10 Signs You Are Enjoying Your Work

I have been very lucky in my life.  There have been brief periods when I had do a job, just to make money that I needed.  A lot of people are happy with this situation, especially if they work with people they like, or if they earn a really good salary.  However, I would be really unhappy about living this way for a long time, since I really see my work as a very important part of who I am.  My work as a social worker was much more stressful than my work as an ESL teacher, but I still had many joyful times in that job, and I always felt that what I was doing was valuable and important.  I was proud to do the job.  If you are still looking for your dream job, I think that this list will give you a good idea about how work should make you feel, when things are going well.

10 Signs You Are Enjoying Your Work.

5 steps to achieving your New Year’s resolutions | PhraseMix.com

I’ve included a lot of posts on my blog about setting goals, and establishing good habits.  Aaron has an amazing blog with a new English phrase or expression every day.  One excellent English-learning habit would be to take 5 minutes every morning to read about the phrase of the day, and then see if you can use it in conversation by the end of the day.

For me, I have a couple of big goals: adventure and socializing.  I can often combine them, by being a part of groups/clubs, like November Project Canada, Ceyana Canoe, and various Meetup groups.  I want to maintain my habit of physical activity at least 5 days/week.  Since my fitness application (MapMyRun) says that I did 412 workouts in 2014, this has been going pretty well for me.  Quite a few of them included biking or walking to work, but each trip was a mile (1.6K) long, so it all helps me to stay active.

It’s important to identify barriers to achieving your goals, so that you can build habits to eliminate those barriers.  I have a bad habit that interferes with socializing: I let my dirty dishes pile up for a week or more at a time.  It’s pretty gross, but I can ignore it a lot of the time.  So, one of my first resolutions is to wash my dishes every day (at least 5 days/week) for January.  Hopefully, that’s long enough to establish the good habit.

Why is learning English important to you?  Does it break down barriers for some of the big goals in your life?  If it does, think of small habits that you can build, to help you to achieve your language-learning goals.

5 steps to achieving your New Year’s resolutions | PhraseMix.com.

5 Important Reasons To Embrace A Little Adventure

5 Important Reasons To Embrace A Little Adventure.

My students often roll their eyes when I tell them (again!) how important it is for them to go have adventures when they have free time.  It can be very stressful living in a new place, using a new language, and being away from friends and family.  It often seems that going out and doing new things will only add to that stress.  However, science and my own experience show repeatedly that adventure enriches your life, and makes everything in it more possible and more enjoyable.  It’s true that it can be expensive to do new things, but if you commit yourself to trying something, you will usually find a way to make it possible. Perhaps you can’t travel the world, but you can join a travel group and enjoy the photos and adventures of other travellers, or you can join Couchsurfing and meet or host travellers from around the world.  Before the New Year begins, make 3 promises to yourself for 2015, to do something that will bring you great joy.

Learning a new language has the same effect as sex and chocolate on the brain’s pleasure centres

Bean-to-Bar Chocolate and the Future of the Chocolate Industry

Learning a new language has the same effect as sex and chocolate on the brain’s pleasure centres
From International Business Times
Learning a new language apparently has certain unexpected benefits.

Researchers found that the process of learning a language and acquiring a wider vocabulary has the effect of stimulating the same part of the brain as having sex or eating chocolate.

Scientists from Spain and Germany found people who expand their vocabulary trigger a part of the brain known as the ventral striatum, a pleasure centre that is activated when people are involved in activities such as sex, drugs, gambling or eating sugary foods.

Researchers from Barcelona’s Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute and Otto von GuerickeUniversity in Germany conducted trials on 36 adults who participated in gambling simulations and language-based tests.

Scans carried out after the tests, showed that both activities stimulated the same parts of the brain.

The study also seemed to confirm the belief that learning a second language helps to keep your brain sharp as you age.

The University of Edinburgh detected a pattern of slower mental decline among the bilingual in a group of 835 born in 1936.

Those who spoke two or more languages had significantly better cognitive abilities in their 70s than their peers.

“Our study shows that bilingualism, even when acquired in adulthood, may benefit the ageing brain,” one of the authors of the study commented.

“Those with higher myelin concentrations – or a better connection to the reward area – were able to learn more words. The main objective of the study was to know to what extent language learning activates subcortical reward and motivational systems,” said Pablo Ripollés, PhD student at Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute.

The researchers now hope to use results from their study to develop new treatment for people with language-learning difficulties.

What five things can make sure you never stop growing and learning?

What five things can make sure you never stop growing and learning?.

This post highlights a lot of the ideas that I think are really important for learning, such as embracing mistakes, instead of fearing failure, making a long-term commitment, and including play.

