Tuesday, 1 July 2014

What is your best version of you?

Imagine it's the end of your working day.  You have to attend a professional learning session so you reluctantly head over to the auditorium and slump in your seat with one hundred of your colleagues. You prepare to sit back and let the words of the guest speaker passively wash over you while you also decide what to prepare for dinner, create a mental shopping list to pick up on the way home and work out the time schedule for tomorrow. 

Then you hear the speaker say "Stand up and find a partner, someone you don't know very well".  Do you...
a) Groan out loud and remain sitting in your seat?
b) Mentally grimace but stand up and reluctantly partner up with your best friend sitting next to you?
c) Smile and seek out a friendly face in the next row back?
c) Quickly stand up and seek out a partner you've never had a real conversation with; you are thinking 'this could be fun'?

Bruce Sullivan argues that to be your best version of yourself you need to take the last approach to life in general.

Bruce spoke to our staff as part of our professional learning program.  His presentation was chosen to support our College's focus on 'excellence' for the year. 

As part of his presentation he asked us to participate in an activity like the one above and then asked us to reflect on our immediate reaction to his request to get involved.  Did we go immediately to the bottom drawer and pull out the 'cranky' pants, cursing the need for active participation in what was supposed to be a guest speaker not a workshop?  Or did we go for the top drawer and pull out our happy pants, embracing the activity as an opportunity for fun and social interaction? 

And before you say you went to the middle drawer (like I tried to!) he says there is no middle drawer.  He says you are either letting your light shine or you are hiding it under a bushel.  So which one are you?

Bruce argues that to be the best version of ourselves we need to approach our day, and ultimately our life, with the energy and resilience of a four year old.  We need to work on being the 'job interview' or 'first date' version of ourselves.  However his research shows that the enthusiastic and motivated versions we present on job interviews or on first dates only usually lasts 3 months into the job or relationship!  

So how can we try to improve that?  Bruce suggest the following tips can help us become the best version of ourselves.

#1  Humour helps

If it isn't fun, make it fun.  Bruce argues that this is largely, and easily, achieved with change of mind set.  You can choose to go to the bottom draw and put on your 'cranky pants' or go to the top draw and put on your 'happy pants'. 

Interestingly, he has worked with businesses that have instigated a 'cranky pants' strategy. If someone at work has dug deep into the bottom draw that day you can send them this funny video clip to let them know about it.  Did you immediately think of someone you'd love to send the email to?  I sure did!  

He challenged us to find joy and light in the everyday and to add fun to your day in your own way in your own space.  

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#2 Get grateful

Bruce argues that you get what you focus on so you need to get grateful and stop being cynical.  Gratefulness opens doors, hearts, minds and support. Cynicism closes doors and possibilities.

He asks when your buttons get pressed, what oozes out of you?  What are you grateful for? He argues that we should recognise that just waking up in itself is a good start and we should use this as a starting point to recognise what you are grateful for each day. 

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#3 Good intentions aren't enough

Everyone has good intentions but good intentions aren't enough.  At best, they are a good start; at worst they are a lame excuse for what could have been.  We need to remember that no one has bad intentions, but equally no one is judging our intentions.  People judge us on our behaviour and it's impact on them.  

We need to set the example to our children and demonstrate joy, curiosity, excitement, love and enjoyment; whether it be at the table or when they are in the back seat of the car.

Bruce argues many of us don't need to make wholesale changes in this area, instead we often just need to fine tune our behaviour. Are we curious or critical?  What impact is this having on our intentions and our behaviour?  Again we need to focus on finding the joy!

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#4 This is no neutral

We are judged be others as either 'adding to' or 'taking away'.  I agreed with this point in my post about student behaviour in my post So your child hates their teacher?  5 tips to turn it around. 

He asked a great question that can be very challenging to answer, "Why would anyone want to have a quality relationship with you? How do you add to the relationship?"  He argues that if you don't know the answer to these questions, how do you know what to do everyday?

