Category Archives for Behavior change

Unplug to Reconnect

Never before has our culture been faced with technology at our finger tips that continually distracts us with it’s seductive sounds and stimulating visuals. I’m convinced that the sudden expansion of personal technology devices has completely outpaced our ability to manage it. It's time to unplug and reconnect. 

There are daily signs and signals that families are busier than ever. Recently two retired men lamented to me that their grown children don’t attend a church. Both men shared that their kids say that they’re too busy…right now. How often do you go to bed with everything done on your to-do list?

But wait! I thought technology is meant to improve communication and make our lives easier and less stressed and less busy? How is it we don't have time for those things (or people) that are important? Something doesn’t seem to be working right.

Unfortunately, we’re not working right. It’s too easy to lose sight of what’s really important and what’s of true value. And the bells and whistles of technology have hijacked our attention and ability to focus. 

Conversations around the dinner table – on the rare occasion when families eat together - can often be interrupted. Too often parents and/or children have their phone positioned next to the fork. It’s become the new table setting. Not only that, in many homes the TV is also on during the meal, which further inhibits meaningful conversation.

Technology promises to connect people like never before. But, combined with our busy lifestyle, we’ve never been more disconnected from those who mean the most to us. The dopamine response we get when the device dings or beeps or rings, causes us to divert our attention immediately, regardless of what we’re doing…even in the middle of conversations.

Technology Talk

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. The first thing our family collectively did was identify how we were being affected. Then we discussed why it was important to make changes. The next step was to get everyone on the same page, or to at least understand the rationale. We then identified simple strategies we could implement to eliminate distractions and improve communication.

To give you some ideas, just a couple of the strategies we agreed to included: no phones at the dinner table; and no looking at your phone or any device when talking to each other. Nothing complicated but, in some cases, not easy either. As a result, communication improved, conflict reduced, and common ground was reached.

Steps You Can Take
  • How have you noticed technology has interrupted your work or family life?
  • What are the top three changes that your family can do to improve communication and reduce distraction?
  • Have a family meeting and get everyone’s input and set a new course by setting up guidelines to help manage the technology in your home.

Back to Your Future

Think back. Can you recall a time in your past when you were experiencing success in a specific area of your life? It's often helpful to have people reflect back on a time in their life when they felt really good about themselves either physically, relationally, spiritually, or financially.

For example, they remember a time when they were in pretty good shape and how they felt at that time. Or they recall another time when their key relationships were strong and vibrant and how safe and secure that felt.

However, now those thoughts only bring about guilt (or perhaps shame). They often feel like a failure and wonder how they could have let things slide downhill so far. The climb back up seems too steep to even contemplate.

But when those thoughts and stories surface, it's often a light-bulb moment. It’s evidence the capacity to do it is there. What's changed, most likely, are circumstances. Subtle changes are almost always at the root of behaviors that morph toward the negative over time. It’s not just happens.

Drawing on their past experiences and recalling what they had been doing right spurs hope for the future. There's now a realization that they can reclaim and recapture those same behaviors.

Taking them back to their best self causes those mental images to resurface. They can recall and relive what they were doing right in the past. Very often just a simple recalibrating and recognizing of past victories sets them on healthier and happier path.

Can you recall a time when you were being the person you admired and doing the things you desired? If so, draw on those experiences and rewrite your future.

Remember, the (physical, relational, spiritual, financial) health status you’ll enjoy 20 years from now will largely be determined by the choices you make between now and the next 20 years.

If you need a boost getting started, find the help you need to start your climb.

Compliment or Criticize: How to have healthier relationships

Have you ever tracked how many times you correct, criticize, or condemn your kids or spouse? How does that compare to the number of times you compliment them? Face it; kids are always going to be doing something wrong. In fact, I don’t know any of us who are perfect, including adults.

But, how often do I expect perfection from my children and point it out to them when they’re not perfect? On the other hand, how often do I notice and acknowledge when they do something right or make good choices?

