Habits and Happiness

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Two recent reads: Atomic Habits and Willpower Doesn’t Work.

What I got from them…

Drive all knowledge inwards. This is a very old lesson. For best results, apply teachings on yourself first => do this for a very, very long time.

Many of the changes I have made (in the last five years) are in anticipation of being surrounded by high-energy teenagers and the conversations we are going to be having years from now.

When you are making positive changes, expect the people around you to get uncomfortable and test you. Don’t be surprised if the people closest to you start to bring up the errors of your past. When that happens I smile to myself, “They clearly have nothing recent to use. I’m making progress!”

Pay attention to the “why.” Many of us desire improved habits to cram more into our lives. More money, more beauty, more external success… chances are you have enough already.

Whenever I want to make a significant change in my life, I must create space, and mental bandwidth, to step outside my existing habits.

With three kids, some of the most valuable time in my life feels a lot like “empty” space, or even “wasted” space. I see the folly of this thinking by inverting and asking, “What does stress feel like?” => rushed, crowded, busy

What choices, am I repeating that, create stress? Social media, high-conflict people, cable news, an inability to say “no”…

What choice might create space?

What one thing, if it happened, could change everything?

Happiness is the gap between cravings. This gem is inside Atomic Habits. If you write a lot then sometimes you’ll spit out a deep truth.

Self-help doesn’t work because it teaches techniques we use to reinforce our cravings.

  1. How well do I know my cravings?
  2. Where are they likely to take me?
  3. What are the choices that reduce my cravings?

Using the techniques in the books to guide, or replace, cravings… very useful.

Understanding what’s driving my attraction to technology, social media… great stuff.

One example from my own life => connection and approval => I can get this, at a much deeper level, from a child than from Facebook.

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Widen the space between cravings => improved feelings of wellbeing

Use the books to cram more into my life => probably a reduction in space and reinforcement of cravings => no improvement in wellbeing

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Pay attention to what works.

  1. One win early
  2. Forests
  3. Routine
  4. Being slightly under-scheduled

Radical change might not be required.

Marriage Material

I blew up my first marriage in a year.

If you asked me about it then, not only would I have blamed my ex-spouse, I would have blamed the entire concept of marriage.

Roll forward a couple decades (!) and here’s a lesson that I’m seeking to pass along to my kids.

Sibling bickering is exhausting, painful and universal.

Rather than focusing on “fixing” my kids – who seem healthy, loving and normal – I use conflict as an opportunity to teach.

I wait for the energy to go out of the situation.

Hey, I want to teach you a Jedi mind trick.

When you are upset…

Watch your mind.

 

It is going to fix on something outside…

…Bella’s voice

…Axel’s question

…Lexi’s tone

…my face

 

Your mind is going to trick you into thinking that the problem is out there.

Not helpful.

Because you can’t do anything “out there.”

 

What you can do is pause and ask, “What do I want?”

And you’re going to find something to helpful to do.

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Simple, not easy.

Mastery

What are the choices that bring me satisfaction?

Getting better than I thought possible at anything.

I had zero athletic success as a child (my little league nickname was “Useless”). My lack of early success makes it easy to impress myself with anything I enjoy enough to do daily. Something I can work at every day.

I use expert instruction from strangers to speed my learning process. Strangers are important — watch high-achieving spouses “teach” each other. When we notice our kids aren’t open to learning from us – we bring in outsiders. Once they get the hang of it (whatever “it” happens to be) they are keen to show us their competency.

Stay close to nature — I am trained in the desk-bound pursuits of finance, banking, taxation and corporate law. They pay well, and were a ton of fun for the first decade. However, they don’t feed my soul. What feeds your soul? Beware of craving high-doses!

Connect with others — opportunities at both ends of the age spectrum await. From teaching children to learning from aging experts.

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Excessive “anything” leaves me in a short-term state of tranquil exhaustion.

Exhaustion plays havoc with my home life because a fatigue hangover leaves me intolerant and prone to depression.

If this sounds familiar then pay attention.

Being better than myself is superior to seeking to better others.

Mastery – a different sort of game.

Mental Health for Aging Athletes

Lucho shared this video of David Goggins.

So many memories come back when I listen to Mr. Goggins share his truth.

It takes courage to change.

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Here’s something I learned from the greatest triathlete of my generation…

If your mental health relies on a physical expression of self then focus your drive on reducing your patterns of self-harm.

Everything else is details.

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Some useful details…

What’s your objective?

Can you answer this question simply, and immediately?

What’s your objective?

Not because of the the importance of whatever you are working on.

