CAT | Family
Life is funny sometimes. You can go along enjoying the “status quo” for years – even if you’re dissatisfied or unhappy. There is something built into the human psyche that keeps us in one place even when we aren’t happy there. But eventually change happens. Either we decide to make a change, or it is thrust upon us by other people or events.
Once we get into the “change” mode, we seem to be more willing to accept change. This is very common with health issues. Once we decide to exercise more, we are also very likely to eat better and consider other habits that might be bad for us. I guess the idea is, as long as I’m working on Me I might as work on all of me!
I’ve been through some personal turbulence over the last few years. In the middle of it all I started to think in terms of the “New Normal.” For example, when my daughter went off to college. I was not ready to be alone! I hadn’t lived alone in more than twenty years!
Your brain doesn’t just create pathways for habits and memories: It creates trenches! We’re not talking about a little line drawn in the dirt. After ten, fifteen, twenty years your habits are trenches deep enough to stand in. So when you dig yourself out, you may be uncomfortable with your situation. It’s not wrong. It’s just different.
And you can never go back.
That’s why you need to create the new normal.
Recently, my daughter took some time off from college. Yesterday she moved out again . . . back to Southern California.
You know how moves are. There’s lots of activity getting ready. Packing boxes. Sorting things. Even though she’s only been home about six months, she still had to go through the ritual. Then we had to pack the truck – some from her girl friend’s house, some from ours. A long day of lifting followed by a nice sit down dinner at a restaurant.
And in the morning they drove off.
I wandered around a bit. Made some lists of things to clean and things do. Planning a big reorganization of my study (formerly her bedroom).
Thats when I realized that I was consciously – and comfortably – creating a New Normal. I didn’t resist it (like last time). I didn’t deny that it was happening (like last time). I didn’t put it off (like last time). In fact I embraced it. I will certainly miss my daughter, but I’m much more comfortable with the idea of her moving out and me living alone than I was two years ago.
There’s no denying that experience goes a long way. I went through the moving out and being alone transition once. So I know a bit about what to expect. The funny thing is, I had eighteen years to prepare the first time and I wasn’t ready. I had six months to prepare this time and I *am* ready.
Change is always easier if you’re the one creating the change. But even if you didn’t create it, welcoming it and getting used to it helps a lot.
And now I can get back on the track of finding and building my next New Normal.
I hope it’s not a big surprise that too much work is bad for you. I know I harp on it all the time, but there’s plenty of research to back it up.
I recently came across a great article by Nancy Shute on the effect of long hours on depression. See http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0030719. The key finding is pretty stark: “People who worked 11 hours a day or more, more than doubled their risk of major depression compared with colleagues putting in eight hours a day.”
That’s only three hours a day – and it doubles your chance of depression. The interesting thing about this research is that they found results across all socio-economic classes. So those white-collar executives who get a flat salary and put in super-long hours are NOT immune from the effects of long hours.
Those extra hours – about three a day – have to come from somewhere. Do they come from family time? Sleep? Relaxation? You need all of these.
We can all put up with on super-long day and bounce back. It’s the constant, non-stop long days that can literally kill you. People who work long hours non-stop are obviously more sleep-deprived, have a higher risk of heart disease, and reduced cognitive function. All in all, long hours can kill you.
At a minimum, it can make you miserable and depressed.
Depression is extremely serious and should not be dismissed as temporary sadness. Depression can affect everything in your life – and in the lives of the people you love.
You Can Also Work Too Little
Sometimes people hear the phrase “Relax Focus Succeed” and think I am advocating sitting on the couch all day doing nothing. I am absolutely NOT recommending that. People need work. We need to feel worthwhile, and that we contribute something to society.
We are now well into the fourth year of this recession and unemployment for some people has been dragging on a long time. And with that unemployment is a dramatic increase in depression. See http://www.livescience.com/13710-unemployment-depression-identity-job-search.html and http://www.livescience.com/13496-unemployment-stress-job.html.
Whether it’s you or your spouse, lack of work puts a huge strain on people. And that leads to all kinds of health problems.
I’m not sure what makes human beings different from all other animals. We get to choose what we do every day. You might think we’d choose to sit by a calm lake and fish all day, every day. But that’s not the case.
As social beings, we need to feel that we’re part of society and that we contribute our share. Yes there are exceptions. But let’s discuss things from the rule and not the exception. Overwhelmingly, people like to have a job, go do something at a “place of work,” and have a life outside the house. It’s normal and natural.
