Words of Wisdom for
Leadership, Learning, and Life in
Exactly 99 Words

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Talk Quick!
99-Word Stories to Spark Discussion about Common Management Issues
by Brian Remer

Talk Quick! is a collection of group discussion starters designed to inspire meaningful conversations about important management issues.
(12 Discussion Activities, 33 pages, Cross Referenced, $10)

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99's On the Go

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99-Word Stories by ,
Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2017 Brian Remer
Updated Apr. 2017

99's on the 9th

Ideas based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.

April 2017 - Happiness: Choose your mood

Read this story aloud or make copies for your group or team members.

Happiness
Mary has had a hard life. The oldest of six children, she was always a caretaker. But when her parents fell ill, Mary became the "teenaged manager" of the whole family helping her siblings survive emotional and financial hardships. As an adult, she works and lives with people who have severe mental and physical disabilities. You'd think she'd be pessimistic yet she is one of the happiest people I know. How?

"With life in constant chaos," she says, "I realized that the only thing I could control was my own attitude."

Choose your outlook and shape your life.

 

Discussion
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.

 

Interpretation
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.

Happiness: Choose your mood

"Don't worry, be happy."

That was the refrain of a song by Bobby McFerrin some years back. The catchy tune promoted the idea that happiness was a simple choice. Worry will double your troubles so simply be happy.

Of course, this advice never seemed very practical for people with real problems. Being in debt, suffering from poor health, and living with the threat of abuse won't go away by putting on a pretty face and whistling a tune.

Yet that is part of the solution.

Research by Barbara Frederickson and others who study Positive Psychology show that having a positive attitude gives us more options. Negative emotions like fear help trigger our fight or flight response when faced with problems. But Frederickson wondered what the survival value of positive emotions was. She found that negative emotions narrow our thinking and our options while positive emotions expand our thinking and the options we see available. They broaden and build our repertoire of responses to adversity. Thinking positively helps us come up with more ways to solve problems, plan for the future, and address novel situations.

Of course, both negative and positive thinking are necessary to live in complex, chaotic situations. Positive thinking enables us to invent and mentally rehearse multiple escape routes. Negative thinking helps us choose and act on the best escape route in the critical instant we need it.

All of this leads back to our 99-Word Story about Mary. She made a conscious decision to rely on a particular attitude. To do that, she had to be constantly aware of her situation, monitor her emotions, determine the attitudes that grew from her emotions, assess whether those attitudes were helpful, and choose a different attitude if that would be more productive. That's a lot more difficult than just "being happy."

And it makes clear that choosing your attitude is not as simple as deciding between broccoli and ice cream. It's a fulltime job - but one that comes with incredible benefits.

To receive those benefits, here are five specific choices you can make that will expand your options and help you maintain a more positive attitude:

  1. Look for signs of growth. Whether plants or people, change is often incremental. Challenge yourself to identify daily positive differences.
  2. Be appreciative. Keep a list of the little things that make you happy. Whether it's a cup of hot tea or a good night's sleep, make a note of what eases your day.
  3. Share enthusiasm. Let other people know what they've done well or how they've made your work easier or more productive.
  4. Be a contributor. Change is created by those who share their passion. Communities are built by those who offer their skills.
  5. Support others. Help people develop their abilities and you'll likely find opportunities for collaboration and synergistic solutions you never suspected.

For More Information:
Carol Dweck, Fixed and Growth Mindset, Reviewed in the Firefly News Flash May 2014

Mindset by Carol Dweck, Ballantine Books, 2007, ISBN-10: 9780345472328

Shawn Achor, Before Happiness, Reviewed in the Firefly News Flash May 2016

Before Happiness by Shawn Achor, Random House, Inc., 2013, ISBN 978-0-7704-3673-5.

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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