Habits & Health episode 18 with Kathryn H Britton, co-author of the book “Character Strengths Matter” and we discuss the importance of positive psychology and effective ways of making it work for you.
Topics discussed include:
- The work of Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson in positive psychology and Character Strengths
- The structure of the Character Strengths Matter book
- What are character strengths?
- How to find out your signature strengths
- The Golden Mean
- The WOOP framework
- Chief Sitting Bull
- Looking at multiple sides of the same question
- Kathryn’s writing workshops
- The creative part of writing
- Encouraging people to write about experiences during this pandemic
- Habits, planning and thinking
- Pythagoras and his wife Theano
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt
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Tony Winyard 0:00
Habits and health Episode 18.
Welcome to the habits and health Podcast, where we believe creating healthy habits should be easy. Brought to you by an educator and coach for anyone who wants to create a healthier life. here's your host, Tony Winyard.
Tony Winyard 0:20
Welcome to another edition of habits and health, the podcast, we give you ideas on ways you can improve your health by employing different habits. And this week we go into the realms of character strengths. You may be familiar with something called the VIA Character Strengths, which is around the area of positive psychology and how if we focus more on the strengths that we have, rather than focusing on weaknesses, which is what many people tend to do, is how we can achieve much more. And we've got an expert on that and named a lady named Kathryn Britton, who is co author of a book called Character Strengths Matter. And she's an expert in this area. So we're gonna find out a lot more about character strengths. As we talk to Kathryn in this episode. If you do enjoy it, please do share it with anyone who feel we get some real value from some of the great stuff that Katheryn talks about in this episode, and hope you enjoy habits and health. And my guest today is Kathryn Britton, how are you, Kathryn?
Kathryn H Britton 1:28
I'm doing very well. Thank you for inviting me.
Tony Winyard 1:30
And well, I'm delighted that you're here because, as we were just talking before we started recording, I've read your book numerous times, you're a co author of the book, Character Strengths Matter, and it's a fabulous book.
Kathryn H Britton 1:43
I'm so glad you find it that way. We have a lot of fun pulling it together.
Tony Winyard 1:48
And what let's let's go straight into the book then. So what was your thinking about creating the book in the first place?
Kathryn H Britton 1:57
Well, to begin with my co author, Shannon Polly and I had both been students at the masters of applied Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. And we both studied with both Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson. Christopher Peterson was a fantastically funny and but very humble person, and very concerned about other people. And so I guess it was, he suddenly died in 2012, Shanna, and I were looking for some way that we could carry forward his work. He had Martin Seligman had worked together to come up with the list of 24 character strengths that they call the the viia character strengths. We thought, well, we had this publication positive psychology news that have been running since 2007. And we had a whole series of articles where people would write about character strengths. So we thought, Well, what if we looked there and seat saw if we could find an article about each one of the different 24 character strengths? Well, we probably had about 18, or 19 of them already written up because people were interested in them and written had written articles on them. So we, we The first thing that we did was to actually commission people to write up articles for the remaining ones. And we had a little competition in a couple of cases where more than one person wanted to write about a particular character strengths. I will tell you that the two that were the least attractive or humility and prudence. So I wrote about the both of those and found it really quite enlightening to do so. And maybe we'll get to that in a minute. So here we are, we've got 24 articles, we actually had more and a few of the character strengths, short articles, maybe 1000s 1500 words, so not long topping of discussions, but they all involve some kind of story, or some kind of application of of the character strength in real life. So once we had pulled together the 24, then we started thinking, Well, what would we need to make this into a book? So Well, of course, you need to have some ways that people can build those character strengths. That drew us to the website of Taya tyabb Rashid, who has put together a wonderful website that has a list. At one point it was 340 ways to build character strengths. It may be well, it may be in the five hundreds by now. And we asked him could we borrow some of the the techniques for building Character Strengths from his site? And being a phenomenally generous person? He said, Sure. So we picked five of his activities for each one of the 24 character strengths. The next thing we did was very, very much based on something that Shannon Shannon was my My co author Shannon Polly, is a trained actress. And she's a very strong believer that
something that actors and actresses do, which is to act as if there's somebody else, that that's a really important way to build a particular characteristic. And so you think, Oh, I'm just not a kind person or whatever. Why don't you instead, act as if you were a kind person, imagine what a kind person would do. And then if you intend to become a kinder person, act as if you were a kind of person for a period of time. And what happens is you become Kinder. So Shannon's belief was that we needed to provide people with pieces of writing that they could read out loud, so not just read it to yourself as you're sitting there, but read it out loud. And that reading it out loud, you would be characterising in your body, that particular character strength. And so we then did a search for through plays through poetry through speeches, to come up with short pieces had to be short, because we knew that people were not going to read long passages out loud. And we came up with a passage for each one of the 24 character strengths. Final step was to get our illustrator Kevin Gillespie, who drew hand drew all of the pictures that are in the book. And once we had pictures for each of the character strengths, we had a few articles at the ends that were about applications of character strengths. But we put it all together and made it into this book. So it's a book that involves it's a labour of love, by 30 plus people. And it was when I say a labour of love, we did it in honour of Christopher Peterson, who died in 2012. So all of the all of the proceeds from the book are donated to the Christopher Peterson scholarship fund at the University of Pennsylvania, as so it's our way of having an ongoing of honouring him in an ongoing way.
