How to Change Habits: Flexibility of the Mind

People jumpgin and cheeringThis is your self-help guide to changing habits. Now that you know about types of habits and how they are formed and you know how habits affect your life, it is time to take control of your life by breaking limiting habits and creating new, empowering ones, instead.

  1. Write down 10 recurring situations or outcomes in your life that you are not happy with
  2. Decide which category they are in
  3. Ask yourself what is you think, feel, say or do that brings you into each situation or gets you each outcome
  4. Check if the items on your list have anything in common
  5. Take yourself into one of those events in your mind and experience it again. Look around and try to discover the exact circumstances in that situation. Are you tired? Worried? Has something else happened that day? The day before? Are you hungry? Write as many details as you can. If you do it for the 10 items, you will find a pattern
  6. Take yourself to the one of those events again. This time, pay attention to the way you feel. What scares you about what happened? Stay in that situation until you find out what you are afraid of. When this fear first formed, it made you develop the habit to overcome it or manage it. We all develop habits to help us cope better. Sometimes the habits are not updated. They were appropriate 30, 20, 10 years ago, but may not be appropriate under different circumstance. We are just not the same people

Read more about how to break bad habits easily


What Does the Future Hold for Our Kids?

Hey Matthew song posterIf I gave every parent a peek into the future, most parents would want to know what would become of their children. We dedicate a lot of time, effort and love to get them to a good place and even a glimpse 10 minutes into the future could really help us direct our actions.

Eden had to raise a virtual child in a computer program for a course in psychology. I thought it was great fun. The rumors were that some of the virtual kids in the program had died or had gotten into lots of trouble before they had reached the age of 18, which was the end of the “parenting game”. Eden’s daughter was gorgeous, happy and successful.

I told Eden that her real daughter would be even better, because the choices the program allowed her to choose from were limited to 4 options, when in reality, you typically have many more options.

As Eden “played” the game, I started thinking it was a good learning tool for parents – not 100% realistic and I would not let any computer program or statistical research help me raise my child – but I really thought it was interesting to know how different parenting styles result in different behaviors in children. In a way, I thought the game was the closest thing to predicting your child’s future.

Read more about how to help your kids have a bright future

The Hunger Games

Frightened kids in The Hunger GamesThis week, Ronit and I watched The Hunger Games. We knew the general plot when we entered the cinema, but we came out feeling sick, not only because the film was excessively violent, not only because those who were violent in it were teenage children, but mostly because it was such a strong portrayal of modern life.

Both Ronit and I slept very badly that night and had very scary dreams.

In the movie, there are 12 districts full of poor workers who can barely get enough food to eat. Their life is mud (literally), they are dressed in light-blue working uniforms and live in fear. These districts are ruled by “the capitol”, a magnificent and decadent city, where people spend their time dressing to impress and trying to find things to entertain themselves. There is police/army force, dressed in white, which swiftly handles any disruptions.

But the main instrument of power is TV and there is one particular show in TV everyone must watch to remember their place in this futuristic society – The Hunger Games.

There were many similarities between The Hunger Games and our life, which I wanted to share with you. This will be depressing, so after that, I will also share with you how you, me and other parents can make reality different, for us and for our kids.

Read more about how to free yourself and your kids

Family Policy

Amazed little girlLast Sunday, Ronit ran a parenting workshop and I came in the afternoon to help her pack. When I arrived, she was still talking to the parents about rules and boundaries and mentioned the way she used “family rules” to avoid conflicts with the kids.

That reminded me of the time when I wanted to register for a software engineering course at the local university. The course I wanted was popular and all the places were taken, so I rang during my lunch break to ask to be put on the waiting list.

“I’m sorry, Sir, but you’ll have to come in person and fill out the waiting list form”, the administrator told me.

“Can you please just take my details and put me on the list?”

“I’m sorry, Sir, but it’s university policy”, she said.

Boy, was I pissed off at this. I was spewing for weeks afterwards. It may have even contributed to my later stomach ulcer. Or not.

Over the years that followed, more and more companies structured their operations in such a way that clients could not get their way. Not easily, anyway. When I rang Customer Service, I would bump into First Line staff who were basically trained parrots. The term “company policy” rang in my ears more and more often. It was infuriating.

But at some point, Ronit and I learned how to use the same trick to our advantage as parents. Oh, sweet revenge!

Read more about how to stop fighting with your kids

Don’t eat and run

Messy baby eating with spoonGal and I used to eat whatever our parents ate. We went to the supermarket and picked from the shelves the exact same things we had seen our parents choose or whatever was on sale. It took us 5 years of managing our own economy and a sick girl to discover that what we eat and how we eat has a strong impact on our life. Some things you just cannot learn at school.

