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Keep Drama on the Stage—and out of the Workplace

In the requisite Stein on Writing, publisher, writer and master editor Sol Stein reveals this secret to successful plotting: create a crucible.

If you’ve ever seen Mike NicholsWho’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, you know how compelling a crucible can be. When you pit two forces of nature like Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) and George (Richard Burton) against one another, the results are explosive.

As Stein writes, “Characters caught in a crucible won’t declare a truce and quit.… the motivation of the characters to continue opposing each other is greater than their motivation to run away.”

While such a formula makes for gripping drama, that’s the last thing you want in the workplace.

Good leaders know how to navigate conflicts, dissipate tension and redirect negative energies into positive, productive outlets. Most importantly, they themselves are not the source of drama.

Unfortunately, those leaders are rare. A recent Australian study suggests there are more villains at the top than we realize—1 in 5 CEOs may be psychopaths (versus 1 in 100 in the general population).

“Typically psychopaths create a lot of chaos and generally tend to play people off against each other,” says Nathan Brooks, the forensic psychologist who conducted the study.

A profit-driven corporate culture often propels sociopaths—who unabashedly violate ethics in pursuit of the bottom line—to positions of power, even though such behavior collectively costs companies hundreds of billions annually due to employee turnover and disengagement.

Just as the recent Wells Fargo scandal teaches us, myopic thinking may yield short-term profits but reaps incalculable damage. Sure, there are the obvious costs like $185 million in fines, $5 million in customer refunds and the potential billions in class action lawsuits from customers and the 5,300 terminated employees.

At a deeper level, however, the damage done to the Wells Fargo brand is incalculable. A bank losing the trust of its customers is tantamount to drinking Jonestown Flavor Aid.

Let’s play a word game. What do you think of when you hear Enron, Exxon and Monsanto? It’s probably fraud, Valdez and mass farmer suicides. Even when they change their names and attempt to reinvent themselves, corporations can never escape the toxic taint of corruption.

This is why it is so crucial to carefully define, protect and live your brand. From the epic to the everyday, how companies and leaders behave has lasting ramifications.

While we may not be in a position to shape the epic dimensions of our organization, all of us play a role in the everyday, and reducing drama in the workplace has widespread benefits—including boosting happiness and health, which subsequently reduces turnover, increases engagement and heightens productivity.

In this SmartBrief article, Dr. Nate Regier offers three tips for quashing office drama:

  • Practice transparency. In times of conflict, honesty is indeed the best policy. Instead of passive-aggressively venting your frustration, explain why a certain behavior is bothering you. Sidestep blame in favor of expressing your feelings. This is a common tactic in couples counseling for a reason—it reframes the concern as an expression of feeling rather than an attack and helps each understand the other’s perspective.
  • Offer your expertise. This doesn’t mean going around handing out uninvited advice. Rather, it means genuinely assessing the problem and offering to share relevant knowledge if desired—the last part being key.
  • Set realistic limits. In a conflict, identify your non-negotiables in a non-threatening manner. Once both parties have a clear understanding of the stated goals and obstacles, it’s easier to chart a path to resolution.

This kind of “compassionate accountability is key to productive relationships and communication,” writes Regier.

What are your workplace drama stories? Do you have any tips on how to cope with psychopathic bosses and smooth out tensions in the workplace?

5 Annoying Boss Habits That Will Tick off Your Team and Other Lessons from Office Space

Have you ever had a boss who had some irritating foibles that drove you up the wall? Those behaviors may have even become an inside joke among employees, a peculiar turn of phrase setting off a burst of laughter among coworkers or a physical quirk you mimic at the dinner table to make your kids giggle.

As funny as those traits might be, matters turn serious when you consider the high cost of employee turnover in the workplace. Make sure you’re not driving good talent away by practicing any of the following habits.

1) Did You Get the Memo?

Office Space is a comedic crash course on how not to behave as a boss, but the reason it resonates so deeply with audiences is its striking fidelity to corporate life. How many times has your organization adopted a new policy that yields little substance while only creating more busywork for employees? Whether it’s putting cover sheets on TPS reports or keeping a daily task log, it gets in the way of doing real work and drains you of motivation.

