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With a Little Help from Your Friends: How to Tap into the Hidden Potential of the People Who Surround You Every Day

With a Little Help from Your Friends: How to Tap into the Hidden Potential of the People Who Surround You Every Day

With a Little Help from Your Friends

    Do you have a dream? Is there a business that you’re dying to launch, a story in your head demanding to be told, or an idea you’re frantic to see made a reality?

    If you’re like most people, the answer is “yes.” Or, more likely, “yes, but…” Just about everyone has a crazy dream they’d love to pursue – but they just don’t know how.

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    What you need is a little expert advice, someone with brains and know-how to explain what you need to do and, more importantly, how to do it. The TV line-up is chock-full of shows that promise just that – a worthy but for whatever reason incapable person is selected, a team of experts descends on their life, and bit by bit they’re shown how to make their dreams come true. Trading Spaces, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, The Big Idea, American Idol, and dozens of other shows are based on some variation of this theme.

    But you don’t have to wait for your friends and loved ones to conspire to remake you, in order to tap into a wealth of expert advice. Chances are, you’re already surrounded by people who can give you the knowledge you need to get moving towards your dreams. You can be forgiven for not recognizing it; chances are, they don’t realize it themselves.

    Here’s the thing: everyone develops a body of unique skills and talents in the course of living, almost all of which can be applied more widely than we imagine. It can often take a creative eye to see these hidden potentials for what they are: a lifetime of expertise masquerading as everyday life.

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    Who are these unwitting experts I’m talking about? Your friends, family, and colleagues, of course. How many people do you know who excel at something so much that it’s become a defining part of their character? Instead of just admiring them for it, why not pay them the greater compliment of learning from them, of letting them set an example for you in the pursuit of your dreams?

    What kind of understanding might you find hidden in the strengths of your friends and loved ones? Consider:

    • The natural storyteller: how to weave compelling, “sticky” narratives; how to grab and hold onto people’s attention; how to set people at east.
    • The slacker: how to relax; how to roll with the punches; how to accept criticism without letting it define you.
    • The social butterfly: how to connect with strangers; how to present yourself professionally; how to avoid being defined by your weaknesses; how to listen.
    • The entrepreneur: how to face adversity; how to understand financial data; how to plan for the unknown.
    • The organizer: how to rally people to your cause; how to balance contradictory demands; how to stay cool under pressure.

    These are just a few examples of different types of people that almost everyone knows. Look around you at the people closest to you and try to identify their hidden strengths. Don’t dismiss people’s talents just because their accomplishments are small – even the simplest achievement might be the outcome of an encyclopedic knowledge of the task.

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    For example, maybe you know someone who runs the church bake sale every year. Maybe it’s a parent, or someone on your block, or a friend. Think about what they do every year: they plan the bake sale, they promote it by making announcements at services and posting signs, they round up the best bakers in the congregation and persuade them to contribute their time and money in baking goods for the sale, and they encourage everyone involved to put in their best effort in the service of a goal bigger than their own personal gains. Now, doesn’t that sound like someone who might have a thing or two to teach you in the pursuit of your dreams?

    Pay attention to the people around you and see what you can learn from them. Better yet, tell them what you see as their strengths and ask them a simple question: “How do you do it?”

    You might be surprised what you learn. And, just as important, they might be surprised at what you learn. You won’t be just milking them for whatever they’re worth to you – you’ll be opening their eyes, maybe for the first time, to their own hidden talents.

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    And what could be a better gift than that?

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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