I had this epiphany in the shower the other day. That's where most of my brilliant thinking takes place. It's an outdoor shower, encircled by bamboo with a view of the beautiful, usually blue sky above. On this day with cool breezes wafting out of the north and plenty of warm water flowing from the solar hot water heater, the clouds mesmerized me. Like curlicues of lace, the kind my grandmother used to crochet onto the edges of pillowcases, they adorned the sky.
And here's what came to me: I have the best job in the world.
I know what you're thinking. You're just now realizing that you have the best job in the world? No. I've always known I've had the best job in the world. I just try not to flaunt it. And one of the reasons it's the best job in the world for me is that I am one of those weird people who thinks the best thing in the world is to board a plane.
This is the time of year when some of us make resolutions. Take the dogs for more walks on the beach. Stop noshing on malasadas for lunch. Start meditating. Read the classics. What we're talking about here is some kind of behavior change.
Have you ever made the same resolution two years in a row? How about three? I certainly have and after reading an article in O Magazine by Rebecca Skloot
about why it is so damn hard to change, I understand why I can't seem to conquer some resolutions. Even me, a double Pisces, finds change hard.
The short answer is dopamine. When we experience pleasure, a surge of dopamine triggers an area of the brain where memories are formed, so that, eventually, even a flash of red and yellow makes us crave McDonald's french fries, to borrow an example from Skloot. This can make kicking a behavior flat-out hard.
So, what can we do?
Skloot's article suggests marrying pleasure with a desired behavior to effect permanent change. Rewards can work, especially immediate ones, and repetition is critical. After about two to three weeks of "forced" behavioral activity, our noggin starts producing a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which one scientist in Skloot's research called Miracle-Gro for the brain. It actually increases the dopamine push. Yeah for the Big Gulps of dopamine.
But there are variables, prime among them is stress. Stress mucks everything up.
I read another of the many articles being published right now on the topic of resolutions. This one by Mike Maddock in Forbes, titled, "Ten Resolutions The Most Successful People Make and Then Keep
The 10 fall into two categories, both potent for self-transformation into the best possible humans we can be. One, falls in the realm of simple, little things. Simple, little things that are profound. Like spend more time on the not-to-do list. And essential first, email second.
The other category is the biggie--resolve to find your purpose, for example. That took me probably 15 years. It's this. Writing.
But the one that made me sit up in bed--yes, I was checking email and Facebook in bed. Tsk. Tsk. Never again.
That one that struck home was this: Resolve to support a cause.
Now, if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll probably be scratching your head again. She must be really dense, you're thinking. She's just figuring out she has the best job in the world AND she's just realizing her cause. Duh.
Sure I write about protecting our oceans. I share about plastics ingested by Laysan albatross chicks. I cover the plight of the critically-endangered Hawaiian monk seal. I shout about the glories of hiking Alakai Swamp Trail on Kauai and backpacking through Haleakala on Maui. I post photographs of some of Hawaii's colorful sunsets. Yep, my beat is nature.
So, here's my intention here for 2013: To help you fall in love with the world--the amazing natural world, the way of the watery world, the magnificent mountaintops, the rarest of rare plants, and the most amazing birds of the world. All right here in Hawaii.
And that's why I have the best job in the world. Because I get to write about these topics, and I get to write them in this forum--in these kinds of blog posts and personal essays. This, for me, is a big, blast of dopamine larger than any Grande-soy-five-pump-no-water-chai latte ever gives me.
The 10th resolution that Maddock lists as one he's identified as key to the most successful people is this: Plan vacations (now).
I can help with that, too. In fact, Outrigger Hotels is running a limited-time special
to help you do just that. How convenient, yes?