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AdaptAbility (Unplugged)
A conversation between M. J. Ryan & Moe Abdou
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About M. J. Ryan & Moe Abdou

M. J. Ryan

Inspirational author and life coach, M. J. Ryan, is one of the creators of


the New York Times bestselling Random Acts of Kindness series. Her
many best-selling books include: The Happiness Makeover (nominated for
the 2005 Books for Better Living award in the Motivational category),
Attitudes of Gratitude, The Power of Patience, Trusting Yourself, The
Giving Heart, and 365 Health and Happiness Boosters.

Moe Abdou

Moe Abdou is the creator of 33voices — a global conversation about things


that matter in business and in life. moe@33voices.com

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Okay, M.J. the stage is yours. This is always a privilege for me to have the
opportunity to: 1. Listen to your wisdom, and 2. to have a conversation
with you around some of the key things that you are promoting.

Thanks, I’m happy to be with you. So here we are at the beginning of the New
Year and we have all made these things we call New Year’s resolutions. It’s
weird to just really talk about. Why is it so hard to change? How many people
who are listening has kept their resolutions that they already have made and
it’s already the 18th of the month. I have not done it perfectly yet. Have you?

No, I haven’t. I wonder why we call it resolutions.

The trick is there is nothing wrong with you. It’s really about your brain. Parts
of our brains are involved when we say we want to change something. It
doesn’t matter what we say if we want to lose 20 lbs or we want to get more
organized or we want to speak up more and we want to be nicer to ourselves.
Whatever it is we say we wanted to do in our lives. We have to understand how
our brain is structured in order to create success.

There are really two things you need to learn. One is that we have this part of
our brain that is called the neo-cortex. It’s what makes us a human being. It’s
from this place that we have decided to change. We go, “I am going to get up
at 5 o’clock every morning and jog.”

That part of our brain is already perfectly wired to do what it’s already doing.
So the brain cells that fire together wire together. What that means is that, we
already have deep superhighways in our brains doing exactly what we have
already always done.

If you are a person for instance that has a hard time speaking up in front of the
boss — I’m thinking of a client of mine — you’re already perfectly structured
not to speak up in a meeting in front of the boss because your brain has already
got this superhighway to doing it that way.

When we want to change something, we have to create a new pathway in our


brain. The trick and the challenge is that that isn’t easy once you’re not a kid
anymore because our brains have actually shed the potential they had when we
were young to form pathways really easily. That’s why it’s so easy for kids to
learn anything and so hard for adults to learn stuff.

It’s not impossible because a guy won a Nobel Prize a few years ago proving
that we can create new pathways and new brain cells our whole life but it
takes a lot, emphasis on the word ‘lot’, of work.

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Lots of motivational speakers will say ‘7 days to a new habit’ or ‘21 days to a
new habit.’ All they are saying is that in that amount of time, you are
beginning to grow a pathway to that new behavior. But the old pathway
doesn’t disappear. What that means is of course that it’s still there. It’s
stronger. It’s faster. It’s like a superhighway where the other is a rickety road.

That in a certain way, in a nutshell, is why we still would want to do something


but we find ourselves doing the old behavior instead. We got a really big habit
over there.

I read a study once that talked about people’s ability to change even in
life and death situations. The research indicated that less than 5% even in
those types of situations will do what it takes to change.

It’s around 5% to 8%. It was in a study called Change or Die. It assessed heart
patients. It’s very dramatic and proves to us how challenging this is. Imagine
that you’ve already had a heart attack, you go into the doctor’s office and they
say to you, you’ve got to change or you’re going to die. You’re going to have
another heart attack. What percentage of people can make the lasting changes?
It’s fewer than 10%.

So even with a death sentence it’s hard to do. It’s not just about practice
unfortunately. It’s really about this other part of our brain. That especially has
to do with behaviors that heart patients need to learn like eating and
exercising right. Let’s talk about that other part. That is that our limbic system,
our mammalian brain. It’s tracking two things only. Is this going to be fun and
pleasurable for me or is it going to be painful? Potentially, is this going to be
safe or dangerous? It wants pleasure and safety. That’s what it wants. It wants
to avoid anything that it could imagine that it’s dangerous or uncomfortable.

