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The Power of Place

Our actions, thoughts, and feelings are shaped by our genes and neurochemistry, and history and relationships, and notibly by our surroundings

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The Power of Place: How Our Surroundings Shape Our Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions, by Winifred Gallagher (Poseidon Press, 1993), in my mind, became an instant classic. Here are my notes and excerpts from this insightful book:

Throughout history, people of all cultures have [rightly] assumed that environment influences behavior. Now, science confirms that our actions, thoughts, and feelings are indeed shaped not just by our genes and neurochemistry, and history and relationships, but also by our surroundings.

▪ The biology of behavior concerns the four elements of molecule, cell, organ, and organism, and the physical environment is important from the simplest level up through any stage in our development.

▪ Burdened with increasingly complex social roles, we each need places that support rather than fragment our lives, and which balance the hard, standardized, and cost-efficient with what is natural, personal, and healthful.

From Cradle to Grave

The resounding theme of our relationship to the environment before birth applies throughout our whole lives, from the cradle to the schoolroom, the home to the workplace: our well-being depends on the delicate business of getting just the right amount of stimulation from our surroundings at the right time.

▪ One reason we work so hard to keep our various surroundings predictable is that we rely on them to help us move smoothly from role to role throughout the day.

▪ When you straighten things on the desk, get the coffee cup just so, and sharpen the pencils, you’re using environmental cues to help you destabilize whatever else is on your mind, get you out of that state, and stabilize the one associated with writing.

▪ A prominent researchers who spent 25 years studying the reactions of prisoners, submariners, the shipwrecked, and others who have dealt with situations so over- and understimulating that most of us experience them only vicariously in darkened theaters, is convinced that when it comes to stimulation levels in the modern world, within the bounds of reason, less is more.

Individual Needs

Our well-being depends on how successfully we deal with individual problems. If we soundproof the apartment, the noise outside no longer distracts us, and if we walk to work rather than ride the bus, we are no longer lost in the shuffle.

Other theories about the roots of urban malaise suggest that the constraints the city imposes on our behavior, such as traffic and crime, are to blame, or the fact that a metropolis is like a vast corporation in which the applicants for jobs and benefits exceed the available resources.

▪ Workers who want to improve their environments to increase their efficiency aren’t asking for the moon: the big items on most lists include quiet, a decent chair, easy access to tools, enough space to maneuver in, and the right to change furnishings around.

▪ Despite the obvious benefits to employees and employers both, however, the former are almost never consulted about the design of the places in which they do their jobs.

Go with the Flow

When we’re in flow, whether while playing the violin or climbing a mountain, our actions merge with our awareness. We stop being spectators of our own experience, which eliminates that ruminative self-consciousness that’s such a burden. We feel a sense of oneness with something larger than the self, whether it’s a musical tradition or nature or a deity.

▪ Because we’re concentrating on the present, our activity dictates our experience of time rather than the clock. This intense focus also means we forget our daily problems.

▪ People whose lives constantly are broken up into short segments and appointments have higher rates of suicide and heart disease because they are overloaded. We do not learn from our experiences unless we have adequate refractory periods in which to digest them.

Half a Loaf…

We can structure our human contacts in ways that can help us be happier, but the best most of us can hope for is to have satisfactory social encounters about half the time.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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What America Do You Want?

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What have we done to the shared values that made America great? Do you shake your head as you listen to the nightly news or the latest Biden gaffe or executive order? Yes, it has been amazing to watch Americans come together to help their neighbors in the face of Hurricane Ian, but hurricanes have an end to their destruction. Between now and November, we must remind Americans of the disaster we face if we do not elect candidates who will put a stop to the Biden Administration’s destructive policies and priorities. America’s future depends upon it.

We know that every improvement is the result of change, but we are now learning a very painful lesson—not every change is in improvement! Biden’s America hardly resembles the country our Founding Fathers envisioned. Fake news abounds, unchecked by mainstream media. Dissent is silenced or, even worse, labeled hate speech. The value of work, personal responsibility, and perseverance are replaced with honoring victimhood, fueling racism, and encouraging dependence.

