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Tuesday Tip: Choose not to complain

Leading a joyful life does not mean always trying to be happy, or pretending that we don’t sometimes feel annoyed, disappointed, irritated, or hassled. These days, I try not to fake happiness…ever.

At the same time, I’m not really one for complaining. When I was in my twenties, I complained nearly constantly. My best friend used to make bets with me that I couldn’t go even one month without complaining about the weather in Chicago. He was right — I couldn’t do it, even though that was the year that I’d landed a dream job and had every reason I needed NOT to complain constantly. But complaining was a bad habit that was easy, and in a weird way, rewarding. I could always find something to say by complaining about the weather (because in Chicago, it is always too hot or too cold to us Californians).

But complaining is a bad habit that threatens our health, happiness, and success. Consistent complainers get sick more often and don’t do as well in their jobs as their more positive counterparts — and their relationships tend to be shorter and less satisfying. Perhaps because they are so miserable to be around!

Complaining trains your brain to see something negative as the most relevant thing to be commented on, and this negative filter can lead to greater and greater pessimism. Complaining can make your brain feel like you are doing something about a problem, when in fact you aren’t taking action at all.

Want to get out of a complaining habit? I created a little action plan for Self.com here that you might be interested in. In addition, it isn’t too late to start my free 90-day coaching program which aims to help you get into a new habit that sticks.

Photo by Kevin Spencer via flickr.

Tuesday Tip: Expect (at Least Minor, Sometimes Major) Failure


We all understand that when we first attempt to drive a car or ride a bike, we’ll make mistakes. Behavior change is no different; it’s a process of slipping, learning from the mistake, and trying again.” ― John C. Norcross, Changeology

Ah, the beginning of February.

If you made a New Year’s Resolution a month ago, and you’ve kept it so far, take a victory lap. The other (probably half) of you? Don’t worry about it if you are faltering. Worry and self-criticism don’t work. Don’t stress, but also…don’t just sit there.

This may be blazingly obvious, but in order to do better tomorrow, you’ll need to know what causes your trip-ups. What obstacle have you failed to see or plan for in the last week or so? How does your resolution need tweaking? Did you take on too much too soon? Figure it out, and make a specific plan for what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation again.

When I was first trying to squeeze meditation into my morning routine, I felt like I was failing more mornings than I was succeeding. Every day brought a new tweak to the routine. For example, at first I thought that I could get away with seven hours of sleep at night. But after three or four mornings of pushing the snooze button I realized I was too tired and had to turn the lights out earlier. Then I thought that I could read before bed on my iPad; that was a no-go, too, as the light from the screen kept me from falling asleep quickly.

For several days in a row, I didn’t foresee minor obstacles that proved challenging, like it being too cold in the house for me to not leap straight from my warm bed to my hot shower. But after I’d encountered each obstacle once, I could make a plan for what to do the next time. It can take many months to settle into something as large as a new morning routine.

So don’t worry about it if you are faltering — but don’t give up, either! Figure out how you need to tweak your habit to eliminate obstacles, and carry on!

Want more advice for establishing (and keeping) a new habit? Sign up for my FREE 90 day — text, email, and Facebook-based — coaching program to help you make and keep resolutions that stick.

Photo by Tim Ellis

Tuesday Tip: Make a “NOT-To-Do” list


You have a to-do list. But do you have a not-to-do list?

I just listened to a fantastic conversation between Ron Friedman and Peter Bregman that had some surprising suggestions for managing our time better in 2016. (You can listen to it, too, here — it goes live at 2:00 PM EST today, part of a Peak Work Performance Summit that is free until the 15th). One of Bregman’s tips was to create a “not-to-do list.” Why?

According to Bregman, our success and happiness are based as much on what we choose NOT to do as what we choose to do. I wholeheartedly agree. What things in your life keep you from doing other things that you value more? Which of your behaviors tend to thwart your goals?

When we aren’t clear about what we want to do and what we don’t want to do, then the things we don’t want to do often end up distracting us from our higher priorities. For example, 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 daughter Fiona is away at school, I’m painfully aware of how fleeting and precious that time is.)

I’ve used Bregman’s “6 box” method to establish my priorities and categorize my to-do list for a while now. I wrote about this in The Sweet Spot, and you can learn more about it in his interview. But now in addition to categorizing my to-do items by each of my priorities–and then scheduling my time accordingly–I’m adding something. To each priority, I’m adding a not-to-do list. 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.

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 accomplish my goals this year, and increasing the chances that I’ll spend my time on the things that matter most to me.

Photo by Jack.Schultz