Rethinking Rejection

Ugh, the R word, rejection. When I talk to friends and clients, and when I dig down to my own motivations and rationales, so often there is, at bottom, a fear of being rejected, of not being liked, of being left, or being laughed at and thought foolish, or being deemed unlovable, unworthy, or thinking those things ourselves. There it is, right? One of the big ones, the big fears, the ideas that keep us up at night and make us want to stay in bed in the morning, just the same in adulthood as they did when we were in middle school. If I dare to ____________, I will be rejected.

Slide1We don’t want that – and hey, we’re only human. Our need for inclusion in the group is totally natural, evolutionarily reasonable, time tested and thorough. And so when we sense that possible rejection (whether we are right or not), we shrink. We shrink from possibility. We shrink from inspiration. We shrink from the limitlessness of our capacity because we are afraid we will no longer be loved, be included, be deemed worthy, be part of the group, be allowed to sit by the fire when the nights are cold and the days are difficult. We shrink from who we could be. We shrink from who we would be. We shrink from who we ARE already.

I heard a story on the TED radio hour (during a long car drive, so I didn’t get all of the details) about a man who decided he’d had enough of his overwhelming fear of rejection. He set out to intentionally get rejected, as an exercise of facing his fear and reducing the meaning of each rejection because he knew that many more had already happened and many more would come. What he discovered is that rejection was not nearly as wounding as he thought, and that when he was SURE he would be rejected, his request was met with curious agreement. In other words, he got a WHOLE lot of what he asked for, even though he really didn’t expect to. But those surprises really weren’t the point. The point was to reduce the sting of rejection.

Our reaction to rejection is complicated, and it is SO far reaching. She said she wasn’t interested. She didn’t ask me to collaborate. He didn’t call. He didn’t laugh when I thought I was funny. We take ALL of that and we make it mean the worst things we can think of. We interpret their “no’s” as more than just: “No, not that specifically, not now.” There are a variety of problems with all of this interpreting.

Firstly, what if most people are being upfront and honest and what they really mean is only: “No, not that specifically, not now”? What if we took the risk of taking adults at their word so that we can get on with things, so that we can be told “no” without it shaking us to the core, so that it doesn’t have to mean that lack of interest in one project is a statement about worth and value? What if we just decided to ONLY hear what is being said without filling in all of the spaces? If that’s a groundbreaking idea for you, I suggest you run at it full speed right away.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, what would happen if we remembered that, as Brooke Castillo says, adults get to do what they want? What does this mean in this context? It means someone gets to say “No” to you without it being a major drama. And you know why that’s really great? There’s more than one reason: 1) it means you won’t be stuck in some weird relationship or project with someone who doesn’t want to be there; 2) it means when someone says no, that’s the end of the transaction, no leftover trails or wanderings – it’s just a simple no; and finally 3) you also get to say no when you want to and therefore you get to curate the way you spend your time, the projects you are involved in, the e-mails you receive, heck just about anything – without, that’s right WITHOUT drama or interpretation on the part of the other adults involved. If we decide that saying NO doesn’t mean everything when people say it to us, it’s reasonable to conclude that it doesn’t mean everything when we say it to them.

Slide2The interesting thing is that stepping out enough to risk rejection might bring on some rejection – I don’t want to lie about that – but it also brings SO much freedom. You can be yourself. You can see who stays, who goes, and you can take some of those “No’s” as surface, minute, and temporary, just as they are meant.

You can take the chance on showing up, showing you, being seen, and in my experience so far, the people who matter most will not only sill be here, but will be delighted to SEE you. And others will show up; your tribe will find you. You will not have to sit away from the fire, in the cold dark night. You will be at home, as yourself, with people who love who you really are. What are you NOT doing because you’re sure you’ll lose them all? What are you still doing to stay safe and warm, even if it means you are not even a little bit yourself? What would it take for me to get you to try a little rejection? I’ll talk you through it.

On Saying No

Slide2Saying No is allowed:

Saying no to requests,

Saying no to demands,

Saying no to emotional bullies,

Saying no to drama,

Saying no to blame,

Saying no to angry rants,

Saying no to you’re not enough and I need more and give me and you’re disappointing.