He believes we need to think 'task' and 'relationship'.  What problem do you solve for your colleagues each and every day?  If you can solve problems, you will get paid and people will want you around.  If you cause problems, people will pay money for you to go away and not be part of their world.  Bruce suggests that ultimately we should serve instead of judge.

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Like all motivational presentations, as the immediate impact of an engaging, funny and passionate presenter wears off, the message tens to fade with it.  So as I drove home, I thought about what I wanted to take from the presentation.  

I had to resist the temptation to be really cynical and come up with a long list of the reasons to explain why we change three months into a job or relationship.  But as I like to tell my students, it may be an explanation but it doesn't make it an excuse.  So instead I found three key things I thought were useful to me right now.  

The first was to 'find the joy' in the everyday.  At that point I was struggling with the transition to full time maternity leave and it helped me to stop and focus on the joy in just 'being' at home with the boys.  The second was to try to approach new situations as an opportunity rather than an obstacle to be overcome or tolerated.  The third was to be able to answer the question "Why would anyone want to have a quality relationship with you? How do you add to the relationship?" and be happy with my answer. 

I'll leave you with Bruce's final 'story' about two young children.  One was brought up in an environment of complaining and cynicism - he lived in a cranky pants family.  The other was brought up in a home that encouraged curiosity, humour, joy and lived a culture of 'adding to'.  

The first child was place in a room full of every imaginable toy a child could wish for.  The second child was placed in a room full of manure.  Each was given one hour in the room.

When they went back to the first room, the first child immediately began to complain.  "It's been over one hour, my Dad is parked downstairs and will be mad if I'm late.  And these toys, some are labelled for 8+. I'm only 7, that could be dangerous.  And I have lots of these toys, I wish you had better toys...." and on and on it went.

They then went to the second room.  The child was playing and kicking and throwing manure everywhere. He was covered head to toe, but still had a smile on his face.  They asked him 'What are you doing?'  He answered "With all of this s#$% in the room, there has to be a pony in here somewhere!!"

So, how do you find your best version of you?  Do you think these tips are valid in the real world?  I'd love to hear your opinion!

Linking up with Essentially Jess for I Blog On Tuesdays.

Keep smiling!


  1. Thought provoking! Interesting point on good intentions. I am working with the best intention to improve my relationships. I believe that my behaviour is supporting my intentions. But is it. Interesting. I love your work. And I agree with you, I want a middle drawer!

    1. If you are already aware of the link between you intentions and your behaviour it sounds like you are pretty much there on that one! Glad you found it interesting. I wasn't happy when he took the middle drawer option off me, surely we go there more than the top or bottom drawer!

  2. What a fabulous post! Thank you for sharing this message - it reminds me a bit of the Jim Carey film, "Yes Man" - if you haven't seen it I recommend it.

    Visiting today from #teamIBOT xxx

    1. Glad you enjoyed. I haven't seen 'Yes Man', I'll have to check it out. Thanks for visiting and for the social media follows.

  3. I love these tips. Some great ones. I try to be the D person who seeks out others for the new opportunity, but I find I really need to be in the right frame of mind and have the energy to do so. I guess it doesn't come naturally to me. Would have loved to have been there at Bruce's talk, love things like this x

    1. Hi Carla, I'm glad you enjoyed the post, he was a very motivating presenter which made the session very enjoyable. I'm hearing you about needing to be in the right frame of mind with socialising, I also have to work at it. I look at those people who appear to be effortlessly gregarious and wonder how they do it!

  4. What a lovely post. I've got to say that if I attended that seminar at the end of a long work day, I would have had my cranky pants on for that activity. But if it was a seminar that I was choosing to do, I would have had my happy pants on. Funny how the different settings would provoke a different reaction.

    I also really agree about intentions. That's something I was taught a long time ago. You can have the best intentions in the world, but that doesn't matter. It's perception that makes the difference. People can't see what you had intended, they can only perceive how you acted and how things turned out. Of course you should always start with good intentions, but sometimes you have to check in part of the way through and reassess if the likely perception of others is what you were hoping it would be.

    1. Thanks Glenda, you have added some thoughtful and considered insights to the conversation.