Definitions of a Problem: Writing Your Way to Right Thinking: Positive Psychology through Journaling

Think of a problem you’re facing now and come up with three different definitions of the problem. If we can generate some different perspectives, we can become more flexible and less rigid in our thinking and feel less stuck. An alternative perspective may also allow us to see the problem in a way that is more solvable.  Hence, the second part of the exercise is to come up with two solutions for each of the new definitions of the problem.

For example, the problem of chronic lateness in the morning may be reformulated as the following:

1. Not having sufficient time to get ready in the morning

2. Trying to get too many things done in the morning

3. Putting off homework until the morning.

The first definition may lead to the idea of setting the alarm earlier. The second may help you realize that, realistically, you can only get certain tasks accomplished in the morning, but other things will have to be tackled the night before. The third definition may involve getting homework completed in a more timely manner.

Original problem:

Reformulation #1:




Reformulation #2:




Reformulation #3:










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Write Your Way to Right Thinking: Positive Psychology through Journaling: Role Models

Who do you most admire? For what reasons? In what ways are you already like that person?


Who do you most admire? My former supervisor.

For what reasons? She was calm and nonjudgmental.

In what ways are you already like that person? Because of her mentorship, I am more like this with students and people I supervise.

This exercise gives us an opportunity to think about role models, people who inspire and give us hope. By identifying the qualities, attitudes, and/or actions that a person takes, we can consider to what we would like to aspire. Sometimes we admire a person because he or she has qualities that we share, but perhaps have not yet developed as deeply.


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Write Your Way to Right Thinking: Coping with a Challenge

Name a time recently or in the past twenty-four hours when you were able to remain calm in the face of a frustrating or otherwise difficult circumstance.
What did you do?
What did you say to yourself?
What did you learn from this that you can take with you to other situations?

Hassles, such as traffic, deadlines, messes, pointless meetings, rude or inconsiderate people, confront us on a daily basis. We will never be able to abolish these from our lives. But we can control our response. This exercise gets you to consider a response you had to one of those incidents in which you were able to keep your cool and/or make the best of what the circumstance had to offer. Perhaps you were able to listen to an audiotape while stuck in traffic and therefore catch up with a book you wanted to read. Perhaps you were able to get other work accomplished in a boring and otherwise non-productive meeting. Perhaps you were able to brush off rude behavior without personalizing it. This exercise demonstrates that you don’t necessarily have to succumb to negative experiences and let them ruin, or at least mar, your day. You can instead seek out, and give yourselves credit for, those times when you handled stressors well. Reflecting on these times also gives you ideas about how to handle the inevitable frustrations that come our way.

Here’s an example from a former student:

I volunteered to help with an event at my child’s preschool and became resentful because of the amount of work involved, making phone calls, sending faxes and e-mails with attachments. I was already feeling too busy and this added to my workload.

What did I do? I worked though each task step by step.

What did I say to myself? I reminded myself of the reasons that I was so eager to do this in the first place and why it is important that I continue. I reminded myself that even though it feels hard, I have a lot to offer to this particular job, and if I had chosen not to do it, there would be some missing pieces from this project. Others are working on it, too, but I came to the table with some unique ideas and opportunities. I am also doing this so that I can feel more useful. I love being a stay-at-home mom but I have felt useless and deprived of intellectual stimulation, as well as adult interactions. This is also giving me the opportunity to learn some new skills and practice interacting with people in ways that I am not typically accustomed.

What did I learn? I learned that I feel better when I follow through with obligations in a timely manner. I learned that it is typical to spend much more time in the anticipatory anxiety phase than it realistically ends up taking to complete the task.





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Write Your Way to Write Thinking: Journaling through Positive Psychology

WRITE YOUR WAY TO RIGHT THINKING was created as a way to do regular journaling that will help you enact positive psychology principles in your life.  Originated by Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania, positive psychology emphasizes the study of well-being, strengths, and what is already going well rather than trying to remedy deficits. For more information, see http://www.positivepsychology.org

In this blog, at least three times a week, I’ll post a series of questions for you to reflect upon by writing in the comment box. (Of course, you can also write in your own journal.) A brief explanation of the rationale and purpose of the entry will follow for further guidance, as well as a de-identified example from an anonymous contributor. You can also comment about how processing your experience through writing was helpful for you. Working with the entries over time can solidify your positive, or at least realistic, thinking patterns so that you can feel better toward yourself and others, enjoy improved relationships, and experience more hope for your future.

