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Seek First to Understand

Here’s a great idea …

In their book, Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage, John and Julie Gottman say, “Understanding must come before advice. In other words, it’s better to let your partner get all his or her feelings out and for you to try to understand those feelings, before you begin problem solving or exploring what to do.” (p. 216)

In other words …

When our partners are explaining a situation and how it makes them feel, we should not jump to conclusions or offer advice before we have the whole story. If we do, our partners will feel more frustrated and resentful than helped and cared for. Sometimes all our partners need is a sympathetic ear.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life …

The next time your partner is sharing their feelings with you about an issue, take time to listen to everything they have to say. Ask clarifying questions. Check with your partner to see if you understood them correctly. When you understand your partner’s feelings, then you can decide together if the situation needs solving.

To find out more…

about couple relationships, check out The Marriage Garden program at arfamilies.org, follow us at facebook.com/navigatinglife or contact your local county Extension agent. You can also read Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage.

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Keys to Vibrant Relationships Are Common Sense but not Common Practice

Here’s a great idea …

In their book, The Marriage Garden, H. Wallace Goddard and James P. Marshall say, “When we are vibrant people, we bring far more to our relationships than when we are languishing. The keys to being vibrant are common sense even if they are not common practice. We enjoy and appreciate the simple things in life. We cherish the best of our experiences. We look forward to the future. We use our strengths regularly. And we find ways to serve.” (p. 168)

In other words …

It’s difficult for us to have healthy, positive relationships when we are not emotionally healthy as individuals. When we better ourselves we are able to bring more to our relationships.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life …

Spend some time increasing your emotional health this week by expressing gratitude for what you have, being hopeful about the future, and using your strengths and gifts to serve others. This should give your relationship with your partner a boost.

To find out more…

about couple relationships, check out The Marriage Garden program at arfamilies.org, follow us at facebook.com/navigatinglife or contact your local county Extension agent.

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Grow Strong By Challenging Yourself

Here’s a great idea …

In their book, What Happy People Know, Dan Baker and Cameron Stauth say, “The human mind, body, and spirit thrive on struggle and challenge, just as a muscle thrives on exercise. Satisfaction without effort doesn’t create happiness. It creates only dissipation, alienation, boredom, weakness, and a sense of worthlessness.” (p. 164)

In other words …

Few things give us a greater sense of accomplishment than when we work hard to complete a task. We just don’t get the same feeling of pleasure when we finish a project that doesn’t require much effort. The more we can pour ourselves into the things we do the more contentment and satisfaction we can find in our lives.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life …

Find something you can do that you enjoy, but will challenge you. It can be exercising, reading a book, or working on a new project. When you’ve finished, take some time to appreciate the effort it took and the feeling of accomplishment.

To find out more …

about personal well-being, check out The Personal Journey or Managing Stress programs at arfamilies.org, follow us at facebook.com/navigatinglife contact your local county Extension agent. You may also enjoy reading What Happy People Know.

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The Trick to Loving Children Effectively

Do you want to know the trick to loving children effectively?

Here’s a great idea …

In his book, Soft-Spoken Parenting, H. Wallace Goddard says, “There is a trick to loving children effectively. Effective loving requires us to deliver what is important to the specific child we are loving. It is not enough to say ‘I love you!’ -even with gusto. We can tell a daughter that she is loved, but she may prefer you play with her. We can tell our son he is loved, but he may prefer that you throw the ball with him. One child might want snuggling while another loves story time. Each child is different.” (p. 147)

In other words …

We all have our own love language, which is the way we most prefer to be shown love. The major love languages are “Show Me, Tell Me, and Touch Me.” We can discover our children’s love language by paying attention to how they show love to others and by noticing what they ask us to do with or for them.

How you can use this idea to have a better life …

Learn your child’s love language and be willing to love him or her in that way. It may involve snuggling, playing with, or reading to your child. Let them teach you how they want to be loved.

To find out more …

about parenting, check out The Parenting Journey or See the World Through My Eyes programs at arfamilies.org, follow us at facebook.com/navigatinglife or contact your local county Extension agent. You can also read Goddard’s Soft-Spoken Parenting.

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If You Want to be Happy, Stop Focusing on Your Problems

Here’s a great idea …

In her book, Why Talking is Not Enough, Susan Page says, “Most couples believe, ‘If only we could solve our problems, then we could be happy together.’ The opposite is actually true: if you focus first on being happy together your problems will diminish.” (p. 54)

In other words …

Sometimes we get so bogged down by the problems in our relationships that we lose sight of why we fell in love in the first place. If we choose to focus on the good things in our partner and our relationship, then our problems will not seem so great.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life …

Spend some time remembering all the reasons you fell in love with your partner. Look through old pictures, reliving happy times you have experienced together. The more positive feeling you have about your relationship the better you will be able to deal with problems when they arise.

To find out more…

about couple relationships, check out The Marriage Garden program at arfamilies.org, follow us at facebook.com/navigatinglife or contact your local county Extension agent. You can also read Page’s book, Why Talking is Not Enough.

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The Joys of Anticipation

Do you know that anticipating an event can help you enjoy it more?

