People…geesh.

“This job would be okay, if it weren’t for the customers!” says just about every retail worker on the planet. Well, maybe they never say it. But they do think it. Maybe not just retail workers. If you bleed and/or breathe or perform a combination of the two on a regular basis, then I bet you’ve thought it. Maybe you thoroughly love your job now and people are just wonderful. But at one time, you, too, were a card carrying member of the “I hate dealing with stupid people” club. If you never have been issued your card, just wait.

The point is, people can suck. Dealing with people can suck. Sure, there can be blessings, and lots of them. Usually it takes some years of suffering and some miles on the maturity gauge to get to a point where card carrying members  don’t need their card renewed because they have learned a few tricks. I’m not sure I have enough punches on my card to redeem it for the prize yet, but I’m learning a few things.

1.) On this side of eternity, it’s always going to suck. Two things about this. #1, A good chunk (notice I did not say majority) of people are always going to be selfish, needy, conniving, bitter, difficult and/or any combination of the aforementioned. We will always have difficult people with us. We can’t really fix them ourselves. #2, I kinda suck myself. And guess what? You kinda do, too. We all have our moments. Hopefully as we get some mileage, we have fewer sucky moments that we’re responsible for. But, if you’re breathing or bleeding, guess what? You’re also in the “I suck” club.

2.) Part of the reason people suck is that they live unmotivated lives. I used to think that these kind of people were lazy and entitled. (Some of them are.) Now I see that they just don’t have a big enough “Why” in their lives. Along the same vein, people who are born with the potential to be creative are not exercising their creative muscles. All folks are creative. ALL. Capital A Capital L Capital L Period. But fear, insecurity, and low self esteems prevent folks from exploring their creativity. Non existent creativity results in folks not solving problems. Including their day to day problems that put them in that sucky state of mind.

3.) You can’t change people. People have to want to change themselves. We’ve heard that so many times it’s almost cliché. But it’s true. Believe me, I’ve wanted to change so many lousy customers so badly, I could’ve throat punched them. But coercion never works. You may think coercion changes people, but it’s only temporary. Only influence from a safe relationship built on trust and respect, and yes, love, can begin to plant seeds of change, but it’s a interdependent relationship. Not a lot of folks want to invest that kind of emotional capital. That’s unfortunate, because it seems to me that a lot of these folks, especially the younger generation, need mentors in their lives.

So there are three things for now. We all suck. We’re unmotivated. We can’t change people.
Are there solutions or alternatives? I think there are. But my 500 words are up, and this is definitely a good intro to a “To be continued” kind of series. So for now…

Suck it up, buttercup!

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Willpower Muscle Strategy

I begin this post with a question:

What drains you of your energy?

What tasks leave you feeling tired or unmotivated to move forward? What about your decision making? Do you feel that having so many different choices to choose from drains you mentally? 300 channels on satellite, 15 different brands of corn flakes, 50 different task manager apps to choose from…need I say more? Once you finally make an important decision, do you sometimes feel the need to drop everything and just veg out?

Decision making, problem solving, perception work, creative work, resisting temptation…all these skills require a certain amount of focus and willpower. And willpower requires energy. And willpower-energy is a limited but renewable resource. When it’s depleted, you can bet that some of the easier decisions/mental work become a lot tougher, and the tougher mental work, well, you can do that tomorrow. Walking Dead and a pizza awaits! Think of your willpower as a muscle: it tires after use, but grows stronger over consistent use.

Consider this study by Roy F. Baumeister, author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, (co-authored with John Tierney): A group of students who had been instructed to fast entered a laboratory that was thick with the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Before them on a table were a plate of the cookies, a bowl of candy, and a bowl of radishes. The students were divided into two groups: one group was instructed to eat the cookies and candy, the other group could only eat the radishes. Researchers observed the students from a one way mirror/window. The radish only group used every ounce of available of their willpower to resist the temptation of the cookies, which is shown in part 2 of this test. After a period of time, both groups were invited into a second room and instructed to work on geometric puzzles, which were actually known to be insoluble. The cookie/candy only grouped worked on the puzzles diligently on average about twenty minutes, while the radish only group gave up after about eight minutes. Their energy stores for problem solving were used up in the previous problem of having to resist.

Over time, your willpower “muscle” can be strengthened. The more it’s used, the stronger it becomes, and it seems to cross over to other categories. The willpower used in resisting sweets is also the same willpower used in creating the habit of consistently writing in a journal every night, or sticking with a tough problem at work, or making a risky business decision.

Your willpower muscle is refreshed after a good nights sleep, and is reinforced after quality meals and snacks throughout the day. Knowing this, it would make sense to strategically schedule your tougher willpower-required actions in the early part of the day, and after meals. Naps seem to give a boost to your reserve, so does a session of meditation.

Armed with this information, I leave you with this question: What tasks can you reschedule in your day to take advantage of your willpower energy fuel tanks?