We’ve all had the dream. You see the man or woman of our dreams across a crowded room. Your eyes lock. And at that moment you both know… And then you ride off into the sunset and begin your “happily ever after.”
While most people do get to experience “happy for a little while,” only a select few make it to “happily ever after.” Relationships are tough. And sustaining a relationship after the butterflies are gone, and you’ve seen her without makeup or have been assaulted by his morning breath–is especially difficult.
That is the honest, hard truth. A relationship takes time, effort, energy, patience and lots of work in order for it to succeed. Most people bail as soon as things get a little rocky. Society has deceived us into believing that if we are unhappy in a relationship, that is a sign that it wasn’t meant to be. Nothing could be further from the truth. Romantic comedies, fairy tales and sultry novels have distorted our view of a relationship’s dynamics.
Lisa Blum, Psy.D,– a clinical psychologist in California specializing in emotionally focused therapy for couples–believes
“the strongest most enduring relationships take lots of hard work… our culture, education system and parenting styles don’t prepare us for the fact that even good relationships take effort.”
Desiring a relationship and sustaining one are two very different things. Most people want to be in a relationship. According to the American Psychological Association, 90% of folks have been married, at least once, by the time they are 50. The divorce rate for those who marry hovers somewhere between 40 and 50 percent. And the divorce rate for second or third marriages is even higher.
Divorce and breakups do end the relationship but don’t necessarily resolve any issues. This is why the divorce rate for subsequent marriages is so high. Most often a person will leave a relationship, hop into another one and repeat the same behaviors and cycles. It is easier to bounce from one relationship to another than it is to stick it out, put in the work and make your current relationship last.
That’s not to say that if the relationship is abusive or toxic that you should stay–especially if you aren’t married. There are times whenis the best and safest course of action. Often times, however, we quit because we feel unhappy, the passion has waned or we feel we are exerting too much energy to make the relationship work.
So you’ve read the first part of this article but you’re still not sure if you should stick it out or not. Here are some:
Marriage is NOT 50/50. Marriage is 100%–however you can get there. It is rare that both people are in the same place–emotionally, spiritually, mentally and sexually–at the exact same time. Sometimes one person is in a position to give more in an area than the other. One may be putting in 70 and the other 30 and that’s ok–for a season.
The problem arises when one person is always giving more than the other. Having an off day or being in a bad place is understandable–laziness is not. If you are dating someone for a period of time and you realize that you are doing all the work in all areas–you may want to reconsider your position. That is not sustainable–or healthy–over a long period of time.
Happiness is relative and dependent on external circumstances. It ebbs and flows with the tides of life. Fulfillment, however, is a more constant and steady state. It doesn’t change as often as happiness does. Fulfillment, not happiness should be the barometer of your relationship.
If you are a neat freak and your partner leaves his or her clothes on the floor, eats food in bed, tracks mud all throughout the house and never cleans up after him or herself you are going to be unhappy–a lot. However, if you feel safe, loved unconditionally and valued as a person you are more likely to be in a continuous state of fulfillment even though your happiness comes and goes. If a relationship is fulfilling for both people and they both are willing to do what they can when they can, then the relationship is solid.
Having a fulfilling, healthy and long lasting relationship takes time and effort. Here are the top three problems couples face and must deal with–continuously–in order to achieve the fairy tale:
Loss of dopamine and norepinephrine. They are addicting. Which is why breakups are so hard.is absolutely, 100% normal and is experienced by all couples. The “high” you experience during the early stages of love are similar to what a drug addict feels when he snorts cocaine. When you are in love, your brain is swimming in the “feel good” chemicals–
Over time the chemicals begin to wear off and your body begins to regulate the production and release of these chemicals. This is a natural and physiological process. However, most mistake it as a sign that the love is fading or the relationship is dying. They end that relationship and seek out another so they can experience the love”high” again.
Here are some very practical things you can do to reignite the spark of romance and add a bit of excitement back into your relationship:
Engage in new activities with each other.and shake things up a bit.
Add some mystery and excitement to the bedroom. Play around with lingerie, mood lighting, fragrances, and edibles. Tantalize all 5 senses in a different way. Try something new (but make sure both parties are “in to” whatever you suggest).
Seek arousal-producing activities. Things that get your heart racing and blood pumping are also good for the libido. Research shows that if you participate in an activity together that creates an endorphin and adrenaline rush you create a state of heightened arousal that can be transferred to your relationship.
The number one issues underpinning most problems in a relationship is communication. When communication breaks down, fights happen, people get hurt, and the relationship suffers.