2) Eight Bosses

Also perfectly illustrated in Office Space are the hazards of management bloat. As Peter Gibbons notes in the above clip, “When I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That’s my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.”

3) We Need to Talk about Your Flair

Does your company make you wear or do silly things as a cheap way of promoting their branding? Instead of living a brand based on a blend of research, reality and aspiration, they might tell you to use certain catch phrases or wear a particular color on Fridays. These infantilizing habits make you feel more like you’re at a high school pep rally than in a serious workplace.

4) Ahh, I’m Also Gonna Need You to Go Ahead and Come in on Sunday, Too

Have you had managers who spring surprises on you at the last minute and just presume you’re okay with them? Like telling—not asking—you to work on Saturday … and Sunday, and then phrasing it in such a way that you don’t have a choice in the matter. Bosses who don’t respect their team members’ personal time have overstepped their boundaries, and those who decree royal edicts rather than making requests are likely to find themselves without minions one day.

5) The Ratio of People to Cake Is Too Big

Do you have any Milton Waddams at your company? Employees thrive in an atmosphere of quality, fairness and respect, and if one or more team members feel they’re being slighted, that is a recipe for a toxic workplace. Lack of fairness doesn’t have to come from mistreatment, exclusion or bullying—it may also take the form of favoritism. If some employees feel a manager favors one of their colleagues, they will not only come to resent the manager but also to detest that colleague. In other words, if you’re going to have cake, make sure there’s an equal portion for everyone. After all, you don’t want any Miltons setting the building on fire.

More Behaviors to Avoid

Read more great tips on annoying boss habits to avoid in Six Boss Behaviors That Drive Your Team Members Bonkers and Five Meetings Your Employees Will Thank You for Killing or Fixing at The Balance.

Want to Be a Better Leader?

You may not be guilty of the above vices, but you probably have some habits you’re unaware of that may be irking your team. If you’re ready to become not only the best possible boss but the best possible you, get started with leadership coaching by calling Chris Cook at 541.601.0114 or emailing her today.

Creed for Optimists: 11 Ways to Build Resilience

Have you ever stumbled across something that resonated so deeply you could have been its author? This happened to me recently when I came across Christian D. Larson’s “Creed for Optimists,” written in 1912. Here it is.

Promise yourself to:

Founder of the New Thought movement, Larson (1874–1954) is credited for being an American New Thought leader and teacher as well as a prolific author of metaphysical and New Thought books. Many of Larson’s books remain in print today, more than 100 years after they were first published, and his writings influenced notable New Thought authors and leaders. His Optimist Creed was adopted by Optimists International, better know as the Optimist Clubs.
  1. Be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
  2. Talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
  3. Make all your friends feel there is something special in them.
  4. Think only of the best, work only for the best and expect only the best.
  5. Be as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
  6. Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
  7. Give everyone a smile.
  8. Spend so much time improving yourself that you have no time left to criticize others.
  9. Be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
  10. Think well of yourself and proclaim this fact to the world—not in loud words—but in great deeds.
  11. Live in the faith that the whole world is on your side, so long as you are true to the best that is in you.

Makes me happy just to read the Creed. So what about living it?

It’s what I strive for every day. By mindfully following these tenets, I have seen benefits in my work environment, home environment and all personal relationships. Although the learning is continuous and I have a long way to go, I have become better at listening and have developed higher levels of understanding and compassion.

What would change if you were to incorporate the Creed into your everyday life? Give it a try. Let me know how it changes you—and how it changes those you interact with. Cheers!

New Agreements: 5 Ways to Transform Your Workplace

Thanks to LinkedIn, I had a chance to talk with author David Dibble last week. He read a recent blog I posted and asked to connect with me. Funny thing is I’ve been using his book The New Agreements in the Workplace for the last five years as source material for the Working with Emotional Intelligence class I teach at Southern Oregon University. I’ve summarized his work below and added a few quotes to illustrate. Thanks, David!

1. Find Your Path


“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
—Goethe


As individuals in the workplace and in the world, each of us must find our own path to personal freedom and transformation. If the release of the creative human spirit in the workplace is your passion, following a true path will accelerate the journey dramatically. A true path is a roadmap that includes proven practices, community support along the way and possibly a teacher. Most importantly, a true path will ignite your higher purpose for work based in love.

