Insights for High Stress Professions
Thrive: the Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington is a book that has reshaped the way I see the world and my choices in it. We have an inaccurate and unhelpful view of what makes someone successful. Success is traditionally measured by power and money. But when you reflect from the perspective of eulogies, that's not what people talk about when describing someone. There need to be a third metric of success.
When we cultivate wellbeing, wisdom, wonder and giving, we create the third leg of a stool to what makes someone successful, so we create a success that is more balanced and sustainable.
To create this third metric in our lives, we need to figure out little practices we can do regularly to build the factors that make up the third metric. This can be having walking meetings, scheduling time to be away from your technology, or crossing things off your to do list because they really aren't that important.
(Note: sketch notes are a mix of sketching and taking notes that graphically organizes the information).
Huffington, A. (2014). Thrive: the third metric to redefining success and creating a life of well-being, wisdom, and wonder. New York: Random House.
Rohde, M. (n.d.). What are sketchnotes? Retrieved from https://sketchnotearmy.com/sketchnotes.
#sketchnote #abundance #wellbeing #wonder #thrive
Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz is a really interesting book to read. It's easy to assume that having choices is a good thing. However, having too many choices can create a larger conundrum than having limited choices. is a powerful and motivating book. He describes the challenges with making decisions with too many choices, and provides some guidance on how to navigate those tricky situations.
I'd like to highlight two distinctions or tendencies in one's approach to making decisions. When trying to make a choice, you can be a maximizer or a satisficer. Maximizers believe that there is a perfect solution, and are dedicated to ensuring they make the best choice. They tend to agonize over decisions and collect a lot of information (often times even after a decision has been made). Satisficers have clear standards for the solutions they are examining, and once they make a choice that meets their standards, they they make a decision and they move on.
Here's what's really fascinating: maximizers spend an extraordinary amount of energy researching and comparing to make their decision, and are more likely to regret the choice they made than satisficers. Satisficers strategically limit their choices based on their goals and expectations, and are more satisfied with their choices than maximizers.
(Note: sketch notes are a mix of sketching and taking notes that graphically organizes the information).
What does it mean to hustle? To work hard, put forth effort, to move with a purpose? To push, strive, rush, grind, or hurry? To stay busy? Growing up, hustling was a good thing. Hustling meant put in extra effort. It meant the difference between achieving your goals and not.
Hustling has earned me many good things in my life. I have earned advanced degrees and have had great jobs. Hustling taught me how to set goals and focus, how to put in the effort required to get what I wanted. Hustling brought me a sense of accomplishment, it brought me praise and acknowledgement.
Hustling has earned me more than just these things. It’s gotten me stress. It’s secured my place on the hedonic treadmill. The hedonic treadmill describes the need to strive for what you want, only to immediately want greater things once you get what you wanted. Hustling has also earned me an extreme discomfort with the status quo, a discomfort with quiet and stillness. I feel like I must always be striving for something.
There’s no doubt the hustle got me where I am, and I like where I am. But constantly hustling is uncomfortable and draining. Constantly hustling makes it hard to appreciate where you are and what you have because you’re always pushing and grinding for the next thing. The hustle can be a powerful and positive driving force, and the hustle can also be vicious cycle that grinds you down.
Was I hustling because I wanted to accomplish greater things? Or was I hustling because I didn’t feel I was good enough as I was? Was I hustling to lift myself up? Or was I hustling to run away or to prove I was worthy? Who was I if I wasn’t achieving great things? Who was I if I wasn’t grinding away at the next thing? Brene Brown describes this as hustling for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing and proving.
As a business owner, I have to work hard to be successful. But I don’t think I need to hustle. As a parent, I want to cultivate a good work ethic, but I also want to cultivate a comfort with quiet and non-busyness. I’m trying to remove hustle from my vocabulary and mindset. I value hard work; I value focus and targeted effort towards goals. I do not value busyness for the sake of being busy. I do not value wasted effort. I do not value proving my worth or value by how busy I am or how much I’m hustling. I’m trying to learn to value quiet, to value peace in what I have in the moment. I'm even trying to remove "busy" from my vocabulary when describing my state of affairs.
