Monday, June 28, 2010

challenge your assumptions

I'm just not someone who likes the beach. You get all sandy and hot and sticky and sunburnt and you look and feel fat in a bathing suit and it's just such a schlep to get there it's never worth it.

This is something I've told myself time and time again for 20 someodd years (as for those first few years, I probably actually enjoyed being hot and sticky and finding pouches of sand in the crotch of my swimsuit; hooray! Pouch of sandy treasure!) I believed for years that I'm just not a beach person, and that kept me from pursuing shoreline vacations and hours of reclined relaxation.

And, truth be told, when I was eight-ish, I hated the beach so much that I ran away from home* because my family insisted on going to the dirty, dirty beach instead of going to the swimming pool, which I liked much better.

So recently, when my friends invited me for a day at the beach, I hesitated. I don't like the beach, I heard myself say. It'll be too hot, too much of a hassle, too uncomfortable. And yet, somehow, I decided the getaway was too necessary and the friends too much fun to pass up. And also, I thought the old beach story might just be that: a story.

Very intentionally, I challenged the assumption I had about myself that I'm just not a beach person. I put myself in a position to find out if that was true, or if it really was just another story I was telling myself. My hint that it was a story was that not liking the beach, being pale, and having spent previous beach days in a t-shirt under the umbrella the whole time set me apart from other people in my mind, and made me feel "unique." I got something from holding onto that old story. I was protected form possible discomfort by just not going to the beach in the first place.

So what did I discover that day on Long Island?

1. If I wear enough sunscreen, I don't actually burn. (Except around my butt, and I think that one was my fault.)

2. If I swim, walk, talk, eat, and do crossword puzzles, there's no time to get bored or overthink how much more comfortable I might be in a t-shirt under that umbrella over there.

3. The beach really isn't that dirty.

4. The trip really isn't that long.

5. And if I choose safe people, am clear with myself about the risks I'm willing to take and those I'm not willing to take (e.g. taking a possibly long train trip vs. agreeing to stay until nightfall), have an exit strategy (if necessary), and just DIVE IN, I might actually enjoy something I haven't enjoyed in years.

Which is to say, I went back to the beach this past weekend, too. And this time I didn't even burn my butt!

If you want to try this, too, here's a To Do List to get back on your pony and ride:

1. Identify something that you think you can't do, or that you used to do but no longer do. Something you think might give you pleasure if you just let it.

2. Find a couple of safe people who are willing to experiment with you (and who will surrender the original plans if you become overwhelmed, or discover that the story isn't a story after all).

3. Get clear about what you're willing to do and what you're not willing to do. Make it cut and dry, and share it with your safe people. For example, "I'm willing to go to Times Square for New Year's Eve if it costs less than $50 and we're not standing next to anybody drunk. Otherwise, I have the right to leave if I want to."

4. Put on your attitude of curiosity, and jump in!

If nothing else, you'll know more about your limits (or your perceived limits) than you did before. And who knows? You may just inspire your safe people to take some risks of their own...

*I made it to the driveway, where I was lured back into the fold by my mother, equipped with nothing more than two rapidly melting popsicles.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

what motivates YOU?

Below is a really fascinating video on what motivates people inside an organization to perform better. It talks about how money alone is not enough, and points to the ideas of autonomy and purpose as driving factors behind organizational behavior.

So how does this apply to you?

Friday, June 4, 2010

ooooh, what a little persistence will doooooo....

So here's a little story about Sticking With It (Even Though You Think It's Going To Fail).

I was recently doing some research into graduate psychology programs and discovered that most of them require some form of undergraduate statistics. Now, I haven't studied stats since high school, so if I were interested in pursuing a masters in psychology (which I'm not sure I am, but stick with me on this) I'd have to go back to college and take undergrad statistics.

Ok, fine. Then I got to thinking about application deadlines and stuff. If, I told myself, I want to be able to consider grad school in the winter of 2011, I'd have to take stats... this summer! Otherwise, I'll have to take stats in the fall and apply in the spring for a fall of 2011 admission.

So I dragged my heels a bit, thinking:
  • commencement just happened
  • the summer session can't be starting just yet
  • I probably have a week or two to get it together
  • I'm not really sure I want to go to grad school anyway
  • I'll look into it later
  • etc.
After inspirational conversations with my coach and my mother, however, I decided I would just start investigating it now, just in case.

And when I called the registrar's office at Hunter, I discovered that the application deadline was... TOMORROW.

(This is where the persistence part kicks in.)

The registrar needs a copy of my transcript. (I haven't seen my transcript for 12 years.) I know there's a copy of it in my files at my parents' house so I call home to see if Dad can locate it in the attic. Twenty minutes of looking later, he can't, and I'm ready to give up.

"Kate, I'll go to New Haven to pick up a new copy for you, if you need me to."

Hope comes back. I call Yale for a transcript and they say that I should place the order, but they can't guarantee that it'll be ready by tomorrow. Hope fades again.

"Kate, you're willing to pay Hunter money, they'll probably find a way to accept it."

Hope comes back. I call them and find out the procedure -- they need a filled-out application, registration fee, and transcript before 3pm the next day. Hope fades. Until... I discover on their website that they'll accept a copy of my diploma. Which I know my mother can locate for me!

Hope returns, and I try to register for class and can't. Hope departs.

"Try going to the Registrar's office."

Hope returns, and I can register, but only with permission of the math department, who wants proof that I've taken math before -- and might require me to take a placement test. Hope skedaddles faster than a bug on fire.

But I persist, hope clinging to the edge of me like I'm a canyon. The math department? All they want is for me to tell them my AB Calc grade from nineteen mumbledy mumble.

This back and forth goes on and on, with hurdles and hoops and obstacles at every step of the way, and hope coming and going like junkies on a seesaw. Truth is, if it weren't for the moral support of my parents and my coach, I'd have quit before I even started.

My point in all of this is that it worked out in the end. The obstacles that seemed so looming and permanent were actually made of sawdust -- but I didn't know that until I blew on them. It took grit, a couple of lunch hours, asking for help from people I knew I could count on, and the willingness to persist in the face of adversity.

Needless to say, I'm 1/6 of the way through the course already. What are the odds of that?