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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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Monkey Traps

Summary: “The most important element of a money trap is the monkey.”

There are several versions of the story about monkey traps. I don’t even know if the stories are true, but they are insightful and all have one thing in common. The monkey gets his hand in a tight place, such as a jar, vase, or coconut and can’t seem to figure out how to get it out. He’s trapped!

As one story goes, hunters cut a small hole or slit in a coconut and fill it with grain. The hole is just big enough for the monkey to get his hand in, but not big enough to get his hand filled with grain out. As the hunters approach, the monkey desperately tries to get his fist out of the coconut, but can’t seem to understand that gaining his freedom is simply a matter of letting go of the grain, opening his hand, and pulling it out.

Of course, the most important element of the monkey trap is the monkey. The trap will not work without the monkey’s full cooperation.

When you hear this story about how hunters trap monkeys, you may think that monkeys are incredibly stupid! However, before you go too far down that path, substitute the phrase “many humans” for “monkeys” and “corporate perks, titles, large mortgages, expensive car payments and other such things” for the word “grain.” As it turns out, many humans behave much like monkeys.

All the above things are fine if they are not trapping you in some way and keeping you from joyfully participating in life. If they are serving as traps…stop thinking and acting like a monkey. Use some of the time, effort, and money you are spending on these things to purchase something more valuable – your freedom and autonomy.

For example, if your expenses (housing, car, food, etc.) average $4,000 per month, that means every time you save $132 and put it away for a rainy day, you have purchased one day of freedom ($48,000 per year/365 days). Keep this up until you have purchased at least a year of freedom and you will always have a lot of flexibility to deal with planned or unforeseen circumstances. For example, it means you do not have to stay in a job you don’t like, you can handle an extended period of unexpected unemployment, you can take a planned sabbatical, you can basically do whatever you’d like for at least a year.

Living below your means with your ego in check solves a tremendous number of problems. It can keep you out of life’s ubiquitous monkey traps.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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Anger Trigger Management

Summary: “Don’t wait for anger management, get ahead of it and manage anger triggers.”

Think of anger as a three-part process. A triggering event occurs, the emotion we call anger is triggered, and negative behavior associated with anger usually follows.

According to R. Douglas Fields, author of the book Why We Snap, nine events are responsible for triggering most anger: threats to Life, Insults, threats to Family, Environment/territory, Mates, social Order, Resources, Tribe and events that Stop or thwart your desires (note the letters in bold-caps: Dr. Fields suggests using the acronym LIFEMORTS to help learn and remember these triggers. “Mort” is the French word for death, so apparently this could be a matter of life or death in some circumstances). Dr. Fields suggests that if you feel anger arising, take the time to consider the nine triggers and focus on the specific reasons/triggers for your anger.

Here’s why I think this is a very good idea. You actually have three brains (or distinct areas of your whole brain) that sometimes work together and sometimes work in competition to produce your behavior. For example, at any particular time, either your thinking brain (cortex), or your emotional brain (limbic brain), is in charge of your behavior. Yes, your entire brain is always active, but certain parts of your brain, shall we say, take the lead in generating certain kinds of behavior. The cortex generally produces more rational responses to events (anger triggers, in this case) and the limbic brain produces more emotional responses.

When you are angry, your emotional brain is likely controlling your behavior. Taking a moment to analyze the nine triggers activates your thinking brain and gives it more control over your behavior. And when your thinking brain is in charge of your behavior, you are more likely to calm down and respond rationally and appropriately.

Isolating the anger trigger, or triggers, also puts you in a better position to be more specific about how you might address your concerns. If you are lucky, your thinking brain will help you avoid reactions you might regret later.

Likewise, if you find yourself on the other side of someone else’s anger, identifying the specific trigger or triggers can help you develop a strategy to perhaps avoid or resolve conflict. For example, if I know that you perceive that I am threatening your resources (R), I can specifically address that in further conversations with you.

Go beyond anger management and practice anger trigger management. It may save you some unnecessary grief. It’s a great way to joyfully participate in life.

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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Motivation and Competence

Summary: “Help people master things that are important to them if you want to help motivate them.”  

Humans possess an innate desire to master things that are important to them. Therefore, if you want to create a motivational environment for another person, find out what is important to him or her and then find ways to help them increase their level of competence with regard to that particular area of interest.

You can guess at what is important to others, you can certainty ask them, or you can encourage them to visit www.authentichappiness.org and complete the free questionnaire called the VIA Survey of Character Strengths (look under the drop-down menu for Questionnaires at the top of the page). The survey ranks twenty-four cross-cultural strengths, or areas of strong interest, in order of importance to the person completing the questionnaire.

