Changing the Odds for Greater Happiness


Everybody loves a good shot in the arm. Not the kind of shot you get from a doctor when you’re sick, but the kind of shot that gives you a burst of enthusiasm or a sense of renewal…a reminder of why you do what you do. That’s the kind of shot in the arm I received when attending Momentous Institute’s Changing the Odds Conference 2016.

The list of speakers included those who have immersed themselves in research regarding the topics of brain science, mindfulness, compassion, kindness, and education. In addition to educators and therapists, other attendees included adults of every imaginable background and profession. I believe I can say, with certainty, that everyone walked away with more than one nugget of wisdom that has the possibility to change lives in multiple positive ways.

  • Brené Brown spoke about the stories we tell ourselves when our emotions run away with us. Feelings like anger, frustration, or insecurity tend to take charge of us. Our brains, in an attempt to explain what took place, will offer an explanation, and this would be great…except for the fact that the brain may be missing some important data points and, just like in a conspiracy, the brain will fill in the missing information with our fears and insecurities. Brown told us that that’s when we need to ask ourselves some important questions: What else could be true? What else do I need to know? The answers to these questions are what will save us from the upset when our imaginations run wild and we start thinking the worst or ourselves, or each other.
  • Dacher Keltner helped renew our faith in mankind when he shared that compassion inspires elevation, that power is gained in acts of compassion, and that people, and animals, possess a pro-social nervous system. This, coming from a consultant for Pixar’s movie, Inside Out, as well as for businesses such as Facebook, Google, and Apple, might help one realize why his research on compassion, awe, love, and beauty had the audience hooked. And that’s before we even began to discuss the fabulous offerings of the Great Good Science Center of which he is the founding director.
  • Daniel Goleman, author and psychologist, shared what every grade-grabbing student, and many of their parents, might want to realize: Grades may get you your first job, but it’s emotional intelligence that will make a huge difference once you start that job. And, the higher you go in your organization, emotional intelligence can matter twice as much as did that school performance, standardized test scores, or IQ score.
  • Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, given the title of Happiest Man in the World by psychologist Richard Davidson, reminded us that for mindfulness to create the change we wish to see in the world, empathy for self and others must be added to the mix. Mindfulness, alone, will not make the biggest difference without the essential component of compassion.
  • And, finally, Kristin Neff, self-compassion specialist, reminded us that we must be kind to ourselves. We must be patient; we must speak to ourselves as we speak to those for whom we hold the greatest care…lovingly, with patience, with an understanding that we hear what we tell ourselves, and that our spirits and souls don’t overlook the mean words we say to ourselves.

Momentous Institute, offering a social-emotional health-based curriculum at their school, in addition to conducting research, developing programs for kids and families, and training for parents and educators, is changing the world. While this was the first Momentous conference I had attended I now know they are a committed source of education and reference going forward. For myself. For my children. For my grandchildren.

It would be wonderful if every city had a Momentous Institute on which to depend. Selfishly, I’m just extremely grateful that I do.

What a wonderful experience!!

Only good things for you and yours,

Dr. W

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Photograph by Ben White.


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