Throughout each day, all of us make little shifts in our roles and responsibilities; we take off one hat and put on another. Sometimes these shifts are physical, as when we commute from home to the office. Other times, the shifts are mental, as when we finish working on an administrative task and start working on a creative one.
My guest calls these little shifts “microtransitions” and says that mastering them is a significant key in living a happy, fulfilled, and successful life. His name is Dr. Adam Fraser and he’s a peak performance researcher and the author of The Third Space. As Adam explains, in each microtransition, there are three spaces: the first space which is the task, role, or place you’re leaving behind, the second space, which is the task, role, or place you’re transitioning to, and the third space which is the in-between transition itself. To make an ideal microtransition, you break that third space into three phases, and Adam walks us through how to execute each one so you can show up as your best self in the second space. We talk about how to make microtransitions between different work roles, and spend a lot of our conversation on how to improve the microtransiton between work and home — even if you work from home — so you can arrive ready to engage with your family.
Resources Related to the Podcast
- Sunday Firesides: Your Routine Needs Rites of Passage
- AoM article on how to use a “Homeric bath” as a transitional “homecoming” ritual
- AoM article on how Alexander Graham Bell used “locational prompts” to be more productive
- AoM article on doing different kinds of work in different places
- Sunday Firesides: Give Them the Cream
Connect With Adam Fraser
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. Throughout each day, all of us make little shifts in our roles and responsibilities, we take off one hat and put on another, sometimes these shifts are physical as when we commute from home to the office, other times these shifts are mental, as when you finish working on an administrative tasks, start working on a creative one, my guest calls these little shifts microtransitions and says that mastering them is a significant key of living a happy, fulfilled and successful life. His name is Dr. Adam Fraser, and he’s a peak performance researcher and the author of The Third Space. As Adam explains, in each microtransition, there are three spaces, the first space, which is the task role or place you’re leaving behind, the second space, which is the task role or pleasure transition to, and the third space, which is the in-between transition itself to make an ideal microtransition, you break that third space into three phases, and Adam watches through how to execute each one so you can show up as your best self in the second space, we talk about how to make microtransitions between different work roles.
It’s been a lot of our conversation on how to improve the microtransition between work and home, even if you work from home, so you can arrive ready to engage with your family after show’s over, check out our show notes at aom.is/thirdspace.
Alright, Dr. Adam Fraser welcome to the show.
Dr. Adam Fraser: Hey, Brett, good to be here. I’m coming in from a very sunny Sydney right now. Sunny but cold.
Brett McKay: Oh Yeah. It’s winter down there.
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah. And we’ve had quite the winter, it’s been very cold for us.
Brett McKay: Well, it’s really hot here in Oklahoma, where I’m at.
Dr. Adam Fraser: I can imagine.
Brett McKay: So you are a researcher who researches peak performance, and you got a couple books out and you got one out that I really enjoyed and found really, really useful, it’s called The Third Space: Using Life’s Little Transitions to Find Balance and Happiness. I’ll start with this question. When most people talk about finding balance, I think everyone’s trying to find balance between their personal and work lives, what’s the typical approach that you found that people take when they’re trying to find that balance?
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah, I think the problem from our research, the problem is everyone looks at time as the metric full balance. And what was interesting is, I came into balance as a performance researcher, so it was a new area for me, but one of the problems I noticed in the research is that all focuses on the individual, like what’s balance view, how would you get balance view… Now, we’re gonna do something different where we started to interview families about balance, so we sat people down at [0:02:57.3] ____, if your mom, dad, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, partner whoever that person you lived with was, if they found balance, what would be different and what family said… They said, we get the emails. We get the phone calls. We get that that’s part of your job now. But what most family said is, what we don’t get is you come through that door and you’re a jerk, like you come through that door and you take your day out on us, or you come through that door and see us as an inconvenience that gets in the way of work. So what family said Dallas isn’t when you show up, it’s how you show up, and what they talked about isWe think, When am I showing up? Not, how am I showing up? So that was probably the big learning for me.
Brett McKay: Okay, so yeah, when we think about balance, we think about this scale and we’re putting time on the scale, and one of the big reasons people want balance is to improve relationships in their life, but what you’re saying… What people say they want from their loved ones isn’t so much that time balance, but what they want instead, they want their loved ones to be engaged and present when they’re with them.
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah, and if you look at… We’re focusing on men here, what kids want is come home, be playful, be stupid, be build a fort with me, or do some sort of activity with me, and like for years, I thought I had bad balance ’cause I travel a lot, you know I fly a lot and I’m all over the place. Whereas some of my mates who I grew up with have jobs where they’re home every night, but when I compare myself to them, they’re often just watching TV or cruising around or doing work when I’m at home, and this has taken a lot of work, but I’d say I’m a real rockstar, meaning I’m the fun dad, I’m really engaged, I’m super present. So even though I’m not there, as much as some of my mates are, my interactions are a seriously quality.
Brett McKay: Okay, so in The Third Space, you make the case that instead of thinking about finding balance in our lives with time on a balancing beam, we should instead think of our daily lives as a series of microtransitions, so what is a microtransition?
