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Do You Sabotage Yourself?

Our success and happiness are based as much on what we choose NOT to do as what we choose to do. What things in your life keep you from doing other things that you’ve identified as priorities? Which of your behaviors tend to thwart your goals?

If you have trouble with follow through on your highest priorities, make a “NOT-To-Do” list (a fantastic Peter Bregman idea).

Our success and happiness are based as much on what we choose NOT to do as what we choose to do. Click To Tweet

When we aren’t clear about what we don’t want to do, the things we don’t want to do often end up distracting us from our higher priorities. For example, nurturing my teens is one of my top priorities. As part of this, I want to spend more time hanging out with my kids after dinner and after they finish their homework. Ideally, I’ll spend 20 minutes with each of them one-on-one. But instead, I often get pulled into my email or back into my work, and poof! Just like that, the time is gone, and the opportunity missed. (Now that my daughters Fiona and Macie are away at school, I’m painfully aware of how fleeting and precious that time is.)

So under the priority labeled “Nurture my family and close relationships,” I’ve written: Don’t go back to work after dinner if the kids are at home. I have similar “NOT-to-do” items under each priority.

Be Explicit

By being explicit about what I’m NOT going to do–by actually writing these things down–I’m increasing the odds that I’ll spend my time on the things that matter most to me.

By being explicit about what I’m NOT going to do–by actually writing these things down–I’m increasing the odds that I’ll spend my time on the things that matter most to me. Click To Tweet

Now it’s your turn: Spend this next week noticing the behaviors and activities that sabotage the way that you spend your time. Each time you notice yourself doing something that thwarts a better behavior, add it to your “Not-To-Do” list here:

 Click here to download the not-to-do list PDF

If you are just joining us, you might want to check out some related activities. Before you make a NOT-to-do list, it helps to:

1) Identify your top priorities according to what is fulfilling to you and

2) Re-organize your to-do list according to your top priorities.

See Unit 2: CHOOSE in my free Science of Finding Flow online course for more information about how to live your life according to your highest priorities.

As always, let me know what questions you have in the comment section!

 


This post is from a series about how we choose to spend our time in my online course, Science of Finding Flow, an online course I created as a companion to my book The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More by Doing Less. I’m sharing “lessons” from this online class here, on my blog. Want to see previous posts? Just click this The Science of Finding Flow tag. Enjoy!

Parenting Video: Harnessing the Power of Dinnertime

Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that it is both soul-satisfying and eternal.” –Julia Child

Do you eat five meals a week with your kids? If so, how do you make it happen? If not, what are the biggest obstacles to your success? Do your kids like family mealtimes? Why or why not?

If you don’t typically eat dinner as a family, what is preventing you from having more meals together?

  • Is it a matter of planning? Do you need to schedule more time over the weekend to prepare your meals for the week?
  • Does it have to do with sports or another activity that takes place during dinner?
  • Is there something about your work schedule that you can change to make family dinnertime more feasible?
  • Can your family work as a team planning, shopping for, and preparing meals?

This video is the 2nd in a series about high impact happiness routines from The Raising Happiness Homestudy. Check out the rest of the Homestudy here..

If you would like to download the audio version of this video to listen to in your car or on the go, click the link below.
DOWNLOAD THE AUDIO VERSION HERE.

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Do You Want to Feel More Confident? Or Successful? What About Content?

What do you want to feel more of in this one wild and precious life (as Mary Oliver would say)?

I’m not wondering about what you want to achieve or accomplish, I’m wondering how you want to feel. Shooting for the feeling-state that you want more of (maybe you want more happiness, confidence, or fulfillment) will always take you down a different path than setting your sights on a particular achievement. Emotions are more motivating—and far more fulfilling—than an achievement goal in the long run.

Maybe you you really want to grow your business, but you feel too exhausted and overwhelmed right now. An achievement goal would be to grow your business by 25%. But probably what you want to feel is successful, while at the same time feeling well-rested.

Next, identify the activities in your life that already produce the feeling-state you are looking for. These activities don’t need to be habits or things you have done recently; they just need to be things that have produced the emotions you are after in the past. We human beings are terrible at predicting what will make us feel happy (or feel anything positive) in the future. Although we think we know what will make us happier, plenty of research shows that we tend to be wrong about what actually does.

