The fascinating places scientists aren’t exploring | Ella Al-Shamahi

We're not doing frontline exploratory science in a huge portion of the world — the places governments deem too hostile or disputed. What might we be missing because we're not looking? In this fearless, unexpectedly funny talk, paleoanthropologist Ella Al-Shamahi takes us on an expedition to the Yemeni island of Socotra — one of the most biodiverse places on earth — and makes the case for scientists to explore the unstable regions that could be home to incredible discoveries.
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How to Fight Well in Your Relationship

“Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” ~Rumi

I had one of those really intense arguments with my partner recently, and it made me realize the importance of knowing how to fight well in a relationship.

That might sound like an oxymoron, but there isn’t a relationship I know of where the couple doesn’t fall out at one point or another. Fights can make or break a relationship. That’s why it’s important you know how to fight well—because the success of any relationship isn’t based on how well you manage the good times but on how well you can deal with the bad.

Basically, it’s about how well you can learn to fight.

Learning to fight well is important because it can help bring up lots of hidden stuff that’s been lying dormant for years; it enables you to be really honest with each other, which helps you develop deeper levels of trust; and studies have shown that learning to fight well can even improve the intimacy in your relationship.

But back to our fight.

It all started when I was out at friend’s house and lost track of the time. My partner and I had agreed to spend some quality time together that evening, and when I noticed the time, my heart sank. I knew she would be upset as I made the difficult call home, and yep, I was right. She was livid. We then descended into a really uncomfortable argument of blame and counter blame, with a bit of defensiveness thrown in for good measure.

Criticism and defensiveness are two of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, as highlighted by renowned relationship experts Drs. John and Julie Gottman. They noticed these two traits are highly correlated to relationships that lead to breakup and divorce.

Whenever my partner and I would have our worst arguments these two traits would always be present, and this time was no different.

That’s why becoming more aware of how you fight can help you avoid relationship Armageddon and instead increase the trust, safety, and love in your relationship. To help with this here are seven key steps to follow when you feel as if you’re descending into another one of those earth shattering fights:

1. Upgrade your language.

Some arguments can help grow the relationship and develop greater levels of trust and intimacy between both parties. Other arguments are the opposite; they create a hierarchy and a power struggle, which diminishes respect, trust, and love.

If we rewind to the start of our arguments we can predict to some extent their “success” by the language that started them and whether it was “hard” or “soft.”

Hard language starts with generic hyperbole like “You always…” or “Why do you never…” or “I knew that you would…” Soft language uses “I” statements and focuses on the actions that took place, how they made us feel, and what we want to happen.

My partner’s language that day was very “hard.” She criticized me and I immediately became defensive as the original story in my head started to change in response to her accusations. The firm agreement I knew we’d made became a tentative expectation in my mind. My lateness was no longer my responsibility but my friend’s, who had been delayed preparing food. Bit by bit I retold the story of what had happened and made myself into a victim of my circumstances instead of the owner that I really was.

The language used at the start of our exchange influenced my response and how the subsequent argument progressed.

The Gottman Institute reported that they can predict with 94 percent accuracy how a discussion will end based on the language used to start it. The softer and kinder our words, the less defensive we become, meaning we are more open to taking responsibility and creating connection instead of disconnection.

A key principle to help with this is to use language to complain but don’t blame.

2. Create space.

Luckily, I had a one-hour drive home to work out what had happened and to get some perspective following our argument. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was a crucial period because I used it to work through what had happened, and there’s no way we could have achieved such a good outcome without the time this gave us.

I’ve learned that it’s wise to agree in advance to call a “timeout” or “press pause” before arguments begin. In the past I’ve attempted to call a timeout to create the space to calm down, but this has only made matters worse.

My partner and I now have an agreement that if either of us needs to call a timeout in an argument the other will respect the request. It can be infuriating at the time, but arguing when you are in a low mood or heightened sense of emotion is never going to assist your dialogue. Therefore, it’s important to create space as much as you can.

3. Safely express your emotions.

On that drive home the first thing I did was shout and scream about what had happened. My inner child had a field day as I moaned and complained to my imaginary passengers about what she’d said and how wrong she was. It was fantastic, and a very cathartic way to clear the negative energy and emotions I was holding on to around the conversation.