Communication involves so much more than just verbal discussions. Understanding how to speak to your significant other in a manner that resonates with them is key. The 5 Love Languages is a great place to start. The premise of this book and communication model is best summed up by the words of the book’s author Gary Chapman:
“My conclusion after thirty years of marriage counseling is that there are basically five emotional love languages—five ways that people speak and understand emotional love. In the field of linguistics a language may have numerous dialects or variations. Similarly, within the five basic emotional love languages, there are many dialects….The important thing is to speak the love language of your spouse.”
Words of Affirmation: Expressing affection through spoken affection, praise, or appreciation.
Acts of Service: Actions, rather than words, are used to show and receive love.
Receiving Gifts: Gifting is symbolic of love and affection.
Quality Time: Expressing affection with undivided attention.
Physical Touch: It can be sex or holding hands. With this love language, the speaker feels affection through physical touch.
This is another one of those things that is inevitable in a long-term relationship. You don’t mean to take each other for granted–it just happens over time. Taking each other for granted and focusing on the negatives of your mate or the relationship is detrimental and will keep you in a constant state of unhappiness. Once you’ve been unhappy long enough, you will start to question your level of fulfillment.
An excellent way to actively and intentionally combat this is by incorporating the 5:1 rule into your thinking and communication with your spouse. For every one negative between you, you should find five positives. For every negative comment, you should dole out five compliments. This trains your brain to focus on the positives in lieu of the negatives. It also helps you develop and maintain an attitude of gratitude toward your relationship and your mate.
Relationships are tough. They require constant nurturing and attention. Having realistic expectations and a plan to combat the loss of passion and excitement, communication issues and failing to appreciate and cherish one another are the secrets to happily ever after.
Adapted from original on Lifehack.org
Leaders are the most scrutinized, misinterpreted and misunderstood people in the world. As a leader, you must be cognizant of your tone, body language and your word choice. You have to be firm but not overbearing, assertive but never aggressive, friendly but never to familiar…and the list goes on. Good leadership is akin to walking a tightrope while juggling knives and being chased by a lion.
Effective communication and good leadership are synonymous. They are espoused. If the two ever divorce, efforts, organizations, and vision become orphans struggling to survive in a dysfunctional home.
One particular aspect of communication trips up more leaders than anything else…and that is providing feedback to those they lead. It’s tricky terrain to navigate. There are so many extremes and variations of feedback, from the angry boss that no one can please, to the leader who provides no feedback whatsoever. Understanding and appreciating the value and importance is one side of this important coin. The other side is truly understanding how to use feedback and criticism as a tool that corrects and empowers those you lead.
The first step in providing proper feedback is to understand what it is. The best description that aptly frames the concept of feedback is Kevin Eikenberrry’s four types of feedback model. His model breaks feedback into four distinct categories:
1. Negative feedback: corrective comments about past behavior (things that didn’t go well).
2. Positive feedback: affirming comments about past behavior (things that went well and should be repeated).
3. Negative feedforward: corrective comments about future behavior (things that shouldn’t be repeated in the future).
4. Positive feedforward: affirming comments about future behavior (things that would improve future performance).
His approach encourages leaders to establish a balance between the positive and negative with emphasis on providing advice on how to improve in the future. This is the primary component that is largely missing from the feedback repertoire of most leaders–focusing on the future or feedforward.
Helping those you lead understand what worked and what didn’t and how they can move forward without repeating negative behaviors should be the goal of feedback. Simply providing negative–or even positive feedback isn’t enough. Feedback should be a tool that teaches, enhances and moves people forward. Feedback that isn’t accomplishing this is ineffective.
Now that we have a clear picture of what balanced feedback looks like, let’s turn our attention to the “how” of providing feedback. One of the most ineffective, insincere forms of feedback is the blanket praise that is vague and insincere.
“I’d like to thank the team for doing such a great job and for all of their hard work on that project.” It sounds nice and it technically is positive feedback but it doesn’t point out which behaviors were good and should be repeated and what they should do to improve performance on the next project. It also may feel disingenuous to some team members who may feel they carried more of the load than others. Everyone is aware that a leader is supposed to say “great job team!” and be encouraging, however, feedback should never have a “check the box” feel.
Below are a few things to consider as you are providing balanced, yet feedforward focused feedback:
This is especially critical when dealing with massive mistakes that have been made. It’s important to take some time, cool off, evaluate the situation and choose your words carefully. Try to take a step back from the situation and view it from an objective standpoint. You want to provide feedback that is helpful, actionable and that builds the team.