There’s a time to hustle. That is, there is a time to work hard, to strive, to put in the extra effort. But there are also times when that’s not important. You can’t drive and grind full out all the time. You can’t push and strive for 110% in all areas of your life at the same time. I’m trying to get really good at noticing the difference between the times and things that need the extra effort, and the times and things that don’t.
I’m also trying to cultivate comfort with quiet, with non-busyness. To cultivate compassion and acceptance for my value in moments when I’m striving for something and in moment when I’m not. Yoga, breathing and mindfulness are strategies that help me cultivate quiet. As my work schedule gets fuller, and we approach the holiday season, I’m also practicing boundaries on how I protect my time and effort.
What helps you cultivate quiet?
Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work, tough conversations, whole hearts. New York: Random House.
#hustle #stress #worth #worthiness #worklifebalance #cultivatequiet
What is stress? Stress is a demand placed on your body. Stress is also the non-specific response to those demands.
Stress is a good thing. Stress mobilizes energy so you can rally and overcome the challenge you are facing. Stress protects you from danger. If you’re getting chased by a cougar, the stress response helps you fight or escape from that cougar.
But stress management is a $13.9 billion industry. Stress is bad when it becomes chronic. We aren’t generally getting chased by cougars, but we are bombarded with stressors and irritants on a daily basis. It’s hard to escape stress. Not only that, we can turn our stress response just by thinking about something stressful. This makes it near impossible to stay away from stress triggers. We never really turn off our stress response anymore.
If we were a deer, and we were chased by a cougar, the stress response would kick in to help us escape the cougar. Once the cougar was gone, the stress trigger was gone, and our body can go through the natural reset process to bring us back to a non-stressed state. As humans, we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to go through the natural reset process to bring us back to a balanced energy state because we are bombarded with stressors, we relive stressors, and we anticipate stressors.
Saying “the stress response” is still pretty vague. Let’s dig into what’s happening in our body with stress. Most of us are familiar with the fight or flight response, but it’s a little more nuanced with that. Polyvagal theory identifies three different branches of the stress response.
The newest development in our stress response evolved in primates. This branch emphasized the important of social cues and social interaction. When there’s a potential threat, we look around to see what others are doing, and this determines how we respond. If others don’t perceive a threat, we stay grounded, open and calm. Picture a small child that just fell. The child instinctually looks around to see how others reacted before they react. If we rush over with concern in our faces, it signals that what happened was bad and unsafe, and the child starts crying. If we don’t react, or we react with positive emotions, the child will generally stay calm.
The next branch of the stress response evolved with mammals. This branch is the traditional fight or flight response. When there’s a potential threat and we perceive ourselves as being able to handle this threat, our body mobilizes energy so we can fight or flee. Adrenaline kicks in, our respiration and heart rate increase, all so we can get more energy to our arms and legs. This response also turns off digestion, reproduction and our immune system, as these functions aren’t needed if we are currently being chased by a cougar. If we enter fight mode, we might feel anger, frustration, or irritation, and get fidgety with our hands. If we enter flee mode, we might feel anxiety, worry, panic or fear, and get fidgety with our legs.
The oldest branch of the stress response evolved with lizards. This branch is the freeze response. When there’s a potential threat that we perceive to be beyond our ability to fight or flee from, we enter the freeze mode. When we are in freeze mode our body shuts down and withdraws from external stimuli. It conserves energy, decreases blood pressure, and physically and/or emotionally isolates you. In this mode, we may feel numb, dissociated, withdrawn, trapped, shut down, depressed or hopeless.
