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Are You Learning and Growing?

I’m in the Netherlands this week, having participated in a three-day training event in “Transformational Presence” by Alan Seale. Even though my calendar quickly fills up with client work and my other commitments, I also make room for my own personal development. Look at your calendar for the past month. Did you manage to do some activities that allowed you to learn and grow? If you didn’t, it’s extra important that you schedule some learning and growing time in your calendar for next month.

If you are out of ideas for September, you can join me in Denmark for my RIM Essentials training 😉 There is only one slot left…

Set your Mind’s GPS

Did you ever set your GPS wrong? I have, but quickly noticed something wrong with the directions I was given. But if you set your mind’s GPS wrong, it can take you a while to notice.

If you are unhappy about the path of your life, you need to re-program your mind’s GPS. A simple way to do that is by saying affirmations. An affirmation is a compelling sentence that describes how you feel after reaching your goal. One of mine has been “I am so happy and grateful that I now feel relaxed and confident as I speak in front of an audience.” I talk more about affirmations in chapter 7 of my book “Life after Bullying.”

Design an affirmation and say it to yourself every day. You will find that it directs your mind to seek a way to reach the goal your affirmation describes.

Create Your Own Soundtrack

Movies manipulate your feelings. You can also use the techniques of the movie industry to change how you feel. One of their tricks is the soundtrack. You just know that the romantic couple is about to meet again after a long separation – the music tells you.

Think about the soundtrack you want for your life. You might create several playlists for different moods. You can have one for starting work, one for winding down after your workday, one for getting ready for bed, one to get in a romantic mood with your partner, and an extra energetic one for doing boring work around the house.

Your rational mind cannot directly affect your feelings. It doesn’t work to simply tell yourself to cheer up. But your rational self can select the right tunes and let the music do the magic.

Have People Around You

Are you as productive when working from home? Many people feel they are not, and compensate by working even more hours. The numbers show that the time we save by not commuting to work has become extra work hours, not extra free time.

If you feel your productivity is dropping when working from home, spend part of your workday working together with someone else. You do not have to work on the same thing, and you don’t even have to know the other person. If you take your laptop to a local cafe or co-working space where other people are working, you will work harder. It is exactly the same effect as when people exercise harder in the gym than they do at home. Get out of the house for part of your work-from-home days.

Spend Your Money Well

You can’t buy happiness. Yet there are some ways to spend money that makes you happier than others. Research shows that the happiness from buying things wears off very quickly. Especially today. It will take no more than six months before there is a new and better model of the television or phone you buy today. But the happiness you get from buying experiences lasts longer. Many of your memories will last a lifetime. Save a little on things today and spend a little more on your holiday this summer. It will make your happier in the long run.

How to Break Bad Habits

There seems to be a day for breaking every bad habit. For example, today is “World No Tobacco Day.” Having one special day can be good for awareness campaigns. Actually changing habits takes much longer.

I talk about breaking bad habits in chapter 5 of my book “Life After Bullying.” The reason we call them “bad” is because they are working against some other goal we have. Our habits might be bad for our health, or take time away from more important things. The trick is not to focus on the habit you don’t want, but instead focus on the better result you do want.

Pay Attention to What Your Body Tells You

Your body knows what is bothering you, even if your conscious mind doesn’t. I am reading Bruce Perry’s book “The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog,” and he explains how he discovered a way to detect past trauma still stuck in the body: With a heart rate monitor.

A child wanted to try the heart rate monitor Bruce was still wearing after a run. He put in on the boy and the heart rate was normal. But then Bruce said something that caused the boy’s heart rate to increase dramatically. He later discovered that his words had triggered a memory of past trauma in the boy.

If you have an Apple Watch or a similar device that measures your pulse, pay attention to the data it gives you. You might discover that a specific task or an upcoming event with certain people sets your heart racing. That tells you that you have something you need to work on. While you do that, also try to reduce this kind of stress-inducing activity. Maybe someone else can do the task, or you don’t need to go to that meeting. I’m not a big gadget fan, but here is a place where a device can actually be helpful.

Fit Some Walking Into Your Day

You don’t have to run. But you do have to exercise a little every week. You will find lots of exercise advice on the internet, but the official recommendations are really simple: 150 minutes of moderate exercise like walking or cycling or 75 minutes of running or similar.  

You can easily fit 150 minutes of walking into your week in 15-minute intervals. Get off the bus or train a little before your destination and walk for 15 minutes. If you do that on the way to work and on the way home, that gives you 30 minutes each workday. If you are in the office five days a week, that adds up to 150 minutes 

If you are working from home, walk to work anyway. That means taking a 15-minute walk around the block when you start your workday, and another 15-minute walk when you end it. That has the added benefit of setting boundaries around your work time. The first walk can put you into focused “work mode”, and the second walk can allow your mind to change from work to relaxation. 

Reprogram Your Brain

Are you using your brain right? The human brain has two thinking systems: A fast system and a slow system. The slow system is for carefully considering situations, and it uses a lot of energy. The fast system provides quick answers in routine situations and uses much less energy.

Our brains have evolved over thousands of years to automatically select which system to use. In every situation, the fast system gets the first try. In 98% of all cases, the fast system comes up with what it thinks is a good answer, and doesn’t even ask the slow system.

Fortunately, you can use the slow system to re-program the fast system. To change your behavior, think about a situation in advance and tell yourself what you want to happen. Your fast system might automatically say yes when your boss asks you to do one more thing today. Tell yourself that next time, you will say that you will do the task tomorrow. Simply stating your goal tells your fast thinking system that the automatic response is no longer the right answer.

Talk Nicely to Yourself

How do you talk to yourself? When our actions lead to bad outcomes, we blame ourselves. That is OK if it leads us to reflect on our behavior and do better next time.

But the language we use when we blame ourselves is sometimes much worse than we would ever use with other people. If a colleague makes a mistake, we don’t call her stupid. But we might call ourselves stupid. Don’t do that. Talk to yourself at least as politely as you talk to others.