It’s a slightly different subject, but many people love their jobs so much that they can’t see how they are hurting themselves and their relationships by working too much. So they work and work and work.
So, whether the boss forces you to work long hours, or your choose to do it yourself, it’s still bad for you!
And working too little is bad for you.
Both lead to depression and imbalance in our lives. Sometimes we can control that imbalance and sometimes we can’t. But in either case, we can take action to improve our perspective on things. We can stop each day and re-focus ourselves. Trust me, I know how hard it is to get out of a depression funk. And I know how it feels to believe you have to work non-stop.
The goal is balance. Somewhere in the middle of all this perspective and balance. But balance never just happens: We need to work on it regularly if we value it and desire it.
Begin today. It’s never too late.
A couple brought their newborn baby to the pediatrician for its first checkup. The doctor said, “You have a cute baby.”
Smiling, the man said, “I’ll bet you say that to all the new parents.”
“No,” the doc replied, “just to those whose babies are really good-looking.”
“So what do you say to the others?” the father asked.
“He looks just like you.”
As we prepare for the Christmas vacation in the U.S., my mind wanders to vacations and family gatherings. These are sometimes combined and often separated.
I remembered, as a kid, that traveling to see cousins in another city was just was much fun as driving to see a national park or an old fort. For us these were both chances to go somewhere and do something.
Vacations are opportunities to “get away” and relax. Don’t work. Don’t worry. Just enjoy life.
We all know that we need to do these things to maintain balance. But somehow we feel guilty.
In these days of technology, it is easy to stay in touch with work, keep up on email, and never actually escape while we’re on vacation. Should you feel good about combining work and rest, or should you feel guilty? I, for one, feel very good about it.
I’ve worked very hard to combine my vacation time and work time. For about fifteen years now, I have been traveling a lot. Sometimes as few as five business trips a year. Sometimes ten, fifteen, or even twenty. As a way to create a little balance, I started added days to the beginning and end of my business trips.
So, for example, I travel to the business city a day or two early. Then I have my meeting. I might travel back right away or add another vacation day at the end of the trip. When I’m going from city to city, I might add vacation days in either city, or even in the layover city.
In this way, I accomplish three things. First, I never have a quick fly-in and fly-out that’s 100% business. Second, I always have a more relaxed business trip. I get to take vacation days. I get to visit friends. I get to actually SEE the cities I visit. And, third, I get to have some very relaxed time to catch up on reading, playing, and putting my toes onto sandy beaches.
Don’t get me wrong. I occasionally take a good five day vacation all at once with no business. But I don’t feel like I’ve taken less of a vacation if I take five days off between two business cities.
For example, 2011 started out with me on a plane at 6:30 AM on January 3rd. I went to Charlotte, NC and spent the next day with a friend, visiting sites and wandering into South Carolina for BBQ. Then I had my business meeting. The next day, I flew to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. There, I hung out on the beach, visited friends, sat on the beach, wrote poetry, and had a BLAST for five days.
On one of those evenings, I attended a business meeting.
Then I hopped on an airplane and flew to Portland, OR. Almost as far as you can go from one end of the contiguous United States to the other. I did another show and then headed home. I landed back in Sacramento on January 12th. In all I had eleven travel days. And while I had plenty of time meeting with friends and relaxing, I had exactly four true “business” meetings. The rest was travel time and relaxation time.
That wasn’t the norm for the year, but it was sure a great way to start the year!
In all, over the last twelve months, I’ve made 18 trips to various cities. I had a total of 76 travel days and 48 days of vacation. By vacation I mean a whole day off work with no business meeting scheduled.
I’ve seen New York City at Christmas Time. I’ve been to Atlantic ocean beaches on three different vacations, and Pacific ocean beaches on three different vacations. Somewhere in the middle I’ve visited half a dozen lakes. I’ve gone on boat cruises, fishing trips, and family get-togethers.
So, for me, the question of whether I should feel guilty is very simple. I do not feel guilty about checking my email between bar hops in Vegas or after spending the day hiking around Lake Tahoe. Email helps me feel confident that the world keeps spinning and that my businesses are going along fine without me.
It’s not cheating to check in and make sure things are fine.
Stopping the vacation to deal with a problem is different. If you do that, you can’t count it as a vacation day. But you have to keep it in perspective. That job that wants to invade your holiday is probably the same job that makes the vacation possible in the first place. Respect it, but keep it in its place.
Many people are taking off the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. For many of us, taking off all that time is nerve-wracking. So don’t feel bad about checking email and tuning in to work once in awhile. The key is balance. Are you on vacation with an occasional email check? If that balance works for you, don’t feel guilty about it!
