This past weekend my family and I took a staycation to the city of Ft. Worth, Texas. We had planned a weekend that included a lot of swimming at the hotel pool, a trip to the zoo, a visit to Billy Bob’s Texas, and a trip to Lego Land.
The next part of the story is 100% true and had I not been there I likely would have had a hard time picturing it.
Approaching the light not 2 blocks away from the zoo was a man wearing only a pair of blue jean shorts cut only from what could have been a broken beer bottle. He had no shoes on and was standing on 115 degree Texas asphalt holding one 10 speed bicycle tire threatening and acting like he was going to hit passing cars with it. He was a 100% not biased toward type of car or color of car, on this morning he hated everyone.
As we got closer, it became more and more obvious that not only had we not made it onto his bicycle wheel pardon list, it also looked like the guy had not slept in several days and was likely high on crystal meth. He was what is referred to as a tweaker. (Before I go any further let me say that I’m not writing this to poke fun at his expense or make light of a tragic situation)
As we drove away and he moved onto the next car I couldn’t help but think how does someone end in a position as such. I am in no way attempting to cover the negative impact of hard drugs and how anyone can overcome them, I’m not qualified to do so and odds are even if I was you’d likely not want to hear it anyway.
What I really wanted to share was the thought I had almost immediately afterwards – about myself also being a tweaker. No, not a tweaker in the “traditional” sense of our one-wheeled friend. But in the sense of me being a perpetual tweaker of 3 very important things. 3 small things that I am certain have made all the difference in my life.
Those 3 things are:
- Beliefs; Or Mindset
- Habits – In the iconic words of Aristotle, “we are what we repeatedly do.”
- Motivations; This isn’t about more inspiring posters on your office wall
I believe these to be the big 3 and while I’m always tweaking other small things and experimenting, ultimately these 3 carry the most weight.
So, how is it done?
In my opinion and my understanding…..
Mindset – The most compelling research in terms of our belief system(s) and mindset comes from Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck and her book Mindset. In short, we must move from what she refers to a fixed mindset, to a growth mindset. Those people with the fixed mindset believe that things such as intelligence and personality are fixed and cannot be changed. In contrast, those with a growth mindset believe that the basic make-up of “who we are” has the ability to change over time with effort.
What’s funny about this tiny tweak is how easily we can be lulled into believing that we have a growth mindset and don’t need a tweak, when in all reality our sense of self and our actions are dictated by the fixed mindset. An example……you or someone you know might really be interested in learning a new hobby at an “old” age. However, when the time comes to try and the first obstacle is met, privately or to others, words such as “I’ll never be able to learn this” or “I should have started when I was younger, it’s too late now” are often heard. The battle cry of the fixed mindset is the life mantra of “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” or the Popeye syndrome “I am what I am and that’s all I’m ever going to be.”
A malleable sense of who we are provides greater abilities to emotionally navigate our world. Those with the growth mindset embrace the opportunity to be change agents in their own lives, they experience deeper, and they view the temporary losing side of failure in a different light
Habits – Let’s first define a habit as: A conscious or unconscious response to someone or something that we are exposed to often.
With this definition here are a couple of easy suggestions that I’ve been experimenting with lately.
Put the new desired behavior with an existing behavior – For example, a few years ago I wanted to increase the amount of reading that I was doing. To help with this desired behavior I started carrying a backpack with me most everywhere I go and when I had a few minutes sitting in a lobby or before an appointment I would dig out the book(s) I had put in my bag. (In 2015 I read over 100 books using this approach). The trick was that I started storing my phone in my bag and to get to it I had to go through the books. In a very short time I had created a much more productive habit rather than thumbing through my phone for 15-20 minutes. You can put a new desirable habit with any old habit and by doing so it doesn’t feel like such a major adjustment in your routine.
Prepare “if-then” strategies- This one has and continues to help me in big ways. Sadly, I haven’t even gotten close to mastering it yet though. “If-Then” strategies say in advance, “if X happens, then I’m going to do Y.”
“If I feel like she is nagging me when I get home, then, I’m going to pause for 2 seconds find (not ask) where there is merit in what she is saying and then I’m going to….” This sounds so simple but there is great power in being prepared, proactive, and up on your toes as opposed to reactive and back on your heels.
Motivations- This is likely the most fun of the 3 in my opinion. It is for that reason that I’m going to stop here. I want to dedicate a little more time in Part 2 to telling you why your basic biological instincts/motivators are in favor of making you fat and how a Greek philosopher 2500 years ago identified the key to our inner conflict (between emotional and rational) and wrote the remedy…