Get a daily DOSE of these four “happy” chemicals

There are four major chemicals in your brain that influence how happy you are. Our bodies produce these chemicals naturally, but in some people, the body doesn’t produce enough. This deficiency can make us sad, anxious, negative, hopeless, and depressed.

Fortunately, there are things we can do to increase these chemicals. 

Use the acrostic DOSE to remember these four hormones. 

Dopamine motivates us to take action toward goals, desires, and needs, and gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure when achieving them. Procrastination, self-doubt, and lack of enthusiasm are linked with low levels of dopamine. 

Oxytocin both motivates us to establish intimate relationships and helps us sustain them. It is the “cuddle hormone” responsible for humans being social creatures.

Serotonin flows when you feel significant or important. Loneliness and depression appear when serotonin is absent. It helps regulate mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function. 

Endorphins are released in response to pain and stress and help to alleviate anxiety and depression. The surging “second wind” and euphoric “runner’s high” during and after a vigorous run are a result of endorphins.

If your body is not producing enough of these four chemicals, don’t be passive about it. Take the initiative in three areas.

  1. Prescription drugs can help. For instance, most antidepressants are designed to increase oxytocin and serotonin levels.
  2. Natural products can help. For instance, L-tyrosine, Rhodiola, Mucuna, and L-theanine (available as over-the-counter supplements) can boost dopamine levels. 
  3. Engaging in some simple, daily functions can increase levels of the four chemicals. 

I’ll focus on the third area. I’ll identify the key need that is associated with each chemical, give some practical steps we can take to increase them, and make suggestions on how we can help others.

Dopamine

    • Need – that our lives have meaning; we are not sleep-walking through life; we are making progress toward meaningful goals.
    • Solutions – Set goals and diligently pursue them. When you achieve a goal, celebrate-literally—pop open a bottle of champagne or treat yourself to a personal splurge. Break down big goals into smaller ones and celebrate when you achieve each step. Dopamine is also produced as we anticipate meaningful activities, so always have something you’re looking forward to.
    • We can help others by encouraging them to set goals and celebrating their achievements. 

Oxytocin

    • Need – emotional and physical intimacy and trust in relationships.
    • Solution – Develop close, intimate relationships. In a survey that has been taken annually for many years, Americans are asked, “How many close friends do you have?” As recently as ten years ago the average answer was, five. In a recent survey the average answer was, none. No wonder depression and anxiety are rampant in our society.
    • Here’s a short-term solution: oxytocin is nicknamed the “cuddle hormone”; a simple way to keep oxytocin flowing is to give someone a hug. Psychologists suggest that eight hugs a day will make a big difference. 
    • We can help others by committing to be a close friend.

Serotonin 

    • Need – This need is summed up in Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl taught that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.
    • Solution – discover what “makes your boat float.” What energizes your core? Also, good diet and exposure to sunlight will help. As much as 95 percent of the serotonin in your body is produced in your gut so proper diet is important.
    • Help others by coaching them toward meaningful activity.

Endorphins

    • Stress and pain are the two most common factors leading to the release of endorphins. Endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in the brain to reduce our perception of pain and act similarly to drugs such as morphine and codeine.
    • Solution – Don’t avoid stress and pain; in moderation, they are good for you so don’t pursue a stress-free, pain-free life. Exercise is the main thing way to produce endorphins.
    • Help others maintain a proper balance of stress in their lives: not too much or too little. I recently led a group of friends on a vigorous tour through Europe. Our pace was unrelenting; we walked at least six miles a day, so at the end of each day we were exhausted but somewhat euphoric. Laughter also helps release endorphins.

This post is a brief attempt by a non-scientist to help us understand how certain brain chemicals affect how happy we are. The bottom line for me is: 

  1. If you’re consistently unhappy:
    • Exercise, eat a balanced diet, spend time outside. 
    • Develop deep friendships.
    • Engage in meaningful work.
    • Set goals and measure your progress.
    • Take natural supplements
  1. If you’re still unhappy, talk to your physician about taking medication.

I get impatient with people who complain of being unhappy but they don’t take the initiative to do what they can to improve. Get out of the passenger seat and into the drivers’s seat; there are steps you can take to feel happier.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Three phrases that will greatly enhance your relationships

Plus - AI is getting out of control

We are reluctant to say them, but when spoken honestly and appropriately, three simple phrases can help maintain our personal integrity and sustain peace in relationships.

“I don’t know.”

Often, when we don’t know something, we make stuff up. When we don’t know the answer to a question, we attempt to answer it anyway. Instead, we should just say, “I don’t know.”