Tony Winyard 7:14
And how long did the whole process take?
Kathryn H Britton 7:17
Oh, I think you know, probably took two or three years. If we started talking about it, and we weren't too serious at first, and then we got more serious, and then we got more serious. But and, you know, it takes a lot of work to line up that many, that many people get permission from everybody to get the artwork done to decide between alternative pictures for various things. So it was it was it was a big effort. But we're very proud of what we produced.
Tony Winyard 7:50
Did you learn anything in particular from from the end of the process? Was there anything that surprised you in doing it?
Kathryn H Britton 8:03
I don't know that. pulling it together really surprised us, we had done two preceding books, out of articles written for positive psychology news. One of them is called resilience, which is a collection of maybe I can't even remember, it's sort of 10 or 11 different articles, and then reflections on those articles. And another one was called gratitude. So resilience and gratitude. Of course, anybody who studies positive psychology, those two topics always come up. They're very important. What we found pulling this together was
I'm not sure I'm not sure I really have a great thing, anything great to say about that particular particular point. It's just we had been working on books. So we knew how to pull articles together, edit them for a book publication. Shannon had put a lot of effort into the design of the book, The cover design and, and other aspects of it so that it makes made it I'm much more likely to just say, okay, slap a cover on it, who cares? But she really, really did care. And I think it made a big difference. We also got some great feedback from some of the people that we had studied with our very, very favourite is Jonathan heights comment about the book. This is on the back of the book, and I'll read it to you. This is among the best books in all positive psychology. How about that, it takes one of the most important areas of research the character strengths, and makes it as accessible as practical and as inspiring as could be. I particularly love that it's written for sharing. Every couple and every family should have a copy. This will become my standard dinner party gift instead of a bottle of wine. So I like to think that the book has gone to people's houses instead of a bottle of wine in in certain instances. And let's back up
Tony Winyard 10:01
We've gone straight into the book and there might be people listening to this who are thinking, what are these characters strengths? What are they talking about? So could you explain a bit more to people who may be unfamiliar with all of this?
