How to Make a Change that Sticks


In the Mirror Series: How Seeing Ourselves More Clearly Can Make the World a Better Place

Part 1: Misery Thermostat

Have you ever noticed that when you are actually trying to gain or lose weight, your body always seems to drift back to a set point, like a thermostat?

In "The Hungry Brain: Outsmarting the Instincts That Make Us Overeat," Stephan J. Guyenet Ph.D. reveals why this happens and how we can overcome this tendency in order to finally lose weight and keep it off.

This got me thinking about how people, myself included, also have a Misery thermostat. You might alternatively call it a Happiness thermostat.

Think about a person you know that no matter what, is always at the same, miserable level. Good weather or bad, good fortune or bad luck, they always gravitate to a certain level of misery. Take a moment and look in the mirror and you may notice that you do the same thing. Whether our set point is high or low, we always gravitate back to it regardless of life's events.

So if this is true, are we just stuck, Joe? Like our weight, is there anything we can do to move the set point permanently?

Great question!

To change your Misery thermostat, find the joy in your misery and fill it in a different way.

What this means is you must first determine what goal being miserable serves in your life. Once you figure that out, you can replace the misery-related activities with more positive activities, but always in service of the same goal.

For example, let's say a person has a miserable attitude towards school. They place low expectations on how they do in school because they don't want to compete directly with their older sibling, who has always been exceptional in school. So they learn to dislike school and and check out of the competition.

What goal does this serve? The goal is to not be hurt by lack of their parent's approval or love.

So by being miserable in school and not trying they hope to avoid any comparison with their older (in their mind, better) sibling which might negatively affect their parent's love for them.

Once this dynamic is understood, they can then replace the dislike of school with other, more positive activities that serve the same goal of positive attention from their parents. As long as the ultimate goal was their parent’s approval, no amount of other remedies related to making school better or changing schools will matter.

There isn't a single answer here, but instead the person might be instead get more involved in a hobby or interest of their parents, find a specific part of school that they can excel at, or they could even face the competition and do their best with the realization that their value is not determined by the attention of other's, including their parents.

Your Move: What things have you done to move your Misery Thermostat? What do you plan to do?

What I Realized about Managing Your Own Career - Journal Entry


Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction. Names, places and events are either the products of the author’s neurotic imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. That is, unless you find the main character to be wise, charming and likable. In that case, it's definitely me.

Journal entry: December 24

You know what I realized today? There is a huge difference between "getting a job" and "making money."

If you only know how to "make money" by "getting a job," you can feel like you are trapped in a box with very few other options.

Me, I always liked the security of a box. And if I'm honest with my self, given the, I would probably scramble right back into a box. It gives me borders. It gives me predictability. It serenades me,

"Don't worry . . . about a thing,

'Cause every little thing gonna be all right"

There I was, building a great life for myself. A life in part, made possible by the box. I had the family I always wanted, lived in a great neighborhood and could even afford some of the nicer things in life.

Until one day . . . I get inauspiciously chucked out of the box.

And to get a little meta for a moment, I'm escorted out of the box by Security with years of accumulated personal belongings stuffed into a box, with the rest to be shipped to me later. Free shipping, or course. They wouldn't be THAT cruel!

And guess what?

It's not that easy for me to get back into my box or any other box.

Why not?

O let me count the reasons!

1) My salary no longer fits reasonably inside the box

2) I’ve outgrown the box professionally and don’t really fix inside it anymore

3) I've never paid attention to what was outside the box so I am clueless about what other boxes really want

3) I've never had to fight, climb or sneak into another box so I'm terrible at it

4) Unbeknownst to me, my box was an endangered species and there just aren't that many other boxes like it out there

5) The process of getting accepted into a box is like preparing for the Olympics. Qualifier after qualifier and you can knocked out at any point. Gawd, I hope it doesn't take 4 years!

So what's the lesson for today?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-box. I'm pro-options. I'm pro-awareness. And starting today, I'm pro-active so I wrote the manifesto below as a reminder to myself.

Don't Get Boxed Manifesto

1. Starting today, I'll learn how to earn a living with or without a box.

2. If I ever go back into a box, I will make it a priority to pop my head out on a regular basis so I know what is going on.

3. I'll keep all my skills sharp, regardless.

4. If I start to outgrow the box, I will not allow myself to get trapped in the box by my own fears, inertia or lack of imagination. I’ll find a bigger box that can hold me.

When it Comes to Fixing Mistakes, Timing is Everything


In the Mirror Series: How Seeing Ourselves More Clearly Can Make the World a Better Place

Part 3: The Apology Window

Have you ever messed up so badly you wished you could just curl up into a ball and disappear? Have you ever said something so horrible you fear that apologizing will only make things worse?

When you’ve done or said something truly unspeakable, it’s not unusual to feel an incredibly strong urge to not speak of it. In a way, to wish it out of existence.

The problem is an injured person is like a camp fire. It seems like if you just leave it alone the fire will go out on its own. Instead, what usually happens is though it may look like it is out, the embers deep in the ash are still alive and all it takes is a little kindling to set things ablaze again!

Why do we hesitate to apologize even when we know we’ve done something wrong?

One of the main reasons we resist apologizing is that doing so challenges our self image by making us face that fact that we acted badly. Not necessarily that we are a bad person, but that we did behave badly and hurt someone. And for some people, it can be difficult separating your actions from your identity of who you are. When this is the case, apologizing is even harder because in your mind those actions prove you are a bad person.

All this can add to a bitter Apology Procrastination Cocktail


1 part - It’s probably better to let them cool off first

1/2 serving - It wasn’t all me

1 part - I need time to find the right words


Pour all ingredients into an Awkward Container and stir until days, months or years have passed

Recently I said something hurtful to a friend. I tried to make a joke and semi-apologized, but as we parted I could tell they were still upset. My first instinct was to just let it go, but I had the feeling that it would just make it harder to repair the damage if I didn’t give a real apology. Luckily, I was able to get in touch with them right away and apologize the right way. If I’m honest I can say even though I know I did the right thing by apologizing, I really, really didn’t want to and maybe never would have if I hadn’t done it immediately.

In order to avoid this from happening to you, I suggest using the 5 Second Rule to help you time your apology. Unless the person is too upset to even be in the same room with you, a good rule of thumb is to apologize right away when you have messed up. If you miss this window of timing, you run the risk of never apologizing at all and jeopardizing your relationship with that person. In her book “The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage,” Mel Robbins shares her 5 Second Rule which is a great way to ensure you apologize right away.

Here’s the one-liner definition of the 5 Second Rule:

If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.

Everybody knows someone who through a combination of pride, obstinacy, and you-go-first mentality has a once close relationship that has been damaged for far too long. It could be a parent or child, close friend or even a work colleague.

 It’s never too late to apologize or ask forgiveness and doing so will lighten your heart and help you move forward.

Your Move: What apologies have waited too long? How can you get started healing old wounds and moving forward?