Wellness is the “Opposite of Loneliness”

I was moved by Marina Keegan’s amazing final essay at Yale. Tragically she was killed in a car crash a week after graduating, she was 22. She created the essay below for a special edition of the Yale Daily News edition that was distributed at the class of 2012’s commencement.

I inspired because I realized this is what our world should be and what we all want. It is like how I feel when I attend the National Wellness Conference every year. This means making the world a place where we become the best versions of ourselves.

As she shares, it is not about just being comfortable but about progress, as shared in a previous essay, Is Wellness Progress?  My push is that we all need to enlarge our circle include all living things in creating progress so we generate improvements by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits. Enjoy…

Marina’s essay

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We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.

Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers — partner-less, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group-texts.

This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse — I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.

But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They’re part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn’t live in New York. I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clichéd “should haves…” “if I’d…” “wish I’d…”

Of course, there are things we wished we did: our readings, that boy across the hall. We’re our own hardest critics and it’s easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I’ve looked back on my High School self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.

But the thing is, we’re all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes…) We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay.

We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.

When we came to Yale, there was this sense of possibility. This immense and indefinable potential energy – and it’s easy to feel like that’s slipped away. We never had to choose and suddenly we’ve had to. Some of us have focused ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it; already going to med school, working at the perfect NGO, doing research. To you I say both congratulations and you suck.

For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken it. If only I had majored in biology…if only I’d gotten involved in journalism as a freshman…if only I’d thought to apply for this or for that…

What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.

In the heart of a winter Friday night my freshman year, I was dazed and confused when I got a call from my friends to meet them at EST EST EST. Dazedly and confusedly, I began trudging to SSS, probably the point on campus farthest away. Remarkably, it wasn’t until I arrived at the door that I questioned how and why exactly my friends were partying in Yale’s administrative building. Of course, they weren’t. But it was cold and my ID somehow worked so I went inside SSS to pull out my phone. It was quiet, the old wood creaking and the snow barely visible outside the stained glass. And I sat down. And I looked up. At this giant room I was in. At this place where thousands of people had sat before me. And alone, at night, in the middle of a New Haven storm, I felt so remarkably, unbelievably safe.

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I’d say that’s how I feel at Yale. How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don’t have to lose that.

We’re in this together. Let’s make something happen to this world.

Hard to say it better than that. Lets work together for progress by generating comprehensive improvements by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits.

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National Wellness Conference – Amazing!

I first attended the NWC in 1998 and have attended ever year since. They have been amazing, life altering events. I have met friends and always meet new amazing people that I continue to talk with and interact with all year long and enjoy getting to see each year at the conference. I originally attended while earning my PhD and went the first 3 years to the conference as a Work-Study participant. This was a great experience because I had to work as a presider and I got an opportunity to meet many of the presenters on a level I never could have if I was only a  participant. It also gave me good experience and exposure to so much in the field. Since then I have attended and presented each year. My presentations always help me learn and crystallize my thinking about the findings from my articles and studies as it relates to the years topical focus (to learn about what I am presenting this year: Serendipitous Wellness: Can We Cause it to Happen? and Prevention Can Never Create Wellness: Here is What Does! see this post). This year it is, “Learn, Connect and Celebrate Wellness” a perfect way to describe the experience. I at first thought my experience was a fluke because it was so amazing – I have since learned it is a “once in a lifetime experience” that happens every year. I am glad I have had these opportunities.

The week of the conference was and has been so amazing to me that I have now dedicated my career to making the world like the week I spend at the NWC. During that week all people are polite, giving and forgiving, curious, intellectual, fun, adventurous and are operating at what can only be termed a high level of wellness. It is amazing because it seems everybody is practicing what I now call “paneugenesis” (see previous posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, hereherehere, here, here to learn about paneugenesis) Paneugenesis literally means creating all good, Pan- = all, eu- = good, -genesis = creating and describes what I believe happens each week at the NWC. During this week everyone is looking to generate comprehensive benefits by creating interactions so everyone and everything benefits. My career goal is to make this a more regular experience by everyone, everywhere. After all, if it is – everyone & everything benefits – why wouldn’t we do this?

