Resilience expert Anne Grady shares how to decrease anxiety and stay in a more positive, productive zone more often.
- How the negativity bias hijacks us–and how to fix it
- Quick ways to put your lizard brain back in its place
- How to better savor “delicious moments” and enjoy each workday more
About Anne Grady
Resilience expert Anne Grady is an internationally recognized speaker and author. Anne shares humor, humility, refreshing honesty, and practical strategies anyone can use to triumph over adversity and master change. A two-time TEDx speaker, Anne has been featured in Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Inc., FOX Business, Entrepreneur, and more. She is the author of “Strong Enough: Choosing Courage, Resilience, and Triumph.” Learn more at www.AnneGradyGroup.com.
Resources mentioned in the show:
- App: Calm
- App: Buddhify
- App: Happify
- App: Headspace
- App: Simple Habit
- Book: “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls
- Author: Arianna Huffington
- Author: Brene Brown
- Author: Rachel Hollis
- Researcher: Dr. Rick Hanson
- Researcher: Shawn Achor
- TED Talk: Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend
- Book: “Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence” by Rick Hanson
- Book: “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work” by Shawn Achor
- Book: “The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It” by Kelly McGonigal
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Anne, thanks for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.
Hey, Pete, thanks so much for having me.
Oh, certainly. Well, I’m glad to have you and we’re talking about resilience and gratitude and more. And I want to kick it off by hearing a story from you about a time when you found some resilience and how you found it.
Well, you know, resilience is one of those things you don’t find until you realize you need it. And, in my case, my journey started with my son Evan. So, Evan is now 16 years old but when I was pregnant, I knew something wasn’t right. He would like kick me so hard I would just fall to the ground. And my doctor joked he was going to be a soccer player. He cried all day and all night.
And when he was 18 months old, my husband left, and so I was a single mom, I had just started a consulting career, could not figure out what was wrong, and just things continued to escalate. And when he was about three years old, I know this is unbelievable, but he tried to kill me with a pair of scissors, and he was on his first antipsychotic by the time he was four.
By seven, he was in-patient at his first psychiatric hospitalization in Dallas. By 10, he was hospitalized again. And at that point, I got diagnosed with a tumor in my salivary gland that resulted in the right side of my face being completely paralyzed which, two days later, scratched my cornea, and was told by my doctor that my face probably wouldn’t recover, and I needed to have a gold weight implanted into my upper eyelid and a stitch put into my bottom eyelid, and I needed to do that before I started six weeks of radiation.
So, the weekend before my eye surgery, my husband and I went to Vegas. He had recovered from a motorcycle accident and we went to Vegas, and I fell down a flight of stairs and broke my foot in four places, and then he fell off a ladder, breaking his arm ribs and hip. And so, it’s just kind of been a constant state of needed resilience.
Yes, and that is quite a lot.
And my face came back, by the way.
Well, yeah, with stories. Yes, people wonder how they ended. And so, that’s a lot. Wow! And, tell me, how did you find the resilience, the power, the courage, the gratitude, the something to keep on going such that you’ve been able to get to a good place?
You know, it’s fascinating. My background, I have a master’s degree in Organizational Communication and, similar to you, I spent 20 years in the organizational development space, so training and professional development, communication, leadership, emotional intelligence, productivity, lots of soft skill type training.
And then, after everything that happened, I got contacted by a couple of different TEDx organizations wanting me to speak for them and the topic of resilience was really what they were curious about. They had heard my videos and seen me on YouTube or read articles, and so they wanted to hear about my story.
And I had never told the story before in terms of resilience. I had told it in terms of I was having opportunities daily to practice what I was teaching because of my situation with my son. And once I started digging into the resilience research in 2014, I realized that there were some things that I was doing naturally do build resilience without even realizing I was doing them, and there were things that I was not doing that were really hindering my ability to build those habits and skills.
And so, I started pouring over the neuroscience. I’ve studied the brain since Evan was born trying to understand how to help him and have learned a lot along the way, but then I really got and sort of geeking out on all of the neuroscience behind resilience. It’s incredibly powerful and it’s one of those things that most people think you have to wait until you need it to develop the skills, and it’s exactly the opposite. These are skills and behaviors and habits that you can proactively cultivate so that you have them when you need them.
And what are some of the most potent practices there when it comes to building those in advance?