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year to all!
This is not a blog about sex. It’s a blog about life. About balance. About all the things that make you a happier, healthier, more productive, more successful person. Well one of the best things you can do for yourself is to develop a happy sex life.
At some level, pretty much everybody “likes” sex. What’s not to like? But, all too often, we get busy. We’re tired. We approach it at the end of the day, the end of the week. It’s easy to put off. And then it becomes an occasional thing instead of a regular part of life.
I encourage you to chat with your mate and make sex a higher priority. In fact, a high priority. In addition to being a core element of bonding between two people, sex is a shared experience unlike anything else. It is, literally, unique.
Wanting sex is not bad. It’s biological. Having sex is not bad, as long as it is among consenting adults. What you do and how you do it can be a lifelong exploration.
And women: Please believe me that men take sex very seriously even though we love to joke about it. Monogamous sex with a dedicated partner is a huge turn-on for men. I’m not sure who writes movie scripts and TV shows, but I suspect they have deep emotional scars and very bad sex lives!
If you want to see the latest research on the health benefits of sex, just Google “Sex Is Good For You” and read the results. Web MD is one of the best sites on the Internet. Start there. But also look for several articles on Ten Health Benefits of Sex or Seventeen Health Benefits of Sex, etc.
One specific article that caught my eye was Ten Surprising Health Benefits of Sex. Anyway, do your research. Here’s some of what you’ll find:
Sex lowers your blood pressure.
Sex lowers stress.
Sex increases self esteem.
Sex is associated with lower diastolic blood pressure.
At least for women (haven’t seen research on men), hugging your partner lowers blood pressure.
Sex is directly related to increased levels of immunoglobulin A or IgA, an antibody that can protect you from colds and infections.
Sex burns calories. About 170 per hour. Can’t keep going for an hour? Well, just like any other physical activity, build up a little more each day. :-)
The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reported that the frequency of sex was NOT associated with strokes. And that’s a large study done over 20 years. So no excuses there.
Sex two or more times per week can reduce the risk of fatal heart attack by HALF for the men. Haven’t seen a stat on women.
University of Texas researchers published an article in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. They listed 237 reasons people gave for having sex. How many can you count?
Sex increases levels of oxytocin, a hormone that helps people bond to one another, feel trusting, and generous.
Even better, oxytocin increases the level of endorphins, which decreases the level of pain. Suffer from an injury or long term illness? Sex may be just what the doctor ordered!
And, of course, oxytocin helps you sleep better.
Sleeping better is a whole different subject with a long list of benefits. The point here is that sex is a good way to help you get the sleep you need.
The Bottom Line
If you’ve let your sex life slip, maybe right now is a great time to consider what you can do to get back on track. You might just live longer, be happier, sleep better, have less pain, feel more generous, lose some weight, feel better about yourself, and fall deeper in love with the one you love.
. . . Oh, and have fun, too.
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Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. You’re responsible for your own actions. Blah, blah, blah.
In college-level psychology courses, one of the fun things you get to do is train mice. In addition to being easy, training mice helps you learn a lot about behavior generally and rewards and punishments specifically.
For example, we can create a maze and put Miss Mouse at the entrance. Let’s say we want to teach her to always go right as the first move when entering a maze. We’ll reward her when she goes right. If she goes left, there is no reward, we pick her up and start over. Eventually we would expect Miss Mouse to always start out going to the right. That’s where the rewards are.
In the field of “Game Theory,” we can model learning without touching mice or spending money on cheese. In the example above, we divide the mouse’s behavior into two categories: Go Right and Go Left.
Now let’s say that a basic store-bought, untrained mouse is equally likely to go left or right. So the probability left = 50% and the probability right = 50%. Let’s also say that each reward will increase the probability of repeating the rewarded activate by 10%.
Here’s how the mouse learns: Chance of going right = 50%.
|Event 1:||Mouse goes left||No reward||Chance of
|Event 2:||Mouse goes right||Eats cheese||55% (50 X 110%)|
|Event 3:||Mouse goes right||Eats cheese||60.5% (55 X 110%)|
|Event 4:||Mouse goes left||No reward||60.5% (no change)|
|Event 5:||Mouse goes right||Eats cheese||66.5% (60.5 X 110%)|
|Event 6:||Mouse goes left||No reward||66.5% (no change)|
|Event 7:||Mouse goes left||No reward||66.5% (no change)|
|Event 8:||Mouse goes right||Eats cheese||73.2% (66.5 X 110%)|
|Event 9:||Mouse goes right||Eats cheese||80.5% (73.2 X 110%)|
|Event 10:||Mouse goes right||Eats cheese||88.6% (80.5 X 110%)|
|Event 11:||Mouse goes left||No reward||88.6% (no change)|
|Event 12:||Mouse goes right||Eats cheese||97.4% (88.6 X 110%)|
In this example we see that after 12 trips into the maze, the mouse is likely to go right 97% at the time! Notice also that the mouse went the wrong way five times and the right way seven times.
