A Digital Spring Cleaning

“Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor. It’s anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living”- Peter Walsh

It is that time of year where the temperature starts to rise and we open the windows to let the fresh air in. Spring cleaning seems to be a rite of passage for those of us in New England. Smelling the spring air waft through your living space is a wonderful moment as it signals that warmer days are upon us. As spring fever sets in we work to put away winter clothes and to sweep away the thoughts of a cold winter.

Spring often represents new beginnings and a fresh start. It is an exciting time where the world comes alive again. This year not only did our household start spring cleaning early (shout out here to my wife!) I took it upon myself to clear out my phone! Yes-my electronic device received a thorough cleaning. In many respects digital clutter is just as bad as physical clutter. It distracts our mind, makes things harder to find and can cause stress with the sense of being overwhelmed.

In my digital declutter effort I focused on two areas; unused applications and photos. What a world of difference this effort has made. I can now see the background photo on my phone and I can easily locate the applications I regularly use. Also, removing all photos (delete or back-up) that held no value makes all of my favorite photos easier to find (imagine trying to find your kids in a larger crowd…so much easier when the crowd is gone!).

Through this process I found two gem worthy items from my photos that I have populated here. This first one is from the book Philosophy for Life by Jules Evens. The four steps below outline the Socratic tradition. In many respects the Champion Dad mindset is a stoic mindset and wonderfully align with these thoughts.

  1. Humans can know themselves. We can use our reason to examine out unconscious beliefs and values.
  2. Humans can change themselves. We can use our reason to change our beliefs. This will change our emotions, because our emotions follow our beliefs.
  3. Humans can consciously create new habits of thinking, feeling and acting.
  4. If we follow philosophy as a way of life, we can live more flourishing lives.

The second thing, posted below in green, I have no idea where I found it or who wrote it! So if anyone can identify who this is please let me know so I can provide credit (Contact). I am putting it here because it is a great reminder that we only have one life to live. To have the greatest impact on others we must first start with taking care of the self. This one really hit home with all of the trials I have gone through this winter:

You’re going to realize it one day- that happiness was never about your job or your degree or being in a relationship. Happiness was never about following in the footsteps of all of those who came before you; it was never about being like the others. One day, you’re going to see it- that happiness was always about the discovery, the hope, the listening to your heart and following it wherever it chose to go. Happiness was always about being kinder to yourself; it was always about embracing the person you were becoming. One day, you will understand that happiness was always about learning how to live with yourself, that your happiness was never in the hands of others. It was always about you. It was always about you.

WOW! So true! Follow your bliss and then be of service to the world to help others do the same thing!

Get cleaning and let the fresh air fill your soul will excitement and love!

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Daniel von Append via Unsplash

5 Techniques to Improve Your Listening Skills

Guess what? I am a terrible listener. I am especially bad when I am in the middle of a task or if someone is talking to me while I am watching my kids. You see, I am sharp enough to believe that I can “multi-task” but if I am not fully locked on to the person just about all of my retention goes bye-bye.

This drives my wife bonkers and leads her to not feel valued. A real life example of how something small thing can corrode a relationship is as follows:

A few weeks ago while I was unloading the dishwasher my wife was explaining (for the second time) how to make iced-tea the way that the kids and her like it. I half listened and gave her all the verbal cues that I got it. In that moment I conceptually understood what she was saying and thought I got it but the reality is it never stuck. One week later, my wife asked me to make some iced-tea before I went to bed. I thought “I got this!” but I had a problem: I couldn’t remember the right mix of tea to use. So I asked through text but being late I never received a response. As such, I took my best guess and made it incorrectly…you can imagine the delightful conversation that ensued the following day.

You may think that my example is no big deal and it is just iced-tea but is this really about tea? No, it is really about my inability to listen and make my wife feel heard and valued. Small things and big things; we if do not listen we are hurting the relationship. Feelings of not being valued do not care about circumstance.

Here are a few things that we all can work on to ensure that we truly listen to the other person. When we employ these techniques not only will we retain what they are saying but they will also feel honored.