Kathryn H Britton 10:15
Yes, I'd be happy to and thank you for for backtracking. I am a writer. And one of the things you're always having to remember is, wait a minute, how am I now referring to something that I've never actually introduced? So thank you for asking that question. Back, you know, that the, the whole the positive psychology movement, which it's a new branch of psychology, it's not intended to be, let's put happy faces on everything. Instead, it's intended to be a shift of focus from always studying, what's wrong, what's broken? what's what's, what leads to suffering, to instead, turn the attention on? Well, what's what's right, what could be better? What could we build on? When people are happy? You know, what can we learn from them that we could use in, in, in our own, you know, pursuit of happiness, or our own pursuits of the good life? So one of the things that that the leaders of the field decided was that instead of just having the DSM, you know, the, what is it Diagnostic and Statistical Manual that describes every possible mental illness, and every year it gets a bit, you know, every time they put it out, it gets thicker and thicker and thicker. Instead of just having that let's turn our focus to what strong in people? What are the characteristics, the character, aspects of people that are strong and lead to? Well lived lives? So they set of out of big efforts to study this, they got 40 or 50, psychologists to to look into various aspects of it, they look to see what are what are aspects of character, that are universally, that are universally approved all the way around the world. So not just a Western slant. It's also important in China, in Japan, and India and other places of the world. So have been appreciated over time. Our elemental? Okay. So one of the things that people will say, when they when they look at the character strengths, they'll say, well, you don't have patients in there, why don't you have you come up with a list of character strengths that they think should be there, the people who were studying positive psych, the character strengths to begin with said, instead of trying to have every possible characteristic that is good, let's come up with the elemental ones, that combined together create the other character strengths. So they came up with a list of 24. And I think that the 24, maybe this was a magic number, and they decided, let's stop now there could be others, but let's just do 24 is enough for right now. Then then they put together a questionnaire so that people could explore which of these character strengths are most likely. And which ones are maybe are ones where, you know, if I wanted to put in a little effort I could get better at, it's very interesting. A lot of times when people take the assessment, they tend to have their eyes go immediately to the ones that are at the low end, that are least like them, and start thinking about worrying about them and thinking about them as weaknesses that net need to be filled. The idea of the researchers though, is to instead look at the ones that that are at the top, the ones that are most likely to you and use that as a way of understanding yourself better of understanding what your character is like. So I recently heard Angela Duckworth, make the comments that we humans are very, very inclined. Angela Duckworth, by the way, is a fabulous researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, has written the book grit, but she was making the points in this in this in this presentation, that were a little bit too inclined to put each other in shoe boxes. And so to say, okay, you're the creative one, you're the you're the kind one, you're the you're the leadership, one, etc. But actually, people are on it with each with each one of these character strengths. There's somewhere on the scale from not so good to Wow, outstanding. So it's not that it's a binary thing. You either have it or you don't have it. I never really liked to hear somebody say, Well, you know, I have the creative strength. Well, we all have the creative strength. I'm sitting here making up sentences as we go. I'm creating new material words that have never been put together in quite this way. Just as we're speaking right now, I believe everybody is creative. The question is of your of your of the strengths, which ones are the ones that show up the most in you? So 24 character strengths they tend to fall in, in? Let's see, is it six families? I have to.
Tony Winyard 15:17
Kathryn H Britton 15:19
Anyway, their are character strengths around the mind, wisdom, wisdom, Character Strengths about knowing things, their character strengths, around courage, around the humanities, love, social intelligence, kindness, civic responsibility, how you behave in your, in your group, in your larger group, there's the ones that that I think are the most interesting, because they're the least sexy, are the ones that are around temperance, that is you moderate things. And then finally, they're the ones around transcendence. And it's like spirituality, gratitude, even humour, for some reason falls in the transcendence category. So the reason I think I mentioned before that I find humility and prudence to be particularly interesting. The reason is that these are ones that if you if somebody is told, okay, your top character strength is humility, they tend to be disappointed, they tend to feel like what adult person I am. But if you look at humility, and how it shows up as a character strength, you realise that these are the people that have humility, that truly have humility, are the kinds of people that every every group wants to have around that every that every organisation runs better, because they're there, because they tend to not just focus on themselves, they tend to focus on what's going on in the rest of the environment, and to have the sort of wide ranging view of of, you know, themselves sort of off the centre of the stage, but making sure that the whole picture works well. So it gave me a new perspective. When I when I started trying to write my article on humility, it gave me a new perspective, and a new appreciation for it. related to prudence, similarly, people I think, get, they put prudence and prude in the same place in their, in their minds. And so they think, oh, I don't want to be prudence, that sounds really, really dumb. Well, I happen to be married to somebody who has prudence very high. And I tell you, I really, really appreciate the fact that he thinks ahead, he plans ahead, he anticipates things that might go wrong, he thinks about the consequences of his actions. These are all characteristics of prudence that make it a character strength. And they're all really, really important for humans to have. So when I wrote my article on on prudence, one of the things I remembered was back in the earlier gas crisis, I was working at the, at the, for the Navy, the United States Navy at the time, and there was a there was a, an article in a newsletter that said, you know, you want to reduce your gas consumption. So take your spare tire out of your car, because you almost never need it and your your, your spending gas, dragging it around all the time. And I remember reading that and thinking, really. So prudence, would say, well, maybe you don't always need it. But when you need it, you do need it, and you don't need it to be in your garage. So you better have taken it with you. So I'll take a breath and give you a chance to ask another question.
