Up the ladder went Seth. Up the ladder with a very small bucket of paint balanced on one arm and a two-inch trim brush in the other--bounding to the top rung like the overwrought lunatic that he was. I, standing at the base, held the ladder steady and shouted up to him whenever it seemed he had missed a spot--which was often. In order to reach the peak of the lattice, Seth--short as he was--had to stand on tiptoe on the last rung of the ladder and strain to reach the highest point of the spindle that stretched up into the blue Massachusetts sky. Anyone who knew Seth could have predicted what would happen next. At one point, I was running five days a week, lifting three days, and doing a group class four days a week. Yeah, a lot of days I exercised multiple times. This was all on top of a full-time job, spending time with friends, and writing this piece of writing. And then I wondered why I felt like crap all the time. exercise regimen is much more manageable now, because I've lowered how much I am investing into my goals. Your judge will sometimes tell you how long it should take to achieve your goals, and if you don't hit them in that time frame, your brain gets frustrated. Instead, you should try to override that judge by writing down what your plan is and making sure that it's achievable. I do this all the time. Instead of thinking it should take twenty minutes to get somewhere, as my brain thinks at first, I usually double the time. I reset expectations for myself. Allow some space for thinking, tone down the volume of your speech, ask them what they think and listen to the answers. People with the responding preference can be stressed when they cannot get into the conversation to say what they are thinking. You can help them by asking them for their thoughts and giving them the space and time to articulate them. Navigators and Mobilisers both have the directing preference and may tend to give too much instruction and too little explanation for Synthesisers. While they may appear to agree (because they tend to accommodate to others), they may in practice ignore the instruction, so it is worth taking a little extra time to make sure they are able to express any concerns.

Mobilisers and Energisers tend to speak and move quickly and Synthesisers may experience this as pressure to rush without considering all the options. Slow down your speech, include pauses and leave some silence. Be patient. If necessary, arrange to finish the discussion later after they have had time to consider. Navigators and Mobilisers, with the directing preference, may appear bossy, and this can cause Synthesisers to resist passively. Walking away was an easy decision. I felt fatigue more than loss; the loss, I realized, had come years ago. The British cultural critic Terry Eagleton writes that the meaning of life lies in learning how to form mutually enriching relationships, like musicians in a jazz ensemble, who create melodic openings for the other players by inventing melody lines for themselves. Love, he writes, means creating for another the space in which he might flourish, at the same time as he does this for you. The fulfilment of each becomes the ground for the fulfilment of the other. When we realize our natures in this way, we are at our best. This is perhaps a more aspirational spin on the Buddhist idea that love is wishing for the happiness of the beloved. I ran Eagleton's formula by my wife once, after we split up, saying that our marriage had died when we stopped trying to help each other be our best. She said no, the problem was that I was an asshole. His foot got tired and, as he readjusted, he lost his balance. The small bucket of New England Barn Red paint jostled briefly against the house, and then--wobbling in a bigger arc--tipped over entirely. The contents of the bucket ran, oozed, and slimed their way slowly down the freshly painted front of the house--a crimson racing stripe on the pristine Clapham Beige exterior. Shit, said Seth. Once he got his balance, Seth stepped a few rungs down the ladder and surveyed the damage.

We both looked for a long minute--first at the house, and then, wide-eyed, at one another. Seth began to creep down the ladder like a cat. Partway down he stopped and leaned in to the ladder, catching his breath. And then, gazing once more at his handiwork, he burst out laughing. You're gonna fucking well clean the whole thing up, I called out to him in my sternest boss voice. Then, if I take thirty minutes, my brain goes, Woohoo! We actually did it faster! But if I take the full forty minutes, I'm not as mad. That was my expectation. The same thing was true with my weight loss. Instead of focusing on a number given by lots of professionals--that losing one pound a week is about the healthy limit for most folks--I focused on half that number. Half a pound a week. If I did more, great. If I did a little less, also okay. But it would all average out. Ask for their opinions and consider their input. Resist the temptation to tell - instead give an explanation and let them have some input. Help them work out how much time they need, and agree timescales with them, so you don't chase them for their input before the agreed date. And if there isn't as much time as they want, help them prioritise and accept that sometimes good enough is ok. Synthesisers often report that they propose ideas or make suggestions and that other people get the credit for it.

Make sure you acknowledge their input and give them feedback on their work. Synthesisers can feel stressed when Mobilisers rush ahead to act without considering all the options, or Navigators want to work out a course of action, or Energisers create a chaotic atmosphere by involving too many people. Acknowledge their need for time, help them work out what needs to happen for them to make a decision, and agree how long that will take. People attending a workshop carried out a practical activity in groups with a mixture of styles. When the activity was debriefed, it was clear that the Synthesisers had experienced some of their negative triggers because of the behaviour of people with the other styles, especially the behaviour of the Mobilisers in their group who didn't listen to them and who stood and leaned over the table, rather than sitting around the table with the others. She was usually right about things. She also believed in zero-sum equations. But Howie, for all his disabilities, did this for Helen, and she did the same for him. Together they were more than the sum of their parts. If my year with the elders was also to be a love story, this was a lesson that I needed to learn: that in a relationship, sometimes taking--allowing the other person to do something for you, rather than insisting on doing it yourself--is also a kind of giving. The same applies in friendships or business relationships. True generosity includes enabling others to be generous. Howie didn't have much choice, because he genuinely needed the care that Helen gave him, but there was still something to be learned from the way both accepted the arrangement, he as much as she. In a place where there were attendants on hand to do anything for her, Howie gave her space to do things for him. Old age at some point forces us to accept help from other people. Goddamn it, Seth. Then, beneath my breath, Asshole. Seth scurried down the remainder of the rungs as deftly as he'd scurried up, but he was now undone with laughter. To make matters worse, and to prove that he wasn't taking any of it seriously, he ran directly toward me, tackled me to the ground, and started tickling me relentlessly. Fucking get off me, you dick, I yelled, but now only halfheartedly.

(We were only nineteen. Work could turn into play at the slightest provocation. ) Seth's laughter was contagious. The house was now, after all, ridiculous--a piece of performance art in the middle of staid faculty row. Seth and I rolled around on the newly mown grass, struggling with each other and pausing occasionally for belly laughs. And it did! The goals we are taught in our society are usually something we didn't get to choose. We were told the goal is to be super skinny. We were told the goal is to get hella ripped. We were told our bodies should look this way, not that way--no, like this. Every day, our culture directly and indirectly pushes that you're supposed to look a certain way, feel a certain way about your body, do certain things to make it live up to someone else's standards. And that if you don't measure up, then you're a failure. To hell with that. It's not easy to change this conditioning--believe me, I fall prey to it every day. (See the section on weight bias to learn more. The Synthesisers concluded that it would have helped them with the task if they had been able to work in smaller groups so there was no argument. They felt that the contribution of their style was finding `the strategy to achieve the task, serving each other and not making a noise' - a quite different approach from their mobiliser colleagues to achieving tasks. If you live or work with a Synthesiser, consider how you could adapt your behaviour to avoid triggering their negative emotions. Chrissie put together a training course for call centre staff. She drew on material from lots of different sources, as well as talking to a broad range of people about what was needed.