Rather, because working towards an objective gives structure to your days and meaning to your life.

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What’s your pattern of daily release?

Strength training and uphill cardio have better long-term outcomes than…

  • drugs and alcohol
  • violence and anger
  • outrage and gossip

…if your current alternatives aren’t working then consider…

Strength training and uphill cardio.

Whatever works for you… remove the things that prevent you from getting your daily release.

Pay attention to the habits that screw up tomorrow.

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What is your pattern of breakdown?

You are going to see this in your peers, before yourself.

The closer you are to the sharp end, the brighter your flame will burn.

Whether it is 5, 15 or 25 years… each body and mind has a limit to the amount of elite-level output it can sustain.

Similar to how you conditioned yourself to endure, train the capacity to appreciate when you’ve had enough.

  • Enough pain
  • Enough challenge
  • Enough exercise
  • Enough work
  • Enough glory
  • Enough winning
  • Enough dessert

Encourage the humility required to admit you’ve had enough.

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When life seems out of whack, return to the basics.

  1. Objective
  2. Release
  3. Patterns of Breakdown

Then…

  • Do good deeds in private.
  • Be your own hero.

Default Emotions – parents dancing with anger

A mother shares a story about her struggle with hate. Specifically, she is troubled by the thought that she hates parenting and, possibly, her preschooler.

She’s not alone.

Living with someone from birth to high-school graduation, I expect to feel every emotional state.

Hate, anger and rage are powerful, and unpredictable, emotions. In Boulder County, they are socially taboo when directed at children.

Therefore, as a parent, you’re likely to remember when you feel these emotions around children.

You are feeling everything.

You are remembering hate.

What’s your default emotional state?

Thinking about the five people closest to me. We default to…

  • Tears (flight)
  • Confrontation (fight)
  • Fear (flight)
  • Emotional shutdown (flight)
  • Anger (fight)

Within a preschooler, I can see all of the above within a ten-minute span!

Combine a rainbow of powerful emotions… with a lack of sleep… it’s easy to drop into my default emotional state.

In my case, I tend to pause and address later, when the energy has left the situation.

Take stock of your consumption of external emotions.

  • Media
  • Situations
  • Peers

How do the above make me feel?

Replace the negative with self-care.

  • Are you sure?
  • Are you sure you are feeling hate?
  • Are you sure your child is the reason for the emotion?

Frustration at my lack of skill can feel like anger.

How do skilled teachers feel about my child?

Negative emotions (hate, anger, rage) indicate a need to up-skill for the essential and out-source the non-essential.

Your mommy-guilt might be leaving you tapped out.

Being tapped out means your children, and your marriage, never see your best self.

Tapped out is a tough way to spend a decade.

 

It wasn’t enough

When I follow my own advice, life is better.

At the back of my mind, especially with kids, I have a desire for life to be “easy.”

My desire makes me chuckle because my “easy days” are often boring.

Based on eight years of parenting… easy is not going to happen so focusing on “better” is a smarter option.

From time to time my appetites come up with ideas to make my life _even_ better.

  • These ideas might be small — five beers, two burgers, large fries and couple desserts
  • They might be large — a vacation property with a cost of ownership that doubles my core cost of living
  • Many fall in between — clothes, vacations, sports equipment, alcoholic beverages, risk-seeking friends

These desires pop up as an emotion associated with pleasure, excitement or release.

Certain choices, situations and people are associated with bad outcomes.

Despite an association with pleasure, excitement or release… many of my desires are highly-likely to lead me to bad outcomes.

To tame my appetites, I pause and consider the last time I gave into that specific appetite…

I ask myself…

Was it enough?

It was never enough. Not even close!

I remember always wanting more, even while I was getting what I wanted.

My desires are frequent, but my specific desires are fleeting.

They come and they go.

If it wasn’t enough then maybe I should find a better way to live….

…and that’s the system that I’ve been sharing.

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What’s your system?

Is it working?

Seven Positive Steps

2016-11-15-16-04-05Seven positive steps…

1 – unfollow the two most prolific sources of agreement in my life – top right hand corner on FB

2 – dial down pundits, forecasters and experts

3 – add sources from outside my circle (Taleb, MartinezAdams)

4 – slowly read a book about manipulation and another about high-conflict people (15 minutes per day) – choose one tactic, apply it for a month

5 – make time each day to use nature to slow my mind down (deserts, oceans, forests, mountains) (twice daily)

6 – teach a kid while demonstrating grace (2×20 minutes per day)

7 – improve my ability to listen by being still and not responding

Simple, not easy.