Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad

Kale Brussels Sprout SaladKale and Brussels Sprout Salad

Serves 8-10

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 small garlic clove, finely grated

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning

Freshly ground black pepper

Combination of greens: kale, spinach and mixed

12 ounces brussels sprouts, trimmed, shredded with a knife

2 Apples slices

1/4 cup Golden raisins

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/3 cup almonds with skins, coarsely chopped

1 cup finely grated mozzarella cheese

 

  • Combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a pinch of pepper in a small bowl. Stir to blend; set aside to let flavors meld.
  • Mix thinly sliced kale, sliced apples, raisins and shredded brussels sprouts in a large bowl.
  • Spoon 1 Tbsp. oil into a small skillet; heat oil over medium-high heat. Add almonds to skillet and stir frequently until golden brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer nuts to a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle almonds lightly with salt.
  • Slowly whisk remaining olive oil in into lemon-juice mixture. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Add dressing and cheese to kale mixture; toss to coat. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Garnish with almonds.

(Non) Random Acts of Kindness

kindness_wins2

    • Give a genuine compliment.
    • Tell someone you love them.
    • Smile at everyone you see.
    • Do something nice for a stranger.
    • Donate to a charity you believe in.
    • Volunteer in a local community organization.
    • Plan a fun social event for friends, family, and/or coworkers.
    • Encourage someone to pursue one of their goals.
    • Forgive someone who hurt you.
    • Apologize for your mistakes.
    • Catch up with an old friend.
    • Be a good listener when someone needs to vent.
    • Create a mix CD for a friend
    • Dedicate a song or poem to someone.
    • Say “please” and “thank you” – and really mean it.
    • Leave a generous tip for a friendly waiter/waitress.
    • Pass along a great book you’ve just finished reading.
    • Print out inspirational quotes and post them around town.
    • Deliver fresh-baked goods to the local fire department or police department.
    • Give blood.
    • Mow a neighbor’s lawn.
    • Tell someone you appreciate them.
    • Leave a positive comment on a blog or website you enjoy.
    • Spend more time with your kids.
    • Pay the toll for the car behind you.
    • Take one task off your co-worker’s to-do list.
    • Create a “Free Hugs” stand.
    • Do something nice for yourself.

Validate me.

stamp of approval

 

Thank you for listening to me when you had other important things to do.

 

When you had the courage to tell the truth in that meeting yesterday, it changed everything.

 

You have a way of making me laugh at just the right time.

 

When is the last time someone said something like this to you? What happened inside of you when you heard it? Every one of us offers gifts of all kinds to the world every day. We give, we sacrifice, we take risks, we entertain, we love, we support… and a lot of it goes unnoticed. When it is noticed, though, it’s amazing. When someone sees that little something about you or picks up on your hard work and calls it out, it’s like getting a stamp of approval.

 

Years ago I led a small group of high school girls through an experience we called an “encouragement circle”. We focused on each girl, one at a time, with everyone around the circle specifically describing what was amazing and unique about her. As we went around the circle, the girls did an amazing job at validating each other with really specific and potent words. One of the girls, though, didn’t quite get it. When it was her turn, she would look at the person in the center and say “You’re just…. Really nice. And like, really sweet.” Every time. Same thing. By the time we finished the exercise, no one could keep a straight face when it was her turn. Her words were not only meaningless, they had become something of a joke. One of the girls said to me later “I’ve known her since 7th grade but it’s like she doesn’t know me at all”.

Yesterday we reflected on being a good noticer (how’d you do with that?). Being a good noticer also helps you to be a good validator. Noticing and validating are like the peas and carrots of relationships. When you notice something unique and wonderful about someone else and tell them that you noticed it, something powerful happens in your brain and in theirs. Knowing and being known by others is a primal human need. The whole process – focusing your brain, being present, noticing things and articulating that back to another person – it’s like a cranial multi-vitamin.

 

Make today a validation day. Do better than “You’re really nice”. Change another person’s day by telling them what you’ve noticed. You’ll both be glad you did.

 

 

 

 

Have you Noticed?

noticing

We have a special role for one of our staff members at Thought Design. Shelley is our CNO. Don’t know what that is? That’s because not many companies (or any?) have one, though I think they should. Shelley is our Chief Noticing Officer. It’s her job to notice stuff. She notices when things are out of place, when a customer changes a pattern, and even when her co-workers might need one of her wonderful corny jokes. It’s actually her job to pay attention to stuff.

 

 

Noticing is an incredibly important skill. Noticing requires us to quiet our minds enough to be fully present where we are, with those we are with. Your mom probably told you to look for the good in the world. She was right. When you practice paying closer attention to what’s happening around you and especially noticing what’s good or right, you are training your brain to go to positive thoughts, which it doesn’t naturally want to do. You are also practicing something called “Mindfulness”, which helps to improve your ability to focus when you need to.