When we had the initial phone call I went into a stress response as my body became flooded with cortisol, and my heart rate went through the roof. Expressing my emotions and doing lots of deep breathing on the way home helped me flush the cortisol out of my body and return it to its original state. Without doing this I would have taken those negative emotions and feelings into the resumption of the fight on my return home.

The intense emotions we have during a fight form a negative filter through which we see the relationship. There’s not much our partners can say that we won’t interpret the wrong way when we come from this place. That’s why it’s so important to clear the filter and express your emotions as best you can.

It’s important to make sure that you find somewhere safe to do this, however. Doing it next to your partner won’t go down well, so get out of the house and find somewhere to express your emotions as cleanly and safely as possible so you don’t take it into your next fight,

4. What if…?

Once I’d let go of the emotions I started to calm down, and it was only then that I realized I could let go of the story I’d been telling myself. It was at this point I decided to tell myself a new story that started with “What if…”

“What if she had a point?”

“What if I wasn’t being honest with myself?”

“What if I wasn’t taking responsibility for something?”

This provided a new lens through which to see the situation. With my strong emotions now expressed it was like a fog had been lifted, and I could see the situation from a new vantage point. This new perspective allowed me to completely shift my thinking on what had happened and relinquish my grip on the version of events I had concocted to help deal with my partner’s “hard” response.

5. Take responsibility.

From that simple question I realized that there was plenty I could take responsibility for, that I was ignoring based on my initial triggered response. I was shocked because once I found one thing, I found another, and another. By the end, I could take responsibility for almost all of what happened.

It would have been easier to take responsibility for either nothing (be stubborn) or everything (be a people-pleaser). But the more honest I was with myself, the more I could distinguish between what was mine and what was not.

For example, we had made a clear agreement about what time I would get back. I knew the food was going to be late, so I could have explained to my friends and left without eating. I knew I didn’t have a watch, so I could have checked on the time from somewhere else.

Previously I’d been telling myself the story that I needed in order to ensure I wasn’t in the wrong and to protect the scared little boy inside myself that was upset at being made to feel bad.

This also helped me to realize what I was not prepared to take responsibility for. I was being accused of some things that weren’t right. In fights we easily turn critiques about our actions into criticisms of our character. So, for example, in this scenario I was late home because I didn’t prioritize my partner. This is a critique (and is true); however, a criticism would be that this action makes me a selfish person (not true).

Taking ownership for what was mine helped me release responsibility for what was not. This helped me to feel much stronger and clearer in owning my part in the situation and how I communicated it to my partner, as a result.

6. Respect your partner’s process.

When I arrived home I was excited to share what I’d learned with my partner and imagined us having a great conversation about it. That didn’t happen because she was still really annoyed with me. I came through the door with this great insight and awareness about the argument and how and why I’d behaved as I had. However, I was met with stonewalling.

I’d used the journey home to vent and express my feelings, so the emotions in me had subsided. However, my partner had been sat at home the whole time stewing and making matters bigger and badder in her head, so we were in very different places. She still needed to express those emotions and get them out of her system before she was able to communicate with me in a productive way, and I needed to create space for her to do that.

That was really tough because I realized I was in one place (emotionally and physically expressed, and now ready to take responsibility for what was mine), whereas she was somewhere else (still emotional and not ready for a rational conversation).

7. Create the “container.”

Fights often get out of control when you are both full of emotion and expressing it from a place of fear. The most important thing missing in most fights is a safe space within which to share and be heard

When my partner and I fight we often fight for space to be heard as much as we argue about whatever the fight appeared to be about. Most fights are secret battles for power in the relationship and not really about whatever started them.

To fight well requires one of you to have enough presence, away from your emotions, to create a safe space (or the “container”) within which to have the conversation.

Once my partner’s emotions had calmed I asked if she was okay to have a conversation about what had happened because I wanted to share with her some things I wanted to take responsibility for. She agreed, and we were then able to have that conversation where I took responsibility for what was mine and we discussed what was not for me to take.

I found that leading and taking responsibility for what was mine made her more trusting in me, which added to the safety we’d developed in creating the “container.” This made her much more understanding and able to take responsibility for what was hers.

It really helped me when she said the simple words “I was wrong to say you were selfish.” I felt validated, which helped further develop the trust we had for each other.