  1. Stop what you are doing and square up with that person. This first step is really critical. First, stopping what we are doing allows us to shift gear and focus solely on the person talking. Second, squaring up with the person (turning so our body is is facing them directly) signals to them that they have our full attention. Squaring up also will help our brain focus and drop the other task it was in the process of doing.
  2. Mirror what the other person is saying. This is as simple repeating the last two or three words of their last sentence. Example: Wife: “Let me show you how to make the iced-tea correctly”. Me: “Iced-tea correctly?”. Mirroring in this nature invites the speaker to tell you more and makes them feel honored. Also, when we verbalize and repeat what we hear we to start to lock it in our long term memory.
  3. Label ANY emotions that you pick up on. Using the example above labeling would sound like: “Seems like you are frustrated” or “Sounds like you are agitated”. What is so great about this technique is labeling negative emotions will decrease that emotion for the other person. Labeling positive emotions will have the opposite effect; they will increase! Additional tip: Don’t use phrases like “I think I am hearing” as these do not work. Placing “I” when labeling puts the focus on us and we don’t want that. Remember, the focus needs to be on the speaker.
  4. When, and only when, the speaker is done speaking, paraphrase what you have heard so they know that you understand. The goal of paraphrasing is to make sure we got everything important that they said. We will know when we have done a great job when you hear back “That’s right”. That’s right is confirmation that they have been heard and that we understand what they are communicating.
  5. If needed, write down what you need to remember. This is so simple and allows us the grace to return to our task without worry that we will forget the conversation. From my original example, I now have a note on a bulletin board in our kitchen on how to make great iced-tea!

Good listening is a true art form. It takes practice to do it well. I am still not the best listener but I am sure working at it. Employing these techniques will work wonders. They will make the other person feel validated (stronger relationship) and help us meet any expectations we have agreed to.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Ellie Lord via Unsplash

Cultivation Joy part 3: Family Principles

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”– Mark Twain

For this week’s post I could have taken part 2 and amplified it to include others in your life. Yet, that would seem too easy. So for today’s post we are going to walk through some basic principles that are the foundation for joy to manifest in a family setting.

Belonging & Community: Families that thrive in joy have a deep relationship to self and their community. Regardless of personality type or demographics (religion, nationality, age, or gender) a person’s greatest need (yearning) is to be seen, heard, validated and understood. Joy appears in the places where a person can be their authentic self and share their uniqueness with others (see post: The Balance: Authenticity & Belonging). The beautiful thing about environments that support authenticity is they allow the individuals to grow at their own pace and in their own way. Safe environments are fertile soil where joy can take root.

Nature: Spend time as a family outside in nature. Make it an automatic for your children (and you) to spend time outside each day (regardless of weather). Nature can alleviate all anxiety and depression. It increases resilience, self-image, and the ability to engage socially. The long story short on nature is that it heals the brain. As we spend time in nature we are stimulated by all of our senses. This is because nature is not a controlled environment. Sights, sounds and obstacles happen all on their own and we have to navigate them. Nature prompts us to forget about the self (think of all the times you got completely lost in something and forgot self and time…..this only happens through joy. It never happens when the brain is fixated on the self with anxiety).

Next time in nature watch your children…I bet you they are playing fully in the moment and not consumed with thoughts of self. And as such, they most likely are exhibiting spontaneous acts of joy.

Sense of Higher Power: Higher power can mean different things to different people. You may have your own definition (God, religion, spiritual sense or philosophical constructs) but for our purposes here we will define it at a high level. Higher power is that life is greater than the individual. No matter how much we learn or discover we will never have all the answers on why we are here and what this life is all about. Overall, there is something greater at play than what our minds can comprehend. Allow time to contemplate the mystery of it all and how we each fit beautifully into life’s continual play. Having an understanding of a higher power or higher order prompts us to keep things in perspective. Maintaining an element of mystery in our lives allows life to shine its novelty and can even pull us out of our darkest moments. Having a sense of high power allows us to savor the time we embrace those around us.

