There’s your life, and there’s the way you process your life. We all have an outside life and an inside life. While the events of our life are happening, there’s a parallel interior talk track accompanying them.
Here are two mental shifts that will help you experience more happiness, joy and success immediately.
1. Be fully present – at least for the important stuff
You’re sitting in the stands watching your child’s graduation, you’ve been thinking about this moment for years. Yet there you are worrying about whether they’re going to get a job, do I have enough appetizers for the party, did I finish the work project, blah, blah, blah, the head chatter distracts you as the event continues without you. The result is you’re only halfway present for one of the most important milestones of your life. When you make a commitment to be fully present, you realize how hard it is. One technique I’ve discovered is to make important events a full sensory experience. When you’re sitting in the graduation stands, settle into your body and ask, what’s in front of you? What are you really seeing? What does it smell like? What does the bench feel like? What are the expressions on the faces of your family members?
Zooming in on specific sensory details gives your mind a place to focus. It quiets the chatter in your head. We’re all distracted at times. When you use a multi-sensory technique to be fully present for big moments, your life slows down in important ways. You deepen your relationships, you experience more joy and you fully experience the things that matter.
2. Assume good intent – at least in the beginning
If I’m late it’s because I ran into traffic. If you’re late, clearly you don’t respect my time. We tend to judge ourselves by our intentions, but we judge others by their actions.
Recently I was working with a leadership team who often accused each other of undermining behavior. One leader said of another, “He’s trying to build a fiefdom.” They assumed when another leader pushes for more resources, he’s trying to garner power. Yet when I asked each member of the team what was behind their budget requests, they talked about their goals for the business. They wanted budget to help the business grow, those other leaders were simply in it for themselves.
Assuming good intent, prompts you to ask questions before you judge. Imagine you come home in a bad mood, would you rather face a spouse who asks, “What’s wrong sweetie?” Or one who assumes you’re intentionally trying to ruin everyone’s evening? We all want to get credit for our better angels.
Assuming good intent is more than just the kind thing to do, it’s the smart and easy thing to do. Second-guessing other people’s motives takes up major brain space. When you do it early and often, you stymie any chance for team effort and you miss good ideas. Whether it’s a colleague or a family member, assuming bad intent has a chilling effect on everything you try to do with that person.
Assuming good intent doesn’t mean being naïve. You can always decide the person is an evil jerk later. Assuming good intent is a shortcut that enables you to get to the task at hand more quickly, and enjoy the people around you more.