Its All in the Numbers

The research by Dr. John Gottman, from the Gottman Institute, on married couples is significant and should be applied to our relationship with our children, as well as our spouse. In studying married couples, they were able to predict those couples who’d stay together and those who’d split. To do so they analyzed the ratio of positive to negative interactions during times of conflict. It was determined that the relationships that were the healthiest exhibited a compliment to criticism ratio of 5:1. Meaning for every one critical comment the partner conveyed five acts that would be considered positive or affirming.

So in applying this to parenting, I had to assess my compliment to criticism ratio not just during times of conflict but also during regular interactions. To do so I kept track of it for three days in a row. The result was embarrassing. I had no idea. I thought I was being positive overall. I was wrong!

If you do this and find that your ratio is less than 5:1, don’t be discouraged…you’re in good company, unfortunately. It is just not our nature to be intentional about complimenting our family members. We’re much more likely to be encouraging to our friend's kids than our own…it’s just human nature. But it (like many traits) is a skill that with intentional focus can change rather quickly.

A Case for Compliment

For example, there was a period when I was becoming concerned with our daughter for always being so critical with her siblings. I admonished her a couple times for being that way. But then I felt prompted to examine myself to see if perhaps I was contributing to her attitude. Very quickly I realized that I’d become complacent in my words of encouragement and affirmation toward her. Words that feed her soul and are aligned with her love language.

Over the next couple days I was very intentional about spreading words of praise, affection, and encouragement to her. The carry-over was dramatic. She had been passing out what she’d been getting. Suddenly she became less critical and much more patient with her siblings.

What kind of environment do you want your home to be like? Which do you think is a better environment for your spouse and children? The choice IS yours.

Here're some ideas to help improve your ratio:​

  • For three days, track your compliment to criticism/correction ratio.
  • When you find the need to correct, be intentional about saying at least two or more positive words of encouragement or find a way to compliment as well. If you've been too negative over the years, there are positive self-talk recordings especially for kids that will help build them up.
  • Look for what you see your kids doing right…even little things where they have demonstrated intent or initiative...and make it a point to acknowledge it in a sincere and positive manner.

How to Instill Great Qualities in Your Kids

Modeling is very important. We all ‘judge’ people more by what they do than by what they say. My kids are no different. No matter what I say, they learn mostly and model closely what they see in me. So I have to be acutely aware of the qualities I'm displaying.

For example, my wife and I are runners. We’ve been doing it pretty much our whole lives. It’s what our kids have seen us do since they were born. Now our three oldest kids are runners. They have talent, but so do a lot of other kids. Talent doesn’t account for the initiative they take to call their friends to meet them at the track. But they have seen us suit-up and head out the door, regardless of the weather, for as long as they can remember.

So how can we be diligent about instilling qualities in our kids (or in people we lead) that we feel are important? A very valuable exercise is to identify the characteristics and qualities you most desire your kids to develop and display.

Simply ask yourself this question, “What are the most important characteristics and qualities I’d like (name of child) to have?" 


What does your list look like? Some of the common terms that people identify include: honest, compassionate, truthful, kind, caring, patient, loving, gentle, happy, joyful, competent, hard-working, persistent, resilient, self-confident, thankful, grateful, gracious, generous, good listener, respectful, enthusiastic, passionate, peaceful, positive, optimistic.

If you have more than five traits listed, take a minute and identify the top five characteristics…the order doesn’t matter at this point. As you review each answer on your list, ask yourself this very important question, “How well do I display and demonstrate these characteristics?”

Here’s the hidden value in this exercise. Chances are, the top qualities you chose for your children are also the most important traits you aspire for yourself, whether or not you consistently model those behaviors. Now that you know what they are for yourself, you can be intentional about displaying those behaviors too.

One of God’s fundamental laws is of planting and harvesting. Galatians 6:7 states, “You will always reap what you sow.” It applies to every area of life, including parenting. The law proclaims that I have to first give away whatever I want more of.

So it’s best to be intentional about the seeds we’re sowing. If you have ‘compassionate’ on your list, do your kids see compassion in you? If you had ‘patience’ on your list, do you model patience for your children? I think you get the picture.

Teach your children to choose the right path and when they are older, they will be remain upon it.