All you home psychologists should know that the reward must be given right away.
Notice that rewarding the behavior you want has a dramatic impact on future behavior.
Rewarding the behavior you want
has a dramatic impact on future behavior.
Reward and believe:
That was fun, but we’re spending too much money on cheese. We can’t give a reward every time. The next experiment would be to give a reward with every second correct move rather than every time.
The result is that learning is a bit slower, but still quite dramatic. After seven correct turns, the mouse is likely to go right almost 75% of the time.
So, we know that rewards work. What about punishment? Since we don’t want to physically harm our mouse, let’s say we stick to psychological damage. We’ll reward every second correct choice, but this time we’ll also have a mild punishment for incorrect choices. For punishment we’ll play ten seconds at Jethro Tull at very high volume. Again, the punishment must be administered right away to be effective.
Because this is a mild punishment, let’s say the effect is to decrease the chance at going left by 10%.
We start out with chance Right = 50% and chance Left = 50%
|Event 1:||goes left||Punish||Chance of
|Event 2:||goes right||Reward||39.5%||60.5%|
|Event 3:||goes left||Punish||35.5%||64.5%|
|Event 4:||goes right||No Reward||35.5%||64.5%|
|Event 5:||goes right||Reward||29.1%||70.9%|
|Event 6:||goes left||Punish||26.2%||73.8%|
|Event 7:||goes right||No Reward||26.2%||73.8%|
|Event 8:||goes right||Reward||18.8%||81.2%|
|Event 9:||goes left||Punish||16.9%||83.1%|
|Event 10:||goes right||No Reward||16.9%||83.1%|
|Event 11:||goes right||Reward||8.6%||91.4%|
|Event 12:||goes left||Pushish||7.7%||92.3%|
As you can see, you don’t need to give a reward every time, but a combination of rewards and mild punishments is very effective. You can also summarize from the math that greater rewards and greater punishment would result in more dramatic changes and behavior.
Some Words of Caution
In our example we use a mild punishment. Strong punishments are generally to be avoided. In addition to electrocuting our mouse, we want to avoid instilling too much fear.
Punishment works by increasing fear. A punishment that is too strong can leave the subject (e.g. Miss Mouse) nervous about making a wrong move. This can result in slow, cautious, halting behavior. See the note on consistency below.
You must also be careful with rewards. Once a behavior is learned you can cut the rewards way back. Even sporadic rewards can maintain a well learned behavior.
We won’t go through the math necessary to demonstrate diminishing motivation, but you should know that the chances of correct behavior will decrease as the time between rewards increases. Dropping all rewards altogether will have no immediate effect. However, over time even well-learned behaviors will drift back to the probabilities we saw in the untrained mouse. One big reward all at once has almost no effect. If we give Miss Mouse a huge chunk of cheese the first time she goes right, but no rewards after that, she’ll think she just stumbled on some cheese. Smaller, regular rewards are much more effective.
The most important factor in using rewards and punishments is consistency. Close behind that is timeliness.
If you give a reward or punishment it must be administered immediately after the behavior. Think about training your dog: Doggie brings you the newspaper, goes outside for no apparent reason, comes back inside, gets a drink of water, then lies down to take a nap.
If you then praise the dog for bringing you the newspaper, he won’t connect the two. He will think he is being praised for lying down. It’s my personal theory that this is the reason dogs spend so much time lying down–they’re trying to make you happy.
Timeliness and consistency go hand in hand. You want to reward (or punish) behavior right away to have the greatest impact. Timeliness connects the reward (or punishment) to the behavior. Consistency provides reinforcement. If a mouse is rewarded sometimes for going left and sometimes for going right, she won’t see a connection between behavior and reward. Even worse, if she is punished sometimes for a left turn and sometimes for a right turn, she will avoid both behaviors.
Let’s go back to the lab for an illustration. The classic example of arbitrary rewards is the pigeon who gets fed a food pellet at random intervals. If the pigeon happens to be cleaning his wing when this happens, he might try cleaning his wing again to see if there’s another reward. And if there just happens to be a reward at the time he is cleaning his wing, he thinks he has learned a connection.