Tony Winyard 18:56
For anyone listening, what was the site?
Kathryn H Britton 19:04
Well, I always to send people to https://www.viacharacter.org/
Tony Winyard 19:12
You can take the test to find out which are your signature strengths. It gives you a readout of all of the 24 strengths. But one of the things I was thinking, I remember the first time I took the test was probably about four or five years ago. And I maybe I didn't read enough around the whole area before I took the test. And recently, I've been reading a lot more around countless trips. I mean, I've been reading your book, I've been reading a book by Ryan, Ryan Niemiec, and some other books as well. And so I have a much better understanding of it now than I did then. I think I before was probably thinking along the lines of what you mentioned before that I was maybe focusing on some of the weaker strengths. I was perceiving some of those as weaker, but also in the actual answer in the questions, it seems that you could look at the questions in different ways. And sometimes I wasn't sure how to answer a question. I was thinking, Well, in this context, I'm this way, but in another context, I'm a different way. How do I answer the question?
Kathryn H Britton 20:19
Well, I think that's, you know, trying to come up with an instrument that measures something that is inevitable, and its character strength, seems to me to be, you know, black magic, so I'm not, uh, I do know that it's something that they've been working on and working on and refining over the years. And that now you can take that you can take the via character strengths, as its, you can take it for free. Or if you want to have slightly more information in your report, you can pay a little bit of money. So and they've had millions, I don't even know how many millions of people have taken now, 5 million or something, probably, you know, probably something like that. So there's a lot of people have taken it. And there's been a lot of research, looking at things like well being at work. And, you know, there's a lot of research that you can find on the vs site. I tell you, you know what, I would just say that when you take it answer quickly, and don't spend a lot of time trying to analyse it. And also figure when you get to the end of it, this is just one snapshot of you, you can take it again, and you might have slight, a slightly different combination of strengths, what you have all those strengths in you, right, and they all probably some of them, you you express all the time, some of them you only express under under periods of need. And so there'll be a different mix, depending on what's going on in your life. Don't worry too much about that. But look at it as a way of maybe getting a little bit of insight into yourself, remembering that you're the expert on you. I mean, they have a they have a set of questions that they've got people around the world answering, they don't know exactly how they show up in your life. This does lead me though, to one point that I really like I actually put it on a on a piece of paper, so I wouldn't forget to make. When I was working at IBM, I did a couple of webinars slash discussion, I guess workshops on on strengths. We did it, we looked at character strengths. And we looked at another kind of strengths. The Strengths Finder approach, which is more people sometimes say more work related. And what I found, what really struck me in the discussion that came after this was that some people see their own strengths in areas where they are strong as table stakes for being a good human being. In other words, if you happen to be a very, very prudent person, then you and there's and you're working with somebody who's maybe more full of zest, or maybe creative and goes off and tries things without necessarily thinking them all the way through, you tend to see that person as being deficient. That is that that person isn't really the way a person ought to be. So one of the things that I like most about focusing on character strengths, is that it makes us realise, okay, this area being prudent, that is a strength that I have. It's not that everybody comes with prudence in their package. And everybody ought to be as prudent as I am, I need to look at that as something that sets me off, that makes me gives me some of my specialists and allow the fact that other people are going to be special in different ways. So I think that one of the things that came out of the discussion was this greater tolerance for different levels of the strengths in different people, and a greater awareness that well, I may be strong and prudence, but you may be strong in leadership, or you may be strong in social intelligence or something else. And so this realisation that we don't all come packaged the same way. Some things just come easier to some of us than others. And that's just, that's, that's, that's what the beauty of it. When you think about it, there's what nearly 7 billion people or maybe more than 7 billion people now. And you got 24 character strengths. So you could look at it, you could say, well, how could you use 24 character strengths to differentiate 7 billion people? It turns out that 24 factorial, which is, you know, 24 times 23 times 22, all the way down, which is how many different combinations of character strengths there could be. It's really a very, very large number. So the other thing is that character strengths tend to show up in compounds. So and there's not been a A lot of direct study of these compounds but take, take you, you know, what would you What? If you don't mind sharing what are your? What are your top three character strengths?