All and every information goes there before the neo-cortex because it’s lower
down literally in your head. So everything that’s coming into it comes there
before it goes to that prefrontal cortex. This is the part that when the alarm
goes off, it’s 5 in the morning, when you said you were going to get up and go
jogging, what happens?

It’s cold outside because it’s winter.

And you hit the snooze button because that is not going to be pleasurable.

Amen.

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This is why you eat the donut when you say you’re not going to. Why you say
you’re going to get up and workout and you don’t. It’s because that part of our
brain is going, “This is not going to be fun. I want fun. I want pleasure. I want
safety. I want to avoid anything that could possibly be painful which includes
getting on that darn stair stepper.”

That’s my torture machine.

Exactly. We’re not doomed though. Human beings can grow and change until
they draw their last breath. So we can change. We can learn. We need just to
understand how to put in place measures that overcome these two things. One,
that give us enough practice so that we create the new pathways and two, that
don’t trigger that ‘I don’t want to do this because it’s not fun’ part of
ourselves.

MJ, let me ask you a quick question about the less than 10% who will
change. What’s their make up? What gives them that ability to be able to
do that? Is it what you’re getting into right now?

Yes, part of what I’m going to talk about are the tricks that you can use to
overcome these structures. When you look at the people who naturally do
these things, they have a couple of things that are different from other people.

One is they typically are extremely high achievers. They are the ones who go,
“I’m going to climb that mountain. Okay, I got to climb that mountain…I’m just
going to climb the mountain. I’m not going to think…” So they have a very
strong control of their prefrontal cortex over this mammalian brain. That’s
number 1.

Number 2, they don’t turn screwing up into give up. They know that if they
forget to do it yesterday they can still do it today. The rest of us say things like,
“I eat one cookie so I might as well eat the whole box. That shows I have no
willpower so I forget it. I’m not even going to try it at all.” They just say,
“Alright. That doesn’t say anything about me right now. I messed up but I’m
going to achieve this and I’m going to keep on practicing until I get it.”

They have what I call DIP. They have Desire - I want to do this thing. They have
Intention - I am going to do this thing no matter what. And they have
Persistence - I’m going to repeat however many times it takes until I’ve got it.
Those are the three qualities it takes to actually change.

It goes back to a lot of the work that you’ve done on gratitude, on your
ability to forgive yourself…

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Yes, exactly. If you don’t then you are going to mess up because remember you
don’t have a pathway there and you’re going to then say, “Oh well, I’m just
going to give up.”

One of the things whenever people work with me one-on-one that I always
teach them is learning when you’re first starting to learn something, any new
behavior it happens, you recognize that you wanted to do it after the fact
when you’ve already blown it. I was going to go to the gym. I wasn’t going to
yell at my child. I wasn’t going to go and spend this money and put it on my
credit card.

When people come to me and start saying things like that, I say congratulations,
you’re learning; because beforehand you had no awareness that you’re blowing
it. Now, your brain is starting to go, “Oh yeah, I intended this other thing and I
didn’t do it.” But you’re recognizing that you had an intention. That’s called
post talk; learning is first, post talk after the fact. When we have blown it we
go, “Hey, I was going to do it a different way and I forgot.”

The more that we can be kind to ourselves — this is what you’re talking about
— gentle with ourselves, forgiving of ourselves, and go, “Okay, you know, I’m
going to try again.” Then it’s more that learning then becomes what’s called ad
hoc, in the moment, when you’re blowing it, you are aware that you wanted to
do it differently.

So I’m yelling at my husband and I’m going, I wasn’t going to yell and here I am
doing it. Again, congratulations that means that you’re moving from the first
stage of learning to the second and you’re actually almost there.

The kinder you can be to yourself the more you can say, what can I learn about
how to do this more easily? How can I remember? We call it pre hoc which is
beforehand, you go, “What was I going to do?” And do it before you even blow
it.

So the patience that it takes with our self is big. You have to go, alright I have
to first notice it after the fact then I’m noticing it during and then finally I
don’t even have to notice it at all.