Risk: Risk is important because it pushes the soul. I don’t mean risking of life but trying things even when the outcome is unknown. When we push forward and don’t know how it will end we are experiencing life fully. We live on the edge and feel truly alive. Think of some of your greatest moments from your life. I bet most of what you can think of contains an element of risk and the unknown. Big and small victories in our life contain the element of risk.

Risk is crucial for the development of children (see post: 5 “Dangerous” Things Your Kids Should Do and Outdoors and Unsupervised…Let’em Play). Life is full of risks and challenges and children need opportunities to develop the skills with managing risk and making informed judgements about risk. Risk in play helps children to develop important life skills that pay-off later in life. Risk management is an essential building block that all children should practice. 

Humor and Play: I love to be a goofy dad whenever I can. Making my kids laugh is one of the greatest treasures of fatherhood. We also play a lot of games…even chores we turn into a fun activity. Creating environments where humor and play are the norm allows joy to manifest and become habitual. For more information on creating more laughter check out post: 5 Ways to Increase Laughter in Your Home.

“Laughter is the GPS of the spirit. It is the sun that drives winter from the human face. It grounds us in a place of hope and is a source of creativity.” -Jeanine Fitzgerald

There is nothing better than creating joyous experiences for you and your family. As you go through your day reflect on those things that bring you joy or that you get completely lost in. It is those things that will provide you guidance on building environments where joy is the norm.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Karina Thomson via Unsplash

Cultivating Joy part 2: Personal Habits

Last week we covered the main difference between happiness and joy. As a super light recap, happiness is something that we chase and is fleeting (cannot hold on to) while joy emerges through the process of a life well lived (sustainable). This week we will take a dive into the habits that have shown to provide the best chance to live a fulfilled and joyous life.

Note that these bullet points are not listed in any order of significance. As you read you may see that you already do some of these while others may seem a bit foreign…that’s ok. To plant the seeds of a joyous life you do not need to master all of these. Usually, if you are progressing on a few the benefits will show.

  • Work towards a dream, vision, or a goal. Why do you wake in the morning? When you add up all of your actions throughout the day where is it taking you? When we have a vision for our life we have a star to guide us. Also, we can have many different goals (big and small) or destinations along the way. Those who are tethered to a goal/dream experience less depression and anxiety as they walk with purpose.

I can personally attest to this. Prior to following my dream my life was a grind. My pursuits, while fun, often left me hollow when achieved. Take time to build goals to aim towards. Doing this will breathe oxygen into your life.

  • Move! I could have stated exercise here but that word tends to come with a lot of extra baggage (routines, club memberships, pain…). Just get up and move more than you did yesterday. Moving the body immediately changes the chemistry of the mind and kicks off all of your happy chemicals. If you can, move OUTSIDE. Nature entices all of our senses and heals the mind. Go outside and smell the fresh air, hear the sounds, feel the earth under your feet.

My personal favorite is walking. This form of exercise all of us can do. We are designed to do it and it is magic to clear the mind of all of the unnecessary thoughts that have clogged our day.

  • Create healthy relationships by expressing gratitude often. I am sure you have heard of adopting an attitude of gratitude. Well, this really works. Gratitude puts things in perspective (what matters) and when shared with others it strengthens relationships. We so often walk through life thankless. I challenge you to express more gratitude each day. You will be amazed how it changes your mindset to joy and will provide joy to the other person. Learn to praise and thank the ordinary (Ex. The barista provides your favorite latte perfect everyday…tell them how awesome it is). Often it is what we take for granted that needs the boost of gratitude.

On the flip side, if you have some unhealthy relationships learn to place some boundaries around them. I tend to struggle with this one. I often put too much energy in trying to win another person over who has no desire to change or meet me half way. Remember: attitudes are contagious. Carry gratitude at all times and walk away from those are discordant.