Dr. Adam Fraser: Well, microtransitions are those little transitions we make where we move from one thing to another, so before doing this podcast, I had a coaching call with a CEO, so I’m working with a leadership team, and I’m talking to the CEO about adopting better behavior. So I’ve had an interaction where I’ve had to go and tell a guy who’s super senior that he’s falling down in these three areas, so I’ve had to be super empathetic. Really careful with my words. Now I’m talking to you and having this great fun interaction, and then after this, I’ve got to have a hard conversation with a staff member, so our day is basically, we move between different spaces. And the microtransitions are those little transitional gaps of, How do we prepare ourselves for the next thing, so how do I come down after this podcast ’cause I find this stuff fun, and how do I then go into a meeting with a staff member and have a really careful, empathetic conversation. So these microtransitions are just where we move from one thing to the next.
Brett McKay: Okay, so a space can be… It can be a physical space, a transition from office to home, but it’s also… And I really like this idea, is you’re saying that this can also just be about switching roles, it could be a mental space.
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah, totally. I think you nailed that and really described that beautifully of… It can be physical, it can be mental. So for example, last night, a mate of mine’s in hospital, and I drove a long way to go see him, and then as I was driving home, my wife called me and when your children… And that’s the line, like when she says, Your children, I know something’s gone wrong. And she said, Your children are driving me crazy, and this is going on, that’s going on. So then I went, Alright, When I transition home, I’ve got to really support her, so I’ve gotta go from being playful and jokey with my best mate to, Okay, I’ve gotta go home, I’ve gotta be empathetic, I’ve gotta be caring, I gotta meet her needs, so that’s much more of a mental shift of, Well, how do I need to show up?
Brett McKay: And then because these are called microtransitions, these transitions happen, can happen in the same place, so at work, you’re just talking about… You were talking to one client who had a specific set of needs, and then you’re gonna transition to another, maybe an interview on a podcast, and that requires a specific type of presence, and then you might transition to, I gotta do the budget, and that requires a certain thing. So it’s just all about transitioning from roles to different types of mental space, and I think that idea really helped me understand some of the problems that I’ve run into as well in my own work, where I bring stuff over from one mental space that I was at to the next and it can mess things up.
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah, beautiful. I loved what you just said then, ’cause one thing in our research is what we found is people aren’t aware of them, like they’re aware of them, but they’re not conscious of them. And they don’t really think about, Well, how am I moving from one thing to another? So as you just said, so often we bring the mood and mindset of the previous thing into the next thing, so you might have a bad day, you take it home, or you might have a meeting with a client where they chew you out and tell you, Hey, I’m unhappy with this, and then you go meet with your team and you take it out on them, so what this is is how do I get over what I’ve just done? But also, how am I showing up for the next thing and what does that require of me? And I screwed this up the other day that you talk about when things go bad.
One of my staff hadn’t got back to a client and it’d been three or four days, and I went into my team meeting realizing, Hey, that client hasn’t got back to. Yeah, hasn’t got a reply from us. So I went into this meeting and I’m annoyed and I’m frustrated and I’m angry, and I brought this thing up about four times to that person who’s responsible for it, and I kept writing them, and later on my staff pulled me aside and said, Hey, you’re a real jerk in that meeting and you went too far and you got to apologize and I went, Oh, he’s so right. So I had to sit down with this person and say, Hey, I was out of line in that meeting, but the problem was I carried the frustration of the task into the meeting and I’ve repaired the relationship now, but it did damage.
Brett McKay: Okay. So we might be where these microtransitions are happening, the problem that we have is that we’re not proactive about managing the transitions that happen throughout the day, and I thought it was really interesting in the book, you talk about what we can learn from soldiers transitioning from combat to civilian life. About the importance of proactively managing our day-to-day transition, so what have you found there?
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah, it’s interesting you brought that up and it shows you’ve done your research, ’cause what really kicked this off was just a series of interactions, and one of the first was I was doing some work with some special forces soldiers who just are amazing, and I got friendly with some of them, and I said, Hey, like, what’s the biggest challenge you face as a Special Forces soldier? And I was thinking not die, or how do I complete a mission successfully, and all of them went, Oh man, coming home from being deployed. And I said like, What do you mean? And they go, Oh, I don’t know what goes on, but I come home and I just kinda fight with my partner, and there’s just a lot of tension in the home and it settles down after a couple of weeks, but the first couple of weeks are really shaky. And I just went, Oh, that’s fascinating. And when I started to talk to people, what they said was… Well, one of them that did it well, he said, a psychologist once told me that, How am I using the plane ride home to adapt my behavior to suit my family, because while I’ve been away for six months, things have changed, and too often those soldiers would walk in and go, Well, I’m just gonna slip back into my old role and I’m kind of gonna run the joint and the family is like, No, we’ve been doing fine since you’ve been away. And what this psychologist said to him is, how do you adapt to your environment rather than, how do they adapt to you?
And this soldier said, when I thought about how am I gonna fit back in and how am I gonna change my behavior, he said that first two weeks was great, and so this is one of the first interactions have got me thinking about transitions.