A true path will ignite your higher purpose for work based in love. Click To Tweet

2. Love, Grow and Serve Your People


“All work is empty, save when there is love.”
—Kahlil Gibran


The workplace can be thought of as a living being. Workplaces are alive because they are made of people. To love, grow and serve your people means loving, growing and serving the organization. In doing so, you love, grow and serve yourself. This is true leadership.

3. Mind Your Mind in the Moment


“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven.”
—John Milton


Science has been looking at the human mind for thousands of years, and many questions remain. Your mind creates both your individual and organizational realities. To change yourself or your workplace, you must transform your mind. Awareness of the mind in the moment when life and work take place is a central practice to nearly every true path. With awareness, you can create heaven on earth in your workplace.

4. Shift Your Systems


“Men have become the tools of their tools.”
—Henry David Thoreau


All organizations have structural components we call systems. Systems are the formal and informal policies, procedures, habits and agreements that tell you how to do things in the workplace. They control about 90 percent of the results you create in your organization. To unlock your creative human spirit, you must shift from the fear and control that drive most workplace systems to an atmosphere of love and support.

You must shift from fear and control to an atmosphere of love and support. Click To Tweet

5. Practice a Little Every Day


“The indefatigable pursuit of an unattainable perfection—even though nothing more than the pounding of an old piano—is what alone gives a meaning to our life on this unavailing star.”
—Logan Pearsall Smith


Did you know the space shuttle is off course approximately 97 percent of the time? To make the New Agreements a reality, you must practice a little every day. As you practice, you will notice change. With regular practice, you embody the New Agreements. As you move from doing to being, you become the unbridled release of your creative human spirit. This is true mastery.

Living the New Agreements

How does this sit with you? How does it manifest in your workplace? If you want to work with the New Agreements, let’s talk about how coaching or consulting can help you create positive change.

Are You Seeing the Forest for the Trees? Where Senior Leaders Are Failing

When you think of senior leaders at your organization, are they more likely to spend their time:

  1. zooming from meeting to meeting, generating reports and bashing through an endless task list or
  2. developing strategy, delegating to trusted staff and inspiring employees through strengths-based coaching?

Most likely, your answer is ‘a.’ You may even be one of those managers swept away by the tidal wave of meetings, busywork and deadlines. There are any number of reasons for this—from downsizing causing work to be divvied among fewer employees to a myopic focus on immediate targets blinding us to the bigger picture.
You want a captain who has enough foresight to steer the ship away from danger. Click To Tweet

The Grander Vision

Whatever the excuse, you have to admit senior leadership bears some responsibility for articulating the grander vision of the organization, seeing past the urgent projects and daily crises to achieve a broader, deeper perspective.

You want a captain who has enough foresight to steer the ship away from danger and toward smooth waters. If she’s stuck in the engine room, how can she scan the horizon for icebergs and storm clouds?

Two Tracks: Senior Leaders & Individual Contributors

At The Context of Things, Ted Bauer recently blogged about how senior leaders shouldn’t be individual contributors. Instead, he floats an idea that got shot down by a previous employer of his: rather than making senior management the only career advancement option, offer an alternative “individual contributor” track—of equal pay.

This accomplishes two things: 1) it prevents unqualified people from becoming one of the 82 percent of poor manager hires (who subsequently make life miserable for their underlings and sap productivity), and 2) it acknowledges the unique strengths of key individual players, allowing them to blossom in ways that may otherwise never occur in a traditional corporate structure.

Such an approach could harness untapped talents while enabling the truly gifted leaders to rise to their calling. Managers who entrust their staff with tasks they would typically undertake not only empower those contributors but also free them to concentrate on influential strategic decisions.

Imagine a leader who balances an eagle’s eye view with an empathetic approach. Click To Tweet

A Better Way

When only a third of senior leadership can identify company priorities, something is askew. When managers spend more time head-down at their desks than getting to know their staff, they are failing as leaders.

Imagine instead a leader who balances an eagle’s eye view of the organization—comprehending its innate culture, branding and marketing tactics—with an empathetic and astute appreciation of every employee. That manager would understand how to elicit the best from his employees in concert with the organization’s deeper mission, conducting a harmonious symphony in pursuit of long-term strategic goals.

