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A good time for a fresh start DW#310)

It is true that you can make changes and begin a journey of growth at any time of the year.

AND it is also true that there are times during the year when it is relatively easier to do so.

Dr. John Norcross (a leading researcher in behavior change) studies new year resolutions. One of his studies found that people who chose the beginning of a new year to make a positive change in their lives were much more likely to successfully make these changes than those who tried to make these changes at other times of the year.

Various experts have suggested that the reasons for improved odds of success at the new year may be:

a) the culture surrounding the tradition of making resolutions which encourages people to stop and reflect
b) the tendency to share these resolutions of change with others which helps keeps people accountable
c) the idea that people who have been thinking about changing for a while pick the new year as a start date because they are ready to move from contemplation to...

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Go ahead, set some goals! (DW#309)

Aristotle taught us that human beings are teleological creatures. Telos is the Greek work for target. In other words, human beings need something to aim towards.

Modern Philosopher Tom Morris puts it this way: "we are hard-wired to live purposively, to have direction. Without a target to shoot at, our lives are literally aimless. Without something productive to do, without positive goals and a purpose, a human being languishes. And then one of two things happens. Aimlessness begins to shut a person down in spiritual lethargy and emptiness, or the individual lashes out and turns to destructive goals just to make something happen". The Art of Achievement

As human beings we are also hard-wired to have dreams and aspirations for a better future. Without a plan or goal however, these dreams and aspirations have little chance of being realised. Worse, they can weigh on our psyche as regrets of an unfulfilled life and of unrealised potential.

So ahead, dream a little. What do you wish...

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A fixed mindset versus a growth mindset (DW#308)

A big difference between people who set goals and those who don’t is the mindset around growth and change.

Carol Dweck, author of Mindset and one of the leading researchers in the field of motivation, differentiates between a "fixed mindset" versus a "growth mindset".

With a fixed mindset, people believe that they either have what it takes or they don’t. They are not open to trying new things, accepting challenging opportunities or learning new things. They resist change because they simply don’t believe it is possible. Failure to them is a sign that they don’t have what it takes so they do not try things which they might not succeed at.

People with a growth mindset on the other hand, embrace challenging opportunities because they believe that they can only reach their highest potential by consistently challenging themselves and playing outside their comfort zone. They believe that failure is a necessary to learning and growing.

Here is what she says about...

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Completing the Last Year (DW#307)

According to a 2016 study published in the journal Memory, recalling memories can enhance our well-being and it is not only so-called positive memories that are beneficial.

The study showed that three types of memories bring about positive emotions:

A positive or happy memory: for positive memories, simply thinking about them is enough to make us happy in the present
Problem solving: Remembering a time when you successfully dealt with a challenge increases your self-esteem and sense of efficacy (the belief in yourself that you can do it)
Memories related to identity: An experience, even if challenging and painful, that shaped the person you are today.

Other studies have suggested that while it is enough to simply think about happy memories, when it comes to memories about overcoming adversity, it is better to communicate them by writing them down (or sharing them with someone) rather than just to think about them.

Coming back to our topic of laying the foundation for a successful...

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Happy January! Not in any folder (DW#306)

January is an exciting time. A time for new beginnings. Almost half of us make a commitment to making a positive change in our lives for the new year by making resolutions for self-improvement or set goals to achieve something meaningful.

For the next few days, we will be talking about goals and resolutions and what we can do to greatly increase the odds of actually keeping and completing them.

But before we do that, there is an important action that we need to take. And that is to intentionally complete last year.

Did you know that January was named by the Romans to honor Janus, the deity of beginnings and transitions? Although Janus was called upon to bless beginnings, the Romans knew that he had two faces, one looking at the future and the other at the past.

What this meant was in order to look forward, they needed to glance back at what had passed.

Many successful people and organizations today "glance at the past" by doing an "After-Action Review" to improve performance and get...

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What are your biggest takeaways? (DW#305)

What have been your major takeaways? How are you communicating differently these days?