In all my years learning about the stress response, I pictured freeze mode to be “deer in the headlights,” literally freezing up in an unhelpful way at an inopportune time. As a result, I never thought I spent much time in the freeze response. With this more nuanced understanding, I realized I spend a lot of time in freeze mode. When my stress level gets really high, I don’t want to talk to people, I numb, I avoid people and any non-essential activity, and I just want to wait it out until it gets better.
What’s really powerful about this deeper understanding of the stress response is the power our perception has over how the stress response impacts us.
What can we do with this information? Stay tuned for the next blog post where I’ll cover some strategies to impact the stress response.
NicheHacks, (2018, December 18). Stress Yourself Into This $13.9 Billion Dollar Niche That Has Millions Of People Frustrated For Relief. Retrieved from https://nichehacks.com/stress-niche/
Porges, S., (2011). The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation. W. W. Norton & Company.
#stress #stressmanagement #stressresponse
“Good Enough” means different things to different people. For some, it means you put your best effort in, and you’re ready to call that task done. For some, it’s the benchmark where you’re off the hook for trying any harder. For some, it’s when you give up and walk away. Regardless, it’s a really loaded term. Even these descriptions can be interpreted multiple ways. Good enough could mean you put in your very best effort, or it could mean you put in the very best of what you had that day, or it could mean you put in the very best effort of what you had to spare on that task.
For some, good enough is very freeing. It gives them a sense of satisfaction and the ability to move on, focusing their energy on different projects. For others, good enough is not freeing at all; good enough is a cop-out, a flimsy standard that excuses not putting your best effort into something.
I think we need to be better at embracing the idea of good enough. In order to do this, we need to redefine our understanding and standard of good enough. There are a few reasons we need to redefine this. Good enough can feel like it’s lowering our standards. It’s not. It means you met the mark and can move on.
If good enough means we put in our best effort, that’s great, only “best effort” is hard to measure. My best effort on a task is probably different than your best effort. But even within myself, my best effort on a task might change based on time, energy, competing priorities, etc. Is my best effort my all-out best effort? Is it the best effort of what I have to give that day? Is it my best effort of what I have to give that day if I ignore everything else? How can I use best effort as a benchmark for good enough if best effort isn’t constant?
Another reason to redefine our standard for good enough is Parkinson's Law. Parkinson's law states that work expands to fill the time allotted. At my old job, if I only had an hour to prepare for a training, I could spend that whole hour preparing, organizing my notes and reviewing timing. If I had a full day to prepare for a training, I could spend the whole day preparing, organizing my notes, rehearsing, reviewing the timing needed for activities, etc. I had a core set of things I did to prepare, beyond that, I could spend a little or a lot of time preparing, but beyond those core things, the rest was just busywork. If you have weeks to spend writing a paper, you could spend weeks writing that paper. If you only have tonight to write that same paper, you could write it tonight. It should be noted, that shrinking the time window for a task can result in rushed and sloppy work, but the point I want to make with Parkinson's Law is that while chasing “good enough,” I could spend a little time or a lot of time. Based on how much time I have, my standard for good enough might need to change. But If I allow it, chasing good enough can take way more time than is appropriate for the task.
Finally, and this is what I try to focus on the most when defining what good enough means to me, is diminishing returns. There’s a point in my productivity where suddenly it’s a lot harder to get the same results. For example, in school, I knew about how much effort I needed to put into a class to get the grade I wanted. I could put more effort in to get a higher grade, but it would have been an extraordinary amount more time and effort to get the extra few points. Proportionally, it was a substantial amount more effort for only a slightly higher grade. This turning point, where it suddenly takes way more effort to yield the same increase in outcome, is the point of diminishing returns. This is the point where I try to place the good enough mark. I could do better, but it’s not worth the extra hustle to get to that mark.
I like working hard on things I care about. The more I reflect, the less I like hustling. To me, hustling is running around busily spending energy that doesn’t necessarily yield a better result. It’s spending energy to prove my worth instead of knowing I am enough, regardless of how I do, what gets done, and what doesn’t get finished.