Brett McKay: Okay, every microtransition, you say consist of a first base since that’s the environment or the mental space we find ourselves in right now. Then there’s the second space, and that’s the role or environment or mental space we’re gonna be transitioning to, so it could be first space is office, second space is home, and then the third space, which is the name of your book, is the space between first and second where you proactively decide how you’re gonna show up in that second space, so what does this third space look like? What are examples of it? So if a third space, we’ve been talking about this, a third space could be both an environment a physical environment and a mental space, how do we create third spaces for ourselves in our daily lives?
Dr. Adam Fraser: What we looked at in our research is what is the perfect transition and the perfect transition, whether it’s the first space is, I’m meeting with a client, the second space is I’m meeting with a new prospect, so it’s all these spaces. So the perfect third space has three components, which is reflect, rest, reset. So reflect is, how do I reflect on what just happened? And how do I shut it down? So this is all about like, How do I perceive what just went on and am I carrying angst or a negative mindset forward, so the first part is, How do I shut down that space I’m leaving?
The second part is the rest phase, which is, How do I become present? And this is all about just focusing your mind on the moment, and too often we go into the next space and our heads all over the shop, we’re worrying about three meetings ago, we’re predicting disaster, so this risk phase is just, can I become present? And then the final part is the reset piece, which is, How am I about to show up to this thing, and how do I need to show up to get the best out of this next interaction?
So that last piece, that reset is almost like people talk about athletes visualizing performance and what we’re doing is the exact same thing, so I’m about to go into a meeting with a client, I know they’re frustrated about this, I know that they’re gonna ask questions about the last delivery or whatever it is.
You’re anticipating, if I’m about to go in to have a hard conversation with a staff member, they’re probably feeling threatened, they’re feeling scared or they are uncertain, how do I show up and adapt to that to help that person listen to the hard conversation, I’ve gotta do. So it’s those three parts, reflect, rest, reset. And look, obviously the context affects how much of and how many of them you can do, but it’s those three phases.
Brett McKay: Okay, so the third space doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical space, it could be, but it can just be a mental thing you do as you transition from one thing to the next, and it can be really fast too.
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah. Totally, it can be super instantaneous of say, you’re just doing admin at your desk, all of a sudden you’ve got some sort of crisis, so what you have to be very quickly, really in that moment, all you’re doing is the reset of, How do I have to show up for this. So I’ve got this crisis, I’ve got this problem forget reflect and rest because I don’t have time to reflect and I’m so focused on this thing, I don’t need the rest phase, but it’s all about what am I bringing to this? So there is a context piece, and look, even I spoke to an executive the other day, and he’s got a global role, and he said I would go home on the phone, I get out of the car, I walk in the house, I’m still on the phone, my kids run up to hug me and I’m literally pushing them off, my wife mouths to me, Get off the phone and spend time with your children. I go, Shut up, I’m talking to the US. And he said, it’s a disaster. Of course, I’m gonna have a bad interaction because that’s my transition into the home, he said When I heard your talk, all I did was that reset piece. So I finished the call in the car, and after I hang up the phone, I do a little breathing activity to calm myself and then I think, Alright, what sort of dad, do I wanna be when I walk through that door? What sort of partner? So he’s already arrived physically, but he’s just changing his mentality.
Brett McKay: In the book, the examples of people creating third spaces mentally on the fly, because they have to make a transition fast, the ones that really stood out to me were the ones where you talk to doctors who they’re seeing lots of patients on a daily basis, so each patient is a new space, and you talk about how one patient they might be talking to and they’ve got terminal cancer and it’s terrible, they feel bad, but then they have to move to the next patient who has maybe a problem, it’s… Maybe their cholesterol is a little bit high and they’re really worried about it and they’re anxious, and it’s tempting for these docs to be like, Oh my gosh, this is not a problem. You could have cancer, I just talked to guys it’s cancer, but the doctor has to make that third space transitions like, no, for this patient who has high cholesterol, it’s important to them, so how can I use this third space to kind of put aside what happened to that person that I dealt with who has cancer and put all my attention on this person who’s got maybe slightly elevated cholesterol.
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah. Oh, Brett, I love that you brought up that example. It’s such a beautiful one. And one doctor in particular, he said we’re human beings, and he said The problem is often we bring judgement to the interaction, which is, it’s just high cholesterol, get out of yourself, stop being so emotional. But he said that’s a terrible way to show up for a patient, and he’s reset is as each patient comes in, or as he walks into the room, he thinks if this was my mother or father, how would I want a doctor to treat them? So he literally does this every time he walks into the room, and he said, I actually hold the door handle and I pause, I take a deep breath, and I think that thought and I walk in and he said, I give better bedside manner, I give better service. And one of the things about the third space, that piece of how am I showing up, am I showing up with judgment am I showing up, and I’ve already played the tape forward where I go, Oh, they’ll probably say this and then they’ll do that, and we’ve already created this bad interaction, that’s what these piece is about is how do we be adaptable in the way we show up and affect the people around us?
Brett McKay: Okay, so The Third Space has this reflect, rest, and reset part. And I hope we can dig into some of these things a little bit more. You have like these great questions that you can ask yourself in each of these phases of the third space. Third space can be just completely mental. It can be fast and it can happen in a matter of seconds. But I like the examples you gave that you can expand out this third space to really help you make that transition from one role to the next. And you can actually create like a physical third space. You can go through this process. What are some examples that you found in your research of people who made physical third spaces for themselves so that they could transition from the first space to the second space?