In his must-read-book, In The Kingdom of Ice, Hampton Sides writes that in the late 1800s no one knew what the North Pole was like because no one had ever been there. The most famous cartographer of the day was a German professor named August Petermann. He was, supposedly, the world’s foremost authority on world geography. The world wanted to know what the Arctic was like, so Petermann wrote, “It is a well-known fact that there exists to the north of the Siberian coast, and, at a comparatively short distance from it, a sea open at all seasons.” He firmly believed that when a team of explorers finally reached the North Pole, they would find a tropical environment, complete with palm trees and perhaps a new race of humans.

Huh? Why didn’t he just say, “I don’t know”?

When was the last time you said, “I don’t know.”? I admire people who use the phrase; I have little regard for people who should but don’t. There’s no shame in admitting that you simply don’t know.

“I made a mistake.”

When I hear someone say, “I made a mistake,” my admiration for that person escalates. My regard is diminished when there is stubborn refusal to admit the obvious. Politicians and leaders, in particular, are reluctant to admit mistakes, but it’s nearly impossible not to make mistakes when you’re leading aggressively and making a lot of decisions. To err is human.

Even when we do admit that a mistake was made, we have a hard time using the personal pronoun “I.” When Richard Nixon commented on Watergate, when Ronald Reagan talked about the Iran-Contra affair, and when Hillary Clinton spoke about Whitewater, they used the phrase, “Mistakes were made.” That doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head, does it?

Compare these responses to the most famous unsent message in history. General Eisenhower penned the following memo before the Normandy Invasion. Fortunately, it was never posted because the invasion was successful. 

“Our landings…have failed..and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.” 

When was the last time you said, “I made a mistake”?

“I was wrong; please forgive me.”

Only an infallible person can avoid saying this phrase, and you and I don’t qualify. Speaking this phrase doesn’t make you a bad person; it simply means that you messed up and want to make it right.

I once counseled a couple struggling in their marriage. In one of the sessions I asked the husband, “How long has it been since you’ve spoken these words to your wife: ‘I was wrong; please forgive me.’” Awkward silence ensued. At least he was honest when he replied, “Never.” They had been married 22 years.

I appealed to his logic: “What is the probability that in 22 years of marriage, you have never hurt or offended your wife?” Again, he was honest in saying, “The chances are slim.” Their homework assignment was rather obvious: identify ways in which you have hurt your spouse; admit it; and ask forgiveness.

When was the last time you said, “I was wrong; please forgive me.”?

In this coming year, make a goal of speaking one of these three phrases at least once a week. Okay…how about once a month?

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Last year I wrote a post titled I’m worried about Artificial Intelligence.  Here’s an article about Facebook shutting off one of their AI projects because their AI computers developed their own language.

List your regrets

At the beginning of each new year we’re encouraged to set goals for the coming year. I’m a big fan of that. It might also be beneficial to periodically list regrets: things we regret about the previous year and even regrets from the distant past that have come into focus. 

Here’s my truncated list of regrets from the past. 

  • Not learning a second language. In high school I studied Spanish for three years; to get my PhD I learned German, but neither language “took”; I viewed both pursuits as “got to” instead of “get to.” My four-year-old grandson, Benjamin, attends a Spanish immersion school where only Spanish is spoken. I hope he keeps it up. 
  • All three of my college degrees are in music. I should have pursued a broader education.
  • I didn’t understand until later in life, the impact my dysfunctional family had on my life. 
  • I didn’t understand the value of reading books until later in life. For the first 55 years of my life I only read books under compulsion. I didn’t understand that “reading allows us the benefit and pleasure of thinking another person’s thoughts” (Harris).
  • I didn’t drink wine until I was 40 years old. My conservative, Protestant upbringing taught that drinking wine is sin. It isn’t. (I need to write a blog post on this topic.)
  • I haven’t loved my wife as I should. 
  • I didn’t understand the joy and wonder of “prefer one another.” For most of my life I have focused on me—my interests and well-being. Two thousand years ago the apostle Paul encouraged us to focus on others (Philippians 2:4). Adam Grant recently wrote a book on the topic—Give and Take. 

…and the list goes on

Some regrets are fixed and the loss unrecoverable. Name them and learn from them, but then drop them—there’s no value in crying over spilt milk. But most of our regrets can be minimized through change. In a wonderful, redemptive manner, naming a regret and then vowing to make things different, works. Of the seven regrets I listed above, none are immutable.

