Feeling a little lost? Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, by university professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans uses the theory of design thinking to work out what you want and a life that works for you.
Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life was originally offered, by the authors, as a Life Design course at Stanford University. The course was aimed at graduating students preparing to embark on the next stage of their lives. The book is suitable for anyone looking to make changes in their life, at any age. I highly recommend this book to anyone that is still trying to answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Through a series of exercises you will be challenged to think about your life and work views. The author’s write “There is no one idea for your life. There are many lives you could live happily and productively.”(1)
The difference between Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life and a self help book, is that you are not left hyped up and with no real plan for the future. With Designing Your Life you develop a number of ‘life-views’ , possible options for what your future could look like and concrete steps to move forward.
Design thinking has become the new trend for Not For Profits and forward thinking corporations, who are trying to find new ways of solving old problems. By having the right mindset and applying design thinking principles the authors help you find your best life.
Design Thinking Principles
- Accept: you cannot solve a problem that you are not willing to have.
- Define the problem. What do you really want?
- Prototype solutions. Fail fast & often. Learn and do again. Radical collaboration. Mind mapping.
- State of flow
- What are you curious about?
- Re-frame problems; change your perspective to address a perceived problem
- Well designed life means a well lived life.
This book is recommended for anyone who is embarking on a new phase in their life and lacking direction. A good time to read this book would be when graduating from university, if you are thinking of changing jobs or careers or just feel unhappy with your current life.
Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life has a 4 out of 5 stars rating.
Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health by Emeran Mayer MD, explains the science behind the connection between our mind gut and digestive system.
As someone who has a general interest in health, I found this book to be an interesting read, although I did ‘dip’ in and out of the book and at times went ahead to see what the secret was to a happy mind gut. The content, while explained simply, was still a little over whelming.
The author presents the latest research on the effect of the mind gut on our overall well-being. The insights into microbiota (gut flora) offer hope to suffers of gut disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). In essence, medical doctors had thought that our brain controlled our digestive system, when in fact the science now proves that the gut impacts our mood, choices and health. The mind communicates with the gut, but your gut also talks to your brain.
- The importance of intuition and gut feelings
- How we can optimize our gut health to live a long disease free life.
- The relationship between our digestive health and the emotions that make us who we are. Some may even call it our soul!
A big ‘take away’ for me was learning about the effect of unhealthy childhood memories on the mind gut and the resulting long term health outcomes. As a parent it is a natural to want to give your child a happy childhood filled with healthy memories. Sometimes it isn’t always possible and I now see the importance of the link between your child’s mental well-being and the mind gut. It is so important to seek support if you or your child is not processing their life experiences in a healthy way.
Intuition affects most of our everyday decisions. Learn why an upset gut could be responsible for poor decisions and how you can make better intuition decisions in the future.
The good news is that according to The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health it is easy to optimise mind gut health.
- Essentially lots of probiotic rich foods like kim chi, sauerkraut and yoghurt.
- Consider a good quality probiotic supplement if taking antibiotics.
- And of course eat lots of fruit & veggies
- No processed food
- Red meat once or twice a week
- Follow a Mediterranean style diet
- Include social connection at meal times
- Daily exercise like walking most days and cardio workouts 3 x per week
For anyone that has family or friends living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) there is hope that with some awareness around the research presented in The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health we are all closer to some answers. In Science Translational Medicine Magazine (March 2017) it was reported that germ free mice have successfully received a transplantation of fecal microbiota from patients with irritable bowel syndrome and this alters gut function and behaviour in recipient mice. These results indicate the potential of microbiota directed therapies for IBS sufferers. See link here for more information http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/9/379/eaaf6397
I recommend The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health to anyone who has an interest in mind gut/ digestive disorders, pursuing a healthy lifestyle, parenting and the science behind why we need to look after not just our guts, but our minds as well, to live a long disease free life.
IDEAS WORTH EXPLORING: Mediterranean Diet, Probiotics, Microbiota
This book has a 4 out of 5 star rating.
