Category Archives: EI

It takes kind to know kind

Picking up my new eyeglasses at BJs I noticed how different my interaction was with Ann-Marie, the optometrist there. She was extremely positive about my new glasses, and frankly about everything else. You can’t fake caring. She was genuinely trying to make my day better, and she did the same to a co-worker that was wandering by.  There was nothing specific, nothing I could put my finger on. There was no script for her to follow. When you know, you know. I thanked her for being kind. Without a thought she said, “It takes kind to know kind.” What an affirming return gift for gratitude expressed!  What do you notice? And what do you affirm in others?  If you see a kindness, it means you too…are kind.

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Who do we appreciate?

Yes, the title may be a familiar chant to you from sixth grade. I’m tickled also by Microsoft Word chiding that it really should be, “whom do we appreciate?” That’s the upper-crust British version.  Instead of giving a bunch of cheap plastic gifts from China this Christmas that will end up in the landfill next year, give your partner/parents/friends/kids appreciation.  Appreciation engages the frontal cortex – the connector in your brain. And it quiets the amygdala in the limbic system – the alarm bell in your brain. Target your appreciation with characteristics that fit and give specific examples of how it shows up in their life.  Here’s a cheat sheet to help you, based on the work of John Gottman. And how are your 40 days going? I’m continuing to work on getting what needs to be done efficiently without panic or pushing. And other readers are doing great work. The best day to start your 40 Days to Change for Good was November 11. The second best day is today! Jerry says: “My 40-day focus is on experimenting with habits for self-care. That looks like: – walking at least 20 minutes/day – meditating at least 10 minutes/day and the big one… – in bed by 11 pm.” Lou says: “Count me in, so busy but I’ve got so many songs started my 40 day journey will be to work in unfinished songs an song ideas each day for 40.  Not necessarily to finish one each day but to work on some.  That’s the journey.  Excited about this, thanks for the push.” (You can check out Lou’s jug band here.) Laura is working on “discipline – being mindful of doing things on a disciplined basis. I can achieve a goal but what I lack is a consistent discipline. It’s not a specific thing, I just want to be more mindful about whatever it is I choose to be disciplined about.”

Also posted in Purpose, 40 Days Change, Brain Science | Comments closed

If you’re a leader is safety or happiness more important to focus on for your people?

If you are a leader, start with making your people feel safe. Address their fears first. Then work your way up to happy. Calming the amygdala in the brain is the first step. Then you can engage the frontal cortex. That’s the order. 

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Safe or happy?

The amygdala part of the brain wants to keep us safe. It’s its primary function. The frontal cortex part of the brain developed after the amygdala. It is more interested in whether you’re happy, fulfilled, have good connections with the people you care about or not. In any given moment one or the other is in charge. Not both. So that means in any given moment – like this one – you’re either focused on feeling safe or being happy. What we say we want and what we act like in daily life are often two different things. Lastly, safe and happy are in two different categories. They don’t happen at the same time. When I say ‘happy’ here I’m not talking ‘yay!’ Happiness in this case is a sense of fulfillment of flourishing of being at your best. You won’t find safety there. This is the Hero’s Journey – the trip into the scary unknown. You leave safety in search of happiness.

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Freeze, Fight or Flight, which comes first?

For us modern humans working in offices, freeze usually comes first.  This is especially true when speech and language are involved. We interact with someone and then we have to process a potential verbal attack. Although the brain ultimately doesn’t differentiate between a literal and a metaphorical threat, it still takes longer to figure out words than it does actions. Our brain prepares us for fight or flight – shunting oxygen from the brain and dumping chemicals in our bloodstream to make us stronger and faster – to MOVE. Meanwhile, we’re frozen. And then when our body screams at us to move, but we’re in an office, in a meeting, on the phone, we also know we can’t. So we stay frozen. And ten to thirty minutes later when the chemical ‘dust’ clears in the brain we think of things we wish we had said – the verbal versions of fight or flight. When does fight ever come first? In traffic when road rage happens, fight usually comes first. Which comes first for you – freeze, fight, or flight? Does that help you in life? How does it hinder your development to becoming your best version of you?

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Freeze, Fight or Flight?

