Feelings Follow Behavior – Grow Great Daily Brief #203 – May 10, 2019

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Back in 2010 I saw an online article entitled, “Action Creates Emotion: Want to change how you’re feeling? Change what you’re doing.”

In the summer of 1971, a team of researchers led by Psychology professor Phillips Zimbardo divided a group of undergraduates randomly into two groups, prisoners and prison guards, and arranged for them to act out their respective roles in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building.

Within days, the guards began to display authoritarian attitudes, ultimately subjecting some of the prisoners to intentional humiliation. The prisoners developed passive attitudes, many sinking into a depressed state. The experiment had to be stopped after only six days.

The Stanford prison experiment is often said to illustrate the power of social roles in shaping behavior, but it also illustrates the power of behavior to elicit real powerful emotions. The guards in Zimbardo’s experiments were not really guards. And the prisoners were not prisoners. They were all volunteers. They were all students. But once they began to act the part, they began to feel the part.

We often want to change how we feel. It’s why people go to a therapist. Sadness. Depression. Anxiety. We want relief from the sober seriousness of their feelings. That’s why Monday I began with an episode about laughter. People who suffer chronic bad feelings can’t laugh.

The other day I’m told the sad story of a woman suffering ill health. Her weight has piled on through the years. She now tops the scales north of 300 pounds. It’s taking a toll even though she knows what to do to get her life back on a course toward improvement. Like most, she’s waiting until she feels better.

Do you see the problem?

She feels the way she does because her actions have resulted in putting her in this state. She’s not ignorant of what she needs to do, but she’s not motivated to change. While she’s waiting, her health is failing. She’d best not wait too long.

What about YOU?

What are you waiting for?

Foolishly we try to control how we feel or what we think. Meanwhile, our minds are filled with feelings and thoughts we don’t want. Much of the time they’re quite opposite of what we desire.

Enter action. Meaningful actions and behaviors that can serve us. Or not.

Do you ever feel helpless or hopeless? Of course you do. Sometimes. We all do.

Sit there passively concentrating on not feeling that way and it’ll only deepen. Or face the reality that when you feel that way you’re still able to start your day and go about with whatever chores stare at you through your to-do-list. How are you able to do that if you’re helpless?

Fact is, you’re in control of your actions. Including the ones you’re choosing to not do.

“But I don’t feel like doing that,” is our battle cry.

Translation: I don’t feel like doing that because it’s too hard. Too difficult.

Question: Is too hard or difficult the same as impossible?

Hardly.

What about courage, tenacity, and determination — the very ingredients for change, improvement, and growth?

New things often scare us. That includes new habits of living. The poor obese woman is likely afraid of changing her eating habits. Maybe like so many others she says to herself, “I’ll just fail at it anyway.” But isn’t she failing now? Failing to take care of herself. Failing to increase her self-esteem. Failing to live her best life. She’s spiraling. Perhaps a serious health scare will impact her, but she could easily wait too late.

Deep down she knows her life is out of control – even though it’s fully within her control. Like us, she’s living in a way to temporary satisfy herself. To make herself feel better in the moment, but to destroy her.

It happens. To any of us. We lose control of our lives. Our expectations lower. We sink deeper and deeper.

Alcoholism and many other maladies overcome our lives. Behavioral problems. The only remedy for addictions – including overeating – is to do something. Alcoholics can’t think about change. They can’t miraculously change how they feel. But they can behave differently.

It’s why support groups exist. They’re not restricted to addictions, but other sufferings benefit from them, too. To illustrate I’ve commonly used the group – the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children.

These poor people have done nothing. Their feelings aren’t based on anything they’ve done, but in order to help change their feelings toward something profitable, they need support and help from others who understand. It beats sitting around their lonely houses pining about their condition – something they have every right to do, but it’s not profitable. They need to find their new normal so they can move forward in spite of their grief. The organization is dedicated to help them do that. What better place to find the resolve to take the actions necessary to move forward with life in spite of your tragic situation?

Sadly, society has done a disservice for countless millions who suffer a variety of conditions through no fault of their own. Well intended people and systems view many forms of mental illness issues as beyond the control of the person, which fosters people feeling and behaving like victims. Yes there are many psychological issues that can be effectively treated with the help of medication, but it certainly doesn’t mean all these people are without any control. It does mean society’s attempts to remove whatever sigma may be attached to any of these diagnoses has resulted in the likely misdiagnosis of behavioral problems that may not have anything to do with legitimate mental health concerns.

When my kids are young (back in the 1980’s) it was quite popular to hear parents with kids who had ADD (attention deficit disorder). Fact is, many of these kids were just – well, kids! Acting like a kid doesn’t mean your child has ADD.