She would never have been able to admit that if we’d not created the sufficient safety for us both to be honest with each other.

This certainly wasn’t an easy conversation, but it would never have been possible if we hadn’t taken steps to create some space to express our emotions, take responsibility for what was ours, and then create a safe environment within which to discuss it.

I learned that it’s not what we fight about but how we fight that’s most important.

About Mike Matthews

Mike is a writer, coach and founder at The Inspiring Men Project. He helps men and women to understand each other better and men to understand themselves so they can take their relationships and lives to the next level. Connect with Mike and get his eBook Boundaries, How Healthy Boundaries Can Improve Your Life and Save Your Relationship, here.

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Immerse Yourself in What You Want to Become

In reading the transcript of Bob Dylan’s speech at MusiCares, I also liked this part on the origins of his songwriting:

“There’s nothing secret about it. You just do it subliminally and unconsciously, because that’s all enough, and that’s all I sang. That was all that was dear to me. They were the only kinds of songs that made sense.

I learned lyrics and how to write them from listening to folk songs. And I played them, and I met other people that played them back when nobody was doing it. Sang nothing but these folk songs, and they gave me the code for everything that’s fair game, that everything belongs to everyone.

For three or four years all I listened to were folk standards. I went to sleep singing folk songs. I sang them everywhere, clubs, parties, bars, coffeehouses, fields, festivals. And I met other singers along the way who did the same thing and we just learned songs from each other. I could learn one song and sing it next in an hour if I’d heard it just once.”

Whether you believe in the 10,000 hour rule or the 20-hour one (or neither), I love the concept of honing in on what matters to you and getting really good at it.

Later in the talk, Dylan argues that because of his immersion, it was impossible not to write the songs that made him famous.

Whether that’s true or not, I think it’s clear that surrounding yourself with a field of work that you love can only lead to you improving your body of work.

Here’s the full transcript.

Chris Guillebeau is the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness of Pursuit, The $100 Startup, and other books. During a lifetime of self-employment, he visited every country in the world (193 in total) before his 35th birthday. Every summer in Portland, Oregon he hosts the World Domination Summit, a gathering of creative, remarkable people. His new book, Born for This, will help you find the work you were meant to do. Connect with Chris on Twitter, on his blog, or at your choice of worldwide airline lounge.

Image courtesy of Hannah Wei.

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“The World Doesn’t Have Time to Wait for You”.

In a conversation with a friend, a phrase came to me: “The world doesn’t have time to wait for you.”

Initially, this landed as completely absurd.

Life doesn’t have time?! I relate to time as a human construct, not one of life’s universal laws.

So, I sat with it…

The world doesn’t have time to wait for you. The world doesn’t have time to wait for you. The world doesn’t have time to wait for you.

…And the message settled in.

There is a call to play our parts in creating the world we want – right now.

The stirrings we feel to serve are here for a reason.

Those who feel called to serve are here to be the torchbearers and midwives for our collective healing and evolution. What’s required is that we answer the call with courage, humility, and devotion.

The world doesn’t have time to wait for us.

But what happens for so many of us is that we hear the call, then fall into doubt…

  • We get trapped in unworkable win-lose narratives, such as believing that if we rise in our leadership, we must work ourselves into the ground, or that we can either have a thriving business or a thriving relationship, but not both.
  • We get crushed under the weight of perfectionism – finding the perfect words, achieving the perfect weight, having the perfect messaging/website/photos.
  • We don’t ask for the support we need, then feel crushed by uncertainty, overwhelm and despair.
  • We compare ourselves to others. The ones who have been doing it longer, have better branding, are more articulate/slim/popular/you-name-it. “Why would anyone want to work with me or hear what I have to say, when she says and does everything so much better?”
  • We slide into existential questioning of our own goodness and worthiness.

And all of these experiences are so normal.

Because we’ve often been told (or shown) that asking for and receiving help is a sign of weakness, that being “perfect” is what earns us love (or money), that our worth is determined by our looks or intelligence.

And as a result of these doubts, we lose so much…

  • We lose touch with our deepest desires or passion for what we feel called to.
  • We have a million ideas and have a hard time sensing where to start.
  • We get hooked into praise/approval and our own voice gets drowned out.

We recoil.
Slow ourselves down.
Let the fire die.
Stop.