Play creates new neural connections and tests them. It creates an arena for social interaction and learning. It creates a low-risk format for finding and developing innate skills and talents.

The differences were staggering. With the same amount of practice, the long-term-commitment group outperformed the short-term-commitment group by 400 percent. 

In my experience, when students are having fun, they feel like they are in a supportive environment, and they aren’t afraid of mistakes, then their learning happens very quickly (and pleasantly!).

Compare and contrast: How can you become happier?

We all want to be happier in our lives, and we are lucky that so many scientists are looking closely at what will improve or reduce our happiness.  Here’s an excellent essay, as well as an excellent speech about ways to improve happiness.  It’s a great subject for a compare and contrast essay, as well as an excellent area for us to research for our own lives.  The essay says: “So instead of chasing happiness to the extremes, we may be better off pursuing happiness calmly and rationally.”  Arianna Huffington says,  “Modern science has really validated everything that philosophers and spiritual teachers have said about how giving is a shortcut to happiness. Now we have the data to prove it.”

Arianna Huffington on How to ‘Thrive’ – Knowledge@Wharton.

Happiness Hacks: The 10 Most Unexpected Ways to Be Happy.


17 Small Productivity Habits | Farnam Street


I’ve talked before about how important and useful it can be to build helpful habits.  Once a good behaviour is a habit, it’s not necessary to think about it, it’s a regular part of your routine.  By making small adjustments, you can really change your outcome.  I developed a good habit at the beginning of the year, and then I neglected it, but it’s been pretty easy to return.  Every morning, it takes my coffee 4 minutes to brew.  During that time, I do an 80-second plank (abdominal exercise) and an 80-second squat (lower body exercise).  I know that I’ll be able to sit down with a good cup of coffee and spend time on the internet when I’m finished, but this small habit helps a lot for my strength and conditioning.  This works towards a really big goal of mine, which is being able to do many different physical activities, all year round.  Think about your goals, and small habits which will help you to achieve those goals.

17 Small Productivity Habits | Farnam Street.

Don’t give up!

This video always makes me cry!  Many times, people get stuck in a situation that feels impossible, so they stop trying to improve their lives.  Arthur shows how powerful it can be to make a decision to improve your life and then keep taking steps to make that improvement.  Take the time to watch one or both of the videos, and think about what consistent change will really improve your life.

Short version:

Longer version:


Students respond to “What are neural pathways, and why are they important?”

Recently, students in my writing class watched the video about neural pathways and summarized the information that they got from the video.  They did a fantastic job, and if you read their responses, it will help you to understand the video better.

The original post is here:



Learning from the video, when people start to learn a new thing, their brain will create a contact to cross the tiny gap between every Neuron. Although the gap seems to be small, in our daily life it can still be a deep gap. Learning a new thing is like crossing a deep gap. Like a huge mountain you’ve never known or visited, the new things stands there, waiting for you. However, to climb the mountain, first you should try your best to cross the gap. How difficult it is! The first attempt is always not only quite hard but also dangerous. Using tools, the people in the video are trying to build a bridge between here and the other side. Feeling scared, some may stop and give up, and some may hesitate. Only by being brave enough, can you be successful. Also, on the trip, there are always some failures which may dull your enthusiasm, telling that you are a loser and you can’t finish you work. Therefore, it’s important for us to insist on trying again and again. Naturally, we will gradually become more and more skillful. As the saying goes, “Rome was not built in a day”. As time goes by, finally we will find we are successful.



In my opinion, understanding neural paths is really important because that knowledge would make it possible to change some undesirable habits and to make learning like an exercise routine. First, changing some undesirable behaviors is possible by repeatedly exchanging the undesirable action for another more acceptable action. On the other hand, learning new things is not only fun but it creates new paths in the brain which is an awesome exercise.


Good Habits Make You Feel Like You’re Gonna Die.  Published on May 31, 2012 by Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D. in Your Neurochemical Self

What’s a neural pathway, and why does it matter?. Published on June 04, 2014 in ellen’s esl teaching blog




We learn so many things in our life, and indeed, sometimes, learning new things is not easy for us. But we have something incredible in our brain that takes this new information, rearranges it, and keeps it until we need it. So how could our brain do this for us? Does it have some kind of miracle to help it?

Learning is about creating pathways. Our brain has billions of neurons and cells. Neurons help to connect brain cells to each other. Signals and electric impulses go thru neurons and between every brain connection in tiny gap called synapses. All the new things that we learn are through these electric signals. The electric signals have to jump to cross this gap and get from one side to other.

