Five minutes well spent

Make a positive impact on someone’s life today – and all it takes is five minutes!

This technique, “Five Minutes Well Spent”, turns all of us into motivational coaches, but without the need for incense and chanting. This blog is also short, because it only takes five minutes to describe what this is and how it works.

What to do in those 5 minutes…

When you bump into people and you’ve asked them about their weekend, spend a few minutes challenging them to think positively. Ask them questions that turn their minds to things they feel good about.

Here are some good examples:

  • What’s the coolest thing you did this week?
  • What’s the greatest achievement in your team last week?
  • What happened last week that made you feel proud?
  • What did you do yesterday that made you feel achieved?

Give people some time to think – don’t rush them. They’re hopefully genuinely examining recent activities and weighing up what made them feel most achieved or proud. This is already really positive!

Now your colleague will tell you about something that happened recently, that makes them feel great. Just listen to them. It’s not easy to perfect, but a relatively good job is better than not trying, and if you practice deliberately you can master this skill too.

Follow that up with more goodness

You should follow up with some supporting questions.

You’re trying to influence them to retrospect on “what went well” so it becomes easier to recognise when it happens again, and easier to replicate.

Here are some examples (practice to find which followups work better for different types of answers):

  • How did you do that?
  • That’s interesting, then what happened?
  • What are you planning to do next? Who did you share that with? What did they say?
  • How did you feel?

There are a few “don’ts” too

Notice that you shouldn’t say stuff like “wow, that’s clever” or “you’re so smart” – that has side effects you’re not interested in encouraging. What you want to do is remind people that the effort they put in and the learning they did on the way is what makes them genuinely feel good about it and also what makes them able to repeat success (“you’re smart” is not repeatable)

The gift that keeps on giving!

Do it because it has a longer lasting effect as well.

When we keep asking people about what problems they have and what’s wrong (even if we ask because we intend to help) it encourages them to keep a record in their mind of everything that bothers them and everything that went wrong – because they know someone is going to ask them about it soon.

Asking people about the good stuff will, over time, encourage them to keep track of good stuff – they’ll need to have that handy at the forefront of their mind, because you’ll ask them about it. And to point out the obvious: when we recognise that we have done something worthwhile, helped someone, achieved something, learned something – we feel good! And feeling good is good!

The first few times might be a bit different, though…

Of course it’s not as simple as “ask once and everyone starts thinking about positive stuff”.

The first few times you ask someone who’s not used to this, they’re likely to reply with something that’s more just “absence of bad” rather than “presence of good” – but that’s okay!

You can be a catalyst for them to rediscover that they have done worthwhile things they can be proud of.

When someone says “I did something and it didn’t cause the end of the world” as their proudest moments, say something like “phew, I’m very happy to hear that” then ask them what they intended to do (if their goal was to end the world they might have misheard your question ;-)) and how they went about it. Ask them what they’re going to do next or do differently next time.

What made you feel proud last week?

Share in the comments 🙂

Photo credit: James Billings Photography (