Expressing gratitude, part 2

Most of the people that I work with do great work most of the time. (No, this is not about to turn into a back-handed compliment.) That means they make a few mistakes, or do a few things where I feel feedback would be helpful. Abitrarily, let’s say 90% of their work is good, and there’s 10% that I think could be improved.

…and so I start providing feedback on that 10%.

What does the other person experience? 100% negative feedback from me!

It doesn’t matter how good I might get at delivering great feedback, and helping them improve. If the only feedback I give is on the 10% of their work that I feel could be improved… ouch!

Instead, I need to think about the entirety of that person’s work. My feedback should be roughly in the same proportions as their work. This enables me to convey both the direct pieces of feedback and my assessment of the ratio in the whole. Continuing with the 90%/10% example, I should be giving vastly more positive reinforcement. That other person should be hearing vast amounts of positive feedback. This is not limited to people who work “for” you. This can be applied to everyone you have regular contact with and is relatd to my earlier post about, “if you see something, say something.”

There is a benefit for myself as well: If I’m only giving negative feedback, (focusing on that 10% as it were,) then it’s going to feel as if everything I encounter all day is negative. If I instead focus on increasing my ability to first notice that 90% of everything is great stuff, and then communicate that outwardly to the others, then it’s going to feel as if everything I encounter all day is positive. Since focusing on the negative stuff is one of my biggest problems, this is fertile ground indeed.

What’s your perception of what you encounter and does the feedback you give reflect that?

ɕ

Expressing gratitude

What if you, whenever people did good stuff for you, you let them know they had a positive effect on you? You might have to come up with a unique way of saying it if you want to make explicit that you aren’t saying “I owe you”. We’ll leave that as an exercise to the reader.  

~ J. Hazard, from https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/ctBCPaD3yYimEHXPu/magic-is-dead-give-me-attention

Somewhen around 2005 was the trough of my expression of gratitude. Having now spent increasing time with this radical new notion of “expressing gratitude” I can say for sure… that I really need to keep working on it.

I’ve been stingy with positive reinforcement for a loong time. As I’ve begun to explicitly practice the habit of expressing gratitude, externally to other people, the results have been obvious and beneficial. My current intention is work on lowering my resistence to expressing gratitude. The most recent way I’ve been reinforcing the habit is to hold in mind a common mantra which I’ve repurposed: If you see something, say something.

I’ve found three ways that I’ve been practicing expressing more gratitude. There are others, obviously, but these are the three I’m currently practicing.

The first way plays out in direct conversation. While discussing one topic, my mind produces a tangential thought about something positive this person did on some unrelated topic. Spurred on by, “if I see something, say something,” the practice is then to mention that positive, tangential thing at the next opportunity in the conversation. Loong ago, I’d have let those tangential thoughts go by, not wanting to interrupt our discussion.

In short: Simply express gratitude now.

The second way is more subtle. Since those random thoughts of gratitude-moments-past are coming up today, I didn’t notice them in the past, or I suppressed expressing them in the moment. This reminds me to be more vigilant looking for the opportunities to express gratitude.

In short: Get better at noticing opportunities to express gratitude in the current moment.

The third way is to make a conscious effort to go looking for missed opportunites to express gratitude. If I have a meeting planned with someone, when I’m preparing I can make the small effort to think of a few opportunities I’ve missed.

In short: Practice actively looking for opportunities to express gratitude.

tl;dr: Duh, Craig. Simply express gratitude.

ɕ

When is the last time you did nothing?

Blaise Pascal famously said that all human miseries arise from our inability to do this. But I think it’s really just an unwillingness. He’s right about the arising miseries though—not knowing how to deliberately do nothing is a crippling disease that leads to bizarre, self-defeating phenomena like workaholism, cigarette smoking, rude smartphone behavior (see below) and eventually war and pestilence.

~ David Cain, from http://www.raptitude.com/2016/03/4-absurdly-easy-things/

Not to be confused with, “doing something that doesn’t advance you towards a goal.” That’s still doing something. A lot of people spend a lot time doing all sorts of that busy-nothing; I see you on the street, in your car, at the cafe, the glow of the TV in your homes, and I can tell by the words that I overhear that all that stuff is important to you. There’s a good book, What Makes Your Brain Happy: And Why You Should Do the Opposite, which I offer for your consideration.

No, I’m asking about “doing nothing” as in sitting, or perhaps lying down, and being fully aware of the reality around you. For many years, I ran in terror from doing nothing. I ran to my todo lists or my goals or my habits designed to improve my life or my TV or my fiction books…

I started by intentionally setting out—if even for a few minutes—to do nothing. I’ve gotten pretty darn good at it these days. What I’m currently practicing is learning that doing nothing is the good stuff I should not feel guilty about.