Well, things that sound like common sense but are not common practice. Self-care is huge, and people kept telling me to take care of myself, and I thought, “Well, okay, I’m raising…” I got remarried when Evan was nine years old, and I was like, “Okay, so I’ll go ahead and take a spa day while I’m raising two children and running a full-time business. I don’t have time for that.”
And what I learned is that, one, self-care doesn’t have to be a spa day. There are lots of different tools that you can use, but it’s also not selfish. It’s a requirement for resilience. My mom is a flight attendant and she started when she was 51. She was a court reporter for 30 years. And when she was 51, she became a flight attendant. She turned 70 this June and she’s still doing it.
And I’m not supposed to tell which airline so we’ll just call it Southwest. But she basically does these great announcements, and the one for the oxygen mask is my favorite. And she says, “In case of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, please place your mask on and then assist your child. And if you’re traveling with more than one child, please pick your favorite or the one with the most potential.” But there’s a reason they tell you to put your mask on first.
It’s nice to think, “Well, I’ll sleep when I’m dead and I don’t have time to take care of me. I’ve got to take care of everybody else.” But life has a way of stopping you. Gratitude, mindfulness, humor, social connection, making meaning out of challenging events, values, goals. These are all different tools that you can use to build resilience. And you don’t need to use every single one all the time but it’s nice to have an arsenal or a toolkit that you can pull from.
And so then if you’re not taking the spa day but you are doing self-care, what are the things you found that made a world of difference when you did them?
So, I was diagnosed with depression when I was 19 years old, and every doctor, every therapist, everyone I talked to had said, “Anne, you really have to exercise.” And I thought, “Yeah, that’s the last thing I want to do. I’m not an athletic person, I don’t want to exercise.” And my grandmother said, “Annie, if enough people tell you you’re tired, maybe it’s time to lay down.”
She also used to say, “If you act like an ass, don’t be surprised if people try to ride you.” But that was my grandmother. But enough people told me to do it, and I was so desperate at one point, I was really having a hard time. It was after Evan’s first hospitalization, and I was really struggling, and then my husband was in a motorcycle accident, and I just felt lost.
And we moved into a neighborhood that had a junior Olympics-sized pool. And so, swimming was always something that I didn’t hate. It was the only exercise I didn’t hate. And so, I started swimming four days a week, and I noticed such a drastic improvement in my mood. Medications didn’t change. The exercise was the only thing that had changed.
And so, I dug into the research. You know, I’m an academic at heart and I realized it’s not just like lose weight, be healthy. It’s literally changed your brain. So, that was one of the things that just blew my mind. I was saying all the time, “I don’t have time to exercise.” But I always had time to watch Law & Order. I like SBU because I like my crime, especially heinous. But, really, that made a huge difference.
Sleep. It’s a non-negotiable for me now because I don’t do well when I have less than 7, 8 hours of sleep. And so, I don’t care what I have to do to make that happen. I very rarely go without it.
All right. Excellent. So, exercise and sleep, indeed, common sense but often not common practice, and it makes a world of difference not just in terms of weight. But tell us a little bit about the rewiring of the brain.
Well, let me first just really quickly back up and say, self-care could be something as easy as not eating lunch at your desk. It could be as simple as strategically stopping during your day and taking three really deep breaths. It could be giving yourself the same grace and compassion you would give your best friend. It could be not should-ing on yourself, “We should. I should’ve done this. I should do this. I should be here. I should be that.” And we should on ourselves all day long. Self-care is going, “You know what, I have permission to be human and, no, I’m enough.”
So, it doesn’t have to be the same types of things that we – sleep, exercise, diet, all those things are important for sure. But it doesn’t have to be those. It can be taking 10 minutes to sit and snuggle your dogs and drink coffee before looking at social media. So, it’s really subtle things that you can do that end up making a very big difference.
And so, when you sort of zoom in to the professional work life, many of the slights and offenses and challenges we encounter, not nearly as difficult as many of the things that you tackled but, nonetheless, we can feel threatened, attacked, stressed out, freaking out about things. Can you explain to us a little bit, like, where does that come from and what should we do about it?
So, our brain is this phenomenal organ, right? It’s gone through three levels of evolution. The first one being just basically a snake brain, your reptilian brain. It’s heart rate, breathing, respiration, fight or flight. It’s the most primitive part of your brain. The next evolution is tucked in the middle of your brain, it’s called your limbic system, and it’s got the hippocampus and hypothalamus and amygdala, and so it’s got a bunch of different components, but it’s kind of the emotional cockpit. It’s where all of your emotions are generated. It’s where your habits and your memories are stored.