The Path Forward

This may feel daunting to managers trapped in the corporate grind and facing a seemingly infinite to-do list. You don’t have to do it alone.

Through executive coaching, you can identify your own natural abilities, charting a path toward strategic leadership and becoming an inspiration for your employees as you model transformation.

In addition to igniting your personal and professional growth, Chris Cook can help your company discover its DNA. Her organizational consulting services will make the big picture crystal clear while outlining specific steps you and your staff can take to achieve your company’s aspirational vision.

Want to Explore the Possibilities?

Whether you want leadership coaching, organizational consulting, branding guidance or all of the above, Chris Cook can help. Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris today.

Millennial Mindset: What Gen Y Wants out of Work and Life

When it comes to work, do you value purpose over salary? Growth over comfort? Do you want your leaders to empower rather than instruct you? Are you more comfortable with casual check-in conversations than a formal annual performance evaluation? Do you prefer to focus on your strengths rather than your weaknesses? Does your life take precedence over your career?

Then you might be a Millennial—or at least you’re attuned to the same values identified as characteristic of Generation Y in a recent Gallup report titled “How Millennials Want to Work and Live.”

According to William Strauss and Neil Howe—the authors credited with coining the term “Millennials”—the generation born roughly between 1980 and 2000 is globally conscious and civic-minded. They care more about community than personal advancement. This concern for larger causes has also earned them the sobriquet Echo Boomers.

Generation Me author Jean Twenge and other critics question the altruistic traits Strauss and Howe associate with Millennials in Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069, finding them instead to exhibit a greater sense of entitlement and narcissism.

Wherever you fall on the debate, there’s no denying Millennials are seeking something deeper from their work, and that is why employers that offer meaningful roles are more likely to secure the loyalty of job-hopping Gen Yers.

There’s no denying Millennials are seeking something deeper from their work. Click To Tweet

Whereas past generations aimed to land a good-paying job where they could climb the corporate ladder over the course of their career, Millennials are likelier to switch jobs in search of more gratifying opportunities. The Gallup report reveals that 6 out of 10 Millennials express a willingness to change jobs, and as many as 21 percent have changed jobs within the past year—triple the number reported by other generations.

Generation Y job-hopping costs the US economy an estimated $30.5 billion. That fact combined with their lower workplace engagement—only 29% are engaged, Gallup says—make it imperative for organizations to find ways of appealing to Millennials.

Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton identifies six cultural shifts organizations can make to engage and retain Gen Yers:

  1. Prioritize purpose over pay. Fair compensation is important, but meaning matters more. Gen Yers would rather work at a job that pays less but makes them feel they are contributing to a good cause and helping the larger world. Unless your Millennial employees feel inspired by the mission of the organization, connected to the culture and creatively challenged by their responsibilities, they’re going to seek out more fulfilling jobs.
  2. Offer development opportunities. Millennials want to grow both personally and professionally. They’re less interested in perks like pool tables and espresso machines than in learning new skills and acquiring knowledge.
  3. Be a coach—not a boss. This shift from an autocratic leadership style to a collegial, empowering one benefits not only Millennials but all employees. People automatically become more engaged when leaders recognize and develop their strengths, making them feel more valued while helping them become better individuals.
  4. Converse rather than assess. Reared on social media, Generation Y takes a more casual approach to communication. They don’t want to wait a year to get feedback during a formal annual review—they desire ongoing discussions so they constantly know where they stand and how they can improve.
  5. Focus on strengths instead of weaknesses. Rather than dwelling on weaknesses, discover your employees’ strengths and cultivate those talents. Gallup notes, “weaknesses never develop into strengths, while strengths develop infinitely.” That’s not to say organizations should pretend the weaknesses don’t exist. A leader who understands their employees’ abilities and flaws can redefine individual roles to minimize weaknesses and maximize strengths across the collective whole.
  6. Create jobs they love. More than previous generations, Millennials identify their work with their lives. They want to know they are spending their hours wisely and doing fulfilling work at a company that appreciates them as human beings.

By understanding the work and life goals of Gen Yers, you can attract the brightest young stars to your organization—and keep them there. Unattached, connected, unconstrained, and idealistic, Millennials will flourish in a culture that treasures their strengths, gives them a sense of purpose and drives them to be their best selves.