The same happens for scratching the floor, nodding his head, etc. With no connection between behavior and rewards, the pigeon will “learn” things that result in reward. So, after a few days we have a pigeon who spends all his time scratching and squawking and strutting around trying to “learn” a reward. Inconsistent, arbitrary rewards create and encourage a pattern of behavior, but not necessarily the behavior you want.
There is also the classic pigeon example of arbitrary punishment. When researchers randomly administer punishments, pigeons “learn” to avoid various behaviors. So, over time, we have a bird that doesn’t clean, doesn’t scratch, doesn’t walk in circles, doesn’t walk in a line. Eventually, the bird stands in one place afraid to take any action at all.
Inconsistent, arbitrary punishments lead to a fear of doing anything. You actually train the pigeon to do nothing.
In general, I believe rewards are a better teaching tool than punishments. Based on a worst case scenario of inconsistent, powerful rewards, you will have a subject who is constantly trying to do what it takes to get the reward. This subject is highly motivated and easily trained in the correct behavior: as you adopt a consistent reward procedure (even with small rewards), the subject will learn the new behavior quickly. And as rewards disappear for the old, arbitrary behavior, the old habits will fade away.
The worst-care scenario for inconsistent, powerful punishments is a subject who is paralyzed by fear. Adopting a consistent policy of rewards and punishments is very difficult in this case. First, you have to teach the subject that it’s okay to do something. There you have to coax it to overcome specific fears in order to try the behaviors that will now be rewarded.
As you can imagine, the quickest way to overcome fear and train new behavior in this case is with timely, frequent rewards; rewards powerful enough to overcome fear of punishment.
Does all of this really translate to human beings? Remember the mantra “Rewarding the behavior you want has a dramatic impact on future behavior.”
People absolutely respond to reward and punishment. If you don’t believe me, raise a child!
I am over-educated. I have used a few simple rules for raising my daughter.
1) No physical punishment.
2) She knows what the rules are.
3) She is consistently punished for incorrect behavior.
4) She is consistently rewarded for good behavior
I’m not perfect and my daughter is not perfect,* but my daughter knows she’s loved and she’s very well behaved. She never begs for toys or candy at the store. I never go through the routine of some parents who say “no-no-no-no-no” until they finally say “yes, but this is the last time.”
Children are extremely smart. They are all naturally lawyers. They want to pick apart your answer for clarity and consistency. They compare the current answer to all past similar behavior. They are willing to negotiate and compromise until they get something out of the deal. It is very difficult in change a policy without a good reason. If you show any weakness, they’ll take advantage of it.
Children are also delightful to work with because humans are intelligent enough that we can talk about punishments and rewards and create punishments and rewards through the use of speech.
For example, you can create rewards by agreeing that a hug is a reward, or staying up on extra five minutes, or helping to cook the soup, or putting a gold star on the calendar.
The same is true of punishments. Sitting on the floor for five minutes is a punishment. In fact, this may be the most consistently successful punishment we’ve ever used. My daughter was told that this is a punishment and it became one.
Okay, but what about adults?
Adults have one major disadvantage: they have experienced a wide variety of rewards and punishments that are outside your relationship with them. Thus, they’ve learned about a world of rewards and punishments that is completely unknown to you.
Confused about punishment? See Ken Blanchard’s The One Minute Manger series. Full citations are in the left-hand column.
Very often we adults are a jumbled mess of mixed-up, inconsistent motivations and fears. This is great for psychologists but makes team management difficult. Adults also have some advantages: they tend to be motivated to do well and they have excellent reasoning ability.
This reasoning ability gives us the power to lay out reward systems without a lot of “trial and error.” We can also agree before-hand on rewards and punishments. And, best of all, rewards do not have to consist of instant gratification.
So, rather than having to instantly reward people as we see the correct behavior, we can agree on incentive programs, weekly meetings, and quarterly reports.
Here are some guidelines . . . But, don’t forget what we’ve learned:
Why rewards and punishment, don’t work.
If this is all so simple, why does it seem to not work in your business? Well, as with so many simple truths, we humans don’t have enough faith and we don’t follow the formula. We sabotage over own efforts.
In the Big Picture, a motivational program should work like this:
1) Set goals – short, intermediate, long.