And then the newest evolution is the neocortex. It surrounds the outer part of the brain but, specifically, the prefrontal cortex right behind your forehead. And that’s the part of the brain that differentiates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. We’re the only species who can think about the way that we think. It’s where creativity and innovation come from. It’s where higher-level thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, cause and effect, attention management, emotional regulation, all the hard stuff comes from there.
And so, there’s, one, it’s understanding that our brain will take anything we repeatedly think, say, or do and convert it into a cognitive shortcut which is a habit so it doesn’t have to work as hard. It’s like going through the express lane. It’s just easier. And so, if you, for example, if you’re listening right now, cross your arms, right, for your listeners, cross your arms. Now, cross them in the opposite direction. You probably noticed that the second time was more awkward, and it’s because those two things happen from different parts of your brain.
The first time you crossed your arms, it came from your limbic system. You’ve done it a million times, when you’re cold, when you’re angry, whatever. The second time, it came from your prefrontal cortex. You had to work at it a little bit more. And if you were to do that all day, every day, or for extended periods of time, and you were to practice that, eventually that would become a habit.
Over 45% of everything we do every day is a habit. And our brain depends on these cognitive shortcuts to make our life manageable but it doesn’t know which habits are helping us or which habits are hurting us. It just takes however we’re repeatedly thinking or behaving and converts it. So, that’s one, is recognizing which habits.
Are you anxious because you have an anxiety disorder or are you anxious because it’s a habit? Are you worrying because there’s like something legitimately challenging that you don’t know how to navigate or are you worrying because it’s a habit, right? So, our life becomes this state of habits and we just kind of live on autopilot if we’re not careful.
The second challenge with the brain is that we have something called the negativity bias. And it’s a primitive built-in protection mechanism so that if you were being chased by predators, your brain encoded that message very powerfully to keep you protected, and you were way more able to notice the saber-toothed tiger charging at you than you are the pretty flower that’s standing next to you as you’re walking down that path.
And it was built as a protection mechanism but, unfortunately, as we’ve evolved, the brain continues to constantly search for threats, so it overestimates threats, it underestimates opportunities, it magnifies the negative, it’s like Velcro, and it diminishes the positive, it’s like Teflon. And so, we can change the way our brain is wired through, Rick Hanson calls it, experiential-dependent neuroplasticity. And it’s basically a fancy term for saying every time you have a positive experience or an experience that you want to encode as deeply as a negative message, you have to ruminate on it just like you would the negative one.
We replay the negative stuff over and over and over in our mind, but if somebody gives us a compliment, we’re like, “Oh, thanks. It’s nothing,” rather than sitting in that and truly like feeling the gratitude in that. Or, you know, when you have, I call them delicious moments. So, a delicious moment, and we all read these fairy tales growing up, or read them to our kids, and they all end with, “And they lived happily ever after,” and then you get a divorce, or you lose a job, or you have a sick child, or something happens and you feel like, “Well, great. I have completely failed at this whole thing called adulting” without realizing that there’s no constant state of happy. It happens in micro moments. It happens in blips.
And most of us are so busy focused on finding that constant state of it that we miss those. I call them delicious moments. It’s the first sip of coffee in the morning. It’s a really great hug. It’s a delicious meal. It’s a belly laugh where you can’t stop. It’s a great podcast interview. It’s just a moment that you want to savor. And I write them down and I either take a picture or put it on a cocktail napkin, or write it on a sticky note. I put those all over my office on these huge corkboards. Because every time you find something that makes you feel that moment, you get what’s called the dopamine squirt. And I know it sounds dirty.
But every time you have that moment, like, for example, yesterday I spoke in Fort Worth, and I was speaking for about 3,000 teachers and educators. And at the end of the speech, I got an amazing standing ovation, and that was just such a delicious moment for me. I felt like I really made an impact and I felt like I really belonged. I was right where I was supposed to be. So, I took out my phone, took a quick picture of the audience, printed it, it goes on my board.