We have better success in the future when we look at what has produced the results we are looking for in the past. For example, a client of mine identified that she wanted to feel more calm, and two activities that make her feel calm are walking her dog in the morning and meditating.

Having a nice long list of the tasks, circumstances, behaviors and activities that already make you feel how you want to feel is going to be handy for the next few activities we’ll introduce as a part of this online course.

So spend some time reflecting on the feeling state that you are after. How do you want to feel when you find your flow? Which activities and pastimes have produced the feelings that you want to feel?


This post is taken from “The Science of Finding Flow,” an online course I created as a companion to my book The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More by Doing Less. I’m sharing “lessons” from this online class here, on my blog. Want to see previous posts? Just click this The Science of Finding Flow tag. Enjoy!

What Will People Say When You Pass Away?

Since her own bout with burn-out and crippling exhaustion, Arianna Huffington has been giving great advice for finding greater meaning and fulfillment in life: Start working on your eulogy, and stop working on your resume.

She elaborates:

It is very telling what we don’t hear in eulogies. We almost never hear things like:

The crowning achievement of his life was when he made senior vice president.
Or
He increased market share for his company multiple times during his tenure.
Or
While she didn’t have any real friends, she had six hundred Facebook friends, and she dealt with every email in her inbox every night.

After we’ve passed away, people will recount the ways that we made a difference in their lives and in the world. They will tell stories and recount memories of times we enjoyed together. They will talk, in essence, about the meaning that we found in this lifetime, about our value, our impact, and our purpose.

When we start working on our eulogy instead of our resumes, we reorient our efforts toward meaning and away from achievements. We look away from the glitter of external rewards: the decadent meal, the Botox, the designer shoes, the higher paycheck, and the more prestigious title. We look inside ourselves to see what really lights our fire, what really brings us peace.

Please note that this probably isn’t about finding a different job. It’s about identifying the meaning that is already there.

We humans find our calling in all types of work—as janitors and ministers, as executives and hairdressers, as artists and parents and mail carriers and farmers. One study found that among administrative assistants, one-third considered their work a job (they focused on their paycheck—not the meaning or enjoyment they derived from the work), one-third considered it a career (mostly a series of ascending achievements), and another third considered it a true calling (they felt that their work was interesting, socially useful, and truly worthy of their time and energy).

Researchers have found the same results in other occupations. People tend to be more or less equally distributed in each of the categories of job, career, and calling.

It isn’t the job description or title that determines meaning— whether we consider our work a job, a career, or a calling. It’s the person. It isn’t about the prestige or even the helping nature of our work. It’s about the meaning we personally find in it and express through it, and the effort and commitment we give to it. So what do you want people to remember? 

Questions for Introspection

Think about what your friends and family will say at your funeral. What do you want them to say, and what would they likely say now?

Now, take a step back and think about what meaning you find in your work, and in your life.

What are you passionate about? What do you find most interesting, important, and worthy of your time and energy? What positive impact are you having on the world and other people?

Do your time and effort reflect your commitment to the work you value the most?

This is a first step towards discovering what you value, so that you can better prioritize your time. The next activity is about how best to prioritize.


This post is from a series on finding more meaning in how we spend our time. If you are interested in learning more, check out “The Science of Finding Flow,” an online course I created as a companion to my book The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More by Doing Less. I’m sharing “lessons” from this online class here, on my blog. Want to see previous posts? Just click this The Science of Finding Flow tag. Enjoy!

How to Fulfill New School Year Resolutions

Help your kids reach their goals this school year. (Or set some goals for yourself!)

Now that our summer break is wrapping up, I’ve started asking my kids about their hopes for the coming school year. Every year at this time our conversations remind me a little of New Year’s Eve with adults – lots of optimism, but initially no plans concrete enough to justify faith in their intentions.

Here’s the thing: Intentions are never enough. Even full-blown goal-setting isn’t worth much if you don’t do it right.

It’s a mistake not to set goals in a way that’s proven effective; just vaguely wanting to do well in school, make the team, or be class president will not get kids where they want to go. But kids don’t know this; how could they? We parents need to teach our older kids, our teens, and our college students how to change their behavior in a way that helps them reach their goals.

Enter behavioral psychologist Sean Young, who knows more about behavior change than anyone. Using Sean’s framework – as well as the research I wrote about in my book “The Sweet Spot” – I’ve freshened up my plan for how my kids and I set our goals (and inspire behavior change). This framework can obviously be applied to many different types of goals, and I’ve created a goal-setting worksheet to make it all easy here.

