What You Need To Know About Appreciative Journaling – PS86

Introduction to Tim Slack and Appreciative Journaling

This is actually a re-introduction, as I've invited back Tim Slack of Appreciating People, based in Liverpool in the UK.  Our conversation focuses on two topics: appreciative journaling and positive education.  Tim updates us on some of the innovative work they’ve been doing in a variety of organizations, and in very complex government agencies including health care, education, correction services, faith-based organizations, and more.

Appreciative Journaling Guest Tim SlackMy curiosity for those two topics comes from the trailblazing work that Tim and his partner, Suzanne Quinney are doing with the transformational change methodology Appreciative Inquiry.

Appreciative Journaling – Appreciating People has created a series of appreciative journals for different clients to help them tap into their reflective capacities to enhance their learning and develop their appreciative muscle.

Positive Education – Tim will be attending the World Positive Education Accelerator (WPEA) in Fort Worth, Tx in June 2018. In the previous show, I interviewed Molly McGuigan, who’s the project lead for this global positive education initiative and I wanted to bring Tim in off the back of that because through his firm’s work in education in Liverpool, he’s helping to bring positive education into the school system. It will be valuable to hear how Appreciating People is bringing greater flourishing and well-being into the wider school system.

NEW FEATURE: Episode Transcript Links

Click on the below links to jump to the related topic within the full transcript below:

 Links to Resources

Tim's Website:  Appreciating People 

Appreciating People: Online Store called Essentials

Twitter Profiles: Appreciating People and Be More Awesome




Studio School, Liverpool, UK


Robyn:  A very warm welcome to this episode number 86 of Positivity Strategist. I'm your host and my name is Robyn Stratton-Berkessel.  I've invited my talented colleague Tim Slack, back to the show. Tim is the founder of the firm, Appreciating People based in Liverpool, in the UK. His co-founder is the equally talented Suzanne Quinney, who's also been a previous, popular guest on my show. So first let me hear from you, Tim. Welcome back!

Tim:  It's very nice to be back on. I love your stuff. It's really good and we strongly recommend it to all we train. “Go find the podcast.”

Robyn: That's wonderful. Well, I can't wait for you to share some of the cool stories that you've been working on since we last spoke. I think that was about eight months ago or so. I know so much has happened since then.

Tim:  I decided I'd listen to my own recording yesterday to make sure I wasn't repeating myself tonight.

Robyn:  Oh, that's great. And did you like your recording?

Tim:  I did, yeah.

Robyn:  It's good, isn't it? When you listen and you think, well that was good! Give yourself a little pat on the back. That's very appreciative. Tim.

Robyn:  So just to remind the audience that both you and Suzanne and your team, from my perspective, and, I think you're getting the recognition globally for this, you work in the most innovative ways with the transformational change methodology, Appreciative Inquiry that we both love and practice. During our conversation today, Tim, you're going to update us and some of the ways that you've been doing AI work in a variety of organizations and particularly in very complex government agencies including healthcare, education, correction services, faith-based organizations and more. And maybe we won't get to all of those today. So there's another opportunity to continue. But as a start, I just want to say that I see a common theme in the way that you and Suzanne engage with your clients that taps into their reflective capacities that enhances their learning.

Appreciative Journaling as a Game Changer

Robyn: 02:25 And that's with the use of journaling. So I'd love for us to dive a little deeper to explore the power of journaling. That's one focus that I sense will be of value to those people who are listening. The listeners might learn something more about journaling and even be inspired to take up journaling if they're not doing it already and experience the benefits that it brings. But there's another reason why I'm also excited to be talking to you at this time and that's because you're going to be attending the World Positive Education Accelerator in Fort Worth, Texas in June 2018. Now in the previous show which was episode 85. I interviewed Molly McGuigan, who's the project lead for this global positive education initiative and I wanted to bring Tim in off the back of that because through his firm's work in education in Liverpool, he's helping to bring positive education into the school system. He's got some really fabulous stuff to update us on with that and I think it's going to be valuable to hear how Appreciating People is active in bringing greater flourishing and well-being into the wider school system. So does that sound like a plan to you, Tim?

Tim: It does, but let's start with the journal first?

Robyn: And do you know why I want to do that, Tim, is because you bring it into your client engagements and I think it's one of your big differentiators and it's really powerful. So I know you've done it for a number of clients over a number of years, so you must have evidence that it's working and you've got more ideas in the pipeline. So yeah, go ahead and tell me what the impetus for that is and how it's impacting.

Tim:  Like all good Appreciate Inquiry stuff. This is a story really.

Tim:  It started in 2009, 10, I think. My wife, Suzanne (Quinney) was doing some groundbreaking work with men in a hostel in London, dealing with drug and alcohol misuse problems. And she was using a notebook saying to the client here's a notebook, write down the things that you already good at and you enjoy and what's important to you. And they tried it and it worked a bit. And then we thought it was interesting. The idea seems to work but let's look at it further. Then went online and saw all these books being sold as journals with all these flashy covers but nothing inside. Then we realized there was a gap in our training because we felt very influenced by Jackie Kelm which was, if you're going to create a good AI practitioner, they need to expand the appreciative muscle. and need also to create an appreciative mindset. We realized that journaling might be the way forward if it's a different form of journaling. So we coined the phrase appreciative journaling. One Boxing Day, a curious English habit around Christmas, I woke up very early in the morning and thought I need to do something. So in six hours, I wrote the framework for Food for Thought, which is our first journal. Also during that morning I also emailed Jackie Kelm and said, can I use some of your stuff? And as ever, she's incredibly generous said, of course, you can. And so we wrote this little booklet launched it at AI the global conference in Ghent [Belgium]. We began to use it in training and know others were using it. We had a big grant from the Healthcare Project in Liverpool because they saw it as a powerful tool for well being and then suddenly it began to expand. Others saw it, a school saw it and said, oh, I love it, can you do something for young people? And that led led to How to be More Awesome, which is the young person's journal and workbook, that could have went into next stage when we were using Awesome and Food for Thought and our training and what we found was Awesome, was more popular than Food for Thought with adults even though it was designed for young people. With young people, it was more popular because it was slightly wacky. It had jokes in it and other things in it as well as AI tasks and all those kinds of things. Others then heard about Awesome and the journaling and, like all good things it was fairly organic. And then we were approached by the National Waterways, a museum to say, can you do something for us? And that led to Number 1, which is a young children's workbook about curiosity and strength-based work in museums, but that has a journal in it as well.

21 Days of Journaling Makes a Massive Difference

Tim:  So that was our third thing you have to do. And also we realized in the work that we're doing with journaling and we knew and we knew from the evidence we use from Barbara Fredrickson, Martin Seligman, we knew from research on the importance of journaling that 21 days or 28 days of saying three good things make a massive difference. And we then realized by looking at this point, with the last three or four years, we've trained hundreds of people in the basics of AI. We realized there were two kinds of journaler: Those who love journaling and look at buying Food for Thought or, Awesome and were doing it again and again, and those who struggled with it. We realized that probably the best way to do it is to do it in a shortened way. So we said to people: What happens if we produce something with only 21 days in it for “three good things and add seven days of “gratitude.” That was the game changer because we realized that was all you had to do. Then alongside that, the school where we targeted and wrote Awesome came back and said we love Awesome, but it's not really what we want.

The Impact of Journaling Writing 3 Good Things a Day

Tim:  So we say what you want? They said, well actually we want a resilience program like Awesome, but wrapped around a student planner. So we said, OK, we'll design that in about two months working with the school, we produced it a year and a half so and we decided not to release it into the public domain until we tested it for a year. So for a year, one school has used this new version, the student planner addition. But in that version, it says the first 28 days is three good things. So the whole school did three good things for 28 days. That's 300 students. They then had a series of school assemblies and noticed the impact. The young people were more confident, were happier, and they realized over a year that the three good things didn't go away. Staff was saying to the kids and kids to the staff were saying “what's your good thing of the day?” So we've seen a cultural shift with that journal. So that's led us to then in Reflections building in a 21-day journal into our latest product. So journaling is part of our core training predominantly to help develop the creative muscle and the appreciative mindset.

Robyn: That's great. It is the evolution and I feel very honored that I have, other than the first one, Food For Thought, in my possession the others and I'm excited to talk about Reflections in a little while because that's the latest one. I'm just curious to know how do you get the commitment from people to do it? I mean, what do you sense to be their motivation to actually participate in this and write down every day for 21 days what three good things happen to them?

Tim:  To be fair sometimes is because we tell them to if we're honest with it

Robyn:  A compliant culture (laughter)

Tim:  but also we know, we hear people say, oh it's really good. We got the feedback. They see the evidence that journaling is a good idea and when we do the training, we tell the story of the school. We tell what happens, what we notice. And Suzanne has been working with this program called Learning for Excellence with this, with hospitals all over the country. She's now getting feedback how much people like this journaling because people ring us up and they buy another copy for a friend. So we know it's having an impact. And also as I said earlier, it's films like the great TED talk by Shawn Achor on the Happiness Advantage is a really good explanation of why things like journaling is really, really important.

