Sunday, January 5, 2014

how not to borrow trouble

One thing I've gotten good at in the last 37 years is borrowing trouble.  Making mountains out of molehills.  Playing the end of the act before the curtain even rises.  I look for every way something could go wrong, every way I could mess something up, and then obsess about it... until it actually happens.  Not because it was inevitable, but because I made it inevitable.

I'm a bit of a Girl Scout; I like to be prepared for every possible outcome.  In my purse at (almost) all times there are bandaids, Advil, Pepto Bismol, silverware, water, tampons, kleenex, even moleskin.  (You never know when a pesky blister is going to sprout!)  And there is something to be said for worrying -- it calms me down to look at all the way things could go wrong, and then to make contingency plans for those alternatives.  I'd rather have the bandaid and not need it than need it and not have it.

But that's only good up until a point.  There is a line where preparedness tips over into obsessiveness.  And I dance on that line like Philippe Petit between the towers.  

So what can you do if you're like me to make sure that your worrying hovers closer to self-soothing than obsessing?

1)  Be aware of your relationship to trouble
Know your tendencies.  And if you don't know your tendencies, observe yourself and ask your friends and family.  (I wouldn't phrase the question as "how obsessive do you think I am?" but rather, "can you think of a time my worrying was destructive rather than constructive?")  Watch your stress levels when you are worrying -- do they get better or worse?  And does worrying bring on more problems?  Ask yourself how your worrying is contributing to the continuation of your problems.  And then see what happens if you take a different tack.

2)  Make sure you can do something about what you're worrying about
There's a saying I love: "If you can do something about it, why worry?  And if you can't do something about it, why worry?"  This gets to the point -- do what you can about what you're worrying about and then let it go.  Accept that you can't plan for everything.  Allow yourself to make mistakes.  And if your worrying isn't leading to productive steps (like stocking your purse with bandaids or knowing an alternative route to get home from that party) drop it.

3)  Practice puppy training for the mind
Almost three years ago, my friend Rebecca wrote a guest post about puppy training for the mind, and it's an enormously valuable tool.  Don't let yourself get away with obsessing.  Make sure you're being productive and not just winding yourself up.
4) Shift from worrying to problem solving
At my old job, people would come to visit me and my fantastic office mate and complain about all their problems.  Then they'd leave, smogging up our office with their obsessions.  After a week or two of this, we told people they were welcome to visit, and even to talk about their problems, but after five minutes they had to shift from complaining to problem solving, or we would ask them to leave.  This is a great rule to have for yourself vis-a-vis worrying.  Set a timer and after the allotted amount of time, go back to step 3 and force yourself to drop it.

5) Allow yourself to make mistakes
Why do I carry bandaids?  Because if I need one, I don't want to spend $3.99 on a box to get just one.  But in the grand scheme of things, is $3.99 going to break me?  Absolutely not.  And is it worth not having to worry about having bandaids for $3.99?  Sure!  It's a perspective shift.  And if you allow yourself to make mistakes, realizing that some mistakes are more deadly than others, then you prepare only for the higher impact mistakes.

I told my team at work the other day that I know we're going to make mistakes, and that's ok.  I just don't want them to be the obvious ones.  I'm willing to stick a bandaid in my purse, but not an ace bandage.  

6)  Choose to roll with it
I recently got a call from my doctor's office telling me that a test I took required me to come back for another test.  Which sent me on a wild spiral of "what ifs," leading me directly to the big one, "what if I die?"  (Talk about playing the end of the act before the curtain rises!)  I talked to friends and family and calmed myself down with their help, and then decided to package up my worry until I could find out more information.  Since there was nothing I could do about it until my doctor called me back (which, for the record, she still has not done!) there was no point riling myself up about it.  It continues to be a choice I make every time the issue comes up; I have to remind myself I'm not going to worry about this right now.  

There's a great song by one of my favorite artists, Sean Hayes, that touches on this.  He says:
"You're always gonna find problems 
That's just the way things are
Now how you choose to deal with them
make problems what they are
make problems what you are"

So what do you do to keep from letting problems be what you are?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

giving thanks

Thanksgiving at my sister's is always a crapshoot: which interesting disease will I catch from her daycare-attending nephews this year?  (As my date later pointed out to me:   Turns out it was a stomach bug -- probably because I was already on antibiotics from the cold I caught (that turned into a sinus infection) from them over Halloween.