NOTE: The example below is from the worksheets that I helped my daughter Macie complete last year around this time. Happily, Macie accomplished her goals and is headed off to college this week! Before she goes, we’ll complete a new worksheet.

1. First, state the big goal. What would you like to accomplish in the next three months or so?

Macie is a high school senior applying to colleges this fall. She knows she needs sleep to be mentally and physically healthy – and to do well academically and athletically. Specifically, she hopes that she won’t get caught in a cycle of exhaustion this year, where she oversleeps and then has to rush out the door in the morning, skipping breakfast and generally not starting the day well. Her dream is to get eight to nine hours of sleep each night and get out of bed as soon as her alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m. on weekday mornings.

2. Next, break this larger idea down into long-term goals. Long-term goals take up to three months to accomplish. Macie’s long-term goal is to have a 30-day “streak” of getting eight to nine hours of sleep each night and getting out of bed within five minutes of her alarm going off in the morning.

3. Break it down again into short-term goals. These goals should take one to three weeks to accomplish. Macie’s first short-term goal was to outline for herself specific morning and evening routines in 10-minute time increments. Those specific plans helped her see what she needed to do to get to bed by 10:30 p.m. and wake up by 6:30 a.m.

4. Now break goals down into very specific, ridiculously easy baby steps. What can you do today? Tomorrow? Here are the baby steps Macie took:

  • Get an alarm that doesn’t bug her (that she won’t resist setting).
  • Ask a parent to enforce the family rule that phones are charged outside of bedrooms. (We let that slip with her over the summer.)
  • Set her alarm for 6:30 a.m.

5. Set up the environment to make things easier. Our environment dramatically influences our behavior. We like to think our behavior is all our personality and preferences, or that it’s the strength of our ironclad will that determines our success. But actually, we are hugely influenced by the people, places and technology that happen to be in close physical proximity to us.

This means that to be successful in reaching our goals, it’s very helpful to set up our environment to make things easier, to create what are called structural solutions. This usually means removing temptations. For Macie, it meant getting her phone out of her bedroom at night (where it would keep her up) and while she was studying (where it would distract her so much she couldn’t finish her homework by bedtime).

6. Involve other people. We humans are often more motivated to do things that we might otherwise resist if it makes us feel more of a sense of belonging, or if it deepens or increases our social connections. In addition, involving other people can provide added motivation–a little external willpower as we establish new habits–getting them to do stuff they’d rather blow off.

For example: I make sure Macie is out of bed in the morning. If she is not, I annoyingly sing “rise and shine.” She is too old for this, and it bugs the heck out of her to have me hovering in this way. This is sufficient motivation for her to get out of bed before I arrive.

7. Identify why the goal is important. Help kids think less about what they want to achieve and instead focus on how they want to feel. Identify a “why” for the goal that will motivate them over the long haul.

We do better when we let go of our logical reasons for why we want to do something. Why? Because research shows that good, solid, logical reasons for doing something – like exercising because we want to lower our blood pressure or ward off cancer – don’t actually provide lasting motivation. It turns out that emotions are far more motivating than achievement goals in the long run.

So help kids shoot instead for a feeling a certain way. For example, maybe they want more confidence or calm. Macie wants to get out of bed on time because she wants to feel “on it,” “well-rested” and “disciplined.”

8. Make the new behavior a part of their identity. Macie wants to be able to say, “I am a person who is well-rested and self-disciplined.” She’s tracking the days she gets into and out of bed on time, so she can look back and see, “Yup, I’m on it!” Collect evidence that your kids are the type of people who do whatever it is that they are trying to do.

9. Make the behavior more enticingWe human beings pursue rewards: a pretty little cupcake, attention from a mentor, a sense of accomplishment. When our brains identify a potential reward, they release dopamine, a feel-good chemical messenger. Dopamine motivates us to pursue the reward, creating a real sense of craving, wanting or desire for the carrot that is being dangled in front of us.

Rewards need to be immediate or, even better, built into our routine when possible. Macie loves her bed; hitting snooze instead of getting up is its own reward, which makes getting out of bed much more difficult (and who doesn’t relate to that?!) So I’ve worked with Macie to praise herself enthusiastically when she gets out of bed on her own using what B.J. Fogg at Stanford calls the “Yay Me!” reward.Even something as small as a short mental victory dance can trigger a little hit of dopamine, enough to tell your brain to repeat whatever you just did. She is basically giving herself a pat on the back and noting how “disciplined” and “on it” she is.