  • Maintain a positive attitudes when things don’t go well. Sometimes we don’t win the game or achieve what we set out to do. This is ok and all we need to do is keep a healthy perspective to move on. It is best to understand that winning and losing are only mindsets. Having a better attitude in any situation will create a win even when the chips are down. Either we are winning or we are learning. Cherish our wins with gratitude and seek out the silver lining when we don’t come out on top.
  • Be of service to others! Magic happens when you give your time, money, and attention to another. Volunteering is a wonderful way to be of service. Just like moving (listed above) taking time to be of service to others wards off depression. Moreover, adopt a service mindset. What I mean by this is when you look at your life as a life of service (who can I help now?) we drop the habitual attitude of narcissism. Life becomes fulfilling when we look at our lives as a part of a whole instead of the vacuum of the me, me, me, attitude.
  • Take full responsibility for your life and don’t take things personally. This point I can write another post on (and most likely will). There are no victims in life. Everything that we have decided and chosen to do has brought us to this moment…and brought the results that we are experiencing now. Take ownership of your past, present, and your future. Even if you believe in victimhood it is better to adopt an ownership attitude. Taking full responsibility gives you control and places you in the drivers seat. Own your life and drive it to the destination you have defined above (Vision, Dreams, Goals).

Taking on this attitude helped me pull myself out of a serious depression about twenty years ago. I cannot stress this point enough and the power it will give you. Ownership clears out all of the self-defeating excuses. It also makes the journey more rewarding as your life unfolds. Now, certainly we cannot control the world and how it interacts with us but we can own how we move and take action (or reaction) going forward.

Hopefully you have found a couple of habits to work on here. These are tried and true in my life. The results of these habits have spoken for themselves in my day to day. Not every day is perfect but I find myself with a sunny disposition more often than not!

Next week we will elevate these concepts to parenting and the home environment. Stay tuned….

Be well

MJ

Photo by Anastasia Petrova via Unsplash

Home Culture Part 4: Wellness for All

Wellness is a balance of the external and internal environments of a person

Through this series we have identified our values, taken a look at our personalities, and reviewed how trust is built between people. In this post we will put it all together and discuss elements of a home filled with wellness.

A household that operates in full wellness is one that is functioning with authenticity while providing feelings of belonging. The household’s environment ensures everyone’s needs are met and they are safe to be their authentic self.

“Wellness is not the absence of adversities, but intentionally designing the conditions of an environment to support optimal functioning.” – Jeanine Fitzgerald

The importance of identifying household values is so that the family can get on the same page and aim in the same direction. By understanding these values a family can align their short and long term actions to them. A family can also correct or eliminate any areas of non-alignment.

By understanding our own nature (personality) and the nature of the other members of our home we can ensure that we are developing a deep connection. When we develop a deep connection with each other we are honoring their authenticity while providing a sense of belonging (remember: people gravitate to where they feel most acknowledged and accepted). Out of this each member of the family can derive meaning and a purpose for their life.

Values, personality identification, and trust building are all internal elements of wellness. What about the external?

What is the perfect physical home environment? There is no perfect recipe that works for all households. In fact, every home will have its own ingredients for success and wellness. Here are some tips that can help you build an environment that draw out the best in its members:

  • D/I personalities are often on the move. Look to create areas of open space so flowing movement can happen.
  • S/C personalities? Look to create areas where concentration and solitude can be found.
  • Keep the environment flexible as the house should change with the changing needs of the individuals. My wife and I have had four living room set-up changes since our kids were born (oldest is 7).
  • Art work, decorations, and themed rooms should all align with the values of the household. By creating visual harmony we subtly reinforce household values and can create an appropriate tone for day to day living.
  • Work through the rooms of your house and analyze your stuff (furniture, decorations, and space usage). Remove items that hold no value or get in the way of optimal wellness. Less stuff=more freedom.
  • Allow your kids to create their own room design. This is a fun activity where kids can figure out what they like best. Allow them to change often to test things out.