And sitting in that, and going, “All right. How did that feel?” Well, I felt pride and I felt like I was legitimately making a difference and contributing. And I felt like I was paying back all of the teachers who’ve helped us along the way. “And where did I feel that?” Well, I felt it in my stomach and I got goosebumps. And I felt it by the hair on the back of my neck.
And simply sitting in that for 20 seconds is enough to embed that into the neural network as powerfully as the negative events that happen and the negative self-doubt and self-talk. But we have to be deliberate about offsetting so much of the negative with bringing in a more focused approach at searching for the positive, and then you start training your brain to find the positive in different situations. So, the more you do it, the more you find it.
The more time you spend feeling grateful and sitting in that and why and, “How can I communicate that and how can I make somebody stay better because of it?” Those are all things that if you sit in them for even 20, 30 seconds, you start to re-circuit your brain. And they say, “What fires together, wires together.” The more time you spend in these activities that are going to build resilience, the more likely you are to start your brain down an entirely different path than was intended or where it would go on its own.
Well, that really is fascinating when you talk about the negativity bias and how we’ll just naturally ruminate on the bad stuff, and then not so much naturally ruminate on the good stuff. And so, to really take that time. And I think the turn of a phrase delicious moment is great because, you know, delicious it’s visceral and we know what that feels like with regard to, “This bite of prime rib on this camping trip was exceptional and it’s a wow!”
Pete, I want to camp with you because when I go camping, we are not eating prime rib.
Well, they had this like acorn, like smoker, delicious. I was very impressive what these guys were doing, I was like, “I can wrap the potatoes and boil, guys, as my contribution.”
I can add salt.
And so, it was, yes, so that moment is there. And then I think it’s true in terms of, I don’t know, you’ve made a sale, you get the email saying, “Yes, Pete, here’s the order.” And it’s like, “Great!” And then you were like firing off the email reply with like, “Okay. Well, I’ll get back to you on this date with these things,” as opposed to, “No, no, no, the right answer is to just appreciate and relish that for 20 to 30 seconds is all it takes, not say, ‘I’m off for the rest of the day.’”
And so, that really makes a lot of sense to me. And I like how you’re very proactive in terms of, “I’m going to think about those prompts. Like, where did I feel it? How did I feel it? How am I going to capture it? Is it to sort of you write it down or you take a photo?” And so, that’s good in there.
And so, well, now I’m thinking about in a work scenario, I think like a little thing can happen and then it just gets you ruminating, going over it repeatedly. Let’s just say, okay, hey, you got busy and you weren’t quite doing something someone else in another department had asked you for, maybe once or twice, it wasn’t one of your priorities.
Then that someone has the audacity to email you again and CC your boss. And then you’re like, “Oh, my gosh, this jerk. Well, I’m going to get to it soon enough, you know. You really could’ve called me if it was that urgent and I would’ve handled it. And now my boss thinks I’m some sort of a yogle who doesn’t ever look at his emails, or whatever.” So, your brain can just kind of spin and in a small thing. So, how do you recommend when you catch yourself in the non-delicious moment? How do you get out of there and start the rewiring?
So, your brain doesn’t know the difference between a saber-toothed tiger or a snarky email. Your brain interprets perceived threats and real threats exactly the same way. And what basically happens is in your limbic system, in your reptilian brain, your amygdala basically creates cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline, norepinephrine, all of these neurochemicals that are draining 20% of the blood from your brain and your heart, and placing them into your limbs so that you can fight, freeze, or run away. And even though this is a very primitive neurological response, it has not changed.
And so, when you are, one, is to know what triggers you and to be aware physiologically, psychologically what has triggered you. The next step of this is, because when that happens, you’ve been emotionally hijacked. You flip your lid, your ability to think logically flies out the window, and our emotional brain, that limbic system works 80,000 times faster than the prefrontal cortex, than the logical system. So, one, it’s recognizing that you’ve been hijacked. Do your palms sweat? Do your shoulders tighten? Do you get nauseous? Like, what has happened that lets you know that you have been triggered?
Like, for some people, it’s visceral, “I feel like I was punched in the gut.” For other people, “It’s like my neck just tightens and my hands sweat.” Whatever it is for you, it’s recognizing it’s happening is the first step.
The second is letting yourself feel whatever emotion is generated as a result. Most of us don’t like to be in uncomfortable emotional states. And so, we try to just either not feel anything or we try to fake it and flip it, and that doesn’t work. Your emotions are a neurobiological process. You cannot control them. It’s like you put your hand on a hot stove, you’ll bring your hand back very quickly without having time to think, “Ooh, that’s hot. Maybe I shouldn’t touch it.” Your brain does the exact same thing.