Why not go do nothing right now?

ɕ

The journey

I’m fond of the old adage, what was once your workout will eventually be your warmup. It captures the inevitability of progress if you simply put in your time. In the beginning, the time spent seems to surface an endless sequence of unknown-unknowns. Bottomless, rabbit holes appear and you have to go far too far down the first few to learn an important lesson about depth versus breadth of knowledge. Soon you begin to realize the beginner’s journey is more or less the same for everyone. You get a few wins under your belt. Someone ahead of you compliments your work. You help one of your peers. Then you help one of those farther ahead of you, and realize the distance you’ve come is farther than the distance between you. You feed increasingly off of the energy of your peer group, bouncing ideas and challenges around like a seasoned practitioner. You look around only to realize there are now a large number of newer people on the journey who are behind you. You’re struck by a deeply pleasant emotional vertigo. You remember running in the halls with your brand new friends full of energy, and you feel recharged and invigorated; You might no longer run in the halls—age appropriateness and all that—but the energy from those who do is absolutely contagious every time. You struggle to refrain from proclaiming, “wait until you see what’s next!” Instead, you redouble your efforts by dashing ahead, behind the scenes, around the next corner, or over the next hill, to help with the preparations. You realize—you apprehend—that you’ve gotten as much out of giving back to help with the process, than you did from going through the process that first time. The cycle repeats. The learning, the friendships, the accomplishments—and quite frankly the advancement of the entire human race—builds with each iteration.

So, when is the last time you started something as a beginner?

When is the last time you showed up a bright eyed and bushy tailed neophyte?

When is the last time you helped the others? Those behind you, those ahead of you, and those around you?

ɕ

Dopamine

On the other hand, if you choose to work inside this messy metaphor, you get the thrill of finding a new path instead of merely following the old one.

~ Seth Godin, from https://seths.blog/2019/06/ahead-of-the-curve/

I was reading recently about ways to add pleasure and enjoyment by simply planning ahead for the more simple things one regularly does. For example, instead of just going out randomly for dinner, plan in the morning to go out for dinner at 6:15 this evening—even if it’s just to your regular, local spot. The anticipation of even a small, normally trivial and unconsidered act, will be pleasurable all day.

Which leads me to wondering about wether one of my problems is that I too often rush ahead. If I have an idea for a project, since I’ve a tremendous amount of freedom to choose what I do on a daily basis, there’s no reason (so my thinking goes,) that I shouldn’t just start on it right now. …and of course once I’ve started, I may as well sprint all the way through, and reveal my creation fully formed.

Except, there was no anticipation between the idea and the execution.

I already, intentionally do not act on a lot of ideas. (My motto for 2019 is, “no.”) But what if I intentionally begin to not act yet on my ideas to which I’ve said yes. If an idea is so great, it will certainly be there tomorrow. (I see now that there’s also an element of impulse control involved here.) Tomorrow—or next week—when I come back to the idea and find it still very interesting, then it might be time to schedule some time to work on it. Then let that sit for a few more days, and so on.

Some interesting food for thought. I’ll think about this some more tomorrow.

ɕ

Daily reminders

I learned then that even when I felt powerless to control my job or education — or anything else that seemed out of my hands — I always had control over my own mind and how I treated others. Even when I had nothing else, I could still be kind, just, generous, honest, loving and compassionate.

~ Susan Fowler, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/30/opinion/power-self-improvement.html

I find that I’ve often committed myself to an unmanageable number of responsibilities. There are so many things I have the personal power to do, that I seem to be compelled to constantly deploy my power. Worse, I feel guilty if I’m not constantly applying my power towards some goal. I end up with a forest of goals and a feeling of being trapped. Shortly after feeling trapped, I find myself sinking into the pits of dispair on the shore of the lake of learned helplessness.

One habit I’ve built to try to keep myself entirely away from that lake is a collection of daily reminders. Ever the process maniac, I have them in my personal task management system in a rotation that brings one up each day. There are enough of them that even though they are in a fixed order I never know which is next. Each feels like a fresh reminder. They are collected from Ben Franklin, Leo Babauta and some other places I’ve neglected to keep track of.

