Tag Archives: happy

“Just stop,” the most useless advice

Ever try to break a habit?  It isn’t as easy as simply not doing the habit.  It is incredibly difficult to “just stop” but why is that?  Habits are actually hardwired into our brains.  According to Ann Graybiel and Kyle Smith in Good Habits, Bad Habits explain how the brain builds a closed loop.  Simply choosing to NOT do the task is actually you working against your brain.  Even motivation isn’t that helpful.


To stop doing a habit, it is important to understand the environmental triggers and create work arounds.  First, try to minimize triggers.  Second, start with the easier to eliminate habits first.  Third, build strategies to distract yourself.  Even making a habit 20 seconds harder to do can make a big difference.  Fourth, measure your actions and the results.  Fifth, be realistic.  It probably took you years to build a habit.  It will take time to eliminate it.  You will have setbacks.  That’s ok.  Just restart the process and keep moving forward.

Starting habits

I had a great habit a couple years ago of walking in the mornings.  When I say walk, it was a fast paced 60 to 90 minutes all over town.  I’d come back covered in sweat and out of breath.  I also came back with determination and clarity about my goals for the day.  I was healthier and happier after the walks.  Things happened and I got away from that habit.  Here’s how I’m restarting it.

First, I’m starting small.  I leave the house with the intention of a 20 minute mosey instead of a 60 minute power walk.  As this becomes a habit, I’ll lengthen the duration and up the intensity.

Second, I make it as easy as possible.  My sweats and sneakers are all set so I can grab them and go without walking up anyone in the house.

Third, I have a secondary goal in mind.  For today, I wanted to take the above picture.  On other days, I went to see how a neighbor’s new landscaping was coming in.  On another, I walked by a house for sale my wife mentioned.

Fourth, I combined walking with another morning task.  One of the things that got in the way of me walking is that I also started writing in the morning.  By walking to get the above picture and plotting out in my head what I was going to write, I was able to accomplish both goals.  By combining a couple of tasks, usually one that you want to do with one that you should do, you are much more likely to get both done.  Another example is when my wife and I used to go out for Indian buffets for Sunday brunch.  That was before kids by the way.  We really enjoyed it be a buffet is heavy on the calories.  Therefore, we combined walking with the brunch by walking to the restaurants.

Daddy Soup and Much Laughter

We got the family kayaks over the winter.  I’ve been wanting to go on the water since November but since this was going to be the first time that we used this type of kayak, I had to assume that one or more of the kids and maybe an adult or two would end up in the water under their boat.  Going when both water and air were barely above freezing level, didn’t seem to make sense.  According to the Personal Floatation Device Manufacturer’s Association – the PFDMA for those in the know – hypothermia doesn’t set in for over an hour in 50 degree water for most adults and I am insulated better than most adults.  Long enough to pull a couple of kids out of the drink I figured.  Finally, the day came when water and air were both slightly above fifty degrees and the forecasted lightening would hold off for another day.  It was time.  Maya, Sam and I grabbed the kayaks and headed toward the reservoir.

We got inflatable kayaks.  The mental images of my family trying to put fixed sided kayaks in racks on top of the van were, at best, comedic.  Everyone once in awhile, I choose not to go for what would be funniest over what would be most practical.  Luckily, this was one of those times.  Maya grabbed one kayak and I the other and we started inflating.  Sam, well Sam played a supporting role.  We had some miss starts as we couldn’t final all of the valves at first and our first attempt ended up with the seats in backwards but we got it.  The kayaks are part of my effort to work more enjoyable exercise into my life.  Maya summed it up perfectly that getting the kayaks inflated could be my work out.  Maya and I, a bit winded and already a little sweating were finally ready, although we never quite figured out Maya’s seat.  Sam, well Sam was patient.

With winter coats under our life vests – it really was cold on the water – we started off.  Maya is so light and the skegs – the rudder like things on the bottom of the boat to give stability and control (see, you learned something from this post) on her kayak were so small that each time she paddled, her kayak turned half a circle the opposite way.  In a who-can-turn-the-fastest contest, she would have taken gold.  In a standard moving forward type contest, not so much.  Instead of become frustrated, well there was a little of that, she kept on paddling with what she described as a comedic paddling effort.