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah, I mean, we had one, the one that makes me laugh the most is, and this was one of the things that really started this concept, is I had dinner with a CEO. So I was working with this group and the CEO invited me for dinner. And I went over and I’m interacting with him and his family. And I was in awe of this guy. He was so present and so funny and fun with his family. And I just sat there the whole time going, man, that’s how I want to be when I’m at home. And I said, how do you transition from psycho businessman to super dad? And what he talked about is that he actually built a new entrance into his home. And I know this is not something everyone can do, but just hear me out.
So what he did is that he parks the car in his garage, he has built a door from the garage straight to his bedroom. And he said, I parked the car, I go through that door into my room. And he said, I’m not allowed to talk to anyone. He said, the kids know don’t run into the room, don’t come and see me because dad’s changing gears.
He said, I go into my room, I take off my suit. He said, I have a shower and visually I kind of wash the day away. And then he said, I put on casual clothes. And I do this kind of little relaxation thing that only takes two minutes. And he said, then I go greet the family. And he said, I lose 15 minutes, but the state I’m in is so worth it. So that’s obviously an extreme one.
Some other third spaces that I can think of have just been… God, what have other people done? There’s so many examples. For me, how I use it is at the end of the day. So when I finish work, I grab my dog Tilly, my two daughters come with me for a walk to the dog park, which is down the end of the street. So this is what I’ll be doing today. My wife gets an hour to herself. So we’re out for an hour, she gets time to herself. So we go to the dog park, we let Tilly off, we’re outside, we’re running around because my daughters are really active. And I might like tackle them into the grass, and we’re just being idiots, right?
And then we walk home. And as I walk through that door, I think to myself, how many more days like this do I have? Because I don’t know if you’re a parent, but the cliche thing is they, people say it goes fast, man, they do not exaggerate, it goes in a blink of an eye. And as I walk through the door, I think how many more days will my daughters want to come with me for the walk before it starts to be our dad’s not cool anymore. And I just think, don’t ruin this, don’t take this for granted. So my third space is that now look, if I’m flying home late, I’ll do it in the car.
So the beautiful thing about this concept is we take it and make it suit our life and our world. And it’s about here’s how I’m going to apply that in my situation. There’s not like, you have to do this, you have to do that. It’s take the concept and make it suit your world.
Brett McKay: Yeah, some of the other examples of physical third spaces that people use to go through this reflect, rest and reset process. The commute is a perfect example where you’re driving from work back to home, you can go through that and prepare yourself for that second space of being home. Going to the gym was another one before they get home, like they stop at the gym, get a workout on. And then perfect. They put their like their dad clothes or their home clothes on. So they’re not coming in their office clothes.
And then I mean, you can even do this at work. I imagine like if you’re transitioning from say, administrative work to creative work, you could have a space where you go where you I’m putting off administrative brain and I’m putting going into creative mode, like, I’ll sit at my desk when I’m doing what I call doodads. And this is just administrative work to keep the business going. But then there’s a spot on the couch where I like to sit to do my writing. And by moving between places in the house that I work, that helps me transition from one kind of work task to another.
We’re gonna take a quick break for a word from our sponsors. And now back to the show.
Okay, so third space, it can be mental, it can be physical. But what we’re doing is we’re trying to do these three phases of the third space, which is reflect, rest and reset. And we’ve kind of talked about how you can do this a bit, but I want to go a little deeper. So with this reflect, are there any specific questions you found really useful when you’re reflecting about what happened in that first space environment that you’re in that can help you get ready for that second space environment?
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah, hey, that’s a great question. Because what we found is when we ask people to reflect on what they’ve just done, our natural tendency is to look at what was bad about it. So when they would reflect on their work day, they go, Oh, my gosh, I forgot that email. When am I fitting that in? That project is still not done? Oh, my God. And what they had was this really cynical bias when they reflected. Now, one of the things we noticed about Special Forces soldiers is every time they debrief an activity, they would ask themselves the questions, what went well about that? What did we achieve? How did we improve? And I said to some of them, why do you do those questions? And they said, Look, we’re so hardwired to look at what’s wrong. Like that is our natural default. So we did an exercise, what do we need to improve? What was bad? Yeah, what went wrong then? Or what caused that mistake? They said, that’s our natural default.
But those questions about what went well, what did I improve? How did I get better? That focuses us on progress and evolution. And I thought, that’s just so interesting. And what we inserted in that reflect phase with those three questions, what went well today, and no matter how bad a day you’ve had, something’s gone well. What did you achieve? We always achieve something. And how did I improve? How did I evolve? Was my leadership better? Or did I collaborate with this group? And what we found in that reflect phase is that when people answer those questions at the end of the day, what happens is they get a burst of happiness, and the mindset they take home is more optimistic.
So that reflect phase is about is that reflection balanced? Or is it just looking at mistakes? And you talk about like, if we get a bit deeper, we’ve had some organizations like a cancer charity expanded this and they went, Oh, our challenge is that we often hear devastating news. And we take that home, because they can go through some full on stuff when they’re dealing with kids with cancer. And what they set up was a white board. And as people left the workday, they had to write up, here’s something I did really well today. Or here’s something that was great about the day. And as people leave, they read the comments and write their thing up. And all it does is just gives their mood a little boost.