I always ask people what do you want to change? If people give me a laundry
list — I want to do this. I want more balance. I want to be more organized. I
want to lose 25 lbs. I want to advance in my career. I say, good luck. Your brain
can’t pay attention to all that. Remember, it’s going to take a lot of practice.
You got to get that mammalian bunny brain on your side and so focus. Pick one
thing to work on.

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This is true for work too you know. I often say to people, pick the top four
things that you must accomplish today in order to meet those big goals. And
then if you get to anything else, hey, it’s a great day but at least you’re driving
the things that you want because you’re focusing on the things that matter
rather than just putting out the fires. Focus is one of the really important tools
we have as human beings in order to change. Pick one thing.

Next, create what in business that’s called the SMART goal. Many of us have
been trained in business to use SMART goals but we typically don’t think about
using them for ourselves.

What a SMART goal is that it’s just an acronym and it stands for something
that’s specific, meaning you know what action you’re going to take. Getting fit
or being organized is not specific.

I once was on the radio at New Year’s — January time, I often do a lot of radio
programs on New Year’s resolutions. It was kind of the end of January. I was on
with this woman and I was yammering on about the SMART goal business. I said,
it’s got to be specific and she said, “I have a really great specific one I’m
working on.” I said, “Wonderful, what is it?” She said, “I’m going to celebrate
my successes this year.” I said, “How?” There was dead silence on the radio.
She was a month into it and she had no idea what action she was going to
actually take. So there has to be an action attached, a specific action, as to
what you’re going to do.

Number 2, the M stands for Measurable. You have to be able to measure your
success because otherwise, you don’t know if you are achieving it or not. Are
you calmer? Are you getting out of debt? Are you losing the weight?

Now, when it’s things like dollars and pounds that’s pretty easy. You used to be
$10,000 in debt and now you’re $8000 in debt. That’s a measure that’s easy.
But in fact, we can measure anything. We can say, I worked with this guy, this
executive, who wanted to work on his stress level.

I said, “On a scale of 1 to 10, what’s your stress level with 10 being like off the
chart, your blood is boiling and 1 being, you are as calm as the Dalai Lama. He
said, “It’s 9.” I said, “Okay, what do you want?” He said, “I’d like to get to like
4.” I said, “Great ” So that’s a measure. He’s working towards, what’s my
number today? My number is 7. Good it’s going down. Now my number is 8,
what’s not working?

When you have a measure which can be either an external one like dollars or
an internal one which is how you feel or it could be simply something like ,

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let’s say you want keep your patience with your colleagues. You can just do a
little every time you blow it.

Let’s say you lose your temper seven times in the week, so you then want to
bring that number down to one let’s say. So you just start to track that. If you
don’t track it, your brain cannot understand whether you’re doing it and you
yourself will have no idea whether you’re actually improving or not. I think I’m
better. Well, how do you know?

Yeah - for sure.

Next, the A stands for Achievable which is you have to make a goal of it if
possible. It doesn’t matter how many women’s magazines at the supermarket
counter that say that you can lose 40 lbs in six weeks. I actually saw one that
recently said this. It’s a lie. It can’t happen. You can’t say you want to do a
marathon if you got a broken leg. You’ve got to pick something that is doable
because otherwise you’ll just be frustrated with yourself.

However, this is something that’s really important here that I would love to get
your input up for yourself. People fall into two categories, those who are
achievement oriented and those who are not. This has to do with talents of
thinking.

If you are achievement oriented you need a high goal. Small goals are not so
interesting or significant to people who are achievement oriented. For you
folks, you should pick a really high hard goal. I’m going to run the New York
Marathon this year and I’m just starting training now as an example. But those
of us who are not achievement oriented, that will only de-motivate us and we
need to pick something really, really small.

This piece is to know who you are and know whether you’re motivated by a
high hard goal or you’re motivated by less to a teensy- winsy itsy-bitsy thing
and see success. Have you ever noticed the difference among people?

No question about it. As a leader that used to kind of frustrate me a little


bit until I really learned that some people are motivated by much bigger
goals and others get their motivation from smaller goals.

