Tag Archives: positive habits

How to Calm Your Nerves Before a Big Event

2 minutes to read

You’re getting ready for a job interview. You have a major presentation that could mean a promotion. The prospective client you’re meeting could be the biggest deal of your career. And you’re nervous. Sweaty palms, dry mouth, and loss of the ability to speak seem to be conspiring to make you fail. What do you do?

How to Calm Your Nerves Before a Big Event

The Benefit of Rituals

Baseball fans know the unusual things players do when they come up to bat. As silly as some of them look, research shows they may be on to something. No less an authority than Scientific American indicates that rituals can affect your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Not only can they help you reduce anxiety and increase confidence, they also help with grieving, whether the loss of a loved one or losing the lottery.

More interesting, rituals can benefit you even if you say you don’t believe in them. There’s no scientific evidence that a particular ritual will lead to a specific result. However, my work helping service members deal with losses such as death of a colleague, divorce, and separation from the military has shown that all handled their grief better when they followed the ritual designed to cope with loss and change.

Calm Your Nerves

You can create your own ritual for decreasing anxiety before a job interview or important meeting. The essential elements are:

  1. Make it simple.
  2. Make it physical, mental, and spiritual.
  3. Create a message to say out loud.
  4. Connect these elements to your desired outcome.
  5. Practice it until you’re comfortable performing it.
  6. Schedule time specifically for performing the ritual.

I go through a simple five-step ritual that takes about 15 minutes before every important business meeting. Despite having practiced and performed it ad nauseam, the first step is bringing up the list of steps so I perform them in order.

Put the powerful tool of ritual to work for you. Examples of things you can do abound. If you need some help let me know.

How do you prepare for important meetings? Please comment below.

How to Make a Powerful First Impression

3 minutes to read

First impressions. Everyone forms them and is subject to them. No relationship begins without a first impression. In some cases, you can overcome a situation that starts off on the wrong foot. If you’ve recovered from such an experience, you know how difficult it is getting back on track. In most cases the old adage, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” rules.

How to Make a Powerful First Impression

The Dominance of a First Impression

Harvard Psychologist Nalini Ambady and her colleague Robert Rosenthal examined the power of first impressions. In the 1990s, they did a series of experiments comparing the ratings given to college professors by students at the end of the semester with ratings that another group of students gave the same professors based only on three ten-second silent video clips shown prior to any actual lectures.

Ambady and Rosenthal found both groups essentially agreed on how good or bad the professors were. As far as their performance ratings were concerned, the first impression from ten seconds of silent video counted for almost as much as a whole semester’s worth of interaction.

Think about that in the context of an HR person reviewing 100 or more applications for a job. While you may get more than 10 seconds, in this first screening he’s looking for any reason to weed you out.

Controlling How People Perceive You

As a chaplain, I faced this issue every day. At stake was whether people would come to me when they needed help. Fortunately, the two decades I spent in business prepared me to quickly establish rapport with people.

These days, with so much of business happening online, someone’s first impression of you is likely to be based on something you write. Especially if you’re looking for a job, your resume and a cover letter is a company’s introduction to you. That being the case, you’re being assessed on your writing skills. It’s a good idea to know what to do. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Customize everything – You’re communicating with individuals. Even if they don’t treat you that way, get in the habit of customizing cover letters, resumes, and everything else.
  2. Spelling counts – While it’s true that some people don’t care about spelling, how will you know if that’s the case with the person you’re writing to? You cannot rely on spell checkers since they don’t detect the wrong word. Stick with the standard spelling of words unless you prize creative spelling over your finances.
  3. Grammar counts too. Do you know the difference between the homonyms there, their, and they’re? I can’t tell you what percentage of HR people do but I bet it’s high. Yet countless times I receive correspondence using the wrong one. There are numerous grammar traps to trip you up. Check out the Grammarly Blog. You’ll get great information in an easy to understand and fun format.
  4. Double and triple check before sending – Proofread everything, whether it’s a casual email or a formal letter. While Microsoft Word purports to check syntax, it is not infallible. Have someone else read what you write, especially if it’s important.

Your high school English teacher was right. Your ability to clearly express your thoughts in writing is a crucial skill. Your access to the marketplace where you plan to turn all your other skills into a high-income career rests on the first impression you give, in writing.