Brett McKay: Yeah, like focusing on the wins, because I think what it sounds like it’s doing, it’s sort of decontaminating the negative so that you can transition. So you don’t have that you don’t have that spillover into the second space.
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah. And it’s not being the Pollyanna delusional optimist of we won’t talk about the hard things, or we won’t talk about mistakes. Like you still got to have those hard conversations. But reflect is just is my reflection balanced? Or am I just beating myself up? Or I’m just focusing on all the bad things. So it’s not? Yeah, sometimes I worry about sort of delusional motivation, or being the Pollyanna optimist. It’s just am I balanced in my reflection? Because we found most people weren’t.
Brett McKay: Yeah, I can see if you had something really bad happened at work. And you think, well, that didn’t go well. But I handled the I handled the situation the best I could. And that’s a win. I mean, you’re still recognizing that what happened was really crappy. But you recognize I did pretty well handling the situation. And maybe you still made some progress.
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah, and I might have fell on my face. But man, at least I stepped up and I took a swing. Like, that can be the reflection. Or as you pointed out, yeah, that didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. But I think I did that well, or when that client objected to that issue. Yeah, I think I answered that question really, really well. So yeah, it’s about finding the little nuggets of improvement and gold in that rather than just going, “Oh, that was a disaster,” or, “God, I’m hopeless.” That that’s what we’re talking about.
Brett McKay: Okay, so that’s reflect. So you’re reflecting on what happened in the first case, and you want to kind of, you want to have a balanced view of it, because we tend to go negative. That’s our default as human beings is to think negatively, but balance it with by thinking about the wins that happened. The next part is rest. And that’s all about being present. And I think you mentioned it could be as simple as just taking a breath sort of doing a quick meditation. What are some other things you found that are useful in this rest part?
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah, well, as you pointed out, like the objective is how do I become present? And how do I calm my brain? Obviously, breathing meditation is the ultimate. And some people I’m thinking about one guy, he said, he sent me an email, he goes, I’ve operationalized the third space. He said, I get the bus home from the city. I set a calendar alert to ask me those three questions. He said, I’m already looking at my phone on the bus. Those three questions come up, they ask, I answer them in my head. And the rest phase, he said, I’ve got a mindfulness app on my phone. He said, I’ve already got headphones in, I put the app on, I’m on the bus, I close my eyes, I do that.
Look, some people talk about exercise as their rest. And the thing is going to the gym, exercising, where you’re focusing on a task, really, really brilliant. Oh, this is interesting, is people who rode a bicycle home, or rode a motorbike, that rest is taken care of. And what they said is that the days I ride to work, I show up better at home. And the reason is that if you’re riding a motorbike or a bicycle, you’ve got to be so focused, you can’t think about anything else. So it’s forced focus.
And so you’re not riding home ruminating about the day or thinking, oh, I should have done that better. You’re looking out for cars, or you’re being hyper vigilant. And what that does is just focuses your brain. Look, one thing we did, I live in Sydney, and one of the things we have is just the most beautiful harbour on earth, it’s just heaven. And we noticed people that got the ferry home, were much happier in the home environment. And if you look at that transition, they’re on water, so they’re literally being rocked. So it’s calming them that rocking motion of the boat on the water, they’re looking at one of the best views in the world. And they’ve got like because it’s very beautiful, there’s lots of trees and lots of nature. So they’re in nature, they’re being rocked. And they’re appreciating beauty, which makes them present. Those people, man, they arrived home so happy, they were dangerous. So there’s so many things we can do in that rest phase about calming us.
Brett McKay: Okay, so I like that. So it’s gonna be just do what works for you. So the simple breath activity exercise might be useful. If you are, you have to make a really fast microtransition, maybe just a matter of seconds. But then if you’ve got some time, you can expand this out. And it might be a walk or it could be exercise or it could be even just a simple change. I mean, I always like the same change as a rest. So maybe doing something with your hands or all sorts of things could work.
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah. I mean, it’s limited by your imagination.
Brett McKay: So let’s talk about the third phase of the third space. And that is reset. And this is the final step when we’re getting in about to move into that second phase. So what are some questions or reflections or things we should be doing to reset so that we’re ready to move into this second space?
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah, so I mean, as I talked about earlier, it’s kind of like, as the athlete goes into the competition, they think to themselves, what do I want to focus on? What’s my game plan? What’s my race plan? And what we found is, for the average person, the best questions are, what is my intent? So what do I want to achieve in this space? Obviously, I literally transitioned into this podcast. And my focus was, what do I want to achieve? And I thought to myself, this is a concept that so many people have come up to me and said it has emotionally affected them or revolutionized their home life.
So as I came into this podcast, I’m like, I’ve got to be focused, I’ve got to be in the moment, I’ve got to be animated, because I want these people listening to change how they show up for the people that mean the most to them. So I literally, in my transition connected to emotion and service and meaning and purpose. So that’s my intent. And then what you think about is, well, how do I have to behave to get that intention? So if, if my intention is I want to go home and be a playful dad what’s my behavior? Well, I come in, my gestures are more animated, I’m happy, I’m enthusiastic. Whereas if I’m about to go have a hard conversation with a staff member, I want to be the complete opposite of that. I want to be measured, I want my gestures to be small, I want to be empathetic. And I don’t want to go in with this whole story in my head of you did this, and this was your intent. Like the first thing I’m going to say is, hey, we got this feedback from a client, just give me a perspective about what was going on. Why did that occur? So I want to go in without judgment and empathy.
