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8 Things the World Can Learn from Europe

8 Things the World Can Learn from Europe

Maybe you think that European cities are quaint, beautiful and historically fascinating? You are right, of course. But Europe is much more than that, and it is leading the world in many fields. Just look at the European Union, for a start. It is a success story of political, social and economic integration. All this has led to 70 years of peaceful co-existence which would have taken centuries in another era. It is not surprising that it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. Let us have a look at what the world can learn from Europe.

1. Europe leads the way in energy efficiency.

There are many examples of energy saving in housing projects all over Europe. The Brussels project known as L’Espoir is an excellent illustration of what can be done at a very low cost in terms of materials and green energy.

This project is a model of eco–construction and energy-saving initiatives. Low level income families were able to buy houses for very modest sums. The houses themselves have the following features:

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  • Wooden frames
  • Sustainable materials used throughout
  • Thermal solar panels
  • Green roof
  • Rainwater cisterns

Another excellent example is the Hammarby Sjostad project (10,000 homes) in Stockholm. Builders here had to meet very high standards in the areas of technical installations and energy saving, which have led to a model development. There are 50% less emissions here compared to other areas of Stockholm. In addition, they have beautiful cycle paths, green areas, renewable fuels, and modern sewage treatment. They also use gray water recycling where shower water can be reused for watering landscape areas and also flushing toilets.

2. Europe encourages cyclists.

The winters may be cold and wet but that does not discourage cyclists. Cycle paths are a standard feature in urban development. Just think that the main station in The Hague in Holland houses 3,000 bicycles in its parking lot. Amsterdam is another example. Only 20% use their cars while 30% are on their bikes and 36% walk! These cities have stopped the urban sprawl so typical of American urban areas which never seem to end. Americans have no choice: they use cars and pollute the atmosphere.

3. Europeans know how to enjoy their food.

The Americans have invented an expression which sums up perfectly how they gulp their food down. I am referring to the expression “to go” when ordering takeaways. In Europe, there is a much more relaxed attitude to eating. People sit down, take their time and really enjoy their food. The Spaniards combine this with an afternoon siesta (soon to be reduced, unfortunately, if a new law goes through). Food and eating are revered in Europe.

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4. Europe provides free health care.

European countries provide mostly free health care, adequate unemployment benefits, and low cost college education as basic rights. It is startling to realize that 16% of Americans are living without any health coverage at all because they cannot afford it.

5. Europeans take longer holidays.

Most companies are now trying to encourage their workers to actually take all their vacation days. Many do not and think that their work ethic is all that matters. There are now many studies which show the health benefits of vacations. Reduction of stress plus increased creativity and productivity are just a few.

Just look at the recent OECD study which shows that Americans are working 400 more hours annually than their European counterparts. Give me a break!

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6. Europe leads the way in flood protection.

The Dutch have been the trailblazers in protecting their land, often below sea level, from devastating storms and excessive rainfall. This process is known as “climate proofing.” They have become experts in building dykes and dams. They now let citizens grow their own vegetables along the dykes.

7. Europe leads in childcare and parental leave.

There is a long way to go in the reduction of poverty and protection of children. Neglect, exploitation and abuse of children stalk the world. The European Union is committed to improving maternity benefits and childcare facilities as many women are forced to leave employment due to a lack of facilities.

Europeans pay higher taxation, but they are getting many more benefits, especially in the area of childcare and parental leave. Just look at the infographic here to understand how far behind some countries are. America joins Lesotho and Swaziland as the countries where maternity leave is unpaid, although many US States are working to improve the situation.

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8. Europe and Erasmus

The Erasmus+ programme developed by the EU in 1987 is unique. It fosters transnational partnerships in the areas of education, training, youth work and sport. It allows up to 3 million Europeans to gain work experience, to study, to train and to volunteer in countries adhering to the programme. It has recently simplified the application procedures and funding rules.

Erasmus has fostered not only the free movement of people learning new skills but has also developed cross-border contacts and friendships throughout the European continent.

Let us know in the comments how your experience of visiting or living in Europe has changed your outlook on life.

Featured photo credit: Europe Day/Niccolo’ Caranti via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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