Tony Winyard 25:14
My top ones were curiosity, humour, love of learning. Were my top three,
Kathryn H Britton 25:21
okay, your top three. Okay. So now look at how those three fit together, and how they they become a particular combination that really sort of is the Tony that invites people to come talk to him on his podcast, and ask questions, you know, with with a certain ability to enjoy what he's hearing. So that I think those curiosity and love of learning, of course, are very, very related, you know, but you can be curious, that is just open to new experience without necessarily having love of learning, which is the the desire to systematically pursue a particular particular learning. So you think about what puts those two probably augment each other? And Hubert just probably gives you a little buffer as you're learning all these things that you don't take yourself too seriously. Is that a fair statement? Yeah, I
Tony Winyard 26:23
think that probably would be Yeah,
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Tony Winyard 26:51
In the Ryan Niemiec book that I was recently reading, and he was talking a lot about overuse and under use of the strengths. And I found that quite fascinating actually.
Kathryn H Britton 27:05
I'm a great fan of the golden mean. Okay, so the golden mean is not too much, not too little, somewhere in between. And so I think that that Aristotle describes the golden mean relative to courage. There's rashness, where you do things, you know, that are that are that are inherently dangerous that other people wouldn't do. And then there's cowardice, which is you avoid taking any risks. And the golden mean, between them is true courage, where you you assess the risks, you make good choices, and you and you do you act anyway. So I think that with each one of the character strengths, that is one way to understand it, how it's showing up in your life. I know that when Christopher Peterson was alive, one of the things that he thought might be possible, would be to take all of the different mental illnesses, and maybe characterise them in terms of under under use or over use a particular character strengths. I don't know that that work has ever really come to fruition, but I thought it was at least an interesting idea. So one of the things to think about is, you know, you're curious, right? Well, if you overuse curiosity, that means you get extremely nosy about things that you have no particular. Right to Know. Right? And if you kind of let your curiosity lapse in, sort of Don't let Don't, don't follow up and don't use it much, then it might be that you're just, you know, kind of unaware of what's going on around you or uninterested in the things that are happening around you. Curiosity is is is a really fun strength to have. There's another researcher, Todd cashton, who wrote a book, it's called curious with a big question mark. And in his view, you can put curiosity and anxiety on a scale. And if you're thinking about some particular situation, and you're feeling like, Oh, I'm really, really scared of doing this or whatever. You're letting you know this. The slider is over here towards anxiety. If you one of the ways that you can deal with this is just move that slider in the direction of curiosity. Like, I wonder what it'll be like to be on a podcast. I wonder what it'll be like to have somebody asking me questions. I wonder what it'll what kinds of questions he'll ask. And then you that reduces the anxiety as you move it towards curiosity.
Tony Winyard 29:44
And one of the things that I was thinking about is how can people use character strengths in a way to, to get the things that they're trying to achieve in their life. Maybe someone, for example... so I talk a lot about habits on this show. So how can someone who's maybe struggling to create habits around certain areas of their life? How would they use Character Strengths more to get whatever it is they're trying to achieve?
Kathryn H Britton 30:19
I think that it, you know, there's there's probably 7 billion answers to that, you know, because there's, you know, many, many, many different combinations of character strengths. But I think, in general, what, what people could do is to sit to look at their top character strengths, and to say, okay, in your case, there's curiosity. There's a love of learning. So those are two that you can easily see. Okay, I can be curious, curious about what what kinds of habits might make sense for me to have here? And what what do other people do to build habits that might that I might be able to use? You might go off and read BJ, hog hogs book, tiny habits, for example, and and say, Oh, let me try that approach. Because you're curious to see how it'll show up in your life. And you love learning about it. And that's a book about habits. Or you might decide, oh, what about Gabriel ertan, guns, whoops framework, you know, the, the wish, the wish, the outcome, the obstacle, the plan. And so you might go learn about the wolf's framework and say, I'm going to put that in place, I'm going to try it out. I'm going to see how it works for me. You might use your humour as a way of of one of the things that that people who've put Chaska and others who've done a lot of work on on how people actually change things in their lives. One of the things that they say is the guilt and shame, are very poor. foundations for change. So you're going to fall short. Everybody fall short and building a habit. Sometimes you just won't do it, or sometimes you'll have you'll backslide. So if you could use your humour to say, okay, Tony. And then you put that your backsliding into kind of a funny note, kind of put up sort of a funny feeling around it. That will help you come to self forgiveness, which will help you to actually move forward, instead of going back and getting all glammed up, and what's the matter with me, I can never, I can never follow through, I can never follow through, etc. So that's maybe one way that you could use the character strengths. There are many people who've written a lot of really good things about putting character strengths in action, including one of one of the people that went through my Writer's Workshop, named Jane Anderson, who wrote a 30 day practice for character strengths. So she actually has this book that she published, that has activities for exploring your your own character strengths and putting them into action. And people might find that that's you with your love of learning might find that that would be fun to do as well.