If you find yourself hustling for the extra results, ask yourself two questions:
When evaluating the big things in your life, it’s important to remember there’s a time to rally, and there’s a time to move on to the next gig. There are things in your life that are worth the extra effort to strive for your best. But there are things in your life that aren’t worth your extra effort. It’s important to determine what these are ahead of time before you get stuck hustling on the hedonic treadmill.
Basco, M. R. (2000). Never good enough: How to use perfectionism to your advantage without letting it ruin your life. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Malone, K., Gonzalez, S., Horowitz-Ghazi, A., & Goldmark, A. (2018, November 21). Episode 877: The Laws Of The Office. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2018/11/19/669395064/episode-877-the-laws-of-the-office
Parkinson, C. N. (1958). Parkinson's law: Or, The pursuit of progress. London: John Murray.
Schwartz, B. (2004). The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. New York: Harper Perennial.
#goodenough #satisficer #besteffort #productivity #diminishingreturns #hustling #haveitall #haveitall
How many hours of sleep do you need per night? To function? To feel rested? How often do you get that much sleep per night?
I need about 8 hours of sleep per night. I can function on as little as 4 hours, as long as they were uninterrupted. When I say function, I can keep my family and I alive and do basic tasks that don’t need much cognitive power. I will be cranky. I will make a lot of mistakes. It will just be a harder day. In short, I will pay for it. To feel rested, to function well, to be a decent human being, I need about 8 hours. I prioritize my sleep over getting everything done, so most nights I do get the sleep I need (unless my toddler decides otherwise). I think I’m the exception when it comes to prioritizing sleep over productivity.
At this point, we all should know that we need 7-9 hours. This is often an area where knowing better doesn’t always mean doing better. So why don’t we get enough sleep? Maybe we rationalize that while most people do need that much sleep, we just don’t need that much. First, only 1% of the population can be classified as “short sleepers,” needing less than a full night’s sleep each night. Second, maybe we have been rocking 5-6 hours a night for so long, that’s our “normal,” but we have no idea how much happier, more emotionally stable and productive we would be if we were getting 7-9 per night. Here’s a hint. If you depend on an alarm to wake up, if you hit the snooze button, if it’s kind of hard to get up and running in the morning, if you don’t feel like a human until you’ve had your coffee in the morning, you aren’t getting enough sleep.
Working with Soldiers, I noticed a slippery slope with caffeine and sleep. The less sleep you get, the more caffeine you need to get through the day. But the more caffeine you have during the day, the less sleep you’re likely to get. I would have soldiers line up across the room according to how much sleep they get per night (no sleep on one end, 10+ hours on the other). Then I would have them line up according to how much caffeine they have each day (no doses on one end, 6+ on the other). Soldiers that were in the middle on sleep tended to stay in the middle with caffeine. Soldiers that got very little sleep tended to move to the opposite end of the room for caffeine intake (indicating they have A LOT of caffeine each day). There’s a chicken or the egg conundrum here. Are they getting less sleep because they ingest more caffeine? Or are they ingesting more caffeine because they are getting less sleep? It’s hard to tell. Work and family demands compete to take more and more of their waking hours, encroaching on their sleep. This lack of sleep necessitates higher caffeine intake to stay alert and functional. This higher amount of caffeine takes longer to leave the system, interfering with our ability to get to sleep.
Why else don’t we get enough sleep? Because it’s hard! Given everything that’s on our plates between work, family, school, hobbies, self-care, etc., there’s just not much time left for sleep. It seems like the easiest thing to sacrifice when you need more time. Maybe staying up late is the only alone time you get in the day. As I said, I prioritize my sleep. It’s a choice I make. This choice means there are dirty dishes in my sink in the morning. This choice means I sometimes miss out on spending time with others.
