PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS, PODCAST INTERVIEW

Power Couple Coaches: Jen and Eli

Jen and Eli are a Canadian professional coaching team specializing in working with clients who come from toxic / dysfunctional / abusive families. They work with parents to heal childhood trauma so they don’t continue the cycle of abuse with their own children. Such important work. Join me as I chat with them today.

Parents to two teens, this husband and wife team decided shortly after their first child was born that they were going to raise their children differently than their parents did. With years of training, they are certified by the World Coaching Institute as Child, Youth, Parent and Family Coaches. They are dedicated to teaching “Respectful Parenting for Generational Transformation,” and specialize in providing a flexible, fully customized family coaching experience.

Power Couple Coaches: Jen and Eli

We talked about how:

  • Growing up in an authoritarian household (“Do as I say, or else!”), both knew that they wanted to parent differently.
  • Jen has had a lot of experience working with children with behavioural challenges. She learned early on how to build a connective relationship through sitting with them and listening deeply. She started by sharing these approaches with Eli.
  • They felt it important not only to heal their family intergenerational trauma, but what they learned can work was something they wanted to share with the world.
  • A lot of their clients like that there is both a mom and a dad to talk to.
  • Many clients have difficult emotional triggers to work through. A lot of time they don’t even know why. Children are so good at accidentally setting off these triggers.
  • Our job is to guide, teach, or mentor. But children can’t learn if they are in flight, flight, freeze, or fawn mode.
  • We always want to start with, “How do we control our kids?” but the real question is “How do we control ourselves?” It’s more about you and how you will manage things when someone steps on your landmine.
  • A lot of clients are afraid that their children will want to be estranged from them just as they are estranged from their own parents.
  • Having inappropriate expectations of children based on where they are developmentally will always lead to disappointment and frustrations.
  • Childhood traumas lead to addictions.
  • They have a Facebook community for people who grew up in toxic family environments and don’t want to set up similar dynamics in their own families. They even have people join BEFORE they have kids, they are so petrified of messing up!
  • Jen shared a very personal moment that forced her to confront the question of whether or not to go ‘no contact’ with her parents.
  • We have to decide the message we are sending to our children. Are we providing proper safety for our children? We have to teach our children to be strong in their convictions and that they will still be loved by us even if those contradict ours.
  • Remember that we are human. It’s so important to have rupture and repair moments. To model apologizing and having two-way conversations.
  • Jen and Eli will be launching an online step-by-step program to teach people how to bring about behavioural changes in their daily family lives.

Eli’s final message: Don’t ever give up on your journey. It’s not about the mistakes but how you deal with them that counts.

Jen’s final message: This is a transformational journey and it takes time. it’s not about being a perfect parent, but being human. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Connect with Jen & Eli via their website Respect Coaching & Consulting – Parent Coaching, on Facebook Respect Coaching & Consulting, and Instagram: @respect_cc.

STORYTELLING, UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS

I Hear You, Panic Attack, I’m Listening

Panic attacks.

I get them when I’m triggered.

I get them at 3 am in the morning.

I get them at 5 am in the morning.

I get them when I have to wake up to start my day.

I get them after reading an email.

They scare me and they demoralize me. They bring me to my knees.

My panic attacks can feel like a thousand chaotic voices.

This isn’t good.

That isn’t done.

You aren’t good enough.

What a failure.

When they start, I end up with waves of fear from my futile attempts to ward off the attacks.

I try silencing the voices.

I recoil in terror from all their accusations and predictions of doom and gloom.

My brain vibrates from the yelling and the shrinking, the pointing and the defending.

* * * * *

I’m learning to thank them, yes, appreciate their intention to protect me from — well — danger.

Danger from harm to the core of who I am.

Somehow, I ended up with a blinding fear of criticism about my judgment and decision-making abilities.

I have had to change my attitude of fear of criticism about my past unchangeable decisions.