Personality conflicts are a part of human interaction. As a leader, you are not going to like everyone on your team–but you should respect and value them. Don’t let personal feelings and preferences cloud your judgment and lead you to attack a person’s personality or character. Make sure your feedback is authentic and that it is designed to bring about positive change and is never used to inflict wounds.
Always try to balance the negative with the positive. Giving too much negative feedback or feedforward can leave those you lead feeling disillusioned and that you are never satisfied. When giving positive feedback, make sure that it is about specific and reproducible behaviors.
We’ve established that providing negative feedback is essential for growth, however pointing out the negative without providing suggestions for corrective actions can leave your team feeling hopeless. For example, if an employee is constantly interrupting and cutting people off in meetings, let them know what they are doing and how it affects others. Then, provide suggestions on how they can improve that behavior–such as signaling/gesturing they have something to say and would like to comment once their cohort has finished speaking in lieu of cutting them off mid-sentence.
Chase negative feedback with positive feedforward. If an individual is constantly late to meetings and the meetings are unable to begin on time, constantly run over or information has to be repeated; let the person know that being on time is critical to the effectiveness of the team. You could then assign them a task that plays to one of their strengths and requires them to get to the meeting ahead of time–such as prepping the meeting space, recording the minutes, moderating the meeting or calling the meeting to order.
The more personal and engaging the conversation is the more effective it will be. Allow your team to know that you care about them and are personally invested in their success. Encourage them to participate in the feedback process and to find ways to shore up weak areas and to improve their performance. Help them to be accountable and responsible for their own progress. Talk to them, not at them. Simply broadcasting your message ad nauseum will not have the same effect as engaging in meaningful conversation–and not a lecture or a monologue.
The best leaders know when to speak and when to shut-up. Feedback–positive or negative–that is targeted, well framed and delivered at the right moment can make or break your team. You never want to kick a man when he’s down–but you shouldn’t just step over him and keep going either. The ability to discern the proper time and place to deliver feedback is a skill that must be mastered in order to be a great leader.
As a leader, communication is not about you, your opinions, your positions or your circumstances. It is about helping others. Your job is to provide guidance meet needs, understand concerns, and adds value to your team’s world. It’s about pushing them picking them up and pushing them forward.
Article adapted and reprinted from Lifehack.org
Have you ever asked someone for their opinion about something and received a response that was overly critical, vague, slightly hurtful or down right rude? You ask something like, “How do I look?” And you are met with this reply: “the shoes are ok, but that dress makes you look homely and you really should wear makeup.”
What do you do with that response? Do you accept the fact that the shoes are okay and ignore the rest? Should you be hurt or offended?
The fact of the matter is accepting feedback and constructive criticism is tough. Our first inclination is to adopt a defensive posture and either deflect, explain or make excuses for the critical area. Criticism and feedback that are constructive and accurate are necessary evils tied to growth and success. You have to learn how to cope with it–without lashing out or becoming disillusioned.
One of the most efficient ways to take some of the sting out of criticism and to ensure it truly is constructive in nature is to ask the right questions. If you ask vague and open-ended questions be prepared for vague responses that miss the mark. Asking, “how do I look,” is an open invitation for abuse. That question leaves nothing–regarding your appearance–out of bounds. However, asking “does the color and style of these shoes work with this outfit,” is a much more precise and targeted question. And you are more likely to get a very targeted and precise answer.
Asking the right questions tells the critiquer specifically what to focus on. When you request feedback–of any kind–you invite and empower the responder to look for and point out your flaws. The more open-ended and vague the request, the more power you give them. Asking targeted questions not only assists you in getting the appropriate information you need, it also provides the person providing the feedback a clear area of focus. All of their attention is directed to one specific area and this helps to eliminate the tendency people have to search for things to criticize.
Below are a few ways to help you get accurate and targeted feedback:
Ask about specific situations — for example, what could you have done differently in a particular meeting or situation. Avoid the generic “so, how am I doing,” questions and ask about specific aspects of your performance, a particular project or interaction. Tailor your questions to suit the type of feedback you need. Ask both specific and open-ended questions.
When the critiquer is providing you with feedback asks questions to ensure you clearly understand what he or she is telling you. Be careful of your tone and body language during this part of the process. You don’t want to appear defensive. The questions should be designed to help you understand the message and it should not appear that you are questioning the individual. Ask for specific examples or instances so that you have a point of reference for the criticism. And finally, when appropriate, solicit suggestions on how you can correct the behavior.
