“The Sweet Spot”: Christine Carter Helps You Get There

What is “The Sweet Spot” that sociologist Dr. Christine Carter, who’s called herself “a chronic overachiever and a recovering perfectionist” (Shape.com), believes we can find?

Her new book, subtitled How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work tells us it’s “where you have the greatest strength, but also the greatest ease.” It’s “about shifting the small gears, the ones that rotate relatively easily. And because all the gears are interlocking, when we tweak a small gear here, the large gears start to move—effortlessly—as well.”

It’s also how the author herself went from a lifestyle of “overwhelmed and exhausting to joyful, relaxed, and productive.”

According to Lou Fancher, Lamorinda Weekly, Carter’s view is that the most important question one can ask oneself may be, What elephant are you riding on?

…As in the part of Jonathan Haidt‘s The Happiness Hypothesis (see my previous post) in which he explains the universal condition of “the divided self” by using a Buddhist metaphor of the rider and the elephant.

From a summary of this concept on his website:

The mind is divided in many ways, but the division that really matters is between conscious/reasoned processes and automatic/implicit processes. These two parts are like a rider on the back of an elephant. The rider’s inability to control the elephant by force explains many puzzles about our mental life, particularly why we have such trouble with weakness of will. Learning how to train the elephant is the secret of self-improvement.

Lisa Evans, Fast Company, lists some of Carter’s suggestions for training the elephant:

  • Take more breaks. “Regularly changing the type of activity you’re performing throughout the day allows your brain to perform at its highest capacity and get more done in less time.”
  • Putting morning routines on autopilot. “Willpower is a depleting resource that disappears as we’re forced to make decisions throughout the day. Reserving willpower for our most important work, Carter says, is key to ensuring we don’t run out of gas too early.”
  • Decide when it’s “good enough.” “…Carter recommends a process she calls ‘satisficing’—that is, working on something until you find the option that is ‘good enough.’ Outline your criteria for success, then stop when you find the first thing that meets your criteria. Don’t continue to search for other options.”
  • Focus on the positive. “When we’re positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive – and can even make us better leaders.”
  • Say yes strategically. “…(S)ay yes only to those things that truly inspire and motivate you.”

Mirel Ketchiff, Shape, asked Carter, What’s the smallest step someone can take that will have the biggest impact on their daily happiness and stress levels?

I’d say to establish a ‘better-than-nothing’ exercise plan that takes less than five minutes to do, for days when you can’t make it to the gym. Mine is 25 squats, 20 push-ups, and a one-minute plank; it takes me three minutes, but it works…And once a day, think of something or something you’re thankful for. Research shows gratitude is the foundation for personal happiness.

Below Carter introduces The Sweet Spot:

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