So what are we supposed to do? We can’t make each day 28 hours. We can’t necessarily delete things from our days to allow more time for sleep. I’m not here to tell you that you need to find a way to get 8 hours a night (you should, but you know that already). I’d prefer you focus your effort on increasing the quality of the sleep you are getting. If you’re only going to get 5.5 hours a night, how do you get the most out of that 5.5 hours? 5.5 hours of good quality sleep is certainly better than 5.5 hours of crappy sleep, and probably better than 8 hours of crappy sleep.
First, however much sleep you are getting, do what you can to protect it (easier said than done with little ones). Make it sacred. Do what you can to establish a set bedtime every night, but more importantly, establish a bedtime routine. A bedtime routine is a simple set of steps that you always do to get ready for bed. Think of the sleep routines you build for toddlers to help them wind down from the day. We benefit from these as adults too. Maybe your routine is to brush your teeth, read a story, and go to bed. Maybe your routine includes listening to music, journaling or meditating. This means avoiding work and screen time. But be deliberate about what you do to prepare yourself to go to bed.
Second, increase the quality of sleep you get by practicing sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is a set of practices that promote good sleep to maximize daytime alertness. Some basic sleep hygiene practices include:
Now that you’ve optimized the sleep you are getting, start thinking about increasing the total amount of sleep you get every 24 hours. How can you shift things around to get an extra ½ hour of sleep? One way to get more sleep is to incorporate naps into your day. Naps can be more beneficial than caffeine for boosting energy and alertness. There are different recommendations on naps, based on what you need to boost.
How much sleep do you need a night to survive? How much sleep do you need a night to thrive? What’s one change you can make to get closer to thriving instead of just surviving?
Ramsey, L. (2015, December 15). People who can survive on 4 hours of sleep a night have these common characteristics. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/some-people-only-need-a-few-hours-of-sleep-2015-12
Reddy, S. (2013, September 03). The Perfect Nap: Sleeping Is a Mix of Art and Science. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-perfect-nap-sleeping-is-a-mix-of-art-and-science-1378155665
Rested Life. (n.d.). Sleep Hygiene Fact Sheet. Retrieved from http://restedlife.com/resourceshttps://restedlife.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Sleep-Hygiene-Fact-Sheet-Rested-Life.pdf
#sleep #rest #nap #productivity #energy #thrive #haveitall #haveitall
When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. Working with Soldiers, I got to see how they were often bombarded with competing prioritize and how they sorted through the noise to stay focused and productive.
When having Soldier clarify their values, it was common to have a value relating to work (mission first) and a value relating to family (family first). Having two core values of family first and mission first creates some challenges. You can’t have them both come first all the time. It creates an impossible standard; something has to give. When faced with an impossible standard, we sometimes stall until a decision is made for us. When the decision is made for us, it can breed resentment and victimhood.
For example, say you have a core value of spending quality time with you family, and you also have a core value of fueling your best performance by getting 7 hours of sleep a night. You’re watching your favorite show with your family one night and you’re faced with the choice of staying up late to watch another episode (supporting the value of time with family) and heading to bed (supporting the value of you getting enough sleep). If you choose to watch another episode, you are sacrificing sleep. If you choose to go to bed, you are sacrificing family time.
This can feel like a no-win situation. Either way you choose, you are sacrificing something important to you. If you delay making a decision, auto-play will kick in and the next episode will start. If auto-play makes the decision for you, you go to bed late, you wake up groggy, and you will be cranky the next day because you didn’t get enough sleep. Throughout the episode you may even be grumbling to yourself about how frustrated you will be the next day. You didn’t get sleep, and you didn’t enjoy the time with your family. You might be resentful towards your family or towards the show you’re watching for interfering with your sleep.
When we make the choice, we act with integrity and intention and accept the consequences of our choice. Intentionality (making deliberate choices) flips the script. You know something has to give, so you mindfully make the best choice. Then you accept the consequences from your decision. You take ownership over the choices you make--and the choices you don't make.