Saying no is allowed:

Saying no to other people’s goals for you,

Saying no to other people’s plans for you,

Saying no to other people’s wants for you,

Saying no to other people’s opinions of you,

Saying no to other people’s versions of you,

Saying no to but you should and it would be wiser to and if I were you.

Saying no is allowed:

Saying no to hating your body,

Saying no to using food as a crutch,

Saying no to making excuses,

Saying no to blaming your history,

Saying no to your role,

Saying no to your script,

Saying no to your old self,

Saying no to if I just nip and tuck myself here and there they will all still love me.

Slide1Saying no is allowed.

Saying no is a gift.

Saying no means figuring our what your heart wants.

Saying no means figuring out what yes is, where you should give it, and how glorious it feels to mean it.

Saying no means honest interactions and grown up friends.

Saying no means you get to actually be who you are, that unique incidence of genes and stardust and human connection.

Saying no is allowed.

I promise.

 

How SHOULD You Feel?

Slide1I can’t tell you how many times clients and friends, heck everybody I know has come up against a moment where, when we really dig down a bit, the problem isn’t necessarily HOW they feel, but how they think they SHOULD feel. Let me explain.

There’s a bride preparing for the big day. She’s sure she’s doing the right thing. Her partner is the right one for her, no question in her mind. And yet as she is getting dressed with her sisters and mothers, it’s there, that little twinge that makes her tear up. That bit of sadness that makes her pause for a moment and, if she gives herself enough time, maybe even start to doubt herself. Why am I sad? I shouldn’t be sad right now. It’s one of the happiest days of my life. I SHOULD not be sad; does that mean there’s something wrong? Is my subconscious trying to tell me something? Oh no, what if this is all wrong after all?…

You can see how this could get complicated.

Picture a funeral, one that follows a long struggle with an unkind illness. Picture a caretaker who is exhausted and grieving. Watch that caretaker brush aside the moment of relief he is surely feeling in favor of guilt that he should feel that way at all. He should be sad; he should only be sad. Being anything else means he’s selfish or unfeeling or somehow cheapens the relationship. We’ve now gone from grieving to self-abuse.

This is, I believe, a uniquely human trick: the double layer torture. Because we have the capacity to think about what we’re thinking, we are able to load judgment onto our struggles. Great.

I see my clients and friends do it all of the time. I see coach friends do it too – we’re actually extra good at it because we see it all happening and think that means we should know better: “I thought I was done with this. I KNOW this is just a story I’m telling myself. I can’t believe I’m here again.” Double layer torture is often rooted in some kind of feeling that we should know better, we should act better, that we should BE better people, the kind who don’t have feelings that don’t appear to match the occasion, the kind of people for whom life is simple – black and white, good and bad, right and wrong.

“Well, when you say it that way….” YES I’m saying it that way. Because we are all complicated; there is a whole lot of grey and with all of that complication and middle ground, we are, quite simply, allowed to feel however we feel. You are allowed to feel how you feel. You are allowed to feel how you feel. You are allowed to feel how you feel. And feeling how you feel doesn’t make you selfish, or unworthy, or wrong, or mixed up, or anything other than a stunning and complex human being. You get to feel how you feel without judgment, especially from yourself.

So what to do when these moments happen, when our feelings don’t match with how we THINK we should feel and we’re tempted first to torture ourselves with scorn for that and then to analyze that whole scene to figure out how messed up we really are… what to do?

How about a little compassion? How about taking a deep breath and allowing the feeling to be there, getting yourself a kleenex so the tears can come out without ruining your makeup if it’s your wedding day, allowing the smile if it’s a funeral? How about starting by telling yourself that you get to feel how you feel and it doesn’t make you anything other than human?

Slide2You may be startled to find that giving the feeling that room allows it to pass through, and suddenly it will become just a moment of real humanness rather than an indicator of a lifetime of anything. It will become a passing sentiment rather than evidence that you are who you’ve always been afraid that you are. It will just be a feeling, a feeling that you are allowed to have, and then it will be done. It will be done and you will still be worthy.

 

What Good Is Fear?