Hopefully this series has provided some value for you. Keep in mind that life and parenting are not games where perfection can be achieved. Life and parenting are more about constant discovery and continuous learning. By using your values as guidance and cultivating your relationships you can develop strong resiliency and wellness of all members of the home.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Michal Parzuchowski via Unsplash

Home Culture Part 3: Building Trust

In part 2 we took time to walk through the four basic temperaments of the DISC model. Hopefully, through reading each of those descriptions you were able to get a feeling or understanding of where you fell within that model (If you are interested in really nailing it down click here). Today, we will look at identifying other personalities and building trust in relationships.

When we are able to fully understand ourselves, we also develop the ability to apply the same principles in understanding others.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu

I love this quote because it applies to every interaction we will have in our life. Let’s throw away that he is speaking about war and look at the larger picture with the dealings we have with whomever we come in contact with.

Bottom line: all of life’s interactions are on some level a negotiation. The more we understand about ourselves and others, the greater chance we can develop a healthy relationship with them.

By defining our values, understanding ourselves, and understanding others we can confidently build trusting relationships where everyone involved comes out ahead.

To start building this level of trust let us revisit the DISC model and look at the left (Task) and right (People) parts of the Axis.

Starting from the left side of the model (D/C) we are dealing with people who place a high value on getting things done. They like to complete things and achieve. When interacting with us they will measure and build trust on whether or not we have done what we said or completed the tasks they have given.

We can see how this looks through a conversation I just had with my 6 year old son last weekend (my son is a high D temperament). “Daddy, you said in the morning that we could have lollipops after lunch…now it is bed time and it is too late to have them. You forgot.” A little trust has been lost. To help him move on or reconcile the situation, lollipops have to happen (and no, he didn’t get one in bed!).

D/Cs will assign us little tasks (or big) to complete. They will also measure us on whether or not we are true to the letter of our word (are we dependable?). They are less concerned with circumstances and feelings and focus on the end result or goal. If we complete the task their trust goes up. If we fail to complete the task their trust goes down.

Conversely, on the right side of the model (I/S) we are dealing with people who place a high value on feelings and relationships. Tasks come secondary to relationship centered people. If they feel bonded to the other person, all is well. Trust happens earlier than their D/C counterparts and can be stated as simple as “I like you and you like me- good, we can move forward”.

My daughter is a high I temperament. Her focus is happiness and having as much fun as she can with others (people centered). If the lollipop conversation happened with her she might have said something like this: “Daddy, we were supposed to have lollipops after lunch but we went to the playground instead…would it be ok if we have them tomorrow?”. Notice the slight difference in approach. She has taken in all of the dealings of the day and is checking in with me to see if it would be all right. Lollipops are secondary so long as we can remain feeling good with each other. I will be measured on how well I can repair the relationship.

I/Ss establish trust early and then adjusted based on whether or not their relationship has been honored and respected. Unlike task oriented people, I/S temperaments are more concerned with how they are interacting with others instead of what they are to complete with them.

Taking time to assess our relationships in an effort to get a sense of where they fall in the DISC model will go a long way in building trust. What is great is that we just have to pick up enough on the other person to determine what side of the model they fall on. Knowing whether or not their primary tendency favors Task or People will help us accurately set our expectations. It will also help us met their expectations of the relationship. When expectations are set correctly and are met by both parties, trust develops and communication strengthens.

Next week we will wrap up the Home Culture Series with how to optimize the household environment for all that inhibit it. This final post will put it all together so you can start to develop strategies to implement effectively.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Dimitri Houtteman via Unsplash

Home Culture Part 2: Who are you?

This week we will do a high level overview of temperaments and personality types. Yet, before we dig in, lets recall what we learned last week about identifying values.

Values: Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work. They (should) determine your priorities, and, deep down, they’re probably the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to (Mindtool).

Hopefully you took the time to do the value exercise presented last week. If so, you should have two or three core values to build your household on. These values are your guiding principles. They outline how the household should function and what is expected of the occupants. Yet a bigger question remains: who are you in relation to these values?