 

Are you a good noticer? What stuff do you notice? Changing your brain happens one little habit at a time. Here’s your challenge for today: work to notice five positive things in your world that you normally would have missed. Slow down, take more deep breaths and pay attention. It’s there.

 

(Come back and let us know in the comment section what you’ve noticed!)

Celebrate!

celebrate

“People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation. To be entertained is a passive state – it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle… Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.”   Abraham Joshua Heschel

 

 

It’s a week before Christmas, a time when most of us are in the midst of preparing celebrations of all kinds. Or maybe, if you’re like me, you’re so focused on other things, the celebration part of the holidays will probably get lost in the midst of the to-do list. (I think this blog post might turn into something of a confessional…).

 

All year long as I work with teams, I ask the question “What is RIGHT?”. I get them to tell me about what they love and feel proud of. It’s usually not too hard to get some answers. The next question is “How do you celebrate and protect these things?” Often at this point, the room goes somewhat silent.

 

Did you know that our brains are five times more likely to go to the negative than the positive? It’s part of how we were prepared to recognize danger. From a survival standpoint, it’s important. From a quality of life standpoint, it’s a real challenge. It means that we are more likely to focus on our problems and challenges than celebrate what we have achieved.

 

Celebration is good for your brain. It releases dopamine, of course, which is the “pleasure” chemical. Dopamine is a natural antidote for stress. Celebration is also important because of something called “attention density”.  Simply put, the more you give good, focused attention to any thought, the more it is imbedded into your brain in a permanent way. When we celebrate, giving attention to things that bring us positive feelings, we are actually training our brain to be positive. When teams celebrate the things that go well, they are actually embedded the behaviors that help them retain the things that are going well.

 

Did you do enough celebrating this year? Did you have enough parties? Did you belly laugh enough? Do you know what things in your life you should be celebrating? Let’s start by celebrating together. Post one thing you are celebrating today in the comment section and we can all yahoo with each other. I’ll start… I’ve been wanting to start this blog all year and I’m really doing it!!

Now you…

Can you Relate?

conversation old man

 

You’ve probably heard that if you want to truly master a skill, you need to spend 10,000 hours on it. According to Matt Leiberman, author of Social, Why our Brains are Wired to Connect, you had already spent that 10,000 hours understanding people and how we relate to them by the time you were TEN years old. Just a few years ago, the technology was developed to gather MRI data on more than two people at a time in a social context (as opposed to being shoved into an MRI tube together). What researchers found not only confirmed the belief that our brains are primarily social, it exceeded what was previously held to be true. Our brains are so dependent on other people that if a newborn baby were completely isolated from any human contact, it wouldn’t survive more than a few months. In other words: Your brain is made to connect with the brains of other people.

Our brains are so tuned into our relatedness with others that it scans our environment five times every second, rewarding us with either a sense of well-being or warning us with some stress signals if our relatedness is being threatened in any way. Our brains actually experience social pain in the same way as it experiences physical pain. This is probably why we describe a break-up or the loss of someone as a “hurt”.

 

So think about this a minute: if your brain is that wired up for people, doesn’t it make sense that managing your relatedness would be an important part of managing your overall life balance and brain health?

 

This last week was both challenging and enlightening for me. I have a very close group of girlfriends and this week brought two unexpected deaths and a major health crisis for family members of my little tribe. The days were filled up with text message updates, making meals and sharing tears. There was shock, sadness and fear. I noticed something, though: at the same time, my sense of well-being was strangely deepened. Here’s what I realized – the experience of being deeply loved and connected to others is stronger than sadness. Another way of putting it is that because my brain was getting it’s need for relatedness met so strongly, the other stresses and threats had less impact.

 

The funny thing about our brains is that they don’t always care how they get what they need. Those deep relationships with friends and family are the foundation of our overall social connections, but our brains connect with others all day, every day. The person that checks out your groceries, the guy you rode the elevator with this morning, the people in your office… your brain registers a positive or negative from every encounter.

 

Where is your opportunity to keep your connection with others more positive next year? Will you smile and greet more strangers as you go through your day? Will you spend more time or energy being present to others? Would you like to spend more time with friends? What will you need to change in order to make it happen?

Your emotions are our emotions

emotions

 

My friend David has a job that he absolutely loves – except for one thing. And it’s the one thing that may push him out the door soon. David has a boss that is prone to outbursts of anger. David’s boss seems to be a great guy that knows his stuff, but no one wants to be around him, because you never know when the fuse is going to be lit.

 

Marcy plays an important role on her team and everyone loves her – until they are almost to deadline. Then Marcy’s perfectionism turns into acute anxiety and she makes everyone crazy with her intensity.

 

Did you know that your emotions are contagious? Our brains all contain mirror neurons, which help us to be connected and empathetic to others. Because of those mirror neurons, when David’s boss blows up or Marcy gets anxious, everyone around them is impacted when their brains start getting hijacked.