Discover Your Drive: 5 More Tips for Building Self-Control

This is the last in a series of articles (see part 1 and part 2) investigating the life-changing impact of self-control and how you can hone yours.

Below are five more tips gleaned from Kelly McGonigal’s The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It.

1) Avoid Goal-Sabotaging

Working toward a goal requires balancing between our desired outcome and our immediate urge for gratification.

Scientists have found those reminded of their progress toward a goal are more likely to backslide as a way of rewarding themselves.

If we’ve successfully resisted sugary desserts for a week, we begin to experience goal liberation, which tells us we deserve a little treat for being so good.

This can lead to a one-step-forward-two-steps-backward goal-sabotaging pattern. Be alert to this threat, and you’ll get a leg up on your temptation.

2) Don’t Let Your Brain Trick You

Our brains can mistake thinking about a goal for the actual work itself, causing us to pat ourselves on the back prematurely.

When fast food restaurants offer healthier options like salads, people are more likely to order unhealthy alternatives like burgers and fries. Browsing an eco-friendly site causes us to indulge in some not-so-green behavior, thinking we’ve already done our bit to offset our carbon footprint.

Simply considering the better option substitutes for action in the brain, giving us permission to deviate from our higher aspirations.

Penalties introduced to deter bad behavior often backfire for this reason. Daycare centers that imposed a fee for parents who arrived late found instances of lateness increased. Paying the fee assuaged parents’ guilt over being late, removing incentive for being on time.

3) Find Your “I Want” Power

The way to build self-control and overcome goal-sabotaging behavior is to focus not on your progress but rather on your long-term motivation (your “I want” power).

In one study, students asked to remember an instance in which they resisted temptation were 70 percent more likely to give in to their next temptation. An almost equal percentage—69 percent—fended off temptation when asked to recall why they had resisted in that past moment.

4) Befriend Your Future Self

People who have a strong sense of their future selves are more likely to make the best decisions when it comes to long-term goals like retirement savings.

It’s easy to let the demands of now interfere with our aspirations to set money aside, but that becomes more difficult when we’ve taken the time to envision ourselves at retirement age.

Studies show those with high future self-continuity tend to behave more ethically and responsibly as well as becoming a better person in the present.

People with low future self-continuity are more likely to cheat on tests, steal in the workplace, gossip and lie to secure short-term advantages.

McGonigal writes, “It as if feeling disconnected from our future selves gives us permission to ignore the consequences of our actions.”

5) Choose Your Friends Wisely

Poor habits spread like a contagion through social networks. You are more likely to smoke, drink heavily, gamble, engage in crime or succumb to addiction if you hang out with people who practice these behaviors.

While genetics influence obesity, there is also a cultural/social component that involves unhealthy lifestyle choices like eating processed foods and failing to exercise regularly.

Research shows a person’s chances of becoming obese increase by 171 percent when a friend becomes obese, 67 percent when a sister does and 45 percent if it’s a brother.

But there’s a flip side to this phenomenon: surrounding yourself with people who have similar life goals substantially increases your chances of fulfilling those objectives. This is why regularly attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings is crucial to addiction recovery.

Want to eat healthier, take up marathon running, quit smoking or start writing that novel you’ve been dreaming about for years? Find a community that will support you in your goals, and they will help hold you accountable to your dreams.

Want a Coach in Your Corner?

Ready to go from wishing to achieving? Chris Cook can inspire, support and drive you to achieve your goals and live a happier, more fulfilling life. Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris today.

Dig Deep: 5 Tips for Building Self-Control

In our last post, we explored why building self-control is critical to achieving your long-term goals. Now, we equip you with the tools and techniques you need to beef up your willpower muscle courtesy of The Willpower Instinct author Kelly McGonigal.

1) Know Thyself

According to McGonigal, understanding what causes you to lose control is key to strengthening it. By recognizing your vulnerabilities, you are positioned to sidestep the pitfalls that usually trip you up.

Research tells us those who are overly confident in their powers of self-control are the likeliest to succumb to temptation. Pride goeth before a fall, as Proverbs, Shakespeare and Greek mythology remind us.

