This one is personal.

Family is where you learn all of your habits good and bad.

 

Ever find that you have the same behavior present itself over and over again? Probably something you wish you didn’t do. For me two of the many have been feeling like I need to deal with conflict immediately and associating my volume with how right I am – the louder I am the more likely I am to “win.” Yours might be something completely different like completely withdrawing in the face of conflict, lying about certain things because you think it’s for the best, or not saying sorry and taking accountability for your part in an argument.

 

All of these habits were things you learned from the people you spent the most time with from ages 0 to 10 – usually your family. Those are the people that taught you how to love, accept love, argue, make up, have fun, and be happy. I am sure if you really think about it you can spot the same habit in them too. None of it is bad or wrong because they also taught you all your amazing habits but eventually you leave your house and start to develop relationships with people that learned differently than you did.

 

As you grow up and you see how other people live you realize that there are other ways you can do things that might serve you better. Dealing with conflict immediately leads me to act out of emotion and leaves no space for me to think logically. Once I saw someone take a moment, breath, and simply ask for some space I realized I could do that too. Every time I have done that I reach a faster and more peaceful conclusion. Does that mean I do it every time conflict occurs? Absolutely not. In fact sometimes I will even go the other direction and go cold and withdraw. However, the awareness and learning of other strategies that can replace my own bad habits has begun to create new patterns of behaviour for me. Now maybe in 2 out of every 10 conflicts I will stay calm, breathe, and not speak until I can be sure it is coming from a kind and authentic place. That is progress for me.

 

The biggest challenge of them all is to use your new found skills with the people who taught you the bad ones in the first place or with the people you are most vulnerable with (usually a spouse or best friend). Around my family the strongest manifestation of my bad habit will occur. Maybe this is because I know they love me unconditionally and will forgive me either way, or because this is the source of the habit. The sound of their voice, their physical presence, and their mannerisms are triggers. This is where it is the easiest to slip back in to old habits. There has not been a single time I have yelled, or reacted out of emotion and not regretted it. Every time I am embarrassed and shameful wishing I could go back in time and try it all over again. Now, I might be able to stay calm with friends, or new people I meet, but when it comes to my family or someone I can be vulnerable with like my husband I am presented with the greatest challenge of all.

 

I truly believe that if you can change your habits with your family or whoever you spent those early years with, you can change them for good. It is never too late to learn, grow, change, and most importantly say sorry. Hopefully they can join you in that journey and if not, your example will be strong enough to show them what’s possible for them too.

Push Your Parents

I started a new master’s program in Performance Psychology recently, and the first course was on adult development and aging.   In the class there were a few sections about the stereotypes of older adults such as “old dogs can’t learn new tricks” and everything related to retirement.

I was very interested since I have 4 grandparents over 70, and I also want to support my parents as best possible as they get older.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. The research on traditional retirement (work really hard until you’re 65 then just relax and do some traveling) as related to physical and mental health is pretty shitty. Life expectancy goes way down, disease and physical complications go up, depression goes way up, etc.
  2. A large reason that older adults become so dependent on others is due to societal beliefs. Caretakers (professionals and family members) praise them when they do what they are told and reprimand them when they try to do things on their own.
  3. The research shows that, at the age of retirement, older adults are especially interested in doing work that serves others.
  4. While they may take longer to make decisions, all the research shows that older adults are just as accurate as younger people in cognitive tasks.

In general, I learned that we need a serious overhaul in the way we think about, communicate with, and support older adults.

They want to grow and learn and be challenged just like everyone else.  They want to create value for others and do something meaningful just like everyone else.  They are as capable and eager to create value in people’s lives.

My biggest takeaways:

  1. We need to push our parents and other older adults to continue trying new things, or to continue learning and growing in what they are already doing. After retirement, this doesn’t mean they need to continue having a full-time job or new career, but they should be involved in some form of worthwhile project or discipline at all times.
  2. The “I’m too old to learn this piece of technology” excuse is complete bullshit. My grandma thought she’d never learn how to use the iPhone.  If we would have agreed with her, she would never be able to Facetime with us or see pictures of us. We patiently showed her how to use it again and again until she could use those  basic functions.

