Great Goodbyes

Ever wonder why some of our best memories come right at the end of a get together, why some of our best memories involve loud laughs at the doorstep of a friend’s place?

Research on happiness has repeatedly revealed that peaks and ends define our memories.

For your next catch up with family/friends, this translates to a nice welcome hug (bonus), a lot of fun during the meet, and, most importantly, a tight goodbye hug after a great doorstep chat.

So, don’t rush the goodbye. That’s what you will remember.

(Applies just as much to any business meeting. The “feeling” at the end is what your boss/team/client will remember. Schedule some time for a great goodbye..)

The more the worry

The less the focus on the now

The less the meaningful work that gets done

We don’t tolerate distractions when doing meaningful work. Why, then, do we tolerate worry?

Yes, I hear you, “it’s a habit.” Find something to do every time you feel like worrying. Jot down 5 things you are thankful for, look at your bucket list and gaze into the future, or go out for a walk. Do it till the act of responding to worry becomes subconscious.

That’s the beauty of habits. They can be changed

Work Hacks Wednesdays: 5 common complaints

“I had to work late today. My boss is so tough on me.”

“My colleagues can be very annoying.”

“I wish I had that job/promotion.”

“I don’t have earn enough to buy that…”

“The weather has been so bad of late.”

Cry me a river. I am sorry life is so hard typing away on a computer in an air conditioned desk.

I’ve learned that there are very things in life worth kicking ourselves for. Complaining, however, is on top of that list (wasting resources is another – let’s leave that for another day).

The next time you catch yourself complaining, remember to give yourself a kick. And, if you happen to catch me complaining, thanks in advance for the tough love..

3 Tweaks to Your Budgeting Process

The statistics on budgeting are bad – approximated at about 30% who maintain a budget. Financial guru’s make budgeting sound like a boring, but necessary, habit that’s good for our willpower and life.  It is. But, you don’t have to just walk down the path of budgeting x% on food, y% on accommodation, etc.

Budgeting can be a really creative process. Here are 3 tweaks that can make it fun –

‘I am healthy’ fund. Set aside an amount every month (say $100) for medical expenses. For every healthy month, give yourself a small treat.

‘I can vacation in style’ fund. Again, another small fund to pamper yourself to a luxury vacation every year (or whatever maybe your inclination).

‘Screw up’ fund. This is my favourite. It sets aside a monthly amount for screw ups and bad purchases. Rather than attempting to erase our screw ups into memory, I believe in creating a honour roll so we can learn from them.
For example, I screwed up 2 years ago by spending $400 for a lifetime subscription for a service I barely used (you could argue I have about >75 years to make it worth the while, of course! :)). Ever since, I’ve instituted a rule that I must sleep over every non-critical purchase above $200.

And, if you have just begun budgeting and set a tight budget for yourself, set a small overspill fund to gradually rein in your budgeting. The great news is that budgeting, like a good life, is a game.

You can design it any which way you want.’

PS: Imagine if companies set aside a tiny amount every month for a “screw up” fund. Don’t you think that will be a LOT more effective than those drab speeches from executives about how they “foster innovation?”

The Gift of Living Well

I turned 24 today. The disappearance of the manic high of birthdays past is conspicuous by its absence. It’s been a feature of the past few years – the ‘# of calls at midnight/early in the morning’ index is evidence of that. As a kid, you often feel like the world ought to stop and celebrate you. Now, it’s a lovely opportunity to take stock and celebrate this wonderful life.

The year that went past was among the most eventful years of the 24 that have gone by. I will remember it for many reasons – learning to play the guitar, seeing many new places, experiencing one big success and an accompanying failure; both of which taught me a lot, and getting engaged. Most of all, I think I will remember it as the year that taught me to calm down.

I’ve found myself discovering two insights that Seth Godin describes beautifully in his recent book – that of the infinite game and that of relishing the opportunity to dance.

My own synthesis of these past months involve learning to believe that, whether I understand it or not, the universe is unfolding as it should. We get to play our part in this process and our progress is typically correlated to the effort we put in. There isn’t much more we can do. The success in the game isn’t about making progress, but about just playing. If progress, as we define it, happens, that’s great. If it doesn’t, it’s typically life’s way of telling us to look at the situation differently. Things don’t always work ‘well’, but they tend to work out just fine. We just need to keep focus on plugging away and doing our bit to make the most of this life.. and enjoy the dance.

