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JULY 2003 BRAINSTORM

Here's your July creativity e-bulletin, a bit on the late side because I spent the first part of the month having a great vacation in the South of France. For me, a vacation has worked when I can really enjoy sitting and doing nothing — and this one worked! I hope you're enjoying the summer and that you'll find the following ideas useful.
What can you learn from waiters?
A recent Dutch study revealed some of the ways that waiters get bigger tips. No. 1 is mirroring the customers, especially by repeating back the order to them. The waiters who did this received, on average, double the tips of waiters who just said something cheerful like, "Coming right up!" Other successful techniques: smiling a lot, greeting and even touching the customers, crouching down beside the customers while taking their orders, and giving candy with the bill.
The leader of the study suggests that repeating the order is a form of mimicry which leads to bonding. My opinion is that it also is a way of making you feel more secure that what you ordered is actually what you'll get! Crouching down rather than looming over customers obviously suggests that you're literally on their level. And smiling, greeting, touching lightly on the arm or shoulder, and giving a little present (the candy) all are things we normally associate with friends and thus create a friendly and generous response.
Action: Consider how any of the above might improve your interaction with customers, clients, colleagues and people who serve you. For example, how can you reinforce the idea that you're on the same level? It might be by discussing challenges that both of you have, or finding a common interest to talk about.
The smell of zzzzzzzzz's
It's hard to be creative or productive if you're sleep-deprived. It's long been known that certain scents can help you doze off, but which is the most effective? U.S. researchers tested the two top contenders, lavender and jasmine, plus a "control" of no scent, on 20 subjects. The outcome: Jasmine won, leading to falling asleep faster, sleeping more peacefully and feeling more refreshed upon awakening.
Action: Get a jasmine-scented candle and burn it for a few minutes at bedtime.
How to think positively
Research suggests that optimists are more successful and even more healthy than pessimists. But simply willing yourself to be more optimistic doesn't work. Here are five steps you can take daily that do work:
– Start each day by listing five things for which you are grateful.
– During the course of the day, give at least one person a genuine compliment.
– Keep a to-do list and check off each task as you accomplish it, in order to underline the fact that you're being productive.
– Each day, do at least one nice thing for someone else without worrying about taking credit for it. Examples: Leave an extra-large tip for a good waiter or waitress; put money into someone's parking meter which is about to expire; let someone get into the checkout line in front of you at the supermarket if they look like they're in a hurry.
– At the end of each day, write down the best thing that happened to you that day.
Action: Follow the above five steps for one month and notice the difference it makes in your outlook. At the end of the month, please send an e-mail to me at Brainstorm about how you feel.
Eye to eye
It's well known that maintaining eye contact with the person to whom you're speaking is one secret of good communication. However, many people feel uncomfortable looking into someone else's eyes for very long. An alternative, according to relationship guru Renee Piane (as quoted in Men's Health), is to focus on the other person's mouth. I've also found that looking at the spot between their eyes works.
Action: Experiment with increasing your eye contact (or the variations above) the next time you have a business or personal meeting and notice whether you feel more of a connection.
What you see (before you get it) is what you get!
Those of you who have participated in my workshops know that I'm a big fan of visualizations. I'm always looking for documented studies of the effects of this technique, and I found one in a recent issue of the magazine Ode. It refers to a test done with top Russian athletes preparing for the 1980 Winter Olympic Games. They were split into four groups.
Group 1 had only physical training; Group 2 had 75 percent physical training and 25 percent mental training; for Group 3 the split was 50-50; and Group 4 had 25 percent physical training and 75 percent mental training. The outcome? Group 4 had the best results, and Group 1 had the worst results.
Action: Use visualization to prepare for any challenges coming up in your life. (You can use our Power Trances CD — e-mail for information) or simply take 15 minutes to relax, visualizing the outcome you want in as much detail as possible, using all of the senses. In other words, what will a successful outcome look like, sound like, feel like, even taste and smell like?
You know before you know
Here's a fascinating study about intuition, conducted at the University of Iowa: Participants were asked to flip cards from four decks of playing cards, choosing whichever ones they wanted. Two were rigged to produce a loss of play money, while the other two were rigged to produce a gain. The subjects were hooked up to sensors similar to those used in lie detectors.
After turning only 10 cards, the subjects showed a physical reaction when reaching for a losing deck. But only after turning an average of 50 cards were they able to verbalize their hunch that the two "loser" decks were a bad choice. In other words, their bodies knew it long before their minds did.
Action: When you need to make a decision, tune in to your body. Notice and jot down what sensations take place when you consider each of the choices. Even if you're not willing to act on this information yet, check it later to see if it was accurate.
Something to think about
The following thought-provoking passage was written by someone who goes by the name of Psy and is an excerpt from the Spring 2003 issue of Reclaiming Quarterly magazine:
"Imagine that a rich relative left you an inheritance. There is enough money that you never have to work again if you keep your expenses low by sharing an apartment with roommates, using the bus instead of owning a car, cooking your meals at home, and so on. What would you do with your time? Would you work at all? Learn to play the piano? … Be a full-time parent? Where do your passions lie?
"Why aren't you following those passions right now? Why aren't you living that life? Is your path in life more important than living a lifestyle that obscures it? Can you make some changes to your lifestyle to rebuild your life around your passions? Will you?"
Until next time, Jurgen
P.S. — Coming up: a gift for you. I'm in the process of preparing a special Brainstorm report on how we can more easily change our behavior when we want to. It's too long to be in the e-bulletin, but in the next one I'll tell you how to get it, free.
We welcome your comments and suggestions, sent to Brainstorm. You may also wish to check out the Brainstorm Web site.

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