The word “regret” normally carries a negative, fatalistic meaning. Why not reimagine the term to mean “catalyst for course correction”?

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Don’s “best of 2018”

Here are some highlights of my life in 2018 A.D.

BookLost Connections – Johann Hari – This book will only benefit individuals who have or are suffering from depression and/or anxiety, know of someone who is struggling with depression and/or anxiety, and those who want to adopt a healthy lifestyle and help other people do the same. In other words, everyone should read this book. Very accessible; hard to put down; very informative; potentially life-changing. One sentence summarizes the book: “An antidepressant isn’t just a pill. It’s anything that lifts your depression.”

Meal – On the Tale of Three Cities trip I hosted in October, one night we ate at Giovanni’s restaurant in the theater district of London. The place only seats about 35 so we were in tight quarters. A family from Sicily has run the restaurant for decades. The two hour meal was delicious and the conversation was memorable. I was reminded of the wonderful things that can happen around a meal.

Concert – On the Tale of Three Cities trip, I wanted to end the trip with a memorable moment that no one would ever forget, so I hired an Italian opera singer to present a concert just for our group, in the chapel in Santa Brigida. We thought we had died and gone to heaven.

Person of the yearJason Webb. Jason is the director of media at SCC. He is competent, multi-talented (professional trumpet player, mathematician), hard worker, low-maintenance, great emotional and social skills. Clone Jason and the world will be a better place.

Travel experience – In July Mary and I went to Peru to visit the Sacred Valley. The highlight of the trip was Machu Picchu. It was one of the most enjoyable trips we have ever taken. I encourage you to travel extensively. I’ll probably host a trip to Peru for friends in 2020.  

Best friend – Here’s a picture of my best friend (my granddaughter, Marin, is also in the picture). All joking aside, I’ve had Buddy for 14 months and he has become my therapy dog-we visit about important and trivial issues every night before I go to bed.

Bottle of wine – Instead of highlighting the best wine I had this year (Hentley Farms, The Beast, 2012 Shiraz) I want to recommend two satisfactory table wines. Chateau St. Michelle Riesling is made in Washington and sells for around $8; Alamos is a Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina that sells for around $9. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a decent wine for every day consumption.  

New space in my mind – I enjoy learning things that I have never thought of before. In November I started studying the four “happy chemicals” (dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins) and the ways we can increase these chemicals in our brains other than by taking prescription drugs. I’ll post an essay on this topic next year.

Hobby – I love working in my vineyard. It’s therapeutic to get dirt under my fingernails; I often work myself to exhaustion; I have a new appreciation for the cycle of life. I planted in March; here’s a picture of the vineyard in November. 

 

Five best books I read in 2018

Reading is not a chore. Reading is theft. It is robbery. Someone smarter than you has spent years struggling to solve a problem or researching a new idea. You can steal that hard earned knowledge and make it yours just by reading her book. And you won’t be arrested.

Sam Harris says, “We read for the joy and benefit of thinking another person’s thoughts.” Read good books and you can enjoy and benefit from the thoughts of brilliant people. You can “steal” the time and energy they invested in writing what they have learned.

Here’s a list of books I read in 2018. At the end of this post is commentary on the best five books I read.

The numbers in brackets represent how I rate each book on a scale from 1 (not good) to 10 (exceptional).

January

  1. The Blue Zones – Dan Buettner – 2008, 303 pages [7.5] – Analyzes five ares of the world that have long life-expectancy rates and offers nine lessons learned from these people groups.
  2. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste NG – 2017, 336 pages [7] – I enjoyed her first novel better. The story of families growing up in the upscale neighborhood of Shaker Heights. 
  3. The Midnight Line – Lee Childs – 2017 – ___ pages [7] – I like the protagonist, Jack Reacher, and this book (the 30th in the series) had an interesting plot. 
  4. The Power of Moments – Chip and Dan Heath – 2017 – 295 pages [8.5] – I like everything the Heath brothers write. They combine good research with accessible writing. This book unpacks the importance of, and how to orchestrate, pivotal moments.
  5. The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena – 2016, 308 pages [4] – A totally worthless novel. The only reason I finished it is because I was on a transatlantic flight with nothing else to do.
  6. A Little History of Religion – Richard Holloway – 2016, 237 pages [7.5] – A concise and accessible survey of world religions. I really enjoyed this book. 
  7. Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – translated by Arthur Waley – c. 300 BC – 89 pages [6] – The first great classic of the Chinese school of philosophy called Taoism. I did not understand most of this book; it was similar to reading dense, opaque poetry.