For example, say you make the choice to watch another episode and spend that time with your family. With this decision, you know you are sacrificing sleep, so you make some additional decisions about what you expect of yourself the next day. Maybe you do a shorter workout or push a few things from your to do list to a different day because you aren’t able to bring your best. Maybe you find a way to squeeze in a nap.
Say you make the choice to go to bed on time. With this decision, you are sacrificing time with your family. You are protecting your ability to bring your best effort the next day, but you didn’t spend as much quality time with your family. Maybe you find another way to spend more time with them another time (do a shorter workout or work it out to stay up late another night).
The goal with this isn’t to choose one particular value over the other all of the time. The goal with this is to maintain your power to make the right decision for you. This helps you maintain healthy boundaries. This helps you maintain a balance of give and take when your values compete with each other.
Which of your values seem to compete? How can you be more deliberate and intentional in the choices that you make to balance this?
Are you holding out for your vacation? Are you grinding away while telling yourself you don’t have time for self-care until you’re able to completely get away? There’s another way.
Self-care could be exercise, taking time for yourself, going for a walk, getting a massage, going for a hike, taking a vacation, getting your favorite drink at the local coffee shop; but self-care still gets a bad rap. It’s seen as an indulgence or a reward after working hard. It’s seen as time consuming, expensive and a chore. I can admit that it’s often one of the first things cut from my day when I get busy or overwhelmed; but that’s exactly when I need it the most.
My preferred recovery activities include going to the gym, reading novels, getting massages, and walking in nature, and good chocolate. These activities all take time or money (or both). When I think of the time or money I need to allocate to actually do the self-care I know I enjoy and need, it can just add to the overwhelm I’m feeling. It feels like a frivolous use of my time (which could be spent building my business or spending time with family) or money (which could be spent building my business or helping my family). Then I become trapped in the all or none fallacy, believing if I can’t “do it right” then I shouldn’t bother fitting in self-care at all.
Self-care is one of the things where knowing better doesn’t necessarily lead to us doing better. To have balance, to be a high performer, to be able to give to others, we need to practice self-care. So what are we to do?
To combat barriers (excuses) to engaging in self-care, I recommend the strategy of micro dosing.
In medicine, a minimum effective dose is the lowest dosage of a medication that provides a clinically significant response. In self-care, a minimum effective dose might be a 20 minute walk, a 30 min bubble bath, 2 hour nap, or a 60 minute workout. If that’s the minimum effective dose, what’s the point of trying if I can’t set aside the full allotted time?
In medicine, the concept of micro dosing is gaining popularity. A micro dose is a “sub therapeutic” dose of medication. This dose isn’t high enough to produce noticeable changes, but still has a cellular impact. Applying this principle to self-care, a micro dose might not produce the same noticeable positive impacts that a traditional “dose” of self-care would, but still has a positive impact on your body. It’s more effective to do a microdose of self-care than to do no self-care at all.
The beauty of microdosing self-care is that any recovery strategy can be microdosed.
Therapeutic Dose: 60 minutes of meditation in the morning.
Therapeutic Dose: a 75 minute yoga class.
Therapeutic Dose: full 60 minute massage.
Therapeutic Dose: bubble bath.
Therapeutic Dose: A good night’s sleep.
The true power in microdosing self-care is the compound effects of multiple microdoses spread throughout the day. Maybe I can’t go for a massage as often as I would like, but I can take better care of my body if I do 5 minutes of progressive muscle relaxation 1-3 times per day for my neck and shoulders than if I do nothing.
The best sort of microdose is the kind that’s portable. When you are brainstorming ways you can microdose your self-care strategies, try to think of strategies that don’t require equipment. For example, a 15 minute chair massage as a microdose for a full body massage still requires you to set aside time and money to actually go do it. Whereas progressive muscle relaxation can be done on your own at any time.
What are your preferred self-care strategies? How could you start to microdose them?