I used think if you didn’t have the opportunity to think bigger that you
weren’t going to achieve that success. I really got a wakeup call to
understand that somebody who has the ability to achieve smaller goals
could achieve just as bigger results.

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Exactly. It actually has to do with how their brains are hardwired.

I worked with this woman when she lost a hundred pounds. She started by just
cutting out mayonnaise. Because it felt so overwhelming to lose a hundred
pounds that she just couldn’t even think about that. She had to just think, I
think I won’t eat mayonnaise and see how that does. And then it did really well
so then she said, I think I won’t eat fried food and see how I would like that.
She knocked it off with these tiny, tiny changes. That works for some. Other
people will go, “I can’t do it that slowly. That’s ridiculous.” Know what’s right
for you on that one.

The R stands for Relevant. This goes back to the mammalian brain. We’re going
to talk in a bit about what else we can do about this. This change has to matter
to you. A lot times we have all these intentions. I’m going to write a book. I
want to start a website etc.

I remember this woman telling me that her goal was to clear out the 1000
emails she had in her inbox. I said, “How long have they been there?” She said
something like two years. I said, “Do you want to do this? Do you care about
doing this? Does it matter to you in any way, shape or form?” She said, “No, not
really. I just kind of think I’m supposed to.”

If it doesn’t matter to you you’re not going to do it. So don’t pretend you’re
going to do it. You have to care because it’s going to be work. In order to get
motivated to do that work, you have to really want it.

The last thing is, the T stands for Time-bound. Even if this is a change you
think you want to make for the rest of your life — this change comes from A
(Advice) — they do it a day at a time. Do it a week. Say, I’m going to work on
this new business on the side for a week and then see how I’m doing. I’m going
to do it for a month and see how I’m doing.

When you make a time limit to check in you actually help then reinforce how is
it going, what am I learning, how have I progressed, how far have I gotten.
Whereas, if it’s unbounded and timed, you don’t necessarily take those check-
in moments. If it’s a big deal something that’s a hard change it’s really hard to
keep it going. But if you say, I’m not going to eat cookies this week, it’s much
easier to do than to say, I’m never going to eat a cookie again.

Well said, yeah.

So time bind it. That’s the other thing.

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The next part is you got to remember the mammalian brain. What I call the
bunny brain because we literally share it with all mammals. You have to get
the bunny on your side. You have to get it to believe that this change is going
to be fun and easy and good for you.

For the fun and easy part, you can work on a daily — that’s why people say go
exercise with a friend, find the kind of exercise you like to do. That’s all trying
to get the fun part going. When it’s something that’s a different kind of change,
even if it’s not fun in the moment, you need to create a positive feeling reason.
This is the number thing that I found that helps bring that percent from less
than 10% to much greater success rate.

You got to have a feeling reason that you want to make this change. You need
to get that feeling reason front and center because the bunny brain is not
smart. That’s why you’re driving down the street and all of a sudden you find
yourself inside the donut shop because you saw it, the bunny goes yum-yum
and you’re in there before you can even think.

If however, you have this feeling reason of why do you want to not go in there.
Let me give you an example. I worked with a guy who wanted to stop smoking.
I said, “Okay, tell me other reasons. Tell me why you want to do this?” He gave
me all the health reason. I said, “Yeah, fine. That’s your prefrontal cortex but
why does the bunny want to do it?” "Because my father died in his 50s and I
want to live long enough to retire to a beach in Hawaii", he said. I said, “Bingo!
Beach in Hawaii.”

I said, “That’s a feeling reason, a positive feeling reason. That’s great. I want
you go online and find all these pictures of beaches in Hawaii that when you
look at them you get that yummy feeling. I want you put them in your house,
your car, your office, and every single place where you could ever even think
about a cigarette. Every single time you think about a cigarette, I want you to
look at that Hawaii beach and say to yourself, ‘I want you more.’” He has now
been smoke free for three years.

Incredible.

It’s very, very simple, if you don’t have that reminder front and center, day by
day, the bunny can’t remember it. It’s only as smart as the bunny.

So this guy and the other people that you work with obviously have you to
guide them. For others who are going to be listening to this, how do they
start to dig deeper to find that place and happy feeling?