And I’m visualizing, okay, my intent is I want this person to feel safe. I want them to progress, I want them to evolve. How do I have to behave for that to occur?
Brett McKay: Okay, so how are you going to show up? And I think you made a good point. I think sometimes when people hear this, they think, okay, well, I want to be a great dad, I want to show up and be enthusiastic, fun, etcetera. You go into your home with that intention from work. But the kids are just crazy. Your wife’s upset, because they’ve just been driving her nuts, and the house is a mess. And so you have this intention, well, I’m going to be a great dad and be awesome. But then the situation you find yourself in, it kind of just crashes against that expectation of what you thought it was going to be like. And so people get really frustrated, and they get angry, then their intention that they had in place, goes out the window, and then they turn into mad dad instead of awesome dad. So the point you made is that you need to have this intention, but don’t be too attached to an outcome in that second space.
Dr. Adam Fraser:: Yeah, Brett, that’s a beautiful point. Yeah, obviously, we want to visualize and focus on what we want to achieve. But we’ve also got to be flexible with it. This happened to me the other day, I had a great day at work, and I transitioned home. And I was like, the king of the world has entered the home. I had this huge success, I was on this high. And I walk in and my 13 year old daughter is in a bad mood. And as soon as I walk in, she gives me attitude out of the gate. And I was just crushed. And what I noticed is I started to like, I wanted to have the argument and the fight. And I wanted her to feel bad. So what I noticed is, I went in feeling awesome. She made me feel bad. And I’m thinking to myself, I want to pay it back. Like, I want you to feel bad. So we started getting into this little tit for tat thing.
And I just went, just don’t go down that road. And I said to her, Hey, I can just tell you’re not in the headspace to have a conversation. And I don’t want to say something I didn’t mean. So hey, bells, I love you. But I’m checking out of this conversation. And why don’t you have some time to yourself? Yeah, sometimes it doesn’t work. And I go home, and I expect this great interaction, and I get a bad one. And if I’ve had a really tough day, I might take it out on them a little bit. And we’re not perfect. But what this is about is that, well, in that next interaction, I have to be flexible.
Brett McKay: So we’ve talked about this third space, there’s the three phases reflect, rest and reset. Let’s kind of walk through real life examples that men might experience on a daily basis. And you said, I think a lot of guys just bringing work home is something a lot of men struggle with. And I think they’d rather show up better for their family and not bring work home. Like the negative energy of the negativity of work home with them.
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah.
Brett McKay: So let’s say, okay, a guy has a bad day at work. That’s the first space. Maybe his boss reamed him for something he messed up a client canceled an account. And he’s got that commute between work and home home being the second space. What would a third space moment look like for this guy in his during his commute?
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah. Hey, before I answer that, can we just go back a little piece?
Brett McKay: Sure.
Dr. Adam Fraser: Because I have a number of presentation topics that I present when I speak at a conference, but when I do this one, the most common group that come up to me, and usually it’s the drinks after or at the conference, dinner. So they’ve had a couple of glasses of wine, which loosens them up a little bit. But a lot of men come up to me and particularly older, sort of wise men, and they come up and go, man, I wish I’d seen that thing 20 years ago. And what they talk about is they said I’m proud of my success, I’m proud of the money I’ve earned. You know what I’ve achieved. But the most common line I hear is, but the people that meant the most to me got the worst version of me.
And this is where they start to get emotional and they just go, man, if I just, if I had my time over again, that’s the thing I’d do differently. I just think too often I took the day home, I took it out on my family or my partner or even if they lived on their own, they went home and stewed over it or didn’t socialize or didn’t connect with people because of their bad day. And this is the thing I hear from men the most is “I find it hard to go home and change gears.” But when they get it right it’s a different sport. And men in particular who don’t tend to be emotional send me emails going, man, thanks for that thing. Because it really made an impact. So I suppose for the people listening here, this is big steak stuff.
Like we don’t wanna muck around with this because this is the stuff we worry about later in life. So if you think about that guy, if he’s had a really bad day, there’s multiple things he can do depending on what he… If he already has a third space practice. So it could be like, when I’ve had that bad day, I call a friend and I say to them, “Hey, I just got to, I’ve gotta do a bit of a dump and I need a debrief and I need a pick me up” and I’ll call a mate and they’ll empathize and talk to me about it and go, oh, that sucks. And yeah, that happens to me and I hate it when you know this goes on. So that reflect phase is a really empathetic and almost a bit of a venting session.
And sometimes after that, like rarely a mate might say, but what was good about that? Or was that the only thing that happened in the day? They don’t kind of go turn that frown upside down, but they’re helpful in that. “Yeah, but man, you got all this stuff going on, so don’t let that bother you too much.” So you could connect with a friend, even with your partner some days I text my wife, I texted my wife the other day and it just went, “man, I just got some feedback and I thought it was gonna be great and it wasn’t, and I’m crushed and I’m just gonna take a little bit longer to come home. Like I’m just gonna go for a bit of a walk first.” And so she… I’ve communicated with her and sort of set some expectations and that day I came home, I tried to transition, I wasn’t doing it very well and I was taking it out on the kids and she looked at me and said, “Hey, I’m taking you for a walk.”