I started to write this post last year after the National Wellness Conference (NWC), but never posted it. I am now posting it as I look forward to attending this years conference starting June 15th, I hope you will join me for an exciting, education and life enhancing experience.

Last year many of us who had been coming regularly were concerned when the location changed from Stevens Point Wisconsin to Minneapolis MN. We were concerned it would lose its amazing feel. Fortunately, we were wrong, the conference was great, I think even better because while keeping its wellness feel, it was more professional. We learned it is not about the location but about the people and the intent of the conference. Once again, at last years conference in Minnesota at the 39th NWC, this year is the 40th, I learned so much and it helped me in my desire that most at the NWC share – to develop and become better versions of ourselves so we can have a positive affect on the world. I look forward to seeing you at this years conference (see previous post here)

Promotions about NWC:

I look forward to seeing you there or wherever. Make it a great day, week, year, life.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

Looking forward to 2015 National Wellness Conference in MN

The National Wellness Conference is an anomaly. I have been attending since 1998 and each year it is an amazing experience. I learn a great deal and come away with many new ideas – I hope  you will join us this year in Minnesota.

For the last several years I have had the opportunity to present. Each year my presentations are a learning experience for me because I always propose ideas related to what I am learning about in books I am reading or studies I am conducting that could contribute to wellness. I must do this because submissions are due almost a year before the conference. If they are accepted I then figure out how to make what I learned into a good presentation. This  has helped me learn so much. For example, this year I am presenting: Serendipitous Wellness: Can We Cause it to Happen? and Prevention Can Never Create Wellness: Here is what does.

With regard to the Serendipitous Wellness presentation I was reading about luck, serendipity, Steve Jobs and of course wellness and thought they must be related. I learned a tremendous amount and believe the evidence is clear – we can cause serendipity as it relates to wellness if we are prepared. In this presentation, I will share what I have learned. With regard to the Prevention Can Never Create Wellness presentation, this is similar to many other presentation proposals I have submitted over the years about the need to cause and create wellness by focusing on more then prevention. Previously those presentation had been rejected – this year it was accepted. I had thought it would be a very easy presentation to prepare since it is the focus on my entire career, however, I found it far more difficult than anticipated. In developing this presentation, I learned a tremendous amount about what can possibly create wellness and how it can and should be measured. I will be sharing what I learned in this presentation. Below I have shared the write up of what I am presenting for each, if you are interested.

I hope to see you in Minnesota at the NWC, if you there please stop me and say hi. I am also going to make one more post about what the NWC has meant to me and my career. Make it a great summer!

Presentation Descriptions for June 15-18 National Wellness Conference

1.  Serendipitous Wellness: Can we cause it to happen? – at 1:00pm on 6/15/2015

Presentation PDF

Brief Description

Serendipity, a word coined by Horace Walpole in 1754, is the occurrence of chance beneficial events. Serendipity is associated with the surprising discovery of penicillin and also can be applied to wellness. At this presentation you will learn strategies like those used by late Steve Jobs to organize your work environments, develop communication styles, and lead a life that makes serendipity more likely. Even if you don’t create serendipitous wellness, you will learn how to build a better life.

Long Description 

Serendipity, a word coined by Horace Walpole in 1754, is the occurrence of chance beneficial events, or fortunate happenstance. Serendipity is associated with the surprising discovery of penicillin and other discoveries and it can also be applied to wellness. Wellness is progress toward a desired life, and this presentation will discuss how to cause serendipitous wellness or chance good things to happen. The current understanding of serendipity and the title of this presentation are purposely misleading and incomplete. Serendipity is misleading and incomplete, because the full definition explains how good events, such as discoveries, occur by accident AND sound judgement and perception. The presentation title is misleading, because if serendipity is luck or happenstance, how can it be caused to happen? In a similar way, some believe Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” misled readers by encouraging the reader to trust their gut without first developing the requisite expertise. Of course there is no way to guarantee a desired serendipitous outcome, but evidence suggests the probability of it occurring can be increased just as we can make it more likely someone can become a high performing “Outlier”.  In other words, luck plays a role, but serendipity is not entirely reliant on luck. This presentation will explain how to influence what and when the unexpected happens by choosing how we develop ourselves. Serendipity, after all, is the interaction between chance and the prepared, which means serendipitous wellness becomes more likely when we are ready and able for it to happen. While being prepared cannot guarantee serendipitous wellness, without preparation, it is unlikely. This presentation will outline strategies like those used by late Steve Jobs to organize your work environments, develop communication styles, and lead a life to make serendipity more likely. Of course, even if you don’t create serendipitous wellness, these ideas will help you will build a better life.