February

  1. How to Read a Book – The Art of Getting a Liberal Education – Mortimer Adler, 1940, 389 pages [6] – Good thoughts on the subject but 389 pages became tedious. 
  2. Why Buddhism Is True – The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment  Robert Wright, 2017, 301 pages [6.5] – I’m wanting to learn more about meditation, but this book didn’t help much.  
  3. The Consequences of Ideas – R.C. Sproul, 2000, 203 pages, [8] – A good survey of the philosophers who have influenced Western thought. 

March

  1. Command and Control – Eric Schlosser, 2013, 485 pages, [8] – Incredibly documented (there are 98 pages of footnotes), it tells the history of the U.S. nuclear age. It’s scary to know how many times we’ve been close to a nuclear holocaust.
  2. 100 Greatest Scientific Experiments – Robert Cave, 217 pages [7] – Fun book to read; lots of pictures. 
  3. Don’t Believe Everything You Think – The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking – Thomas Kida, 2006, 237 pages [8] – This was my second time to read the book. It is accessible and interesting. 
  4. The Words Lincoln Lived By – Gene Griessman, 1997, 136 pages, [6.5] – 52 short chapters on character traits that Lincoln exhibited. 

April

  1. The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey – Blanchard, Oncken and Burrows, 1989, 130 short pages, [5] – This is a dumbed down version of a great HBR article published in November, 1999. I recommend reading the article.
  2. White American Youth – Christian Picciolini, 2017, 172 pages, [4.5] – A boring autobiography. I loved the podcast where Sam Harris interviewed Picciolini but didn’t like his book.

May

  1. On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century – Timothy Snyder, 2017, 126 pages [7] – An insightful read given our current political climate. Anarchy could happen in the U.S. 
  2. My Life as an Experiment: One Man’s Humble Quest to Improve Himself – A.J. Jacobs, 2009, 244 pages [7] – Jacobs is engages in participatory journalism: he immerses himself in whatever he’s writing about. The book is entertaining but not very informative or helpful.
  3. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace – Jeff Hobbs, 2014, 402 pages [7] – The title describes the book. Lessons to be learned about race, culture, the drug wars, bad decisions. 
  4. The Strange Order of Things – Antonio Damasio, 2018, 244 pages [7] – Damasio is a brilliant physician/scientist but this book leans more toward the professional than the lay-person so I had a hard time understanding a lot of his ideas.

June

  1. The CEO Next Door – Elena Botelho and Kim Powell, 2018, 254 pages [7] – Based on 17,000 interviews of top executives; a good read on leadership even for those not aspiring to be a CEO.
  2. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion – Jonathan Haidt, 2012, 371 pages [6.5] – It was difficult for me to keep up with his thinking; my bad. It is written more for the professional than layperson. 
  3. Math in Bite-Sized Chunks – Chris Waring, 2018, 188 pages [7] – I like books that give an overview of important topics, and this book did that with math. 27 short chapters on topics like: percentages, algorithms, averages, correlation, etc.

July

  1. Commonwealth – Ann Patchett, 2016, 322 pages [7.5] – Patchett is a wonderful novelist. I did not connect with this book as well as I have her other novels. My favorite so far: State of Wonder.
  2. You Are Here – Thich Nhat Hanh, 2001, 140 pages [5] – A poorly written, rambling book.
  3. Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harari, 2014, 416 pages [9] – A concise, selective, history of mankind. You won’t agree with everything he says (but that can be said of most books), but his explanation of certain areas of history are enlightening. 
  4. Deep Influence – T.J. Addington, 2014, 256 pages [6] – I did not learn anything new from this book. Granted, I’ve read many books on leadership, but I yearn for fresh thoughts.
  5. No Middle Name – Lee Childs, 2018, 471 pages [7] – The protagonist, Jack Reacher, continues to amaze and amuse. 

August

  1. The Happiness Hypotheses – Jonathan Haidt, 2006, 246 pages [8] – This book gave me a lot to think about. He combines ancient wisdom and modern truth. 
  2. The E Myth – Why most small businesses don’t work and what to do about it – Michael Gerber, 1995, 268 pages [5.5] – Based purely on anecdotal thoughts. I only benefited from chapter 8 – The Franchise Prototype.
  3. How to Change Your Mind – Michael Pollan, 2018, 414 pages [7.5] – A well-researched book on recent medical advances in psychedelic treatments. 
  4. The Number – A Completely Different Way to Think About the Rest of Your Life – Lee Eisenberg, 2006, 255 pages [5] – Rambling, self-absorbed writing. A lot of words that said nothing. 