Here’s a great idea …

In his book, Happiness, David Lykken says, “I am certain that the sum of the enjoyment I have experienced in my long life would have been greatly diminished had I not been able to anticipate future reunions, accomplishments, rewards and other satisfactions…” (p. 27)

In other words …

The beginning of a new year is a time when many of us look towards the future and anticipate great things to come. Research shows that when we daydream about and anticipate an event in advance we can get more pleasure from it.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life …

What do you have to look forward to this week and in the upcoming year? Spend a little time imagining what it will be like when these things happen. The more we look for and anticipate the good, the happier our lives can be.

To find out more …

about personal well-being, check out The Personal Journey or Managing Stress programs at arfamilies.org, follow us at facebook.com/navigatinglife contact your local county Extension agent. You may also enjoy reading Lykken’s Happiness.

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Are Effective Parents Flexible?

Here’s a great idea …

In his book, Parents and the Dynamics of Child Rearing, George Holden says, “An effective parent cannot act the same way across all situations, to different children, or across time and still be effective. Rather, parenting changes from moment to moment.” (p. 185)

In other words …

Our parenting techniques have to be constantly changing. What works for one child may not work for another and the methods that worked with our children at age five will probably not be as effective at age fifteen. Flexibility is a key factor in effective parenting. We need to take each situation’s unique circumstances into consideration before deciding what to do.

How you can use this idea to have a better life …

The next time you need to make a decision about your child, take a few moments to reflect. Are your previous guidelines for similar situations still applicable? Do they fit the current needs of your child and the situation? After taking these things into consideration, you can then make a more effective decision as a parent.

To find out more …

about parenting, check out The Parenting Journey or See the World Through My Eyes programs at arfamilies.org, follow us at facebook.com/navigatinglife or contact your local county Extension agent. You can also read Holden’s Parents and Dynamics of Child Rearing.

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Are You Seeing Your Partner As the Problem?

Here’s a great idea …

In his book, Beyond the Myth of Marital Happiness, Blaine Fowers says, “We became partners in working something out rather than fighting with each other over it because we both wanted to be on the same side more than we wanted to win the argument…The idea of our being on the same side reminds us that our marriage is more important than almost any disagreement we might have.” (p. 139)

In other words …

We will inevitably have disagreements with our partners. When this happens we can look at it in one of two ways. It can either be a chance to tear our partners down in an effort to prove ourselves right or it can be a chance for us to work together to solve a common problem. When we work as a team instead of against each other we can strengthen our relationship.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life …

The next time a disagreement arises between you and your partner, stop and consider how you are looking at the situation. Are you seeing your partner as the problem? If so, choose to see the problem as the problem instead. Find some common ground that will help you and your partner work together.

To find out more…

about couple relationships, check out The Marriage Garden program at arfamilies.org, follow us at facebook.com/navigatinglife or contact your local county Extension agent. You can also read Fower’s book Beyond the Myth of Marital Happiness.

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How Can I Identify My Strengths?

Here’s a great idea …

In their publication, The Personal Journey, Wally Goddard and James Marshall say “Each person has strengths and weaknesses. The greatest joy and progress come from using our strengths while managing our weaknesses. We discover our strengths by noticing what we love to do, those things that challenge us and get us so engaged that we lose track of time.”

In other words …

One of the best ways to be happy and successful is to find ways to use our strengths in our day-to-day lives. The things we are good at are often things we find enjoyment in doing. We can even use our strengths to help us compensate for our weaknesses.

Here’s how you can use this idea to have a better life …

Learn what YOUR personal strengths are by taking the free VIA Survey of Character Strengths at www.authentichappiness.org. This 240-item survey will help you determine which of the 24 identified human strengths are most characteristic of you.

Once you have identified your personal strengths, look for ways to use them. You may even redesign your career and life to better use your strengths. Let the happiness begin!

To find out more …

about personal well-being, check out The Personal Journey or Managing Stress programs at arfamilies.org, follow us at facebook.com/navigatinglife contact your local county Extension agent. You may also enjoy reading Fredrickson’s book, Positivity.

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How Can I Prevent Play From Turning Into Work?

Here’s a great idea …

In her book, The Psychology of Parental Control, Wendy S. Grolnick says, “When children do activities for the reward rather than the joy of the activity, they no longer get the feelings of freedom, competence, and pleasure that they had gotten. Their play has turned into work.” (p. 40)

In other words …

As parents, we like to reward our children for the good work they do. Sometimes though, we use rewards in ways that make our children less likely to want to do the things for which we are rewarding them. When children know in advance that they will be rewarded for doing something, their internal motivation is replaced with an external one. The reward becomes payment for their efforts, turning the fun into work. Rewards work best when they are unexpected and unannounced.

How you can use this idea to have a better life …

The next time you want to reward your child for something, do not announce it in advance. If the child doesn’t know until after the fact that they will be rewarded then they will still get the benefit of doing it for themselves, rather than the reward.

To find out more …

about parenting, check out The Parenting Journey or See the World Through My Eyes programs at arfamilies.org, follow us at facebook.com/navigatinglife or contact your local county Extension agent. You can also read Grolnick’s, The Psychology of Parental Control.