Push your parents and other loved ones to try and learn new things. Don’t accept bullshit excuses about being too old.  They’ll thank you for it later.

So You Want to Achieve a Goal?

Life is about growth. To me “the dream” is to wake up each day with purpose, a reason to be better. I recently learned a lesson from my mentor Annie Hyman Pratt that I think can relate to everything in life.

 

In our process of growth, learning, achievement, success, whatever it is, we always start somewhere and have an end goal, outcome, or vision. The starting point is A and the big outcome is B. When you start at A the range of acceptable behaviours is wide but the closer we get to B the narrower this becomes.

 

To make the point clearer I will use Basketball as an example. Starting at A is a young toddler just learning to play and at B this same player is playing in the NBA.

 

A young basketball player is praised for simply running in the appropriate offensive or defensive direction, or maybe just lining up in the right position. If they travel with the ball or don’t know how to dribble it’s acceptable. At that stage pretty much anything goes because its all about sparking that passion and making sure it’s fun!

 

Now, when you leave A and start moving towards B things become narrower. Now the basketball player needs to learn how to dribble the ball, shoot the ball, and pass to their teammates. This pattern continues as you get closer and closer to B. The closer you get to B the narrower the acceptable behaviour becomes. Eventually the player will need to understand strategy, offense, defense, and one day they will need to start attending practice. After that, off-court strength and conditioning becomes a factor. Then when you make it all the way to B your personal life is also under scrutiny.

 

You’ve gone from just moving in the right direction to becoming a star in the NBA.

 

If at any point you are unwilling to comply and adjust your behaviour to fit within the appropriate range, you are at a “choice point.” This is a point where you have to make a relatively simple choice. Being outside of the range and still achieving B is not an option, you cannot miss practice, stop working out, and still make it to the NBA. You choose to adjust or leave. Neither choice is better than the other.

 

This analogy can apply to every single goal. Whether you want to lose 50lbs (notice how the last 5 are always the most stubborn?), own a fortune 500 company, or make it to the Olympics. The closer you get the more you have to take into account. No one said achieving your goals would be easy.

 

The thing that I love most about this analogy is the hardest thing for most people to realize. Most people reach a choice point and want to go back to A. They want to go back to when it was acceptable to do those behaviours they are comfortable with. Maybe you want to be able to miss Basketball practice for a friend’s party, but it’s just not an option anymore. “But it used to be okay?!” The funny thing is that once you have left A – started playing more often, started losing weight, started your company, whatever it is – A is no longer an option, it truly doesn’t exist anymore.

 

You cannot go backwards, only forwards.

The Process

At times I focus too much on the end goal.

At times I just focus on achievements.

At times I compare myself to others.

I’ve noticed more and more lately that I’m happiest when I focus on my own effort and fall in love with the process of learning rather than being too tied to the outcome.

There will ALWAYS be more to achieve, and there will ALWAYS be someone out there doing something, maybe not your thing, bigger and better than you.  Focus on doing YOUR thing to the best of your ability, and fall in love with the process.

The Sacred and the Secular

When you first start dating someone that you really like every moment you are with them you feel connected and fully present. You aren’t distracted by texts and work and the ball game. Every moment with that person is sacred.

If you realize that you still really like them after months of getting to know every little quirk about them, then this is for you.

The deeper into relationships we go the more intertwined our lives become. We make plans together, sometimes really big plans. We get stuff together. Eventually we live together and share an apartment, split rent, pay bills together, etc. Then we may even get married and have kids.

All of these things require secular discussion, which basically means “that which is not sacred.”

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my relationship with Adee is to separate the sacred and the secular.

One of the sacred times for us is first thing in the morning and the last hour or two before bed. At one point, we were in the habit of talking about work, bills, etc. any time they popped into our heads (which is the natural tendency).

After a while we both felt a lack of connection and increased stress in general.

Once we learned about this concept we created rules to protect the sacred such as:

  • No talk of work, bills, or planning in the early morning or late night
  • No phones at the table while eating
  • No phones or talk of work while on a date or with friends (unless it comes up naturally in a conversation).

I encourage you to make your own rules to protect the sacred in your relationship. And follow them! Nothing is worse than making and breaking a commitment.