Voltaire said: “God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”

His thought encapsulates my wishes for the year ahead. I am working hard on giving myself the gift of living well by getting the simple things right – exercising more, reflecting more, giving meditation a shot, continuing to read, and taking on as much as practically possible so I fail more, learn more, and give myself a chance to accidentally make a positive difference.

Looking forward..

On Nylon Socks and Confabulation

This week’s book learning is part of an 8 part series from The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely. (Parts 1, 2)

After having understood our tendency to cheat ‘just a little bit’ when given the chance, we left last week with the question – How does the cheating process work in our heads? As a first step in that direction, we’ll explore confabulation.

Two researchers, Richard Nisbet and Tim Wilson, set up camp at their local mall. They arranged 4 pairs of nylon stockings on a table and asked women shoppers which they liked best.

By and large, the shoppers preferred the pair on the far right. When asked for a reason, some said they liked the colour, others said they liked material, and the rest pointed to texture or quality. This preference was interesting considering all 4 were identical.

So, Nisbet and Wilson repeated the same experiment with night gowns. The result – same. Not one cited the placement of the items as a possible reason.

Even when they told the participants that they were actually identical, the participants denied it.

The big learning here is that we don’t always know why we do what we do. The obscurity of our real motivations doesn’t stop us from creating logical explanations or confabulations.

Sketch by EB

Confabulation leads us to a very interesting point in our study on dishonesty. If we manufacture “logical” motivations every once in a while, does our creativity come into play? Taking it a step further, what is the relationship between creativity and dishonesty?

All will be revealed in part 4..

Happy weekend everyone!

Maybe I’m meant to learn something from this..

The next time you’re tempted to curse your luck when life throws a curve ball at you, stop and repeat “Maybe I’m meant to learn something from this..”

Philosophy and faith are powerful healers. Our ingenious minds are also brilliant at doing what they were designed to do – to think. A negative situation is easily transformed into a profound learning experience.

It’s wonderful to remind ourselves of the power we have within us. We can transform the nature of a situation or experience with one simple question or statement.

And, who knows, maybe the fates did mean to teach you something..

Win Win or No Deal

It’s a bad deal if you want it a lot more than the other person and a guarantee of problems in the road ahead.

It’s like a lover desperately trying to get in with you – a put off.

If you know enough to be prepared to walk away from something you know will change your life, you’ve just increased your likelihood of making it work.

Success is a culmination of one counter intuitive action after another.

Contentment, Happiness, and Ambition

Contentment comes from looking at how far we have come. Happiness comes from focusing on the now and enjoying the journey. And, ambition comes from looking at how far we have to go.

Too much looking back means lesser than necessary focus on happiness and ambition. Less focus on happiness and ambition means less good done today, which in turn means less content tomorrow.

We are hardly ever going to get the ratios absolutely right. That’s life. But, we owe it to ourselves to get as close as possible as consistently as possible. What does that mean for today?

1. Reflect on learnings from yesterday and as you do that, think about what your learnings might have been on the same day last year – a great reminder of how far you’ve come

2. Write down three things you plan to do today. Add a fun thing to the day if you aren’t looking forward to the three big priorities. 

3. Write down three things on your bucket list that you are working towards/three things you’d like to get done in the next five years. Take a small step today.

That’s 5 minutes of writing. It doesn’t take much. It does accomplish a lot.

(PS: The list will not look rosy every day as you chronicle the downs along with the ups. But this way, you make sure you don’t just trudge through life. You reflect on how it feels to actually live it.)

Work Hacks Wednesdays – Eat Alone

A friend of mine quoted the ‘never eat alone’ concept referring to a need for good company during meals at work. I thought I’d provide the counter point.

Enjoy the solitude that comes with lunch alone. If you are introverted, it’s bliss anyway. And, if you are extroverted, it’s a great opportunity to catch up with your thoughts.

There are so many equally amazing options – take a book along and read alongside, listen to a book while staring into nothingness, stare into nothingness, relish every bite of what you’re eating and remember how blessed you are to be where you are, among others. Your pick.

So, just for today, find a quiet corner and have lunch by yourself. Consider making it a weekly habit at the very least. You tend to get very less ‘alone time’ as life goes by.

Treasure it.