Robyn:  We know through positive psychology and neuroscience, it's that mind-body connection. So the very act of putting a pen to paper and then prompting yourself to write about something that you can access that had a positive impact on you has an extraordinary effect on you.

Journaling Builds Resilience

Tim:  There's another side to journaling as well because early we realized that Martin Seligman's people were using it with the US military as part of building resilience going into Iraq and Afghanistan. So we knew there was another side of journaling which was about building resilience as well as their appreciative muscle is actually about coping with stress, dealing with difficulty. Certainly in our world – I'm the health world – nurses and doctors have a very stressful time. So we're seeing journaling as also having a secondary function or parallel function about helping people be more resilient and more and more positive about themselves and coping better.

Journaling as s Mindfulness Practice

Robyn:  And because it's about that quieter, more reflective state, it's also about being more mindful. We know the positive impacts of being more mindful where you begin to just focus on one thing at a time and be very attentive to and aware of what's going on for you in that present moment. Over time that has very positive implications

Tim:  That is interesting because both in Awesome, there's a mindfulness activity, and in Number 1 for Waterways and Canals, there's a thing called the mindfulness zone and we're encouraging children, young people to actually create a space on the waterways where they can practice their mindfulness. We have built those bits into the, into the resources as well.

Appreciative Journaling in Positive Education

Robyn:  I want to talk about Reflections, but maybe we'll come back to that because when you're talking about the young people, going on the waterways and inviting them to be more mindful. Let's switch now to the topic of positive education and what you're doing in the school, that Studio, right? So I'd love you to say more about that before we go back to Reflections – the book, I mean.

Tim:  There's probably three strands to this: One is that our journals are being used in schools across the country, even wider in Europe and America and Australia and India. So we'd have some examples on how those journals are part of the positive education process. And also, as you know Number 1, the one for the Waterways Museum is causing some excitement in the museum world.

Tim:  So we might, we might see other museums talking to us about developing something similar for the museum visitor.

Robyn:  That's why I's saying you are doing these very innovative things in Appreciative Inquiry, and how these other schools and institutions are finding out, it's not only through word of mouth and experience locally, but there'll be links on the show notes page, which is 86 I've already referred to that so people can actually buy these from your website.

Tim:  Yes you can, and we can also link you to our website also now is, for example, the article about the Studio school using AI. You'll be able to download from our website in our Section or the Download Section an article about the school.

Tim:  With regard to positive education, my current thinking is that there's a big issue or big challenge for us to separate what is positive education in terms of the curriculum, and what we're doing with that, with the education activities etc. all to do positive education in relation to how this school operates. So the way teachers operate with themselves, with their colleagues. Some of the work we've been doing in the Studio school, for example, is looking at teacher appraisal through an AI Lens, looking at leadership through an AI Lens, looking at Learning from Excellence – the hospital project – being developed into a school setting so that, so you are developing an institution that has an appreciative mindset as well as doing positive education in terms of its curriculum is so, so important. Positive Education.

Robyn:  So it's all stakeholders, the whole system. It's not just about the curriculum. And that's so interesting that you brought that up because I was thinking at the time when you were speaking about the students or the young people being impacted by using the journal, what about the teachers and the administrators?

Tim:  Well yeah, here's a fine example of it, the great SOAR tool is used by the school to develop a strategic plan

Robyn:  You're talking about Jackie Stavros, SOAR methodology.

Tim:  Yep, Yep. So SOAR – strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results or resource – it's used by the school in the journal as a personal development tool and the head teacher, the principal, and the senior management team are using it as a tool for developing a strategic plan for the school. So you have that going on and also in the school where I work they have coaches. Every student has a coach, and the coaches have been trained to use appreciative inquiry in their coaching. So Ai is permeating the whole school system. Now having said that, that's the good news. The challenge is that education system here still works in deficit, but what they're doing is blending in AI to actually change some of the thinking.

Robyn:  At the policy level?

Tim:  Locally, not nationally, but certainly locally, hopefully, hopefully,  the national level. But I think it's a long way to go, but I think is sometimes you know, you're using AI in its original format as the organizational development process as well as using AI as an appreciative mindset.

Cultivating an Appreciative Mindset

Robyn: Let's, stop for a minute and explore this appreciative mindset. And I also want to say in parenthesis that it's not just about organization development, but it's also about design. You know, how we design through this appreciative worldview or mindset. So when you mentioned that earlier, say a little bit more about what you're meaning by introducing an appreciative mindset, not only in the hospital system, you know, where you've been working, but also in the education and probably elsewhere,

Tim:  If you look at the education one particularly I said earlier, I've been looking at the school has a system for appraising an annual review for teachers. Now, there are certain requirements of the State or the institution to do that. So how do we build an appreciative mindset to those questions or those tasks? And the answer has been is to help staff preparing for the appraisal to have an appreciative conversation or protocol to use the s SOAR tool as a way of creating the way forward so they are going into their final assessment from a positive standpoint and you could argue with an appreciative mindset and that's where we've begun to look at. And it's very early days. I'm going to actually have a signing off tomorrow as a trustee, but it's there, it's been worked out with the staff, the senior staff.

Tim:  And the other thing with mindset is getting students and teachers working from positive ways in the classroom as well, and appreciative ways. And, as they have a school they've developed a Thanks app for saying “thank you.” And we're looking at developing a Three Good Things app with the school. So the students designed the app for us. So you can do Three Good Things as an app.

Robyn:  So this, the students are creating this themselves. Didn't they help design How to be More Awesome?

Tim:  Awesome. They co-designed it. Yes, we did. Lots of the activities were tested and created with them.

Robyn:  So coming back to mindset then, it truly resonates with me because it's going beyond just the process of going through the 5-D Cycle and all these different ways of helping an organization become more aware of itself and planning and so on. But it's also what is mindset? What's the frame that I'm approaching this from?

Tim:  I think two parts. One is I think it's about, it's about building, reframing into your day to day practice, how you reframed stuff. Secondly, it's going actually in from an AI perspective with a combination of the Anticipatory and Simultaneity Principle at the same time. I'm anticipating this is going to be a great teaching session or a great piece of work. I give an example of the power of Anticipatory Principle linked to this about mindset. We were working with the hospital staff in the Midlands and one of the consultant pediatrician I asked the question: “When do you use the principles?” She said, well, I used Anticipatory Principle when I meet the patients' parents, I say, oh, what'd you do? She said what I do if I'm going into a situation where I have to tell parents that their child is terminally ill, I go, “how can I anticipate this being a meeting where I'm working at my best? I'm sensitive. I am caring. I'm thinking the best way I handle this. And they can come out with the best outcome of a very difficult situation.” Now that's a mindset. When she told us this, the whole rooms when completely hush. It was one of those magic moments. But it really means about that, going in with that strength, that ability to be appreciative in a difficult place.

Robyn:  That's a great example, Tim. It brings the Principles to life, which means that you are, in our speak, “being appreciative.”

Tim:  I think that's, I think that's probably the most important thing. I think one of the things I noticed in myself is I struggled when I come across a person who was very negative or situations. I become ultra sensitive to it, which on occasions I think isn't very helpful. Because you're so trained up to be and so self-appreciative about it, you become a bit of a pain when you meet people who are very negative and you have to catch your breath and think about it. There may be very good reasons why they're negative.

Robyn:  I think another piece of the appreciative mindset is being in this state of inquiry always thinking about what's the inquiry here rather than going in there with what's the solution? What do I want to achieve? What's the answer here? But it's being open to there are endless possibilities?

Journaling as a Way to Strengthen Curiosity in Children

Tim:  That's why when we did what we called Number 1, the book, for the Waterways – the Canal – people, we had two big things. One is how do we foster curiosity in children because that's an important part of being open to multiple as possibilities, how curious you are. You want to inquire. Secondly, how do we blend in Appreciative Inquiry in a subtle way which isn't obvious? So if you look very carefully at the book, you'll see the questions are about reflection, about being curious, looking in a different way at experiences. That's how we blended it in, in a very subtle way. When we wrote it, we weren't sure. We were told how subtle it was often done it.

A New Wave of Appreciative Inquiry

Tim:  This brings me to something else with this actually, Robyn, which is, I think I've said this before to you, maybe there's a new wave around Appreciative Inquiry where the tools like the 5-Ds aren't as apparent as how you're operating, how you're working in any situation you're in. It's less about the big summit. They are still great and very important, but in all of our work, it's  the small steps that are making the big difference.

Robyn:  I totally agree with that. And I'm just thinking back to when I, (and you're aware of this because you've told me), but when I published my book in 2010 – eight years ago – it was the first book that took small workshops made them accessible for people to create just in small groups, focusing on an appreciative way of engaging in the traditional problems that people have. That was the first book that was written that wasn't about an AI Summit and heavily into theory. Then you come along and go even more micro. You've gone down to the individual doing reflection and making the changes. And even though we still have the tools that guide, it's not about them so much. It's about how we make the translation for ourselves.

