Four Awesome Apps to Learn To Use This Summer

Do you have trouble keeping track of all of your To Do Lists and School Projects?

There are so many awesome apps out there to help you manage your time. Since it is summer, this is a perfect opportunity to discover and play with new time management applications.

In this video, I discuss a flashcard tool “Anki”, newly improved “Habitica”,  alert app “Way of Life” and organizational tool, “ToDoist”.

Would you like more creative solutions to time management and study woes? Check out my online course the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying. It’s great for grown-ups and teens alike.

What Every Struggling Student Needs to Hear

Recently a young woman about to graduate from college called me desperate:
“I’m such a mess! I’ve almost failed out of school several times! I’m thankfully about to graduate, but now I’m scared that I’m too much of a disaster organizationally to live in the real world.”

I told her one sentence — the sentence that I tell all my new clients — and I could just hear the relief in her voice. EVERYONE needs to hear these words of reassurance, but especially students who struggle with learning differences.

Don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:

I was thinking about a new client that’s about to come on who I was chatting on the phone with the other day, and she’s in her early 20’s and just now catching up to the idea that her executive functioning issues, ADD, disorganization, and time management issues are something she needs to get a handle on as she’s trying preparing to graduate from college and prepare for her future.

And I told her 2 little sentences that I could just hear the relief flow through her. I told her:

What Every Struggling Student Needs to Hear, Executive Functioning Issues, ADD, ADHD, Gretchen Wenger What Every Struggling Student Needs to Hear, Executive Functioning Issues, ADD, ADHD, Gretchen Wenger

So many young people, and probably older people as well, feel when they are struggling that they are the only ones and think things like: “If only I wasn’t so messed up, my life would be so much better!”, “Everybody probably thinks I’m weird or crazy cause I struggle with …” etc. And to you, I say, “You are not weird or messed up! You just need to learn to a few different habits and skills and practice them.”

Want more motivational to do better in school the anti-boring way? Check this out.

What the Heck Is InterPlay?!

So, I do this thing called InterPlay. And it’s kinda hard to explain exactly what it is.  People still scratch their heads and say “huh?” when I try to describe it.

Officially speaking, it’s an active, creative approach to unlocking the wisdom of the body.  Sounds great to me! But there are tons of people out there who have no idea what this means.

So, I’m devoting the summer to this problem: How do I describe InterPlay so that people get it!?

Why Do I Care About InterPlay?

But hold the phone — why does it matter if people “get it”?  Why do I care?

Partially because I want people to get ME. And InterPlay and its philosophy of body wisdom is a big part of who I am.

But I also care for this reason — I’ve found a great deal of freedom in my life thanks to the InterPlay philosophy and practices.  I think it’d be most excellent if other people got to experience this freedom too.

New Agey Blah Blah Blah?

I’m a pretty open person, and I’ve gone to a lot of new agey workshops on personal development and body/mind/spirit integration.  So much of it is really good stuff, and I’m a better person for it.

But this stuff also inaccessible to a great number of people. The language used by gurus and their followers is often so insular. Not to mention “airy-fairy” or “hoity-toity”. Their practices — for example, gazing into another person’s eyes for minutes at a time, or sharing deeply personal pain stories in public — feel threatening and uncomfortable. Most people (myself included) don’t like to dive head first into transformation.

Good for Average, Regular People

InterPlay is one of the first workshoppy things I’ve done that made me think — Wow! These folks have figured out how to bring body wisdom to your average, regular person.  There’s no need to be ultra spiritual or liberal to benefit from InterPlay.

Those of us who love it share bits and pieces everywhere we go.

Bobbie just called me yesterday to share how she used the babbling activity in a recent church meeting (Result: a group of people who’ve been friendly-but-distant for years starting feeling more connected).

Dorothy even got Iraq veterans doing — and loving! — a hand dance. (Result:  “It’s a new way to express myself,” one of them reflected gratefully. Yes!! More about that in a guest post soon.)

Uh oh. Look what I just did! I’d intended to try to explain what InterPlay is briefly and clearly. Instead, I used a bunch of wierd terms like “babbling” and “hand dance.” Does it put you off, because you have no idea what these things mean?