And so, where you do have control of this emotional management process is the thought that is generated as a result of that emotion. So, if you imagine step one is the trigger, “Bob sent me a second email, copied my boss, really pissed me off.” That emotion is anger and hurt and a little bit of fear and embarrassment. You can’t change that. The thought process is, “Bob’s a jerk. He tried to intentionally embarrass me,” which leads you to a response, most likely defensive, closed off, agitated, which ultimately has a negative outcome.
You don’t have control over the trigger, you don’t have control over the emotion, but you do have control over the way you interpret that situation. So, rather than being like, “Bob’s a jerk,” it’s, “Gosh, I wonder if Bob has got something going on personally and he didn’t mean to do this. He just copied my boss because he’s under the gun on a lot of different competing priorities. Or maybe this is the third time I’ve missed the deadline, and Bob is just getting short with me, and he’s kind of tired of it.” It’s how do I interpret that differently so it shifts my behavior?
And this is not easy at all especially in an organizational setting when someone throws you under the bus, or when you’ve missed a deadline, or you didn’t meet a deliverable. Like, whatever it is, it’s really paying attention to how your brain hijacks you and then doing some things to get un-hijacked. For example, three deep breaths from your abdomen reset your entire nervous system and gets your prefrontal cortex back online. So, when you are frustrated or angry, or you read the email, Arianna Huffington calls it email apnea when you read an email and stop breathing, which I think we’ve all done. Three really deep breaths from your abdomen will get you back online.
Counting backward from 10 or 20 will get you back online because you’re having to go to the prefrontal cortex to access higher-order thinking. Talking to yourself in third person, strangely enough, has been found to put you back online. So, like, “Hey, Anne, you got this. You’ll figure it out,” unless your name is not Anne and then you should replace your name. But there are some things that you can do to get un-hijacked. You just have to know it’s happening first.
All right, yes. And so then, I’m with you. So, you’re there, you have the trigger, you had emotional response, and then I like that notion of sort of feeling it and identifying it in terms of, “All right. It’s made me angry. It made me feel like I don’t have my act together when I absolutely have my act together.” And so, there we are in terms of the breaths or the counting backwards and reclaiming the control there in the prefrontal cortex.
But more often than not, here’s what happens. More often than not it’s, “Uh-oh, they think I don’t have my stuff together. Now I’m insecure. Do I not have my stuff together? How do people think of me? How am I perceived by others? Does my boss now think that I’m not staying on top of things? Am I going to lose my job? What’s going to happen? Am I going to be embarrassed?”
We start down this path of these negative loops, and it’s very normal. But if you don’t catch yourself and stop it, and re-route your attention, which is why mindfulness is so incredibly powerful for your brain, then you say stuck in that habit loop, and it becomes a cognitive shortcut, and you just start thinking that way.
So, let’s talk about mindfulness in terms of, specifically, the practices that make the difference, and then what difference does it make.
Sure. I used to think mindfulness was the dumbest thing in the world. Exercise and mindfulness, for me, really, the dumbest, like, “I’m not doing either of these things. I don’t care how helpful they are.” But the research doesn’t lie. You find enough research supporting it.
Mindfulness, we spend 47% of our time thinking about something other than what we’re doing right now. Like, if your listeners are driving, they’ve thought about different signs they’ve seen. If your listeners are sitting at their desk, they’re probably checking an email or two, or looking at their phone, or checking their Facebook feed at the same time.
We have this very difficult time controlling our attention. And mindfulness is simply brain training to help you be in control of what you pay attention to. So, anytime that you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s recognizing that and sitting in that, going, “Okay, what is this I’m feeling? Let myself feel it,” and then move on. It could be meditating. And this, I felt like I was playing whackable with my thoughts. Everybody told me how Zen-like this was supposed to be and it wasn’t for me.
And so, I really start digging in and realized it’s not supposed to be. Even Buddhist monks, they call it your monkey brain. Your monkey brain is going in all kinds of different directions. And every time you catch your monkey running around, and you bring it back and focus on your breath, you’re training your brain to focus on where you want it to be focused not where it actually goes.
