Here’s an interesting fact: Many of us do better being positive at work than at home.
There is some actual brain science to support this—The Thinker (the frontal lobe of the brain) reins in The Caveman (the survival part of the brain that reacts to threats) when he wants to make inappropriate comments. The brain actually gets tired of using willpower all day at work; it’s exhausting not telling the boss he’s stupid, or your coworkers that they’re lazy. Because of this fatigue, we are more likely to say things we regret when we get home.
The good news is that there are tools that can help, priming you to be better parent, spouse, and/or sibling. You can actually train yourself to be stronger, to love more deeply and to be more resistant to negativity at home.
Priming On the Way Home
Sometimes I have the urge to whine about little things at home—items that are left out or parts of the house aren’t clean to my taste. I have never once found this to be well received by my wife. Imagine that!
The best way to combat this “whining” behavior is to prevent it from happening. On the way home, I play my own inner movie about what I most love about my family, and I tell myself to look for what’s good in the house before I even walk in. When I do this I’m more likely to skip the whining and move directly to wining and having a good time with my wife that evening.
There are many different ways to implement this during your commute. A great trigger is choosing a geographical marker that you pass on your way home, and at this point you stop thinking about work and begin prepping yourself to go home and enjoy the evening. Turn on music that energizes you, and start thinking about what you love about your family, or something specific that you are looking forward to that evening.
Just like doing exercise, if you spend just a few minutes each day thinking about what you love about your family, you will actually build your love for them, and they will be able to feel it.
It’s important not to taint your positive thoughts with the “yeah buts.” For example, “Yeah I love my kids, but they never do their homework. Yeah I love my husband, but he doesn’t help out around the house enough.” Try imagining that this may be the last time you will see your family. After all, life is fragile and sadly it’s possible to lose our loved ones at any moment. What important things would you want to make sure to tell them? How would you want to treat them so they know how much you care about them?
It is critical for that few minutes to only think positively. In turn, this will help the whole family dynamic to be more positive, optimistic and healthy.
The Daily Highlight
My wife and I have used this technique personally for the last seven years, and it has transformed our relationship. The Daily Highlight activity is essentially creating a family habit that the first topic of conversation when you get home is each person’s highlight of the day. The Daily Highlight is the first thing you’ll talk about before you have dinner, start homework or chores, and/or complain about work, all of which can set a negative tone for the evening. The Daily Highlight sets a positive tone that enables communication to be better, relationships to strengthen, and helps people be more open to each other’s needs.
During the Daily Highlight, each person listens and celebrates the others’ highlights. Not only do you get to share in a positive moment, but by listening you will find that you become more aware of your family members’ strengths, passions and values. You may even be surprised by the highlights that come up.
The first day or two it might feel a little awkward if you’re not used to it, but the more awkward it feels, the more I think you should do it.
Hundreds of people have used this activity and afterward told me great stories about children who had struggled with self-confidence and who are now gaining confidence. I’ve also heard examples of the Daily Highlight practice helping strengthen and repair family relationships. A member of my team even does this with her 3-year-old and her 4-year-old, who love sharing their favorite moments from the day. It’s a positivity tool that you can use at nearly any age.
When our family lives are happy, it’s easier to be more successful at everything in life!
Hopefully this has given you some inspiration to bring a little positivity home tonight. I would love to hear how you use these tools and other priming tools with your family, so please comment below or connect with me on social media and share!