Don’t get stuck in an identity rut

You may have this thing you do that you associate with your identity. You’re the one who takes the photographs. The computer guru. The great cook. The super skier. If someone has a question about cars or investments or how to solve a relationship problem, they come to you for that Thing.

Don’t let that Thing define who you are, however, or you risk becoming boxed in by it. You’re always taking pictures, not appearing in any of them. You’re always cooking but never enjoying the feeling of being served. You become seen as the source of information or assistance rather than a whole person with feelings and thoughts beyond your central defining Thing.

By reaching beyond your current skills or passions, you can discover strengths you did not know you had, ways to contribute to the world or your own life that you might never have experienced had you let your existing strong identity trait confine you. Or, maybe you’ll find something that you enjoy but that you’re not necessarily good at doing. It is OK to be the computer guru who paints abstract watercolors that are never displayed beyond a loved one’s living room or the stock market aficionado who enjoys making mostly tasty cakes that are somewhat decorative.

Stretch yourself. Grow. Learn. Discover who you might be.

Looking for some inspiration? Check out “Put on Your Crown,” by Queen Latifah.

HealthIdentityQueenLatifah Urban legend database

Can you really get a job as a secret shopper? Is a serial killer luring women by playing a recording of a crying baby? Did someone really win the lottery using numbers from a fortune cookie? One of the best places to check out rumors is, a collection of myths, urban legends, and sometimes true stories.

One of the problems with the ease of sharing information through email and social media sites is that you could become a partner in spreading untruths. You see something that sounds like it could be true, something that fits your perspective of the world or that outrages you, and you want to share the information with your friends. You want to be helpful by sharing tips or to provoke reflection and discussion.

Protect your integrity by making sure what you’re sharing is true before you share it. Snopes is an easy way to check out some common claims floating around the Internet.

“Let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge”

Malala Yousafzai, whom the Taliban tried to kill for her support of the right of all to be educated, addressed the United Nations on her 16th birthday, reflecting on faith, education, extremism, and women’s rights.

A report released to coincide with the U.N.-declared Malala Day shows that many children are still without an education: 28.5 million of primary school age. A PDF of the report is here.

How do you stand up for the right to be educated and treated with dignity? Do you do it with peace and love? Or are you still working to learn that lesson?

Edited Sept. 1, 2013 with a new video link after the former link failed.

Has complaining sidetracked you or your group?

Are you wasting potential and avoiding improvement by focusing on what is wrong instead of attributes that could lead to more happiness, satisfaction, and solutions? Could you, your company, your organization, or your community benefit from a better balance between identifying or complaining about negatives and imagining or bonding over positives?

A post on The Daily Love asks whether your relationships support your empowerment. Read it here. It provides insight and questions to help you reflect on the relationships in your life and whether they’re helping you. Apply that examination to all aspects of your world, from social groups to City Hall.

It’s common to find fellowship through complaint. You get together to grumble about work, your significant other, your lack of significant other, the government, the economy, something that happened in the past, current affairs, relatives, your weight, what others think of your weight, mutually despised individuals or groups, and countless other sources of irritation and frustration. These complaints can be reasonable, and pretending that problems don’t exist or refusing to talk about them creates a false sense of the world or a blanket of protection for a real issue.

Yes, the government wastes money sometimes. Yes, some corporations put their profits above what is good for their employees or society. Yes, some people are shallow and mean and difficult to understand. Yes, you have valid feelings and thoughts and deserve to recognize them. Sharing your thoughts and feelings can help you gain perspective on how you might change your situation or interpretations.

However, the allure of connecting over faults or problems can work against the best interests of yourself or your community. The binding power of negativity can blind you to strengths and solutions. This is true of one-on-one relationships, of organizations or communities, of businesses, and of concepts that bring people together, such as the Occupy movement or the Tea Party. Show up to the discussion, but then put up or shut up.

If the foundation of your connection is opposing something or complaining about something, improvement of that thing can feel like a threat to your connection. And connection is an incredibly powerful motivation. Having something to get angry about together can create feelings of belonging, but if it also requires that you maintain anger to maintain that belonging, then what you’re really choosing is to become an angry person. Do you really wish to incorporate more bitterness and frustration into your personality?

