2018 was a good year for me --personally and professionally. But despite getting my goals on, enjoying warm and loving relationships with those close to me, traveling to interesting places and enjoying some really killer dark chocolate, I still had days where I woke up with my heart pounding in my chest and anxiety gnawing at my brain, images of all my to-do items dancing in my head.

Two simple shifts. 

Many of my colleagues have shared with me this same seemingly opposite emotional pull: satisfaction on one hand and anxiety on the other. As part of my goal to be more peaceful in 2019, I recently interviewed Joel Kimmel, author of the new book Self: The Vast World Behind Your Words on my Thought Talk podcast.

Kimmel, a leading expert in ontological design and how it impacts individuals, high-performance teams and corporations, works with companies such as U.S. Bank and Shell Oil and believes that with just two simple shifts, we can all be more peaceful inside, even when the external circumstances aren't what we would hope.

Manage the "drive-by" to do list.

One significant source of stress at work, according to Kimmel, is what he calls the "drive-by" to-do list. "Someone comes into your office and says, "I have this idea. I think we should do this and that, and I think we should do it this way ... and then they leave," says Kimmel.

What often follows is that you then take action on what they said, going back to them a week or two later with ideas, actions and answers. "The only problem," jokes Kimmel, "is that 90 percent of the time the other person does not recall what you talked about. In my experience up to 75 percent of our to-do list is made up of these drive-by items," says Kimmel. 

To avoid these types of drive-bys and create more day-to-day peacefulness, Kimmel suggests asking two simple questions of the person sharing their idea with you.

  • What is your expectation of me in regard to this?
  • What do you request that I do in regard to this, and by when?
  • How will this look when it's done?

Kimmel says by asking those questions before you agree to anything, or take any actions, you weed out the good ideas from serious requests. "By using these 3 simple questions, many of these drive-by items simply disappear."

Seek the other person's interpretation first.

Conflict, misunderstandings and miscommunications are an everyday part of work, but Kimmel says that one simple way to bring more peace to those situations is by altering the typical way we approach them.

Most often when we have a conflict with someone, we put a priority on making sure they understand where we were coming from or what we intended. Kimmel says the key to a more peaceful process is to turn this dynamic around.

"Start by asking the other person what their interpretation of the situation is, before you tell them yours," says Kimmel, "because once you understand their interpretation, you can begin to find the places where alignment can be created or dis-alignment needs to be addressed." Kimmel says that this type of approach creates a conversation that brings out more possibilities of effectiveness.

Much of Kimmel's new book focuses on the automatic responses we have in these simple situations and the unintended consequences of stress those responses create.

When people start to become the observer of that automaticity," says Kimmel, "they are able to ask different questions, make different choices, and as a result become more peaceful."