Proverbs 22:6 NLT

The concept is pretty simple. If I want my kids to be compassionate, then they must see compassion in me…I must plant seeds of compassion. Why should we ever expect our children to produce something we’re not sowing? When I tell my kids to be kind, but I’m not, I lose credibility and authority in their eyes.

When I tell them to be positive but they hear me complain when something goes wrong, what message is that sending? How are they likely to respond when they get frustrated or life deals them a bad hand? They’ll most likely respond in ways they’ve seen me respond.

Because I want what’s best for my kids, I know that the qualities and characteristics they develop growing up will be fundamental for their ability to function effectively and be successful in living out God’s call for their lives. A big part of that is developing and growing in Christ-like character.

In case you’re wondering, according to 2 Corinthians, here are characteristics Jesus Christ displayed:

  • Love
  • Service
  • Sacrifice
  • Kindness
  • Gentleness
  • Boldness
  • Dependability
  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Courage
  • Tenderheartedness
  • Gracious & Generous

Whether a Christ follower or not, those are probably characteristics anyone would like their kids to have. If I can help my kids develop those qualities, they’ll be well positioned to live a great life with meaning and purpose. The best way I can help is to be intentional about living them myself…planting as many seeds as I can.

Take Away
  • Make a list of the most important characteristics and qualities you’d like your children to have.
  • Narrow the list to the top five.
  • This week, be intentional about modeling each of those characteristics. Don't preach them...practice them yourself. 

5 Minutes: Time To Get Stuff Done

In coaching one of the most often used phrases I hear is ‘I don’t have enough time’ to get stuff done. People are pressed for time. It clearly has emerged as the most valuable commodity we exchange.

Time is elusive. You can’t hold on to it. You can’t see it. You can’t store it up. You can’t stop it. You can’t get it back. You can’t create more of it. (You’re probably getting stressed just reading that.)

Time slips by…or so it seems. But we all start with the same amount each day…1,440 minutes.

Regardless, I hear the ‘I don’t have enough time’ excuse when it comes to exercise, eating healthy, getting work done, cleaning the house, preparing meals, playing with the kids, doing fun stuff, praying, reading the Bible, going to church, reading, playing golf, etc., etc.

It seems people are seeking to live a balanced life but their perception of a balanced life is off base. A balanced life doesn’t mean everything is done equally. A balanced life is one that matches your stage of life in which the things that need to get done get done in order to live a life that is physically, mentally, relationally, financially, and spiritually healthy.

Often I’ll ask those who tell me they don’t have enough time to exercise if they really think that they’re busier than all the people who do exercise regularly. Is that really possible? Or are there other reasons?

Time To Think Differently

In working with people, there are four common problems I’ve identified when it comes to time.

  1. Awareness is lacking: Most people don’t really know where the time goes or how they are using it. And the assumptions they make about how they are using their time are often wrong. [Download the free tool below.]
  2. Beliefs about time are wrong: It is common to think about spending time but it's more valuable to view time as an investment. You want your investments to give you maximum return. 
  3. Confusing activity for accomplishment: Being busy isn't the same as being productive. The best guide you can use for how to best use your time is to identify what you value most. Is how you're using your time congruent with what you value?
  4. Discount the value of 5 minutes: Multiple blocks of 5 minutes throughout the day can add up to significant amounts of time that can either be squandered or used toward accomplishing small tasks that need to get done anyway.

Changing behavior begins by becoming aware of current thoughts, habits, patterns, or activities. That's the key to addressing the first problem listed above, which is the primary purpose of this post.

The amazing advancements in technology and communication platforms have come with a price. In fact, the advancements in technology have outpaced our ability to manage them. As a result, what could and should be enhancing the quality of our life is actually contributing to our lack of time and inability to get stuff done. The cell phone often fills those five-minute blocks of time instead of tasks that advance our goals.

The secret of the successful life is the diligent use of our allotted lifespan."

George Sheehan, MD

As reported in the Huffington Post, there was research conducted by British psychologists that revealed young adults use their smartphones roughly twice as much as they thought. The study found that youngsters in the study used their phones an average of five hours a day, which is about one-third of their total waking hours.