2. Prevention Can Never Create Wellness: Here is What Does! at 2:30pm 6/16/2015

Presentation PDF

Brief Description

By definition, prevention is the action of stopping something from happening.  Therefore, if prevention works, nothing happens.  Although, prevention is important, it cannot create positive health or wellness. Even without a prevention focus, multiple fields create better outcomes that also prevent without focusing on what to avoid. This presentation will review the evidence of these effective positive strategies and provide you with an idea of how to use these ideas in practice.

Long Description
By definition, prevention is the action of stopping something from happening or arising.  Therefore, if prevention works, the anticipatory actions result in complete avoidance of the undesired event; or, simply put, nothing happens.  Although, prevention is important for stopping the bad, it cannot create the good – positive health or wellness. While it is morally imperative to stop bad things, such as disease, depression, infirmity etc. from happening, doing so, does not directly result in good things happening. Wellness is a positive outcome, and research has demonstrated in fields such as education, business, and health that by working to create positive outcomes better than previously experienced, a more effective way to create desired outcomes and prevent  is used than one that focuses on what to avoid (i.e. prevention). In the field of business, W. Edwards Deming demonstrated that creating the positive of higher quality was not only the most profitable way to conduct business, it was also the most effective way to avoid and prevent waste, problems and costs. Cass Sustein and Richard Thaler demonstrated that public policy that “Nudges” people toward making better choices for themselves and society not only helps them and society function better, it also prevents and avoids many difficulties. In health, Aaron Antonovsky demonstrated that moving toward health with salutogenesis, or the study of the origins of health, not only creates better health or wellness, it also helps prevent or avoid diseases and infirmity. While prevention cannot create wellness, multiple fields have demonstrated that using strategies to develop and create positives better than current experiences is effective, and a byproduct of these positive strategies is prevention. This presentation will review evidence documenting the effectiveness of positive strategies and the outcomes generated that do more than just prevent. You will leave with an idea of how to use these ideas in practice.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

Dad Our House is on Fire!…People are Amazing!

A torrential rain and hail storm started to fall forcing me to turn on my flashers and slow down. I was driving on HWY 264  to pick up my wife  and daughter from RDU international airport who were returning from World’s Cheerleading championship in Florida. At about that time my daughter called me. I answered the phone explaining I needed to call her back because of the road conditions. She stops me and says, “NO DAD, OUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE!”

My response, “Our what is who? Hold on let me get off the road.” Over time I learned that our house was saved by Coach Robert “Peanut” Langston because he called the fire department. He had dropped his son off at his ex-wife’s house across the street and noticed smoke. On checking he found smoke was pouring out of our attic and smoke alarms were beeping. He then immediately called 911 and pounded on the doors to make sure nobody was inside. People are amazing!

Normally Amanda is home at that time resting after school before work. Luckily, that day she stayed at school to work on Prom decorations. Coach Langston knows us but not our contact information so he called Jake Jacobs who he knew could contact us. Even though Jake was in California, Coach Langston asked Jake to contact us. Jake said, “Sure I can text them.” Coach said, “No, you need to call them, THEIR HOUSE IS ON FIRE!” People are amazing!

Our daughter Amanda therefore learned about the fire from Jake Jacobs. Jake was unable to reach my wife, Camilla, and myself  because Camilla was on the plane and I was out of range because of the storm. After Amanda answered the phone from Jake wondering what he could want, he asked her where she was. I am told in an apathetic voice she said she was driving in our neighborhood near our home. Jake then told her the house was on fire.

Of course being a parent and not knowing the situation he told her, “DO NOT GO INSIDE”. He said he must have told her that 10 times because he didn’t know what the scene looked like or who was there. When she got to the house the block was covered with fire trucks and firemen were working on the house. As she approached, Coach Langston met her to tell her what was happening. The police chief quickly came to her to ask if anyone was inside. She said, “No, nobody is even in Greenville BUT MY PROM DRESSES ARE IN THAT FRONT ROOM?” When I arrived, the fire chief told me my 18 year old daughter was amazing! She is! People are amazing!

