|BossWoman eNews – February 2005
Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
Welcome to the February 2005 edition of Susan Robison's free
e-mail newsletter for women business owners, executives, and
Our goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about
leading a balanced and prosperous life while making a
difference. If you are on this list you have been a client,
an advocate, or attended a workshop. Pass this newsletter on
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are at the end.
In this issue, you'll find:
- Love Makes the World Go ‘Round
- BossWoman coaching
- Up and coming workshops
1. Love Makes the World Go ‘Round
Since I spend some of each work week helping couples have
extraordinary relationships, I love Valentine’s Day. It is a
great time for couples to celebrate their relationships. I
am also aware of what a rough time of year it can be for
those who don’t have somebody special in their life to
celebrate this holiday designated for lovers. All the ads
for hearts and roses and romantic dinners can be a reminder
of a life with something missing. However, I propose that
Valentine’s Day could be a day for all of to celebrate love
even those who are not romantically paired. This proposal
is nothing new but an acknowledgment of the original
The Feast of St. Valentine commemorates the life of an
early Church hero who, imprisoned for his faith during a
persecution, is said to have sent love notes to his fellow
believers. His letters were not declarations of romantic
love nor even directives to his readers to love others
romantically but reminders to love one another in “agape,”
the love of kindness and compassion experienced when we
reach out to help other human beings. While Valentine’s
Day is now synonymous with a day to celebrate “erotic” or
romantic love with cards and little candies, it can also
be a reminder to extend the love of agape to ourselves
and others. In that sense we are all “lovers” with a
reason to celebrate the message of St. Valentine.
Agape for Yourself
No, it is not selfish to love yourself. Compassion means
“to suffer with.” Recognizing your own hardships and
meeting your needs enlarges your capacity to have
compassion for others. Eating well, getting adequate
rest (8-8 ½ hours for adults), and exercising are healthy
ways to love yourself. It is hard to care for the rest of
the world when we are tired and burnt out. Paradoxically,
self-focused individuals seldom take care of themselves;
it is their non-meeting of needs that makes them so needy.
Making sure that you are healthy and happy ensures that
you have the energy to care for others. Research on the
psychobiology of happiness by Dr. Richard Davidson at the
University of Wisconsin is showing that happy
individuals have increased activity in particular areas
of their brains, specifically, pre-frontal lobes
especially the left prefrontal. Those areas are also
responsible for planning and looking forward to events
in the future. In other words, they could be called the
brain’s hope centers. Positive anticipation of events
increases the likelihood that the events will be
experienced as positive. In addition, happy individuals
make more dopamine, a neurotransmitter related to energy.
Happy chemicals in your brain give you the energy to
Happiness as defined by the researchers I am referring
to in this article does not just mean momentary pleasure
like eating a great dinner although pleasure is one path
to happiness. Two other paths to happiness are also
important, finding interesting involving work and living
a life of meaning and purpose. One way of increasing your
sense of meaning and therefore of increasing your
positive emotions is to add to the available supply of
love in the world through your kindness and compassion.
Agape For Others
I did my undergraduate work at Loyola University, a
Jesuit college where we were required to take eight
theology and six philosophy courses in addition to our
major and elective courses. That is fourteen or almost
half of my thirty-two undergrad course dedicated to
assignments of regularly pondering the meaning of life.
A favorite discussion at the student union was whether
there could be a pure act of kindness or altruism that
didn’t also benefit the doer. The students didn’t come
to any solid conclusions but returned to the smoke-
filled union the next day to pick up the debate where
they left off. They could have done their lungs a favor
if only they had access to the current happiness
research. Now, finally scientific data which settles
the philosophical question: It is impossible to be
altruistic without receiving benefits as long as the
benefits are by-products not goals of the altruism.
The recipients of your kindness do not even need to be
people that you know. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a Professor of
Psychology at Stanford, tested whether asking people to
"commit" five random acts of kindness would reliably
increase their level of positive emotion. The good news
is that it does. And it is most effective if all five
acts are carried out on the same day. Other benefits
from altruism include lowering of the stress response,
increase of happiness neurotransmitters such as
endorphins, relaxation, and lowering your risk of death
compared to non-altruistic age mates. However, if you
volunteer in the soup kitchen because you have nothing to
do, you are not as likely to receive benefits as
those who volunteer for the sake of others. You might
fool the soup kitchen people but you won’t fool your
own psychobiology; your brain knows the difference.
Women may find it easier to be kind when under stress
than men. Dr. Shelley Taylor at UCLA found that while
men respond to stress with a “flight or fight” pattern,
women have more of a tendency to “tend and befriend”
others. A response mediated by the secretion of a brain
chemical called oxtocin (not to be confused with the
addictive pain killer, popular among Hollywood stars).
