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The Sermon

Summary: “Better than just telling people what is important to you, show them!” 


The Sermon

Edgar Guest

I’d rather see a sermon, than hear one any day.

I’d rather you walk with me, than merely show the way.

For the lessons you deliver, may be very wise and true,

But I think I’ll get my lessons, by observing what you do.

I might misunderstand all this high advice you give,

But I won’t misunderstand how you act and how you live.


As Mr. McGuire said to Ben,”Will you think about it? Enough said!


Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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The Four Cs of Parenting

Summary: “Develop simple parenting guidelines and then focus on eye-rolling repetition.”

As your children get older, the complexity of the parenting situations you will likely encounter will be inversely related to your knowledge of what to do as a parent. One strategy for dealing with this unfortunate reality is to develop one set of simple, easy-to-articulate, easy-to-understand, umbrella guidelines that you can use over, and over, and over, and over.

There is, in fact, a bit of magic in the “one-set-of-guidelines and repeat-ad-nauseam” formula. There are way too many troubling scenarios for you to cover every time your child leaves your sight. It’s a good idea to establish simple guidelines that cover a lot of ground. I call my personal guidelines the Four Cs of Parenting (thanks to my sister-in-law for teaching Robin and me the first three Cs; we added a fourth catch-all provision).

C1Consider your choices. Although it will seem as if you have no other options at times, you will usually have multiple choices. Pause for a moment and seriously think about your choices. This step is simply about identifying your options.

C2Consider the consequences of your choices. Take each choice to its logical and long-term consequences. Think about the best and worst possible outcomes.

C3Choose – Considering your circumstances, make the best choice you can.

C4Class Act, as in…always try your best to be one.

Repeat these Four Cs over-and-over-and-over-and-over-and-over-and-over…and-over until every time you say them, you get the maximum amount of eye rolling and sighing from your child. Then use this four-part template to help them analyze past and pending decisions. Basically, this process is designed to slow things down a bit for them and get their thinking-brain circuits in charge of their behavior instead of their emotional-brain circuits. The Four Cs might not cover every situation you will encounter, but they will cover most of them.

I’ve been able to influence inappropriate teenager behavior…when they were on the beach…and I was one-hundred-feet away on an overlooking balcony…by simply holding up four fingers and nodding my head from side-to-side. How’s that for good parenting?

It’s a good way for you and your child to joyfully participate in life.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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The Progress Principle

Summary: “Pleasure comes more from making progress on goals than from achieving them.”

When working on major projects that are important to you, maintaining a clear vision of what you want to accomplish is important, but it’s best to focus most of your attention on the progress you are making on the specific action steps you must complete to accomplish the vision.

Savor every step along the way that represents any meaningful progress rather the hoping for some significant rush of positive feelings at the end of the project.

In his book The Happiness Hypothesis, author Jonathan Haidt discusses the progress principle and advises us that, “Pleasure comes more from making progress on goals than from achieving them.”

As people approach closure on major life goals or projects, they have usually already integrated the expected outcome into their reality of what is possible for them and it no longer serves as a significant motivating factor. In other words, people have usually already moved on to, or are thinking more about, their next goal at that point.

In terms of your biology, dopamine is Mother Nature’s feel good chemical that rewards you each time you take a step in the right direction in life. If you focus on the progress principle when working on a project, Mother Nature will constantly reward you each step along the way with a shot of dopamine. Consider any pleasure derived from closure as a bonus.

Pay special attention to the progress principle if you are leading a team of people working on an important project. Keep members of the team focused on making progress, completing steps, and celebrating progress frequently.

Embracing the progress principle is a good way to joyfully participate in life.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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Behavior Modes – Coach Versus Rescuer

Summary: “Help people learn to solve problems, don’t solve problems for them.” 

Being in the rescuer behavior mode is an ineffective way of resolving problems. Being in a coaching behavior mode is a good alternative for being in the rescuer mode.

A behavior mode is a person’s state of mind and the behavior associated with that state of mind. Some behavior modes are almost always unproductive. If you become aware that you are in an unproductive mode, switch to a corresponding mode that is productive and you will typically produce much better outcomes.

Rather than helping or teaching people to solve their problems, rescuers try to inappropriately intervene and solve problems for them.

Rescuers are often well-meaning people, but by attempting to solve problems for others, they enable continued unproductive behavior on the part of the person they are supposedly trying to help. They prolong feelings of powerlessness and keep the person they are trying to help from feeling and, in fact, being autonomous.

Remember, in sports contests coaches cannot go on the field or court and play the game. Coaches must stay off the field of play and get things done through others by teaching those they are coaching how to play the game well. Good coaches energize and empower people.

Being a rescuer sounds noble, but do not try to rescue someone else if it enables their continued unproductive behavior. And do not allow rescuers to enable your unproductive behavior.

