All posts by takingmulligans

How (and Why) To Enjoy Every Toothache

How is your toothache feeling today?

If you actually have a toothache (or headache or some other physical discomfort), I hope it’s feeling better. If you don’t have one, I hope it feels worse for just a second.

I’m not being sadistic, really.

If you are like me, you did not wake up this morning and declare how happy you were to not have a toothache. Or not to be grieving some kind of tragic loss. Or not to be deep in a personal drama immobilizing you with fear.

All those things happen from time to time. They have all happened to me at various points in the past several years. And when I am in such pain, such drama or dire circumstances, it is hard to think of anything else. I just want that toothache to go away. I want that person to come around and see things my way. I want a friend to get her health back.

So that toothache that you don’t have? Imagine you do have it, for just one sharp second of pain. Then another. Imagine how awful that tiny little inconvenience is—how it disrupts your thinking and can compromise your whole day. Now imagine the blessed relief you feel when it finally goes away and you are where you are right now—without that toothache.

When things like toothaches happen, they force us to pay attention—and when they pass, we celebrate.

But today, I didn’t give attention to all the joyful things that are already in place—or celebrate the cessation of pain. I didn’t celebrate what is for what it is. I didn’t acknowledge the beauty, the safety, or the love in my life.

I just laid in bed, like I do so often, thinking about the little things that were bothering me, the crappy stuff I really didn’t want to do today, the slurry of emotions that had somehow crept into my mind overnight.

I’m lazy. When I’m doing well, I tend to just coast and enjoy it—until I’m not coasting anymore. I turn to tried-and-true positive psychology tools like a gratitude journal only when I’m struggling the most. And that practice, undertaken for a few minutes before I go to bed, never fails to help ease me into a better place. Even if I don’t write them down religiously, making a mental list of what I’m grateful for reminds me of a guiding principle of positive psychology that Tal often describes as “What we appreciate, appreciates.”

In other words, what we bring into awareness will grow in value.

It’s not just through the practice of a gratitude journal that we can do this. It can happen throughout the day, over and over again. When we stop to see and acknowledge and give words to what we appreciate, we create the awareness of what’s working in our lives. Not just what’s wrong, but what’s strong.

This is especially true and powerful when we appreciate the people in our lives.

This morning, when I woke up, I made the decision to appreciate the challenges, pitfalls, and yucky feelings I had when I woke up this morning. So they grew a little. I gave them audience, and they responded with a command performance. But it could have gone differently.

Luckily for me, I had the impetus to write this today, to help remind me that there are other aspects of my life that wait politely in the wings, waiting to be appreciated—and grown.

Luckily for you, you made it this far to help remind yourself to do the same.

 

This post was originally created for Wholebeing Institute as a part of my installment series on the fundamental concepts and stories of positive psychology.  For the entire series, or to sign up now for a free two-part video training series and free e-workbook on evidence-based tools for flourishing, click here.

Your Pulse Is Not Your Heart: Permission to Be Human

For some reason, I find it difficult to find my own pulse. Which tends to remind me of a limitation we often have: We are not always in the best position to see our own humanity. It’s why a considerable field of study called psychology rose up to illuminate aspects of ourselves that others can help us see.

This notion—that we lose sight of our humanity from time to time—is one of the guiding principles of positive psychology. It is known as Permission to Be Human. To me, this means much more than just admitting that we make mistakes (we do) or asking forgiveness (we should).

To me, Permission to Be Human is more about looking at ourselves—taking our own pulses.

Try this. Grab a timer and take your pulse right now. Maybe you’ll be better at this than I am. (I ended up just buying a heart rate monitor.) Place your index and middle fingers on the underside of your wrist, just below the base of the thumb. Count the number of beats (pulses) for 15 seconds. Take this number and multiply by four to find your heart rate in beats per minute.

Okay, now that you’ve got a number, tell me. Is it good or bad?

I hope you didn’t answer that. Here’s why: That number changes all the time. It’s sometimes higher and sometimes lower. Did you just walk up a flight of stairs? Have you been sitting down for a while? When’s the last time you ate? Did you exercise earlier? What time is it? Did you just think of something you forgot to do? Did you just yawn? All of these things can affect your heart rate. It rises and falls with variability triggered by the situation you are encountering.

Watch this video for look at HeartBot, the drawing machine that is controlled by the heartbeat of the viewer.

HeartBot Imaging

Our changing heart rate is an analogy for what it means to give ourselves (and others) Permission to Be Human. To accept the emotions we have at any given moment as part of who we are—and not worry too much about labeling them as good or bad. Whatever emotions we feel in the moment and whatever actions we are undertaking that trigger those emotions, they need to be understood in the context of our broader lives.