As humans, we’ve been conditioned to listen in order to respond, not to understand. As soon as we hear a portion of what someone is saying and believe we know where they are headed, we quit listening and begin constructing our response. This is especially true when we hear negative criticism about our self. However, if you can learn to take a deep breath and focus on listening to ensure you understand what is being said you can turn negative criticism into a positive change that moves you forward.
Listening intently will also help you better decipher between true criticism and criticism that is framed in emotion. Emotions change and criticism birth from emotion, most likely, will change as well. Learning to decipher between the two can save you a lot of unnecessary heartache.
Before you solicit feedback, consider who you are asking. Is it a friend who is going to tell you what you want to hear? Does this person enjoy having power over you? Does he or she have anything to gain from your interaction? Is this person qualified to provide you accurate feedback? Do you respect the person? Is this person a person of consequence– someone you respect, admire and value in the area in which you are seeking feedback?
Before accepting and internalizing feedback–positive or negative–always consider the source. Some feedback isn’t worth your time or attention.
Once you’ve requested, heard and clarified the feedback, then and only then, are you ready to process it. Make sure you have a clear picture of the issue. Is it something you need to change? Is this an isolated incident with mitigating circumstances? What is the context and sub-context of this issue? Is this something you can change? Do you have a plan to address this issue if it needs to be addressed?
If you can’t answer these questions, you may need to go back and ask more clarifying questions or seek a bit more insight.
The final step in soliciting and accepting life-changing feedback is the process of evaluation–which you must do for yourself. You must answer the question–is this something I should accept, internalize and work on? Do you agree with all or some of what you’ve heard? You make this decision after you’ve considered the source and all the surrounding circumstances. If you’ve correctly completed the other five steps, the answer will be obvious. You’ll know if the feedback is valuable or not–regardless of how you feel about it.
Getting useful feedback is one of the fastest routes to growth and improved performance. It’s not always an accurate reflection of who you are — but it is an accurate reflection of how you’re perceived. Knowing how you’re perceived is critically important if you want to increase your influence as a leader, or move up within your organization. Hearing the truth can be tough, however, not hearing it could be detrimental.
Article reprinted from Lifehack.org
Have you ever tried reaching a goal that was labor and time intensive such as, losing a substantial amount of weight, finishing an educational program, or training for a marathon? If so, you understand the struggle of chasing a long-term goal.
As humans, we are hardwired to seek and engage in activities that provide us instant gratification. We operate on what psychologists call the ‘pleasure principle‘. The pleasure principle is the primary force that compels human beings to seek immediate satisfaction of their needs, wants, and urges. Pursuing long-term goals is particularly difficult because it provides no immediate reward. It places us in a posture of waiting. When gratification is significantly delayed–which is directly opposed to human nature–motivation wanes and effort decreases. In order to win, you must work hard, sacrifice and more importantly–wait.
Understanding and coping with the inevitable motivational slump that accompanies most substantial achievements is critical to sticking with the process and achieving your goals. According to the University of Scranton, a whopping 92% of people do not fulfill their New Year’s Resolution. There are a variety of reasons we don’t stick with the quest to reach our goals but the common thread underlying why we quit is simply the lack of motivation. Staying motivated is the key to keep you on the path to accomplishing your goal–especially when your progress slows or stalls.
Instead of fighting this process head-on, it’s better to adjust the process to flow in tandem with our urges and natural inclinations. How, you ask?
It’s actually pretty easy. Below are three simple ways that can help keep you motivated and engaged while pursuing your long-term goals: Read more.
“Soooo, tell me about your strengths and weaknesses…”
Do you experience that ominous “deer in headlights” feeling when you hear this question? What does it even mean? What are the things you identify as strengths? Why do you label them as such? Is it because it is an ability or skill at which you excel? Is it something you do better than most people? Who or what measures what a strength or weakness is? This question–especially in an interview–can be tricky terrain to navigate.
As one who has sat on both sides of this question–I will try to provide some insight and direction on how you should approach this extremely slippery slope.
Discovering your true strengths and weaknesses isn’t just critical for nailing a job interview. It is a fundamental key to your success in all aspects of life.
Marcus Buckingham, author of Go Put Your Strengths To Work, provides the purest and concise explanation for determining what is a strength and what is a weakness. And it has nothing to do with what you are good at or how you fair against others.
“A better definition of a strength,” said Buckingham, “is an activity that makes you feel strong. And a weakness is an activity that makes you feel weak. Even if you’re good at it, if it drains you, that’s a weakness.”