You know how a stomach bug feels.  When you can't move in case it makes you want to barf.  How the smell of onions sauteeing in butter makes you want to die.  And how all you want is your mom.  Well, this time I was actually lucky enough to be sick near my mom.  And she took care of me.  In every perfect way.

She petted my head.  She brought me toast.  She encouraged me to take a shower when I really didn't want to, and sat in the bathroom, just in case I felt lightheaded in the shower.  She did everything I've ever wanted someone to do when I'm sick.  Because she's my mom.

I hate being sick, and I especially hate it when it takes me away from my nephews for a full day.  But I am so incredibly thankful for my family, who not only took care of me, but took care of each other without me.  My sister consoled me by swearing it would pass in 24 hours.  My dad asked if I needed anything.  My brother in law brought my littlest nephew's sleepy butt into my room so I could imagine myself patting it.

Every family has it's ups and downs, but I wouldn't trade mine for the world.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

wildly unscientific (but mildly interesting) personality test

I came across this personality test recently and, while it's not remotely scientific, I found it interesting.  Mostly when there were three options I was choosing from, and they were all fairly different.

The way it works is to look at the trees below, and pick the one that appeals most to you.  (Pick your tree first before reading the results):

The results...

1. You are a generous and moral (not to confuse with moralizing) person. You always work on self-improvement. You are very ambitious and have very high standards. People might think that communicating with you is difficult, but for you, it isn’t easy to be who you are. You work very hard but you are not in the least selfish. You work because you want to improve the world. You have a great capacity to love people until they hurt you. But even after they do... you keep loving. Very few people can appreciate everything you do as well as you deserve.

2. You are a fun, honest person. You are very responsible and like taking care of others. You believe in putting in an honest day’s work and accept many work-related responsibilities. You have a very good personality and people come to trust you easily. You are bright, witty and fast-thinking. You always have an interesting story to tell.

3. You are a smart and thoughtful person. You are a great thinker. Your thoughts and ideas are the most important. You like to think about your theories and views alone. You are an introvert. You get along with those who likes to think and learn. You spend a lot of time, thinking about morality. You are trying to do what is right, even if the majority of society does not agree with you.

4. You are perceptive and philosophical person. You are a unique, one soul of your kind. Next to you there’s no one even slightly similar to you. You are intuitive and a bit quirky. You are often misunderstood, and it hurts you. You need personal space. Your creativity needs to be developed, it requires respect of others. You are a person who clearly sees the light and dark sides of life. You are very emotional.

5. You are self-assured and in charge. You are very independent. Your guiding principle in life is ‘I’ll do it my way.’ You are very self-reliant and know how to stay strong for yourself and the people you Love. You know exactly what you want and are not afraid of pursuing your dreams. The only thing you demand from people is honesty. You are strong enough to accept the truth.

6. You are kind and sensitive. People relate to you very well. You have many friends and you love helping them. You have this warm and bright aura that makes people feel good when they are around you. Every day, you think about what you can do to improve yourself. You want to be interesting, insightful and unique. More than anybody else in the world, you need to love. You are even ready to love those who don’t love you back.

7. You are happy and unflappable. You are a very sensitive and understanding person. You are a great listener who know how to be non-judgmental. You believe that everybody has their own journey in life. You are open to new people and events. You are highly resistant to stress and rarely worry. Normally, you are very relaxed. You always manage to have a good time and never lose your way.

8. You are charming and energetic. You are a fun person who knows how to make people laugh. You live in a state of harmony with the universe. You are spontaneous and enthusiastic. You never say no to an adventure. Often, you end up surprising and even shocking people. But that’s just how you are. . . You always remain true to yourself. You have many interests and if something proves of interest to you, you will not rest until you acquire a profound knowledge of this area.

9. You are optimistic and lucky. You believe that life is a gift and you try to achieve as much as possible and put this gift to the best use possible. You are very proud of your achievements. You are ready to stick by the people you care about through thick and thin. You have a very healthy approach to life. The glass is (at least) half full for you. You use any opportunity to forgive, learn, and grow because you believe that life is too short to do otherwise.

So... did it feel right for you?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Oh, this explains it!

I'm in the thick of it.  I love my new job, but if I keep eating cookies, it could become a problem...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

change expectations

In the last few weeks I've gone through a lot of change -- I got a new job (that starts tomorrow) and met a new guy (who's pretty terrific).  So it's no wonder that I haven't written much here recently.