2) Establish rewards and punishments
3) Evaluate performance
4) Administer rewards and punishments (consistently, fairly, honestly)
1) Revise goals periodically
2) Revise Rewards and Punishments periodically
3) Continue to Evaluate
4) Continue to administer
A simple 4-step process, repeated continuously. So why does it fail? It fails because we don’t do one or more of the steps. And 99% of the time, it’s the bosses fault. His excuse is usually “I don’t have enough time.” Goals are not set.
As a result, there is no structure for success. The manager doesn’t have time to tell people what she wants. So they do what they think they should do, whether its what the boss wants or not. In fact, the boss doesn’t even set her own goals.
Stop. Be your own boss for ten minutes.
What are three things you want to accomplish today?
What are three things you want to accomplish this week?
Why don’t you take ten minutes every day to decide what’s important today?
Be honest, you do have time.
We . . . the vast majority of bosses and workers . . . don’t set goals. We don’t have a clear idea at what we’re going to do today that will help us advance toward the bigger goals.
Goal-setting should not be a huge scary task that requires retreat time or offsite meetings or long arguments.
Make a habit every day of jotting down your goals. Look at them everyday, and adjust them as needed. This ten-minute habit will change your life. It will bring focus.
The second reason motivational plans fail is lack of integrity. Bosses promise rewards and fail to deliver. Or they are inconsistent with rewards and punishments.
People learn very quickly and they remember negative experiences for a long time.
I have the great good fortune of seeing how different businesses operate. As a result I see motivational plans come and go. I also see successful reward structures that last for a long time.
Overwhelmingly, the lasting techniques are those that are:
1) Clearly understood by everyone.
2) Consistently followed–both rewards and punishments.
3) Perceived as fair.
I berate bosses for being stingy with rewards. Some bosses are even stingy with small rewards. Bosses are rarely stingy with punishments. If you have a system of large rewards–such as $1000 bonuses or trips to Maui–you had better be prepared to pay up.
But don’t forget that small rewards can be even more powerful. Five weeks into the quarter, some people know they’re not going to win the trip. What’s their motivation?
With small rewards there is a flurry of activity around the rewards. People get regular feedback and compete to get their name in the “star performance” chart, or try to collect the most T-shirts, squeezy toys, pencils, or whatever.
Every day and every week they can see their success. And their success is visible to themselves and others. Finally, competitions evolve as people display these little rewards as measures of their success.
It is beyond my capacity to understand why a boss would be stingy in this process. Remember that, as humans, we create a reward by agreeing that something is a reward. When we say, for example, that a company T-shirt is a reward, then it has become more than a T-shirt.
If someone meets the criteria, give him the T-shirt! Stinginess with a ten dollar piece of clothing can destroy your motivational program.
First, you lack integrity. If you’re not fair on this little thing, how can your employees trust you on larger things?
Second, you turn a “performer” into a disgruntled employee.
Third, this kind of stinginess will become widely known in very short order.
So you see, bosses can sabotage their own motivational programs when they are stingy.
These discussions of the behavioral sciences are not meant to replace a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology. I encourage you to learn more about rewards and punishments in the workplace.
As a worker, consider what motivates you and talk to your boss about it. But don’t start with $1000 reward and trips to Hawaii. Start with an examination of your daily and weekly activates. What would be an appropriate, small reward for reaching the next performance level each week?
If you’re a boss, consider the two or three basic “building blocks” of your success. What are the measures of your success? These could be increasing sales, productivity, or timeliness; or reducing mistakes, injuries, or sick days.
Find measurable indicators of your success. Begin measuring them and consider what kind of small rewards you can dole out each work for improved performance.
Then have the integrity to present the rewards as promised.
There are lots of good books on reward systems and building motivation in your workplace. You (workers and bosses) need to find a system that works for your job.
As usual, I encourage you to read lots of ideas on this topic and then come up with your own plan.
*Note: My daughter is perfect.
My delightful daughter turned 18 this month and will be graduated from high school at the end of next week. And like everyone else, she has had a series of adventures that brought her to where she is today.
Over the Memorial Day weekend she had an interesting experience that represents an odd milestone for both of us. I went to a technology conference in New Orleans. She needed to find her way to another city, 150 miles away, check into a hotel, and take a two day class.
The organization paying for all this did not make the correct reservations and she had to fix a travel glitch at the last minute. So Daddy jumped in (from across the country), made the hotel reservations and paid for the room. In some sense you can say “what’s new?” but the whole thing is new.