We lose our momentum.
The world loses our wisdom.

Sometimes slowing down is necessary for rest and reflection. Sometimes slowing down is a way we “protect” ourselves from growth. It’s up to us to discern what’s true for us. @AskNisha (Click to Tweet!)

We are in a time where we’re being called to transcend the stories that keep us small and quiet, to work together to support the collective healing of our planet and ourselves.

What are the doubts that have been slowing you down? What are you committed to stepping into?

In the comments below, share the win-lose narratives, traps of perfectionism, comparison, or holding-back you’ve felt stuck in. Then, share what you’re committed to stepping into.

Nisha Moodley is a Women’s Leadership Coach and the creator of Fierce Fabulous Free, The Freedom Mastermind & The Virtual Sisterhood. Inspired by the belief that the world will be set free by women who are free & sisterhood is key to a woman’s freedom, Nisha creates communities of ambitious women to support them in redesigning their lives & businesses. Find her online at NishaMoodley.com and download her free Take Flight Action Guide to explore the next expansion of your freedom at TakeFlightActionGuide.com. You can follow Nisha on Twitter or FB.

Image courtesy of Ben White.

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Why the Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard

We all love our gadgets, the fact that we seem to be only one keystroke away from any other person in the world. But just because technology is everywhere, it doesn’t mean that our old friend, the lowly pen, is dead. You may have heard of its demise, but I can prove that the power of ink, which is to say the power of your own handwriting on the page, is actually far more powerful than you can imagine.

In fact, I have been using the power of my pen on paper to manifest a life that is full of more peace, joy, prosperity, and health than I could have dreamed possible. And it’s such a simple concept. You can do it too, anyone can! It’s called: a thank you note a day.

More Than Manners

Yes, I’m talking about gratitude! It’s not a new idea, of course. Saying thank you was one of your very first lessons in life as a child. And for the most part, I’m sure you do say thank you to someone when they help you with something you’re working on or struggling with.

What I’ve done is take this little gem of goodness and make it into a movement, a mantra {Spread Thanks}, a book, and a way of life. And in doing so, I have proven that the pen is a totally integral part of this gratitude equation. And it’s why I believe the power of the pen is mightier than the keyboard.

Yes, you could send a thank you note by email or text, and that’s a nice thing to do. But it is a fleeting moment in time, glanced at by your friend as they zip onto the next urgent message or click on the next shiny online icon. But there is a much better way. When you actually pick up a pen and write a physical thank you note with your own hand — the power of that gratitude increases exponentially!

Mailbox Magic

Imagine for a moment the joy you feel when you get a piece of actual mail that is addressed in pen. It’s so awesome to know that someone wrote your name and address on an envelope and put a stamp on it. Inside you find a card for your birthday, an invitation, or a note of thanks. It’s just for you! It’s a thrill!

Now imagine that you have the power to create that same amazing feeling in another person any day of the year. Just by mailing them a handwritten thank you note, you are sending them a big boost of happiness endorphins. When they see your note in the mail, just opening it becomes a special event because it hardly ever happens these days. I find that people keep these notes around, they show them to their friends and family, it becomes a lasting blast of good emotions — and you made it happen!

You’ve just witnessed the power of the pen in motion! But wait! There’s more! Every time you send someone a handwritten note, you get that same blast of good emotions as well. Your card creates a lovely ripple effect. Your day improves, their day is happier, and life in general is shinier and more hopeful.

That’s why I have been sending out a handwritten thank you note each day for the past three and a half years and I think I’ll just keep doing it forever. I have learned to be mindful every day and I have yet to run out of someone to thank. There is always goodness going on around you, when you pay attention to it. If you are interested and want to get started with your daily gratitude practice, pick up my book Spread Thanks to learn more about this practice and how it can change your life!

Now it’s your turn. Whom could you thank today? Why not pick up a pen and write someone just a short note? And then watch the power of your pen send the power of gratitude into overdrive. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences below and thank you for spreading thanks in your corner of the world.

Elena Anguita is a change agent, speaker, and author of Spread Thanks! Create Miracles Through The Power of Ink who supports education and passionately believes in the transformative power of gratitude. You can connect with Elena on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and SpreadThanks.com

Image courtesy of Phil Desforges.

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