So we too often compensate people – like the obese woman – with validation to make them feel better, but it has the opposite effect. They’re given incentives to surrender their sense of responsibility and behavior. We rob them of their self-esteem and self-respect. We make them victims thinking we’re serving them. Instead, we’re victimizing them.

How do you feel?

What feelings do you have that you’d like to change?

There’s only one remedy for changing your feelings.

Yes, sometimes medication is necessary. I’m not a doctor and you should absolutely seek a mental health professional if you’re feeling despondent and it’s more than a passing feeling.

Each of us is obligated to change our behavior. Each of us has to accept responsibility for our own actions and outcomes.

Refuse it and you’ll remain a victim. Victims feel a sense of shame and blame. The feelings don’t serve us because victims act like victims instead of acting like the people capable of behaving better.

That’s why I end each show with two action verbs that depend on you taking action.

Be well. DO good. GROW great.

RC

P.S. Are you a small business owner in the United States? And by “small” I don’t mean the size of your revenue or your headcount. Rather, I mean you’re close to the work. You’re close to the customers and the people in your company who serve them. I invite you to join me at The Peer Advantage by Bula Network, an online peer advisory group of just 7 entrepreneurs interested in growing great. This is a paid for mastermind group of seven small business owners who will meet online every other week to support each other, serve each other and invest in learning, understanding and growth. Visit the website at ThePeerAdvantage.com and complete the application today.

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Today, let’s continue this week’s focus on our mental health. Unlike physical health, we tend to think mental health is for other people, not us. We’re not unhealthy mentally. Or so we think (even though we give it hardly any considerations). We don’t always take care of ourselves like we should.

Few topics get as much attention as happiness. Seems everybody is chasing it. You’d think all this pursuit would enable more of us to figure out how to achieve it. I know why it’s so elusive.

We’re chasing the wrong thing.

“Don’t worry, be happy” was not just a monotonous song, but it’s empty advice. Like telling the obese person to “be thin.” Or the poor to “be rich.”

Funny thing is the more society focuses on chasing happiness the more elusive it seems to be. We only seem to be elevating our anxiety over our failure to reach the goal. What if happiness isn’t to blame? What if we’re looking at the wrong goal?

Don’t you want to be happy? Of course. Everybody wants to be happy. And we experience happiness at moments of our life. There’s the rub. Moments.

That’s what happiness is. It’s a moment. Chasing a moment is like trying to bottle a sensation. You feel it, then it’s gone. Wonderful while it lasted, but temporary. Not sustainable.

Addiction is fueled by such sensations. It’s destructive. Largely because it’s unrealistic and fake masking reality that needs to be faced.

Does this mean chasing happiness isn’t worthwhile? Of course not. But it may mean that devoting ourselves to our own happiness may set us up for failure and selfishness. You’re not likely looking at it that way though.

A problem with personal happiness is the imposition it can put on others. But it depends on how you more deeply define happiness. Many people view happiness as doing what they most want to do.

We’re in the car heading for some restaurant. Nobody quite knows where…yet. “Where would you like to go?” I’m asked. Not having any preference I submit, “I don’t care. You decide.” I mean it.

Somebody picks a place I’m not terribly fond of. My preference would have been elsewhere. But am I now unhappy? No, not really.

We’re seated and folks decide to buy appetizers. “What would you like?” I’m asked. Again, I don’t have a strong preference. “Whatever you guys want would be fine!” They order some type of dip that wouldn’t have made my top 10 list of favorite appetizers. Am I unhappy? No, not really.

Why?

Because while I have a personal preference, I don’t care about it enough to impose on others. It just doesn’t matter that much to me. And I can say I’m honestly happy that these other folks got what they most wanted at the time. That’s a happiness I’m opting for over being able to eat what I may prefer.

Yes, it’s a small thing, but I’ve seen grown adults pitch a wide-eyed fit over lesser things. In fact, I’ve seen adults behave poorly in restaurants when they didn’t get their way. Their happiness trumped everything else. Colossally selfish.

I’m all in favor of pursuing happiness. I’m just encouraging you to rethink how you may view your personal happiness. Does your happiness involve helping others get their way – achieve their preferences – or does it always revolve around you getting what YOU want? There’s nothing noble about the latter.

Translate that to the happiness that may be evading you at work. If you find yourself less than happy – discontent even – then I’d urge you to reconsider some things. Namely, I’d urge you to think about how you lead and serve others.

The path forward in building a more successful business is your ability to help other people get what they most want. This isn’t limited to your customers. It includes your employees or team members. How determined are you in helping them get what they most want? Your answer can determine your self-satisfaction and happiness.