My new reality is that my girl is going off into the so-called real world. We will rely on me when needed. That will become less and less frequent as time goes on. At the same time, she’s at that delightful stage of life when the most mundane things are an adventure. I don’t remember the last time driving three hours to stay in a Travelodge was an adventure for me. :-)
It was nice that she called me. She had a good class and a good adventure. She was a little scared in the hotel alone. But it was a very safe city and a very safe hotel. So in the end it was mostly an adventure.
Now she knows the glamour of travel! She also knows that she can do this again and what she would do differently.
In the meantime, I have a taste of what remote worrying is like. I guess when she goes off to college I’ll be doing more of that. I also need to get used to the new reality.
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It is always good to slow down and take note of these milestones, no matter how small unimportant they are.
In this case I recognize that Victoria is mature and capable. I fully expected this to be as uneventful as it turned out to be. But a little “proof” of her maturity was very nice to see.
There is a sweet sadness in helping my only child to leave home. So far we’re both holding up well.
Last week my daughter Victoria (age 17.9 years) embarked on an adventure. The plan was to spend three days in New York City just seeing the sights, then hop over to England and Scotland for a week. She has two weeks for Spring Break and this is her senior year.
We had plans for the first night and the last night in the UK, but nothing in between. We had Britrail passes and tube passes, so we were set to just go. Our plan was to wake up every day and figure out what to do that day.
In this modern era it is very easy to hop on the internet and find a hotel at a good price on short notice.
Note: This approach takes a certain willingness to believe that you will be okay and that things will work themselves out. I have been cultivating that spirit for some time.
Meditation helps, as does an actual commitment to being a low stress person.
I believe you can always choose how you will respond to your environment. Sometimes it’s easier than others. The more planning you have, the easier it is. But, as the saying goes, sometimes life gives you lemons and you have to make lemonade.
So here’s what happened to our vacation plans.
After three fun days in New York City, we went to the airport to catch an all-night flight to England and arrive at 8:30 AM. But my daughter could not get on the airplane because of a problem with her passport.
Stop. Vacation gone. Plane departing in two hours. Fix it or forget it.
At this point some people would add: Panic.
I was a little panicky, of course. But I decided a long time ago that I’m not the kind of person who blows up, yells and screams, abuses the person behind the counter, etc. I tried to stay calm, gathered the information I could.
It quickly became clear that I could not solve this tonight and we were going to miss the plane. Period. Nothing we could do about that. We could contact the passport office in New York or Connecticut. Quick phone call. NY was a seven day wait. No good. Connecticut might get us in within 8 business hours in an emergency. And might get a new passport within 8 business hours. But that means 1-2 more days in NYC with 1-2 days sitting around a government office, just so we could spend a day flying to England to continue the vacation.
We decided to do England another time. The next question was: Do we go home or reboot the vacation?
Important factor: My daughter only gets one spring break her senior year in high school.
So where do you want to go? The entire East Coast is at your disposal. Or we could rent a car and drive home, seeing the sights. Or take trains and see America. Or whatever.
We decided to catch the next flight to Florida and spend time in the sun. Went online and booked one-way airfare. Cheap, even at the last minute. Thank goodness for the Internet.
Total elapsed time since vacation destroyed: about 60 minutes.
Was I happy about the situation? No. But I had decided to NOT panic, NOT make it a disaster, and NOT focus on what I can’t control.
Yes, it will cost a lot of money. But we can use those Britrail passes another time. And we had almost no other out of pocket expenses except airfare. Called the airline and cancelled. They’re rebating a good portion of what we paid.
And here’s the key: We can’t control what we can’t control!
The mindset of not wasting energy on things you can’t control is a mindset that you can practice. You can create that approach to life.
The mindset of creating lemonade when life gives you lemons is a mindset that you can practice.
You get to choose how you will respond to the world.
I hope that my daughter will love the new vacation we are creating and that she will always take the attitude of slowing down and looking on the positive side when things go wrong.
“Stuff” happens in life. You can make yourself miserable and dive into the well of dispair, or you can pick up the lemons and start making lemonade.
Daily quiet time, meditation, and prayer go a long way to making this possible.
Status Report: We just finished three days in Orlando. We’re working our way through the Disney parks. On Sunday we’re heading to Church (It’s Easter) and then off to Daytona Beach. We got a nice hotel ON the beach for $46/night. Thank goodness for the Internet.
We’ll head home when we had planned. It won’t be the vacation we planned, but it’s been a Great vacation and a great adventure so far.
Sometimes we let life get ahead of us. We find ourselves responding to the moment instead of keeping track of our own long-term vision about life.
Unfortunately, I have rheumatoid arthritis, an immune disorder in which the body attacks the joints.