Tim:  I think that's really, really very important because then the micros come together you get the change. You get the movement, the actual generativity. – what Gervase (Bushe) talks about and it continues.

Robyn:  So anything else you want to say about the contributions that you've made and the evidence that you're seeing in this positive education growth?

Positive Education

Tim:  I'm the only one comment would make, which I think I love the phrase positive education I think is a far better way of explaining what we're doing. I've just changed our language the way about what I talk tomorrow at the school. It'd be about, you know, bringing in positive education into all what we do. So I think the term is really helpful.

Robyn:  Yes. And what does that mean? What are people understanding by that?

Tim:  Well, I hate talking about myself, but my understanding is that, that the whole of our education approach works from a positive standpoint, be it the curriculum, be it the school, the system, the structures, everything. That's how it works.

Robyn:  So it's looking at strengths-based. asset-based.

Tim:  Absolutely. As you said multiple, multiple possibilities.

Robyn:  And engaging the people within the system so that they themselves are co-creating the future. They want the reality that they're in …

Tim:  It's all that – about co-creation, co-design, co-learning.

Why I Love Reflections

Robyn:  So now I want to come back to your latest publication that I love called “Reflections” with the subtitle, “Realizing the power of Appreciative Inquiry: an Appreciative Journal and Practical Resource Book”. Do you want to know why I love it?

Tim:  That'll be helpful. We love the feedback.

Robyn:  Well, I love it because of the simplicity of it, the practicality of it and the fact that you have so many outstanding reference points and quotes that, that make it very accessible. For example, the benefits of journaling, but then you give some resources as to why that's the case. If anyone's really interested they can go and dive a little deeper and go to the sources behind what you're saying.

Robyn:  So I think, I love that. I mean, I love the fact that it's simple, but there's depth there. I just love the idea that when you're inviting people to do their 21 days of journaling followed by seven days of gratitude, you're asking deeper questions. For example, when they write down what the three good things are for each day, you then ask against that positive event, why did this good thing happen?That's going deeper, right? And what does it mean to you? How can I have more of this?

Robyn: So I've been doing that, Tim, and it's very powerful because it requires you to begin to become far more reflective and think about the patterns shaping up over time. So you get begin to get a much bigger picture of what your capabilities are and what delights you and what good things that you're contributing to the world and receiving from the world. So it's, it's just super that you've done it that way. That's what speaks to me.

Tim:  Thank you. It's interesting as I listen to what you're saying is there were four things regarding Reflections when we to work on it. One was it's the first one where Suzanne and I have jointly written it. Normally I write it, then she turns it into English or edits it. This time we actually co-wrote it. Secondly, was the gestation of it was a conversation between me and Lindsey Godwin in a hotel in South Africa. I said we need to do something really practical and simple about AI. That then established Reflections and It took us two years after that. The other thing we're dealing with, one is that the journal is part of it, and the second thing for me was you do an AI training course; you go to workshops, and you do a lot of reading around it. What do you do on a Monday morning when you're back at work?

Tim:  How do you shift your organization, your thinking, the way you do things, and that's why the second part of the book has “here's what you do on a Monday morning.” The other way you want to look at was, and this is why the “Learning from Excellence” (LfE) is in it. How do you deal with moving away from a deficit-based or problem-focused approach? Hence the LfE stuff in it. So it was all those kind of combinations of practical tools going into the back: how do you, how do you do things on your first day? So it was designed for the practitioner at a very early stage of their journey at one level. The other joke for us was that we'd written the whole book, took it to our publishers who said, that's great too, I love the book, but you've actually two books. And they said, well you've written a book for the first stage practitioner, but also for the more advanced. So we took 40 percent of the book out and we have a new one being developed for next year.

Tim:  Because the way our publishers – Wordscape – are brilliant as they are and edited as well we did, we made it more and more lean and more focused on the individual. And the other thing for us was that we worked with Wordscape for six years now, is we have built a reputation for producing quality materials in terms of design. And that's what they do. Their ideas are fantastic and that's where the joy to work with them. Our book depot is getting bigger and bigger. This year we've had a lot of feedback saying is too good to write in.

Tim:  And secondly, one of my colleagues liked it, said it's great Tim, it's so lovely. It's so lovely to writing in, I'm using my best fountain pen. so to react to that kind of need, what we've done is we'll produce by March, just the 21 days as a separate mini booklet. So it could either stand alone as a project or you can use it to keep your main copy, pristine. So that's the one thing we're doing.

Robyn:  Well, I had a thought while you were speaking. You know, that I teach Advanced Applications of Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College an online course and I'm thinking that Reflections might be a good book for them to have because they saying we want the cookbook to know how to do to this? So, you know, there are all sorts of possibilities.

Robyn:  Very good. So, Tim, I will put links to many of your great resources and obviously to your online shop and of course.

Our Wrap Up

Robyn:  There are tons of things you could say, but we addressed two topics today; the journaling and the positive education and a host of other things that we spoke about. Is there anything else you'd like to say by virtue of wrapping up?

Tim:  We're now exploring a journal for women with mental health issues and we're now exploring a journal for women, for mothers with postnatal depression.  So there are more journals to appear the next few years.

Robyn:  Well that's just so wonderful because you know, you obviously have this, and I don't want to say it this way, that sounds crass, but there is a formula or a template, but you contextualize it.

Tim:  That's exactly right. We've actually now produced a standardized, “we know some things never change.” We need to be able to give the context, so the questions might change.

Robyn:  OK. That's the thing. You have a structure, you have a process, but you know, the context changes for people. So it's the same when we're using, if we go back to using Appreciative Inquiry and the 5-D Cycle and the Principals, they don't change. They're the same, and you make the translation, using the Poetic Principle, and you put it into your own context and you overlay your own perspectives on to it. And that makes meaning for you.

Tim:  I think in 2017 we produced four publications. That's heavy, but obviously, we're very chuffed with all of it. There were two years in development with the Waterways. We have some very interesting ideas coming forward and I'll bring this breakthrough now: we think we're about to start to work with the prison.

Robyn:  That'd be fantastic.

Robyn:  My heartfelt congratulations on the beautiful work that you're doing, and as I said at the outset, you know, I think you have this unique value proposition if I can use a business term, you know, you've got this, this differentiator that is setting you apart. And people recognizing it. So I'm so delighted and honored to have been brought up to date with this conversation. Thank you, Tim.

Tim:  Thanks, Robyn, delighted as ever!

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Mindfulness Coach Explains It’s Not Just About Following Your Breath

Episode Introduction

With the current pace of disruptive change, soaring personal stress and widespread mental health issues, how do we find a positive road to human flourishing?

In this episode, I chat with executive and mindfulness coach, Meg Salter, author of Mind Your Life: How Mindfulness Can Build Resilience and Reveal Your Extraordinary.  She talks to us about building the muscles of resilience, incorporating  attentional skills into your daily life and build a truly sustainable practice. 

Many people intuit that mindfulness will help them maintain a positive personal attitude, or provide better balance in their hectic lives. But mindfulness is more than occasional oases of calm. Mindfulness is a skill, not a pill.

Episode Background

mindfulness coach Meg SalterAs an executive and mindfulness coach, Meg is working increasingly with those who want to create positive change in their worlds.  Meg offers both an extensive business background and deep experience in meditation.  She first started meditating over 20 years ago gaining profound experience while pursuing a career, living in a number of cities, and raising children.

In 2002, she started teaching meditation, and now, as a mindfulness coach, she has witnessed the enhanced resilience and personal flourishing in those who develop mindfulness skills.

Coupled with her busy professional background, on a personal level, Meg suffered trauma in her family with her young brother’s suicide.  As Meg states, things don’t always work out.  Bad things happen to good people.  She developed an appreciation for compassion about  the depths of suffering people experience and that cracked her open.

Mindfulness Explained

Mindfulness means learning to pay attention to what’s happening in the present moment in the mind, body and external environment, with an attitude of curiosity and kindness. 

Mindfulness requires deep learning and developing attentional skills.  Meg offers three essential skills:

  • concentration
  • sensory clarity
  • equanimity, and
  • a host of practices to suit your own preference and life style.

It's key that it takes practice to develop the skills that'll affect personal effectiveness and impact. Increasingly, many people report they are  pulled in many directions and the demands on their attentional faculties are at breaking point. Through the practice of mindfulness, they report they become more focussed, productive and equanimous.  

Mindfulness in Creating Positive Change

It's our experience as coaches and human development professionals, that people are well intentioned.  They want to do the best for themselves and those around them.  And, because of the complexities and the pace of life referred to above, many of us need help to develop the capacities and skills to deliver on our positive intentions.