So we did another walk and we kind of debriefed the day, but she said, “Hey, you can’t show up like that ’cause you’re been a jerk. Like, you can’t take that out on the kids.” And I went, yeah, you’re right. And we went for a walk and we debriefed and had a chat. So there’s various things like that. It could be sometimes I use a funny podcast, something that makes me laugh on that transition home. That guy could think about what he’s grateful for. Or it could be to communicate to your partner, “Hey, I’m really struggling so I’m kind of checking out a bit tonight and I’m gonna have some interaction, but I just need a bit of introverted time.” Do you get what I’m saying? It’s much more about looking at, okay, if I’ve had a really bad day, what am I doing to help myself recover from that? And I might have to lean on other people or my partner, but that’s some of the things I could proactively do. Look, I mean probably the biggest one in there is do some sort of exercise that burns off all that cortisol and adrenaline that they’ve accumulated. So they might go, yeah, I’m coming home, but I’m going for a run or I’m going to the gym. There’s various things. Does that make sense?
Brett McKay: Yeah, that makes sense. So you had to reflect, rest and then reset and do those various different things. It’s like, okay, on the commute home I’m gonna reflect, maybe call a friend if it’s bad and maybe just kind of vent, do a walk before I walk into the home around the block and then I’m gonna change into my home clothes and be dad now.
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah. And we’ve gotta be really realistic about this. This is not some sort of magical wand. Like one thing we know about the third space is it’s skill-based. If we practice it and do it, we get better at it and we get better at it really fast. Like, we got executives to do this for a month and one of the things we measured was the mood of their home. And what we showed is in a month they saw a 43% improvement in mood in the home. Like their homes got happier by 43% by these executives men and women that were in this group. Once they practice it, they got really good at it. But some days you’re just not gonna be good at it. And sometimes, I go home or actually I had a guy talk to me the other day.
He said, bloody hell, I love this concept. He said, just makes me really aware. And he said, I had a really bad day and nothing I did was helping. And he said, I went in the home and all I thought to myself is just minimize the damage. [laughter] Like, you’re not gonna be a good version, but just don’t say something stupid or don’t be mean. And he said, I was really quiet and I was a bit surly, but I was just mindful of just don’t do too much damage tonight, alright. And even, and part of it’s a stoic thing too I believe, and I’m getting much more interested in this sort of stoic movement and during covid when COVID hit in Australia, like my job is I get large groups of people in a room sit ’em really close together [laughter] and get them to interact, not a great business model for a pandemic.
So when COVID hit and I saw all these bookings being put on hold, I freaked out, like properly freaked out. I’m thinking, how do I pay my staff? How do I survive? How do I pay the home loan? And I was a terrible version of myself in the home, but I just kept saying to myself, I know you’re not happy but you just gotta suck it up and you’ve gotta be stoic and you’ve gotta be the bigger person and you just gotta not do too much damage right now. And you’re not gonna walk in high fiving people because you’re in distress, but it’s like you got a bigger role here is you’re a dad and you’re a husband and you just gotta be a bit stoic and accept that you’re going through a lot of trauma right now, but you’re not gonna use it as an excuse to throw the toys out of the cot and just be inappropriate in the home. So yeah, like part of it is also recognizing we’re human and it’s not all bells and whistles.
Brett McKay: So you mentioned COVID, which forced a lot of people to work from home. A lot of people are still working from home and you no longer have a third space. There’s no commute. So any advice there that you found useful for people who work from home to make transitions from work mode to home mode?
Dr. Adam Fraser: Yeah, and Brett, like I got more emails about this concept during the lockdown than ever. And what people said is, “gosh, I thought this concept was important when I had a transition, now I’m working from home. It’s 10 times more important.” ‘Cause what we found is when people work from home, particularly people that lived on their own, their work hours blow out and they never shift gears from work to personal. And what happens is they stay in this kind of state where they’re consistently doing both. So the same rule applies, like what’s your transition into work? What’s your transition out of work? And it can be as extreme as like one guy said, now I work from home full time. He said, I drive to a coffee shop in the morning. He said, I get a coffee, I drive home. And as I walk through the door, I reset and go, okay, you’re at work now.
Like you are actually at work, you’re not at home. And I shift into like work mode and he said at the end of the day, I don’t need more caffeine, but I drive to a park. He said, I put a podcast on and I do a 30 minute walk around the park. I’m active, I’m in nature, I’m listening to something I’m interested in. He said, and then when I transition home, I go, I’m in dad mode or I’m in partner mode. And actually we had one guy email me, he was a quite senior executive and he said, homeschooling is the most brutal thing I’ve ever done. And he said, the first week of homeschooling was just fights, arguments, my sons are getting into fist fights, he said it’s chaos. And he said, I actually thought about your concept and the next week, and this is pretty extreme, he said, I got the kids up and my wife, who also has a really big powerful role, I said, all right, after we eat breakfast we’re getting dressed for work and you are putting your school uniform on and the kids are like, what are you doing dad?