Additionally, it was reported in Science News for Students that the average college student uses a smartphone about nine hours per day. Additionally, because the smart phone is so accessible and enticing, young and old are often on their phone while doing other activities that should demand complete focus, like homework and office work. It’s beyond the scope of this post, but the problems with cell phone addiction have been widely reported.

So what can you do to increase awareness about where time goes and instead work toward getting the important stuff done? A good tool to start with is to track how you’re currently using your time. To do so realistically and effectively, I’ve found tracking 5-minute intervals throughout the day provides the most useful feedback.

5-Minute Time Tracker™

Below is a link for you to download the 5-Minute Time Tracker™ to assist your efforts. There are some tips provided for how to use the tool. However, use whatever method you feel provides you with the best feedback to assess how you’re using your time. Is how you're investing your time congruent with what you value most? Your Time Tracker will actually reveal what it is you really do value.

5-Minute Time Planner™

In addition to identifying how you’re currently using your time, to be more proactive, use the 5-Minute Time Planner™ to set yourself up for success. Either the night before or first thing in the morning, use the Time Planner to pencil in what you plan to do that day. Start by first entering the highest priority items based upon what you value most.

By increasing your awareness you’re better able to make changes that will impact not only what you do but also how you feel. The aim is not perfection but progress. With attention and awareness you can turn your minutes into movement toward your goals. Unless, of course, you don’t have enough time.

Regain Control and Respect

The moment I allow someone else’s behavior (or words) to affect how I feel, I’ve given that person power and control over me. Have you ever realized that? Has that ever happened to you? It has to me...with kids and adults.

Kids have the innate capability to say things or behave in a way that can trigger a reaction, which is really what they want. And until kids get through their teen years, they lack mental maturity and their behavior and words can be erratic. Let's face it, kids don't always make the best choices or do things in their best interest. It's part of maturing.

Plus, kids are really perceptive and quickly learn when and how they can push our buttons for their benefit. If my kids can tell that their behavior will affect my mood, they are more likely to repeat that behavior, even if they don’t get what they want. It gives them a feeling of control, which is an innate desire.

When our kids were young and would pout, it was their attempt to sway my decision. If I relinquished and complied with their request, it’d be more likely that they’d repeat the behavior and pout again next time they wouldn’t get their way.

Not allowing their behavior to impact how I felt didn’t mean I’d ignore them or pretend I didn’t care. I could still acknowledge what they said and how they felt without it changing my mood. Making a comment to them such as, “I can see that you don’t like my decision and I’m sorry about that,” affords them the satisfaction of at least knowing they’ve been heard.

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Transform Feedback and Your Future

Do you invite and welcome feedback and suggestions so you can get better? For many years, I didn’t. Without doing psychoanalysis, I’m guessing it’s because I didn’t want to feel like there was something wrong with me. I didn’t want to admit that I might have been saying or doing the wrong things.

However, I eventually realized that feedback was my friend. I adopted a mindset that there’s no such thing as failure, only feedback. I also realized that if I would be more open to change and grow, it would prompt my kids to be more accepting of feedback, as well. Thinking about them instead of me was key.

When I, as a parent, solicit feedback and am open to change, it models a very critical attribute that will be fundamental for my kids’ future success. Watching me seek and solicit ways to improve will help prepare them for life, whether they enter the workforce or start their own business.

If they learn how to welcome and accept feedback at an early age, they’ll be able to demonstrate unusual maturity when they receive it from managers or customers, which will give them a leg up.

There is a unique type of feedback, which I call Transformation Feedback, and I’ve found it to be much more effective in creating sustainable change than traditional feedback. This type of feedback isn’t focused on what a person does wrong.

Instead, the focus is on what the person can do in the future…suggestions for improvement. Traditional feedback is a review of what’s happened in the past. Too often people view feedback as criticism or an attack on their character and immediately enter into defense mode. And, often the person providing the feedback can come across as negative and judgmental.

But asking my kid’s questions like, “What can I do to be a better dad?” or “How can I be more supportive?” puts the focus on what I can do moving forward, not on the mistakes I’ve made in the past. It gives me something to focus on as a parent, not something to defend or feel bad about. Plus, it provides the kids with a voice and an opportunity to contribute directly to my improvement.