2) Let’s Get Physical

Willpower is affected by sleep, diet and blood sugar levels. Studies show those with higher blood sugar levels exhibit lower impulse control. They are emotionally frayed and more susceptible to poor decision making.

It’s a bad idea to go shopping when you’re hungry, tired, stressed or cranky. You’ll spend twice as much while getting less of what you need and more of what you don’t.

If you want to build self-control, you need to get your physical health tip-top with sufficient sleep and a healthy, nutrient-dense diet.

3) Reduce Stress

Stress weakens our willpower, so reducing stress will help fortify your self-control.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has found the following strategies to be most effective in relieving stress: exercising, playing sports, meditating or praying, taking a walk, practicing yoga, listening to music, reading, being with loved ones, spending time in nature, enjoying a massage and pouring yourself into a creative activity or hobby.

4) A Spoonful of Sugar

If you’re dreading a particular task, find a way to associate it with a reward. By tapping into the reward center of the brain, you can get your dopamine neurons firing and transform a mundane project into an adventure.

Don’t want to do those dishes? Start blasting your favorite music and get your groove on while scrubbing plates.

The yard needs weeding? Challenge your partner or a friend to a weeding contest. Whoever fills their bucket first gets to choose the dinner menu—and the loser cooks it.

Get creative and have fun, and you’ll find yourself flying through those chores.

5) Practice Willpower Exercises

Here are a few simple exercises you can use to strengthen your self-control muscle:

  1. I won’t. Pick something small like refraining from saying “um” or “like,” not crossing your legs while sitting or using your non-dominant hand for a specific task like brushing your teeth or setting the table.
  2. I will. Incorporate one task into your daily routine that you don’t currently practice. It might be keeping a one-sentence journal, doing a yoga pose upon waking or reading a poem every night before bed.
  3. Self-monitor. Start tracking yourself so you have a clearer picture of how you spend your money, time or energy. If you are trying to reign in your spending, use a financial application to analyze how much you spend on what. If you want to cut your carb intake, keep a food journal to help you identify your weak spots. If you find your evenings disappearing into thin air, track how much time you spend watching television.

Need Someone to Hold Your Feet to the Fire?

Chris Cook can help you clarify your life goals and build the willpower to achieve it. Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris today.

But Wait, There’s More

We’ll share the next five secrets to bulking up your willpower in our next post.

I Will, I Won’t, I Want: Why Strengthening This Power Will Supercharge Your Success

It affects your career, relationships, health and financial stability. It’s the difference between dreamers and doers, wannabes and winners.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), lack of it is the top reason Americans have trouble achieving their goals. And it is the second secret ingredient Angela Lee Duckworth identifies as critical to success: self-control.

While our last article examined the first component to success—grit—this post focuses on the latter.

The Marshmallow Test

Most of us have seen the 1960s and 1970s footage of Psychologist Walter Mischel’s Stanford Marshmallow series of experiments on delayed gratification. In the above clip, motivational speaker and coach Joachim de Posada reprises this famous experiment in Colombia.

If you’re not familiar with the test, it involves placing a four-year-old in a room by herself with a marshmallow. The child is told if she waits 15 minutes, she will be given a second marshmallow. If she eats it, however, she will receive nothing.

The ensuing struggle each child undergoes is both humorous and revealing. De Posada—author of Don’t Eat the Marshmallow … Yet! The Secret to Sweet Success in Work and Life—jokes about one little girl who was clever enough to eat the inside of the marshmallow so it would appear untouched, “We know she’ll be successful, but we have to watch her. She should not go into banking, for example.”

While two out of three children cave in to temptation and eat the marshmallow, one of out three refrains, exhibiting the self-discipline that will help her achieve success in life.

When Mischel conducted a follow-up study 15 years later, 100 percent of the children who had resisted the marshmallow were demonstrably successful, whereas the majority of those who’d succumbed had lower competencies and were doing poorly in school and life.

Strengthening Your Self-Control Muscle

“Self-control is a muscle,” Kelly McGonigal writes in The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It.

That’s exciting because it means we have the ability to strengthen it. We may sometimes feel powerless to resist temptation or keep our nose to the grindstone when facing a daunting task, but we just need to learn how to build our willpower.

Whether you want to quit smoking, eat a healthier diet, accomplish a professional goal or reduce the amount of time you spend on social media, you’ll need self-control to get there.