We didn’t count on how wet were were going to get.  There was the water from what I was told was accidental splashing.  There was water from a little bit of rain.  There was water from every time you dip one side of the double sided kayak paddle in the water, the other side, also known as the side that just came out of the water on the other side of the kayak, is straight up over the kayak.  Efficient having that double paddle thing but water just kept coming in.  Sam and I shared a kayak and I’m a bit bigger than him so his side of the kayak was a bit higher than mine was.  By a bit heavier, I mean I’m three times his side and by a bit higher, I mean his bottom was a good six inches higher than mine was.  Water, I learned, always goes down hill.  Slightly warmer than 50 degree water started accumulating where slightly warmer than 50 degree water should not accumulate.

After awhile, it wasn’t just my cheeks on the bottom of the kayak in the water.  Pretty soon, everything was underwater.  The kayak was still inflated, so I wasn’t afraid of us sinking but I couldn’t figure out where all the water was coming from.  Sam and Maya tried helping by splashing out the Daddy Soup.  With all of their splashing, I was sure that at least some of the water should have been going over the sides of the kayak and into the lake but I was still marinating in slightly above fifty degree water.  By the time the water had started approaching Sam’s bottom, six inches higher than mine, I figured we should get to shore.  With many comical half-circling paddling from Maya and Daddy Soup splashing from Sam and a lot of laughter from all three of us, we made it back alive.  You are reading this, so I didn’t think that part would be much of a surprise.

On shore, we learned that the manufacturer had put in a clever little valve to help  you drain the water from the bottom of the kayak.  Of course, if you happen to have the valve open when you go into the water instead of going into the land, you do the opposite of draining water out.  Namely, you let in a lot of slightly warmer than 50 degree water.  We were soaked but laughing a lot.

I was very proud of my kids then.  Maya could have been upset by her paddling but instead labeled it comedic paddling and did the best she could.  All of us could have been upset by the cold or the rain or the clever little valve in the bottom of the kayak but instead we chose to laugh and focus on the stories.  My bottom was still a little numb but we were already telling of our great – and cold – adventure.

We can choose to focus on the negatives or we can choose to focus on the laughter and the stories we will tell.  Our experiences are greatly affected by what we chose to focus on.  What we experience may be out of our hands but how we experience it is up to us.  Choose wisely.

Don’t be one of the 92%

The University of Scranton teamed with the Journal of Clinical Psychology and reviewed New Year’s Resolutions (See summary here).  Only 8% of the population succeeded at their prior year’s New Year’s Resolutions.  25% of people drop their New Year’s Resolution by the end of the first week.  A third of people drop their resolution by the end of the first month.

There are a number of factors influencing resolution success.  A very typical issue is that people tend to NOT plan out how they are going to actually achieve their resolution.  The most common resolution is losing weight.  Losing weight comes down to three factors; eating fewer calories, eating healthier and moving more.  To be successful at achieving a weight loss resolution, a person needs to plan out how are they going to track and reduce calories, how are they going to ensure they eat more and how are they going to move more.  While it is ok for the goal to be a little lose, the more specific a person is on how he/she will accomplish the actions that lead to achieving the goal, the more likely he/she will lose the weight.

Be very specific on your action plans.  Ask yourself the five “W” and an “H” questions.  What are you going to do?  Why are you doing this action?  When will you do it?  Where will you do it?  Who are you going to do it with?  Finally, How are you going to do it?  Once you have these questions all laid out, put your action plans in your calendar and set reminders on your phone.  Look over your plan.  Are their any obstacles to accomplishing the plan as you laid out?  Address them now.  If you say you are going to go to the gym at 6 am every morning but your schedule has you getting to bed at 2 am, your plan probably isn’t going to work for long.  You are better off addressing these issues before you even start.

I’ve recently published a book Greater Than that is very appropriate for achieving New Year’s Resolutions.   Greater Than is the first in the series The Little Book Series for Big Success.  Each book in this series is meant to be read in under an hour and is constructed in a way where you can start applying its techniques immediately.  Greater Than give thirteen different tools, techniques and strategies that will help you reach your resolution goals.

Please like or share if you know someone who needs a little help with their resolutions.  We all could use a little help once in awhile.