What resources do you use to improve your writing skill? Please comment below.

How to Kick the Routine of Love Right Now

2-1/2 minutes to read

“It was my own lovely lady and she said, ‘Aw it’s you.’ Then we laughed for a moment and I said, ‘I never knew…’” ∞ Rupert Holmes

Want to fall in love in the New Year? Have your eye on someone special – like your spouse? Of all the gifts you can give your mate, children, and yourself, none tops falling and staying in love. But how do you prevent your marriage from becoming dull and routine or get it out of this state if it’s already there?

How to Kick the Routine of Love Right Now

Fitness Benefits of a Loving Marriage

Studies show married people’s physical and mental fitness exceeds that of unmarried people. They are happier, live longer, drink less, and have fewer doctors’ appointments. Loving spouses encourage positive behavior such as exercise and flossing while discouraging unhealthy ones like heavy drinking. When you’re experiencing the positive effects of love you’ll get fewer colds and wounds may heal more quickly.

Many longtime married couples pine for the heady days of new love. When the brain activity of longtime married couples was compared to couples newly in love, while both had neural activity associated with intense pleasure, the newer couples also had high levels of anxiety, tension, and obsession. The uncertainty of these relationships in part cancelled out the pleasure effect. Seasoned spouses remember the good feelings but forget the stress.

Avoiding the Routine of Love

Key, then, is maintaining that lovin’ feeling. For a long time, researchers believed eliminating conflict and tension led to enduring marriages. But more recent studies indicate that boredom is worse. Like I wrote about previously, love and hate are two sides of the same coin. Indifference destroys relationships.

That being the case, you need to invest some time and energy keeping your marriage vital. Here are three easy, fun ways:

  1. Find out something about your spouse you never knew before. No matter how long you’ve been together you don’t know everything. Periodically pretend you’re on a first date. Does she like Piña Coladas? Does he like to walk in the rain?
  2. Unexpectedly serve your spouse. Do it purely for love’s sake. Bring her breakfast in bed. Get his car washed for him.
  3. Praise your spouse. Who doesn’t like receiving a compliment? Make it pointed, sincere, and intentional.

Make sure these habits that don’t become habitual. Spontaneity is good (as long as your spouse likes surprises). They need not be elaborate. Heartfelt interactions with the desire to connect will keep dullness away. More than a feeling, as your marriage matures love is an action. Just like doing the same exercise over and over yields diminishing returns, so too do the same expressions of love.

Habits are good. But your routine of love should embrace discovery, service, and sincere connection.

How do you keep love alive in your marriage? Please comment below.

How to Conquer Negative Self-Talk

3 minutes to read

You make a mistake or cause a major foul up. What’s the audio loop that plays in your head? Does it include words like stupid or bonehead? Do you accuse yourself of always messing up or never getting it right? Given the choice between a benign spin on your actions or berating yourself do you inevitably choose to give yourself a couple of swift kicks? You’ve embraced negative self-talk.

How to Conquer Negative Self-Talk

You Cannot Control Your Thoughts

Despite all of the articles and blog posts purporting to teach you how to control your thoughts you can’t. Harvard University psychologist Daniel Wegner’s research has shown that trying very hard not to think about something almost guarantees that you will think about it. But you don’t need a Ph.D. to know this is true. Think about the last time your spouse or child criticized you. The harder you tried to forget it the more often it came to mind. Perhaps just reading this article has stirred a recollection of some regrettable blunder. Sorry about that.

Part of the problem is we talk to ourselves all day long. But most of the time we pay little attention to the dialogue going on in our heads. We focus on upcoming tasks or music. These drown out harmless daily musings.

We’ve been conditioned to reject positive self-talk. We fear that if we verbalized these thoughts, we’d be labeled conceited or narcissistic. So, like our neutral self-talk, we habitually discard the upbeat things we think about ourselves.

That leaves negative self-talk as the only inner voice we embrace. No wonder when something goes wrong you hear your inner critic loud and clear. It has an open microphone in your head and a captive audience.

Verbalize Positive Self-Talk

So if intentional thought control doesn’t work, what does?