Smart Girls: Success, School, and the Myth of Post-Feminism by Shauna Pomerantz and Rebecca Raby, University of California Press, 2017. The co-authors, professors of child and youth studies at Brock University, Ontario present the outcomes from a five year study of 57 girls and 17 boys from Canada, aged 12-17 years.
The authors question “Are girls really taking over the world?” and if so is there a place for post feminism?
From the group and one-on-one interviews with the teenagers, we have a glimpse of the world that these self recognised smart kids live in. Balancing academic success, with popularity and extra circular activities is common for both boys and girls, however the overwhelming results indicate that “When girls are dumbing down in order to be attractive to boys and boys feel that is “unmanly” to study, we have a problem.”
Themes of the study include:
- MENTAL HEALTH
- FAMILY VS CAREER
- PHYSICAL APPEARANCE
- SOCIAL VALIDATION
As the mother of two teenage daughters I was interested to read about the studies that explore the pressures that teenagers are placed under today. At no other time in history has technology changed so dramatically in such a short span of time. How do we, as society cope with these changes and most importantly to me how are we able to help our children manage this change?
Smart Girls: Success, School, and the Myth of Post-Feminism is recommended reading for anyone with an interest in parenting. The studies offer an authentic insight into the challenges faced by high achieving children and the dynamic with their parents, teachers and peers. Ultimately post-feminism is established as a myth. However I found that the information was presented in a rambling fashion and repeated a number of times.
For this reason I have rated this book Smart Girls: Success, School, and the Myth of Post-Feminism as 3 stars.
Gene Genius Understand your DNA and create your own genetic roadmap to health and happiness by Dr Margaret Smith with Sue Williams.
Gene Genius helps to answer the questions like why two people can follow a diet together yet one losses weigh faster or why some some people thrive on taking risks where others don’t? The answer appears to lie in our genes.
Gene Genius is highly recommended reading for anyone considering genetic testing and interested in general health and well being. The author, Dr Margaret Smith is a leading Australian genetic scientist with a wonderful way of explaining the complexities of DNA and genetic inheritance.
This emerging area of science is now shedding light on how your mental and physical health is influenced by your genes and how you can make informed decisions about the best path for a healthier you.
Gene Genius has suggestions for how to deal with problematic genetic inheritance, such as heart disease, weight gain, mental illness, stress, cancer, diabetes, drug or alcohol dependencies and much more.
Genetic testing is now widely available and can be easy as taking a saliva sample and posting to a lab. Dr Margaret Smith suggests how to approach genetic testing and recommends a genetic counsellor to anyone considering genetic testing. Gene Genius helps you decipher the results and provides the information that can help frame your results.
With genetic testing everyone now has the power to make informed choices about your health and well-being by working with your genes to live your best life possible.
Gene Genius book has a 4 star rating. A complex subject matter explained simply.
You Are Awesome by Author Neil Pasricha explores resilience as the antidote to today’s broken world.
Anxiety in children is epidemic, suicide and stress related illness has never been more prevalent in history than now. Why? How can we fix it?
Resilience is at an all time low in contemporary society. Neil comments that we live in an age of abundance – no world wars, plentiful food – yet we lack connection. Meaningful social connection has been replaced with social media, texting instead of speaking, generally everyone is too busy!
You Are Awesome as a title was a little cheesy for me and slightly off-putting, however I am so pleased that I read this book. It has a very important message, revealed through 9 secrets, that is all the more engaging because of Neil’s friendly humor and revealing anecdotes.
While reading You Are Awesome it has been enjoyable to reflect on my own past and see that my strength does come from adversity. The bad times have been learning experiences that make you cherish the good times.
Highly recommended reading for anyone who needs to get of their own way of their happiness. A no nonsense receipe for building resilence in ourselves and our children. Leading to intentional life by connecting meaningfully at home, work and school.
The owners of Basecamp have written a thoughtful and brutally honest guide to reducing workplace stress and creating a work-life environment where everyone thrives.