What happens if your friend changes eating or exercise practices, and you haven’t developed other reasons for the two of you to connect beyond weight loss or body improvement? Or if the person you always talk to about the trouble with singlehood gets into a relationship or decides to make peace with it and stop looking? Or if people develop a solution to the problem that has been stirring you up; do you develop a “need” for a new problem? Or what happens if you realize you don’t have the power to improve a situation: You’re not on the board of a company or you don’t win a leadership role in your organization or government?

How many of the people who are currently in your life would still be interesting or companionable if the thing you complain about improves or won’t improve with your current level of power or action?

You can spend your life dwelling on pain and problems. Complaining can provide the illusion of purpose and connection, but if it doesn’t result in things getting better, then why are you wasting your time and energy on it? If those around you are wasting their time and energy, do you really want to give them a place in your life, to influence your actions?

What are the stepping stones that exist, right now, that could move you closer to “better?” What are the strengths of you, your company, your organization, your community? How could your form bonds of improvement? What prevents you from giving up the negativity habit, and what would your life and world look like if you changed your focus?

Songs about America

In honor of Independence Day approaching, here are some songs about America, along with some history and context.

“The Star-Spangled Banner”

Francis Scott Key wrote a poem, “Defence of Fort McHenry” during the War of 1812, as British ships in Chesapeake Bay bombarded the fort. Key, a lawyer, had gone to secure the release of an American civilian prisoner and was on a British truce ship during the battle. He had the melody “To Anacreon in Heaven” in mind when he wrote his poem of being inspired by the fort’s lack of surrender. Also known as “The Anacreontic Song,” the tune and its original lyrics belonged to a gentleman’s club in London. Anacreon was a Greek poet known for his drinking songs and hymns, and the original words are included in this performance link. Using the club’s tune and the poem’s words, the song’s popularity spread and it became the nation’s official tune in 1931. Read more about “The Star-Spangled Banner” on the Smithsonian website. Here’s Jennifer Hudson singing the National Anthem:



Here’s the full version, with lyrics:



“Battle of New Orleans”

Johnny Horton’s song of the last major battle of the War of 1812 is more lighthearted. In 1814, Gen. Andrew Jackson (later president) had several encounters with the British and, toward the end of the year, he and a collection of inexperienced volunteers, free blacks, riflemen from Tennessee and Kentucky, Louisiana militia and pirates were vastly outnumbered by the British in New Orleans. However, the Americans had built a long, earthen barrier. The British rushed the barrier and faced overwhelming fire from rifles and canons.



“My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”

In 1831, Samuel Francis Smith wrote the words to another American song that took over a British tune, in this case, “God Save the Queen,” the British National Anthem (with lyrics here). Smith, who later went on to be a minister and writer, penned the words as a seminary student. Here’s Crosby, Stills & Nash singing it:



“America the Beautiful”

English literature professor Katharine Lee Bates wrote the poem after a trip to Pikes Peak, in Colorado, and it was published in 1895 in a weekly journal. The poem was sung to a variety of lyrics, and revised a few times, but the modern version is to the tune “Materna” by Samuel A. Ward, composed in 1882. Here’s a beautiful version by Ray Charles.



“God Bless America” and “This Land is Your Land”

Woody Guthrie wrote “This Land is Your Land” after being irritated by the often-played “God Bless America,” written by Irving Berlin and sung by Kate Smith. Berlin , an immigrant at the age of 5, created the God Bless America Fund to handle donation of the song’s royalties. Both songs are below:



“God Bless the USA”

Written on a tour bus in 1983 by Lee Greenwood, the song was an expression of his passion to see more unity in the country.



Neil Diamond’s patriotic song about immigrants was among the songs Clear Channel Communications asked its stations to not play after the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.



“Our Country”

John Mellencamp’s song was used by Republican John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008 until Mellencamp objected.



What are your favorite songs about America?