Sunday, August 26, 2007

Your Thoughts Create Your Feelings

In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns writes:

"It is not the actual events but your perception that result in changes in mood. When you are sad,your thoughts will represent a realistic interpretation of negative events. When you are depressed or anxious, your thoughts will always be illogical, distorted, unrealistic, or just plain wrong."

World, Thoughts and Mood
Burns explains the relationship between the world, your thoughts and your mood:

  1. World - a series of positive, neutral and negative events.
  2. Thoughts - you interpret the events with a series of thoughts that continually flow through your mind. This is called your "internal
  3. Mood - Your feelings are created by your thoughts and not
    the actual events. All experiences must be processed through your brain and
    given a conscious meaning before you experience any emotional response.

Radio Dial Example
Burns illustrates the point with an example:
"Your blue moods can be compared to the scratchy music coming from a radio that is not properly tuned to the station. The problem is not that the tubes are
blown out or defective, or that the signal from the radio station is distorted
as a result of bad weather. You just simply have to adjust the dials. When you
learn to bring about this mental tuning, the music will come through clearly
again and your depression will lift."
Key Take Aways
While it's a simple concept, it has some pretty profound impact:
  • Your thoughts create your feelings.
  • You get what you focus on. If you focus on the negative side of a situation, your mood will reflect it.
  • How you interpret what happens in your life is important. The meaning you assign to events and experiences shapes your thoughts and your mood. There's something to be said for rose colored glasses.

It's another reminder that it's not what's on your plate, but how you eat it.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Antiheckler Technique

In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns presents his technique for dealing with hecklers:

  1. Immediately thank the person for his or her comments.
  2. Acknowledge that the points brought up are indeed important.
  3. Encourage that there is a need for more knowledge about the points raised,
    and encourage your critic to pursue meaningful research and investigation of

From experience, I've seen speakers effectively take the wind out of their heckler's sails using this approach. Alternatively, taking a defensive posture tends to fuel a heckler's fire.

Monday, August 13, 2007

10 Distorted Thinking Patterns

In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns highlights 10 distorted thinking patterns that work against a healthy outlook on life.

Distorted Thinking Patterns (Cognitive Distortions)

  • All-Or-Nothing Thinking - You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
  • Overgeneralization - You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  • Mental Filter - You pick out a single negative defeat and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that colors the entire beaker of water.
  • Disqualifying the positive - You dismiss positive experiences by insisting they "don't count" for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
  • Jumping to conclusions - You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
    A. Mind reading. You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you dn't bother to check this out.
    B. The fortune teller error. You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.
  • Magnification (Catastrophizing) or Minimization- You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else's achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow's imperfections). This is also called the "binocular trick."
  • Emotional Reasoning - You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: "I feel it, therefore it must be true.
  • Should Statements - You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn'ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. "Musts" and "oughts" are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
  • Labeling and Mislabeling - This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: "I'm a loser." When someone else's behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him: "He's a goddam louse." Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
  • Personalization - You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.

Key Take Aways
I think the key is to use this list to challenge your own thinking. In any scenario where your thinking starts to seem particularly negative, it's good to sanity check against the patterns above.

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Sunday, August 5, 2007

Vision, Mission, and Values

Your mission, vision and values are the foundation for your company's success. It's how you communicate your unique value, set goals and priorities, and create a compelling future. It's ultimately your gauge for success (are you accomplishing your mission and moving towards your vision?)  In A Simple Statement: A Guide to Nonprofit Arts Management and Leadership, Jamie Grady writes about vision, mission, and values.

Creating Your Mission and Vision
The key steps to creating your mission and vision are:

  • Identify the values of the organization. You find these by observing how employees spend their time, how they set priorities and how they allocate their time and energy. Actions are more revealing than words.
  • Create the mission statement. The mission answers "who are you?" It should consist of one or two sentences max. It should quickly communicate the company's purpose. It should be an original and unique purpose. It should encapsulate the philosophy, beliefs, values and principles. It should be unique, exciting and inspiring. It sets the foundation for priorities, strategies, plans, and work assignments. The company should derive strength from the mission rather than react to outside influences.
  • Create the vision. The vision statement answers, "where do you want to go?"
Example Mission and Vision
Grady provides an example of using a vision statement and mission statement to communicate the philosophical foundation of an arts organization to its stakeholders:

Court Theatre - Strategic Plan

  • Mission - Court Theatre exists to celebrate the immutable power and relevance of classic theatre.
  • Vision - We share a collective aspiration to create a National Center for Classic Theatre.

Example Values
Grady provides an example statement of values:

Strategic Decisions Are Guided by the Following Statement of Values

  • We believe theatre satisfies an innate human need for communal acts of
  • We believe works for the stage that reveal timeless themes and illuminate
    universal truths are classics.
  • We believe in the primacy of language in theatre.
  • We believe in an artistic process that is venturous, collaborative, grounded
    in thorough research and dynaically evolving.
  • We believe in an artistic process that is venturous, collaborative, grounded
    in thorough research and dynamically evolving.
  • We believe in an environment of trust, generosity, and shared vision enables
    risk-taking in the artistic process.
  • We believe the artistic process should inform all aspects of the threatre's
    operations including leadership, governance, and administration.
  • We believe classic theatre is a valid participant in American culture, its
    survival and maturation.
  • We believe artists make significant contributions to their communities.
  • We believe learning is a life-long journey, and classic theatre has a unique
    ability to teach and inspire its creators and patrons.
  • We believe in freedom of expression, and embrace a plethora of artistic
    voices and styles.
  • We believe in diversity across all definitions.

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • Use  a vision statement, mission statement and statement of values to communicate the foundation of your group to stakeholders.
  • The mission statement answers who are you.
  • The vision statement is where you want to go, once you know who you are.
  • Figure out the real values by actually observing the group.  This is more accurate than just thinking them up.  Otherwise, people say one thing, but do another.

Additional Resources

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