If you’re brave enough to try this, it’s important to be consistent in the process and not just give it lip service. Genuinely seek suggestions, take action on the suggestions, and then ask for follow-up on how you’re doing. Research has shown that regular accountability from someone we trust can significantly enhance our ability to realize sustainable change.

Try this method with your spouse as well. Do you have people you lead in the workplace? Try it with them. You might be surprised how quickly it can transform you and those you lead.

· Assess how open are you to feedback and how do you normally respond?

· When you give feedback, is it focused on what your kids did wrong, or suggestions for improvement moving forward?

· For more information and a worksheet for parents to help guide the process, click the blue download button below to get the PDF. Feel free to adapt to your specific situation.

The Big Lie: If Only Syndrome

On a recent trip I was working out in the hotel exercise room. It had the typical equipment including a couple of treadmills, an elliptical, and some free weights. I was on the elliptical.

As I was nearing the end of my workout, a facilities employee of the hotel came in and saw me. I greeted him and he said, "I need one of those at home so I can get rid of this (pointing to his gut)."

Here's what he was really saying. If only I had an elliptical at home then I would look better but since I don't have one this is how I'm going to have to be.

He displayed 'If Only Syndrome.' Do you recognize it?

The problem is that it is a lie. But it's a lie that he believes. And since he believes it to be true in his life, he'll continue to justify his lack of health and protruding gut.

His own comment was a value statement he was making revealing that health is important to him and being overweight is counter to that belief. All he did was see me working out. Nothing that I said made him feel that way...he already shares that value.

What do you think would happen if he did have an elliptical at home? Is it probable that he’d say something like this? “I need to have more time so I can use the elliptical.” In other words he’d be saying, if only I had more time then I’d be in better shape and look a lot better than I do, but since I don’t I’ll just have to continue being the way I am.

I've seen it too many times...If Only Syndrome.

I've seen it at times in my own life in various forms. I've believed the lie as it relates to my health and fitness, to my relationships, to spending time with the kids, to being productive, to tithing, and list goes on and on....

So what's the remedy? In brief, it follows a process like this...

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Changing Your Life [Phase 3]

Have you ever started making progress toward a goal or change in your behavior only go find yourself back where you started? When that happened, who’d you blame? This discouraging scenario is played out over and over again in home after home and year after year. 

The problem for many people isn’t that they don’t have a desire or don’t take initiative. The problem is that after they get started something happens to interrupt the progress they made and they get off track and revert back to the behaviors that caused the problem in the first place.

To prevent this from happening it’s essential to create a supportive environment so that you can stick with the changes that you started. The previous post focused on phase two in the behavior change process. So if you haven’t, check out that post first. Again, you make a new behavior stick by creating a supportive environment...this is the most critical ingredient.

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Changing Your Life [Phase 2]

In my previous post, the focus was on the first step in changing your life, which is awareness. As you now know, you cannot change if you’re not aware. The post included a list of questions to help you identify where to start. If you haven’t read that yet, start there, before you move on toward this step. The second phase in changing your life might sound obvious, which is choosing to change.

In reality often people say they want to change but they never truly make an intentional decision to change. Is the fear and uncertainty of changing preventing you from making changes you know will benefit you? The secret to transformation is learning how to make yourself accountable to your own commitments.

It starts by taking small steps and keeping each commitment you say you're going to do (or not do). When you do, you'll gain confidence and gain momentum and start believing in your ability, which will impact how you feel about yourself. Your past failures don't matter, regardless of what your negative self-talk might want to say. The past does not equal the future. It's time to move forward by choosing to change! 

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Changing Your Life [Phase 1]

Most changes we’re looking to make or goals we set are because there's something in our life we're not happy with and want to change. A problem we want to fix.

Unfortunately, we all do things that are not in our best interest. Many of these are habits that unintentionally developed over time. But, do we keep on doing them? Or, do we face our faults and learn from them? Do we allow them to prevent or accelerate our growth? Those choices are ours.

In my previous post, I highlighted some initial steps in gearing up for making a change in how you behave. Now, let’s look at a simple but important method for implementing change, improvement, and growth...permanently! Whether you're looking to lose weight, improve a relationship, make more money, 

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