* * * * *

Now I try to to tell myself:

  • I accept the past
  • I did the best that I could with what I had
  • There are consequences to all decisions
  • The only thing I can do is think about moving forward
  • My new decisions might still not be ideal
  • In the future I will be dealing with the consequences of my choices today
  • A knee-jerk reaction will be counterproductive
  • What’s the one baby step I can take right now that at least moves me in the right direction?

Okay panic attacks.

I’m ready for you.

I’m ready to listen to your warnings.

But I’m going to respond in a calm way to let you know that I can only do my best, that I did my best in the past, and that hounding me about what a terrible person I am is not going to make my life better. It’s making my present and future worse.

But I thank you for trying to protect me.

I thank you for trying to teach me.

So — now that I’ve heard you, I need you to be quiet so that I can figure out what next step to take.

BOOK REVIEW, LOVE FIRST, PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

There is a Better Way

The subtitle explains the book quite clearly: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason.

So many of us have grown up with the stick and the carrot as deterrents against and incentives for behaviour, so this can seem like a rational way to treat our children. Kohn argues that there is a better way.

When my kids were very little, I parented them that way: withholding approval until my kids behaved the way I wanted them to. 90% of my communications with them was to criticize them so that they could improve. However, something about it seemed off, even as I justified my punitive approach to correcting their behaviours. I became more aware that I was raging rather than disciplining.

Choosing to Parent Differently

When I finally realized that my children deeply feared me, I knew I had to change the way I parented. I started by verbally telling my kids all the time that I loved them no matter what. 

When we disagreed, we would often toss out to each other a reminder “I love you [Mommy/Kiddo]” as if the unspoken part was, “despite our disagreement or your poophead move just now”. 

Then I started shifting a higher percentage of our communication into conversations that built our relationship and trust, rather than me just doing parental “duties,” like nagging, reminding, cajoling and ordering, I watched the kiddie shows they liked to watch, we talked about their video games, etc. And slowly they stopped tensing up when I would come into the room, knowing that I wasn’t going to yell at them to do something they SHOULD be doing.

Now they say things like, “Mommy, you’re not going to like this, but…” and proceed to talk to me honestly. This change is a huge win for us because it means they aren’t trying to hide things from me but rather feel safe enough to share something that might have in the past made me very angry.

Why Unconditional Parenting is Important

The most striking long-term effect of love withdrawal is fear. Even as young adults, people who were treated that way by their parents are still likely to be unusually anxious. They may be afraid to show anger. Then tend to display a significant fear of failure. And their adult relationships may be warped by a need to avoid attachment—perhaps because they live in dread of being abandoned all over again.

Fundamentally Alfie Kohn’s argument is that behavioural scientists developed positive reinforcement as a way to control animal behaviour. Using this technique to influence children without taking the time to understand their thoughts, feelings, or intentions ends up being counterproductive for the longer-term goals we have for their success as self-sufficient and confident, resilient adults.

Parenting through fear may seem like it works in the short run, but a child experiences that as love that is conditional upon their behaviour. Because children fear the withdrawal of that love, they will often do whatever they can to stay in the good graces of their parents. They will be obedient regardless of their own feelings, perspectives, and ultimately what is actually right or wrong.

Creating obedient kids controlled by their fear of parents means that they may be easily controlled by others as well, like peers or authority figures and less able to fight for their needs or protect their boundaries.

Do we want to raise our kids to make decisions based on fear? Do we want them to have challenges with their relationships!? Do we want them to be easily manipulated by others? Or do we want them to know how they feel? To trust their own judgment about what is the morally right thing to do?

If I always tell my children that “they are wrong and I am right,” how are they to develop their judgment? If I dictate how they SHOULD feel, how can they learn how they DO feel, and to trust that? 

It’s about the Why

Shouldn’t our goal be for the children to refrain from doing certain things not because we’ve forbidden them, but just because they’re wrong? We want them to ask “How will doing x make that other kid feel?”not “Am I allowed to do x?” or “Will I get in trouble for doing x?” We want our children to understand the impact of their actions and intrinsically make good decisions.

