In a previous post, I explained how one can reduce waste in spouse selection by focusing on identifying problems first. What are your pet peeves? What are your deal breakers? What would you NOT be able to put up with for 40 years? The goal of this is not to label people (you are the only one who cares about who is right for you; there is someone for everyone and if you don’t fit with someone this is YOUR constraint not theirs). The goal of this is to find fit as quickly as possible. Remember 20% of issues cause 80% of problems so focus on the 20% that matters WITHOUT compromising quality (i.e. your satisfaction benchmarks or your delight)!
In the business world, the above is done all the time. The motivation? Money aka PROFIT! However, this doesn’t make immediate sense in a relationship where the goal is fulfillment (of both individuals). Before continuing, let’s define PROFIT. The best definition I’ve seen comes from Industrial Advisor and fellow Puerto Rican, Prof. Eugenio Longo:
|Profit Definition*||Relationship Translation|
|As Measured by: Money||As Measured by: Fulfillment|
|Process excellence||Communication and alignment excellence|
|Resources Management||Plan your life together (incl what you do separately)|
|Oriented to a Goal||Develop shared goals & aspirations|
|Financially Strong||Eliminate money fights|
|Innovative – to stay ahead of competition||Stay ahead of boredom and apathy|
|Timely deployment of strategies||Deal with problems when they occur|
(*See full presentation for details; definition on page 8)
Every business has a philosophical approach or strategy (e.g. advantage through value for customer, advantage through cost effectiveness, advantage through conscious capitalism, advantage through sustainable innovation). When it comes to human issues, my preference is for Positive Psychology for two reasons:
- It focuses on finding ways to overcoming learned helplessness (in lieu of focusing on identifying pathologies).
- It focuses on context and opportunity (in lieu of constraints).
Let’s look at a common relationship challenge: anger management. It is also particularly relevant to my Fire/Earth (PEP™ ) personality (also known as alpha, powerful, driver). Whether male or female, traditional psychology looks at this as a pathology: highly arrogant, ego-centric, insensitive, borderline personality disorder. They claim the business world is destructive because it rewards this type of behavior. They fail to realize that “desirable qualities” aka amiable personality types (e.g. compliance, accommodating, people-centric, emotionally sensitive, highly reflective) while very good for counseling generate business disasters.
As an example, if you feel unappreciated and have low self-esteem, it would not be beneficial to go to a counselor who tells you, I don’t care about how you feel, get over it and I’ll give you the steps to perform; you have 2 weeks to adjust. You probably would not want this personality in a nurse, doctor or teacher either.
However, if you are running a business, especially in a highly competitive environment, the last thing you want are amiables. If your competitor is suddenly announces they can beat your production time by 80% and threatens to take 65% of your market share in 3 months, this is not the time to direct your employees with amiability. You need to be arrogant enough to tell them, we’re going to improve production time by 90% in 2 weeks or we’ll be out of business in 12mths – give me solutions! You need to be insensitive enough to ignore the feelings of your favorite employee who always keeps people happy in the office but just generated the worst solution. You don’t have time to reflect on whether you are the best person to be leading this effort (unless you want to lose your job), so you have to dig deep into your ego and self-reliance and pump yourself up to not just believe but to know you can accomplish the goal. Context is everything! The same applies to any high-risk environment. If you have a child who loves to start fires, is this a pathological psychopath or a future firefighter or bomb squad expert? If you start treating the child as a psychopath, how will the child ever develop a positive ego in the context of: there is a societal benefit to my natural inclinations? A child who gets into physical fights, the next Muhammed Ali or Tamar of Georgia? Does a chronically erratic and messy child have ADHD or is the child a future inventor who needs a box? None of this is about ignoring problems; it is about harnessing problems into the right context and turning them into strengths.
Back to anger management. Anger is a problem. It causes friction, destructive behavior, and it is not particularly conducive to harmonious relationships. You can read more to understand anger here. If you use a traditional approach, anger is always a problem and you need to learn to control it or suppress it. However, in positive psychology, anger is your bio-emotional alert system (in the same way laughing is). If you spent all your time laughing, it would be just as big of a problem if you spent all your time angry. Additionally, someone who angers easily doesn’t mean that person is angry all the time. The biggest benefit of using a positive mindset towards anger has had for me (in all relationships) is: (a) I feel better than when I tried the behavior modification approaches (i.e. change me so I stop getting angry was infuriating; change the situation so I don’t get angry has been highly empowering); (b) I’ve had better health by using anger as a signal that I need to change things in my life towards finding more of what I want (instead of trying to find ways to cope with what I don’t want).
What is important in relationships is an unabashed disclosure of things that make one angry so that the other person is not planning based on a suppressed set of triggers (i.e. incomplete information). The goal is not to agree on what is right or wrong about a person’s anger. The goal is to determine what makes the person (especially yourself) angry so that you can develop a set of behaviors that do not trigger anger points. Example, if person A gets angry if his/her partner doesn’t say, I love you, every morning, you have a choice: (a) say, I love you every morning, or, (b) find someone who doesn’t need this. Before you think, that would be nice, I could learn to do this. Stop wasting time! Do you do this naturally? If not, test it and see how long it takes you to integrate this into your daily behavior? If after 2 weeks you are feeling warn out, this is not who you are and putting yourself in this situation will end up angering two people (yourself and the person with the need). A better approach is to treat this like exercise (you know it’s good for you the key is finding the exercise routine that works best for you). Remember, the PROFIT goal isn’t being happy 68.26% of the time, the ideal PROFIT goal is to be fulfilled 99.9999998% of the time. This article really brings the relevance home. Would you prefer an airline industry operating at 3 sigma or at 6 sigma? What about when it comes to medicines? Soooo, if in business you expect and strive for 6 sigma, why expect less in your personal life?
With respect to success rates, do I feel that a 43yr search is warranted? Given who I’ve met thus far, yes. Root cause? Lack of fit (like when you put the wrong sized or shape cog in a machine – it can still run, but….). I can’t say I’ve met bad men. There have been various degrees of challenges with respect to preferences, priorities, goals, family, and, of course, personality (the 20% we didn’t know we were irreconcilably opposites about). Straining or struggling to make a marriage work over 40yrs is not something I want (especially since I have friends who have strain free marriages – this doesn’t mean they never have stress but they do have 6 sigma relationships and are “those mindbogglingly happy” couples commonly known as soulmates). The downside? Childbearing optimality. How long have I made searching for a spouse a weekly practice? 4 months (since Nov. 2013). The biggest obstacle? No affordable and commonly available tools that enable me to have active conversations with my preferred male profile. Solution #1: implemented Summer 2010 = move to San Diego due to highest military population in the world. (Had not planned on the time it took to adjust to moving to a city where I had no family or contacts or job.) Solution #2: leverage social media to communicate in a way that is not possible through dating sites or Facebook. Critical re-evaluation date: Nov. 2014 (found husband: yes? / no?). If the answer is still no, I’ll need to re-engineer my process in order to increase the opportunity for what I want.