Davis-Laack,P (2016, February 8). 5 Myths About Resilience. Retrieved fromhttps://www.forbes.com/sites/pauladavislaack/2016/08/29/resilience-requires-recharging-5-ways-to-unplug-when-youre-short-on-time/#3e347b9525a0.
Forman,T (2017, December 13). Self-Care Is Not An Indulgence. It's A Discipline. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/tamiforman/2017/12/13/self-care-is-not-an-indulgence-its-a-discipline/#6b6a30cfee0c.
Germain, A., & Dretsch, M. (2016). Sleep and Resilience-A Call for Prevention and Intervention. Sleep, 39(5), 963-5.
Pedersen, E. R., et.al. (2015). Increasing resilience through promotion of healthy sleep among service members. Military medicine, 180(1), 4-6.
Scharff,C. (2015, January 22). Recovery and Resilience Connection. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ending-addiction-good/201501/recovery-and-resilience-connection.
Tewari, T., & Mukherjee, S. (2010). Microdosing: concept, application and relevance. Perspectives in clinical research, 1(2), 61-3.
Wiest, B. (2019, January 26). This Is What 'Self-Care' REALLY Means, Because It's Not All Salt Baths And Chocolate Cake.. Retrieved from https://thoughtcatalog.com/brianna-wiest/2017/11/this-is-what-self-care-really-means-because-its-not-all-salt-baths-and-chocolate-cake/..
#selfcare #selfcare #resilience #highperformers #microdose #microdose #microdose #balance #recovery
It’s a new year. That’s a fresh start; a time to focus on your goals. What do you want more of this year? What do you want less of in 2019? We want to use this momentum to our advantage and maintain traction, so let’s take a moment to set ourselves up right.
One of my goals for 2019 is to find ways to say yes to opportunities that present themselves. I know this can be a double edged sword. Saying yes can open doors, lead to new opportunities, and springboard my growth and development. Saying yes can also lead to overwhelm, over-extension, and compromising values and priorities.
Everything we do in life has a trade-off. Things cost money; things take time, planning and prioritization; things can be uncomfortable. For example, going to the gym has a fee associated with it, I need to coordinate childcare, I need to schedule time to go (time to get there and back and shower), and it is physically demanding. The reward of being fitter, stronger and of having that time dedicated to taking care of myself is precious to me.
Yet the gym often seems to be the first thing to go when life gets hectic. This is a symptom of not setting and protecting my priorities. It is a symptom of not being mindful of my most precious and limited resources: time and energy. It is a symptom of saying yes to things without thinking of the consequences and trade-offs of saying yes.
When you are asked to do something (even if you’re the one doing the asking), take a pause. During this pause, thing through what you are being asked, and what that will take from you.
Your time and energy are limited. What will need sacrificed to say yes to this? In other words, what will you have to say no to in order to fulfill this yes.
When being asked to say yes to something, evaluating what you have to sacrifice or say no to in order to fulfill that yes provides you with critical information you need to make a decision. Saying no can be very difficult, but saying yes when it overextends your or compromises your values and priorities does more harm to you and your resources than saying yes.
As I move forward into 2019, I want to find ways to say yes to more opportunities; but I will be taking a pause to reflect on what I need to sacrifice or say no to in order to fulfill that yes. Then I will determine whether saying yes to each opportunity is congruent with my values and priorities. I encourage you to find ways to say yes to opportunities that show up for you, as long as saying yes helps you maintain your values and priorities.
#focus #goal #sayyes #tradeoff
In my last post, I discussed how we miss the point (and power) of optimism when we think optimism is viewing the glass as half full and pessimism as half empty.
Optimistic thinking is incredibly powerful, but we have to take it beyond the image of “glass half full” thinking and just seeing the good in everything. We need to identify what we did to fill the glass and what we can do to keep filling the glass. In this, we discover the super power of optimism. In these next few posts on optimism, we’ll explore ways to not only fill the glass, but keep the glass full in the face of events and circumstances that threaten to empty it.