Being a coach is a good way to joyfully participate in life and help others do so.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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Behavior Modes – Autonomous Versus Victim

Summary: “The opposite of being a victim is being autonomous.”

Being in the victim mode of behavior is an ineffective way of resolving problems. The autonomous mode of behavior is a good alternative for the victim mode.

A behavior mode is a person’s state of mind and the behavior associated with that state of mind. Some behavior modes are almost always unproductive. If you become aware that you are in an unproductive mode, switch to a corresponding mode that is productive and you will typically produce much better outcomes.

If you are in the victim behavior mode (feeling powerless, defensive, whiney, complaining, resentful), switch to the autonomous behavior mode (reclaiming your power and control over your circumstances, taking responsibility for your situation). A person who is autonomous feels free to make their own choices and also feels in reasonable control of their circumstances. In other words, it’s the opposite of feeling like a victim.

Also keep this in mind if you are dealing with someone in the victim mode. If at all possible, help them reclaim their power and feel more in control of their circumstances. A good way to begin is by listening and making them feel fully heard.

If you find yourself in the victim mode, convert any negative feelings into concrete positive steps you can take, no matter how small, to begin moving away from victimhood to autonomy.

Staying in the victim mode is the equivalent of finding yourself in a hole and asking for a shovel so you can dig deeper.

Switching from the victim to the autonomous behavior mode (or helping someone do so), is a great way to joyfully participate in life.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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Behavior Modes – Curious Versus Critical

Summary: “Think of troubling interactions with curiosity and empathy rather than anger and frustration.” 

Being highly critical of others is an ineffective way of resolving problems. Demonstrating genuine curiosity, and empathy if appropriate, is a good alternative for criticizing someone.

A behavior mode is a person’s state of mind and the behavior associated with that state of mind. Some behavior modes are almost always unproductive. If you become aware that you are in an unproductive mode, switch to a corresponding mode that is productive and you will typically produce much better outcomes.

For example, if you are in a critical behavior mode (criticizing, controlling, using negative words, voice tone and body language), switch to a curious behavior mode (get curious and try to understand what is really going on with the person you are interacting with).

Remember this general guideline to help with the behavior mode switch: When you feel like making critical statements (such as, “you are an idiot”), ask questions instead (such as, “help me understand why you feel that way”).

The goal, in this case, is to get the other person’s reasons, beliefs, assumptions and interpretations out on the table so you can better deal with them. You do not have to agree with them, but you need to try your best to understand them if you want any hope of producing a positive outcome.

Remember, when people are behaving inappropriately, they always have good reasons for doing so in their own mind. Whether you end up agreeing with them or not, you need to understand their reasons in order to make progress. The curious behavior mode will help you do that, the critical behavior mode will not.

People are often dealing with things you know nothing about when they behave in an unproductive ways. Being curious is a better alternative when this is the case.  For example, when people are using intimidating tactics in an effort to get what they want, in other words bullying others, it’s best to keep in mind that others almost always formerly bullied people who are bullies. Bullying others is what they learned to do if they want to get what they want. Until someone shows them an alternative, they will likely continue to use bullying tactics.

It is difficult at times, but if you want to successfully work through troubling issues with such people, it is best to look at them with empathy and curiosity, rather than anger and frustration. It’s a good way to joyfully participate in life.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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Behavior Mode Alternatives

Summary: “When you realize you are in an unproductive behavior mode, switch to its productive alternative.” 

A behavior mode is a person’s state of mind and the predictable behavior associated with that state of mind. For purposes of learning, let’s assume there are three main behavior mode pairings or alternatives: curious/critical, autonomous/victim, coach/rescuer. These three pairings should cover most of the situations you will likely encounter in life. By the way, there is no magic to my behavior mode labels; I just made them up to lend some structure to this idea so you can easily recognize and practice switching from unproductive to productive modes.

As an example, people in the critical behavior mode are often controlling, intimidating, and employ the use of negative words, voice tone and body language. If you are in this mode and unaware that this is how people perceive you, or you are aware and choose to stay in this mode anyhow, the interaction will likely only lead to frustration or failure. Therefore, it’s a good idea to work toward getting better at being fully aware of your behavior mode as you are interacting with others. When you realize you are in an unproductive mode, practice purposely switching to the more productive alternative to produce better outcomes. For example, switch from the critical to the curious mode, the victim to the autonomous mode, or the rescuer to the coach mode.

Of course, you can improve your interactions and relationships with others by spending most of your time in the three most productive behavior modes in the first place: the curious, autonomous and coach modes.

Just to get a feel for how others might experience you at times, imagine what it is like to be on the receiving end of the unproductive behavior modes: the critical, victim and rescuer modes. Hopefully, these are common-sense labels and you can easily understand the various modes of behavior. If it will help, see the separate postings on each of these pairs of alternative behavior modes: curious/critical, autonomous/victim, and coach/rescuer for additional explanation.