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So you want to know what’s the feeling reason for this change. It’s got to have
an emotional content to it; to live long enough to see my daughter graduate
from high school, to win that award in my company, to make a difference in
the world. Whatever it is that when you think it, it makes you happy.

I got it.

So you have a happy feeling when you think about that thing, not a thought but
a feeling and then ask yourself, the second step is, what’s the symbol of that
for me? What’s the symbol? It can be anything because if you don’t have a
reminder, you’re going to forget. Remember, you don’t have a pathway to
doing the thing you want.

The more that you can put this symbol somewhere whether it’s a picture or a
sound or a song that you sing that reminds you of how you want to be, anything
like that would really help you. This to me is the key thing that really, really is
effective. You’ve got to have this part in place.

It reminds me of Lance Armstrong’s - LiveStrong band.

Yes, it’s a perfect example of that. It’s a symbol. For him, it was, I’m
dedicating myself to this cause because I want to help people not go through
the same thing I did. And then it spreads and everyone who has it is then
connected emotionally to him as well as to their own wants in this area.
Absolutely, it’s a great example.

The other thing that that does is that — or you may need a different one is, you
have to have a reminder system of what you want to do. You will forget
because you don’t have a pathway. The reminder system can be like a band
that reminds you that this is what you want.

I don’t know one person who is trying to learn how to exercise for instance who
doesn’t do better if you schedule it on your calendar. That’s the reminder
system. It’s 4 o’clock I’m getting on the treadmill because it was written in my
appointment book.

The guy that I was working with who wanted to learn. He was very articulate.
He had no problem on meetings except when higher ups where there. Then he
got nervous and he wouldn’t speak. I said to him, “For a reminder, what do you
bring anytime you go to a meeting, something that goes with you? He said, “My
coffee mug. I’m always taking it with me.” I said, “Great.” I want you to look
at it and think to yourself, when I see this I’m going to remember my intention

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that I’m going to speak up at least twice in a meeting and it worked like a
charm.

Nobody else has to know. He doesn’t have to carry a note that says speak up.
That would be embarrassing to him. He just makes that mug mean that to him.
You can make anything be a trigger to help you remember. It’s the power of
your mind that you have turned it into that symbol.

It’s a mantra.

It’s like a mantra, exactly. Of course things like stickies on your mirror or your
computer or those kinds of things also work. Eventually, you don’t need the
reminders anymore because you have learned the new thing and you’re going
gangbusters.

The other piece about getting into motion and staying there, we’ve really have
talked about this already, you have to make sure that you are looking for
persistence not of perfection. You are going to do it wrong. When you try
something it’s going to feel weird or awkward. It’s going to be because it’s not
yet a habit. The very awkwardness of it proves to you that you’re doing the
new thing.

We often think awkwardness means don’t do it. This is awkward so I should


stop. No, all awkward means is that it’s not a habit. Your brain is more alive
actually then. It’s more aware then because it’s not on autopilot. So the
awkwardness means you’re learning something new. Don’t let it being awkward
stop you. You know that thing about fake it until you make it?

Let me ask you a quick question. Why is our society obsessed with
perfection?

I think it’s because we are confused as human beings essentially. I think that
originally when we are born, our brains are set up to track success and discard
failure. You have seen a baby learn to walk, right? What do they do?

They just go do it.

They are crawling along on the ground and then they find a coffee table and
they hold on to the coffee table. They stand up, they let go of the coffee table
and instantly what happens?

They would fall.

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Yeah, and then what do they do?

They just get right back up.

How many times do they do it?

They keep doing it until they learn how to walk.

Yes. What’s happening in the brain is the brain is like a heat seeking missile
towards what’s working. Every time it gets up and the baby falls down again,
it’s readjusting to get more success. That’s how they learn. They are going,
“Okay, I don’t like that.”

The baby is not saying to itself, I’m a stupid baby. I can’t learn. I have a
walking disorder. Why is this walking thing so hard? When will I ever learn this?
I can’t even learn it. Forget it. I’m going to crawl the rest of my life. None of
that is going on.

It doesn’t even have the ability to do it. Originally, our brains have no
interference with tracking success and discarding failure, none. What are the
people around the baby doing while the baby is doing this?

