Pursuing the Excellent Life
Jan. 25, 2023

Positive and negative cues (Five Minute Flourishing)

One way to take control of your life, is to take care of your environment. In this Five Minute Flourishing episode, Craig discusses how you can shape your environment in a way that enhances your flourishing by adding positive cues (elements of your environment that encourage productive behaviors) and removing negative cues (parts of your environment that are associated with unproductive behaviors).

Live Well and Flourish website: https://www.livewellandflourish.com/

The theme music for Live Well and Flourish was written by Hazel Crossler, hazel.crossler@gmail.com.

Production assistant - Paul Robert


Craig 00:00 

Live Well and Flourish, the podcast that helps you live an excellent life. I'm your host Craig Van Slyke. 


As long time listeners know, I'm really big on trying to find ways to take control of your life, and one of the ways you can do that is by shaping your environment. You take control by shaping the environment in which you exist.


Today I wanna talk about two ways that you can do that, positive cues and negative cues. Positive cues are elements of your environment that encourage productive behaviors. And in contrast, negative cues or elements of your environment that are associated with unproductive behaviors. 


So let's start with positive cues. So two really common examples of positive cues and things that you've almost undoubtedly used in your life are reminders and attention focusers. Reminders are positive cues that are related to specific tasks. For example, when I need to move alfalfa from the shed to the barn, I write a big note that says alfalfa on our little refrigerator whiteboard. I do the same thing when it's time to take out the trash. You've done a bunch of this kind of thing. Other examples are to-do lists, putting meetings on a calendar, alarms for things like taking medication, whatever, putting a book that you wanna read in a prominent, easily noticed place, like putting it on your pillow.


Craig 01:26 

Now, I put my wallet and keys on top of my granola container the morning before I go to campus so I don't forget my breakfast. Another example is that really naggy kind of time to stand notification that my Apple Watch gives me or the even more aggravating and somewhat ironic meditation notification.


Attention focusers are positive cues that help you focus your attention on specific behaviors, activities, or attitudes. To me, the classic is IBM's "THINK" sign. You might have seen a sign that says something like, "breathe". It reminds you to slow down, take a few deep breaths. I use time blocking to help me focus attention. That's setting specific times for specific tasks. So I try to lay out how I'm gonna focus each hour or two of the day. Other examples are affirmation signs, motivational quotes, sticky notes with motivational things on them, pictures that help you relax or motivate you. There's an almost endless list.


Craig 02:32 

Negative cues, as I said, are elements of your environment that are associated with unproductive behaviors. My little story that I like to use as an example is peanut butter M&M's, which are insanely delicious. Tracy likes them. I like them. But if they're out where I can see 'em, I would eat way too many of 'em. So I ask Tracy to hide them. Of course. Then when I want 'em, I have to go ask Tracy, "Hey, where did you hide the peanut butter M&M's?” She tells me, and then she has to find a new hiding place. So, you know, that's the way it goes. 


Craig 03:08 

Maybe another example is having your phone out at dinner or during an appointment, sometime when you really should be paying attention to the other person. If your phone's in your pocket, in your purse, in your backpack, whatever. You've removed that negative cue, that phone, that addictive device that says, "Hey, check me". Just put it away. Even something as simple as putting your television remote in a drawer if you're trying to cut back on TV. If you're a gamer, don't leave your game console hooked up. So, all kinds of different ways so that you can remove negative cues. 


So, as you go through the week, I would really encourage you to take a look around in your environment and see where you might be able to get some, get rid of some negative cues, some things that might make it way too easy to behave in ways that you'd rather not, and to use positive cues to keep yourself a little bit more on track. If you do so, you'll be more flourishing. You'll be more in control of your life, and you'll be happier. 


Craig 04:12 

So that's it for this time. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. You can contact me through livewellandflourish.com, which also has links to all of my back episodes. Thank you.