Come On, Already, Gretchen — What the Heck is InterPlay!?

I really do have a commitment to talking simply, directly, and clearly about InterPlay.  I just don’t know how! So, before I end, let me take a stab at some more statements:

  • People often practice InterPlay by gathering in groups in dance studios. But it can actually take place anywhere.
  • In any InterPlay experience, folks get together (community), do stuff (play), and then notice about it (reflection).
  • The “stuff” that they do includes improvisational storytelling, movement, and playing with the voice. I’ll be describing these forms in more detail in future blog posts. The “noticing” includes anything a person is comfortable saying about their experience. Often people don’t say anything at all.  Luckily, in InterPlay you don’t have to articulate your experience in order to have it.
  • In any InterPlay class, you’ll experience the 5 daily requirements — tell a story, use your voice, move around the room, have some stillness, and have easy, playful physical contact with others.
  • All activities in InterPlay are broken down into small, bite-sized pieces that are easy and comfortable for participants to do. (For example, “Take 30 seconds to tell your partner what you had for breakfast this morning”).

Please Give Me Feedback:

To those of you hearing about InterPlay for the first time, I’m curious: what have I said here that resonates? What confuses you?  What questions do you have?  Your feedback will really help me get better talking about this thing that I love so much.

Stay Tuned…

Starting this weekend and every Monday throughout the summer,  I’ll be blogging about the InterPlay core elements.  My goal is to provide clear, non-jargony descriptions of the core elements of InterPlay, including:

Body Wisdom Tools: Easy Focus, Body Data/Knowledge/Wisdom, Internal Authority, Physicality of Grace, Exformation, Spiritual Practices, Incremenality, and Affirmation

Body Wisdom Practices: Warm-Up, Babbling, Big Body Stories, Circle Stories, Contact, DT3s, Following and Leading, Group Toning/Singing, Hand-to-Hand Contact, “On Behalf of” forms, One-Breath songs, One-Hand dances, Shape & Stillness, Side-by-Side Stories, Solo Movement, Walking/Stopping/Running, Warm-Up, Witnessing, Noticing

Or Just Come Play

The truth, though, is this: no matter how much I say about InterPlay, you really need to experience it to get it.  Here is a quick brainstorm of ways to try it live and in person:

Goodness, this has been a long post.  Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom. Please DO leave your feedback! Here are those questions again:

What have I said here that resonates? What confuses you?  What questions do you have?

Your comments will really help me get better talking about this thing that I love so much!

As always, playfully yours!

Outsmarting Desire?

Smore

Do you want more self-control?  Or less of it? I can’t decide.

I got thinking about delayed gratification thanks to a recent New Yorker article titled Don’t! The Secret of Self Control.  It’s all about the marshmallow experiment that was done back in the ’60s.

Give 4-year-olds a marshmallow; tell them not to eat it for 15 minutes; reward them with a second marshmallow if they’re successful.  The guy who wrote the study followed up with the subjects as adults.  He discovered that the kids who were able to delay their gratification also scored higher on the SATs, earned higher salaries, and were more conventionally successful than the subjects who ate the first marshmallow.

The article concluded: Self-control is more important than IQ in helping people lead successful lives.

Outsmarting Desire

Throughout the article I was more-or-less on board with this whole “self control” thing. But then I read the following paragraph:

…even the most mundane routines of childhood — such as not snacking before dinner, or saving up your allowance, or holding out until Christmas morning — are really sly exercises in cognitive training: we’re teaching ourselves how to think so that we can outsmart our desires. (Don’t! The Secret of Self Control p. 32).

Really? Is that the goal?! I’m all for cognitive training. And there’s certainly value in learning how to wait for what I want.  But — outsmart desire?

Why Would I Want To Do That?

On one level, I get it. It’s important to learn how to control my desires, rather than letting them control me.

Last week I made the unusual choice to wait to eat the Ben & Jerry’s icecream until after I folded the laundry, as a reward.  Usually I do it the other way around…but then never end up folding the laundry!

The reason the phrase “outsmart desire” stopped me in my tracks is this: it suggests that “desire” and “smartness” are diametrically opposed.  Desire happens in the body.  Smartness happens in the brain. Conclusion: The brain needs to control the body.