It brings up something important about change that a lot of people overlook.  Every new beginning starts with an ending and a drop in performance.  Before I can start my new job, I have to finish up my old one.  And that means I'm not moving forward with anything new, I'm wrapping up all my old stuff.  Before I can get serious with my fella, I have to stop dating other people and take down my online profiles.  That makes sense.

But what most people forget is that our productivity -- at work, in our hobbies, running errands, whatever -- starts to plummet.

This model, adapted from William Bridges' book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, shows how productivity predictably behaves during a change.

In that first phase, you're in an ending.  Like me, maybe you're experiencing some anticipation, anxiety, and perhaps mild terror.  (You don't have to experience all those feelings listed -- I'm not angry or in shock, but I might be if the choice to leave my old job wasn't mine.)

In that second phase, which I'll be entering shortly, there's a lot of waiting, confusion, topsy-turviness, and some of that anxiety can continue.  Anyone who's had a new job or moved to a new city know this phase well -- how can you be efficient when you don't know where the bathroom or the grocery store is?  And the big mistake we make in this phase is beating ourselves up for not being more effective and productive.  But it's natural to tank here.

Eventually, though, that new beginning starts in earnest, and things start to get better.  We feel more comfortable, competent, and confident in our new role.  It's the new natural, or the new default state.

There are no rules about how long each phase lasts.  Sometimes you're in Phase 1 for hours, other times for weeks.  My personal experience is that Phase 2 lasts the longest, but that's because I'm hyper-sensitive to not being productive.  (In fact, I've often taken action in that middle phase that I've regretted later because I was hasty, anxious to get going, and should have been a little more patient with myself.)

I bring this up because it's easy to get frustrated during a change -- especially if you're changing with other people.  You may go through each phase fairly quickly, while a loved one or coworker doesn't.  The important thing to remember is that a) if you're in the middle of a change, it does get better, and b) just because you're on board doesn't mean others will meet you there on your schedule.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

change your thoughts!

I recently attended a Learning Video Boot Camp and made this video -- luckily, it's another one of those times where my training and coaching (and former-acting) worlds overlap.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

book review: Manifesting Change by Mike Dooley

I’m a subscriber to Notes from the Universe (which, if you aren’t, you should be and can sign up here) and the notes are always these wonderfully peaceful and inspirational thoughts. So I wanted to read more from Mike Dooley, the man who writes them.

I also want to shift some things in my life right now, and I’m open to all kinds of methods. I’ve tried coaching, I’ve tried therapy, I’ve tried working my butt off, I’ve tried crowdsourcing… and while each method has brought more into my life and helped me along the way, I’m always fascinated by a new way of looking at things. So I picked up Manifesting Change: It Couldn't Be Easier. (Appealing title, no?)

At the heart of the book are these instructions:
1. Identify your end destination
2. Move in that direction
3. Let the universe figure out the rest for you.

Like he said, it can’t be easier.

There are, however, a few things you should be aware of as you embark down the manifesting path. First, you want to identify your end destination in vague but specific terms. “I am blissfully happy in a relationship with a man” instead of “I am blissfully happy in a relationship with Fred.” “I have the job of my dreams that brings me wealth and meaningful work” instead of “I have the VP of Sales position at JPMorgan that makes me $1 million a year.” The argument here is that the more you narrow down the options for what will make you happy, the harder the universe is going to have to work to put all the right pieces together to make it happen.

Second, you must move in the direction of your joy. It’s not enough to identify your end result and visualize 24 hours a day and never get off the couch. If you’re looking for a job, you must visualize, identify how you want to feel in your job, and maybe some specifics around how much you want to make or how meaningful your contribution is, and then you must go out there and, as Dooley calls it, “knock on some doors.”

[Sidenote: a friend once told me about how she had completely given up on dating and her mother told her that she can’t just give up. That love “doesn’t just walk up to your door and knock.” The next day, the refrigerator repair man walked up and knocked on the door and they’ve been married for 10 years. It’s probably easier, however, to be out in the world of people if you want to meet your soulmate.]

And then the third part is the most challenging part for me – step back, and let the universe drive for you. The more I read this book, the more I realized how much of a control freak I am, always trying to control when I’m dating, what kind of work I do, how much of an impact I have on the world around me. So I’m practicing letting go and, in the proverbial 12 step language, letting god. I’ve turned it over to the universe, so watch out! I’ll probably be married before the R train goes back through the tunnel!