After the person you are helping, leading, managing, parenting, etc. completes the questionnaire; pay close attention to the top three to five strengths. See if you can create as much alignment as possible between their top strengths and their daily activities.

In my case, my number one strength is “love of learning” and my second strength is “curiosity and interest in the world.” Of course, ongoing learning is a significant part of my daily routine (personally and professionally) and fits quite well with the results of my survey.

Find ways to align a person’s activities with his or her character strengths and watch intrinsic motivation kick in and create positive outcomes.

Start the process by taking the survey yourself and determining what you can do to trigger your intrinsic motivation. It’s a great way to joyfully participate in life.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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Motivation and Autonomy

Summary: “Be an autonomy-supportive person if you want to help motivate others.” 

One of the simplest ways to create a motivational environment for others is to support their autonomy. Autonomy is about giving people more control over their circumstances. It’s the opposite of making them feel over-controlled and like puppets.

Here are some of the main ways you can support someone’s autonomy. Give them as much control as possible over:

  • What they do
  • How they do it
  • When they do it
  • Where they do it
  • And with whom they do it

Sure, you cannot always give them total control over all these factors, but it is usually easy to find ways to give them some sense of increased autonomy that is also in alignment with what you want to accomplish. Unfortunately, too many bosses and parents seem to go out of their way to attempt to over-control others.

At a minimum, you might first ask others to tell you how they believe they can accomplish an objective. If they come up with a good plan on their own, that’s great. If you need to help them a bit, that’s also fine. In both these cases, they should feel more of a sense of authorship over their plan.

Rather than simply doing what they are told to do, they will feel as if they are doing what they decided to do. In other words, they will feel more autonomous. It’s a great way to help others joyfully participate in life.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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Motivation and Self-Determination Theory

Summary: “Humans are intrinsically motivated by three psychological needs: Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness.”

According to self-determination theory, humans are innately and intrinsically motivated by three psychological needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness.

Therefore, as a leader, parent, spouse, or friend, if you support these psychological needs you will more likely create positive outcomes among those you lead, or are trying to help. If you thwart these needs, you will more likely produce negative outcomes.

Autonomy means a person feels a reasonable sense of control over their circumstances. They feel free to make their own choices and free to nurture their authentic selves.

Competence means a person feels some sense of mastery over things that are important to them.

Relatedness means a person feels as if they matter to others important to them.

When people feel a sense of autonomy, competence, and relatedness, their performance typically improves, they are more persistent and they are more creative.

Look to the three elements of self-determination theory when you want to develop strategies to create a motivational environment for those you lead or want to help.

Also seek, and if necessary ask for, these three things if you want to become or remain a highly motivated individual (see separate posts on Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness).

If you want to know more about all of this, consider reading Why People Do What They Do by Edward Deci. It’s relatively short, readable, and one of the best books I have encountered on the topic of motivation.

Learning more about self-determination theory is a good way to joyfully participate in life.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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Habits and Neuroplasticity

Summary: “Every time you use your brain, you have the potential to change it and create better life outcomes.”

Every time a thought travels along a neural pathway in your brain and lights up a neural circuit, it strengthens that pathway and circuit and makes it more likely that the circuit will activate again in the future.

At the same time, any old pathway related to similar environmental or thought-triggering circumstances diminishes in strength and is less likely to activate in the future. This is how the process of neuroplasticity works. Every time you use your brain, you change how it processes incoming information and either strengthen or diminish certain neural circuits and your behavior associated with the circuits.

Thoughts are the ancestors of all actions (in other words, thoughts produce your behavior). And neuroplasticity is the process that allows you to change any undesired behavior.

Brain changes take time. So think in terms of sticking with any new habit you want to form for some pre-designated period of time. For example, make your goal to hang in there for at least one day, then another, then another.

If you slip up after a few days, don’t abandon your resolve to form the new habit, simply reset your count and try again. Make it a game to go for as many days as possible without a reset. If you make it three days the first try, reset and see if you can make it at least four or five days on the next try. Keep it up until you can string together about 21 to 60 days worth of new behavior. If you eventually make it this long, the new stronger neural circuits supporting the new desired behavior will most likely override the older circuits supporting the old behavior.

This is how you form new habits.

We’ll get more into the science and practical aspects of neuroplasticity in future postings. For now, consider reading As a Man Thinketh (or the same book with different pronouns – As a Woman Thinketh) by James Allen to develop a good philosophical understand of the power of our thoughts. It’s a short but extremely powerful book than can help you joyfully participate in life.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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