If I’d like to give you an example from life, I can use a mountain climber. They sometimes have to cross a deep ravine. Crossing a ravine for a climber is very similar to the electric signals crossing the gaps. Maybe you have to make a pathway between sides and this is not a thing you can do for the first time. After you cross the ravine, then you can do it again and again, and it gets easer. To learn something new is similar to crossing a ravine, so we need pathways. When the signals cross the gap between our cells again and again, we establish the most solid pathway, which is a neural pathway. These neural pathways help us to learn something new, and they are the miracles in our brain.


 What’s a neural pathway, and why does it matter?


Neural pathways help to link relatively distant areas of the brain or nervous system, associated with the local communication of grey matter. It helps us to learn new knowledge and to create new pathways trough the repetition process. The learning process is not easy, and it involves patience and time.


For that reason, when we are learning a new language or studying for a subject, we should have time to concentrate, practice and repeat the procedure. Especially knowing, when it is our first time studying or learning a material, it’s always difficult to process the information. The second time, it becomes a little easier, and successively, it becomes easier until you create a solid pathway. As a result, our brain internally changes, strengthening and creating new pathways in our brain, developing our knowledge and our way of thinking.


What’s a neural pathway, and why does it matter?


A neural pathway is a road where something new passes to the brain. When we learn anything new, it is difficult, complicated, hard and sometimes confusing, but if we learn and study continuously and repeat new information constantly, our brains will organize to accommodate the new ideas and we’ll able to use new information easily. For example, I had a poor sense of directions so I couldn’t go anywhere without navigation in Korea. However, I drove a lot to meet my customers everyday for my job and now, I know the main road and street of most cities and I can find route to anywhere easily without navigation. It was possible because of repetitive experience.


Neural pathways are the connections that transmit messages between brain nerves. They are formed from childhood when we start to learn for the first time. Then, they are intensified by more learning exercises. The more we learn, the more our connections are boosted and finally they are solidified. However, there are many learning pathways. It is possible to change a pathway or retrain the damaged part of the brain by exercising. Scientific methods can be used for retraining the brain. Transforming our common habits and setting a strong intention would be a useful way. High motivation can send our brain more pulses to make connections for learning. Focusing on outcomes of negatives habits can also motivate our brain to stop them and find a new positive way. However, it is very important to have a substitution for a negative habit. For example, we can replace smoking with jogging when we are stressed. Another important issue in retraining the brain is determination. If we believe that we can change a negative habit, our brain will be motivated and change unintentionally.





Focus on your goal, not on obstacles! HCMC crazy traffic video

When we work towards a goal, it can be very easy to focus on all of the obstacles and barriers that stand in the way of achieving your goal.  I often hear people start by saying “I should…”, and soon after that, they will say “Yeah, but…”.  No matter what we want to achieve, there will always be things that make it difficult.  Keep in mind that whatever you focus on will become bigger, and that will be what you put your energy towards.  Therefore, it’s necessary to have a very clear view of where we want to go, and to keep focussing on that goal, not on the obstacles.  Here’s a great blog post that explains this idea in more detail.


After reading the blog, watch the video of the crazy Ho Chi Minh City traffic.  I love this video, because it really demonstrates the energy and enthusiasm of Viet Nam.  To a North American, the traffic just looks like insanity, and it seems impossible that there aren’t fatal accidents all over the city.  There are fatal accidents, however, within the city, the traffic flow is usually amazingly smooth, amid the chaos.  I know this firsthand, because I biked everywhere around the city on my bicycle during my 3 years in Viet Nam.  I only broke one little pinky finger in all of that time!  Everyone focusses on where they are headed, and they (almost always) flow around obstacles like water flowing around a rock.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/32958521″>Traffic in Frenetic HCMC, Vietnam</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/kwhi02″>Rob Whitworth</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

What can you do to increase your focus on your goals, and to avoid obstacles that interfere?

How to Be Productive The Mindmap of 35 Habits of… | Funders and Founders Notes


How to Be Productive The Mindmap of 35 Habits of... | Funders and Founders Notes

How to Be Productive The Mindmap of 35 Habits of… | Funders and Founders Notes.

This is a great list of ways to make your life more productive.  I feel very lucky that I’ve been including more and more of these ideas in my regular schedule.  I’m not so sure about going to a cafe or ordering delivery every day though.  It’s costly, and rarely healthy.

Happy Valentine’s Day! This Infographic Reveals the Secrets of the Happiest Couples


This Infographic Reveals the Secrets of the Happiest Couples.

Infographics are a great way to study a new idea.  They can really help you to connect thoughts, and understand vocabulary better.  These days, you can find infographics on the internet about almost any subject.  For Valentine’s, the subject of love and marriage is important.  Choosing your marriage partner is probably the most important decision you will make in your life, and this information helps you to understand how to keep the marriage as happy as possible.