Like, I meditate to sleep every single night. And what this does is it expands the grey matter in your brain, so does exercise, yoga does it, sleep does it. And the grey matter of your brain is the part of your brain that’s responsible for emotional regulation and attention management, and it’s the part of your brain damaged by stress.
So, mindfulness is it’s not touchy fluffy feely. It can be. You can find all kinds of, like, oh, say Om and drink tea and sit here in full lotus. But, for me, it’s simply paying attention to where you are when you’re there. If you’re sitting around the couch at night with your family, are you all watching TV and on your phones? If you’re eating dinner, are you paying attention to how the food tastes and feels? Because if you do that, you’re sitting in the moment.
When you’re sitting in traffic, instead of being angry, taking a few deep breaths, and, “All right. This is good. I have time to process my day. I can get through that so that when I get home, I can choose the mood I want to be in.” It can happen anywhere, anytime. It’s just a matter of bringing yourself back to right now. And it is not peaceful, and it is not priming. It is not this belief that we have of the perfect yogi. It’s really just being deliberate about where you want to bring your attention.
Okay. And so, you mentioned some ways to practice that in everyday life. And if you are hunkering down for meditation, how do you approach that?
Well, one, the magical number is nine minutes. If you can meditate consistently for nine minutes a day, you will change your brain. And so, I had no idea how to do it, so I downloaded an app. There’s Calm, Buddhify, Happify, Headspace, there’s a bunch of different apps.
Oh, don’t forget Simple Habits, sponsor.
Hey, thanks, guys.
Thanks, guys, yeah. Oh, I love them. I think I’ve done an interview for them as well. They’re great. So, it’s really whether it’s using an app, or whether it’s going on YouTube and getting a guided meditation, I suggest learning how first being guided by that. And sometimes your brain is so un-still, it’s so busy, that it’s really helpful to have a voice outside of you guide that. So, there’s power in doing it together if there’s a meditation place that you can go to. Personally, I prefer to be alone. It’s just really not rocket science. It is so hard but so easy. And it is really just focusing on your breath. Period.
You start by taking a few really deep breaths and just kind of get centered. Many programs will tell you to do a body stand. You can either feel like you start at the tip of your head, and then you feel relaxation down your forehead and your eyes, and you relax your nose and your mouth. And the way I view it as this warm blue light that’s surrounding me and I just watch it go through my head and neck and shoulders and sternum and stomach and all the way down to my toes. And that’s one way to stay present because you’re focused on your body.
And then you sit in silence and just focus on your breath. And your mind is going to go everywhere, “What are we going to have for dinner? Why does my leg itch? I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning? Crap, I didn’t send the email to so and so.” That’s normal. That’s what it’s supposed to do but you train yourself to go back to your breath, which is training your brain, training your attention management skills.
Well, Anne, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?
No, I think the only other thing I would say is gratitude is really super, super powerful and it’s really, really easy. Right now, you can practice this by sending someone a text message, thanking them for something specific, whether it’s they helped you on a project, or they covered for you, or they helped you jump your car when the battery died.
It doesn’t matter what it is. You can take out your phone and just send somebody a text message and, literally, change your brain and theirs at the same time. It doesn’t have to be a long drawn out thing. Simply send a one message a day to somebody in your life will change the way your brain looks at the world. So, it’s simple but it requires persistence.
Okay. Now, can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?
One of my favorite quotes is by Ray Wylie Hubbard. He’s a singer-songwriter from Texas, and he has a lyric that says, “The days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, well, those are good days.” And I just love that. it’s a simple reminder when our expectations don’t match reality, that’s when we’re angry, frustrated, and disappointed. And if you can control your expectations, you can control your mood.
Yeah, that really resonates in terms of it seems like I most often get angry, frustrated, and irritated when I’m in a rush, like I have an expectation of time that is not being delivered upon.
Me, too. Me, too.
And how about a favorite study or experiment or a bit of research?
The one that just came to mind right now is, when you said that it’s a study that was done with monkeys. They put these monkeys in a cage. And I am not an animal research advocate but in this particular study, what they did is they put a ladder in the cage with the monkeys, they dangled bananas from the top of the cage. Every time the monkey went up the ladder to get the banana, they sprayed the monkey with water.
Ultimately, they ended up replacing all of the monkeys that were originally part of the group and no monkey would go up the ladder even though none of the original monkeys were there. And it just demonstrates how our corporate culture just feeds on itself, our habits feed on themselves. We don’t even question why we’re doing what we’re doing. We just do it.