Mindfulness Coach - Mind Your Life Book CoverGrowing capacities in mindfulness and positivity is a big part of that to strengthen resilience.  As Meg explains in this episode, by building self awareness, you get to know more about your DAN (default attentional network).  This means you become aware of the little voices in your head, the emotions in your body, and with that kind of awareness you have the capacity to recognize them for what they are.  You recognize you can make new choices.  You no longer need to be yanked around by old fears and stories.  You experience a new found freedom. 

You learn to recognize those unconscious patterns that don't serve your best intentions. When you see them, you take them for what they are, and with practice you're increasingly liberated from self-defeating assumptions, emotional pattens, and rigidity.  That's the power of having a mindfulness practice. 

Reveal Your Extraordinary

What if the capacities of mindfulness were available more often, what would your life be like then?

Through mindfulness, we cultivate capacity to embrace what we are experiencing in the moment.  We develop skills and practices to turn toward what is in front of us and open up to it in a positive way. 

Mindfulness helps with experiencing the wholeness of life.  When you open up your attention and intention to ALL of life, life has a way of supporting you differently.

As Meg says,

You take something ordinary and apply some intentional steps, you can end up with something extraordinary.  Because when you mind your life—life minds you back.

Connect with Meg

Meg's Website:  Meg Salter

Meg on Twitter

Meg on LinkedIn

Meg's Book

Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.


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If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

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  • I'd love it if you can leave a quick review, on iTunes and Stitcher.

How To Tap into Human Energy in Relational Spaces – PS73

Episode Background

A colleague in the field of Appreciative Inquiry, Mille Themsen Duvander, who lives in Denmark, emailed me asking if she could interview me for the final phase of her  PhD research project.  Her research project is an inquiry into the field of AI practitioners and she’s developing an emerging grounded theory about the organic growth of AI practitioners.  I was happy to have such a conversation, as I fit the subject group.

For more than 80 minutes, our conversation flowed over and around a number of subjects.  It could have flowed longer, but for other commitments.  I recorded the conversation, not  sure if I’d make a podcast episode out of it.  We had a couple of choices – I could “can” it; publish the uncut version; or edit and release.  I chose the latter and produced a  30 minutes show.  I captured pieces that I considered might  be of greatest interest to listeners. I hope I got that right.  Mille is delighted to come back in the future  to share her findings with us,  after she has submitted her dissertation.

Human Energy 

We touched on a range of subjects, including intuition, empathy, humanity, the relevance of experience to reach understanding, deepen connections and relationships .  A topic we often came back to was energy. Human energy and what does mean, we asked, and what is our capacity to influence that.

As a result, I started to google the term “human energy” and “relational energy” and I list below a few of the resources that came up.  You also might enjoy them.

  • An academic paper published in The Journal of Applied Psychology, Relational energy at work: Implications for job engagement and job performance (full citation below). The four authors conducted four independent studies, “seeking to establish relational energy as a valid scientific construct and evaluate its impact on employee engagement and job performance.”

Upon reviewing the data, it became clear that participants resonated with different types of energizer stimuli. While not all individuals were energized by the same means, motivational arousal emerged as the common crux of the experience of relational energy….our data revealed motivational arousal as the most prominent and consistent feature of relational energy….Drawing from this finding, we conceptualize relational energy as energy which comes from another person, which captures the energizing toward the accomplishment of work tasks. Thus, we define relational energy as a heightened level of psychological resourcefulness generated from interpersonal interactions that enhances one’s capacity to do work… To be clear, we are not implying that relational energy is a different “type” of energy, but rather use the adjective “relational” to identify the level at which energy (or energetic activation) exists or is enacted.

Further Quotes on Human Energy

  • Wayne Baker, one of the authors of the above paper also wrote this excellent article, The More You Energize Your Coworkers, the Better Everyone Performs in Harvard Business Review.  

To understand how this works, think of people in your workplace who buoy you up, who lift your spirits. What do they do?  What do they say? Some people are energizing because they give off positive vibes. As an employee in a large company told us about his boss, “She energized me because she loved her job and was in general a very happy person.  She always came in with a smile on her face which created a positive atmosphere.” Others energize us because they create genuine connections. In conversations, for example, they devote their full attention and listen carefully.

Spend some time in most any organization and you are sure to hear people talk about the level of energy associated with different people or projects. In some instances, an initiative may be characterized in terms of the energy “around” it. In others, a team in which ideas flow freely and its members build effortlessly on one another’s work will be described as “high energy.” In still others, a particularly influential person may be known as an “energizer” — someone who can spark progress on projects or within groups.

  • From Forbes, The Hidden Source of Energy at Work (Sebastian Bailey)

Energy, like emotion, is contagious.  There are people who exude energy, making others feel more alive and enthused simply by interacting with them, and then there are the energy drainers who deplete energy reserves. Naturally, we gravitate towards the energy boosters. And recent research shows that bosses who energize reap the rewards in terms of employee engagement and performance.

With ‘relational energy’ it's the everyday interactions that matter, not showpiece presentations.

Links to the Articles on Human Energy

Relational energy at work: Implications for job engagement and job performance

Owens, Bradley P., ORCID 0000-0002-5948-4973 . Marriott School of Management, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, US, [email protected]
Baker, Wayne E.. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, MI, US
Sumpter, Dana McDaniel. College of Business Administration, California State University, Long Beach, California State University, Long Beach, CA, US
Cameron, Kim S.. School of Business, University of Michigan, MI, US
Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 101(1), Jan, 2016. pp. 35-49.
US : American Psychological Association
ISSN:0021-9010 (Print); 1939-1854 (Electronic)

The More You Energize Your Coworkers, the Better Everyone Performs

What Creates Energy in Organizations

The Hidden Source of Energy at Work

Connect with Mille and Robyn

Mille Themsen Duvander on LinkedIn

Robyn Stratton-Berkessel on LinkedIn

Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

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What is an Appreciative Voice in Your World?

When Your Voice is Silenced

Has there been a time in your life when you felt you lost your voice, or you had no voice, or your voice was not listened to?  Your voice was silenced. At such times, it seems your voice does not count. As a consequence of feeling discounted, there is a sense of also being invisible. You might say you feel even powerless.

I’ve felt like that in some meetings; in some face-to-face situations, with certain people, even in personal relationships, when I felt my voice didn’t matter.  My contribution wasn’t important.  My thoughts and feelings were dismissed or were patronised.

I’ve also been in conversations when I did not honor the voice of the person I was with. My behavior signaled their voice did not matter, and they, too  felt discounted, unimportant, invisible.  It happens in groups, in teams, in social gatherings.  As an example, in networking or community gatherings, the person you are speaking with has no eye contact with you and no animation in their face, until they spot someone they do want to engage with, and you're abandoned.

Being silenced can occur when you're in company and you're telling a story, then suddenly you're interrupted by a person with a story of their own because they believe they have a more interesting story that trumps yours. There is a big difference between being interested and being interesting.

While the shrill voices seem to be getting shriller, what might we offer to redress the balance and bring some of the quieter, gentler or lost voices into the conversation?

Might an Appreciative Voice be an Antidote?

I want to offer some reflections on how cultivating an appreciative voice not only strengthens you and expands your world, it also strengthens others and expands their worlds.

This topic comes to me following my participation at the AI Homecoming David Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College in Burlington VT, co-hosted by the Center and The Taos Institute.

Appreciative Voice - age diversityOver three days, we workshopped together. We shared stories, asked questions, inquired into each other’s experiences, listened to, and discovered a host of innovations that practitioners and researchers are bringing into, and growing the practice of Appreciative Inquiry all over the world.  We listened to voices that had been at the edge and in the center;  those that are new and young, and those that are wise and seasoned.

As we experience the worldview of Appreciative Inquiry we are able to be deeply appreciative with ourselves and each other.  Our practice is to come from “inquiry” which opens us to intimacies and vulnerabilities because we consciously create a safe space to be in conversation and contemplation with others.

What is Life Giving about Appreciative Voice?

In a nutshell, the appreciative voice seeks to include and understand .  “Appreciative” is valuing, so a voice that is appreciative comes from an intention of seeking to value what it will hear;  it continues to inquire and is curious about learning more.  An appreciative voice is present to listen respectfully.  It is grounded and spacious, and non-judging.

An appreciative voice provides safety for others to speak their truths.  It is invitational and watchful.  An appreciative voice is unhurried and patient.  It can reframe situations to be helpful and resourceful.  It is flexible.  The appreciative voice is inclusive. It acknowledges diversity and identifies opportunities to offer possibilities to hold the space for transformational shifts to emerge.

Appreciative Voice - young girls talking on beach

The appreciative voice seeks to make meaning of the world in dialogue and in relationship with others.  The appreciative voice can expand knowledge, and build potential shared understanding.

For sure, the appreciative voice helps participants develop their own thoughts and feelings in a way that helps them see themselves in new ways.

A question that lingers is:

What happens when we refrain from using our appreciative voice?

