☝️ Upwarding #41: Special Year End Edition – the 5 Ideas That Made 2020 A Win

Welcome to this week's Upwarding newsletter. My blog, with more in-depth content, can be found here.

In this special year end edition, I’m going through the five ideas that had the most impact in making my 2020 better.

Idea #1: Joy vs. Happiness

From Upwarding #12

It might take a lifetime for you to figure out what makes you happy.  On the other hand, what makes you joyful is simple and predictable.

In this remarkable Ted talk, product designer Ingrid Lee discusses the known visual traits that induce joy.  Including… round things, pops of bright color, symmetrical shapes, a sense of abundance and multiplicity, and a feeling of lightness or elevation.  In other words, something like the picture above.  But maybe with googly eyes on some of the balloons.

Happiness is hard.  Joy is easy.  Choose joy and let happiness follow.

Idea #2: “I should” vs. “I could”

Use "I could" vs. "I should" when talking to yourself.

I should/ought to play with my kids vs. I could play with my kids.

I should work out vs. I could work out.

Should immediately condemns your current state - highlighting what you are not doing.  And it actually leads to a lower chance of you doing something vs. “I could”.  Your brain loves choice.  From Upwarding #36, look at how charities can use this trick

Try noticing today how much your internal voice is "shoulding" on yourself.  And practice replacing it with "could".  It's magical.

Idea #3: Willpower vs. Self-definition

For years I've relied on willpower to get the things done that I needed to do.  Losing weight, getting through a hard task at work, getting up early, etc.

The thing is, willpower is inherently limited.  It requires draining a finite resource to get something done.  A far better strategy is to define the kind of person you want to be, and then act based on how that future or ideal person would act.  Then you are acting from you are, not from a deplete-able energy source, and it is far more natural.  Think how easy it is for a rabbi to skip the pork.  No energy required!

Helpful books: Atomic Habits by James Clear.  What to Stay When You Talk to Yourself by Shad Helmstetter.

Helpful meditation: Future self by Tara Brach.

Idea #4: Heroically consistent vs. Consistently heroic.

Whether it's food choices, great habits, or just how I want to be in the world, I have radically reduced the size of my unit of change.  For example, instead of promising you are going to meditate for 15 minutes a day, try meditating for one minute.  It's still greater than zero and you are far more likely to complete it.  Which gets us back to the idea of defining who you are through your actions ("I am a meditator").  We don't have to be consistently heroic. We just need to be heroically consistent.  Related: just get 1% better at everything, all the time, and let the effects of compounding take hold.  By the way, it’s what turned around British Cycling.

Idea #5: Needs vs. Strategies

I took a course in non-violent communication this year from GLNVC.  The main lesson is that when people express a feeling, our job as a listener is to understand the underlying need that is trying to be met.  We tend to jump to strategies to solve the problem, but viewing a discussion as an individual's means for fulfilling a need leads to far deeper listening, and far more creativity in finding a strategy that works for all.

Example: when my son interrupts me, I go straight to the need "are you feeling like you need to be listened to?".  And then we can do something together that meets that need, rather than me getting angry about the interruption.

Here’s a list of universal human needs:

I hope you enjoy these gems!

In spite of the craziness it’s been a great year.  The best gift you can give me is getting me more subscribers.  We grew 2500% this year.

So, please send this onto a friend who might enjoy it!