September 

  1. Philosophy in Bite-Sized Chunks – Lesley Levene, 2017, 181 pages [7] – A series of two page summaries of many famous philosophers from Anaximenes to Foucault. 
  2. Farsighted – Steven Johnson – 2018, 218 pages [9] – Another amazing book by Johnson. The theme is how to make wise long-term decisions, but just the final chapter on the value of reading literary fiction makes the book worth reading. I immediately ordered George Eliot’s novel, Middlemarch. 

October

  1. The Coddling of the American Mind – Luianoff and Haidt, 2018, 281 pages [9] – The authors investigate three myths—What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; always trust your feelings; and life is a battle between good people and evil people—and show how the myths have adversely affected social structures.
  2. Solving Tough Problems – An Open Way of Talking, Listening, and Creating New Realities – Adam Kahane, 2007, 232 pages [8]. Primarily autobiographical, Kahane teaches good lessons about how to solve major, protracted problems (ex. aparthaid in South Africa).
  3. The Great Alone – Kristin Hannah, 2018, 438 pages [8] – This novel takes place in rural Alaska. It’s interesting and teaches a lot about life.

November

  1. The Black Swan – The Impact of the Highly Probable – Taleb, 2010, 379 pages [8] – I tried to read this book eight years ago but didn’t have the intellectual endurance.  I made it through this year, but will read again in eight years. 
  2. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Harari, 2018, 318 pages [8] – Harari is a historian and futurist. In this book he prognosticate about what life will be like in the coming decades.
  3. Habits of a Happy Brain – Breuning, 206, 211 pages [6.5] – A readable, but somewhat folksy,  book on the four “happy chemicals” – dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphin. 

December

  1. Lost Connections – Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—and the Unexpected Solutions – Johann Hari – 2018, 261 pages [9] – Hari is a journalist so his writing is engaging. This is a terrific book. 
  2. Negotiation – HBR Press – 2003, 147 pages [6] – As expected from HBR, a deep dive into this topic. 
  3. The Last Samurai – Helen Dewitt – 2000, 530 pages [8] – Supposedly, one of the great novels of the last 100 years. It’s hard to follow. I tried to give up on it several times, but finished it and I’m glad I did. A story about a child prodigy and his search for his father. 

Five best books I read in 2018

FictionThe Great Alone – Kristin Hannah, 2018, 438 pages [8] – This novel takes place in rural Alaska. It’s interesting and teaches a lot about life. One of the advantages of reading fiction is that, sometimes, we witness an entire life, or even several generations, and we see the longterm implications of decisions and values. In this book, the protagonist struggles with codependency with an abusive spouse. At times, it’s painful to read, but there’s a realistic and instructive conclusion.

Psychology/self-help – Lost Connections – Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—and the Unexpected Solutions – Johann Hari – 2018, 261 pages [9] – Hari is a journalist so his writing is engaging. He discusses nine causes of depression and solutions. Lots of stories illustrate each main point. Planet earth would benefit from reading this book.

General interest – The Coddling of the American Mind – Luianoff and Haidt, 2018, 281 pages [9] – The authors investigate three myths—What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; always trust your feelings; and life is a battle between good people and evil people—and show how the myths have adversely affected social structures.

General Interest – Farsighted – Steven Johnson – 2018, 218 pages [9] – Another amazing book by Johnson. The theme is how to make wise long-term decisions. Just the final chapter on the value of reading literary fiction makes the book worth reading. I immediately ordered George Eliot’s novel, Middlemarch.

History – Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harari, 2014, 416 pages [9] – A concise, selective, history of mankind. You won’t agree with everything he says (but that can be said of most books), but his explanation of certain areas of history are enlightening.

And finally…

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article on why it’s a good to have more books in your library than you can possibly read.

Question: What are your thoughts about this post? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Take initiative

Nothing happens until something moves. Einstein

My favorite word in the English language is initiate and its noun form, initiative.

Life favors those who take initiative.

Most people live passive lives; others are aggressive. Aggressive is better.

This may be the single most critical difference between leaders and followers. Leaders initiate; they are proactive. They have an agenda. I’ve even noticed that good leaders walk fast, literally; they know their destination and want to get there quickly.

Kirkpatrick and Locke agree: “Effective leaders are proactive. They make choices and take action that leads to change instead of just reacting to events or waiting for things to happen; that is, they show a high level of initiative. Instead of sitting idly by or waiting for fate to smile upon them, leaders need to challenge the process.”