My grandmother stressed to me: “It’s better to say nothing at all that say something negative or hurtful.” And that has been my default operating system.  Yet, in our society today my sense is that by being silent is not always the most helpful way, because if we choose to keep silent and not exercise our appreciative voice, we are not serving ourselves or others, and therefore not able to make any positive difference.

In using our appreciative voice, by framing our opinions as inquiry, we open up the space for dialogue and learning, providing the opportunity for more voices to be heard.  As Mo McKenna shared in her interview:  We do no harm in asking people what’s working for them. In asking what works for them, we are using our appreciative voice and open up the possibility for building understanding.

Appreciative Voice Guided by Principles

The appreciative voice is guided by principles that result in practices.  If you're keen to learn more, please tune into my podcast, Personal Reflections on Appeciative Voice – PS72.


Come up for AIR and Experience your Energy Soar – PS 71

Episode Introduction

My brilliant guest hails from Toronto, Canada. Maureen McKenna, affectionately known as Mo, is a woman of huge talent, energy, dynamism. She is highly acclaimed in her field of organization, community development and coaching, and is a leader in Appreciative inquiry not only in Canada, but globallycome up for air - Mo McKenna.

In this show, Mo shares stories about how she started in this field, where it’s taken her and where she’s headed, living to her strengths of curiosity and openness daily.  Mo has worked in just about all sectors: corporate, government agencies in education and healthcare.  Mo shares many of her inspirations in the links section below.  

Episode Background

I was keen to interview Mo Mckenna, as in my last few shows, her name kept entering into the conversation.  She was praised by Deacon Richard Manley-Tannis,as his mentor, episode PS 65 How an Intimate Conversation can Strengthen the Collective.  The show preceeding this one,  PS 70, Say Yes to Everything Results in Fun and Meaning with Wick van der Vaart from the Netherlands refers to Mo as great asset to AI Practitioner and an inspiration.  

Fortuitously, Mo and I finally met in person a couple of months ago in Cleveland, OH at Case Western Reserve University. We were co-facilitators at the Fourth Global Forum  – also a podcast episode – Ps68, Business leaders, Professors and Students Expose Flourishing Enterprises  

And it doesn’t stop there.  These synchronicities keep amplifying. We are both members of the Council of Practice with the David L.Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain college in Burlington VT. in the capacity of Field Practitioners.

Come up for Air

come up for air - framework

Mo is highly creative and innovative.  One of her creations is the AIR framework.  As she tells a story of its successful application in a hospital setting, I see it as framework for a conversation that guides people to a mutual appreciation of their past and helps them envision and plan an ideal future. The relational aspect of this framework facilitates understanding and generates new energy that is akin to when you come up for air and feel a huge relief, especially if you’ve felt silenced, misunderstood or not acknowledged for too long.

Concepts we Explore in this Episode

Appreciative Inquiry High Point Experience

In following the structure of an Appreciative Inquiry interview, I invite Mo to tell a high point story when she was fully engaged and delighted with her work.  She tells the story of working with The Toronto District School Board (TDSB).  It’s a terrific example of applying AI in a large system that invited all stakeholders to inquiry into “Student Success” while providing the Board members the opportunity to work on a real issue of strategic importance and learn about the process of AI at the same time.

High Performing Teams

Mo's own story harking back to her days at Xerox, and her reference to a study by Google finds that psychological safety is an enabler of high performing teams.  With Appreciative Inquiry, we invest time up front on inquiry – we don’t go straight to task.  We go back and learn from the past and get to know each other more deeply, becoming aware of each other’s needs.  That relational process creates psychological safety.

Learning Partners

We talk about the difference between being an “expert” and a “learning partner.”  As an outsider to a client system, we come in to be a learning partner, not an expert consultant. The client system has the expertise which is local knowledge of their own context and content.  We, as outsiders come with a process and a structure to guide the client to outcomes they want to accomplish.

Leadership Rises Up  from the Quiet Corners of an Organization

Mo and I share examples of how Appreciative Inquiry brings out the leadership is us all.  The psychological safety that an appreciative inquiry provides opens people up to each other's stories to listen more deeply, trust more openly and take risks.  People are encouraged to be more courageous, and Mo quotes her mentor, Jane Magruder Watkins:

You do no harm asking for what's working.

Links to Other Resources Mentioned in this Show

The newly designed, Appreciative Inquiry Commons

New York Times Article, What Google Learned from its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

Bliss Brown Seminal Appreciative Inquiry Summit, Imagine Chicago 

Professor Amy Edmondson TEDx Talk, Building a psychologically safe workplace

Gervase Bushe Article,  Appreciative Inquiry with Teams

Angela Ahrendts TEDx Talk, The Power of Human Energy

“Passionate, positive human energy can provide a counterbalance to the disruptive negative forces of an age of unprecedented change. Through it comes confidence, inspiration and the power to transform things for the better.”  

Connect with Mo McKenna

Mo’s website





Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.


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If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

  • I invite you to share it using the social media buttons on the bottom of this page.
  • I'd love it if you can leave a quick review, on iTunes and Stitcher.

Innovative Ways that Inspire Human Flourishing for All

When did you last come away from an experience that had such an impact on you that you were filled with a joy and a hope that transformed you?  You witnessed human flourishing and unity with others. You felt inspired by the conversations and connections. You felt alive and energized. You experienced a sense of wholeness, oneness and community cursing through your body and a peace and infinite hope for what else is possible.

I am filled with gratitude that I just came away from such an experience.  The event was the Fourth Global Forum held at The Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit, at Weatherhead School of Managemhuman flourishing - diversityent at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH.   Over 300 people were tasked to Discover Flourishing Enterprise: The Key to Great Performance.   We came from 29 different countries by invitation, from free will, to contribute our minds, our hearts, our skills, our knowledge.  We were curious and open and hopeful.  We shared stories, dreams and aspirations.

Diversity underpins Human Flourishing

We were a hugely diverse gathering of people: business owners, leaders and entrepreneurs, multi-millionaires and start-ups; professors and students; octogenarians and millennials; of spiritual traditions, or none.  We honored our diversity and our shared common belief: human flourishing exists at all levels: at the individual level, organizational and whole systems level.   We shared our stories, listened and asked questions. We dreamed together about what we can bring to life. We co-created designs and prototypes of possible futures;  and we rolled up our sleeves to develop deployment plans to turn our dreams and their prototypes into action.

Business as an Agent of World Benefit

human flourishing - AI Practitioner CoverIt was my first time at a Global Forum, even though through my Appreciative Inquiry Certification at Weatherhead, I became familiar with and practiced at interviewing business leaders on the topic of Business as an Agent of World Benefit (BAWB).  For this event, I volunteered as an Appreciative Inquiry facilitator.  To my absolute delight, I was invited to co-facilitate the working group from AIM2Flourish with Professor Lindsey Godwin, my hero and dear colleague from the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College in Burlington, VT.

Appreciative Inquiry in Practice

To read more stories about the transformation that seemingly unlikely partnerships are delivering in the field of human flourishing,  please check out the special edition of the AI Practitioner  a publication of almost 20 years that focuses exclusively on the applications of Appreciative Inquiry across the globe.  This is a very generous gift from the owner, Wick van der Vaart, who co-edited this edition with David Cooperrider.


human flourishing - AIM2Flourish Logo

AIM2Flourish was born out of the Third Global Forum in 2014.  Since then Roberta Baskin and Claire Summer (who as of June, 2017 now leads AIM2Flourish)  and a handful of business leaders and professors have taken the dream to made it flourish.  They have worked on an AIM2Flourish curriculum for university professors to link their students to enterprises that are not only doing well in the conventional business sense, but also doing good for their employees, their customers, the communities in which they operate, committed to human flourishing for all, including the planet.  Moreover, the really unique and cool contribution that AIM2Flourish offers its partners is to invite the participating business schools and their students to identify the enterprises whose innovations and contributions to the world are also addressing any one of the 17 the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Human Flourishing - Sustainable development goalsThe business students – the leaders of tomorrow – move beyond learning in the classroom into the field of real business.  Imagine the impact on them and the enterprises they interact with.

U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

I was human flourishing - prize trophydeeply honored to co-facilitate the AIM2Flourish working group comprising students, professors and business leaders from a number of South American countries.  This group included AIM2Flourish Prize Winners.  Their awards came from sharing the stories of the businesses who were helping to contribute to human flourishing by addressing some of SDGs.   The working group was brilliant and energized and committed to grow the AIM2Flourish mission by modeling leadership for 21st century and strengthening flourishing relationships across the plant.  I was struck with awe and filled with gratitude to watch them and hear them embrace the human flourishing - deployment planAppreciative Inquiry process with aid of their cell phones to translate English text into Spanish and then back into English to share their insights, dreams and plans.

And even though we had a language barrier, we communicated and shared delight and joy at our mutual understanding of each other.  We felt connected, united and impassioned by our shared commitment to amplifying human flourishing across the world.