In other words, we want to raise moral human beings, people who make decisions based on logical reasoning and empathy for those around them, not because they were told that something is right or wrong. 

The world is a complex place with many moving parts. The more we help them find their own way to interpret the multiple pieces of information, the more they will be able to live their lives the way they want to—with integrity and confidence.

We cannot just raise our kids based on how we see the world, but how they will need to see the world when they become adults.

Our Own Childhood

By the way, Kohn points out: “It’s pointless to talk about what holds you back from being a better parent without reflecting on how the way you were raised shapes your internal architecture. It affects not only what you do with your kids, but what you don’t do.” 

We must do the work to figure out where our parental playbook came from, how that impacted us, and which parts we want to change as we parent the next generation.

Just a gentle warning: For many of us, doing this work can be triggering. Understanding the past can help us connect the dots to why we behave in ways we don’t want to behave now as parents and lead to positive change. At the same time, it can be incredibly difficult to live through the fears from our childhood.

But we are all doing the best we can and change takes time, not measured in days or months, but years. We start where we start. 

PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS, PODCAST INTERVIEW, UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS

A Recovering Perfectionist

Michelle Lee Diasinos is a Conscious Parent advocate, coach, author, and co-host of The Mothers’ Roundtable podcast with two children of her own. Read her chapter in the #1 International Best Selling Change Makers Volume 4, where she shares her personal transformation that led her into this place of service to parents navigating their unique path. A recovering perfectionist, Michelle delves into the challenges parents face when perfection becomes a problem. One of the many exciting projects she’s initiated is “Heal My Story,” a platform for people to anonymously write about their healing journey. Join our chat and hear what moved me to tears in what she said.

Podcast: Conscious Parenting with Michelle Diasinos

I chatted with Michelle about:

  • Motherhood was the first time she truly met herself.
  • She spent a lot of time doing work on her own, making peace with her past, releasing anger, frustration, and sadness. She was able to get to a place where she could be comfortable with the fact that her parents did the best they could at the time and did what they did with love.
  • Prior to parenthood, Michelle was a Special Education Teacher and worked in occupational therapy. She was a very calm person and thought she would be a patient mother. But being a parent is nothing like what you think it’s going to be like!
  • Michelle put immense on herself to be the best parent ever! She then realized that she was also pressuring her son to meet her perfectionist tendencies. As many parents did, she took her son’s behaviour to be a reflection of her (bad) parenting. This kind of situation made her realize she had a lot of work to do.
  • Even as a trained professional who was calm and using all the ‘right’ tools and techniques, she discovered she was capable of raging anger, explosions, and subsequent guilt. She’s come to realize that the anger is just an invitation to look deeper. All it meant was that she had a need that wasn’t being met.
  • Perfection is insidious! Most of us don’t even know we are perfectionists. Listen to the language you are using when speaking to yourself. For example when parents go to bed at night, they’re often thinking, “Did I do a good enough job?” This question might be driving their every action!
  • Children’s behaviour is an expression of their unmet needs. We as parents can do everything possible to meet their every need. How do we help them gain the tools to deal with not having their needs met?
  • Her “Heal My Story” project is a platform where anyone can share aspects of their healing story. I highly recommend you try it out if you are thinking about processing your trauma through writing. It is for anything that has surfaced during your healing journey that you want to put out there in the world.

Michelle’s message to Sandwich Parents is: “I acknowledge you. I know how tough this can be. I want to remind you that compassion is the salve. When you mess something up, and you inevitably will, because you are human, give compassion to yourself. Because each time that you do that, you are showing yourself unconditional love. You are showing your kids how to do the same, so that they can go out into the world and they can show it to others. This is sacred work. I see you. I thank you for doing this work.”

Join her on Instagram and Facebook, where you can learn more about how to live a truly Conscious Parenthood. And listen to her podcast, The Mother’s Roundtable, where every week she and her co-host Jessica Crescenzi  examine a topic related to parenting and give advice based on their expertise as parent coaches and their perspectives as mothers.

