How to Exercise Your Vital Powers to Reach Excellence


I was intrigued by the idea of microresolutions. It’s a great take on the concept of encouraging babysteps.

Today, I bring you the smart and interesting Caroline Arnold who has a book out called Small Move Big Change, Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently.

Karl Staib: What is one task that annoys you? How do you make it more enjoyable or at least tolerable?

Caroline Arnold: A task that annoys me is any task that is fundamentally uninteresting but not yet mindless.  Basically, most of our day is run by a kind of personal autopilot that is made up of behaviors and attitudes that have become entrenched through repetition.

Autopilot is mindless and efficient, you don’t have to think to tie your shoes, or lock the front door–autopilot does it for you.  Autopilot makes it possible to save your mental energy for the most important mental tasks:  problem-solving, decision-making, and self-control.  So, whenever I try to change an autopilot behavior through a microresolution, I find it very annoying, because it requires mental effort.  That’s true whether I’m trying to change a behavior like not saying “I told you so” to my spouse or learning a new behavior such as always leaving some food on my plate at every meal.  But I am able to get through the annoying and stressful part of building a new habit because my microresolution gives me  an immediate payback and by now I’ve worked through so many of these changes that I know that the behavior that annoys me today will become a mindless part of autopilot  in just a few weeks.  Any change causes some discomfort, but by focusing your willpower narrowly on a behavioral target, you can succeed every time, and success is enjoyable!

KS: Why are microresolutions so important to happiness?

CA: A lot of unhappiness comes from feeling that we are helpless to change ourselves.  The desire to self-improve is pretty basic to being human, and when we feel defeated in our efforts, it’s demoralizing.  Microresolutions are designed to always succeed, and that’s tremendously empowering.  Realizing that you absolutely have the power to change yourself is liberating and fulfilling.  I did it!  I actually changed myself!

KS: What is your favorite part of your job? Why?

CA: My favorite part of my job is brainstorming with my team and colleagues.  When the whole team is around the table creating something new, problem-solving, exchanging diverse points of view, and then establishing direction, I find that inspiring.  I also treasure those moments when we face obstacles or find ourselves in crisis and beat the odds by outperforming and through just plain HEART.

KS: How do you maintain harmony between your working and non-working life?

CA: I try to maintain as much of a routine at home as possible.  I make dinner every night, it’s very important me that we gather around the table and share a nice meal and the events of our day.  There are times when work issues makes it a late  dinner, and  times when I go back online to work afterwards, but the dinner hour is a real anchor in our family life.  Some people talk about work/life balance as if it’s something fixed, but It’s never settled–one is always tuning that dial in response to work needs, family needs, personal objectives.  When it comes to demanding jobs and family life, you have to draw your own line, no one will draw it for you.

KS: What is your favorite stress reliever?

CA: Laughing!   Nothing like a few yuks (especially at your own expense) to relieve pressure.  Walking is also an amazing stress reliever.  You experience the season, change your surroundings, rev your metabolism, clear your head, and it’s very meditative.

Frederich Nietzsche said that “all great thoughts are conceived while walking” and I have to say, I have thought through many a gnarly issue as I walked to work.  While I was trying to finish my book my husband gave me a foot rub every night, and that was an amazing stress reliever.  Makes me want to write another book!

KS: If you are feeling down, what do you do to lift your spirits?

CA: If she hasn’t ditched me for the day in favor of teen activities, I hang with my daughter Helen and that lifts my spirits.   Whatever I am grappling with, it pales beside the challenge of growing up and trying to shape one’s own future.  Kids are dealing with demands from every direction, but they are amazingly resilient and capable, and that’s inspiring.

KS: What is your biggest detriment to enjoying your work?

CA: Fatigue.  It’s hard to enjoy anything when you’re tired.  On the days when I don’t get enough sleep, I’m dragging by 2pm, and I hate not feeling top of my game.  There are many exciting projects and conversations to be a part of, but you if you have no energy to participate, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  Sleep is also essential to self-improvement efforts.

Willpower gets restored when you sleep and hormones essential for weight control only get balanced with sufficient sleep.  it’s really difficult to stick with a diet or fitness goal when you’re exhausted.  People spend tons of money on face creams to look younger — getting an extra hour of sleep will do far more for you.  I have a whole chapter on getting more sleep in Small Move, Big Change.   Sleep is like a secret weapon for those who appreciate and respect its power.

KS: What do you do to stay motivated and productive?