When we get emotionally triggered, it’s common to call that our ‘fight or flight’ response.  There’s a third option that may be the most used, however: freeze. This is the classic posture adopted by small(er) animals. Then they choose flight, or like the possum, may just continue with freeze. At the beginning of a potential threat, an animal (and we’re animals) may be uncertain the location or severity of the threat, even if it really is a threat. So fight or flight doesn’t make sense yet. Freeze happens. When your brain gets hijacked by something that feels threatening, what’s your go-to – freeze, fight, or flight?

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To ask well is to answer

The Jungian analyst Robert Johnson writes, “To ask well is virtually to answer.” He’s writing about our internal process of individuation, navigating our internal landscape in search of wholeness.  Also true? It’s how we best connect with others, how we can calm someone down who is emotionally triggered. A true question – one ‘asked well’ – engages the frontal cortex, the connector part of the brain.  If you want to influence and make a change, ask well. It’s like answering, but better.

Also posted in Brain Science, Influence | Comments closed

Oh, that’s bad, no that’s good! (What I learned watching Hee Haw)

There is a classic skit on Hee Haw where Roy Clark tells a story and Charlie replies with either “oh, that’s good” or “oh, that’s bad”. The joke builds as every time the “that’s good” reply is corrected with Roy Clark saying “no, that’s bad.” What we thought was good news turns out to be bad in the story. And what someone would normally label as “that’s bad” gets corrected by Roy (“no, that’s good”) as we realize that the ‘bad news’ turns out to be good news as the story unfolds. What’s in your circle of control? Larger forces work their dark magic on us and we find ourselves in situations that might be called ‘less than wonderful’. Things happen, bad things happen, beyond our control. Wonderful things happen too. We can focus on what a shame it is we didn’t win the lottery, had that car accident, got that illness, didn’t get that raise, on and on.  And we can also focus on what is in our control – how we perceive and react to what we see. We can consciously choose what our perception is instead of how our unconscious bias labels. If you’re unsure of how to do shake things up in this way, try a simple trick. Whatever you’d normally judge as bad, label it the opposite. What if it’s great? The Buddhists are wonderful at this, welcoming discomfort in the service of learning. And Carl Jung took this contrarian view with this patients – good news was met with dismay because they’d be less likely to do the hard work of individuation, and bad news was met with celebration. So, is what is happening right now good or bad? Are you in heaven or hell right now? Are you sure? “Everybody has that opportunity. It’s our choice of perception. How do we perceive the world around us? We can perceive it negatively and go to hell or we can perceive it positively and make it work well and go to heaven, you know, play with the angels.” – 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer

Also posted in Happiness, Positive Psychology | Comments closed

When do Americans love to suffer?

A student once asked Tulku Urgyen Rimpoche what was interesting about Americans. He replied, “The people in America love to suffer before the suffering comes.” According to the Institute for Health and Human Potential, 40% of our thoughts are about the future, 12% are thoughts of doubt and 10% are worries about our health. The amygdala in the brain is always scanning for potential threats. It’s just trying to keep us safe. But the unfortunate result is that we anticipate future suffering. We ‘suffer before the suffering’. Are you suffering, really suffering right now? If so, it’s something to welcome in. If you feel bad but nothing bad is actually happening, it may just be anticipatory suffering. That’s not necessary or helpful. It may be more helpful to notice what’s actually happening right now. And wait to experience the inevitable future suffering only once it has actually arrived. (Thanks to Joseph Jastrab for passing along the quote)

Also posted in Play, Brain Science | Comments closed

What percent of Florida panthers are black?

Q: What percent of Florida panthers are black? A) 22% B) 100% C) 12% D) 0% Correct Answer: D) 0% In your mind’s eye, when you think of a panther, what color is it? Probably black. Our minds are good at things like that. Minds like to fill in the blanks, to simplify the world, to organize it into right and wrong, good and bad, friend and foe. It’s easier and has historically been safer not to concern yourself with nuances when a saber-tooth tiger is charging at you. The mind says, “that’s foe.” The problem? When the mind fills in the blanks for things that aren’t immediately life-threatening. And that’s pretty much most of our experience. We live in a complex self-induced web of duality. As Antonio Machado said, “In my solitude I have very clearly seen things that were not true.” Growth mindset says we’re not at our best when we’re right – we’re at our best when we’re learning. There’s the story we tell ourselves and the real story. Get curious about learning the real story.

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