They are:

  1. AM I AN ENERGY-GIVER OR -TAKER?
  2. BECOME MINDFUL OF ATTACHMENTS THAT LEAD TO CLUTTER AND COMPLEXITY — For example, if you are attached to sentimental items, you won’t be able to let go of clutter. If you are attached to living a certain way, you will not be able to let go of a lot of stuff. If you are attached to doing a lot of activities and messaging everyone, your life will be complex.
  3. TEMPERANCE — Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  4. AM I LIKELY TO “ACT” OR “REACT” TO A TASK?
  5. SILENCE — Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  6. DISTRACTION, BUSYNESS AND CONSTANT SWITCHING ARE MENTAL HABITS — We don’t need any of these habits, but they build up over the years because they comfort us. We can live more simply by letting go of these mental habits. What would life be like without constant switching, distraction and busyness?
  7. ORDER — Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  8. AM I AUTHENTIC OR OBSEQUIOUS?
  9. SINGLE-TASK BY PUTTING YOUR LIFE IN FULL-SCREEN MODE — Imagine that everything you do — a work task, answering an email or message, washing a dish, reading an article — goes into full-screen mode, so that you don’t do or look at anything else. You just inhabit that task fully, and are fully present as you do it. What would your life be like? In my experience, it’s much less stressful when you work and live this way. Things get your full attention, and you do them much better. And you can even savor them.
  10. RESOLUTION — Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  11. HOW DO I TREAT SOMEONE I DON’T KNOW?
  12. FRUGALITY — Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  13. CREATE SPACE BETWEEN THINGS — Add padding to everything. Do half of what you imagine you can do. We tend to cram as much as possible into our days. And this becomes stressful, because we always underestimate how long things will take, and we forget about maintenance tasks like putting on clothes and brushing teeth and preparing meals. We never feel like we have enough time because we try to do too much. But what would it be like if we did less? What would it be like if we padded how long things took, so that we have the space to actually do them well, with full attention? What would it be like if we took a few minutes’ pause between tasks, to savor the accomplishment of the last task, to savor the space between things, to savor being alive?
  14. INDUSTRY — Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  15. IS THERE AN ELEMENT OF STRUGGLE IN MY HISTORY?
  16. MY OATH — Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I shall make no excuses and hold no grudges. I care not where I came from, only where I am going. I don’t compare myself to others, only to myself from yesterday. I shall not brag about successes nor complain about my struggles, but share my experiences and help my fellows. I know I impact those around me with my actions, and so I must move forward, every day. I acknowledge fear, doubt, and despair, but I do not let them defeat me.
  17. SINCERITY — Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  18. WHAT HAVE I BEEN READING?
  19. JUSTICE — Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  20. FIND JOY IN A FEW SIMPLE THINGS — For me, those include writing, reading/learning, walking and doing other active things, eating simple food, meditating, spending quality time with people I care about. Most of that doesn’t cost anything or require any possessions (especially if you use the library for books!). I’m not saying I have zero possessions, nor that I only do these few things. But to the extent that I remember the simple things I love doing, my life suddenly becomes simpler. When I remember, I can let go of everything else my mind has fixated on, and just find the simple joy of doing simple activities.
  21. MODERATION — Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  22. WOULD I WANT TO GO ON A LONG CAR RIDE WITH ME?
  23. GET CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT, AND SAY NO TO MORE THINGS — We are rarely very clear on what we want. When we see someone post a photo of something cool, we might all of a sudden get fixed on doing that too, and suddenly the course of our lives veer off in a new direction. Same thing if we read about something cool, or watch a video of a new destination or hobby. When someone invites us to something cool, we instantly want to say yes, because our minds love saying yes to everything, to all the shiny new toys. What if we became crystal clear on what we wanted in life? If we knew what we wanted to create, how we wanted to live … we could say yes to these things, and no to everything else. Saying no to more things would simplify our lives.
  24. CLEANLINESS — Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
  25. AM I SELF-AWARE?
  26. TRANQUILLITY — Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  27. PRACTICE DOING NOTHING, EXQUISITELY — How often do we actually do nothing? OK, technically we’re always “doing something,” but you know what I mean — just sit there and do nothing. No need to plan, no need to read, no need to watch something, no need to do a chore or eat while you do nothing. Just don’t do anything. Don’t accomplish anything, don’t take care of anything. What happens is you will start to notice your brain’s habit of wanting to get something done — it will almost itch to do something. This exposes our mental habits, which is a good thing. However, keep doing nothing. Just sit for awhile, resisting the urge to do something. After some practice, you can get good at doing nothing. And this leads to the mental habit of contentment, gratitude without complaining.
  28. CHASTITY — Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  29. WHAT IS MY TALK-TO-LISTEN RATIO?
  30. WE CREATE OUR OWN STRUGGLES — All the stress, all the frustrations and disappointments, all the busyness and rushing … we create these with attachments in our heads. By letting go, we can relax and live more simply.
  31. HUMILITY — Imitate Socrates.