Giving Gratitude an Oomph
A gratitude journal is one of the best ways to build a habit of noticing the good that happens around you. It is key to training your brain to see the glass as half full. The Army teaches this practice as a Hunt the Good Stuff journal, others call it a “5 good things” exercise, others gratitude or “give thanks” journal. In all cases, the basic premise is the same: you make a deliberate habit of looking for the good things that happen in your life.
This exercise can be conducted in many ways:
There is a wealth of research to support gratitude journals increasing happiness, decreasing depression and increasing optimistic expectations about their week and engagement in healthy behaviors (Peterson, 2006; Verkuyten & Thijs, 2002; Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Froh et al., 2010; Frederickson, 2004; Komter, 2004).
My family jokes that my grandma Lela has “Lela-colored” glasses. She has a very special way of looking at the world (as I imagine most grandmothers do). Every Tuesday, she prays for something special to happen to her or someone she loves. And every single week something special happens. Part of this is because we all know about it, so sometimes we made it a point to do something nice for her on a Tuesday, but part of it is she opened her aperture to find something good that happened. What truly gives my grandma her super power of optimism is her reflection of how those good things happened. She did something that helped to bring about that good thing. And she can repeat that behavior to make more good things happen.
We can give gratitude an oomph so it helps build our super power of optimism by taking the time to reflect on the items we identified. This reflection helps us savor the good stuff a little more, but most importantly, it gives us a “what’s next.” The reflection gives us a way to fill our glass even more effectively.
Gratitude is about noticing and savoring the good that happens. But the super power of optimism is about identifying what is next and what can you do to generate more things to be grateful for.
High-Yield Energy Investments
In the Yoga Sutras, there is a moral code called Bramacharya. Most often, when bramacharya is translated, it is thought to mean celibacy. In more modern interpretations, it refers right use of energy. Again, this can often be interpreted as exercising moderation in external or hedonistic indulgences. However, the idea of right use of energy can go beyond external expenditures of energy. We can examine internal energy expenditures as well. Where attention goes, energy flows. If we really think about where our energy is spent (and wasted) throughout a day, we spend an awful lot of energy spinning our wheels worrying and complaining about factors and circumstances we can’t control. Any time something happens to us, are are we spending our energy in the right way?
Low-yield energy investments tend to feel great in the moment. We complain, we vent, we identify other people or circumstances to blame for what’s going on, we look for allies to our point of view. In these energy investments, we tend to stay very problem focused; name the problem, how others created this problem for us, what it would be like if we didn’t have this problem, what we should have done differently to avoid this problem, and how great it would be if the stars aligned so this problem magically went away.
High-yield energy investments don’t feel as gratifying early on, but have much higher payouts. Right use of energy is about staying solution focused. Solution-focused thinking can be fact finding (especially using opposing or differing perspectives), generating solution strategies based on what is going on and what you can do next.
In short, solution focused thinking centers almost entirely on factors you can control or influence to replicate a good situation or improve a less-than-ideal situation. If you can change something about a situation, change it. If you don’t have control over anything about a certain situation, you can still control your perspective and how you spend your energy and attention on the situation. This is where positive action can occur. This is where the super power of optimism sits waiting to be unleashed. In the next post, we will explore how we refine the super power though changing our perspective and identifying where our beliefs and assumptions may be limiting our super power.
Emmons, R. (2008). Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier. New York: Mariner Books.
Malouff, J.M. & Schutte, N.S. (2016). Can psychological interventions increase optimism? A meta-analysis. The Journal of Positive Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2016.1221122
Newlyn, E. (2014, November 19). The Yamas: Brahmacharya, right use of energy. Retrieved from https://www.ekhartyoga.com/blog/the-yamas-brahmacharya-right-use-of-energy.
Peterson, C. (2006). A Primer In Positive Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
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