This is a dangerous assumption. The body has so much wisdom. Desire is a teacher, not an unwelcome visitor who needs to be controlled.  And besides, there really is no such thing as a body that is separate from brain. We’re really one, big, holistic system.

Being in Relationship With Desire

I’m left with this. I do want more self-control. So that I can have more of what I desire, not less.  So I can be strategic about how I prioritize my many desires.

Yes, I want to eat all the ice cream right now! But I also value clean, unwrinkled clothes that are organized in my dresser drawer.  Fold laundry first. Eat icecream second.  All my needs get met.

Yes, I’d prefer to dive right into writing another blog entry. Writing’s fun! But I also desire to have a heathy body — and buying health insurance will help with that. (Not to mention, having health insurance meets my needs for security). Maybe I can send off an email to the insurance agent first, and then write for half an hour.

It’s less about control. And more about an ongoing relationship with myself and my desires.

Or perhaps I’m trying to out-desire my smarts! That’s a curious thought to ponder.

Meditation and Social Media

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Social media is eating away at my attention and my self-control. I’m sure of it.

As I bounce between facebook, twitter, and blog stats, I’m clear that my attention is increasingly fractured.  It darts about, trolling for cool people and  interesting data. Almost like a nervous tick.

In fact, just as I was writing the last sentence, I had an attention-lurch. You see, I got stuck about what to write next.  In the ensuing pause,  I experienced a strange “twitching” sensation. I opened a new Mozilla tab and checked my twitter messages.  All before I was conscious of what I was doing. Do you experience this too?

On the one hand, Twitter has proven to be the best professional development I’ve ever experienced (after all it’s where I’m finding about all these articles that inspire blog entries).  On the other hand, I’m out of control.

Why I Care About Self Control & Attention

The topic of self control and social media is relevant to me for at least two reasons.

(1) As a newly self-employed entrepreneur, I no longer have the structure of a 9-to-5 job to control my time.  The great part of this is I actually have time to pursue my passions.  The hard part is I have so many passions, that my attention is increasingly scattered.

(2) I coach teenagers, many of whom are diagnosed with ADD and ADHD.  Parents are constantly asking me to help their kids control their IM/textmessage/facebook habits.I’d love to, I tell the parents, as soon as I figure out how to control my own social media habits!

Right on cue, two relevant articles have flitted into my universe: one about attention and meditation (I’ll talk about that one today) and the other about self control and outsmarting desire (I’ll blog about that on Thursday).

Meditation and Attention

The first one came as a tweet from my dear friend Meri Walker:

Good idea to put meditation in the same sock drawer of mind as you put exercise: http://ow.ly/6DA6

Huh! As a lapsed meditator, this tweet stood out.  I clicked on the link, and read about a study about the brains of Buddhist monks engaged in different forms of meditation. Turns out that people who meditate really do have significant control over their attention compared to those who do not meditate.

However,  it matters what KIND of meditation you do. Evidently compassionate meditation (focusing on the suffering in the world) was not as successful as “one-point” meditation (focusing on one part of their experience; the breath, for example). At least in regards to helping the monks perform better on attentional tasks after they meditated.

This makes total sense! To have more control over how we place (and sustain) our attention, perhaps we ought to practice placing (and sustaining)  a single-pointed focus.  Meditation is not the only way to do this.  But it’s sure a straightforward approach.

And you can meditate almost anywhere. Inspired by the article, I practiced that evening while taking BART to my Bollywood dance class in San Francisco.  Eyes closed while the train rattled through tunnels, I tried hard to keep my attention on my breath, even though it was being pulled every few seconds by interesting sounds around me.

What Do You Think?

I don’t want to stop using social media, that’s for sure. And I don’t think my students should stop either. But I AM interested in how we can find balance.  So I’m left pondering: So reading this study leaves me pondering:

  • Will I experience better control over my beloved social media habits if I meditate regularly?
  • To what extent would my students with ADD and ADHD benefit from learning simple meditation practices?
  • What other tricks do ya’ll have for stabilizing attention amidst the social media frenzy?

I’d love to hear from you…especially about that last question!