Lighten Up (Pt 1)


Booking under: Keith

I’ll confess I was a little surprised by the title of this month’s chapter: “Lighten Up – Parenthood”. After all, parenthood seems to entail a lot of worry and stress (Just ask my parents). So how did Gretchen use parenthood as an opportunity to lighten up? And what lessons could I extract from this chapter? I’m glad to report I had not one, not two, but three takeaways from this month’s reading:

1. Sing in the morning

What I look like when singing. Also what people look like when they hear me sing.

What I look like when I sing. Also what people look like when they hear me sing.

Yeah that’s not going to happen. Since I prefer not to give my neighbors any more reasons to hate me, I won’t be following this suggestion literally. But Gretchen’s point behind singing in the morning is to re-frame a particular choice by deciding that it was enjoyable. In the chapter, Gretchen shared that she disliked singing about bathroom humor. But doing so helped cheer up her daughter and herself by approaching a task in a positive mindset or by completing it in a way that injects some fun in the proceedings.

This resonates quite well with a thought that I’ve always had. In life, there are some tasks that simply have to be done. And since we have to tackle these tasks anyways, we might as well enjoy ourselves and adopt a positive attitude while we’re at it. Although my take on this may sound slightly pessimistic, I think applying it to work will be quite beneficial. Being in charge of some work streams and driving a few projects, I sometimes find myself wondering “Why is this thing such a pain to figure out? Why can’t somebody just tell me how to solve this problem?” But like I did with Enjoy Now from last month, I want to take a more positive attitude to my work, telling myself that “I do enjoy solving this problem” and “I want to learn more”.

2. Acknowledge the reality of people’s feelings

Still trying to identify how this person is feeling. Any guesses?

Still trying to identify how this person is feeling. Any guesses?

I agree with Gretchen that this is likely the biggest lesson from this chapter – to acknowledge how others feel without brushing it off. So often, we respond to a friend’s troubles by saying “It’s ok” or “No it’s not that bad. You should cheer up!” But here, Gretchen shares research showing that actually recognizing the emotional state someone is in will go a long way to helping both that person, and yourself, feel better.

I suspect putting this into practice will take some adjusting, as we’re all so accustomed to downplay people’s negative feelings in order to avoid the discomfort that is felt. But I want to test this finding and so will commit to acknowledge how people feel and do whatever I can to help them through it, whether that be through writing the matter down, spending quiet time with that person, or just admitting that it is a difficult situation – all of which are some examples listed by Gretchen.

3. Take time for projects

A recent project of ours. And in case you're wondering, no we did not make that.

A recent project of ours. But in case you’re wondering, no we did not make that.

No we’re not talking about work projects here, although those projects do take a lot of time. Not to mention a lot of effort and energy too. But I digress. Gretchen uses this theme to capture the happiness that comes when we go out of our way to do something that creates happy memories. For her, it was getting a laminator and making crafts with her daughter. For me, I think back to my Japan trip with Nicole (more on that later!) when we spent the better part of a day travelling to the island of Naoshima.

To retell a bit of the story, we had estimated that the trip to Naoshima (which Nicole really wanted to go to) would take around 2 hours. But since neither of us were very familiar with how to get there and some errands led us to miss the infrequent trains, it took us closer to 6 hours to get there. For most people, that might be reason to get annoyed. However, I was surprised that I did not (honest!). I enjoyed spending the day with Nicole and travelling to this remote place exposed us to some great scenery and local experiences, chief among them was probably a delicious small shop bento. But yeah riding a bullet train and visiting smaller towns was cool too, and we look back on that day with lots of laughter. So in sum, my commitment here is to take time for experiences that will leave happy memories.

Summing Up

Summing up

And that gives me a hat trick of commitments to follow this month. My commitments are to:

1. Re-frame a particular choice by deciding it was enjoyable

2. Acknowledge the reality of people’s feelings

3. Take time for experiences that will leave happy memories

These are not as quantifiable as some of the previous ones e.g. walk 10,000 steps or do 30 minutes of exercise, but I’m sure they will be no less beneficial. Check back with us next week to see how Nicole will lighten up, and if you have thoughts on how to lighten up yourself, feel free to let us know below or email us at Cheers!



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