Fortunately for me, I just passed my tenth anniversary with this disease. Fall of 2008 represented ten years since the sudden onset of R.A. Why is that fortunate? Because I’m not yet crippled by it. I still walk reasonably well. I’ve had one surgery with no complications.
For R.A., that’s pretty good!
In that ten years I’m grown a few businesses, made a bunch of money, lost a bunch of money, made it back, and recently lost some again.
Life goes on.
In that period I have also added ten years to my marriage. We’re coming up on 18 years. Not bad by any standard.
I’ve also raised a little kid into a big kid. My daughter is 16 and thinks she’s 26. In the big picture, she’s healthy, doing well in school, and staying off drugs.
In that ten years we’ve bought houses and sold houses. My wife has changed jobs. I’ve changed one business around and started another.
We’ve had one dog and one cat pass away in that time. But we’ve added a little dog and two big cats.
Somewhere along the way, we picked up a bunch of new friends, both locally and all over the globe. Ten years ago people feared that computers and the internet would separate people from one another. But human beings are social animals. We found ways to expand our social circles online.
We go through life.
I like to ask audiences to think about the last ten years. Any ten years, really.
Consider: Ten years ago, you probably . . .
- Lived in a different house
- Had a different job
- Had different friends
- Drove a different car
- Enjoyed different hobbies
- Wore different clothes
and . . .
- Your family was different
- Your income was different
- Your daily habits were different
and so forth.
You get the idea: Virtually every aspect of your life will be different ten years from now. All those changes will take place one day at a time, one choice at a time, one tiny thing at a time.
But no matter what happens along the way, remember that YOU get to choose how you’ll make your way. In other words, you can decide whether the next ten years will happen to you or whether you’ll actively participate in how your life evolves.
Working on your life doesn’t have to be a big, difficult job. If you set the long-term goals, and remind yourself of them from time to time, you’ll just tend in the direction you want to go.
Try it. Give it time. Lots of time.
After all, you have the rest of your life to become who you want to be.
One of the elements of a “defining event” in history is that millions of people share some experience in common. Unfortunately, we’re having one of those moments now.
The economic turmoil in the U.S., and around the world, is truly unprecedented. And while it was caused by a very small band of people (a small percentage of borrowers, a small groups of loan agents, a few companies, a few executives), the credit crisis has affected virtually everyone with money.
Whether you’ve lost a few thousand or a few hundred thousand, it can be a depressing situation.
But it’s also a time for some perspective. No matter how bad it is, the economy WILL turn around. House values will return. Stock prices will go up.
When the Dot Com “bubble” burst, many stock portfolios were cut in half. Within five years, we bounced back and went way beyond the levels achieved during the bubble.
It’s hard to be where we are. But economic problems are nothing new. Don’t panic and you’ll be fine.
- – - – -
The most important thing to focus on in times like this are the people in your life and high value activities.
When the world seems full of all bad news, you have a bit of extra responsibility: You need to be soemone’s ray of sunshine! Seriously. Whether it’s
- your spouse
- your parents,
- your children,
- your co-workers,
- your employees,
- your employers,
- the people at the grocery store,
Everyone you meet today, tomorrow, and the next day has a good reason to be worried about the future.
At the same time, money isn’t everything.
It’s real easy to say that “money isn’t everything” when prosperity abounds and everything seems headed in the right direction. But when things go South, you need to take stock and remind yourself about what’s important.
Central to any human discovery of what’s important is a look at our relationships with other people.
No matter how bad times are, it’s cheap to talk to friends, send Christmas cards, shoot an email to a buddy.
The other important thing to pay attention to is . . .
High Value Activities
I was thinking today about “Christmases past.” When my delightful daughter was three and four and five years old, we used to spend every weekend together. Around Christmas, we’d go look at trees. We’d go to the local lumber yard for this or that. We’d hit Long’s drug store — every weekend. We rarely bought anything at long’s. But Victoria wanted to see the plants, ride the rides, and look at whatever was new.
Those were some serious “high value” activities.
Especially during the holiday season, it’s real easy to capture these high value activities and make some new memories you can keep forever.
Remember your baby’s first Christmas. Remember the look on a face when a special present is unwrapped. Remember playing games with friends and family. Remember getting an email or letter from someone special.
Our lives are filled with human interaction. Positive, negative, and indifferent.
As Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters used to sing: “Accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative. Latch on to the affirmative. Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.”
Many events happen that are outside your control. But you still get to decide how you’ll react to them and interact with others.
Have a great Christmas and a Wonderful New Year!