Here are some reflections, personal challenges and growth/practice areas for myself

1) The key to connection is to be present with mind, body and heart. This is easier said than done. AND I can practice being present in this moment. And the next. And so on.

2) Every moment in communication gives me a fresh opportunity to choose kindness by being mindful of my words.

3) Talking is so much more fun. And automatic. But it is listening and understanding that is the gateway to connection.

4) Emotional reactivity will get me into trouble. Each and every time. Specially during conflict.

5) When I do get reactive (and I will), the best course of action is to offer a repair attempt to the person I am communicating with. As soon as I become aware of my reactivity.

6) It is sooooo tempting to avoid taking responsibility. It is even more tempting to insist on being right and to blame the other for the...

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Never concede a point (how to start and continue a fight) (DW#304)

The difference between happy and miserable couples is not that the former don’t argue or fight. What keeps some couples happy is that they learn to make and accept repairs in the middle of an argument.

Couples who are high conflict and distressed on the other hand, never concede a point to their partner. One or both of them have the need to be right – often at the cost of the relationship.

If the couple under discussion learnt to concede a point to the other, here is what their conversation might sound like:

She: [Still calming down from the "you’re not firm enough" side-issue. Considers arguing with whether she needs to be "10% firmer," but thinks better of it.]
You’re right, I did say I’d keep things cleaner. I didn’t realize you only care about the living room. That’s doable. But I have to tell you, I want more respect about how I do discipline her, and how hard it is to be on top of her mess making all day.

Notice that this couple is...

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Make demands and threats (how to start and continue a fight) (DW#303)

When things get heated up, it is tempting to make demands from, and threats to, the other person.

When the husband demands Leave my family out of this! The wife is more likely to focus on the threat to her autonomy from this demand and it is very likely to divert attention from the topic at hand.

Similarly, when we make threats, empty or real, (Or I’ve about had it!) it sends the other person into defense mode, their thinking brain shuts down and they are actually incapable of hearing the underlying message or need.

What could this couple do instead?

If they were mindful of their communication, their reactions and the words that they spoke, here is what the conservation might sound like.

He: [Wants to fire back but has learned that the impulse to do so is actually a kind of big, flashing warning in his mind to PAUSE AND BUY SOME TIME until he has calmed down] Hmmm. Let me think about that for a minute. [Discreetly takes a few big breaths. Thinks about whether he’s gone...

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Insult and launch a character attack (how to start and continue a fight) (DW# 302)

One of the most effective ways to start and keep a fight going is to insult the other person and launch a character attack.

For example, the wife in the example said Such a jerk to her husband when they started arguing about the mess.

Long after an argument is over, such insults linger in the mind and keep burning like a mixture of emotional glue and gasoline. So damaging are such insults, that frequent use of such language qualifies as emotional abuse, a grinding assault on the other person’s sense of worth.

The husband in the example reacted to this with his own character attack on his wife when he said: You can’t talk without getting hysterical.

The use of the word hysterical to describe her behaviour was an attack on her character rather than a comment on her behaviour.
She can do little to change his opinion of what constitutes hysteria.

If he had said, on the other hand, Please lower your voice. It is hard for me to hear what you are saying when you raise your...

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Minimize or mock a complaint (how to start and continue a fight) (DW#301)

One of the worst things we can do when someone makes a complaint in a relationship is to minimize it, or even worse, to mock the complaint by our words or actions.

When the wife in the scenario that we are discussing complained that the husband does not help with cleaning up the mess, he minimized and mocked her complaint by picking up one tiny thing and then saying: There,I helped. Now are you happy?

This is an example of Reductio ad absurdem "Reducing to absurdity" which deflates others by making their wish, complaint, or idea sound silly or foolish.

We can also minimize a complaint by saying something like: Why are you making such a big deal about something so little?

Not only is this kind of response to a complaint minimizing and hurtful, it devalues our partner and what is important to them.

Not a great way to build a relationship.

If you wanted to repair the interaction on the other hand, try understanding the meaning and feeling behind the complaint instead.

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