Consider that statement for a moment. Are you starting to gain a bit more context and insight into what your true strong suits and deficiencies are?
I am extremely “good with people.” I am compassionate, considerate, attentive, encouraging and accommodating. I am good at getting the best out of people, calming intense situations and making people feel heard, validated and appreciated. I work at it. I study people. I am a student of psychology and human interaction and can usually determine a person’s primary temperament within moments of meeting them and can adjust to play to their temperament strength.
In interviews, I have always listed my interpersonal skills as one of my strengths. But if I take a step back and really assess this “gift” I find that it really isn’t one of my true strengths. The truth is people drain me and human interaction, often times is akin to navigating a minefield. I prefer being alone or with my husband to being around others. My interactions with people don’t flow naturally. I am not instinctively a “people person.” I have to calculate my moves and measure my responses before I speak. I am innately shy, incredibly introverted and socially awkward. My people skills are manufactured and have been honed out of necessity. It is not a gift–it is a well-developed skill.
Below are a few principles you should consider when assessing your strengths and weaknesses:
You may be better than everyone else around you at something and it still can be a weakness for you. A strength is something that energizes you and something for which you have a natural inclination. A person who is charming, charismatic, a natural conversationalist and enjoys being around and entertaining people can list “interpersonal skills” as a strength.
A strength is something you rely on to achieve goals and to win, weaknesses are obstacles that must be overcome or avoided in order to achieve victory. Your strengths and weaknesses are only relative to you. Comparing yourself to others skews your view of your true gifts and areas of lack.
You can strengthen your weaknesses just as I have done with my interactions with people. A weakness, however, rarely every becomes a strength. Once you’ve identified your weaknesses, you can attack them in one of two ways. First, you can work to strengthen the weakness so that it becomes less of a deficiency. Or, you could strengthen and learn to leverage your strengths to compensate for your weaknesses.
Learning to cope is key when it comes to handling weak areas. It is a waste of time working on weaknesses that are not related to your life purpose or tied to your goals.
I do not–in any way, shape or form–possess a green thumb. Plants and foliage cringe, shrivel and die in my presence. I could learn to care for plants and develop this skill if I chose too. However, it has nothing to do with my destiny, goals or my success in life. If I need flowers for an event, I purchase them just before I need them (they die otherwise). I have a beautiful yard which I pay someone to maintain. I spend my time and energy working on things that matter and that propel me towards my life’s purpose.
This is a huge mistake that most of us make. Take for example the characteristics, introversion and extroversion. Both of these traits are completely benign. They only become good or bad with context.
As I stated earlier, I am very introverted. I am a writer and I work in an office with other writers. Being an introvert in this environment is a strength. In this context, I don’t need to be outgoing and chatty. If I were, that would hinder my performance and put a strain on the work environment. However, prior to becoming a writer, I was an educator. Teaching requires you to be outgoing, approachable and have the ability to genuinely connect with people. In this context, being an introvert was a weakness. I had to put time, energy and mental fortitude into being what I needed to be to be successful in that context.
Another mistake we make is by mislabeling or overgeneralizing strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you are not talkative you may be tempted to label yourself a poor communicator–which is completely inaccurate. Being overly chatty does not make you an effective communicator. A few, well-chosen words, is multitudes more effective than mere verbal vomit. It’s about the quality not quantity of your words. Hone in on what you are adept at, identify your deficiencies and then determine if it truly is a strength, weakness or neutral based on the context.
When assessing your strengths and weakness:
Determining your strengths and inadequacies requires brutal honesty. You must take into account your skills and your natural inclinations. Some strengths are more desirable than others but it is incumbent that you accept yourself as you are and work with what you have. It’s the only way to reach your full potential and fulfill your destiny.
Article adapted from original version at Lifehack.org
The working landscape has drastically changed.
We are firmly in the age of start-ups. Everyone is an entrepreneur and wants to forge their own path. Traditional jobs are viewed as mind numbing, creativity stealing prisons that enslave the soul. Working a regular job–the good ole nine-to-five is considered old school and has been replaced by maintaining multiple side hustles. We are ambitious DIY-ers, content curators, and creatives and we all want to be our own boss.
While being an entrepreneur is very trendy and the “it” thing to do, it is also very hard and extremely risky. And the struggle of trying to make ends meet–especially in the infancy stages of building your brand and making your mark–can be demoralizing.
A great way to–somewhat–maintain your work independence and still survive financially is to work a part-time job. Below is a list of 20 side hustles that can help supplement your income or sustain you between ventures: read more.
Featured image by Investment Zen on Flickr