Ten Ways to Change Your Behavior Immediately #2: Cultivate Positive Mind-States

Once we start to get upset, these negative feelings can become self-perpetuating until it seems like we have never felt and could never feel any other way!  The more intense the build-up becomes, the harder and harder it is to break out of those beliefs.  The best way to escape this cycle is to interrupt the pattern before it even begins – with positive emotions.

It turns out that one of the most powerful emotions is gratitude.  There has been a volume of research showing that gratitude is correlated with greater subjective well being – people are happier, more productive, sleep better, have more control over themselves and their environment, and grow through challenges when they experience more gratitude.  The effect is so strong that interventions have been done where people keep a journal and write down three things every day they are grateful for – try it for yourself and see!  When you find yourself avoiding work, take a moment and think about the person you are most grateful towards.  Then think about what you are most grateful about in your own life.

Another powerful emotion is self-compassion.  Consider yourself from an outside perspective for a moment: not only is that person suffering because of his internal conflict about work, but on top of that he is feeling shame, guilt, fear, anger and/or self-judgment too!  Don’t you want to reach out and comfort that person?  Don’t you wish you could do something to help?  Remember that what you are going through is part of the shared human experience, and feel some compassion for yourself and your struggles – you will feel a lot better afterwards.

I will leave you with one further note: try laughing!  The situation may not be very funny at the time, so remember a recent situation or your favorite comedy routine, maybe even sneak away quickly to listen to it.  If you can, laugh at how ridiculous the situation is!  Everything will look a little bit brighter in that light.

Ten Ways to Change Your Behavior Immediately #1: Take a Deep Breath

Have you ever completed a really big project, or had a difficult conversation with someone you care about, and literally sighed with relief at the end?  You subconsciously used that sigh to release the tension you had been storing up in your body, and return you to a state of calm curiosity.  It turns out that this technique – like smiling to become happier – works even if you do it intentionally.

One effect of taking a deep breath is to oxygenate your blood, which leaves you feeling invigorated and ready to go.  To get the largest amount of air into your lungs, you need to breathe from your diaphragm.  Practice this by lying down on your back, and resting one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach.  Breathe slowly from the bottom of your lungs up, so that you feel your stomach hand rise into the air first.  Do this several times, and try letting yourself breath normally, to feel the difference.  You will quickly get the hang of it.

So the next time you hit a block, before getting frustrated and conditioning yourself to dislike work even more, take a deep breath and relax!  Afterwards, take another look at your work with a set of fresh eyes.

Summary of Nonviolent Communication

 

Nonviolent Communication is a communication and conflict-resolution process developed by the psychologist Marshall Rosenberg. The book focuses on how to express ourselves in a way that inspires empathy in others, and how to listen to them empathically in turn. This system radically changed my understanding of human interactions, and using these techniques with myself greatly reduced my own level of self-judgment. I highly recommend this book.

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Summary of How to Win Friends and Influence People

 

How to Win Friends and Influence People is a classic book by Dale Carnegie with a pretty self-explanatory title. I read this book recently, and was surprised to find that it epitomized a lot of the wisdom I had already picked up from a variety of other sources. Note that this summary is from the revised 1981 edition, which removed the sections on writing good business letters and achieving marital satisfaction.

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Summary of Eat That Frog

 

Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy is an excellent synthesis of much of the existing productivity literature to date, achieving about 80% of the total benefits from time management.  My summary here attempts to condense the book into a few pages of critical insights, organized into four primary sections: organization, efficiency, identifying your strengths, and optimizing yourself.  Implementing even a small number of these techniques will result in greatly increased effectiveness.

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