Abundance of Talents, Generosity and Innovations

At this Fourth Global Forum every participant was a gift and there was an abundance of talent that spoke to our positive core of human flourishing, and wish I could name everyone, as every single person deserves credit. However, here's the line-up of outstanding keynoters and presenters, including David L Cooperrider, Chris Laszlo, Barbara Fredrickson, Tom Robinson, Jonathan Halpern, Jeff Hoffman, Shinzen Young, Jennifer Deckhard, Peter Senge, Julie Reiter, Fred Tsao.   Jon Berghoff was the masterful lead facilitator with his brilliant group of associates who made it such an outstanding event. Fun and practical improv tips were delightfully lead by Betsy Crouch and Zoe Galvez, co-founders of Improv HQ.  The talented graphic recorder was Jo Byrne,  Here is a sample of her talent.

And, I got to meet the charming Chuck Fowler, whose generosity and vision for a flourishing world started this all off.

Please, if you get the opportunity to attend the Fifth Global Forum in 2020, treat yourself to an experience that will fill you up and sustain you at many levels.  You will  enter into communion with those who care deeply about human flourishing and are actively leading positive change.

Opportunity to Hear Flourishing Voices in my Podcast Episode

There's also a podcast episode where you can hear the voices of participants at the the Fourth Global Forum:
Business Leaders, Professors and their Students Expose Flourishing Enterprises

The New Human and the New World – What does that Mean to You? – PS 64

Episode Introduction: The New Human and the New World

In this episode with Dr Lynda Klau, I continue on the theme of exploring neuroscience and why it is such a hot topic and creating an explosion of curiosity in all kinds of fields. It’s become significant beyond medical science into in the field of day-to-day human development and spirituality, helping us understand how working with knowledge of our brain, along with our mind, body, heart and relationships are creating the new human and the new world.

Lynda shares with us why she is so excited about neuroscience and how it’s impacting her, her clients and the world, and, how together we have the potential to co-create the new human and the new world.

It couldn't be more appropriate for Lynda to chat with me on this topic because she is the founder and director of LIFE UNLIMITED:The Center for Human Possibility. She is called to do this work in helping herself and others evolve to higher levels of development. She is a licensed psychologist, coach and speaker with over two decades of training and experience, working with all kinds of people. New human. Portrait Lynda KlauIn her practice, she draws from a formidable toolbox of cutting-edge modalities: mindfulness meditation and the present moment, breath and voice work, guided imagery, communication and relational intelligence, and so much more. She’s so well researched across many disciplines, Eastern and Western traditions, and offers a truly holistic, integrative perspective to her clients. I ‘ve personally know Lynda for 15 years, and I know her to be the real deal.

A Calling to Help Evolve the New Human

As a start to our conversation, I express my curiosity about what might have been some of the threads in Linda’s earlier development and professional experiences that have lead her to shift her work to include the study of the brain – including her particular orientation, interpersonal neurobiology – and why it’s so significant at this time. She shares an intimate story of experiencing a profound shift during a workshop when an acute awareness of self-love, love for all, and an overwhelming sense of participating fully in life struck her. It was such an epiphany that she knew in that moment she wanted to dedicate her life to helping others find that inner spirit. A guiding vision for her own life to live in this place of deep connection to her unconditioned self was established. Over time she has come to bring her work to help create the new human, as she coins it.

Who is this New Human?

The new human has evolved to show characteristics such as kindness, compassion, love. The new human is connected spiritually to herself and others. She experiences the joys of silence; feels safe and whole; is trusting, aware and values the importance of choosing.  She knows the power of her new brain to help her choose her life.New human - women contemplating on cliff

The New World

What’s so simple yet so significant about Lynda’s message is that it’s not enough to be an individual to have made the choice about living life as a new human and being fully present to life. What is even more uplifting is people taking their new awareness and choosing to be together, to collaborate and co-create the new world. This shift is one from just needing to survive to flourishing.  An understanding how our brain, mind and relationships can be differentiated and integrated to develop this new human is what will bring on the new world, where we will flourish.

From Fear to Freedom

On Lynda’s website you can learn a lot about her perspective on making the transition from fear to freedom. It’s been told many times that fear is the driver of the instinctive old brain which is located low in the back of skull and the emotional /social brain, the limbic located in the the mid-brain. The new brainlocated in the front of the skull, the neocortex is there, in conjunction with the mind and relationships to help us evolve ourselves and support others to do the same in a collaborative way. We can make this a shift becausewe now have the capacity to pause, reflect and choose. We can be free.  When we know we can choose, we use our whole brain capacity, and our whole self, transitioning through the emotions of fear to to integrating the front part of the brain with awareness of being able to make different choices.

Fear in our modern world is not provoked by the orange and black striped big cat in the jungle. It comes in the form of burnout, overload, stress, overwhelm, relationship breakdowns – we are back surviving as a way of living, instead of being aware of our how we have the brain, the body, mind and heart to truly flourish.

Transformational Moments Invite Us to Do the Work.

Opportunities that make us recognize what holds us back and keeps us small come in different ways. Being open to them is what creates the change. Transformational moments can drop into our laps AND we still have the do the work. As Lynda explains so clearly, that is the choice part. Seeing the opportunities in adversity is a choice.

When you choose to embrace life and accept all that comes as an opportunity, you are more open to co-create;  the universe steps in and you begin to see many synchronicities and serendipities.

Everything thing is an opportunity to grow – at all levels. When you collaborate with like-minded others, you begin to build a world that works for everyone and supports everyone.  The transformational change methodology of Appreciative Inquiry is one way to facilitate meaningful collaboration and co-creation.

Second Chance to Choose our Lives

Please listen in to Lynda as she shares with me the crux of her perspective, grounded in the new sciences. Namely, our new brain,  mind and relationship intelligence allow us to exercise our mindful self to stand in a different place from all the conditioning of our past. The new human recognizes that we can be free of that old, habitual response. We now have a second chance. Growing up, it’s likely we lost our connection with our innate self. We were dominated by what we were told we were and what the world is. Our evolved brain, mind and body allow all that’s within us to surface, so we can observe beliefs and thoughts with compassion and curiosity. We feel the emotions in our body, and with this elevated level of consciousness we are aware that we don’t have to identify with any of this old stuff. We are open to everything-within and without as we shift from avoidance to awareness.

Everything holds an Opportunity for Learning, Healing, Growing

I wanted to conclude these show notes with a quote that Lynda references in the show. It speaks to her message of the new human living into a new world:  To love the questions, to be curious and to live into both.  The point is to live everything.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Maria Rainer Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

How to Connect with Lynda

Lynda's website

Lynda on Google+

Lynda on Facebook

Lynda on LinkedIn

Lynda on Twitter

Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.


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Students and Business Leaders Hook up to be a Force for Good, with Roberta Baskin – PS58

Episode Introduction

Award winning journalist, Roberta Baskin is a most distinguished guest on Positivity Strategist podcast.  Roberta has had a stellar career in investigative journalism with more than 75 journalism awards both print and TV, including prestigious Peabodys, duPont Columbia Awards, and multiple Emmys.  During this time of global reporting, there was a stirring within: a shift that has brought Roberta to where she is today, Executive Director of AIM2Flourish.

Episode Overview – Business as a Force for Good

Roberta Baskin on Force for GoodAIM2Flourish is a non-profit organization, founded at Case Western Reserve University, whose mission is to accelerate the shift to a Business for Good mindset by recognizing the positive impact of today’s business leaders, and changing the way tomorrow’s leaders are taught.  What is so exciting about AIM2Flourish is that these future business leaders get out of the classroom into businesses that are doing good and positively working towards achieving any one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with a target date of 2030.

It’s as if Roberta had been preparing for this new role during her entire journalistic career.  Her investigations, during her time as a journalist, resulted in making beer healthier, exposing sweatshops in the shoe and soccer industries, uncovering pediatric dental abuses, and succeeding in banning dangerous products.

Did You Discover Appreciative Inquiry or Did Appreciative Inquiry Discover you?

Whenever my guests come from the world of Appreciative Inquiry (AI), I invite this question: Did you discover Appreciative Inquiry, or did Appreciative Inquiry discover you.  You’ll love Roberta’s quirky answer. (She’s very playful by nature, having enjoyed her company at a number of Appreciative Inquiry gatherings).  As a recovering journalist, Roberta offers that she needed to do the AI Certification twice, because she was programmed to focus on the bad stuff in the world.  Her default mindset was conditioned to find out “what’s wrong?” in situations rather than “What’s possible?” What a 360 turn!  When she met Appreciative Inquiry thought leader, David Cooperrider, her worldview flipped, as does most people’s when they discover AI, and/or meet with Professor Cooperrider.

Restorative Narratives

It's very encouraging to hear Roberta offer examples of media organizations that are focusing on the best of humanity even in the worst of times.  Journalists who report on tragic circumstances in ways that restore hope, resilience and possibilities that lift up the human spirit to inspire us all.   Restorative narratives shine the light on how even in pain and suffering, there are beautiful stories of hope and resilience and possibility.

