I recently returned from a trip to Yosemite National Park. This experience gave me the opportunity for learning, reflection and a few days of catching up with Debby Peterson, my old college friend. As The Meeting House Founder, I was inspired by the leadership at Nature Bridge, Yosemite's educational partner, to improve my own emotional intelligence and share those skills with adults in our community. Here are some visual inspirations from my trip plus seven ideas in social emotional learning that I've committed to in 2018.
Nature Bridge, the educational partner of Yosemite National Park, fosters environmental literacy and social and emotional development in teens. These photos have been curated from my inspiring and educational trip graciously led by Nature Bridge. Click here to learn more about this incredible organization.
1. Challenge Builds Resiliency and Flexibility
I'm going to move out of my safe space to overcome my discomfort and face the challenge. Taking opportunities that push me can be a great way for me to grow, whether it be a tough hike, being more social or exploring foreign cultures.
2. Gain Perspective and Build Empathy
I'm going to try to listen more and especially take time to understand people who have different opinions. I'm going to put myself in someone else's shoes and look for opportunities for perspective taking and greater empathy in my life. For me, connecting with nature is the ultimate way to gain perspective. There is nothing like the vastness of planet earth to make you realize that small inconveniences or petty disagreements really don’t matter. New perspectives can be found everywhere.
3. Build Self Awareness
I'm going to give myself permission to slow down and reflect on myself. So many of us are so busy rushing from one responsibility to another that we rarely take a minute to hit the pause button. When I accidentally encountered a waterfall while hiking in Yosemite, I was so overwhelmed with its majesty and beauty that I stopped right in my tracks and didn’t move. I allowed myself to “do nothing” but enjoy nature’s beauty and think about where and how these mountains fit into my life. Finding those moments in every day urban life is critical too. Pause and Reflect -- two new additions to my 2018 vocabulary.
4. The Power of Conversation - A Lost Art
Hiking reminded me of the power of conversation in building and nurturing friendships. I realized how often my go to behavior these days is to text versus call a friend. Hiking and walking with a friend or group of friends is a wonderful way to socialize and can create a special sense of connection and inclusion. It offers the time to explore many topics soup-to-nuts and actually talking things through with a friend.
5. Stay Connected to People Not Devices
I need to hear my friend’s laughter, see her expression and feel her warm hugs saying hello and goodbye. Relationships take time and effort. Whether it be a Central Park weekly walk, a coffee or a lunch, a movie or a play. Verbal and non verbal communication is essential to meaningful relationships, so make more of an effort to stay connected to friends and not only via texting!
6. Feedback is Just Feedback Not Criticism
When feedback is delivered in an honest and compassionate way it can be heard not as criticism but as an opportunity to learn about yourself and how others see you in the workplace and at home. Feedback is feedback—not criticism. Try to manage any negative reactions and cultivate a genuine appreciation for the helpful feedback. Over the holiday my children told me I was an intense person. I heard it and owned it. I'm going to work on chilling out around the house. I'm checking my ego at the door and embracing my imperfection.
7. Keep Moving
Hiking and walking offer endless opportunities for health, wellness, perspective taking and socialization. Whether in an urban or rugged outdoor environment, Yosemite National Park or the ramble in Central Park, continue to make time for outdoor activity which is so beneficial for mind and body. As Dr. Freedoff said in the Times this weekend, "Physical activity is almost magical in its ability to improve the quality of life. It reduces risks of nearly every physical and mental condition there is. If you can only do one thing in terms of improving your diet or fitness, I’d improve fitness first.”