Tony Winyard 33:12
In the book, it goes through each of the character strengths, and as you mentioned, it has the actions you can put in place. And there's a section that you can read aloud for each of them and so on. Did you have a favourite strength that in as far as what you put in the book, was their a favourite piece in the book that you really loved?
Kathryn H Britton 33:40
Well, you know, I'm going to use this as a jumping off point to at least read at least one piece out loud. Okay. All right. So I mentioned to you that we have short pieces for people to read out loud. I want to demonstrate that by reading one of those pieces out loud. And this happens to be the one the the the read out loud that comes with integrity. So and it's the speech by Chief Sitting Bull. It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ate for. It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love. It doesn't interest me how much money you make. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your soul. It doesn't interest me if the story you're telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore trustworthy. I want to know if you can see beauty, even if it's not pretty every day. I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine. I want to know if you can get up after a nice night of grief and despair and do what needs to be done. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me And not shrink back. I have this feeling having read this out loud, I have this feeling that I had a little bit of the sense of sitting bones in my body. As the words were coming out of me, and I was thinking about each one of the, the statements there. I had the feeling of this is, I'm impersonating it, I'm bringing it to life in myself. And that's the reason that we have the read aloud parts in the book.
Tony Winyard 35:30
How did you go about finding all of those? Did you have to sort through hundreds to get to that 24?
Kathryn H Britton 35:38
Well, there's Google is your friend. But part of it was looking for things that we could both agree on, it's always great to have somebody that you're working, working with who so that you can say, oh, that works for me, and we'll have him work for me. So that really helps in terms of narrowing down on them. We also were looking for things where we didn't have big copyright problems. You know, my co author is, you know, from the theatre, and so a lot of the things that she knew were, you know, it wouldn't we never get permission to print it. So we were looking for things that were out of copyrights. So it was, it was it was an exploration. Fortunately, I have love of learning pretty high on my character strengths as well. So I have a lot of fun doing it. I would like to read one more little section. And this is a piece from letters by Abigail Adams. And so she has a statement here. I've always felt that a person's intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view, he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic, you can probably figure out that that's associated with love of learning. And you probably understand that being able to see multiple, conflicting sides of the same question is something that it takes a lot of learning and practice to do.
Tony Winyard 37:03
That reminds me I'm trying to think who it was, there was a quotation, that says something very similar to that. I think it was GK Chesterton, who says something very similar to that. Yeah, that's fascinating. Yeah, as I said, I really enjoyed the book, and I'm enjoying the whole, trying to dig deeper and deeper into understanding the area of character strengths more, it's been a really interesting journey, in reading your book and Ryan's book and other books around the topic as well. You mentioned about other books that you've written? Are you working on anything at the moment?