When teaching the Lead Well workshop, I ask delegates to consider the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat. A thermometer merely reflects the temperature of a room; a thermostat has the ability to change the temperature. Leaders are like thermostats; they visualize a better future and take the initiative to make necessary changes.

Often, initiative must be paired with courage because you will inevitably pursue things that you have never done before, and that can be intimidating. Also, when other people follow your initiatives, you’ll sense a responsibility toward their effort and well-being, and that also takes courage.

Initiative requires a bias-to-action and a frustration with passivity. It likes movement.

Don’t always sit in the passenger seat. Be the driver.

“I would not sit waiting for some vague tomorrow, nor for something to happen. One could wait a lifetime, and find nothing at the end of the waiting. I would begin here, I would make something happen.” Louis L’Amour, Sackett’s Land Summary

The year 2019 lies before us like a blank sheet of paper. Write out some goals and objectives for the next 12 months. Don’t succumb to doing the same-old-same-old. Start small and go slow, but do start and keep moving.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Have a healthy balance of these three types of relationships

 

When I first started my career as a minister, a friend gave me some good advice about maintaining a healthy balance of three types of relationships: takers, balanced, and givers. 

“Don, there are some relationships that will constantly drain you; you’re always giving to them but they seldom give to you. These are takers. You can’t totally avoid them (particularly in the ministry) but if they represent the majority of your relationships, you’ll burn out and lose all hope for humankind.

“In other relationships there will be a nice reciprocity; you give to them and they give to you. These associations are normal, healthy, and balanced.

“You’ll also have a few relationships in which people generously give to you with no thought of return; they will give more to you than you will give to them. Accept their magnanimity.” 

In life, it’s important to have a healthy balance of these three relationship-types. If you only have “takers” they will drain you dry. Balanced relationships, in which there is a mutual giving and receiving, should be the dominate type. And be extremely grateful if you have those rare friends who delight in freely and unconditionally giving to you with no thought of return.

I think I can live a reasonably sane life if I maintain a ratio of 30/60/10 (30% of my relationships are takers, 60% are balanced, 10% are givers).

For a moment, consider what type of person you are to other people. 

  • Are you primarily a taker; high-maintenance and selfish? 
  • Or do you strive to maintain balance in your relationships—you’re sensitive about the give and take ratio of relationships and work toward equilibrium.  
  • Name several adult relationships in which you are, by choice, the primary giver. 

I now express deep appreciation to these people in my life who have given more to me than I have given to them: Dean F., Mike F., David H., John M., Chuck S., Jay W., Ruth M., and others. 

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Periodically, take a chill-pill

Sometimes, I trip over inconsequential issues. I obsess about issues that won’t matter six months from now, or even six hours from now. When this happens, I need to take a “chill-pill” and drop it.

Figuratively or literally, carry some “chill pills” with you. Figuratively, when you need to settle down, just imagine putting a pill in your mouth. Literally, keep a small packet of breath mints in your pocket and use them when needed for halitosis, but also pop one in your mouth when you need to relax and ease up on an issue (the placebo effect may genuinely help).

We also need to learn the indispensable coping skill called “drop it.” Imagine holding something in your hand, perhaps a pencil. Now uncurl your fingers and drop it on the floor; as an act of your will, let it go. Sometimes I will “drop it” metaphorically—in my mind I’ll imagine my hand releasing the pencil. If an issue is harder to dislodge I’ll hold up a clenched fist and physically release the grip. If I’m deeply entrenched in an issue, I may literally hold an object in my hand and drop it on the floor.      

Here are some situations when we ought to swallow the pill.

  • When the issue is settled; it’s not going to change. When the pilot says, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re having mechanical problems so we’ll have to switch to another plane,” relax, take a deep breath, and let go of your frustration. You can’t change the situation.
  • When I have little or no control over a situation. When my four-year-old grandson has a meltdown, all I can do is try to minimize the damage (if we’re in a restaurant, we’ll go for a walk). There’s no sense in getting upset and impatient—he’s a child.
  • When I’m inordinately emotionally peaked. Perhaps I can influence a situation but in order to do so productively, I need to decrease my emotional fervor and become more rational. 
  • When contemplating an issue over time will give me greater clarity. Often, my first reaction to a situation is not my best; but when I allow myself to think through a situation, I arrive at a better conclusion. Instead of reacting immediately, I need to take a chill-pill and delay my reaction until a later time.    

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.