Our first job is to be aware of our emotions and accept them for what they are—temporary responses. Then we can work toward the goal of broadening and building our positive emotions in light of what we’ve learned about ourselves.

Physical training and nutrition can guide us toward heart-rate responses that signal and orchestrate our health and well-being. So, too, can we guide our minds toward healthy responses to our emotions as we process them. We can train our bodies to be stronger and our minds to be more resilient, capable of success and sustainable happiness.

Keep in mind that the art of being human can shift us toward peak performance through both mind and body. That’s been described in a phrase that makes me smile: Permission to Be Magnificent.

Magnificent, in my estimation, is simply another word for human.

 

This post was originally created for Wholebeing Institute as a part of my installment series on the fundamental concepts and stories of positive psychology.  For the entire series, or to sign up now for a free two-part video training series and free e-workbook on evidence-based tools for flourishing, click here.

‘Lion’ Named Running Movie of the Year

Lion, the Academy Award-nominated film based on the true story of a child’s accidental separation from his family in India, has been selected Running Movie of the Year by TakingMulligans, a website that explores the emotional side of running.

The movie depicts the young Saroo’s natural reliance on running, not as a sport, but as an integral part of how he lives his life.  Saroo, played as a child by Sunny Pawar, doesn’t run for fitness or personal records, he runs because he is compelled to by circumstance. He runs because he can and because he has to.  In running, Saroo finds deliverance not only from imminent and nefarious threats to him as a child, but also later in life, in the imagery and emotion that the activity has seared into his memory.

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Sunny Pawar plays the young Saroo in Lion, Taking Mulligan’s 2016 Running Movie of the Year

 

It is for this poignant, visceral and dramatic demonstration of the power of running to protect us physically and nurture us emotionally that has distinguished Lion as Running Movie of the Year.

Running serves the hero of the story in several pivotal ways.  First, in a practical way: it is how the small child navigates the harsh realities of living in his tiny village. He runs to do his work and return safely to his home.  He even finds safety in a mad dash for medical care after a startling childhood accident. Running also becomes his escape route when threatened by child kidnappers who prey upon his vulnerability.

Finally, when the boy, now grown into a man, and played by Academy Award nominee Dev Patel, seeks to reconstruct the clues to his childhood, running serves him one more time. As he relives the moments of his youth, he sees himself again through the eyes and emotions of that running child (with a little help from Google Earth).  Through the imprint that running to and through his village has made in his memory, the grown-up Saroo unlocks the answers of who he is and where he comes from.

 

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Throughout Lion, the Academy Award-nominated film, the hero finds safety, deliverance and life-altering redemption in the physical and emotional gifts of running. (photo by Mark Rogers)

Other nominees this year included ‘Race,’ the story of  Jesse Owens and his triumphant victories in the 1936 Berlin Olympics in the days leading up to World War II, and Sully, the story of pilot Chesley Sullenburger, who found running to be a source of strength and emotional refuge which contributed to (and helped him deal with the aftermath of) his daring landing of a passenger jet in the Hudson River.   Sullenburger was featured in this Runners’ World article when the movie premiered.

Taking Mulligans’ Running Movie of the Year is chosen to reflect how running is more than just a sport or fitness activity, it can unlock emotions and serve as a catalyst for change and positive developments in life.

Mulligan Moment of 2016 – Running Edition

As loyal readers of Taking Mulligans know, the disappointing circumstances of my final high school track meet started a thread of endeavors that led me to, more than 30 years later, write an upcoming book and two major features stories for Runners’ World (The Mulligan Mile, Cross Country Romance).   I can only imagine where Justin DeLuzio’s final college cross country race will propel him.  Other than a cornfield.

In November, he was about a mile into running that race for Gwyneed Mercy University, when a deer blindsided him and knocked him airborne– and into the viral running clip of the year.   Click below for ESPN’s coverage of it.

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CLICK HERE for Viral Running Clip of the Year

Getting knocked down may win you viral clip of the year. But it’s what’s not on this clip that won him our Mulligan Moment of the Year– getting back up to finish the last 4 miles of the race.   And what’s more, it’s a few thoughts he shared in this interview with NPR that resonated most with Taking Mulligans.  Listen and you’ll hear some good advice for going forward into 2017.  Surprisingly, he’s not the one in the interview that encourages us to get back up when we get knocked down.  His advice?  No resentment.  Be grateful.  Be aware.