10. Make the behavior more habitual. Once we do something on autopilot, everything is easier – we don’t need much willpower to enact our habitual behaviors. Can you help kids make the behaviors related to accomplishing their goals habitual in any way? Do this by anchoring behaviors in existing habits or routines, or even a schedule, using a when/then statement: “When I do x, then I will y.” For Macie, it starts at 7 p.m.: “When it’s 7 p.m., I will put my phone in the charging station while I study.”

What are your kids’ goals for this new school year? What are your goals? Now that you have a framework for how you and your children can achieve those goals, you can lead by example to turn talk into something more.

If you need support setting and achieving your goals, I hope you’ll check out our Brave Over Perfect group coaching program! At only $20 for 3 coaching calls and two months of online support, it’s a no-brainer. Learn more or enroll now here.

Flow Class: Finding Meaning at Work

“Success is about getting; significance is about giving: we make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

–Satinder Dhiman, Seven Habits of Highly Fulfilled People

Social psychologists define meaning, as it applies to our lives, as “an intellectual and emotional assessment of the degree to which we feel our lives have purpose, value and impact.” In a stunning series of studies, Adam Grant proved that briefly showing people how their work helps others increases not only how happy people are on the job but also how much they work and accomplish.

Grant’s most famous series of studies were conducted at a call center with paid fundraisers tasked with phoning potential donors to a public university. As anyone who’s ever made cold calls knows, work in a call center isn’t easy. People receiving calls are often annoyed and can be downright rude. Employees must endure frequent rejection on the phone and low morale at the office—all in exchange for relatively low pay. Not surprisingly, call center jobs often have a high staff turnover rate.

In an effort to see if he could motivate call center fundraisers to stay on the job longer, Grant brought in a few scholarship students (who presumably had benefited from the fundraisers’ work) for a five-minute meeting where callers could ask them questions about their classes and experience at the university. In the next month, that quick conversation yielded unbelievable results. Callers who had met the scholarship students spent twice as long on the phone as the fundraisers who had not met any students. They accomplished far more, bringing in an average of 171 percent more money.

In another study, Grant found that having fundraisers read an account from scholarship students about how they had been helped by the fundraisers’ work significantly increased the amount of money they raised. But reading an account from a previous fundraiser about how the callers themselves benefited from their work as a fundraiser did not. The difference? A shift in the callers’ beliefs about the social meaning of their work, and an increased sense of their purpose, value, and impact.

These studies are remarkably counterintuitive. We assume that Westerners are best motivated on the job by our own interests— money, prestige, what’s in it for us, what we’ll get, not what we give. But actually, these studies show clearly that we humans are best motivated by our significance to other people. We’ll work harder and longer and better—and feel happier about the work we are doing— when we know that someone else is benefiting from our efforts. It turns out that one sure path to finding your flow–to both ease and strength–is to find the social meaning in your daily activities.

 


This post is taken from “The Science of Finding Flow,” an online course I created as a companion to my book The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More by Doing Less. I’m sharing “lessons” from this online class here, on my blog. Want to see previous posts? Just click this The Science of Finding Flow tag. Enjoy!

Parenting Video: How to Foster Grit

This video is the 4th in a series about fostering academic success from The Raising Happiness Homestudy. It covers:

  • Why relieving kids’ pain also takes away their power
  • The single biggest predictor of success in college — and how you can foster it

Parenting Practice: Celebrating Mistakes

Here is what we need to teach our kids:

(1) They have the power within them to recover from mistakes.
(2) Mistakes are not something we need to hold onto and feel bad about forever. Embarrassment (or fear) is only temporary. Feeling bad does not help us learn and grow.
(3) Sometimes we learn things from our mistakes that we couldn’t have learned any other way.

To teach kids these three things, we aren’t just going to let our kids make mistakes, we are going to celebrate them! How? Take turns telling about something you did recently that could be considered a mistake:

  • How did you feel while you were making the mistake?
  • How do you feel now?
  • What did you learn?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • What good came out of the mistake?
  • See if you can tell about your embarrassing moment, or mistake, like you are telling a joke. If you play this game at dinner, why not toast your mistakes and all you learn from them? To the mistakes we all make, thank you for the learning, may I someday laugh at myself!