Employers and Employees are both asked to question their culture at work. The Authors then outline the policies that Basecamp have adopted to create a culture where the person is respected. Their time (9am-5pm M-F only – no weekends or long days – work a 4 day week in summer), their expertise (all paid the same for the same job – work remotely &/or at own pace – 6 week projects), their vacations (no contact from work and Basecamp pay for 3 wk holiday expenses), their fitness ($1K allowance per mth to fitness or personal development expenses) and even their organic fruit and vegetables (one box per week in summer), to name a few!
The idea being that employers and employees together help to make our work the place that we can bring our professionalism and best self, with the ultimate goal of changing our response to work place stress and achieving work-life balance.
The Authors provide honest examples of how they have sometimes got it wrong and why they have decided to embrace a calm work culture that improves the well being of employer and employees alike.
I highly recommend this book to anyone aiming to reduce stress in the workplace.
The High Mountains of Portugal is the latest novel from the 2002 Man Booker prize-winning author of Life of Pi, Yann Martel. Spanish-born, Canadian author Yann Martel has crafted this mesmerising story that is as good, if not better than Life of Pi.
Yann Martel once again uses the tools of religious allegory and zoological lore to explore the meaning of life and the human experience of suffering.
The High Mountains of Portugal is a suspenseful, intriguing story of three connecting narratives that span the 20th century. Yann Martel uses the power of story telling to the explore great love, lost love, faith, reason and grief.
In Homeless, the first novella is set in Portugal 1904. The protagonist, Tomas has lost his son, lover and Father within a week. Tomas’ response to the overwhelming grief is to walk backwards.
“Some people never laugh again. Others take to drink,” Martel writes. “Walking backwards, his back to the world, his back to God, he is not grieving. He is objecting. Because when everything cherished by you in life has been taken away, what else is there to do but to object?”
Tomas journey through the High Mountains of Portugal, in one of the first motor cars, in search of a crucifix as mentioned in the diary of a 17th century priest. The journey becomes an allegory for Tomas’ grief.
In the second novella, Homeward, the tale unravels over one surreal night in the office of Dr Lozora, a pathologist in Braganca, Portugal in the late 1930’s.
Dr Lozora’s wife visits to explain her theory about the connection of the Gospels and Agatha Christie. Here Martel explores one of his personal re-occurring themes of faith and reason.
The second guest that night takes Dr Lozora into a bizarre allegory of sorrow, including the entombing of a baby chimp in a corpse.
Here we see Martel’s skill as a master story teller who uses the writers tool of allegory with stunning effect.
In the third and final novella we meet Peter Tovy, a Canadian Politician at the end of his career and following the loss of his adored wife. On a political trip to a chimp refuge in Oklahoma Peter Tovy befriends and adopts an ape. The ensuring story is a beautiful tale tinged with sadness and moments of joy.
Peter Tovy’s story is woven into the fabric of the previous two novellas and we are once again spell bound by Yann Martel’s story telling magic that we loved so much in Life of Pi.
This book is recommended to anyone who enjoyed Life of Pi. Lovers of religious allegory and zoological lore will also throughly appreciate The High Mountains of Portugal. Take your time to read this novel as the themes are worth digesting and so poignantly capture the human experience.
The High Mountains of Portugal is a great story told by a master of story telling and has a 4 out of 5 stars.
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. Following the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg plumbed the depths of grief and despair. Afraid that her children would never find joy again Sheryl Sandberg, together with friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, decided to write a book that presents the latest research around resilience.
Sheryl Sandberg writes with heart wrenching honesty about her personal journey with grief. Sandberg Includes a chapter on building resilience in children. Prepare for your heart to ache as Sandberg shares her children’s response to the news of losing their father and the raw grief in the months following.