And he goes, you just gotta do it. And he said we got dressed for work, we walked around the block and he said to the kids, I want you to think about that you are at school right now. And he said, we went in, they did schoolwork online, my wife and I went to separate offices and he said at the end of the day we walked around the block and we came back in the house and we’re like, okay, now we’re a family, okay. And we got dressed for, when we’re at home. And he said, look, obviously ’cause of the reduced hours, my wife and I had to do work over an evening. But he said it totally transformed the interaction. The kids were much more focused, the kids were much more engaged and he said we had more control over the situation. So yeah, I mean COVID has popped up so many funny stories about how people are transitioning, but we need the commute. You’ve gotta manufacture one and find out what works for you.
Brett McKay: One thing as I was reading this, I was talking to my wife about this idea of the third space she’s talking about what about the transition from home to vacation and vacation to home? ‘Cause that’s kinda interesting ’cause there’s a third space there and I think there can be a problem where when you’re transitioning from home to vacation or work to vacation, you bring work to the vacation and then like also transitioning back from vacation to regular life, if you’re not thoughtful about it, you can have… It can cause some sputters. Have you had any experience with that personally or even just working with people that you’ve interviewed?
Dr. Adam Fraser: The vacation research is really starting to ramp up looking at, well how do you have a vacation where you actually refresh yourself? And what they showed is on vacations work is the worst thing you can possibly do. Like when you work, you reduce your recovery of that break dramatically. So even if it’s a couple of emails, it still brings you out of that relaxed state. So if work is gonna creep up or if there… You know there’s things you’ve gotta do on your vacation, you’re better off chunking them into like the start or towards the end of it where you know, hey, I’m gonna insert these things to so just that it’s not spluttered throughout. So in terms of vacations, definitely do that. In terms of transitioning in and out of a vacation. Yeah, that’s super interesting. We don’t have a lot of research that we’ve done on that, but what we know is just trying to mentally prepare yourself for the vacation.
And one thing that has come up is people who say I practice the third space every day. They said to us, my vacations are more restorative. And what they talked about is, of course I’ve practiced turning off from work at the end of the day, I’m just better at doing that when I stop work and I go on the holiday. So it’s yeah, you beautifully pointed it out. The same rule applies like, how am I gonna transition into this holiday? And also how am I gonna prepare myself for the comedown and the sadness about transitioning back into work? And this is something we’ve gotta think about and look at how do we do this more effectively?
And I like how you said that this idea of creating third spaces for yourself, this is a skill that you have to practice this isn’t something that you can just implement starting tomorrow and you’re gonna be awesome at it. You could see improvements right away, but you’re gonna have lots of setbacks along the way and you just have to remind yourself, this is a skill that I’m practicing, I’m gonna get better the more I do it and then the more I do it, I can apply it not only to work and family life, but also vacations and transitions that we have in other parts of our lives as well.
Yeah and just to give you an example of that, recently… Not recently, this is a few years ago we found out someone was kind of ripping us off a little bit. So I had to have a very hard conversation with the group who was doing something wrong and I had to bring it up and I had to talk… Like you talk about hard conversations, this is one of the hardest I’ve ever done and it was my turn to pick up the kids. So I went and picked up the kids. My wife came home from work much later on and she walked in and went, “oh man, I thought I was gonna find like this angry tyrant after the conversation you’d had because I know that was gonna take a lot from you. And she said, I just can’t believe how like chilled out you are. And I said, well, I’ve been practicing this thing for a long time, like I’ve got good at it. And that was when I kind of went, oh yeah, this is skill-based and this is something that we can get better at. So you know, even in an extreme example like that, what I found is it was very effective to not let me really take out that difficult, frustrating interaction on my family life.
Brett McKay: Well Adam, this has been a great conversation. Where can people go to learn more about the book and your work?
Dr. Adam Fraser: Well, dradamfraser.com, as in D-R-adamfraser.com is my website. That’s probably the best site to go to. Yeah, there we have lots of information, lots of articles, reports on our research as well as the book and some videos about this concept. But yeah, I mean feel free to reach out. This is something I’m incredibly passionate about. Yeah, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation and this conversation actually has reminded me of how much I love this concept, how much… How important it is, and how kind of lucky I was to stumble across a few interactions that pointed me in this direction of research.
Brett McKay: Well, Dr. Adam Fraser, thanks for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
Dr. Adam Fraser: Thanks so much, Brett.
Brett McKay: My guest is Dr. Adam Fraser. He’s the author of the book, The Third Space. You can learn more information about his work and the book at his website, dradamfraser.com. Also, check out our show notes at aom.is/thirdspace where you’ll find links to resources where we can delve deeper into this topic.
Well, that wraps up another edition of the AoM podcast. Make sure to check out our website at artofmanliness.com where you can find our podcast archives as well as thousands of articles that we’ve written over the years about pretty much anything you’d think of. And if you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate if you take one minute to give us a review on Apple podcast or Spotify. It helps out a lot. And if you’ve done that already, thank you. Please consider sharing the show with a friend or family member who you think would get something out of it. As always, thank you for the continued support and until next time’s Brett McKay reminding each and everyone listening to the podcast, to put what you’ve heard into action.