They are just sitting there wondering — one, they are intrigued but two, most
of them are thinking don’t get hurt.

Yeah but what are they doing usually? They’re going, “Oh yeah look you’re
walking, hurray!” Right?

Yeah, absolutely.

They’re giving a lot of praise to what they are doing right. But then what
happens to these people and these adults and these kids a little bit later?
Suddenly their kid is walking and they go like, “Don’t go over there. Don’t sit
over there. Sit up like this. Why aren’t you looking at me? Why are you always
so quiet? Why can’t you be more like your sister?”

What happens is that then we start to have interference. Our brains from
parents, from grandparents, from teachers, from systems, school — we start to
have interference with the brain tracking success and discarding failure.

So instead of just experimenting and learning and growing our brains, we start
to go, “Oh, I’m not supposed to do that. I’m supposed to do it like this. I’m
supposed to do it right or I’ll get in trouble.” That interference originally is all

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external. Meaning, it comes from the outside of the kid instead of from the
inside.

However, by the time we’re adults, where is most of the interference? Inside
our heads; I don’t need my mother to tell me I’m going to end up as a bag lady.
She’s inside of me saying it to me. She doesn’t need to say it out loud anymore.

So what happens is that all of those voices that have been created
unintentionally, they didn’t do it on purpose. They weren’t trying to create
interference for us. All of those voices have now been internalized and they get
in the way of our doing a one simple thing just like babies, tracking when we
do it right until we can do more of it.

It cripples our thinking as we get older obviously.

It cripples our ability to succeed because instead of focusing on the one time
we did it right, we focus on the seven times we did it wrong or more usual,
instead of focusing on the seven times we did it right, it focuses on the one
time we did it wrong.

I was working with this woman and she had this really strong problem with a
guy she worked with. She had a hard time keeping her temper around him. He
just pushed every button she had. We were working on that and we were going
along fine.

We were about a month or six weeks into it and she calls up. She goes, “I am a
complete and total failure.” “Tell me what happened?” She said, “First of all, I
lost my temper at Joe.” “What did you do exactly?” “I didn’t yell at him or
anything but when the meeting was over I stormed down the hall.” I said,
“Congratulations, that’s better than what you were doing before.” I said, “How
many times did you meet with Joe this month and how many times did you lose
your temper?” It turned out that she had met with him dozens of times. She
had to work with him on this project.

So the percentage of failure with something like 10% of the time she did it
wrong but her brain was only focused on that. I am a total failure she said. You
are right to point it out because this is the way that we sabotage our success.
Partly why people come to work with me is so that I can help them focus on the
90% when they are doing it right.

All I’m saying is, when you did it right what made that possible? Even though
with one time that you left work and felt like you had achieved what you
needed to, what made that possible that day? The more that we study our

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success the more success we create. The more we study our failure the more
failure we create.

It’s very, very intriguing. I know we can stick to this topic forever. I’m
going to hold my questions.

No, I want to hear your questions.

I think this is crippling especially when you get to this time of year, you
know, the first instance somebody has a stumbling block regardless of
whether it’s a personal goal or a professional goal, whether it’s a team or
an individual, it automatically goes down that path. It’s not going to
happen.

Yes. What you need to do when you want to change is you need to increase
your awareness of what you’re doing without judging yourself because if you
judge yourself negatively, that’s just more interference. So you’re looking for
awareness, what am I doing or not doing without beating yourself up.

The formula is this — isn’t that interesting. I, M.J. Ryan, said that I was going
to workout more this year. It’s now January 18th and I have only done it four
times. What’s that about? Well, I didn’t follow my own advice. I have not
written in to my daily planner.

I noticed how I’m understanding how I could create better success without
saying I’m a terrible person. I’m not saying I’m a failure, I’m stupid etc. I’m
just saying, I know I didn’t write it in and when I have written it in before it
really works for me. I’m going to get back on and do that starting today. When
you find yourself that you’ve blown it, you need to apply…

M.J. inevitably it’s going to happen. It’s not such a linear path to the top
because life happens.

