My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

Want to get the "Moment of Happiness"? A daily happiness quotation in your inbox. Sign up here close daily quote

Before and After: Use Self-Observation to See What the Triggers Are.

HabitsRepeatFourI’m writing my next book, Before and After, about how we make and break habits–an issue  very relevant to happiness. Each week, I’ll post a before-and-after story submitted by a reader, about how he or she successfully changed a habit. We can all learn from each other. If you’d like to share your story, contact me here. To be notified when the book is available for pre-order, sign up here.

This week’s story comes from Kelly Pietrangeli.

I used to have a very bad habit of shouting at my kids. (The irony of shouting at my kids to “stop shouting” was not lost on me.) I knew I needed to stop, but counting to 10 and taking deep breaths never worked for me. I needed to find some kind of strategy that would actually work.

 

I decided the first step was to talk to my kids and tell them I wanted to change this habit. I promised them that if I ever shouted I’d have to apologise. I don’t like to apologise so this was a real biggie for me.

 

Next I went into self-observation mode for a few days to see what my typical triggers were. I noticed I’m short fused when I’m tired first thing in the morning and at end of the day and that being on time for school or activities made me edgy and more prone to outbursts. Knowing that I have more patience at some times than others made me see that often it wasn’t their behaviour that ’caused’ me to lose my rag, but it was my own problem.

 

I don’t tolerate winging, complaining or being uncooperative, but I created a mantra: “My child is not BEING a problem, my child is HAVING a problem.” This helped me to reframe the situation and come at it from a better angle.

 

I then read Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting by Dr. Laura Markham.

 

Dr. Markham tells us that if we really want to stop yelling, it’s completely possible – no matter how ingrained it is. It’s not rocket science and takes about 3 months once you’ve made the commitment.

 

This is the best book I’ve ever read for helping me understand myself and my children better.

 

Becoming a former Shout-a-holic was not an easy process for me and I slipped up a lot in the beginning, but I chose to persevere. I still have my occasional shouty moments, but they happen rarely now instead of daily. (Hourly!)

 

It really came down to self-awareness and a deep determination to change. I am incredibly proud of the new me!

In Before and After, I call this the Strategy of Foundation. We do a lot better job sticking to our good habits, I believe, when our foundation is strong. That means making sure we get enough sleep, that we’re not too hungry, that we’re not rushed or overwhelmed by dealing with clutter or lost items.

I also write a lot about this kind of issue in Happier at Home: when I’m happier, my family is happier, so I need to take the steps that help me to stay calm, attentive, and tender-hearted.

How about you? Have you worked on your foundation, and found that it helped your habits?

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here.

 

 

I've just finished writing my next book, Better Than Before, about how we can make and break our habits. If you'd like to pre-order the book, click here.

Are You an “Energizer” or a “De-Energizer” at Work?

energyatworkI’m re-posting this quiz, because I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue lately.

I read Cross and Perker’s The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations, and I was riveted by their discussion of energy. This caught my eye, because my father is always emphasizing the importance of energy, whether at work or at play — especially at work. (For other excellent advice my father and mother gave me, look here.)

Cross and Parker argue that energy is a key factor in understanding who is effective at work, and why. When they analyzed networks of co-workers, knowing whether someone was considered an “energizer” and a “de-energizer” shed a great deal of light on how networks worked, and how productive various people managed to be. Their discussion is complex, but here are some highlights.

About energizers:
– those who energized others are much higher performers
– energizers are more likely to be heard and to see their ideas acted upon
– people are more willing to engage with energizers: to give them undivided attention, to devote discretionary time to them, to respond to them, and to want to work with them
– energizers are quick to point out potential problems, but always in service of reaching a goal
– energizers listen to others and value others’ ideas, concerns, and contributions
– energizers don’t posture or conspire in alliances or cliques
– energizers articulate a compelling vision, but not one so grand that it feels frustratingly out of reach
– energizers show integrity: they follow through on their promises, deliver bad news or point out problems when appropriate, and deal fairly with others
– Key point: “Note that energizers are not entertainers, or even necessarily very charismatic or intense. Rather, they bring themselves fully into an interaction.” In a nutshell, energizers help move the ball forward.

About de-energizers:
– people go to great lengths to avoid dealing with de-energizers
– when bypassed, de-energerizers tend to persist in unhelpful responses; they feel ignored, so they behave in ways that make people avoid them all the more, instead of finding ways to engage constructively [note: this is an important clue about how to deal productively with de-energizers: make sure they know that you hear their point of view]
– de-energizers tend to see nothing but roadblocks
– de-energizers, especially those with great expertise, tend to shut out others’ views

So, are you an energizer or a de-energizer? Here are eight questions, adapted from Cross and Parker:

1. Do you take a sincere interest in other people?

2. Do you follow through on your commitments?

3. Do you engage in self-serving machinations, or do you work in service of a goal larger than yourself?

4. Do you see possibilities, or only problems?

5. Are you able to disagree with someone without attacking that person personally? (Note: excessive agreement is also de-energizing.)

6. Do you give people your full attention? It turns out people are far more aware of a lack of attentiveness than you might think. Um, I can see you looking at your phone!

7. Are you flexible enough in your methods so that others can contribute, or do you demand that others adapt to you?

8. Do you exercise your expertise without bulldozing over other people?

What do you think? Does this category of “energy” make sense in terms of your own work experience? For me, it rings absolutely true. And I completely agree that a person can be very soft-spoken and even languid in behavior, and yet terrifically energizing, because of the contribution that person is making toward reaching a goal.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here.

Story: Sometimes, We Can Be Generous By Taking.

This week’s video story: Sometimes, we can be generous by taking.

 

This is a very sad but beautiful story. I’m haunted by it.

I realize that many of my favorite stories feature this theme, though in more ordinary situations: my friend who wished her husband would ask her to cook his favorite foods, or my friend who wished he’d accepted a newspaper from a stranger.

If you can’t see the video, click here.

Find the archives of videos here.  Almost 1.9 MILLION views. Don’t forget to subscribe.

If you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here.

Zoikes. I’m on the Cover of a Magazine.

LiveHappymagcoverI have to say, I’m in shock.

I’m on the cover of the inaugural issue of Live Happy magazine.

It was a lot of fun to talk to journalist Melissa Balmain and get my photo taken, but I felt very superstitious about it. Was it actually going to happen?

Yes, it did.

Have you ever had an experience where you thought, “Well, I can cross that off my bucket list–except that I never dreamed of putting it on my bucket list!” That’s how I feel.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here.

“Those Who Find Comfort in Literature…in Personal Adornment, and…in Food.”

Elizabeth_Goudge“Maria gazed at her boots. Miss Heliotrope restored her spectacles to their proper position, [and] picked up the worn brown volume of French essays…

“Humanity can be roughly divided into three sorts of people–those who find comfort in literature, those who find comfort in personal adornment, and those who find comfort in food.”

–Elizabeth Goudge, The Little White Horse

This is a very broad statement, but as I thought about it, it struck me that there’s a fair amount of truth in it. Agree, disagree?

This book was written in 1946. To update it a bit, maybe I’d change “literature” to…what word encompasses literature, and also TV, movies, the internet?

Any other major sources of comfort that you’d include along with literature, personal adornment, and food? Perhaps animals?

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here.