BOOK REVIEW, FOCUS ON YOU, UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS

Complex PTSD by Pete Walker

Without a properly functioning ego, you have no center for making healthy choices and decisions. All too often, your decisions are based on the fear of getting in trouble or getting abandoned, rather than on the principles of having meaningful and equitable interactions with the world.

How does one review a book that is so deeply personal, a book that shifted me from wandering around in despair to starting a healing journey? I know, I’ll write him a thank you note!

Dear Mr. Walker,

During the most difficult time of my life, I started searching the terms “depression,” “anxiety,” “panic attacks” etc. to try to figure out what was going on. I knew I needed help, but I couldn’t seem to find help that actually—well—helped. I also often seemed okay; I know how to fake it very well.

Needing anything from others can feel especially dangerous. The survivor’s innate capacity to experience comfort and support in relationship becomes very limited or non-existent. This is despite the fact that many high functioning survivors learn to socially function quite adequately.

It wasn’t until I found your website that I felt truly understood or even knew what kind of help I needed. I wrote to you and asked if you could take me on as a client. You very graciously answered me immediately with empathy for my suffering but also that you did not have room to take anyone else on. You suggested that I read your book, so I bought it right away and started reading.

That was a time in my life when I thought my brain was permanently damaged and that I would never be able to function normally again. Your book gave me hope and a path. It somehow normalized a lot of what I was struggling with and both reassured me that I wasn’t weak and gave me cautious optimism that it was fixable. Until I read your work, I couldn’t figure out what it actually was.

The inner critic commonly increases the intensity of a flashback via a barrage of… attacks… Flashbacks can devolve into increasingly painful levels of the abandonment depression. One attack can repetitively bleed into another and tumble us further down a spiral of hopelessness. It is awful enough to take a single punch in a fight, but when the punches keep coming, the victim is severely thrashed.

You named a condition that seemed to explain more to me than any other word or phrase. Most of the other terms I was searching just seemed to describe symptoms. Other books just wanted me to be more mindful, feel gratitude, or learn to think differently. None of them were wrong per se (and you make those suggestions too); however, the positive effects of doing those things didn’t seem to last and I couldn’t seem to get to the source of the nonstop triggering from so many potential situations, many of which seemed benign on the face of them. Why was I always so tense and ready to fight? Why did I always want to run away? Why do people scare me, especially if they pooh pooh me or, even worse, if they LIKE me and want to be my friend?

The person who never wrote in her textbooks could not stop writing notes in your book. The person who thought she could never sit through an entire book ever again read your book from cover to cover. The person who never reads the appendices in books pored over the toolboxes.

In summary, your book was exactly what I needed when I needed it and helped me heal and turn my life around. Thank you for what you do.

Sincerely,

Sherry

LOVE FIRST, STORYTELLING

Do I WANT to Know?!

Musical Desks

It took us a while to figure this out at the beginning of the pandemic, because A2 was increasingly getting annoyed by A1’s loud (or as we call it, bullhorn) voice as their work desks were side by side in their bedroom. Simultaneously, I was constantly having to move my laptop on and off the breakfast/lunch/dinner table, sitting WAY TOO close to the refrigerator where leftover food often called out my name, and always dealing with the nearby doorbell. A1 was begging for us to extend the wired internet connection to their room upstairs, and I was desperate for a space to call my own.

After much contemplation on my part and consent from everyone else, I moved upstairs into the master bedroom and shifted A1 to a desk downstairs. A1 was extremely happy because it became WAY faster to play Rainbow Six Siege (not to mention he can eat at his desk, which is not allowed upstairs), A2 was relieved because he essentially became the master of their shared bedroom, I was ecstatic because I had my own permanent quiet space for a laptop and Zoom meetings, and my husband, who has his own office, was quite content that he didn’t have to play musical desks, at least this round.

