Usually, the hardest part of giving our relationship partner instructions on how to manage us better is that we have no idea what actually works.

We know a good job when we see it. Better said: we feel a good job. When our partner gives us what we need, the sun is warmer, the air is fresher, food tastes better, flowers explode into bloom as we purposefully stride by. And our partner emits a soft, lustrous light, smells of freshly baked bread and tasteful perfume, and of course is more beautiful than a Michaelangelo masterpiece.

But most of us rarely pause to consider what specifically makes us feel so terrific to induce these wonderful visions.

Hence, the self-awareness pickle. Most of us don’t even know what to ask for!

We’re just rolling, man. Picking ourselves out of bed in the morning, attacking the commute, pushing through the 24/7 workday, changing diapers and trying to get kids to swim meets, doing our best to not get too disgustingly flabby all while occasionally squeezing in an hour at a bar with a buddy to retain our sanity. Stopping to notice what our partner does that makes us euphoric doesn’t usually make the short list.

I can confidently say that back when I was married, I had pretty much no idea what I did to piss off my wife. (And I often wouldn’t find out for days.) My self-awareness wasn’t just zero, it was like a critical cockpit dial when a plane goes into a nose dive, spinning backwards until glass fractured and smoke poured out of the engine and it was time to assume a crash position.

Fortunately, it’s falling-down easy to take a healthy bite out of that self-awareness pickle and turbocharge relationships.

Here’s how.

  1. Once a week, pick a time when you have a few minutes and would usually be screwing around on your phone. Ideal timeslots include commutes, commercial breaks, those intervals waiting for coffee or lunch orders, bathroom breaks. (Yes, I know you’re on the phone in the “office.” We all are!)
  2. Fire up a note on your phone.
  3. Write down what specifically made you happy over last week. This doesn’t have to be “win the Super Bowl” happy–it can be “perfect cup of coffee” happy or “great hair day” happy or “hot kiss from my partner” happy. Just as good.
  4. Include everything, but also be sure to call out things your partner did that made you feel fabulous.

Go with gut reactions, the stuff that stands out. And don’t agonize–this doesn’t have to be Shakespeare. It doesn’t even have to make sense. Feelings are awesome like that.

My list:

  • Holding a hard, semi-aerial yoga pose far beyond reason.
  • My ancient dog licking my toes.
  • Catching 15 seconds of wave while surfing in Santa Cruz.
  • Reimagining a business plan with a client and friend.
  • The moment in Hamilton (yes, the Hamilton musical!) when Aaron Burr, standing on a table top, jumps in the air–and the cast whips off the tablecloth before he lands. All while singing/rapping. Poetry in motion.
  • Writing this blog. (Seriously. I think these ideas are massively important and will help millions live better and love harder.)
  • Reconnecting with a former boss who’s one of the warmest people I know–and is pushing through a few years of adversity to achieve the happiness she deserves.
  • Katia going for a long, quiet stroll with me in the warm Palo Alto evening.
  • Katia singing along to songs on my ukulele. Apparently, even BORNS has ukulele versions of their songs!
  • Katia’s constant reinforcement that everything’s going to be awesome. Even when everything IS awesome, it’s immensely reassuring to hear that.

Do this for a month and you should make chopped salad out of that self-awareness pickle, the faint sour taste fading as satisfaction takes over.

But seriously, give it a shot and let me know what you think in the comments.

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