CA: Challenging work is, to me, the greatest motivator and makes me most productive in my job.  In my experience, people don’t burn out from challenging work, they burn out from highly political workplaces or relentless routine.  I seek out challenges for myself and for my team, and I find it tremendously motivating to see team members take ownership and nail these challenges with spirit and smarts (and outperform me).

KS: Why do you think someone should buy your “Small move, Big change” book?

CA: Small Move, Big Change is for people who want to be successful every time they make a resolution, period.  It’s about cracking the code on making a personal change that lasts forever.  Whether that’s losing weight, getting fit, arriving on time, improving relationships, getting ahead at work, getting more organized, saving more, or being neater — there is a small move you can make today that will improve your life right now and have far-reaching effects in the future.  The book teaches the art of achieving continuous self-improvement.

KS: If you could give work happiness advice to someone just starting their career in 140 characters or less (Twitter style) what would it be?

CA: I can’t improve on Aristotle who said, “Happiness is the exercise of vital powers along the lines of excellence.”  (What a tweeter Aristotle would have been!)

Find a job where you can give your all, your very best, every day.  Try to work your way into an organization with a vibrant work culture that supports personal growth, risk-taking, and rewards high performance, not political dexterity.  We spend the largest part of every week at work, so look for the opportunity that will stretch you and nurture your growth as a human being.  The best jobs are hard work and also a blast.

Caroline Arnold* You can check out Caroline Arnold website here and her new book on Amazon (affiliate link, which will help pay for my next cup of coffee), Barnes and Noble or visit an Independent bookstore near you.

Small Steps Every Single Day

This site is a passion project that I love so much. I’ve helped thousands of people work happier and eventually I want to offer books, courses, etc., but not yet. I’ve tried a few things, but right now I’m offering speaking and workshops, not products.

People need to know how important it is that they use their superpowers in their career and I feel lucky to have this conversation with people on a daily basis.

Right now most of my time goes to delivering great content and working on Domino Connection (customer connection company). Domino Connection brings in 95% of my revenue, so I try to spend at least 90% helping out clients there.

I still write about happiness there, but through a marketing lens. Like this post about the ROI of Delivering Smiles.

With that being said I still take small steps every single day to improve Work Happy Now, from publishing content to posting on WHN Facebook wall.

Ok, so this leads to I’m updating the website, so it’s easier to navigate and easier on the eyes.

I would really like your feedback.
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Day 19 of 30 Meditation Challenge – Slow Rocking Meditation


Are you wondering what meditation has to do with an enjoyable career?

Good question!

Most career depressions are due to a lack of perspective.

We find ways to hate our jobs because we have annoying co-workers or a boss that doesn’t listen to us. These are only trigger points that show us hidden feelings inside of us. The mirror of difficult co-workers.

Meditation is a chance to watch where these self-destructive thoughts are coming from a meet them before they take over. I like to think of this as meeting your arch nemesis at the pass.


The Shift is Happening

I meditated for 9 minutes on Thursday I noticed a very subtle shift in my challenge. I wanted to make my meditation break a little less stressful. I

By taking 1 minute off my meditation actually helped a lot. I felt less pressure and more joy.

I also rocked to my heartbeat.

It was a unique experience.

As my heart thumped I noticed that I was leaning ever so slightly forward. It was something I never experienced or noticed before. I was rocking to my heartbeat.

Taking the time to just sit and breathe is definitely more interesting than I thought it would be.

Tipping Point

As I’ve been adding meditation to my daily routine I notice a positive side effect of my challenge. My thoughts are a little easier to follow and less strong.

It’s a little easier to catch my anger before it takes over, slow my thoughts down and decide if I want to escalate my anger or not.

Yes, there are times I’ve actually escalated my anger. My son and I were out on a walk recently and he told me he peed his underwear. At first my anger took over than I caught myself. We’ve been working on this for the past 5 months. At first my reaction was it wasn’t a big deal. Then I knew that I needed to express my anger in a level-headed way so my son understood the importance of listening to his body and asking to go pee even when we are on a walk.

I was able to ride my anger at 10% capacity to get my point across in a very relaxed and stern way. It was an interesting experience that I hope to repeat very soon.

I got my point across, but was able to move on quickly and enjoy him and not hold on to my anger. This was all due to my meditation practice.

B. M. C.

Before meditation challenge began I understood the importance of following my thoughts, but never really understand on a physical level. Now I feel like this daily practice has allowed me to understand all the Buddhist books I’ve read over the years.

Your Turn

Should your company give employees time to meditate. What do you think? Would this help them become happier, more productive and compassionate?

