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Isaac Newton's Relaxed Brain

The story is legendary.  Sir Isaac Newton, father of modern physics, discovered the law of gravity after being pelted by a falling apple.  He was at his family's farm in the English countryside, fleeing Oxford due to an outbreak of the plague.  For eighteen months, Newton had the freedom to let his mind wander.  Unencumbered by an academic schedule, Newton received no emails or text messages.  He did not update his Facebook status.  He attracted no new followers on Twitter.  Rather, in a tranquil rural environment, Isaac Newton passed the time by thinking.  In addition to working out the law of gravity, Newton also made advances in the study of light and the understanding of mathematics.  All the while, his imagination was his primary companion.

 

Teenage Girls, Stress, and Depression

Adolescent girls are at greater risk for depression than their male counterparts.  A new study suggests that interpersonal stress is an important contributor to this sad reality.  Teenage girls tend to harbor negative thoughts more frequently than teenage boys when experiencing stressful encounters with others.  In addition, according to the authors of this study, girls face more of these situations than boys.  

 


 

Mindset: Fixed vs. Growth

Here's an infographic laying out the differences between the fixed and growth mindsets as described by Carol Dweck. Her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, has had a significant impact throughout our culture.  It was also very helpful to me as I wrote my book.  Dweck's ideas can change your mind in myriad ways.  Adopting a growth mindset at school and everywhere else will, without a doubt, bring happiness and success to our kids.  

Music and Big Ideas

Our kids need to learn how to develop their creative sensibilities in order to design the safer, more prosperous, and more sustainable future we want for them.  It turns out that music facilitates this process.  By listening to music, our brains enter what is known as "mind-wandering mode."  When a mind is free to wander, it is more likely to generate connections between concepts that are not previously linked.  This is how "Big Ideas" are born.

 

So, in addition to making us feel good, music can make us more innovative.  Check out this article for more information. 

 

Our Kids Can Get Smarter

The central concept of the growth mindset is the idea that we can improve over time, even with regards to our intellectual abilities.  In other words, we can become smarter with practice.  What a beautiful message to communicate to our kids!  It doesn't matter how gifted you are (or not) at birth, because our thoughts and behaviors can shape our brains.  Whether we are at school, at home, or anywhere else, our brains get stronger and more capable if we guide them that way.

 

Hey, if it worked for Albert Einstein, it can work for us!  Here's a video from a NOVA episode that discusses Einstein's brain in addition to other related ideas.  I started showing it to my students last year, and they have loved it.   

Struggle and Happiness

How we view struggle has a great deal to do with our happiness.  If we see struggle as a natural part of the learning process, we are more likely to embrace it.  We will carry on through difficulty and achieve success in school, in work, and everywhere else.  On the other hand, if struggle represents weakness, a lack of intelligence, or some other negative trait that we believe we have, it will have unhealthy impacts.   

We should teach our kids to consider struggle as an opportunity to reach our potential.  It makes us stronger as people and drives us to greater accomplishments.  Perhaps we can learn from Japan.  Here's a report discussing how the Japanese view struggle.   

How To Have A Happy Workplace

Back in January of last year, CareerBliss released its list of America's 50 happiest companies.  What factors make a happy workplace?  One is related to the growth mindset.  When people are able to improve over time they are much happier and less likely to experience burnout.  If employees move around among various projects and tasks, the work will be fresh and interesting.  Getting stuck in the rut of the status quo leads to boredom and unhappiness.  Another facet of a happy company involves purpose.  An employee who feels that her labor has a meaningful impact on others finds the job much more fulfilling.  

By learning the skills of happiness and innovation, our kids will design rewarding careers.  They might be able to teach us a thing or two as well.    

Why Do We Work So Hard?

A recent Business Insider article discusses something that plagues many of us.  We're working too hard and not devoting enough attention to enjoying our lives.  "Overearning" - toiling excessively to accumulate resources we don't really need - is widespread.  Is this phenomenon attributable to habits our ancestors developed over time, as the article suggests?  I think that's part of it, but our cultural addiction to stuff is another factor.  

Of course, we need to impart the value of hard work to our kids.  Otherwise, they'll never be able to provide their needs for survival.   But we also need to teach the values of happiness and encourage lives of balance and purpose.   

Promote Design Thinking

As best-selling author Daniel Pink points out in A Whole New Mind, design thinking is imperative these days.  Modern technology and cheap labor abroad drive manufacturing costs to the floor.  Low price, therefore, isn't the only way for products and services to stand out from the crowd.  Instead, people make buying decisions based on how something makes them feel. 

Design is important because it engages our emotions.  Our kids should be made aware of this.  They can learn how to become design thinkers by paying attention to the little things that connect us to our experiences.  

This summer, I'm trying to encourage design thinking with my own kids by asking questions like these:

What do you like about this _________ (book, movie, restaurant, hotel, etc.)?  How could it be improved?  What kind of person would enjoy it?  Can you think of anything that would help win more fans for it?

 

Creativity = happiness

A recent study from UNC-Greensboro links creative behavior with happiness.  The more time we spend engaging in creative pursuits, the happier we're likely to be.  This is great news.  The path to a brighter future must be paved with creative thinking.  Encouraging kids to develop their creative abilities will be an easy sell if it also makes them happy! 

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