That’s why happiness as a goal is complicated. It depends on how you define happiness and how you view your service to others.

I hate the term servant leadership because it presupposes there’s another valid kind. It’s redundant. True leadership is serving others. It’s not about you. It’s about the people you lead.

Toward that end, I think happiness should be a goal when leaders derive pleasure from helping others achieve what they most want. Honestly, I think a better term for us to pursue as leaders is JOY. Joy is more lasting, deeper.

While I may say letting others decide where to eat makes me happy, that’s not entirely true. What is true is that it gives me joy. It makes me feel good knowing that I prefer others get to go where they’d like to go. No, it doesn’t make me noble or self-sacrificing. Not really. It just means I’m perfectly willing and happy to surrender what might suit me personally so others can be more suited to their preference.

You’re either approaching your life and work as though you’re the center of the universe, or you’re approaching it as though others are. That viewpoint will determine whether happiness is a suitable and honorable goal.

Find happiness in doing for others what only you can do. Your superpower as a leader is your willingness to help them in ways that may be unique to only you. Find happiness in doing that work!

Be well. Do good. Grow great.

RC

Stop Lying To Yourself – Grow Great Daily Brief #201 – May 8, 2019

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This week’s theme is your mental health. Each week we’ll explore a single topic that impacts the lives of small business owners. Usually, the topics apply to executives and leaders in most any arena. You’re smart. You can make the application as it suits you. I’m just here to help you figure it out.

Randy


 

For the past few years, I’ve had a growing fascination with character strengths. Mostly because our beliefs drive our default behaviors. It’s the reality of who we are at a moment in time. It’s not static because we’re learning, changing and growing.

Lying is easy.

Lying to yourself, even easier.

It’s not only what you say to yourself, but it’s also what you say to others. Most of us put some importance on the way others see us. We care about the opinions of others. Sometimes even people we don’t know. Or like.

Pretenders. Wannabes. Call them what you will, we all hate them. The hypocrites. Except when it’s us. Then it morphs into the fake-it-til-you-make-it logic loop.

Most folks have a more clear idea of what they’d like to be rather than a true idea of who they actually are. You could more easily describe your ideal than your reality. Evidence of our proficiency at lying to ourselves.

Yesterday we ended the show encouraging you to put in the daily work to grow your self-respect. That theme is in play with today’s show, too. Actually, it’s in play no matter the topic of GROW GREAT because I don’t see any way to grow great without it. Too many of us don’t like who or what we are. Easier to create a narrative that makes us feel better than to put in the hard work to make ourselves better. Don’t use a bandage to make a temporary fix. Opt for the surgery to make yourself well.

Denial is the chief tool of lying to ourselves. Leaders aren’t immune. We deny there’s a problem. We deny we’re struggling. We deny we lack answers. Do we think if we deny it long enough then maybe it’ll be true?

Addicts deny their state. “I’m not addicted,” is the battle cry of every addict. It’s why AA thrives on the tradition of introducing oneself followed by the statement of fact, “And I’m an alcoholic.” It’s the reality check necessary to stop the denial and delusion.

This isn’t about abusing yourself. Nor is it about self-flagellation. It’s about knowing where you are so you can figure out to get to where you want. No different than any GPS app. All directions are based on your current location. Fool the app all you want and you’re only hurting your own chances to arrive where you aim to go.

Along with denial is the high price of promises. Mostly broken promises. All of us make promises to ourselves that go unfulfilled. “I’m gonna ____________, ” is a commonly heard phrase. I grew up mostly in the South. Old folks who grew up on farms recalled hours spent working the cotton fields. Super difficult work. Many of them would say, “Mean to don’t pick no cotton” which simply meant, saying you mean to do something isn’t the same thing as doing it. True enough.

Still we make promises to ourselves. We imagine it the way it should be rather than facing the reality of how it truly is. But tomorrow we’ll do better. We’ll do this, or that. And it’ll be great. The problem is we don’t follow through.

After all is said and done, far more is said than done.

Do you believe in luck? I don’t mean do you believe it ever happens. I mean, do you believe success hinges on it? Do you think the people who find success are lucky and the rest aren’t? It’s just another act of self-deception that might make us feel better in the moment, but it can cause us irreparable damage. Just more lies we sometimes tell ourselves for temporary comfort.

You’re seeing another theme emerge in this series on our mental health. Stop investing in short-term fixes for long-term welfare. It’s a cultural drive and I get it. We want to take a pill to make it all better. We don’t want to put in the hard work or make the sacrifice that would result in long-term improvement. Easier is a better choice but just another lie we’re willing to tell ourselves.