ɕ

Deciding versus doing

Doing a pushup isn’t that hard, and with a fully defined program, once I’ve decided to go with it, a pushup is all I ever have to do. Push the floor away, and I will get there. On the action level that’s all I need to be thinking about. Trying to do a pushup while you’re simultaneously deciding whether it’s worthwhile is about ten times harder than just lifting your body off the floor.

~ David Cain, from http://www.raptitude.com/2014/02/keep-your-doing-and-your-deciding-away-from-each-other/

Hear! Hear! and once more, louder, for those in the back!

I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, the desired ratio for the time spent deciding versus doing is infinite. I strive to spend all of my time deciding. I try to never do anything. I try to always sit with the thinking and the deciding. …stay with it. …wait. …keep thinking. …no, I’m not yet done deciding. …no, do not initiate action.

Because no matter how hard I try to stay with the deciding, my urge to do eventually forces me into action. I never have trouble shifting from deciding to doing.

This is very closely related to my touch-stone phrase for 2019, which is, “no.” In 2018 I tried the classic, “HELL YES! …or no,” and I still said yes far too often. So for 2019 I’m trying to always say, “no.” I’m trying to spend all my time deciding.

Halfway through 2019 and I’m still getting far too much done.

ɕ

Are you self-aware

The following is from Bruce Lee’s hand-written essay entitled, The Passionate State of Mind, which I discovered in the Artist of Life by J Little.

To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are. Whether being different results in dissimulation or a real change of heart—it cannot be realized without self-awareness. Yet is is remarkable that the very people who are most self-dissatisfied and crave most for a new identity have the least self-awareness. They have turned away from an unwanted self and hence never had a good look at it. The result is that those most dissatisfied can neither dissimulate nor attain a real change of heart. They are transparent, and their unwanted qualities persist through all attempts at self-dramatization and self-transformation.

~ Bruce Lee

I wish I had read that 20 years ago. But I suspect I wouldn’t have understood it the way I do now. I only understand because of the path I’ve taken through my life.

Bruce Lee was not an Exceptional Philosopher; Please stop quoting, “be water my friend,” as if it’s the ultimate grain of wisdom for the ages. Rather, I suggest that Bruce Lee was an Exceptional Person because he asked questions and he followed those lines of enquiry wherever they led, often inward into his thinking, beliefs and goals.

Are you self-aware enough to ask, “am I satisfied with myself?” and what are you going to do with the answer?

ɕ

Feeding the mind

https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/08/21/lewis-carroll-feeding-the-mind/

I wonder if there is such a thing in nature as a FAT MIND? I really think I have met with one or two: minds which could not keep up with the slowest trot in conversation; could not jump over a logical fence, to save their lives; always got stuck fast in a narrow argument; and, in short, were fit for nothing but to waddle helplessly through the world.

~ Lewis Carroll

What an interesting metaphor! Can a mind be overfed? Can a mind undergoing regular, additional exercise require more feeding? Are there different diets—composition of the nourishment, not strategies to lose weight—for the mind?

Am I the sort of person who takes seriously the specifics of nutrition and exercise of the mind?

What would “junk food” be for the mind? What would “comfort food” be for the mind? What’s the equivalent of quadrupedal movement for the mind? What would over-training be for the mind?

…and why do I have the urge to dump out the “cabinets” where I store my mind’s nourishment in order to reboot my mental diet?

No answers today. Only questions.

ɕ

A grievous error

“Setting the bar too high.”
“Setting stretch goals with the knowledge that coming up short will be the norm.”

…are symptoms of forward-looking assessment of progress. Assessing progress by looking forward is a grievous error. “What have I accomplished?” is only measurable by looking back at what has been accomplished. This error is one of my big problems—I’d even say it’s my #2 problem. I’m working on it by practicing looking back to assess progress. :) My instinct and habit though is to look forward. Thus, more practice is needed to make looking back the default.

What have I accomplished?
What is the affect of what I have done?
How far have I moved?
How much have I learned?

Such questions can only be answered by considering the change between two points in my past.

The hard part—at least for me—is to keep out the “I wanted.” “I accomplished that much, but I wanted to accomplish [insert goal here],” creeps in through the open door of assessment.

By shifting my eyes just a bit to my left, I can see my personal oath which is stuck next to my monitor. There are a few phrases in it which are specifically meant to help me keep, “but I wanted to…” firmly locked outside.

ɕ