We might heed the words of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 5:20) when he warned: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” The prophet could say the same thing about Biden’s America today!

We are becoming the fake news capital of the world. Speaking to Democratic governors recently, President Joe Biden compared Italy’s new and conservative prime minister Giorgia Meloni to Chinese dictator Xi Jinping. Meloni campaigned on God, pride in country, and defense of family values to win the election. Even the direct rival she defeated, ex Italian PM Matteo Renzi, defended her: “Personally I was against Giorgia Meloni, I’m not her best friend. We are rivals, but she is not a danger to democracy. The idea there is a risk of fascism in Italy is absolutely fake news.” Biden’s reckless diplomatic statements are dangerous and irresponsible. America has and must expect more from her presidents.

When most Americans are concerned about their own safety and the rise of crime in their communities, Biden’s Washington remains focused on a never-ending investigation into the “January 6th Insurrection.” The Democrats seem to feel it is the worst travesty to hit America since 9/11. While many who participated in the “insurrection” remain in jail, Democrats are still calling for police budget cuts, an end to bail, fewer prosecutions, and early release for true criminals. To prevent criminals from being homeless after serving time, President Biden has even promised housing for 100% of those who have done criminal crimes. At the same time, his administration has done little or nothing to improve housing for veterans, seniors living on fixed incomes, or working Americans on the verge of losing their homes in the face of the inflation-driven increases in the cost of living.

Instead of challenging and encouraging all Americans to earn their own American Dream, today’s Democrats are arguing for a guaranteed income for all Americans, In America, we promise the freedom to work in pursuit of one’s own happiness. Now, Democrats want to provide a guaranteed income whether you earn it or not. Why work when you can be dependent on your tax-paying neighbors?

Americans wonder why there is inadequate housing, but Washington seems to ensure that building and owning rental property doesn’t pay. When government mandates rent moratoriums, property owners are left holding the bag. Owners must still pay their mortgages and maintenance expenses while renters get a free ride and can’t even be evicted. Why would anyone want to own rental property in today’s America? Want more housing, let capitalism work.

And just what has happened to our guaranteed freedom of speech? If you dare say that you are a MAGA voter who still believes there was rampant fraud in the 2020 election, you must be shamed into silence as an obvious domestic enemy worthy of scorn. In today’s America, the Left can say anything they want about Trump or conservatives and still post away on social media, but even mention election fraud or tyranny from the left, and your freedom of expression goes away. “Hate speech” rules are one-sided and a true threat to our freedom of speech.

Democrats try to tell us that the Southern border is secure, and they rail against conservative border governors sending even a few illegal immigrants to Democrat-controlled cities like Washington, Chicago, and New York. They claim they are “sanctuary cities” ready to protect illegal immigrants. But when put to the test, they plead for National Guard troops and for President Biden to do something! He has been doing something; he has been sending illegals by the bus loads to red states for well over a year. We do not have a secure border, and even Democratic mayors in border cities know something needs to be done. President Biden, it is time to finish the wall and secure our border. It’s time to elect candidates who will demand just that.

If this is the America you want, vote Democrat. If not, embrace the GOP’s Commitment to America and get ready to take back the future of this great country. Yes, it is time to Make America Great Again!

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America Needs a Reboot

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There is a sign outside of Needville Feed that reads: “Has anyone tried unplugging the United States and plugging it back in?” Let the painful laughter ensue! It’s confession time. How many times have you been unable to figure things out on your computer and just decided to start over by rebooting in hopes of a new beginning. Sure, no one wants to lose the current good work, so you save what you can and hope for the best.

But America does need a reboot? Something is not right with America today. Some are working to get the 34 states needed to convene a National Constitutional Convention. Others are clamoring for term limits for all politicians. Unfortunately, every radical answer unleashes radical fears that such plans could create more problems than viable solutions. We seem stuck in stupid!