Examples of generative journalism can be found in Images and Voice of Hope, Constructive Journalism Project, Solutions Journalism Network, Axiom News and Huffington Post has a What's Working Section.

Changing Business Education by Changing the Story of Business

If we hold the belief that business can be a force for good, how might we change the way colleges and universities teach business skills?  Instead of the same old traditional curriculum, we might inquire into the biggest global issues facing businesses today and create innovative partnerships and experiences for students to learn actively from personal experience rather than passively through books and the internet.

Organizations who value innovation, longevity and human flourishing as strategic imperatives,  demonstrate that their financial bottom line is so interconnected with our planet’s and people’s well-being.

Developing Leaders for 21st Century

AIM2Flourish partners with professors in business schools around the world with materials to help their students research, and engage in conversations with innovative business leaders, and begin to conceive potential solutions that will not only advance business goals, but also address the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals provide such an opportunity for business students to work on real issues such as ending poverty and hunger, shifting to clean energy, controlling climate change and working for peace.  All this is possible.  Our collective conscious has awakened to our global oneness.  We are all in this together.

Being a Force for Good Benefits all Stakeholders

AIM2Flourish is the world’s first global action-learning platform showcasing business innovation that tackle some of our biggest challenges. Founded at Case Western Reserve University, business students across the globe use Appreciative Inquiry framed questions (AIM = Appreciative Inquiry Method) to search out and report on golden innovations that address the 17 UN Global Goals.

As a participating business, the benefits are many:  brand reputation; being aligned with purpose-driven students; aligning with other leaders in the social responsibility space;  recognition as a positive change agent in the world and providing solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges.

AIM2Flourish Stories and Ways to Participate

As you listen to Roberta, you will be inspired by students’ stories.  I encourage you to go to,  join up and participate in being a force for good.  The students and the companies that are being showcased will appreciate it and you’ll feel great about your contribution.

AIM2Flourish logo Force for GoodIf you wish to participate more actively, please reach out to Roberta. Her links are provided below.

Accept Roberta’s invitation to create your own profile on AIM2Flourish.

Contribute to the Sightings page.  Here's an opportunity to write up an innovation you are aware of that may help students explore more.

You, your family, community or organization  can become part of the global improvement movement to achieve the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 – only 14 years away.

AIM2Flourish is housed at the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit in Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management.

Links Mentioned

Website:  AIM2Flourish

Twitter: AIM2Flourish

LinkedIn: Roberta Baskin

Facebook: AIM2Flourish

Roberta on Wikipedia

Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit

Recent Articles by Roberta

1) Huffington Post blog: Business 101: AIM2Flourish 

2) Kosmos Journal: AIM2Flourish

3) AIM2Flourish Blog 

Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.


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If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

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  • I'd love it if you can leave a quick review, on iTunes and Stitcher.

Shifting Power – Exciting Possibilities through Appreciative Inquiry With Tim Slack – PS55

Episode Introduction

Shifting PowerMy guest, Tim Slack is filled with energy, ideas, gratitude and generosity as he talks about his experiences with Appreciative Inquiry.  You’ll hear many references to people Tim admires, and whose work, contributions and essential being have been a positive influence in his work as a  master practitioner of Appreciative Inquiry.  Tim, along with Suzanne Quinney co-founded Appreciating People. They are recognized as UK leaders in the application of the power shifting approach of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in communities, organizations and government agencies.

Tim lives and works in Liverpool in the UK, not far from Penny Lane, of Beatles fame, and, he reports, the tourists still flock there!

Episode Overview –  Shifting Power with Appreciative Inquiry

In this episode, you will hear from Tim, how extensively and innovatively he, his partner Suzanne Quinney and their associates are applying the transformational change method of  Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in the world. In our conversation, we offer that Appreciative Inquiry is undergoing a sea change – a transformation – of its own. Tim and many other AI practitioners continually contribute to the growing number of  practical and life-changing resources, expanding upon the traditional resources of Appreciative Inquiry across the globe.  We talk about the transformative impact of AI at the individual, community and organizational levels. Tim gives examples the resources he and his team have created and the groups he’s been working with: kids in schools, surgeons and nurses in hospitals, women returning from combat in the military, curators in museums, students in universities, the homeless, LGTBQ community, clergy and members of churches and more.

Did You Discover Appreciative Inquiry or Did Appreciative Inquiry Discover you?

I like to ask my guests about their initial experience with AI because growing evidence reveals that when we have our first exposure to AI, it feels so natural to us, that it seems we have “come home” and the entire worldview, principles and practices makes perfect sense to us as a way of being and working.

Tim scored the double jackpot – he discovered his future wife, Suzanne, and AI together. It was Suzanne who introduced him to AI.  They have been co-creating and lighting up the world ever since.  Together, they embarked on a long learning journey with and about Appreciative Inquiry from some of the best teachers and practitioners.  They developed professional relationships which over time developed into strong personal friendships, collaborations and ongoing co-creations.

Influences in Appreciative Inquiry

It delighted me to hear Tim offered that my book, Appreciative Inquiry for Collaborative Solutions: 21 Strength-based Workshops was very influential in helping him see the many practical applications of AI.  He also included Jackie Kelm’s books, Appreciative Living and The Joy of Appreciative Living as examples which take AI outside of academia and big organizational development summits into small group work, day-to-day practices and personal transformation. (Links below are offered below.)

Appreciating Church – The Book

Tim shares the story about how the Appreciating Church project originated.  A range of different church communities undertook trainings in AI, but the continuity element was lacking, meaning people experienced training and it stopped there.  So Tim and his colleagues created a longer term process so that the participants had resources to be able to apply it themselves in their own communities and beyond.  The program has been getting stronger and stronger over two years and in January 2017, the book, Appreciating Church will be available. This is an exciting addition to AI's body of work.

The opening lines of the book, dating back to the 14th century, quote St. Julian de Norwich (known to be the first woman to write a  book in the English language):

And all shall be well, all shall be well… for there is a Force of love moving through the universe, that holds us fast and will never let us go.”  St. Julian de Norwich (c.a. 1342-1416)


Click on the image to view a PDF outline of “Appreciating Church” – the book

Listen in to learn more about this very exciting work, what’s in the book and how it could be recontextualized to other communities.  Hint, it’s about a God of Abundance, not pain and fear or scarcity, and how we can use our strengths collectively.

With 210 people already trained across the participating churches, Tim talks about the shifts that have already occurred and the impact this work is having, as it expands.  He also pays tribute to Jane Magruder Watkins and Ralph Kelly in embarking on this work.


Appreciative Inquiry Resources AKA Essentials

I find it delightful to plug into Tim’s perspective.  The “resources” he continues to create for the AI community – trainers, practitioners and their clients are referred to as “essentials.” Check out the Essentials page on the Appreciating People website.   They are truly beautiful and valuable – content-wise and aesthetically.

AI – A Sea Change?

We talked about the shift that we are witnessing in the applications of AI.  The sea change lies in the acknowledgement that AI is not just about big systems and organization development.  There is a desire to find out more about “the self” and desire to apply Appreciative Inquiry for personal growth and change.  Living in times of chaos and turbulence, we are looking for resources to help us be more grounded, to give us a framework that offers us hope and possibility, enabling us to tap into our inner strengths.  AI does this.  A recent survey I conducted confirms this trend.


The value of journaling to support the “appreciative muscle” came out of the work Suzanne Quinney had been doing with the hostel residents (Suzanne describes the power of this work in an earlier conversation I had with her.)  The questions, the inspirations, the prompts in the journals allow the person to document their thoughts, reflections, insights along their journey.  Tim has created a number of journals that are specific to different contexts.  For example, “How To Be More Awesome” for students; “Food for Thought” for people who want to strengthen their appreciative muscle. The process of journaling can help in building resilience.  Questions are drawn from Appreciative inquiry and activities from the field of Positivity Psychology, such as daily gratitude, mindfulness and wellness activities. Tim is a big advocate of multiple learning modalities, including art and humor.

Shifting Power – Ensuring all Stakeholders ARE IN

During  our conversation, one of the tools Tim mentions is the ‘ARE IN’ check-in process, created originally by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff who created “Future Search” which was based on the original Search Conferencing Participatory Planning and Design methodology. (Open the Positivity Lens Reveal below to learn more)

positivity lens


Downloadble resources and tools

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One of the challenges in bringing the whole system together to explore an organisation’s development plans is to ensure you have got the ‘right’ people there.

ARE IN could be a useful mechanism to ensure buy-in and ownership – which is a precursor to shifting power – give voice to all.

This acronym is a useful reminder when planning a large scale, whole systems change experiences.

The ARE IN tool, was developed by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff, as part of the ‘Future Search’ methodology.