And really breaking away from that takes courage, which is my other favorite quote. It’s from Mary Anne Radmacher, and she says, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying, ‘I’ll try again tomorrow.’” And sometimes it just takes us stopping and going, “Am I living my life on purpose or am I just reacting my way through it?”
And how about a favorite book?
Oh, my gosh, there’s so many of those too. I think my favorite one growing up was “Where the Red Fern Grows.” I don’t know if you remember that book.
But, like, Little Dan or Big Dan and Little Ann, I absolutely love that book. Now, I really am geeking out over Brene Brown as I’m sure everybody is. I love Rick Hanson’s work around resilience. He has a great book called “Hardwiring Happiness.” Let’s see, what else am I reading right now? I’m looking at my bookshelf. Oh, Rachel Hollis has a couple of really great books.
And something interesting I’m reading, “The Upside of Stress” by Kelly McGonigal. She has a great TED Talk as well. She basically aggregated all this research, and one study, in particular, found it’s not the stress that’s killing us, it’s the way we perceive it, and I found that just incredibly fascinating and powerful. So, those are just a few that I’m reading now. And then I’ve always got a James Patterson murder-mystery novel because everybody has got to have some brain candy.
All right. And how about a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?
I’m sorry, say again.
A favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job.
So, the biggest tool that I use is planning my day. I take time before I ever turn on my computer to think through what my day is going to look like. Or if I do have to turn on my computer to look at the calendar, I resist the urge to go check email and start working out of my inbox. And then I recap my day at the end, “What did I accomplish? What can I feel proud of? What did I not get done? When do I have time to do that?” So, for me, that’s important.
The other is a concept by Shawn Achor and I also love his work “The Happiness Advantage.” He’s got a new book out as well. It’s basically creating a mental moat around your day. The first 30 minutes and the last 30 minutes of your day are when you have the least cognitive energy, so your brain is most likely to stay in whatever state you put it first thing in the morning. And most of us turn on the news and look at social media and check our email within the first 30 minutes of being awake. And we basically just relinquish control of our entire day.
So, one of the biggest tools that I use is I sit and have my morning coffee. If I’m at home, I snuggle with my pups. If I’m on the road, I wake up a couple of minutes early to sit in the hotel room and really just be, without reading anything, without looking at the world around us, and I start being deliberate about what I let enter into my brain. The other thing is surround yourself with the right people. If you’re around constantly negative people, either you’re the common denominator or you have to find a way to get around different people.
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and gets quoted back to you often?
“You find what you look for.” If you look for all the reasons life is unfair and it’s tough and it’s an uphill battle, you will find them in spades. Like, I have a sign on my bathroom mirror that says, it’s written in Sharpie, it says, “What do you want to find today? Good. Go look for it.” Right? You find what you look for. And so, make sure you’re looking for things on purpose rather than just what your brain naturally will find.
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?
Well, there’s a couple things you can do. One, if you text the word strength to 555-888 you will get a resilient self-assessment along with a self-care sheet and a poem I wrote while sitting in a Philadelphia airport for nine hours with a couple of vodka sodas. It’s actually quite good. And you’ll also get a monthly resilience inoculation. You’ll get a tip tool or strategy regularly. You can join us on social. We have a gratitude challenge right now with our company.
The week of Thanksgiving, we will give $250 to a charity of your choice or a gift card to the place of your choice. And, basically, all you have to do is find us on social media, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, it’s all AnneGradyGroup and tell us what you’re grateful for, and we have a giant gratitude jar we’ll be drawing that from. Or you can go to AnneGradyGroup.com and Anne with an E. Check us out there. Lots of free resources and tools as well.
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?
Yeah, I would say spend the rest of this week, Thursday and Friday, or whenever you air this, spend the rest of that week really deliberately looking for five things every day that you would consider a delicious moment.
Well, I would say you can do this by putting five pennies in your righthand pocket, and every time you find one, you move a penny over to your left-hand pocket, and you don’t leave the office at the end of the day until you’ve transferred your pennies.
Well, Anne, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you all the luck in the world and many delicious moments.
Well, thank you. I wish you the same. And I hope you have a fantastic day. I appreciate you and your audience and I hope you guys really find lots of delicious moments.