They want clean energy with wind and solar while they work to shut down natural gas and nuclear energy, two clean energy sources. Due to our clean energy efforts, our coal and oil resources are cleanest in the world. But they want to buy oil from questionable countries while limiting production here. Does it make sense to move from energy independence to energy dependence before we have proven clean energy alternatives that can supply the energy we need? Of course not! We’re stuck on stupid. Time to reboot expanded energy options to reclaim energy independence!

How can you have true freedom of speech and not occasionally offend someone along the way? The answer to hateful or offensive speech, is more speech and thicker skin. People throw around the term “snowflakes” for people who want freedom for themselves but can’t handle that freedom for those who would attack their own views. Freedom is messy. Freedom is loud. Let people say what they want and experience the consequences for their comments. If you offend enough people, don’t expect to win many votes or popularity polls! It’s time to reboot freedom of speech for all!

I always thought that government was established to protect their citizens from enemies and from criminals. Why are people buying guns? Citizens want weapons to protect themselves. They are seeing far too many criminals let go without being prosecuted or punished. Government wants to take guns away from citizens, and everyone knows that criminals will keep theirs! In America today, crime seems to pay pretty well for the growing number of flash mobs, carjackers, and rioters taking what they want! Few big city DAs are doing their jobs. If you riot in the streets, rob small businesses, and attack bystanders, you should go to jail and serve time! We’re stuck on stupid! It’s time to unplug and reboot America’s law and order program!

Immigration has made America a better country, a melting pot of people who value freedom and the opportunity to earn their own dream. But people playing by the rules to immigrate to America keep waiting and never get the welcome illegal aliens receive by just crashing our Southern borders. By not having a secure border, we are advertising for more illegals to come. The Biden administration will provide transportation, let you have benefits, and work to get you housing and an eventual path to citizenship. Why immigrate legally, when doing so illegally works so well? Time to reboot. Time to finish the wall and secure our Southern border!

Martin Luther King, Jr. paid the price and rallied the country around a dream that one’s character would mean more than the color of a one’s skin. And yet today, calls for racism are encouraged. To many, you’re celebrated for saying that all whites are racist. Many blacks call for special reparations for the racism of a distant past. There is one sure result of such calls for special racial treatment-renewed racism! Reverend King would have surely affirmed that “All God’s children matter!” Under democratic leadership, America is backsliding into more racial animus. It’s time for a reboot. It’s time to reaffirm that “All men are created equal” is a value and a promise worth fighting for.

Personal responsibility for one’s choices is a critical American value. If you commit a crime, you do the time. You borrow money for something you want, you pay your debt. President Biden executive order to “forgive” student debt is not “free.” That debt isn’t “canceled;” it’s transferred to every tax-paying American. Many of those taxpayers have already worked and sacrificed to pay off their own student debt. This is not only stupid; it is an assault on basic fairness and a blatant attempt to buy votes. Reboot required! Reinstall personal responsibility programming!

In a recent interview on Jesse Watters’ Fox News show, Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institution confronted the extreme actions of the left in transforming America. They are attacking and overthrowing America’s time-tested values.

To Hanson, the left is governing exactly the way they accuse the right of acting: “I mean, nobody on the right said let’s junk the 233-year-old Electoral College; [the] 180-year-old filibuster; the 150-year-old, nine-person Supreme Court. Nobody [on the right] said let’s bring in two more states and end the idea for 60 years of a 50-state union.”

It’s only left that has no problem stalling protection for right-leaning Supreme Court Justices facing demonstrations outside their homes. It’s the left that wants to radically federalize the voting laws to ensure that 70 percent of the votes would not be cast on Election Day. It’s the left that has radically weaponized the IRS with excessive increases in personnel and funding. The left calls January 6th an insurrection, but as Hanson notes: “Remember in 2021 when they had barbed wire and 30,000 troops in Washington, D.C. in the greatest weaponization since the Civil War?” Do you remember?

When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in government entitlement programs that take from your neighbor to give you the things you ought to be forced to earn for yourself. It’s time to unplug this radical administration before it is too late. In November, it’s time to reboot by booting out the politicians who have played so loosely with America’s time-tested recipe for freedom and opportunity. It’s time to send the left home!

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