Sheryl Sandberg also explores the consequences of not supporting employees facing adversity in the workplace. Whether it is death of someone close, divorce, illness, racism, bullying or sexism. We all at sometime struggle to function at work in the face of adversity. As Sandberg states “The sad truth is that adversity is not evenly distributed among us; marginalised and disenfranchised groups have more to battle and more to grieve.” The very least that employers can do is to provide a supportive environment for their employees to work through grief or adversity in their own way.
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy is recommended reading for anyone who has experienced the death of anyone close or is facing adversity. Should you want to support someone having a tough time Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy will provide the neccesary information. Simarily, if you have lost someone close and feel you haven’t moved on in your grief process then this book provides many ‘a-ha’ moments.
Sheryl Sandberg uses her personal story, together with stories from a board range of people to explore the latest research into resilience. Building resilience is a learnt skill and a skill that can be developed like a muscle. The more you ‘exercise’ it the more resilience will become. Resilience can be strengthened individually, in families, communities and in workplaces. Option B is a handbook for those wanting to take steps towards building resilience to help create a better world.
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg’s previous book (see our review here), Sandberg was criticised for not being able to relate to single mothers. In Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy Sheryl Sandberg acknowledges, with heartfelt honesty, that she simply couldn’t relate to single mothers when writing Lean In. Now with her experience as a single mother, albeit a well resourced single mum, she acknowledges it is challenging and society as a whole needs to increase support to single parents. At a minimum address the disparity between male and female wages. See here for the current statistics from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (Australia).
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy is not a light read, however it is an engaging read because of the clever integration of research, with Sandberg’s and other people’s stories of adversity.
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy is rated a 4 out of 5 stars.
Do you want to escape for a while into a really good story? Look no further than the Outlander series. Cross Stitch (Outlander) is the first book in the Outlander series by New York Times best selling author Diana Gabaldon. The first book in the series is now called Outlander, however it was previously published as Cross Stitch in the UK.
Word of warning: stock up the fridge, turn off the phone, you are not going to be able to put the Cross Stitch (Outlander), and possibly the following 7 books down!
The story focuses on 20th Century nurse Claire Randall who time travels to 18th Century Scotland to find romance and adventure with the charismatic Jamie Fraser.
The author creates interesting and quirky characters. Intricate layers to the characters explore different themes including, but not limited too; practice of medicine, family bonds, witch craft, sexual sadism, the unique relationship that exists in every marriage, what it means to be a woman or a man today (refer also to A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman) and in the 18th century.
The Outlander books have a tantalising depth because of the historical detail and character development. In essence I have not felt that this is a pure fantasy story as the author handles this so masterfully. Unfortunately this depth to both the story and characters is not reflected in the TV Series.
In 2014 The Outlander series was adapted to TV. I initially saw the TV series before reading the books. I found the TV adaptation focused on the fantasy time travelling aspect of the story. Generally I am not interested in the whole Fantasy genre, so I didn’t bother watching after the first episode. Many others have enjoyed the TV series, so I expect that it depends on your personal preference. Fortunately a friend mentioned how much she enjoyed the books, otherwise I would of missed out on experiencing the rich tapestry of this historical tale.
I am in awe of first time fiction author Diana Gabaldon. ‘In 1988, Gabaldon decided to write a novel for “practice, just to learn how” and with no intention to show it to anyone'(1). Diana Gabaldon had been working as a university lecturer with degrees in science, zoology and marine biology and a speciality in computational science. Fortunately Diana Gabaldon decided to share her ‘practice’ novel. This is a great story told by a very intelligent woman.
It has been interesting to see the Diana Gabaldon’s writing style develop as she experiments with various dramatic devices in Cross Stitch (Outlander). Furthermore the depth of research, description and attention to every detail of 18th Century life make this series an entertaining lesson in history.
I have found the Outlander series to be highly addictive. Seriously! My house, etc has been badly neglected while I have been immersed in this series. The books are all lengthy tomes that are a true time commitment.
Cross Stitch (Outlander) is recommended to anyone interested in learning about Scotland’s history. If you love a good romance then you will not be able to put this series down. Science fiction lovers will also enjoy the time travelling aspect. Essentially anyone who loves to get lost for a while in a really good story will enjoy Cross Stitch (Outlander).