“Know Thyself” -Socrates

A lot of people I know don’t have a clear understanding of how they are wired and what their natural tendencies are. If they do know, it has been found through trial and error. This is not a good or bad thing but it does mean that they might not understand how to set themselves up for success day in and day out. Essentially, it is like driving a car that you have never been in before. Sure, you can drive it around but you might not know all the cool features or whether or not the vehicle is suited for bad weather. However, if you took the time to do a thorough personality assessment, you would know your personal user manual so to speak.

Below I will be pointing out the basics of the DISC model. Out of all of the personality tests I have done and studied, the DISC model is the most accurate and easy to apply in your life. Let us start with a basic picture of what the DISC model looks like:

As you can see, there are four main temperaments or personality types. These types are divided into their own quadrant by tendencies. From top to bottom we have Outgoing to Reserved. Outgoing people (D,I) have a tendency to speak and move with high amounts of energy. Their primary focus is to speak things out. Reserved people (C,S) have a tendency to speak less and exhibit slower paced action. Their primary focus is to think things through before action.

From left to right we have Task to People. Task oriented people (D,C) tend to focus more on the job to be done or accomplished. Task focused people like to get things done. People oriented people (I,S) like the company of others. Their focus is on others as their main priority rather than the task at hand. People focused people value other’s opinions and how others feel.

Now we will take a more in depth look at the individual types. Keep in mind that all of us have a blend of each of these types. However, most of us will heavily gravitate towards one or another in our natural state.

D Temperament (Outgoing/Task)

The D temperament represents about 10% of the population. Some words that describe this personality type: Determined, Demanding, Direct, Doer. Their basic needs are to have challenge, choice, and control. At their best they can accomplish whatever they set their mind to. At their worst they can run over others without even realizing it.

I Temperament (Outgoing/People)

The I temperament represents about 30% of the population. Some words that describe this personality type: Inspiring, Influencing, Impulsive, Imaginative. Their basic needs are to have recognition, approval, and popularity. At their best, they connect with others through their abilities and their optimism. At their worst, they can be flash in the pan and let their emotions get the best of them.

S Temperament (Reserved/People)

The S temperament represents about 35% of the population. Some words to describe this personality type: Supportive, Steady, Serve, Sentimental. Their basic needs are to have teamwork, support, and no conflict. At their best, they take care of and show empathy for their relationships. At their worst, they can have difficulty being decisive and overthink decisions that need to be made.

C Temperament (Reserved/Task)

The C temperament represents about 25% of the population. Some words to describe this personality type: Cautious, Calculating, Correct, Cognitive. Their basic needs are to have quality information, excellence, and value. At their best they are most informed are very thorough with all of their dealings. At their worst, they can lack flexibility as they like to see everything proven out before action.

So there is the basic rundown of the DISC personality types. How does this play out in life? Imagine if you were at a party with four others that represent these types. It is time to decided what food the party needs….you might hear them say something like this:

C: “I have been reading up on this restaurant in town. It uses all organic ingredients and has a lot of great reviews online.”

I: “Wow! I was just there and the atmosphere is awesome! Their pizza is the best I have ever had!”

D: “I know exactly where that is and the best way to get there. I will drive, is everyone ready to go?”

S: “That sounds good to me. Is everyone in agreement? I will check out the menu on the way and am sure I can find something to eat.”

To wrap up, when you start to identify your strengths and weaknesses through your blend of personality, you can strategize and set yourself up for success with whatever you take on. This post was merely a light overview of these personality types. To really take it to the next level I would suggest to have a full assessment done. If interested in having an assessment done please use our Contact page and we can discuss how to make this happen.

Next week we will discuss temperaments and how to build stronger, trusting relationships with the members in the household. In the meantime, take a look around and see if you can start to identify where other peoples personalities fit into the DISC model.

Be well

-MJ

A special thanks to The Fitzgerald Institute and their materials to help shape the descriptions of the temperaments in this post.

Photo by Ludomit via Unsplash