Learn more about how meditation can improve your career:

New 30 Day Challenge! Meditation


I recently owned up to a mistake I made on this blog. I apologized for my actions. You can read about it here.

As my mistake soaked in I realize how far I have yet to go to fully open up to who I am.


I’m starting another 30 Day Challenge!

My last 30 day challenge I created the “realign my joy with my subconscious” challenge to help me understand and appreciate my everyday challenges that I go through.


I’m starting a 30 Day Meditation Challenge.

I want to meditate every single day in October for at least 10 minutes. I’ve done research and most of the experts agree that 20 minutes is optimal.

This seems like a bit of a stretch for me. I practice Yoga, but 20 minutes while sitting still on a cushion is more than I can handle.

10 minutes a day seems doable and won’t stress me out.

The first step is picking a time that I will meditate every day. I have to find a time that fits my schedule. Make sure that I won’t have any clients to deal with, no webinars, etc.

The next step is set my alarm to go off every day at this time.

Then all that is next is taking the time to meditate.

I’m curious to how this will affect my productivity. Will it bring it down or will it increase it?

I’ll document all this on the blog, the Work Happy Now Facebook page and my @kstaib Twitter account.

I would really like for you to join in with me.

Do you think you could take 10 minutes out of every day to meditate and let us know how it makes you feel?

The more people we can get to do this challenge the better results we’ll see because we can keep each other accountable.

How to Make Innovative Ideas a Natural Process in Your Career


Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Judah Pollack of The Chaos Imperative

Recently in Edinburgh I sat down to enjoy a pot of afternoon tea. I had my pot-belly teapot, more than a splash of full fat cream, a scone, and across from me a series of pictures of J.K. Rowling. I had wandered into The Elephant House, the teashop where J.K. Rowling had begun writing the first Harry Potter book. To my left was the table where she wrote. As testament to how long ago it was, and how poor she was, there were pictures of her writing by hand in a notebook.

This image of J.K. Rowling working hard, writing everyday, is the one that has become famous.  It is an image of the typical 20th Century work ethic. But how did Rowling come up with the idea in the first place? What did her moment of insight look like? She was stuck on a train.

Her train from Manchester to London got stuck on the tracks for four hours and the young woman who had been writing stories since she was six was too shy to ask to borrow a pen when hers ran out of ink. There was nothing to do but stare out the window.

“I really don’t know where the idea came from,” she has said, “It came. Just came.” And it arrived “fully formed.”

“I was on the train when I suddenly had this basic idea of a boy who didn’t know who he was. He was a young boy attending a school of wizardry. It started with Harry, then all these characters and situations came flooding into my head.” J.K. Rowling has described the experience as Harry just walked into my head. And it was so unexpected that she didn’t even have a working pen.

Hard Work

The key here is that for all the hard work she put in after the fact the moment of insight came during her downtime. It came when she was staring out the window. In the book The Chaos Imperative, which I wrote with Ori Brafman, we call this downtime white space and it is an essential ingredient to the 21st century workday.

Why, you may ask. Because as our economy shifts from the creation of goods to the creation of knowledge we are asking that all of our workers be more innovative. And what the neuroscience tells us is that to be more innovative we need to spend more time in the white space.

Examples abound. Einstein discovered the first concept of his General Theory of Relativity, equivalency, while leaning back in his chair, arms above his head, taking a break from his work at the patent office. Like J.K. Rowling the innovation came in the white space.

Importance of Dreaming

Dimitri Mendeleev discovered the structure of the periodic table in a dream. The brilliant Indian mathematcician Ramanujan said his discoveries came to him in dreams. He credited the goddess Namagiri with writing the equations on his tongue and every morning he had the ritual of awakening and writing down his discoveries. Thomas Edison was famous for taking catnaps.

Sleep, daydreaming, spacing out, all of these inefficient uses of time in a production economy are becoming important uses of time in a knowledge economy. The reason is because white space is essential for optimal brain performance.

Take the beloved but endangered practice of napping. Researchers have found that the effects after a short 5-15 minute nap are almost immediate, people were more alert and their brains are functioning faster. The effects last for 1-3 hours.

A longer nap of thirty minutes caused a period of sleep inertia upon first waking up. But then people showed improved cognitive awareness for a longer period of time, up to a few hours. Longer naps of an hour or more are not beneficial. You’ll be happy to know the best time to grab a 20 minute nap is right after lunch.