Practice observing others and pay close attention to the long-term results of their chosen behavior modes. Some people seem to be locked-in to certain modes and operate in them most of the time, especially the critical and victim modes. More importantly, become an astute observer of your own behavior modes. Staying in the more productive modes is a good way to joyfully participate in life.

Learn to recognize the six modes; choose your mode wisely.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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Motivation – Carrot and Stick

Summary: “Carrot and Stick Motivational Methods Only Generate Compliance or Defiance.”

Many common forms of extrinsic motivation fall into the category of carrot-and-stick, or control, strategies. With such strategies, you reward desired behavior and punish undesired behavior. Admittedly control strategies such as these can, and often do, generate short-term results in terms of generating the behavior you desire. However, you can expect one of two outcomes anytime you attempt to control people: compliance or defiance.

Defiance generates immediate and long-term problems. Compliance can, and often does, generate short-term gains; but it can also generate long-term problems. Although carrot and stick strategies are among the most widely used techniques for stimulating desired behavior in others, they are among the least effective strategies in terms of long-term success.

Here are some of the main problems associated with reward (carrot) strategies: if the rewards stop, the behavior stops; it often takes increasing rewards over time to sustain the behavior; rewards can convert intrinsic motivation into extrinsic motivation (people go from enjoying doing something, to doing it for the rewards); and compliance often triggers resentment and passive-aggressive behavior.

So-called motivational strategies based on punishment or threats of punishment (stick) rarely lead to anything lasting or desirable. The best you can usually hope for in this case is temporary compliance followed by resentment and various forms of passive-aggressive sabotage. Carrot/stick strategies are certainly not recommended if you want to help people joyfully participate in life.

If you are willing to consider alternatives to carrot/stick strategies that will likely produce better results, see the postings on Self-Determination Theory, Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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The Charisma Myth

Summary: “Charisma can be learned and perfected by anyone.” 

What exactly is charisma? Can you learn it or do you have to be born with it?

Here’s a passage from the book The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane: “Charismatic individuals choose specific behaviors that make other people feel a certain way. These behaviors can be learned and perfected by anyone. In fact, in controlled laboratory experiments, researchers were able to raise and lower people’s levels of charisma as if they were turning a dial.” So yes, you can learn it. Let’s talk about exactly what it means to be charismatic.

According to Cabane, a charismatic person consistently demonstrates three behavioral characteristics: presencepower and warmth. However, presence is the real core element of charisma. It’s the foundation upon which all else is built. Being present means having a moment-to-moment awareness of what is happening. Presence is all about focus. One good definition of focus is: Doing something and thinking about what you are doing at the same time. If you get the mental state of presence right, a lot of other very good things that project charisma will follow naturally.

Here’s an idea for practicing presence. Whenever you begin interacting with another person, think of the words “Right Now…I am with Jane (or whatever his or her name happens to be). Let that be your mental trigger to remember to be fully present with them. Let the “Right Now…” statement be your way of shifting into a mental state of being totally focused on the other person.

Charisma is mainly about how others feel when interacting with you. At a minimum, make sure they walk away “feeling heard”, valued and accepted. Consider this one good way to turn the dial up on your level of charisma.

Charisma can help you joyfully participate in life. In today’s society, being fully present with people is also a way to be considered a unique person.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris


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Motivation and Relatedness

Summary: “Human beings have an innate desire to feel connected to others who are important to them.”

In the harsh environment of prehistoric times, being connected to, and accepted by, others was often a matter of survival. Therefore, people evolved in a way that makes them innately want to be accepted by those important to them and by cooperative groups important to them. It is programmed into their DNA to aid survival. If you support this built-in desire, you will be able to interact more successfully with most people; go against it and things will not go so well.

You can read a library full of books on leadership and influence, but one of the main things you need to do if you want to be a good leader, parent, spouse, or friend is to make people feel valued and accepted. This, of course, does not mean you must always agree with them. As the saying goes, you should address a person’s behavior if you have a problem with them, rather than attacking them personally.

In terms of motivation, this feeling of being connected to others is one of the three psychological needs that energize people (see also posting on Self-Determination Theory). Therefore, if you want to create a motivational environment, simply make people feel valued and accepted.

One good way to practice this idea is to give up sarcasm and see what happens. I know that will be difficult for many of you, but sarcasm is one of the most common forms of non-acceptance. I want to quickly point out that I define sarcasm as “humor at someone else’s expense.” Therefore, I am not suggesting that you give up humor. Just give up humor that makes someone else feel devalued and rejected. I’ve received some pretty interesting and very positive feedback from people who have tried this idea after years of being quite sarcastic individuals. Give it a try and see what happens in your case.

It is a good way to more joyfully participate in life…and help others do so.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris


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