I give Cross Stitch (Outlander) 5 out of 5 stars. You will not be able to put it down.
Will we see gender equality in the workplace in our lifetime? As the mother of two teenage daughters I hope that they will find their passion in life and pursue it. I believe that by following your passion success will surely follow.
Unfortunately the reality is that no matter how ambitious or successful my daughters become, statistically speaking, they will be paid 28.7%* less then a man who is working the same hours and doing the same job. Worse yet, by the time they retire there super fund balance will be 52.8%** less than a man’s. We are a long way from gender equality in the workplace.
Until 1969 legislation in Australia allowed employers to pay women a minimum rate of 25% less than male employees. Despite the change in legislation and the establishment of Affirmative Action Agency, later called the Equal Opportunity in the Workplace Agency, the gender pay gap has continued. It was not until 2009, when an Australian House of Representatives Pay Equity Report called on the Commonwealth Government to elevate pay equity to be a clear objective of modern awards, that we started to see an improvement in the gender wage gap.
Where have we gone wrong as a society that despite legislation, women in the workforce are being judged by virtue of being female?
Our girls are now outperforming boys at school. At no time in history have so many women graduated from university. Women are accounting for 40% of all new appointments to ASX 200 boards in January 2016***. Women make up 46.2% of the work force in Australia****. Yet women experience inequality in the workplace and are still not being paid the same as men for doing the same job.
So what is the solution to creating gender equality?
- Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Google fame believes the solution is having more women in positions of leadership. See more in my book review on Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg.
- Women need to improve their salary negotiation skills.
- Change the institutional norms about what it means for a women in management to be ‘too masculine’ or ‘too feminine’.
- Policies around superannuation need to be reconsidered so men and women are not at a disadvantage when away from the work force to care for children and/or family. A lot of women in the workforce today are going to be living their old age in poverty, if the policies do not change.
- Let’s enforce strict penalties for companies who discriminate against women and pay less just because they are female.
I agree with Sheryl Sandberg that until we see more women in government and business leadership roles we will not see significant change. Furthermore, as women we need to encourage each other, to speak up and ‘lean in’ to leadership.
Please see below for the latest statistics from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (Australian Government August 2016).
- Women comprise 46.2%**** of all employees in Australia. As a proportion of all employees, 24.8% are women working full-time and 21.4% are women working part-time.
- Women constitute 71.6% of all part-time employees, 36.7% of all full-time employees and 54.7% of all casual employees.
- The workforce participation rate for women is 59.3%, and for men is 70.4%.
Women in Leadership
- Women hold 14.2% of chair positions, 23.6% of directorships, as well as represent 15.4% of CEOs and 27.4% of key management personnel in Agency reporting organisations.
- One-quarter (25.1%) 17 of Agency reporting organisations have no key management personnel who are women.18 Real time statistics from the AICD19 reveal:
- 23.4% of directors in the ASX 200 are women in January 2016.
- Women account for 40.0% of new appointments to ASX 200 boards in January 2016***.
- 10.0% of ASX 200 companies do not have a woman on their board.
- The full-time average weekly ordinary earnings for women are 16.2% less than for men.
- Among non-public sector organisations with 100 or more employees, the gender pay gap for full-time annualised base salary is 19.1%, and for full-time annualised total remuneration is 24.0%.
- The full-time average hourly earnings for women are 13.9% less than men’s full-time average hourly earnings.
- The gender pay gap in ASX 200 organisations is 28.7%*.
- Average graduate salaries for women are 9.4% less than for men. When factors such as personal characteristics, occupation, industry and education are accounted for, average graduate salaries for women are 4.4% less than for men.
- Average superannuation balances for women at retirement are 52.8%** less than those for men.
- Of people aged 65 years and older receiving the aged pension, 55.6% are women.
Let’s work together, men and women, to make the workplace a better and fairer place for our daughters. Stop the discrimination of women in the workplace now.