EducationProductivitySelf-Improvement

high-five with cat

Well folks, that’s it. January has finally ended. And with that, most people’s resolve to meet their list of New Year’s Resolutions has also ended.

groundhog day
But hey! We survived Groundhog Day!

OK, maybe I’m jumping the gun a bit. It’s actually mid-February when most lose their resolve. But that’s not really the point here anyway.

The question is: WHY do people lose their resolve?

What are some of the things lots of people resolve to do on that Great Day of Resolution? According to Time.com, the Top 10 broken New Year’s Resolutions are:

  • Lose Weight and Get Fit
  • Quite Smoking
  • Learn Something New
  • Get Out of Debt and Save Money
  • Spend More Time with Family
  • Travel to New Places
  • Be Less Stressed
  • Volunteer
  • Drink Less

Do you see any problems with this list?

These resolutions are HUGE. They require major life changes.

Don’t get me wrong, I think these lofty goals are great, but trying to reach the height of that goal on day one is like trying to eat a 12-foot subway sandwich in one sitting. It’s just a really bad idea.

Seagull eating a starfish
Or this seagull trying to eat a massive starfish

It’s not impossible for one person to eat a 12-foot sandwich, though. How, you might ask? Well by taking one bite at a time, of course!

Now a more practical application: habits. In order to make a major change in your life, you need to create or change a habit. Trying to do that isn’t easy, but it can be done if you break it down into little tiny pieces. Let’s look one of the resolutions on the above list: Learn Something New.

Some people might jump to the conclusion that you should go out and sign up for a cake decorating course or take on reading a complex physics book and then force yourself to finish these regardless of whether you like to or not.

smoking lamb cake wreck
It’s OK, cake decorating isn’t for everyone.

But what if there’s a better way?

You want to learn something new, so why don’t you find a five-minute educational that you can listen to while you’re getting ready for work every day or before you turn the lights off for bed? Or how about you find a book full of interesting facts and read just one fact per day before bed? These are easy things to do and require very little effort, but they’re still steps on a journey of learning new things.

Gosh, this book would be a great start.

Every time you accomplish this task, give yourself a high-five, pat yourself on the pack, or any other kind of positive affirming message. Yes, I know this sounds cheesy, but it’s an important part of enforcing the good habit.

Do this daily and you’ll have created a new habit, and that itself the hardest part. Once you have the habit in place, you can increase the time you spend on it as you like.

high-five with cat
Don’t forget the high-five. It’s crucial.

There’s no timeline for doing this, you just move forward when you are ready, but you are still accomplishing a goal: learning something new.

I think at some point the 12-foot subway sandwich analogy breaks down, because no matter what, you’ll still (probably) never eat it all in one day, but I think you’re all smart enough to get what I mean.

submarine sandwich
It’s temping to try though, right?

If you want to read more about building better habits and breaking bad ones, check out this episode of Hidden Brain: Creatures of Habit: How Habits Shape Who We Are — And Who We Become. In fact, if learning something new DOES happen to be your New Year’s resolution, I recommend the whole Hidden Brain podcast series!

CommunicationProductivitySelf-Improvement

Allegorical painting from the 17th century with text Nosce te ipsum

Do you ever find communicating with other people difficult? Are you ever baffled by other people’s idea of a good time? Have you ever gone a whole year thinking one thing about someone only to discover a new piece of information about their personality and have to reframe your entire past relationship with them (for better or for worse)?

deborah or robot
Which one is Deborah? Which one is the robot? We’ll never know.

I don’t know about any of you out there, but I’ve got one of the more rare personality types. I’m socially introverted and extraverted thinking, or in the language of Myers-Briggs, I’m an INTJ, the Mastermind. Or as some people like to call me: I’m a robot. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that these personality measurements are the be-all-end-all of defining oneself, but they can be helpful for understanding yourself and others.

For example: I was acquainted with a girl for an entire year before she discovered that I was being friendly with her and didn’t hate her. She didn’t understand my extremely dry sense of humour (we INTJs tend to have a dry dark sense of humour). Once she got that, she looked back and realised I was making jokes the entire year and it was because I liked her rather than disliked her, and wanted to be friends. (And then we became friends.)

When it comes to the workplace, knowing about my own personality is helpful. I know that I work best when I have write out a schedule for myself — it helps keep me from getting bogged down in perfectionism. I can get a little obsessive sometimes. I’m good at knowing how to solve problems, and when to stop and return to the problem at a later time. I know that I work best alone, and that when I have to be around a lot of people, I should schedule in quiet time so that I don’t get burnt out.

I can also be pretty cold, direct, and bossy so I need to remember to be more gentle with people who might take that personally (it’s not unusual to hear me to tell someone, “no, you’re doing it completely wrong. No, that’s wrong too. No! Stop now! Before you make it worse! I will show you!” Yeah, tact: not a strong point for me, room for self-improvement). I’m also good at taking criticism about my work (the previous sentence directed at me won’t bother me). If a client isn’t satisfied with something, I want to know so that I can make them happy, so I make sure to let my clients know that they can be upfront with me.

panda wearing a panda
According to Youtopia, pandas are an INFJ

On the flip side of the coin, it can be helpful to know more about the personalities of the people you work with, including clients, co-workers, and managers. Are they introverted or extroverted? What are the best ways to communicate with them? What are habits that tend to annoy (or please) their personality type? Taking the time to understand the people around you can make a big difference in getting along in the workplace (as well as home and other interpersonal relationships). Sometimes looking outward can make a big difference, especially in a small workplace.

Have you ever known someone for a long time then had to reframe everything you knew about them after learning something about their personality? Has someone ever had to do that with you? What is your Myers-Briggs personality type? What are some other types of personality assessments that you find helpful?

*Note: I’m pretty sure that the maxim “know thyself” wasn’t originally about personality, but it seems to have evolved that way. Perhaps another subject for another day!