Truth. Evidence. These are invaluable to us. They help us become better people. They help us become better business owners, executives and leaders.

I love to dream of what’s possible. Most of us do. Embrace that. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking your dream is real until you put in the work to make it so.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC

Please Share

This week’s theme is your mental health. Each week we’ll explore a single topic that impacts the lives of small business owners. Usually, the topics apply to executives and leaders in most any arena. You’re smart. You can make the application as it suits you. I’m just here to help you figure it out.

Randy


 

You wake up, scan the headlines on whatever home page you use for your browser. The headlines are easy to categorize. Celebrity stuff. Weirdness. Politics. Lots of venom spewing. Scandal.

Sex sells, but so does fear and anxiety. I’d argue fear sells more effectively and efficiently. It fuels us to play catch up because of our dissatisfaction. So common is this that there’s a cultural meme about it, FOMO. Fear of missing out.

If FOMO isn’t impacting us, then the fear of something awful happening to us may haunt us. We’re driven daily to fear many things that are improbable. Just because some specific bad thing happened to somebody doesn’t mean it’s likely to happen to us.

Fear mongering is rampant. From conspiracy theorists to moms against vaccinating their children we have plenty of things to fear. Violent crime, storms, global warming…there’s pending doom all around us.

Among the things that define us is our fear. In the quest to learn more about who you are, hon in on what you worry about and you’ll gain some clarity. Largely, our fears feel justified. After all, life is full of uncertainty. Anxiety lurks around every corner. Life is filled with things to fear.

Exaggerated fear wrecks the daily lives of Americans. According to The Chapman University Survey On American Fear for the first time in 5 years (since they began this survey) the majority of Americans are generally afraid of all the top 10 fears. The top fear? 74% fear corrupt government officials! (as though there is another kind 😉 )

“More Americans are afraid than ever before” – there’s your headline. I’d propose that we’ve never had such depth of information and data, but most of it is pure garbage and inaccurate. Just go back to that home page on your browser and look at the headlines designed to get you to click. An awful lot of them are deceptive at best, outright lies at worst.

Look at that list produced by The Chapman University. What jumps out at me is how ridiculously close pollution is to things like not having enough money for the future, or people you love getting ill or dying. We seem to love fear and outrage.

How can we resist it? It’s in our face constantly.

Ben Michealis, PhD wrote a piece in 2015 that echoes what I’ve always believed. He writes that the opposite of FOMO is gratitude. I’d only amp it up slightly by arguing that gratitude is the way forward past most fears, including the FOMO.

Gratitude leads the way to build up our resistance to the daily dosage of fear mongering. 

It’s not lost on me that of those top 10 fears of the survey, only one is very personal. The 4th one, not having enough money for the future. And it could be argued that many people don’t feel a personal responsibility for that one. It doesn’t mean we can’t contribute but look closely at the list. We can easily remove our responsibility for each of them. They’re things that can happen to us. Things beyond our control…if we choose to see them like that. And based on behavior, that’s how most of us prefer to roll. Victims.

It seems we’re easily convinced that the biggest threats to our well-being are external. Things foisted on us as opposed to things we do to ourselves.

Don’t misunderstand me. Fear is a valid emotion in the right context. It fuels achievement and drives us when we channel it well. It cripples us when we don’t. I even did a video a while back on being a fan of fear, especially for entrepreneurs.

Fear presents a problem. It’s not a long-term strategy. Fear won’t drive lasting change. It can be a great short-term catalyst, but that’s why Dr. Ben’s advice is sound. Embrace gratitude and seek self-respect. Those will impact our actions and behaviors to propel us forward.

Random bad events. Our own mortality. The mortality of our family. These are the facts of our lives. All of our lives. Logically we know that hiding in a cave won’t stave off some things that are inevitable, like our own death. But we can resist the daily grind of fear mongering by doing two things.

One, increase gratitude.

Count your blessings. Literally. Figurately.

Be as comprehensive as possible. Air. Water. Food. Clothing. A bed at night. Safe shelter. All the things we tend to overlook because they’re just so basic.

Then expand out to the unessential things that make your life pleasant. Air conditioning. Indoor plumbing. Tasty food. Ice to make a drink cold. And to preserve food so we don’t have to hunt today for the food we’ll eat today.

And this is stuff. Focus on people. Focus on what the people who love you have done for you. Focus on what others have done to give you the opportunities.

Devote some quiet time each day to sit back and reflect on all the things for which you should be grateful. Then concentrate on becoming grateful (or more grateful).

Put some power behind it. Reach out to the people for whom you’re grateful. Let them know you’re thankful for what they’re doing for you.

