January 9, 2013

Bad Habits

I envy people who naturally and effortlessly make the most of every situation encountered. (I tend to fall into the other category: those with a predisposition to gripe and bellyache about everything.) Recently, I read a persuasive quote by writer Rita Schiano that shifted my mindset on the practicality of complaining: "Talking about our problems is our greatest addition. Break the habit. Talk about your joys." 

Noble intention, but easier said than done.

We all know that the workplace is the perfect environment to fall into negative, unproductive patterns like criticism, contempt, procrastination and apathy. The problem is that these bad habits follow us home at the end of the day, leading to eye rolling and interrupting at home.  Do them long enough and they become an essential part of your persona, no longer the harmless quirk they once were at the office.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, "It is easy to slip into self-absorption and it is equally fatal. When one becomes absorbed in himself, in his health, in his personal problems, or in the small details of daily living, he is, at the same time losing interest in other people; worse, he is losing his ties to life.  From that it is an easy step to losing interest in the world and in life itself.  That is the beginning of death."

How's that for an ominous warming?

It isn't hopeless, though. On any day, at any moment, we can choose another door: to talk about what's going right in our lives and invest energy in that instead. It doesn't have to be a new year's resolution or something we do when we turn 40 or on the first day of retirement. It certainly can't require any more effort than keeping up with all the things we are annoyed about. (Here, here and here.)

For more on bad habits that doom relationships, at work or at home, check out Dr. John Gottman's work, which is also well-documented in the book Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking by the very funny and insightful Malcolm Gladwell. You can read more of Eleanor Roosevelt's thoughts on happiness here

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