by Leslie Galema
I get overwhelmed pretty easily. Take laundry, as an example. My husband and I have three children. I can work all day washing everything in our house and as soon as I fold the last clean item, BOOM! I am hit with what seems like another mountain of dirty clothes. It is never-ending. Another thing I hate about laundry is carrying it up and down our stairs and putting the clean folded clothes away. (#firstworldproblems) I know I need to do laundry and it really doesn’t take a ton of energy for me to do it, but just thinking about it paralyzes me.
Something I have noticed that helps me get started on what seems to be never-ending piles of dirty clothes, is sorting. It seems simple, but when I see a huge pile of dirty clothes I get overwhelmed, but when I sort the clothes into smaller piles, it feels more manageable.
That leads us to this week’s study of The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. This week, I will unpack two more happiness principles, Principle #5 The Zorro Circle and Principle #6 The 20 Second Rule.
Principle #5 The Zorro Circle
How Limiting Your Focus to Small, Manageable Goals Can Expand Your Sphere of Power.
Achor writes about how Don Diego saw potential in Zorro as a sword master. Don Diego, drew a small circle in the dirt and had Zorro fight within it. Don Diego, wisely tells his protégé, “This circle will be your world. Your whole life. Until I tell you otherwise, there is nothing outside of it.”
One of our biggest drivers of success is the belief that our behavior matters; that we have control over our future. Yet, when our stresses and workloads seem to mount faster than our ability to keep up, feelings of control are often the first things to go, especially when we try to tackle too much at once.
In other words, if I wanted to lose 20 lbs., it could be easier for me if I looked at it as a pound a week. Smaller circles seem more attainable!
Zorro Circle Challenge:
Achor writes that the first circle we need to conquer is Self-Awareness.
Experiments show that when people are primed to feel high levels of distress, the quickest to recover are those who can identify how they are feeling and put those feelings into words. So, whether you do it by writing down feelings in a journal or talking to trusted coworker or confidant, verbalizing the stress and helplessness you are feeling is the first step toward regaining control.
The second circle is to identify that which you cannot control. Achor suggests that you make two columns. One column that is for what you can control and one column is for what you canNOT control. When you see what is in your circle and what is not, it literally lightens the load and feels more attainable.
Principle #6 The 20 Second Rule
Achor tells a story about his effort to learn to play the guitar and how he had tucked his guitar in a closet 20 seconds away from where he was sitting. Out of sight and out of reach, it wasn’t far out of the way but the 20 seconds it would take to get the guitar proved to be a major deterrent.
With this principle, Achor suggests that if you lower the activation energy for habits you want to adopt, and raise it for habits you want to avoid, the more we enhance our ability to jump-start positive change.
The key to creating these habits is ritual, repeated practice, until the actions become ingrained in your brain’s neural chemistry. And the key to daily practice is to put your desired actions as close to the path of least resistance as humanly possible.
What is that “something” in your life? Can you identify it? What can you do to make it easier and almost natural for you to practice it?