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West End Farmers Market Book Event June 2

I’m at an author’s event on Sunday June 2 at West End Farmers Market in Alexandria.  


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Upcoming Appearance at Alexandria, VA Main Library



Wednesday, OCTOBER 10, 2012 at 7:00pm
at the Beatley Library

5005 Duke St., Alexandria

Donna Andrews, Meg Langslow Series
Jacqui Corcoran, A MONTH OF SUNDAYS
G.M. Malliet, St. Just and Max Tudor Mysteries
Lane Stone, Tiara Investigations Mystery Series

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Review of CRIMINAL

The disappearance of a teenager involves the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and links back to a series of disappearances at the time of Amanda Wagner’s first law enforcement job, working at the Atlanta Police Department. Will Trent wonders about Amanda’s involvement in the current case and why is so determinedly leaving him out. The reasons end up being a big part of the story, which is told in both past and present.

One of Karin Slaughter’s strengths as a writer is the way she realizes her characters, and it is fascinating the way she brings different characters to the forefront each time. The best part of this novel was the historical element and finding out about 1970s Atlanta police force when sexism and all the other “isms,” such as alcoholism and racism dominated.

What I didn’t understand was how Amanda went from being a naïve, father-pleasing, young rookie to hardened creature that she is now. Too much of a disconnect without there being a satisfying portrayal of her change. I also find long kidnapping scenes at the hands of a serial killer pretty boring reading. I had a hard time distinguishing between the three victims in the past, as we never really meet them as characters. It was hard to care about their fates, as a result, although I got the point that Amanda and Evelyn were not as quick to dismiss them as were the men of the department. Some of the scenes between Amanda and Evelyn trying to work out the details of the case got a little “talky.” The ending was interesting though, and the way the threads came together.

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Review for Chocolate Covered Murder

I always eagerly await Leslie Meier’s Lucy Stone mysteries and recently found her twentieth, Chocolate Covered Murder in the New Books section of my local library. Leslie Meier ably captures the small details of life, illuminating the small-town setting and its characters, family life, and the winter season. And what cozy fan can resist chocolate as a theme, with not one but two chocolate stores featured?

Generally, Lucy Stone is a likeable character, but in this book, she comes across as sometimes overly judgemental of the person who turns out to be the victim. The murder also happens a little late for genre expectations. I guessed the killer ahead of time, so the ending wasn’t a surprise, but I still enjoyed reading about Lucy’s winter adventure in Tinker’s Cove.

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Upcoming class: Writing a Mystery

Completing Your Mystery

Instructor: Jacqueline Corcoran. Do you have an idea for a mystery or one that you have started and then gotten stuck on? Then this workshop is for you. The writer will be taken step-by-step through the process of opening the mystery, creating characters, plotting, and writing scenes, dialogue, and description by using the advice, ideas, and exercises provided by the instructor. The class will motivate you, provide you with as much feedback as you want, and give you the necessary logic and depth necessary to create a mystery that satisfies.
WHEN: Jun 4, 2012 – Jul 1, 2012


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Review: V is for Vengeance

V is for Vengeance

by Sue Grafton

ISBN: 978-0-399-15786-8

Reviewed by Jacqueline Corcoran

Kinsey is hired by the boyfriend of a woman who supposedly jumped to her death after a shoplifting charge, which Kinsey instigated after witnessing the woman stealing clothes in a Nordstrom.

As a starter, I found the boyfriend’s motive for hiring Kinsey, to find out if it was true that his girlfriend had a secret life, a bit of a stretch. The guy seemed pretty entrenched in his denial and not the type to spend money on a private investigator. Also, Grafton could do well to return to writing shorter books. There were many passages detailing every move that Kinsey took. About a third of the book could have been edited down.

I’m further not keen on the alternative viewpoints in Grafton’s more recent books. We even start with another viewpoint other than hers. I particularly didn’t like the gangster character viewpoint, which seemed a bit stereotypical and inauthentic. However, the most sympathetic character (even more than Kinsey) was the gangster with a love interest.

Very late in the game, Grafton brings in a character that Kinsey has dealt with before, but his involvement, as a result of its timing, seems a bit contrived.

In the end, the resolution of the two deaths present in the book come together, leading to a satisfying conclusion. However, we could have gotten there much sooner.

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