Kathryn H Britton 37:41
I am, I've been doing a lot of writing coaching, and I run writers workshops, I think I'm going to be running about nine of them this summer, each with about three or four people in them. And one of the things I've encountered I've been doing this for since 2013. So I have, I guess I'm getting, I'm getting close to eight years experience. I've had about 2600 pieces of writing go right through writer's workshops. So I've seen a lot of writing in progress. And I've observed that people get in their own way a lot. There are many people who want to write, but they're just, they're afraid of it. They feel like oh, who cares what I have to say, or I can't write any, you know, I don't know how to write. I think about people saying, I don't know how to write being a bad as silly as saying, I don't know how to speak. Right? We, you've been right you write grocery lists, you write emails, you write texts you write, you write things all the time. The question then becomes how do you write for a larger audience? So I'm now working on a book with so far I'm up to I think about 35 different experiments that people can try in order to get better writing. And the book might my tentative title right now is sit right share with sit being Okay, here are the ways that you manage your, your mind, your, your, your feelings, or whatever about writing, almost almost like a meditation practice. Right? breaks down into imagine draft and edits, I found that of the writers that I'm working with, they seem to be amazed how much of the truly creative part of writing happens during the revising and editing. And then the final section is about share. So I've written Firstly, at least first or sometimes second drafts of all of the CIT experiments and all of the right experiments, and I'm starting to work on the share experiments. Writing is a social effort, right? It's you trying to communicate to me or to a whole a large number of people. And yet, we tend to do it in a very solitary ways, like we're in our little closets or whatever. So this these are ways That you can actually get other people involved to help you get your, your your words out there. So I'm having a lot of fun with this. I'm not taking myself too seriously. I'm realising that there are people like Anne Lamott. And Elizabeth Gilbert's, and a lot of others who've written wonderful books about writing. But my mind is based on an approach that I think is really important for behaviour change in general, which is what I think of as, think of it as an experiment. So when I coach people, we tend to always end the session coming up with actions, what are you going to do between now and the next time we get together? And they'll make some kind of commitment to themselves of what they're going to do? When we get back together, I'll say, Well, how did it go? And sometimes they'll say, Oh, great, I did this, whatever I accomplished. And sometimes they'll say, Oh, you know, I just never got around to doing it. And I just found I didn't, I didn't want to do it, or something else came up that was, you know, whatever, you know, my point of view is not, oh, it's my job to make you feel guilty. I am your guilty conscience. I don't believe in that. But instead, I view it as Okay, that was an experiment we were trying, and it didn't work. So what if we look at it? Let's figure out why didn't it work? And what else might work better? And so all of the the activities in my book are experiments to try things that might make things easier for you might make your voice come out a little bit more easily, or might not, because we're all different, and different things are helpful for different people. So I Anyway, I'm working on it. And I, I'm up to the point of now starting to have to think about, should I write a book proposal and and publish it through, you know, a publishing company? Or should I use some of the avenues to self publishing that I know about, so I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do with it. But I'm having a lot of fun with it.
Tony Winyard 42:03
On the topic of writing, I'd imagine if someone goes through the process of thinking about a possible book they might be able to write. And just actually just doing that and putting it on paper. And even if it never, they didn't publish it. But just going through that process of that whole creative process and putting something down on paper, could be really beneficial in so many ways for someone?
Kathryn H Britton 42:29
Well, this is actually something that I spoke about, in the beginning of the pandemic, when we were all starting to shut her down and, and not go anyplace. And that actually what I wanted, what I wanted to encourage people to do was to capture some of their pandemic experiences in writing, or, you know, they could, they could record them on their phones or whatever. Because your memory of what actually you experienced in this time is going to be different than your actual experience. And so if you capture your experience now, it will, it will surprise you in the future when you look back and you think well, what was going on during the pandemic. And then you'll see that, and I think of this, it makes makes me My great grandmother. My great grandmother had 12 children that grew up, she had probably had a miscarriage or or, you know, lost an infant or two along the way. But she had a lot of children. And I look back and think here's this woman who was living who moved from Missouri, which is in the middle of the United States, to Idaho, which is out in the Mountain West. Probably in her in her 40s and rebuilt life out there. decided she was tired of having her husband get drunk all the time and kicked him out and divorced him back in the 1920s. She divorced him which was unusual. He was run into via an automobile. One night when he was out wandering around probably a little inebriated. She took him back in nursed him back to health, and then we're going to use healthy again, she kicked him out. Now I think to myself up that you if you asked her, you know, to tell the story of what was going on. She would say oh, this is just normal life. I'm doing all the normal things. But I feel at this point, you know, a number of years later, I feel like Wouldn't it be interesting to know what was going through her mind as she was living this particular life and how she made these decisions, and how she took a man with whom she'd had 12 children and then decided that that was enough and kicked him out and then lived without him. Is that not interesting? So many of us see our lives as being mundane or whatever. I think at the very least we could capture some of our stories for our children, or or other people in the future to look back and say this is what it was like when people were going through the pandemic, in 2020. In 2021.