Don’t Ask If You Don’t Want to Know

A1 built his own computer with his Dad’s help one summer and it runs a lot faster than the hand-me-down laptop I inherited. So when he’s not on his computer and I want to be downstairs to (hey, no, not to snack!) make myself a tea or something, I will sometimes use A1’s computer as a terminal.

The last time I asked if I could borrow it, this is how our conversation went:

Our game of Musical Desks has suddenly gotten a little more complicated than I was expecting! 

Would you want a more direct answer from your child to this question?

STORYTELLING

The Meaning of Life is…

I opened my eyes.

My long COVID hair was in my face entangled with my CPAP mask. My body started to shift out of the cozy spot under my warm comforter. My brain started putting together coherent words and I jumped out of bed. I scribbled words as they came together during those precious moments between sleep and consciousness. There was this incredible thought that was trying to push through my sleepy mind and onto paper. It was demanding to be shared. So I scribbled away. Relieved, I went back to doing my daily routines.

As I made the bed, the words started to form sentences.

While brushing my teeth, I excitedly anchored some of the thoughts and repeated them so I wouldn’t forget.

I went back to my paper, added some more words, and did some underlining to emphasize ideas I wanted to think about when I typed them out on my computer.

I changed out of PJs and into my COVID uniform of yoga pants with a plain T-shirt, then skipped downstairs to have breakfast.

At the dining table, I announced triumphantly to my husband: “I have something to share about the meaning of life. Do you want to hear it?”

He, of course, nodded.

With that, I leapt to my feet, ran up the stairs and brought down my paper with my handwriting all over it. I cleared my throat and read:

The answer to every question is… curiosity.

The answer to the meaning of life is curiosity (not assumption), wonder (not entrenchment), acceptance (not rejection), gratitude (not entitlement).

Curiosity leads to exploration, growth, learning, and discovery. Assumption leads to division, protection, aggression, and violence.

My husband nodded wisely and responded with: “You’ve just laid out the philosophy of Star Trek.”

When he saw my crestfallen face, he added “If you are thinking along the likes of the great Gene Roddenberry, you should be proud!”

PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS, PODCAST INTERVIEW

The Heartful Mama Coach

While pregnant, Lina Lie knew she was going to be both a Super Mom and Tiger Mom. After the birth of her son, that all went out the window! She went through what many mothers go through when motherhood surprises them: she fell into the frustration trap, realized she wanted to change her parenting style, and did a lot of research. She also took the next step and became a parenting coach to help other parents with her coaching program, The Heartful Mama.

I interviewed Lina about her peaceful parenting approach and what parent coaching is about. After chatting with her, I decided that I would join the next cohort for parent coaching certification with the Jai Institute of Parenting. So far, the reading list has been eye-opening and helpful for my own parenting journey.

In this episode, hear Lina talk about her journey and why parent coaching can help anyone the world over to be the peaceful parents they want to be.

The Heartfelt Mama Coach Lina Lie

We talked about:

  • How parenthood doesn’t care what qualifications you have or what school you attended. It’s messy, especially if you don’t have a lot of support.
  • Parenting is a lifelong journey. Lina realized that she didn’t want to be just surviving for the rest of her life, she wanted to be thriving, enjoying the relationship she has with her child.
  • She grew up with her parents living and working and in a different country, so her grandparents, uncle and aunt were her caregivers. Even though she had great care, a feeling of emotional abandonment was still a huge issue. She worked through it with therapy.
  • Coaching is cheaper than therapy! It provides space to figure out what is underneath the rage and triggers. 
  • A coach can empathize with and support a parent, providing helpful tools to diffuse triggers. It can even make a difference in the parent’s relationship with their spouse.
  • Our subconscious and unconscious beliefs impact the choices in our lives. Learning why we behave the way we do can help change the way we parent. We can be the kind of parent we want to be.

Her final message comes in a quote by L. R. Knost: “One day your child will make a mistake or a bad choice and will run to you instead of away from you and in that moment you will know the immense value of peaceful, positive, respectful parenting.” Lina wants to be that parent. I do as well. And she wants to help any parent who wants it to be that parent too.