White Space

But why does white space make us more innovative? The answer is a little part of our brains called the default mode network (DMN). The DMN is a network of about ten brain regions that deal with things from autobiographical memory to error prediction to future forecasting to translation of sensory information. When these disparate brain regions start talking to each other novel connections start to be made.

The DMN is your insight factory. But it doesn’t work when you are busy and on task. It works best and presents its information to you when you are in white space. That is why Rowling, Einstein, Ramanujan and Mendeleev all had their insights while not focusing on their work. If you want to be more innovative or you want your employees to be more innovative you have to create the white space for the DMN to flourish.

This means the most efficient systems now must have built in inefficiencies. How can you do that? It’s all about giving yourself downtime and shifting your focus.

Key Takeaways

  • Take a short nap after lunch. Sounds crazy but the research doesn’t lie
  • Take a short walk when you feel your energy lag
  • Watch a random YouTube video in the middle of the day
  • Meditate for five minutes in the middle of a project or between meetings
  • Help someone on a totally unrelated project to spark new connections
  • Start a new book and read a few pages during your breaks and before bed
  • Go to lunch with people and agree to not talk about anything work related
  • Play. Keep toys at your desk. Create physical, tactile input to your brain

The sudden appearance of innovative ideas is a natural process. When asked if anything like Harry Potter popping into her head had ever happened before J.K. Rowling replied, “Yes. Truthfully,” and then she laughed. “I mean, other ideas have just come to me. Ideas do come to you.”

When I sat down to write this post I drew a blank. So I got up and made a cup of tea. I mindlessly dunked my tea bag up and down in the water. Tea took me back to Scotland and that took me to The Elephant House and Harry Potter and I knew how to begin.

chaos-imperitive-125Judah Pollack is the co-author of The Chaos Imperative. You can check out his new book over at (not an affiliate link). You can also check out Judah’s TEDx talk here.

Unlocking Your Superpowers to Advance Your Career

smiling-at-work-2Have you ever felt stuck in your career?

I was recently talking with a client and she told me, “There is just no room for improvement in my present career.” She felt handcuffed by her situation.

I asked her, “So there isn’t a creative way you could improve your situation?”

She paused. “Ah, um, well…” She trailed off. “I could do a better job of playing politics,” she said unconvincingly.

“Is that what you want to do?” I asked.

“Um, no,” she said.

“Ok, so you have one option. What other options do you have?”
[Read more…]

How to Improve Your Time Management Skills

Working Happy

I’m not actually a very big fan of the phrase “time management.” We all have the same amount of time. Some of us choose to write, others spend time with their kids, others watch movies, others go for jogs…

There are an infinite amount of things to do with our time.

We actively choose what is most important to us in each moment. Sometimes we make mistakes.

I constantly doubt my choices.
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5 Tips to Overcome Daily Distractions

distractions-250What distractions do you use to avoid doing your work?

Try making a list of them.

You’ll be surprised by how many different ways you let something distract you from your work.

My Top Ten Distractions:

  1. Email
  3. My dog
  4. YouTube
  5. Facebook
  6. Twitter
  7. Sunny day
  8. Coffee
  9. TV
  10. Chatting with a friend.

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Why 86% of People Are Looking for a New Job This Year

how-to-be-happy-at-work86% of people who have a job right now will be looking for a better job, according to Inc magazine.

Why will you be looking for a new job this year?

Because you don’t feel appreciated, that of course makes you feel unhappy.

You aren’t appreciated because you don’t have enough leverage at work. You haven’t been able to carve out a niche – a place in your company where you are the “go to” person to solve certain problems. This could be because your core values and your company’s core values aren’t in sync. This happens and figuring out how to realign your needs with your company’s will help level up your career.

Becoming a “go to” person at your company isn’t easy, but when this happens you feel needed, appreciated and useful.

That’s what a great career gives you.
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The Simple 5-Step Method to Having More Energy At Work

high-energy-300Some people will tell you “Just have a cup of coffee” when you are feeling tired. This may help for a short while, but the coffee only masks whatever underlying issues you may be having.

You may not feel a connection to your work like you once did. You may not be getting enough sleep. There are many reasons why you may be struggling with your energy level at work.

The key is to look for the underlying issues.

Last week 3 pm struck and I had hit a wall. I literally couldn’t even see straight.

I knew something wasn’t right. Usually I can work late into the day without feeling tired at all.

Then I realized that I hadn’t taken my short walk. I was so busy trying to get stuff accomplished that I forgot my walk.

I jumped up and went for my short walk, but it was too late. My routine was thrown out of whack and I never recovered.
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