It happened more than 20 years ago and since then, we have learned more and more about what to eat to be healthy in body and mind. I know that not everyone is convinced that healthy eating is the right solution and I understand. After all, the concept of “health” is very wide. When I sit with my clients at a cafe and order iced coffee with ice cream and whipped cream, I am 100% convinced it is healthy for my soul. So we may not agree about what food is healthy, but I think we can all agree on how to eat.

We live a very fast lifestyle. All the people around you will tell you they have no time – no time for the kids, no time for fun, no time for hobbies, no time for friends and no time for eating. Many shops and massive businesses have come to life to cater for this “fast food” lifestyle. We grab a shake, eat a meal on the way, in the car, during a meeting, while watching TV, during phone conversations and when reading a book. We think we are saving time, but we are making it harder for our digestive system to make the best of our food and this creates a never-ending cycle. What we eat is not digested properly, we lack essential nutrients, we feel tired, we become ineffective and what usually takes us 2 hours, suddenly takes us 4 and we have just lost 2 hours of our precious time, so we need to catch up and save time by grabbing some fast food or eating our healthy food on the run.

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Teenage Problems

Stop Zombieitis posterI have heard a lot about angry teenagers (some even call them troubled teenagers). People talk about teenagers being angry as some natural phenomenon, but I often find there is nothing natural about it and teenage problems are caused by things that can be changed.

One of my clients had an angry teenager at home until recently. Olivia was only 12 years old and very, very, very angry. Her mom, Nancy, who was trapped by the “teenage problems” belief, did nothing for a while. All her friends said it was normal (“You know, teens these days…”), so she just waited for the teenage years to pass and prepared herself for when her two younger kids would go through it too.

But then Nancy met another client of mine who told her, “It doesn’t have to be like that. You should go and see Ronit”. So she came to one of my parenting workshops. After the workshop, she had some hope that maybe it was not normal for “teenagers these days” to be so angry and that maybe she could help her daughter relax.

Shortly after, Nancy told me, “There was something you said to me during the parenting workshop that made a huge shift with my daughter. I was convinced all teenagers were the same, but I realized that I could help my daughter if I only changed some of the things I was doing myself. It really worked!”

Olivia had been seeing a psychologist for a while, trying to make a big decision, but without any results. After the parenting workshop, Nancy went to the psychologist and asked her to try one of my strategies. It took only one session for Olivia to make her mind up and Nancy came to see me, hoping she could make more changes in her teen daughter’s attitude and life.

Read more about how to deal with teenage problems

Lifestyle of the rich and the famous

Prince William and Kate MiddletonOur highly commercialized world pumps us with the idea that being rich and famous is a good thing. Even things “mere mortals” find difficult to deal with, like going on a diet or breaking up with a partner, are leveraged to create more fame and more fortune for the celebrities. Scandals are just useful ways to sell the next movie or the new album. So useful, in fact, that some of them are manufactured.

In their song Lifestyle of the Rich and the Famous, Good Charlotte sing about how celebrities complain all the time and say their life is hard, even though they have money, mansions and other things money can buy. By contrasting fame and fortune with living on the streets, this song reflects general public sentiment very well.

But it is not true.

If you have been anywhere near a TV set in the past few weeks, read any newspaper or even glanced at a magazine at the checkout line, you have seen them – Prince William and Kate Middleton. Their lives and upcoming wedding were covered from every angle and then, their wedding was covered in even more detail. Anyone who had anything to do with them at any time was interviewed ad nauseam and every bit was replayed over and over again.

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Lie to Me

Laughing kidAs a parent, I often wonder how my kids interpret their world. Besides being younger than I am and lacking experience, they have grown up in a period and an environment so different to mine this is worth looking at.

Try to remember the last time you watched the news on TV. The anchors smiled most of the time, didn’t they? They even exchanged jokes from time to time, right? But the topics on the news were all doom and gloom – shootings, robberies, dishonest politicians, government decisions you may not like, etc.

Is it appropriate to behave cheerfully when you deliver bad news?

Now, consider most of the “sitcoms”. In a typically conversation, the audience is the real listener and the participants are just acting out a script, so delivering hurtful words, putting others down and using sarcasm are all “part of the deal”, while keeping a posture and facial expression that says, “Yeah! I’m all that”.

But in our daily life, there is no audience. The only ones hearing the words are us and we get hurt by them. And when someone we love says something that hurts and looks like they have just won the lotto, it makes us wonder how much they care.

I believe these things (and others) are leading our kids to distrust body language, facial expression and tone of voice as ways to receive messages from others. Worse, by often mimicking this inconsistent behavior, our kids are actually training themselves to lie better, which makes me worry for them sometimes.

Read more about how to raise honest kids