Learn from Lina on The Heartful Mama website, her Facebook page and beautiful Instagram reminders. Book a free discovery call to learn if her parent coaching is for you. She is passionate about helping all parents, but is especially interested in working with parents of intercultural backgrounds or living outside their home countries.

BOOK REVIEW, PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS

Untigering by Iris Chen

Motherhood was ruining my straight-A reputation.

When I ‘met’ Iris Chen for my podcast earlier this year, I half-jokingly sang to her that she was “strumming my pain with her fingers, singing my pain with her words…” I knew of her from her website and her Facebook Community. I then joined the private Untigering Parenting Group. As I got to know her work better, I realized I had to interview her and hear her talk about her journey,  so I did. Imagine my delight when she told me that she had a book, Untigering: Peaceful Parenting for the Deconstructing Tiger Parent, coming out January 5, 2021.

You’ll notice that she calls it UntigerING, as in: it is a continuous effort. Chen encourages everyone to remember that we aren’t aiming for perfection. She reminds us that we are human. But she points out that how we choose to parent does have a huge impact on the health and happiness of our children, especially when we give them unconditional love regardless of their achievements. We can unlearn and unprogram our belief that to be a parent means we are the controlling authority on everything relating to our children. Ironically, if we don’t try to coerce them using fear and control tactics, they can more easily attain the agency to make great decisions that are suitable for them, which leads to more success as defined by them.

There’s no need to feel shame or frustration at an impossible ideal. We will fail. We won’t always live up to our principles. But we can continue to grow and move in the direction of our vision. There is no other choice for those of us to seek to parent without oppression. We must do the work.

Most parenting books are written by white men and women. Mommy bloggers are primarily American stay-at-home moms or momtrepreneurs. In all my years of studying at the University of Google Parenting, until I read Chen’s book, I never came across someone who had had a similar experience to mine. This vacuum of Asian parenting support means that most of us get our parenting advice from white experts. Some of their advice and research is invaluable, but a lot of it doesn’t work in the context of our having Confucian/Asian backgrounds. Iris Chen’s Untigering voice is a beautiful and thoughtful response to the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. Tiger parenting was idealized in that book, where the stereotypical Chinese parenting approach was shown to produce top notch academic and career results. But, at what cost? Untigering highlights a different journey that many of us have been on, with varying levels of success, prioritizing the respect our children deserve and would not normally have received based on the way we were raised.

What is particularly powerful is the balance she takes between being a strong advocate for this approach and being non-judgmental about it. Frankly, that’s not easy to achieve. You know how woke scolds can be particularly harsh critics. But Iris writes as though she’s a big sister who happens to have gone through adolescence earlier than me, and she’s giving some heartfelt advice that I can tell will help make my trip through that stage much easier.

She helps me understand that we don’t have to be a product of our environment. There is not some perfect score to strive for so much as a set of values to lean into, like connection over achievements and honouring the uniqueness of our children and family situations. She provides practical suggestions with lots of room to tailor them to our own needs. Her stories are relatable and eye opening.

Chen helps us see the impact of our trauma on our parenting. She reminds us that we do not live in a vacuum and that our society is the ecosystem we exist in and there are threats to our safety. Her brilliant analysis of the myth and paradox of meritocracy (which has the opposite of its intended effect) concludes that it’s never fair, but we keep pretending it is. She asks us to really understand the systems that are set up for us to ‘fight for the crumbs’. We are playing in a rigged system that favours those at the top and she wants us to fight it. Not just for our children, but for the children of others who have systemic barriers in their way, often for generations.

It’s a call to decolonize education and question the stories of white supremacy.

Many Chinese immigrants accept racism and condescension as part and parcel of the immigrant experience. There’s no use complaining about it. Instead, beat them at their own game. Outperform. Outshine. Outlast. But in doing so, we often end up tolerating injustice and becoming complicit in perpetuating oppression. We’re not interested in dismantling these systems; only in gaming them.