Amanda had just had 2 dresses altered because the boy she was going with was at a different school so one prom was that coming Friday and the other was on Saturday. The first prom was in 3 days. The dresses were by the front door in plastic bags tied at the bottom because they had  just been retrieved from the alterer. Fortunately the dresses were saved. I was told the rescue fireman carried the dresses out like a body for Amanda to receive. People are amazing!

The rest of house however could not be saved, at least from fire, water and smoke damage. Because of the fast and skilled response by our fire department, the frame was saved. I was told it took only 3 minutes for the fire department to arrive at the scene after being called. In one of the investigator’s estimation, the house was only 2 minutes from being engulfed. People are amazing!

After I received the news from Amanda and learned the firemen had the situation under control and there was nothing I could do, I continued to the airport to pick up my wife and daughter. Of course with cell phones, several people had already texted my wife and daughter and they had learned about the fire. My wife had also already been informed by Karen Jacobs that she had already secured a furnished apartment for us to stay in that night. Karen, Jake’s wife, had also gone over to our house to see if she could help. Therefore, before we had even thought about our need to find a place to stay, Karen who manages and owns several rental properties, had found us a place to stay. People are amazing!

On the drive home I contacted and was contacted by several people in town about our situation. About an hour from home, I was contacted by my colleague, Karen Vail Smith and she told me  not to come to into town  because a tornado’s had been seen. People are amazing!

Learning about the danger in Greenville, we called former neighbors, the Sonnenberg’s who now lived in Wilson, NC to see if they were home and we could stop by until the weather passed. With open arms they gladly welcomed us and asked how they could help. They gave us some food and did all they could to put our minds at ease. They along with many others had offered us a place to stay. People are amazing!

The fire was reported to have started about 4:30 or so and fireman were there shortly after 5:00pm. Even though we did not get to the house until after 10pm, the fire chief and another fire fighter were waiting for us on the porch. With patience we were shown the scene and his preliminary findings that the roof exhaust fan had overheated and started the fire. All that was left of the fan was charred remains. When Amanda learned the fire in the attic was above my closet and most of my clothes were ruined, she said, “Dad, that may have been a blessing in disguise.” People are amazing!

After the fire, it has been different. Often we don’t realize we need something until it is needed. For instance, the SAT test was scheduled in four days for my younger daughter Annika. For the SATs a printed ticket is needed but was now lost as was our printer. Once again, friends came through to help so Annika could take her exam.  People are amazing!

In another situation when Amanda was getting ready for prom we realized we did not have a hair dryer. In haste I ran outside our apartment looking for a female. After finding a lady, I ran up to her and excitedly said, “This may sound like a crazy story but we just moved in here because our house burned down on Tuesday and we don’t have anything. My daughter is trying to get ready for prom and we don’t have hair dryer, can you help?” I must of looked and sounded like  mad man but I did tell her which apartment we were in and we parted. I assumed I had scared her away and went back to ask my daughter and wife what we could do now. As I was talking to them and explaining why that idea probably didn’t work, a knock was heard at the door. I answered and the lady I had talked to was there with a hair dryer in hand.  People are amazing! When I asked her where I should bring it back to, she responded, “Don’t worry it is an extra, keep it!”  People are amazing!

Many ask how they can they can help, we are unsure then as now, how to respond to that question because we often don’t even know what we need until its needed. For instance, quite a bit of grime had gotten under my nails from sorting through the debris. I wanted to cut my nails but realized, I had no nail clippers. All we had was what we had on our person.

Although there has been times when we did not have the things we needed, people have been amazingly generous with gifts. Since all our possessions in our house were taken to be ionized, meaning to get the smoke smell out, the gifts of clothes, blankets, and gift cards have been greatly appreciated.

Through this experience, my belief that people are amazing has been confirmed. I strongly believe that because of the help we have received from all these wonderful people we will come out of this experience better than before and eager to pay forward the wonderful kindness we have received. Thank you to all! People are amazing!

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Thank You Everyone,

Love,
Craig, Camilla, Amanda, & Annika

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