Drown out the negative chorus chanting in your mind.

While general affirmations are fine, you’ll do better to write specific ones aimed at conquering the worst things you say about yourself. If your inner voice scolds you for lacking self-control, combat it by saying out loud and with conviction, “I am disciplined. I control myself and do not succumb to temptation.”

When recommending this to a woman who sought my counsel she felt saying such a thing would be dishonest.

So is it true you’re always the negative view of yourself? I doubt it. The best way to make positive change is to see yourself as already having accomplished it. In that light, positive self-talk is more honest.

You may feel uncomfortable or silly at first. If so find a private place where you won’t be interrupted. I’ve used the shower and my car. Just like singing, you get nice resonance in the shower.

You cannot turn off negative self-talk. But you can conquer it by replacing the impulse to self-criticism with the habit of self-understanding. Some of the skirmishes will be disappointing but it’s a war well worth winning.

How do combat negative self-talk? Please comment below.

A Successful Life is Like a Jigsaw Puzzle

4 minutes to read

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Awaken your desire. Setting aside goals that require a change of physiology or suspension of the laws of economics (like my becoming the next Dean Martin) you may feel fear rather than ambition. Therein lies the challenge. How do you open your mind to truly aspirational thinking?

A Successful Life is Like a Jigsaw Puzzle

Build a Jigsaw Puzzle

Jigsaw puzzles are one of my favorite games. But when I open the box and dump it out I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. The thousands of pieces look alike. Signage, sections with a prominent pattern, these are easily put together. I save the sky for last. There’s little color variation so to finish the puzzle I group the pieces by shape and start trying them one by one.

The repetitive process is boring. But reward is assured if I stick with it long enough. Each piece fit into the puzzle brings me closer to my goal.

Now there are times when two pieces are so similar I don’t discover my mistake until another part of the puzzle won’t fit together. Then I have to find the error and start rebuilding from there. Still, success is guaranteed. Eventually, all the pieces of the puzzle with come together and the picture will be complete.

Build a Puzzle Without Looking at the Picture on the Box

It’s easier to build the puzzle when you keep the picture on the box in front of you. You can more quickly complete the frame. Then you can gather groups of pieces, like those for green bushes, where they fit in the overall picture.

If you hide the picture, you can still build the frame pretty quickly. Once that’s done you’ll recognize certain pieces belong together. It will take longer to figure out what the overall picture is, but success delayed is not success denied. Despite the extra time, you will complete the puzzle.

Your Life is a Jigsaw Puzzle

Some people are so afraid of the chaos of thousands of pieces they never open up their boxes and venture out. Others empty out the box but are so scared they’ll build their frames wrong they have no context for living their lives. Then they cannot figure why success eludes them. But since they won’t commit to a framework and start building their striving is purposeless.

Then there are people who set their frames, create vivid mental pictures of their lives, and start building. They know some parts will be easy to build. Others will be a painstaking process of trial and error. In certain cases, they may have to dismantle part of what they built and start over. But they know if they keep working they will fill in their frames, or at least most of them.

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If you’re not used to building puzzles, start out with one that has a few dozen pieces. Pretty quickly you’ll get bored and move on to one that’s more complex. Now do the same with your life.

Frame, Envision, and Build Your Future

Set a frame for just one aspect of your life. Get a clear picture in your mind of what it will look like when it’s complete. Now start building it one piece at a time. Do the easy parts first. Hold fast to a vivid, mental image while doing the boring, repetitive work. Like a jigsaw puzzle, complete your picture one piece at a time. As more of your frame is filled in, the work will go faster. One day you’ll wake up and it will be DONE!

REPEAT the process.

After a while, you’ll build a frame that encompasses all of your life. Then you’ll add a section that’s like building blue sky without any frame. It will be scary because when you take away part of the frame you open yourself to unlimited possibilities. And you seemingly remove assured success. But keeping trying those pieces. Keep building your puzzle of life. Know that failure comes only when you decide you’re not going to try one more piece.

Even if the dog runs under the table and knocks it over, having previously set the frame, you can rebuild. You may have to go back to fitting together pieces you thought you’d long since mastered. But never mind: keep building.

What part of your life is framed and most vividly envisioned? 

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below ↓

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