They recommend that a whole system event or process should include participants who ‘ARE IN’, i.e. those with:

A uthority to act (e.g. decision making responsibility in an organisation or community);

R esources such as contacts, time or, money;

E xpertise in the issues to be considered;

I nformation about the topic that no others have;

N eed to be involved because they will be affected by the outcome and can speak to the consequences;

This check list implies you have people in the room who can make decisions and who can ensure change is sustained beyond the planning stages. 

What is Excellence?

Tim leaves us with hints of what Appreciating People are beginning to work on – looking at excellence in surgical procedures in hospitals. He concludes by pondering if the next question we could be asking, after the seminal AI question “What’s already working well” is

“What is excellence?”

A banquet of food for thought!

Links and Mentions

Tim’s Wesbite: Appreciating People

Tim’s email: Tim Slack  [email protected]

Tim’s Blog Posts: News from Appreciating People

Tim’s Twitter: @AppreciatingPeople

Tim’s LinkedIn:  Tim Slack

Interview with Suzanne Quinney: Social Innovations by Appreciating People, with Suzanne Quinney

Interview with Jackie Kelm: Three Steps to Appreciative Living, with Joy Engineer Jackie Kelm

St. Julian de Norwich – Amazon Page


Books Mentioned in the Episode

Let's Stay Connected

It's always great to hear from you. Please connect with me to ask questions or leave comments about this episode or the podcast in general, and there are several good ways to do this:

  • Share your questions and ideas on the Podcast Feedback page
  • Leave a voice message here, and we may feature your question on an upcoming episode
  • Leave a comment on the show notes below

Help Spread the Message of Positivity!

I would be extremely appreciative if you would subscribe, rate or review our Positivity Strategist podcast. Your ratings and comments will help a lot to spread the message! Here is a guide to writing a quick review, click on iTunes and Stitcher.


Listen to Stitcher


Listen on Google Play Music

Subscribe Via RSS

If this episode was helpful or enjoyable to you,

  • I invite you to share it using the social media buttons on the bottom of this page.
  • I'd love it if you can leave a quick review, on iTunes and Stitcher.



How Positive Emotions Make us Better Problem Solvers

Positivity is your power. It operates like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. Negativity has a power.  In fact, negativity has a stronger pull on us in evolutionary terms.  Both positive emotions and negative emotions serve us. All emotions have a purpose.

What comes to mind when you hear,

“Don’t get so emotional”, or, ‘don’t go all emotional on me; “ or “he’s so emotional.”

Or, you hear people say, as I’ve heard said,

“She’s being so emotional! And I’m just saying the truth!  I’m a realist.”

Both Positive Emotions and Negative Emotions Serve

All emotions serve us.  You can be real and positive simultaneously — AND, you can also be real and negative simultaneously . Neither is inherently good or bad. They just are; and they serve us for BOTH our survival AND our flourishing.

Neuroscience teaches us that negative emotions and positive emotions activate different neural connections in the brain. They release different chemicals and overtime they influence our biochemistry and change us at the cellular level in different ways.

Below is a very personal story. The purpose is to show how negative emotions set us off on one course of action that impact our brains and bodies;  and positive emotions set off a other another response. You’ll also observe that you can’t shift out of a state of negativity and despair until you begin to experience a shift to positive emotions towards hope.

If you’re feeling negative there’s most likely one solution you’re stuck on and it's hard to shift from that place of stuckness.  When you experience positive emotions, you're more fluid and you'll find you are open to many more different possible directions that will help you with solutions to help solve your problems.

The brain lights up differently to different responses. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in the brain shows that different neural pathways light up when subjects experience negative responses versus positive. fMRI is a relatively new procedure that measures the tiny metabolic changes that take place when a certain part of the brain is activated.

Positive Emotions help with Problem Solving

Positive emotions light up the part of the brain that helps us see the big picture. To help people do that, you first induce some kind of positive experience, such remembering a past experience that was joyful or warming, or listening to music, or seeing pictures of loved ones; or you remind them of something that’s special to them or they want, then you are more likely to open them up to connect in a more resourceful way to the issues at hand and help with problem solving.

This is why accessing positive emotions is foundational to creating positive change.

Personal Story

My sister Skypes me in tears. She apologies for not being in touch but she's been in a really bad place and she’s calling to let me know she’s quitting her job. She blabbers in between sobs, that she's coping, she's bad feelings: she's overwhelmed, and feeling totally incompetent; she feels she's letting the side down; she feels a failure and wants to give up. She blurts out she's going in to work the next day to tell her boss she's quitting.

I'm in shock. She loves her job, after having a tough time starting out in life. She’d hated school. She got into the wrong crowd; did drugs, got expelled from one school. But she loved animals and started working at an Animal Hospital and Shelter.  She loved it. She adopted cats and bred cats for years.

After several years being a vet’s assistance, she decided she wanted to become a nurse. But she didn’t have the educational qualifications to enter nursing and in those days – in the 1980s nursing training was actually conducted in the hospitals. So, she hired a math and English coach; got all the references she needed, passed the entry exams and thus began her nursing career of 25 plus years.

Years fly by and she ends up an Emergency Room nurse. Several weeks before this call when she's sobbing that she's quitting her job, she'd been offered a special job in a shiny new wing of the hospital. It was an honor to have been invited to apply and she was successfully awarded the job and therefore, she was being acknowledged very highly in being chosen to work in the shiny new hospital wing.

And now – three weeks into it, she wants to throw in the towel. She's feeling so bad that there's only one way out for her – quit – it’s the flight response of that old reptile brain. You fight or you flee. She has no fight left, as she's emotionally drained and physically and mentally exhausted.

I knew that to get her to shift from feeling totally powerless to finding some personal power was the only way that she could begin to imagine a different future.

Coaching Family is a Challenge

It was a tough call for me, because I think many of you will agree, coaching a family member is not easy. There’s a lot of emotional baggage you both carry around with you. Yet, my sister was in serious pain and it pained me to see her that way. I wanted so bad to help her.

So after acknowledging how she was feeling, and showing that I had been truly listening by reflecting back some of the words, and feelings she had been expressing, I asked the following questions bit by bit, allowing her the space to respond in her own time in between sobs, gasps and silences :

  1. In five years time, how do you want to look back on your almost 30 year nursing career?
  2. You’re so proud of your achievements, how do you want to remember all these efforts and successes in the future?
  3. How do you want people to remember you?
  4. What have you imagined about your own retirement and your own retirement party?

I could go down this line of inquiry because I know her history and I know that many of her friends were beginning to retire and they loved to party.

I started to notice a shift in her body and face – the crying stopped, long pauses of silence, some feeble sounds of acknowledgement about what she had achieved and how important her work was to her, because she really did love her work and the people she worked with and cared for.

Then like a bolt, she said, “I know what I can do”…..and she came up with her own solution.  She would go to her boss the next day, not to quit, but ask to go back to her old job, which was still open to her. She had FORGOTTEN about that option.  She was so overwhelmed, that the negative emotions that had shut her down and closed off options.

The solution was always there, but the negative energy she had spiraled down into had prevented her from possibilities thinking.

In hearing this story, you could add some of your own perspectives as you make sense of this story. Here are two common ones.

Fear of failure

Fear of failure is self-sabotage that prohibits us from taking action. If you think back to your own early childhood when you might have been fearful of raising your hand to contribute your ideas in the classroom situation because you if your were wrong, you were chastised and made to feel bad.

Those kinds of past experiences come up when you are in a negative state. Those memories of past pain tell you to stay safe. The hormone cortisol is released when under stress. And if you’re constantly stressed, the release of too much cortisol over time can lead to serious health issues.

And coupled with the biological responses, you have the psychological response from the old stories you tell yourself to keep keep you “safe”. Those little voices in your head that come from somewhere: “Play it safe. Stay Put! Leave the courageous acts to others!”

I’m reminded of a thought-provoking quote from Dr Mark Goulston “to be only safe, you’ll end up sorry.”

Fear of the unknown

Equally pervasive is another kind of fear, and it’s related. It’s fear of the unknown or fear of others; and it’s far more subtle; therefore, you may not be as aware of it; yet, it does stand in the way of your personal leadership and your ability to embrace any kind of change.

In the workplace, fear of the unknown and fear of others may be evidenced when a new person joins the team, a new leader is hired, or a new company takes over yours. You close off to new inputs and so  you are not allowing yourself to be open to change.

This fear comes from the need for self-preservation. You may fear others who may not be like you, or who have different perspectives that you don’t yet understand. This fear absolutely gets in the way of building relationships, and slows down progress.

In Summary

To sum up, here are some facts about the different purposes of both positive and negative emotions that come out of this story. When you are in a negative, depressed, anxious, fearful state, you close yourself off from seeing there are many possible directions you can go in, or choices you can make, or options you can consider.

You have to be able to access the positive feelings before you can have any positive thoughts, let alone take positive action.

Positive emotions expand your awareness and help you come up with, different possibilities for action.

Positive emotions get people to see the big picture.

Once you induce something positive into a situation,then you're more open to find solutions and be a shining example of an agent for positive change.