And for that, Justin DeLuzio, an actuarial science student from Limerick, PA, wins Running’s Mulligan Moment of the Year.

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CLICK HERE for Talking With Justin  to hear and read an interview with Justin.

 

 

 

 

Mulligan Moments of 2016 – Public Activism Edition

Sometime a mulligan is more than just a mulligan.  It’s a way forward that breaks abruptly with the past and establishes a whole new perspective on the world.  Here are two Mulligan Moments that may be harbingers of new understanding and appreciation of what’s best about our great nation and the towns that we live in.

The most startling and emotional moment came at the contentious location of Standing Rock, when a gathering of veterans offered a very public apology for transgressions of the United States government, military, and citizens upon the native peoples of the land of North America.  Seeking forgiveness is a humbling step.  And accepting forgiveness is a tremendous gift to all parties involved.  May this moment be the mulligan that heals and protects  and brings peace and justice to our nation and our Native American family.

 

A dear friend and inspiration of mine, Joyce Marin, pointed out that that not only do people have comeback stories, but a town can too.  Joyce, the executive director of RenewLV, reminded me of Iron Works Catasauqua and the work of their municipal council to push this project forward over the last 10 years.  According to Joyce, this year the council, led by Vincent Smith, Catasauqua, PA’s borough council president, passed the mixed-use zoning required to take a former industrial site and turn it into a new 13 acre walkable-bikeable neighborhood connected to their downtown.   May it be the start of something even bigger for what may become the Lehigh Valley’s Mulligan Town.

 

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Mulligan Moments of 2016- Daughters Edition

Lots of talk this year about protecting our daughters from threats, both domestic and foreign.  I think about these quite frequently, as I have three daughters (and a tiny little granddaughter) in my own family.  I do have strong opinions about the poison that I believe is leaking into the way we relate to each other, but rather than amplify the horrifying rhetoric that divides us, I want to offer a few anecdotes of antidote.    Here are some Mulligan Moments of 2016 offered by friends of mine who have seen their daughters rise to the challenges they faced in their own lives — and who responded with grit and good old fashioned girl power.

We do need to protect our girls.  Not because they are helpless, but rather so that they can lead us.

Carry On  When an earthquake hit New Zealand a couple weeks ago, a National Outdoor Leadership School group was kayaking along the Clarence River, which soon started to fill with debris from rockslides.    The  group acted quickly to get themselves to higher ground and reduce the chances of being swept away by avalanches or the river itself, which ultimately did break through the dam holding it back.  The group of college students had to be air lifted out by helicopter.   In and of itself, that’s a great story with a  happy ending.   But here’s my favorite part: each student was given the option of cutting the rest of the outing short and returning home without penalty.  Keep in mind they’ve already been out on this expedition for about 2 months without as much as a call home.  Every single one stayed on and are now completing the trip as planned.  Among them is Paige Shetty, daughter of Lisa and Baba Shetty, who became dear friends of mine during graduate school at the University of Rochester.  Paige and her NOLS friends could have let the trauma of that experience, or the fear of the next potential calamity in the wilderness, force them into giving up on this adventure of a lifetime.  But they put aside both the brush with death and the future threats– and showed us how to make use of a Mulligan Moment.

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Build Up  Resolve is required, but it is not enough by itself.  When you are trying to overcome an injury, physical or emotional, it takes more than just wanting to be healthy and whole.  You have to want to do what it takes to become healthy and whole.   Like when you tear your ACL the day before you realize your dream of playing in your first college basketball game, like Meagan Eripret did last year.  But, according to her father Marc Eripret, Meagan did whatever it took to heal and build up her strength– day in and day out.  And now she’s off to a solid start with her Lehigh teammates in this year’s season.  Resolve plus hard work equals a Mulligan Moment.   I am sure she learned this when I coached Meagan (alongside Marc and her mom, Bridget Eripret) for many seasons of youth league basketball and soccer.  So now I can see her (#13 below) and say I coached a Division I player. I take complete and unwarranted credit for all her athletic accomplishments.

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Breathe Fire   Never underestimate the power of a teenage girl who is ready to fight.   Olivia Maniace showed us why this year, when she put together this video look at what she endures and overcomes in dealing with lungs compromised by cystic fibrosis.  I thank Lucy Sheelar-Gomez for bringing Olivia’s fight to my attention. And I thank Olivia for this Mulligan Moment and the reminder of what fighting the good fight really means.  My favorite part of the video is when she calls a piece of vital hospital equipment “annoying”.   This is a word my daughters use constantly.  Girls will be girls.   And thank God for that.