Correct. It’s not possible. So that’s why it’s important to understand the four
A’s. You Assess - I haven’t been doing it. You Adjust - what do I need to adjust
in order to do it again the way I want to. The next one is Act Quickly because
the quicker you can do it, the quicker that you readjust and just get back on
track then the better off you are as opposed to, I’m on a bender and I’m now
drunk for six months instead of one day.

I had a client and she had been sober for two years. She had a terrible, horrible,
emotional experience and she got blastingly drunk. So then the next morning
she had to get up and she had to assess what’s the situation. She had to adjust.

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I don’t want to do that again. I don’t want to go down this path. Today is a new
day, I’m staring again. She didn’t turn into anything more than one time.

And then the last A is Admire yourself for restarting. “Hey, look at me, I’ve
done it again, hurray. I can get back on and get going.”

You’re a master at this. I’m really glad we’re having this conversation. Not
only obviously is it timely and that’s why you have been engaged in these
conversations throughout the month but it’s something that has to almost
continually register in our brain so we can keep moving forward.

Absolutely. One of the other things, one of the tricks that I have learned from
athletes; long distance runners, they are thought early on in their careers that
you never look at how far you have to go because you would give up because
it’s really far. You look at how far you have come.

That is such an important idea for all of us, “Okay, how far have I come? I used
to never workout. Now, I’m working out at least some times. Isn’t that good?
Hurray.” Look how far you have come rather than how far you go.

Measuring backwards, that’s really powerful.

Exactly. There are implications for helping other people change. If its our loved
ones or employees that work for us, how do we support change in other people.
If you have noticed, kind of just telling them what to do doesn’t usually work
especially with loved ones. But it also can be tricky with employees. If you
bring people in and you trash them, you go, you’re really not performing. You
have to do this. Actually, research shows this diminishes their performance.

It diminishes not only their performance but just their entire self esteem
and self worth.

Yes. Guess what the bunny brain is also tracking, what it determines — it’s
looking at four categories, the social things that it’s looking for danger about.
One is status. One is certainty. Is my life going to count on what’s happening in
my life? Autonomy, do I get to be in charge of myself. Relatedness, are we okay
with each other or I’m going to get kicked out of the tribe? And fairness. It
stands for SCARF. Is this fair or not?

Any time you have a performance evaluation where you’re being negative, you
are triggering one or two or all of these things. So the person is actually in fight
or flight so that makes the prefrontal cortex not work as well and therefore the
performance goes down.

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If you emphasize performance weaknesses you get more weakness. How do you
help somebody change? If you nag husband saying, “You said you weren’t going
to eat that cookie and you’re eating it.” It doesn’t create change right because
it triggers their autonomy issue. “Hey, I’m in charge of me, butt out.”

So what do you do? You praise, you help them track success. So whether this is
employees, friends, relatives, or children; you praise their efforts, their
choices and their strategies. You catch them doing it right or an approximation
of right. “Hey Fred, that report you did, you really put more effort in there this
time and you have the details in there that I have been looking for” like that.
The more you praise what they are doing right, the more right you create.

The power of words is evident in everything you are saying.

Absolutely. What we’re saying are either triggering the turning on of this
younger more primitive part of our brain that is scared or the powerful thinking
brain that can work on our behalf to solve the kinds of business and life
problems that we really need to be solving.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t acknowledge that there are issues to work on.
It’s just that you then say, how can I help this person grow in that direction?
When I notice anything that’s close then I’m going to say do more of this and
here are some examples how you could do more. I can really notice how much
better you’re trying now. All of that it will be hotter, hotter, hotter…you’ll get
more and more and more of what you want.

I want to praise you. Somehow or another, you trigger my emotional side


because the relevance of what you do it’s purely relevant to every single
person out there in the world.

Thank you.

How can people continually keep up with what you’re learning? How can
they keep up with the work that you’re doing besides just reading some of
the books that you have?

Go in to my blog which you can get from my website www.MJ-Ryan.com. I’m


positing a couple of times a week there; all these kinds of stuff up-to-date on
what I’m learning and using with folks. Of course I would be delighted to do
any kind of teleclass or anything that you might want to put together.

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