“The road less traveled is sometimes fraught with barricades, bumps, and uncharted terrain. But it is on that road where your character is truly tested―and your personal growth realized.”

–Katie Couric

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If you would like to download the audio version of this video to listen to in your car or on the go, click the link below.
DOWNLOAD THE AUDIO VERSION HERE.

 

This video is the 4th in a series about fostering academic success from The Raising Happiness Homestudy. Watch the rest of the videos here.

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Chase Meaning, Not Happiness

These days, a lot of people don’t feel totally in control of their choices and their priorities, especially at work. But you do always have the freedom to choose your beliefs about what will make your life worth living.

As Viktor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning upon returning from a brutal concentration camp, where he lost his whole family, including his pregnant wife:

Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress. We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

What did Frankl mean by this? He meant that every day–whether we are in a concentration camp or not–we have important choices to make about whether to submit internally to the powerful forces around us; the forces that will rob us of our essential selves if given the chance. To Frankl, it was what prisoners chose to believe and the way that they pursued meaning that gave them the will and strength to endure.

The same can be said of us, living our privileged lives, although the forces that threaten to rob us of our freedoms are obviously much more benign.

Usually, we think we are choosing to pursue happiness, claiming it as our inalienable right. But mountains of research demonstrate that we humans do better pursuing fulfillment and meaning than we do by pursuing happiness.

Frankl was right on many fronts. It turns out that our happiness, success, and productivity at work are dramatically affected by our beliefs about how our work benefits others.


This post is taken from “The Science of Finding Flow,” an online course I created as a companion to my book The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More by Doing Less. I’m sharing “lessons” from this online class here, on my blog. Want to see previous posts? Just click this The Science of Finding Flow tag. Enjoy!

Flow Class: The Problem with Pursuing Pleasure

This video is from a series about how we choose to spend our time in my online course, Science of Finding Flow.

“Compelling research indicates that the pursuit of happiness—at least by modern definitions, with our emphasis on pleasure and gratification—won’t ultimately bring us ease and it most certainly won’t bring us strength.”

Join the Discussion

What about you? Do you equate happiness with objects and experiences? When you find your flow, what is it you want to be doing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


This post is taken from “The Science of Finding Flow,” an online course I created as a companion to my book The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More by Doing Less. I’m sharing “lessons” from this online class here, on my blog. Want to see previous posts? Just click this The Science of Finding Flow tag. Enjoy!

Parenting Video: Raising Learners

“The only thing you can control is your own effort.”
–Theodora van den Beld

This video is the 1st in a series about fostering academic success from The Raising Happiness Homestudy. Watch the rest of the videos here.


Three Ways to Create a Growth Mindset

(1) Use growth-mindset praise. First, identify where you are most fixed-mindset in praising your children. Is it during athletics? When they bring home grades? For me, it was when my kids brought home art projects. Identify a specific situation: this will be your action trigger.

Second, decide what you will say the next time you praise your kids. The key is to focus on the process rather than the end-result.

(2) Ask process questionsWho taught you how to do that? Did you use a different strategy this time? With younger kids, just asking them very simple things (Who did you sit by when you did that? What type of material did you use?) can be enough to provoke a process-oriented conversation.

(3) Identify where your KIDS are most fixed-mindset. Do your kids have fixed-mindset ideas about one area of themselves? Help them identify where the fixed-mindset is hamstringing them, and help them outline a practice strategy. Think of my belief that I couldn’t carry a tune, and how that almost prevented me from auditioning for the high school musical.

 

Related Video: How to Praise Children

Join the Discussion

  • Where are you most fixed-mindset? What sort of change have you scripted?
  • Where have you been successful at fostering a growth-mindset?

Your reflections and suggestions (comment below this posting) will inspire others to make similar changes, so don’t hesitate to “brag” about your successes. By the same token, if you are struggling, tell us about it! Others will certainly have suggestions for you.

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If you would like to download the audio version of this video to listen to in your car or on the go, click the link below. DOWNLOAD THE AUDIO VERSION HERE.

 


This post is taken from “The Raising Happiness Homestudy,” an online course I created as a companion to my book Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents. I’m sharing “classes” from this online course here, on my blog. Want to see previous posts? Just click this Raising Happiness Homestudy tag. Enjoy!