Setting Intentions for a Better Day

Yesterday, I attended a BeWell class at Stanford on Emotional Intelligence by Dr. Fred Luskin. He’s famous for work on forgiveness and the science of happiness. If you like his work and want to dialogue about it, he’s taking questions over Twitter this week through the School of Medicine. The class was not what I expected, but instead the takeaway centered on having a better day and having more emotional control over your day.

We had to ask ourselves a good question – basically, “What would you have to experience in your afternoon to feel you had a successful day?” For me, it was finishing two top priority tasks. Fred also suggested it could be a more general item such as the following:

  • focusing on the good stuff
  • getting along with your co-workers
  • really listening actively to people in meetings
  • being a good team member
  • not getting angry about things
This exercise leads into the idea that we are happen and feel successful when our intention (or goal, choose the word that resonates with you), corresponds to your day. I totally buy this. I might have 20 things on my plate, but if I get 3 important things done that I know had to happen, I can still leave work at a reasonable hour and feeling good about the work I accomplished.

This simple concept ties into some prioritization work I’ve done on the job, where you look at a project and consider what’s a must have, a should have and a nice to have. At the end of the project, as long as the must haves are done, the overall feeling is of success.

The important work that we must do on the job is actually set that intention every day and follow through. I do this in a way by having my MS Outlook open in my calendar as opposed to my e-mail. This way, I start by seeing what’s ahead for the next 8 hours. Then, I take the time to write down 3 – 5 things I want to complete on my paper calendar and see what I can do. It doesn’t always happen, but I know what success means.

I like the idea of taking some days to focus on other more behavioral concepts to equal success for me.

Fred Luskin taught us that exercising self control and cultivating positivism are the cornerstones of emotional intelligence. He also stated appreciating what you have and reducing how much you complain goes a long way to making your day.

One of my favorite exercises we did was to imagine someone who makes us happy “in loving technicolor.” Even that expression was enough to make me smile!

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