Know Better – Do Better – Get Better

Tips & Tactics for Personal Development

Category Archives: Self Improvement

Emotional Tripwires

In an earlier post (12/13/2011) I referred to the Golden Moment – that instant of time between our decisions and our actions – that allows us to change our habitual ways of responding to people and circumstances in our lives. When we have time to think clearly about deciding on doing or saying something, we can usually avoid trouble. But what about the times when we don’t see the emotional trip wires in our path? What about those times when our emotions outrun our thoughts and we do or say something harmful?

The solution I have found is to pay attention to those times when my emotions are aroused – when I’m reacting more from feeling than thought. I stop and pay attention to how emotionally aroused I am as I go through a day. I usually find that I experience a range of emotions – from calm to alert to irritated – all in the course of a single day. I have learned that I have predictable reactions to different types of events and people. Disorganized and unfocused meetings usually make me irritable. Unplanned changes to ongoing projects tend to make me feel stressed. Taking time to discuss how to better manager a difficult project or individual usually makes me feel more in control of my workload

By regularly observing how I tend to react to these situations, I have learned where my emotional trip wires lurk.

I think we’re less likely to be blindsided by our emotions when we can recognize how active they are at any point in our day and act accordingly. If you know when you are emotionally out of balance you can delay taking actions or saying things that you may regret later. But if we don’t learn where our emotional trip wires are, we will likely continue to be tripped up by our immediate emotional reactions that can cause us so much trouble and also cause others to think less of us.

So if you take some time to learn your own emotional range in time you will be able to see the trip wires that so often cause you to react in ways that often defeat you. Your emotions may still surprise you and at times get the best of you. But you’ll be better able to manage them instead of allowing them to continue to trip you up and embarrass you.


Learn to Say Goodbye

I used to hate airports.

It seemed to me that every time I was in an airport, I was saying goodbye to someone.

I said goodbye to my parents at JFK when I left to live and work in Europe. I said goodbye to my wife when she flew home after helping me move to another state. And I watched my wife and 2 daughters get on a plane and leave for Ukraine for an 8-week vacation. To me visiting an airport always meant someone was leaving.

What I learned from these experiences was that life brings many opportunities for leaving someone or something. We often have no choice in these situations, and they can be hard. And I also learned that parting can be an opportunity for growth.

I never would have mastered Swedish, made many new friends and come to enjoy life in Sweden if I hadn’t said goodbye to my parents on that May afternoon and flown off to a country I had never seen before. I would not have had the opportunity to work for one of the largest companies in the world if I hadn’t moved to the Midwest. And my wife and daughters would have missed the vacation of a lifetime if we hadn’t been willing to part company when they set off for Kiev.

So I’ve learned that learning to say goodbye is important. I’ve also learned that sometimes we need to deliberately say goodbye to people and things in our lives that are not positive, and are not making us happy and more effective as human beings.

We can say goodbye to bad habits that trap us in behaviors that stifle our growth.

We can say farewell to people who bring negative energy into our world.

We can say adieu to ways of thinking that don’t serve us or others.

Not only can we say goodbye in these situations; in some cases we must say goodbye if we want to grow. It’s not easy, as it usually seems more comfortable to work around people, habits and patterns of thinking that are already a part of our lives rather than walk away from them.

But the things we tolerate control us.

Bad habits may seem comfortable to us, but they often blind us to new opportunities for growth.

Negative people may seem like our best friends but they can drain us of our emotional energy that we can use elsewhere.

And thoughts that undermine us and limit our effectiveness may seem comfortable and familiar, but they are traps that keep us from seeing new opportunities.

So I’ve learned to say goodbye to the things, people and situations that don’t serve me well. Sometimes I have to temporarily tolerate things that are not healthy for me, but in the long run it’s best to leave these behind.

I still don’t look forward to saying goodbye to people I love and circumstances that make me effective. But I’m learning that having the courage to say goodbye to something that doesn’t serve me well is often what opens the door to something new that enriches my life and helps me become a better person.

Top 20 tactics so far – a checklist for personal growth

For those of you who like lists, here’s a checklist of topics I have covered in my earlier entries:

1 . If you don’t define success for yourself, someone else will.
2. Good intentions are not enough.
3. Change before you have to.
4. You always have choices, even if you don’t like them.
5. There is no success without discipline. Success is not an accident.
6. Find out what doesn’t work, and then don’t do it.
7. You are only a victim if you choose to be a victim.
8. Never be in a hurry to lose.
9. Criticism is never welcome, but it can help you know what to work on.
10. Setting goals requires both a “what” and a “why”.
11. Feeling fearful is normal. It’s usually a sign that you need to take some action.
12. Fail better. Success rarely comes without the lessons failure provides.
13. Build structure to support your efforts to grow and change. Willpower is overrated.
14. Know the difference between success and satisfaction.
15. The fear of failing is often worse than actually failing.
16. Your habits will make or break you. Choose them wisely.
17. Real and lasting growth comes through small changes.
18. At all times tell the truth about your life.
19. Take some action every day to move toward your goals.
20. Have a personal code to guide your choices so you don’t get trapped by circumstances.

7 things you can do today to improve your life

If you are looking for some simple but effective ways to improve your life and feel better about what you do each day, try incorporating one of these actions into your daily routine:

1. Smile. Not only will others appreciate this, you’ll feel better as well!

2. Say “Please” and “Thank you” consistently – and be sincere. It’s good for you to recognize that others are helping you, and it’s also good for them to feel appreciated.

3. Look people in the eye when you speak to them. Don’t stare – this isn’t a contest. Look at them for a few seconds and then look away to one side. Don’t look down – it makes you look weak.

4. Use a person’s name when speaking to them. Don’t overdo this. Just remember that people like to hear their names. Adding their name now and then pleases them, helps them focus on what you are saying and makes them feel important.

5. Allow others to talk about what interests them without competing with them. Let them tell their stories without adding your comments about how your own experience might be similar or ever better. See the next point.

6. Stop trying to win all the time. Let others go in front of you in line when they are in a hurry. Let the rude drivers have their way – they’ll get their own reward. Winning may feel good, but too much of it will make you an unpleasant person.

7. Listen 2x longer than you usually do. If you usually listen to others only long enough to put together your own response, add an equal amount of time to think about whether your response is really appropriate. You can add value to a conversation with a little thought or a thoughtful question.

Real personal change comes from consistently applying a few tactics rather than trying to change your whole life all at once.

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