On The Power of Permission Slips

I have a confession to make. While I love Brené Brown – I heard her speak at Serious Business a few years ago and have appreciated her messages and her Ted Talks ever since – I do not love her books. I struggled through Daring Greatly last year, and I just finally finished struggling through Rising Strong (which I started reading in January).

Yet I am glad I struggled through it – because one of the concepts she mentions really resonated with me: the idea of “Permission slips,” like the ones I used to have to get as a child to be excused from school or gym class…

Per Brown, “permissions slips” are great not just for children, but for adults as well, and are to be used in both personal and professional situations. Permission slips are a great way to establish trust during a group conversation, or if you are using them for yourself, to understand what might get in your way.

Brown mentions for example writing herself a permission slip some time ago: “I wrote my first permission slip on a Post-It note the morning I met Oprah Winfrey for the first time and taped an episode of Super Soul Sunday. It said, ‘Permission to be excited, have fun and be goofy.’” 

I used this concept in a strategic team meeting yesterday, specifically mentioning the following permissions:

  • Permission to engage with emotion
  • Permission to feel both excited and scared
  • Permission to question everything

These set the tone for our meeting, and many questions began with “I need a permission slip…”.

What will you give yourself (or your loved one, your kids, your team members) permission to do and feel today?

Get Out of Your Own Way – and Get Healthier Now

I just returned from Serious Business, the leading conference organized by Neill Corporation, and the brainchild of Debra Neill Baker and Carol Augusto. This year’s theme was “Get out of your own way,” a powerful reminder that despite our best intentions, we are sometimes our own worst enemies…  

One of the keynote speakers was Ben Greenfield, who spoke about habits to enhance health and longevity, as reported in the book Blue Zones. This resonated with me particularly strongly as I recently read the book Ikigai, which touches on the same theme, and am in already struggling to keep some of my New Year’s resolutions.

The list of healthy habits below may not be new information, but I know I get in my own way, and needed the reminder. Here are Ben Greenfield’s healthful recommendations for cleaner, better, longer living.

  1. Don’t smoke. (If not for longer living, do this for better skin)
  2. Avoid sugar and vegetable oil.
  3. Eat dark colored fruits and vegetables, like purple cabbage and blueberries. (And put them on your skin too!)
  4. Eat legumes.
  5. Implement 12-16 hours of intermittent fasting in your routine, to help your body “clean up the trash.” That may mean giving up breakfast…
  6. Go to the gym, yes. But beyond that, incorporate low impact movement every day. (Walking or gardening come to mind) 
  7. Ensure you have a strong sense of community. (When is the last time you called your best friend?) 
  8. Possess a strong life purpose, what the Japanese call “ikigai”
  9. Ruthlessly eliminate the sense of hurry to minimize stress.
  10. Engage in a spiritual discipline, religion, or the belief in a higher power.  
  11. Remain reproductively useful. (Yes, he did tell the audience to have more sex) 
  12. Drink a little every day, mostly wine, preferably red.

Serious Business 2015: On being naked

As always at the close of Serious Business, I feel inspired, excited, and exhausted. The theme was transparency, openness, authenticity, and this year’s conference was the best one yet (although I do find myself saying that every year). A number of one-liners from the general session speakers keep running through my head…

From Brené  Brown:

– “Tell me what you love(d) about this.” Use this question when someone says “I wish we still did X.” It opens up the dialogue and allows you to understand what is really the question at hand (and is a more productive response than the defensive reaction that might come automatically).

– Don’t use the “invisible army” when making a point. What is the “invisible army” you might ask? Is it the “Everyones” and the “Alls” – “everyone loves it” or “we all think.” State your opinion as your own opinion, Brené says, before adding “The invisible army is chicken shit.”

– “What is worth doing even if you fail?” is an even more powerful way to look at failure and risk than the well-known phrase “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

From Marcus Buckingham:

– Who is on your personal board of directors? Have one, and let them know.

– “What are your priorities this week, and how can I help?” Ask this question of each of your team members each week, instead of status updates or “one on ones.” Instead, every week, ask each of your team members

– Remember that a year is 52 sprints. We are on sprint #3 already for 2015… 

– Don’t give feedback. Coach. As my brother-in-law Tatum says: “feedback is a problem without a solution.”

– A person will grow most in the areas she is already strong in. Don’t focus on “fixing” your weaknesses; instead, focus on growing in those areas you are already strong in.

See you next year Serious Business!

Today, I choose to be happy

Growing up, I admired my Mom for being in a great mood every day. I once asked her how she did it, how she managed to never be grumpy, and she told me, “I choose to be happy.” I think of those words often, and try to emulate her (“try” being the operative word). This morning, this choice is proving to be particularly challenging, given how the AFC Championship game ended last night. However, I have extra motivation, and extra inspiration to get me there, thanks to Shawn Achor.

Yesterday, in addition to being a huge football day and the day President Obama was sworn in to his second term, was the first day of Serious Business. My highlight of the conference was hearing a Harvard academic confirm what my mother told me all these years. Indeed, Shawn Achor’s research proves that:

1.      Scientifically, happiness is a choice.

2.      Happiness spreads.

3.      Happiness is an advantage.

Achor challenged us to switch our thinking from believing that hard work will lead to success which will lead to happiness, and start raising our optimism level in order to be more successful. Happiness should not be on the opposite side of success; happiness is not the result of success. Instead, success is easier to achieve when one is happy; apparently, the human brain works much better when it is happy.

So how can one be happier? Achor gave us some exercises to do to retrain our brain and raise our happiness levels. He proposed five habits we could choose from, and made us pick one and promise to do it 21 days in a row, at the start of the day:

  • 3 Gratitudes: Write down 3 new things you are grateful for each day; be specific. (Rewires brain for greater optimism)
  • Journaling:  For 2 minutes, describe a meaningful experience from over the past 24 hours. (Doubles the meaning in your life)
  • Fun Fifteen: Add 15 minutes of fun, active cardio. (Creates a cascade of success)
  • Meditation: Invest 2 minutes to train your brain to just watch your breath. (Undoes negative effects of multitasking)
  • Conscious Act of Kindness: 2 minute email, thanking one person in your social support network. (Increases greatest predictor of happiness)

I chose the Conscious Act of Kindness, and not because he said that a brain scan shows that the brain looks like it is on cocaine while doing this! This morning, before reading my emails, looking at Facebook, or listening to the Patriots post-game press conferences that I couldn’t handle last night, I emailed my favorite sports journalist, Andrea Kremer, to thank her for making so many football games, over so many years, so much fun to watch.