Don’t take a day off. Do it as often as you can.

Two, limit the noise of fear.

You can’t completely shut it out because it’s all around us, but you can be more intentional in resisting it or ignoring it.

Manage. That means you take control of your exposure to fear mongering.

Limit, ditch or improve your management of social media. Pay close attention to the impact it has on you. Gauge your emotions. Go on a social media fast to see how different you feel without it.

Pay attention to the internal noise, too. Figure out what fuels your fears and anxiety. Then devise a solution to better manage the noise that sparks your feelings.

Don’t aim for perfection. You won’t rid yourself of all fear or anxiety. Nor should you. Some of it works to serve you. It drives you to take the actions necessary to get things done. Aim your work on increasing your self-respect at the end of each day. Promote that instead of fear.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC

Please Share

This week’s theme is your mental health. Each week we’ll explore a single topic that impacts the lives of small business owners. Usually, the topics apply to executives and leaders in most any arena. You’re smart. You can make the application as it suits you. I’m just here to help you figure it out.

Randy


 

Mental health professionals continue to see alarming increases in clinical depression. The use of antidepressants has doubled since the 80s. Young people, old people and all those in between are more prone to feeling depressed in 2019 than in years past. Some speculate that it’s our pace and all the push/pulls of technology in our lives. Others point out the damage of false expectations set up by social media where we busy ourselves comparing ourselves. I’m not a scientist so I’m not able to speculate with any valid insights about depression. Even so, I certainly have seen plenty of anecdotal evidence that all those factors (and others) likely play a part.

Contradictions

I see people wrestling with all the confusion and contradiction that surrounds us. On one hand, we hear people yelling about inclusion and tolerance while simultaneously being completely intolerant. We see people given second chances while others are vilified without so much as a fair hearing. We have people behaving poorly while Instagram models embrace lasciviousness.

Largely, we’re a society that preaches one thing and does something different.

From excess to minimalism we’re surrounded by advice that we should grab all we can, work as hard as we can, spend more time at work…or live frugally, save as much as we can, live off the grid and enjoy nature.

Build the business as big as possible. Versus create something small, but meaningful.

Big houses versus tiny houses. Large luxury automobiles versus small, electric cars. YouTube channels and Instagram profiles chasing millions of followers. Ditching social media altogether, choosing to remain as anonymous as possible.

Life at the extremes. It’s taking a toll on all of us. Even if you claim you don’t want to participate, you’re still living in the society and culture impacts you.

Depressed people often can’t remember the last time they laughed out loud. 

These same people may easily say “yes” when asked, “Do you have a good sense of humor?” Have you ever met a person who admits they lack a good sense of humor? Me neither.

When people are gloomy, sullen, or stubborn and harsh — ask them to tell you about the last time they laughed out loud. If that’s their typical demeanor they’ll likely have a tough time with the challenge.

When I was a child I’d sometimes thumb through my grandparent’s copy of Reader’s Digest. Each edition had a joke or funny section about laughter being the best medicine. Sometimes the content would make me smile. Other times not so much. But I was a kid. What I did understand was that laughter did improve our lives. I couldn’t have imagined life without it. Even more so now that I’m older.

Why would we talk about our growth as leaders and business owners by focusing on laughter? Because it’s important. And because in too many instances it’s missing. Our lives aren’t improved by being stoic, reserved and humorless.

This human condition is hard. For all of us. To laugh at ourselves and the circumstances we wrestle with is to acknowledge our humanity. We don’t have all the answers. We’re all still working to figure it out. So many things are out of our control it makes us feel ridiculously stupid. And here we are getting out of bed day after day to give it another go.

Emotions. Some say there’s no place for them in business. Or any other serious-minded endeavor. Hooey!

Head and heart. They go together. There’s no separating them.

Courage isn’t just head stuff. Or heart stuff. Neither is humor.

Highs and lows typify all our lives. Tears. Laughter. All those in-between things, too.

Living demands courage. Courage requires laughter. Especially the ability to see the absurdity in our lives, and our own stumbling and bumbling our way toward whatever success awaits us. It’s not only courageous, but it’s also healing.

John Prine is a favorite singer/songwriter. One of my favorite lines is in his song, Far From Me.

Well, ya know, she still laughs with me
But she waits just a second too long.

Laughter is life stuff. Real.

The lack of laughter, or in John’s case with a girl who broke his heart – the timing of the laughter – speaks to the lack of light or optimism in life. Why let the darkness overrun us? We’ve got too much to be thankful for, too much yet to accomplish and too many people to impact. And too many more laugh out loud moments in which to shine.

Be well. Do good. Grow great.

And laugh out loud today. Often.

RC