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99's On the Go
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Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2014 Brian Remer
Updated Sept. 2014
99's on the 9th
based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.
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Read this story aloud or make copies for your group or team members.
Jeff was not a city mouse but he lived in an apartment above a busy Manhattan street. The rush of urban living - especially the noise of traffic - began to affect his sense of wellbeing. So, when a friend suggested he spend his vacation on Martha's Vineyard, Jeff did not hesitate.
Two weeks surrounded by gulls and waves healed Jeff's spirit with lasting impact. Back in New York, he still awoke with the sound of surf in his ears - even though it was really the traffic far below his window!
Imagination plus attitude equals potent medicine for everyday coping.
You can build upon the theme of this 99-Word Story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization.
There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis.
Suzanne was raised in a dysfunctional family. One parent was an alcoholic; the other was an enabler. The result was verbal abuse, instability, chaos. As the oldest of six children, Suzanne became the primary caregiver by default. In spite of the difficult circumstances, Suzanne's siblings all grew to become stable adults who contribute to their community - including one brother who has severe developmental disabilities and cognitive delays.
How did Suzanne do it? When asked, she'll say, "Growing up I realized that the only thing I could control was my own attitude. So I did everything I could to stay positive."
Suzanne's approach to a difficult situation points out a subtle distinction that is not often made when we talk about the importance of having a positive attitude. Staying positive might be a way to sanitize a stinky world; to cover a frown with clown makeup. But it's much different to do what Suzanne did: to recognize what's wrong yet decide to focus on something positive no matter how small that might be.
Many people deserve the attitude they have. The way they feel, the perspective they take on a situation, is a result of what the world has done to them. "The devil made me do it," was the comic refrain of one character in a popular show of the '60s. It's so much easier to blame someone else for how we are!
But the point of blaming is to deflect responsibility. And, if I make you responsible for my bad day, shouldn't I also be waiting for you to make my day good? Hey, maybe I shouldn't let you have that much control!
In his book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Daniel Goleman writes that the interplay between two distinct parts of our brain determines the nature of our attention. Our lower brain stem receives sensory information and gives it an emotional overlay. Frequently, we respond to those emotions which create our mood and determine many of our spontaneous reactions. But the cerebral cortex, the source of conscious thought, can also sway our attitudes by imposing reason, logic, imagination, and experience.
Balancing the functions of the lower and higher brain, we can choose our attitudes rather than letting people and circumstances choose them for us. With focus, we can train our conscious brain to transform our initial reactions into imaginative solutions and one-of-a-kind opportunities.
Does that mean we are coating the grit of reality with a pink fog of positivity? No, it means we are using whatever grit we find to polish a few edges and make the world a bit better - even if that's only transforming the sounds of rush hour traffic in our own mind.
References: Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Daniel Goleman, HarperCollins, New York, 2014, ISBN: 798-0-06-211486-0
Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.
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