“Tend and befriend” prompts women to care for children
and want to hang out with friends when stressed.
Reaching out for others in an hour of need seems to
fill a need that benefits both the individual as well
as the community.
Agape for Lovers
Romantic love ebbs and flows across the history of
romantic relationships. Longly weds (the opposite of
newly weds) report falling in and out of love in cycles
across their lives together often without any obvious
cause and effect. One constant over which you do have
control is how kind and responsive you are to your
partner over time. Whether your partner is appreciative
of your efforts or not, you build your own psychological
capital or good return on your investment from your own
actions. In other words, you build self-esteem about
your handling of your half of the marriage.
Appreciation is good for you. Subjects in happiness
studies that kept “gratitude logs” increased their
positive emotions. Couples who express appreciation
regularly reap benefits of better mood management and
lower stress. Acts of appreciation about our
relationship serve to remind us that we have pretty
good relationships. Even if that conclusion is an
illusion, research by Dr. Sandra Murray from the
University of Buffalo shows that people who engage in
positive illusions about their partner’s assets enjoy
their relationships more than those who are more
reality-based in their perceptions of their partners.
Marriage studies by Dr. John Gottman and his associates
at the University of Washington have found that couples
who are kind and caring towards their partners are more
likely to report feeling happy and in love than those
who are contemptuous or withdrawn.
While it seems like common sense that good partners
should be supportive of each other in difficult times,
Dr. Shelly Gable at UCLA has found that how you respond
to another’s good news is also important. She and her
colleagues observed four classes of responses partners
can use when good news has been announced. They are:
Couples whose partners responded with active
constructive responses report feeling closer and more
intimate than the other three responses.
- Passive destructive – Person B responds to Person A’s
good news by changing the subject. “Did you see my
- Passive constructive - Person B responds to Person A’s
good news with an uninvolved positive response. “Oh,
- Active destructive - Person B responds to Person A’s
good news by putting down the news. “That sounds like a
lot of work. Are you sure you want the promotion?”
- Active constructive - Person B responds to Person A’s
good news with involved positive response. “That’s
great! You must be so pleased. How shall we celebrate?”
Love requires action other than sitting around wondering
if this is the right person for you. Love (as the popular
poster says) is a verb.
- When someone important to you reports good news, pay
attention with your best dose of “agape.”
- If you can’t give your full attention, say so. Don’t
try to fake interest when you are distracted. You will
say dumb things like, “Yeh, yeh, that’s nice.”
- What you do during a period of falling out of love with
your partner may determine how fast the relationship
recaptures those loving feelings. Increase your efforts
at agape or kindness for your partner and you may find
that the endorphins released may cause you to fall back
Happy Valentine’ Day!
To find out more about happiness research see:
- Martin Seligman Authentic Happiness.
- Time magazine, January 17, 2005
- Psychology Today, November 2004
- The website with assessment tools and research on
happiness, www.authentichappiness.com. Last year I was
part of an international group of coaches trained by
Dr. Martin Seligman on the instruments on that site and
how to coach to increase happiness. Take the Virtues in
Action questionnaire and request a coaching session with
me on its interpretation and I will give you a month of
complementary coaching on how you can increase your own
happiness. Deadline: contact me by the end of February.
- Read “Love Notes,” the ezine published quarterly by the
Center for Extraordinary Marriages. Just send me an email
requesting the latest issue (Susan@BossWoman.org).
Topic: “Living with an ADHA Spouse.”
- For my readers who don’t have a sweetheart this
Valentine, but would like to find one, don’t despair.
One of my colleague friends, Kathryn Lord, coaches
people who want to find a sweetheart. Visit her
informative and helpful website at
2. BossWoman coaching
About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a
professional coach, speaker, author and seminar leader.
She loves to coach women who want improvement in:
If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life,
give Susan a call for a complementary half-hour coaching
- work-life balance,
- career transitions,
- building your business or practice,
- time management,
- increasing productivity.
She provides keynotes and seminars to business and
organizations on the topics of:
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session
because she knows that workshops don’t work.
- leadership strategies for women,
- work-life balance,
Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar
needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at 410-465-5892.
3. Up and coming workshops
Topic: Happiness Is An Inside Job: Creating Lives of
Joy, Hope and Grace.
Date: February 25, 2005 6:00 dinner, 7:15 Presentation
Place: St. Joseph Parish, Sykesville, MD
Contact: Andrea Springer, 410-552-5402 or 410-795-7838.
Topic: Permanent Whitewater: Dealing with Change and
Date: March 29, 2005, Part of an all day conference for
women in federal government
Topic: Working Successfully with Couple Clients:
Staying Sane in Insane Places. Date: May 12, 2005;
Part of an all day conference for financial planners.
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