I got so caught up with the initial Untigering concept that I almost missed the second half of the real message: Untigering isn’t just about a parent changing the way they treat their child, but rather how they look at society as a whole, and the injustices and systemic issues that cause trauma for specific populations. It is deconstructing a white supremacist structure and the competitions we sign up for as human beings. Do we compete and win at the expense of others who are less privileged, hiding behind the myth of meritocracy? Or do we collaborate and work together as a community to support those who need it so that we can thrive as a whole?

[Untigering] is the process of unlearning and dismantling tiger parenting so that we can practice peaceful parenting. It requires us to look back and address our childhood wounds, consider the present and what cycles need to be broken, and look ahead for how we hope to change the narrative for our children. It calls for us to question societal and cultural norms that are rooted in trauma and oppression so that generations after us can walk in greater freedom.

Iris Chen asks a lot of us. But during and after reading her book, I am left with a burning desire to look at both how I can best parent my children and how we all can lift up the less privileged children in our society.  She wants us to think about the rules we are playing, the stories we tell ourselves, and the actions we can be taking to make the world a better place.

You can find links to buy her book on her website and listen to my interview with her on my podcast.

BOOK REVIEW, DEVELOPING ROUTINES

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous book.

James Clear’s book is all about how to build productive habits (make them easy, attractive, and enjoyable) and how to stop destructive habits (make them difficult and uncomfortable). He presents his case and breaks it down. I have actually already started developing better habit management due to reading his book!

Most people think that building better habits or changing your actions is all about willpower or motivation. But the more I learn, the more I believe that the number one driver of better habits and behavior change is the choice architecture of your environment.

–Excerpt from Atomic Habits by James

His book helps you understand WHY we end up with counterproductive habits that are difficult to change.  Through his research, he has developed simple structured ways for us to work with ourselves.  I like that it removes some of the self-bashing and turns it into better planning.

But wait… there’s more!

One of my all time favourite business models lately is the “freemium” model from writers and experts. They create content, but they give a lot of it away for free, whether on their website, via videos/webinars or by regular email messages. It’s like the great bands who would play in local pubs and bars. You feel like you get to know them well and you start to like them personally because you can feel them authentically sharing themselves. The author of this book engages with his readers in many ways and you get so much value that you feel GREAT about buying his book.

Valuable and Short Emails

I’m a sucker for subscribing to emails.  The website looks interesting and I hit ‘subscribe’ – and then after a month or so of ignoring and deleting the emails, I unsubscribe. I used to think, Maybe I’m just a loser, I pick bad emails. Or maybe I’m just lazy, I don’t read emails I should read. No, no, I’ve got it, I can’t commit to anything I should do. 

Then I decided to be kind to myself: I have a lot of curiosity and I like to give everyone a chance. So I subscribe and check them out, then I delete when they don’t delight me. And given that I’m still subscribed to his list 2 months later, you can guess what I think of James Clear’s emails–they are the BEST! My favourite is his weekly 3-2-1 newsletter: 3 ideas from him, 2 quotes from others and 1 question for you to ponder.  Easy read, but definitely a positive pick-me-upper.

Informative and Easy to Read Website

His website is also a great resource for information about better habits, better performance, better thinking, and optimal health. It’s simply organized and chock full of science-backed studies written in simple language. It gives you a taste of how his book is written and organized. I love how this is not one of those self-help sites that almost make you feel worse for not being able to do it. He actually explains WHY it’s hard to do the right thing.

Free Bonus Materials!

He even makes you feel really good for buying his book by immediately giving you bonus materials, like a chapter on how to apply it to parenting. It takes the structure that you learn from his book and gives you real life examples of how you can help your kids develop better habits. I’m excitedly starting to use this and fingers crossed the kids will not catch on too quickly. Shhh! Don’t tell them I’m testing his suggestions out on them! 

Summary

I don’t have to feel shame and guilt for having limited willpower and motivation. I can spend the time and headspace to design the architecture of my environment and make little adjustments.

In conclusion, one of the most impactful self-help books I’ve ever read.