 

Quick brain science lesson: when the brain senses any sort of threat, whether emotional or physical, a little organ called the “amygdala” takes over. It will slow down or shut down function in other regions of the brain (especially the part that is responsible for critical thinking) and push you into a “fight or flight” response. We call this an amygdala hijack. It happens to all of us. It comes in handy when you’re getting chased by a bear, but it’s not too helpful when you’re in a meeting or even a family dinner, and everyone around the table starts hijacking.

 

Do you know how your emotional responses impacted others this year? If there was one emotional hijack pattern that you could change this next year, what would it be? The good news is that there are things that you can do to manage those hijacks and reduce the negative impact on yourself and the people around you. Here are a few ideas:

 

  1. Keep a log of regrettable episodes. Write down what happened to trigger it, how your brain and body responded and what you did that you regret.
  2. Ask the people around you for some feedback on your emotional behaviors. It’s good to know both the positive things that you want to keep doing (are you a good smiler?) and blind spots you may be missing.
  3. Work with a coach or someone that can help you change the way you respond to some of your more common triggers.

 

Underscheduling.

think winnie

 

Do you wear “I’m busy” as a badge of honor? Or as excuse for not doing the things you really want to be doing?

 

If anyone is truly busy, it might Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn. He has been writing on his personal LinkedIn page about a practice that he calls “underscheduling”. He references the famous quote by Einstein, who said that if he only had an hour to solve a problem, he’d spend 55 minutes thinking about it and 5 minutes working on it. In his recent posts, Weiner talks about the importance of thinking time for leaders. He schedules chunks of time for thinking into his days, with the same importance as meetings and appointments. He recently told the audience at a Economic Club of Grand Rapids meeting, “The only sustainable means of business leadership is thought leadership.” It seems that after decades of chasing productivity and non-stop action, we are coming back to the simple value of good thinking.

 

How is your schedule? Do you get enough time to do good, productive thinking? Not just time alone to check email or post on Facebook, but time for deep, reflective, real thought. That kind of thought is absolutely necessary for making good decisions, being creative, and being prepared for problems when they come your way. If you really adding up the time you took for good thinking this year, you might be shocked at how impulsive and thought-less a lot of your decisions actually were.  Do you want or need to make that different next year?

Another reason to curl up with that book today

reading

 

Need a reason to justify reading Fifty Shades of Gray? Well, here it is: a team of researchers from the University of Toronto recently conducted a study of 100 students that were asked to read either a short story or a piece of non-fiction prior to taking a survey on their emotional need for certainty. Those who read fiction had much lower scores, indicating a higher capacity for ambiguity. High needs for certainty can create rigid thinking, fixed mindsets (which often lead to depression) and make you more prone to stress.

 

What role has reading played in your life? Do you read for pleasure or for purpose? Do you avoid it or crave it? As the Toronto study shows, there are a lot more tangible benefits than just escaping. I am a reader. I read blogs, I read magazines, I read as many books as I can squeeze in my tired brain at the end of the day. I have an intimate relationship with Amazon. And yet, I think I have some changes to make next year. I don’t read enough fiction. It’s been forever since I’ve treated myself to a short story. I might need a bit more variety next year. There are places in the world and periods of history that I’ve never explored. Many this next year, I’ll expand myself through fiction or some other genres that I’ve been neglecting.

How about you?  What might you change, add, or experiment with next year?

 

seuss read

What’s New?

whats-new-scooby-doo

 

A few years ago a friend of mine decided as she turned 49 to celebrate her fiftieth year of life by doing 50 new things. It was a blast to watch her take an art class for the first time, learn to use power tools, and build a birdhouse. She stretched herself all different ways, doing things she thought she might like and even a few she didn’t but wanted to learn. It was so much fun to watch – you just never knew what she was going to be trying next.

Yesterday I mentioned that there are three things that your brain craves – variety, challenge and novelty. Every day you have new brain cells being born. They will only stick around if they make a connection with others, forming new neural pathways. It’s not that hard to do – but you need to provide your brain what it’s craving.

There are some interesting studies around that indicate that over time adults tend to primarily choose one of two paths. The dividing time usually happens somewhere around age fifty. Path one is the learning path. People who chose that continue to change, learn, experiment and stay active in life. These are the people that are still starting new hobbies in their 70s and 80s. The other path is the routine path. That path is for the folks that settle in, keeping the same house, same friends, same hobbies, same routines, changing very little over the last decades of life. What the studies show is that the people who choose the second path have higher rates of disease, age-related dementia symptoms, and depression.

 

Did you do anything totally new today? How about yesterday? It doesn’t have to be big and dramatic. It could be taking a new way to work, maybe even letting yourself get a little lost. Every time you challenge your brain with something new, you get a little benefit. It can be a new hobby, a new skill, a new routine, a new relationship, a new subject to learn. Maybe this Christmas you could ask for a subscription to a magazine that you’ve never even been tempted to read. Do you know which path you are on? It’s never too late to jump over to the learning path. Will you do 50 new things next year?