Ellen Langer

For the past ten years I’ve ended my courses with one version or another of a powerpoint presentation of photos of my paintings with the most course appropriate one-liners as a way to help celebrate the end of the semester and to provide an easy way to remember some of the course highlights. The one-liners were culled from years of research. They include such sayings as “Predict Today and Lose Tomorrow” to remind them of the illusion of predictability and how our predictions lead to expectations that give us tunnel vision and may prevent noticing the unpredicted, for example.

There is also a message hidden in many of the sayings that I bring to light to underscore what I feel as a personal responsibility to convey to them and feel comfortable doing so since it is a send-off celebration. The message is my recipe for a happy successful life. It is not based directly on research nor theory. Still it feels right to me.

The recipe is the acronym, GLADO. The prescription is be Generous, Loving, Authentic, Direct and Open and well being should result. It implicitly follows from years of research on Mindfulness. The mindful understanding that behavior makes sense from the actor’s perspective or else s/he wouldn’t have done it, leads us to be less evaluative of others and ourselves. As such, it removes the impediments to generosity, caring, authenticity, being direct and not fearing being open and true to ourselves.

If we practice this way of being, will all failure and rejection or open personal attack be a thing of the past? Probably not. It would be nice not to have to endure the trials and tribulations we suffer from time to time. But after all, many people out there are not embracing whatever wisdom this simple acronym holds. If we stay the course, we very well may avert some unpleasant episodes and certainly recover more quickly from others.

GLADO is easy to remember, and years later many students tell me that they call it to mind when they are feeling insecure or angry. To some this will seem like pabulum. I think they don’t realize that it’s hard to be soft. To them I say, “ try it and see.”