Tony Winyard 45:19
Back to the subject of habits. So do you have any habits that have been particularly helpful to you in achieving the goals that you set for your life? Or just your daily living? or whatever the case might be?
Kathryn H Britton 45:32
I find that actually, kind of difficult question to answer. And I think the reason is that if something is truly a habit, it's something you don't spend a lot of time thinking about. I can tell you that I'm a very, I, I very much appreciate habits. I mean, I very much appreciate it's a little bit like touch typing. Right? I learned how to type when I was in the 11th grade, which was a long time ago. And I can write just with my fingers on the keyboard without thinking at all about what they're doing. So it's almost if and I think of this as being what the way for people to think about habits in their life, is you have a certain amount of energy to spend on on your life. And if you have to think about everything that you do, you're using up energy in terms of planning and making something happen, that might be available for something else. So I guess what I would say, I mean, I have a lot of habits that have to do with I'm a type one diabetic and have been for 42 years. So I have a lot of habits that have to do with managing what I eat, managing when I exercise, managing, you know, balancing my blood sugar's so that I don't, you know, lose, you know, become lose my ability to think clearly. But I don't really necessarily think of them about them. And so it's kind of hard for me to turn the spotlight on them in a time like this.
Tony Winyard 47:13
If people want to find out more about you, and your your books and the work you do and so on, where would the best places to go?
Kathryn H Britton 47:22
Well, I have a LinkedIn profile. https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathrynbritton And I also have a website. The name of my website comes from a Greek woman, who was the wife of Pythagarus. She was the mathematician who was responsible for the golden rectangle. And she ran the Fagor school after he died, which leads most women to look at that and say, I'll bet she was running it before he died as well. Her name was Theano. And so my website is https://theano-coaching.com So, but that's where we're at. That's where that particular name came from. If in case you were wondering,
Tony Winyard 48:17
that's a fascinating story in itself. And apart from LinkedIn, is there any other social media you're particularly active on?
Kathryn H Britton 48:27
I also have a Twitter account, but I don't really tweet very often, my life is just too short. So I do have some articles that I have published on my LinkedIn accounts. I also have, I've written in probably 100 to 150 articles on www.positivepsychologynews.com on various topics, character strengths being among them, but other reflections and stories about putting positive psychology to work in everyday lives.
Tony Winyard 49:02
And before we finish, Kathryn, is there a quotation that you particularly like that resonates with you, for whatever reason?
Kathryn H Britton 49:11
Well, the one that's resonating with me right now. And it's the one I'm that I'm planning to put in the front of my book is from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in a speech that he gave in 1932. So it goes: "It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it, frankly, and try another. But above all, try something". So that to me goes right with my Think of it as an experiment approach to life, which is, it may not work, we're all different, what I what works for me may not work for you at all. But if you try something, and then look at it with interest and say, Well what happened in that particular case, then you can at least expand Get your sense of who you are and what actually works for you.
Tony Winyard 50:04
Kathryn, it's been an absolute pleasure. So thank you for giving me the last 48 minutes of your time and I really appreciate it.
Kathryn H Britton 50:12
Thank you. It's been my pleasure
Tony Winyard 50:16
Next week is Episode 19 with Bas Lebesque. He's the an executive mindset coach, and he helps create sustainable balance in a demanding career in business. He used to work in trading, he was trading millions in financial markets. He became very unfulfilled with the life he was he was living he was earning a lot of money, but it really didn't have much meaning to it. And he changed things around. He changed a number of habits. He was quite a heavy drinker, smoking a lot, drinking a lot of coffee. He completely cut out the cigarettes and the alcohol, coffee, he's still working on that! Next week with Bas Lebesque. If you enjoyed this week's episode with Kathryn Britton, do share it with anyone who you feel will get some real benefit from some of the wisdom that Kathryn talks about, especially anyone who maybe could really use if they could use character strengths in a way that would really help them in in whatever it is that they do, or, or maybe that they're trying to do. I hope you enjoyed this week's show and see you next week.
Thanks for tuning in to the habits and health podcast where we believe creating healthy habits should be easy. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave us a review on your favourite podcast app. Sign up for email updates and learn about coaching and workshop opportunities at Tonywinyard.com. See you next time on the habits and health podcast.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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