Take the I Will, I Won’t, I Want Power Challenge

McGonigal outlines three forms of willpower and challenges us to put each one into practice in a concrete way:

  • I will. Think of something you’d like to do more of that you’ve been putting off—and do it.
  • I won’t. Tackle a bad habit that’s negatively affecting your health, relationships, work or life in general.
  • I want. What’s a long-term goal you’ve been dreaming about but keep getting distracted from? Time to get started.

Need Help Building Your Willpower?

Chris Cook can help you discover and fulfill your I will, I won’t and I want power challenges. Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris today.

Stay Tuned

Our next two posts will teach you 10 strategies you can deploy to strengthen your self-control.

True Grit: The Secret to Long-Term Success

What’s the strongest predictor of success in school, on the field or in your career—IQ, EQ, socioeconomic background, leadership skills or talent? Actually, it’s none of those. It’s grit.

From spelling bee finalists to Westpoint cadets, athletes to rookie teachers, scholars to salespeople, MacArthur fellow and University of Pennsylvania Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth found two consistent predictors of achievement: grit and self-control.

Duckworth discusses the pioneering research on grit she and her colleagues have been conducting at the Duckworth Lab in the following TED talk.

What Seventh-Graders Taught Duckworth

Having left a lucrative job in management consulting to teach seventh-grade math, Duckworth started noticing something funny. The students with the sharpest IQs were sometimes the lowest achievers, and those with poorer IQ scores sometimes outshone their more talented peers.

None of the typically assumed factors for success accounted for the patterns she was seeing. What did those who excelled have in common?

After five years of teaching, Duckworth got a PhD in psychology to find out. She shares these discoveries in her forthcoming book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Already the #1 bestseller in Educational Certification & Development at Amazon, the book explores why focused persistence gets us further than raw ability.

It’s Not How You Succeed—It’s How You Fail

Those who glide through life don’t get a chance to develop the stamina and chutzpah that help them overcome obstacles when they do arise. Grit is not about skating by but rather about doggedly bouncing back every time you stumble.

Authentic Happiness author and positive psychology luminary Martin Seligman is part of the team heading up the Growth Initiative, which focuses on the subject of growth through adversity.

Seligman and his colleagues are interested in identifying how and why some people thrive following tragedy while others wither. Their goal is “to better understand the conditions under which people can experience positive behavioral changes after going through highly stressful adverse events.”

Japan: A Case Study in Post-Traumatic Growth

Just as a scar thickens the skin, trauma can build the resilience necessary to weather future calamities.

A case study in post-traumatic growth, the nation of Japan flourished following the physical and psychological devastation wrought by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings.

Written following the 2011 Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor crisis, this New York Times article argues that it is Japan’s very history with trauma that would enable it to heal from the latest onslaught.

In the article, authors Peter Fretwell and Taylor Baldwin Kiland outline the five necessary conditions to cultivate in the face of mass trauma:

  1. a sense of safety;
  2. calm;
  3. a sense of self and community efficacy;
  4. connectedness; and
  5. hope.

We can carry those lessons over into our individual lives as we learn to cope with—and grow through—adversity.

An Undercover FBI Agent Shares Her Secrets

Former FBI undercover and counterintelligence agent LaRae Quy shares these five tips for building the confidence needed to succeed in a recent article:

  1. Don’t fear failure. Taking risks, challenging yourself and making mistakes gives us an opportunity to learn—and grow. In other words, it’s what Homer Simpson calls a “crisitunity.”
  2. Value feedback. Quy cites recent Leadership IQ research indicating that lack of coachability accounted for 26 percent of failed new hires. Those who seek out and embrace constructive feedback are more likely to evolve.
  3. Practice. It gets you to Carnegie Hall for a reason—the more familiar you are with a task, the more effortlessly you will be able to execute it. You will also recover from a misstep with more grace.
  4. “Only connect.” Having the support and mutual respect of colleagues will bolster your confidence and strengthen your sense of community.
  5. Build grit. We’ve already learned the value of grit from Duckworth. There is no pearl without the sand.

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How have encounters with adversity led to your growth? Are you ready to up your game?

Chris Cook can help you develop the necessary grit to achieve your goals. Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris today.