he now has over 600,000 Twitter followers and the new paradigm for books is ‘twitter to blog to Amazon’ and one click opportunities which now account for 20% of the book industry. This was a glimpse into how people now choose to read.

There are now low barriers to entry for authors, publishers and readers alike, and all are true winners in this shift, with content as king, and accessiblilty for writing, publishing, perusal, purchase and reading, all potentially online. This means that your creativity, courage, collaboration and communication skills as a thinker and, yes, as a leader can be rewarded by the simpicity with which your message can be conveyed, and the ease with which you can stay current with the latest releases.

One author at the Book Expo America announced his book idea to a friend and a mere 62 days later it had been completed and had the attention of the New York Times. It is  a wonderful time to be writing books, expressing ideas and experiencing collective output as a reader. Now is your time to write, read, write, read and write.

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Have you discovered TED yet?

By · May 25, 2009 · Comments (0)

Here is a piece of brilliance.


When you discover something profound, the overwhelming reaction is to want to share, not to hoard, in the spirit of collaboration, and not competition, and TED does exactly that. It is a non-profit organization that stands for technology, education and design and is all about ‘Ideas worth spreading’.

TED is devoted to giving millions of knowledge-seekers around the globe direct access to the world’s greatest thinkers and teachers through a forum, and for creative thinkers it can be described as a burst of ideas. Today’s opportunities for utilizing technology are mind boggling and having TED sift through the most brilliant for us is a great gift to the world from Chris Anderson.

This video is about the sixth sense, an MIT student’s mind boggling device for information access everywhere, every way, every how. Take a look at the video above or

This is leadership at its most brilliant. The minds on the globe are remarkable, and viewing brilliance is call to action.

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Peace as a Choice

By · May 19, 2009 · Comments (0)

Conflict resolution is one of the greatest challenges of all time for mankind. Just the other day a friend with a deep sense of fear associated with ongoing global conflicts got me thinking about peace as a conscious decision that one can deliberately take. He, like many of us, has been feeling overwhelmed by all the negative information he is being bombarded with, and by the unresolved animosities people sometimes have for one another. One way he can cope with conflict is by promoting peace. 

He has a decision to make. Does he allow himself to become a part of the problem, by expanding on the multitude of crises around him; the civil unrest, the injustices and  overall distress, or can he become a part of the solution by making contributions that are positive, uplifting and express a sense of hope for others that in turn plays a role in peaceful outcomes. If interpersonal conflict is at the root of many of today’s most extreme challenges, then peace has to be a part of the solution.

One organization dedicated to ending conflict is the US Institute of Peace, at Their goal is to not only prevent and resolve international conflict, but also to empower others with knowledge, skills, and resources to end conflict. They are directly engaged in peacebuilding efforts around the globe.

One of the most interesting components of the work of USIP is that in which the public, or everyone, can participate.  They host complimentary online courses and training programs that teach the tools of peace that everyone can use on a daily basis.

Thinking about, talking about and engaging in peace is the responsibility of every leader, and like so many of the critical leadership initiatives, promoting peace is a choice.

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Sidney CrosbyIt’s great to have that winning feeling after last night’s Pittsburgh Penguin win in Game 7 against the Washington Capitals and leading the Eastern conference final of the National Hockey League. Our city loves our Penguins, and it is mostly because of the strong emotion and immense pleasure we experience when we watch them excel. Last night was extraordinary, and we are bursting with pride for Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, the entire team and the city of Pittsburgh.

“You want the feeling of winning, but it’s almost like you don’t ever want that feeling of losing again.” Crosby said, summarizing that what drives him forward is all about how he feels. This proves how powerful feelings are as a motivator, and watching Sidney’s fierce determination, immense satisfaction and compelling expressions of will last night gives one cause to delve into the emotional component of success, accomplishment, and in the case of our young Canadian captain and leader, how his thoughts guide his actions, with sport as the ultimate metaphor.

Your ‘state of being’ ultimately comes down to how you feel, and by paying attention to your feelings, you can better understand and utilize them to reach your goals, whether in athletics, business or in various leadership roles. Sidney has achieved a very clear distinction between how he feels when he wins, versus how he feels when he loses, and this serves as a powerful motivator for him. He likes the feeling of winning profoundly, and can pinpoint it precisely relative to the feeling of loss, and as a result he works single-mindedly to recreate wins.

If you attach an emotional feel good tag to an objective, then it is more likely to occur, because as humans we usually seek pleasure and avoid pain, in a basic innate choice of optimal experience and existence. Attach a positive feeling to your objective, and it is more likely to occur because you have emotionally tagged the outcome. You will go after it, unconsciously and consciously, towards realization.

Your thoughts trigger an emotional state that gives rise to feelings. Elevation of these enable more optimal outcomes. With an orientation to outcomes you choose a more directed approach to your thinking. This thinking is also more aligned, purposeful and strategic. Simple thoughts and observations, and the feeling you create become more directive to the specific outcomes that you seek. Think it, see it, feel it, and experience it.

Thanks to his powerful feelings, not only did Sidney create and experience a perfect win for himself, but also perfection for those watching, and it made us feel oh, so good.

Categories : Gratitude, Leadership, Love
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Gratitude for Spring…Finally

By · May 4, 2009 · Comments (0)

It’s a wonderful time of year. Green is everywhere. It’s a great time to say thank you.

All highly successful people work to find a way to feel, express and practice gratitude because success involves many contributors, team efforts, and support.

Good leaders find a way to acknowledge gratitude. It is important to quietly feel inward gratitude, but when actually expressed, you have found yet another powerful and rewarding practice.

When you go ahead and say thanks, both inwardly and outwardly, you are generally happy that you did.

A flow of gratitude expressed lowers your blood pressure, releases healthy, positive hormones, helps to regulate your heartbeat and makes you feel good.

Gratitude is a habit, and when you practice and convey it, its many benefits come to you time and again. These can surface in many different ways such as emotionally, psychologically and physically. Spring as the season of renewal is the time for gratitude.

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