On my nerdy vacation, we had the opportunity to listen to a series of lectures that were supposed to be about the nature of fear. We noticed pretty quickly that few of the presenters actually wanted to talk about fear, which we got some good chuckles about, because really we all pretty much want to avoid fear whenever we can, right? Being afraid is the pits. People don’t want to feel it; they don’t want to study it; and even when asked to, many don’t want to talk about it all that much. We just don’t want to have anything to do with it, but fear is part of the human condition. It is hard-wired (not necessarily in terms of WHAT we’re afraid of, but that we will be afraid).

Dan Ariely, Professor of Psychology and Economics and all around smart guy at Duke University, answered the question of whether or not fear serves us with a qualified “yes.” I’ll paraphrase the rest by saying that fear acts as a repellant for things that might kill or hurt us (like tigers or grizzly bears), but our fear response hasn’t evolved as quickly as society. There is a phenomenon called the “Identifiable Victim Problem” which makes us afraid of the wrong things. The way this works is that the problems with which we are most familiar through exposure (i.e. media exposure) like terrorism scare us more than the statistically likely death by car accident or health issues related to dietary choices. Our fear is primitive and is ripe for manipulation.

Slide1I would suggest, and I am no longer paraphrasing Prof. Ariely, that our fear is regularly manipulated, but not just by the media or politicians or advertisers. We manipulate our own fear all of the time with an extended chess game in our heads. Our primitive brain tries to manipulate us with fear any time we threaten to change the status quo. We can see this in large and small scale. In the larger world big change, or the threat of big change, often unleashes reactions that are so strong that they could only be caused by fear. The same thing happens within us. We toy with a new idea and before we know it, our primitive brain has us sure that taking even the smallest step in that direction will unleash some version of hell. “We’ll go broke. He’ll leave me. Everyone will know I’m a fraud. Nobody will love me.” Whew. That lizard brain really knows how to get at us, and convince us that change is foolish.

If we’re really good, we can even convince ourselves that all of that wasn’t fear, it was logic, analysis, adulting, good decision-making. We can frame it lots of ways, but the truth is that part of us is trembling in the corner with a blanket and a bowl of popcorn asking for the remote so she can change the channel. This kind of response to fear makes it pretty much useless. Dame Stella Remington (the former director of MI5 – i.e. chief spy of the U.K.) said: “I don’t think fear, which implies sort of sitting in a corner shaking, is ever a sensible reaction to anything.” And I agree with her, at least as far as that kind of response goes. All of this still doesn’t tell us what good fear is to us when we’re not facing the immediacy of a tiger or grizzly bear, or even a celtic warrior painted in blue.

Slide2I’ve been thinking a lot about how we respond to fear and I’ve come to the conclusion that aside from acting as an early warning system, fear also acts as another kind of signal. It raises a flag, gets all of our attention, sets off all of the alarms, but maybe it’s not always to indicate that we should run and hide. Maybe, just maybe, sometimes those alarm bells are there to let us know that there is an opportunity in front of us to grow in some way that will fundamentally improve our lives. What if all of that fear is just your body and your psyche’s best attempt to get you to wake up and pay attention because THIS IS IMPORTANT? The problem is that we get so bowled over by the physiology and brain scrambling nature of fear that it’s hard to pay attention to what’s in front of us. We lose track of where the lesson might be. We look for our familiar bogey men. We try to make sense of the fear, when usually it’s our favorite self-defeating story. Usually we let the fear get big enough that its origin seems somewhat secondary.

At times like this, I like to do something Tim Ferris calls Fear Setting. I didn’t know it had a name, I just stumbled into it when I was really struggling with some anxiety. With Fear Setting you really lean into the fear. What am I afraid of? What am I putting off? What am I not doing because I’m afraid? When you’ve got a handle on that, you imagine the worst possible scenario for all of those things – how bad could this really get? What would happen? If the fear is preventing you from acting in some way, then you imagine the benefits of taking that step. Finally you figure out the costs of inaction. It all sounds very spreadsheety, which is not my usual jam, but leaning into the fear in this way  allows us to measure our momentary fear against the cost of being controlled by our momentary fear. More often than not, this allows us to bring our reactions into line with where we really are RIGHT now. I’m okay. I’m safe. I’m here. There are things I can do. I should do them. I will be okay. In fact, I will probably be better than I am right now.

Our fear is a signal. And it’s super powerful, because of the tigers and grizzly bears, but how we respond to that signal is always up to us. Developing a sense of curiosity in the face of fear may just allow us to see that our biggest gains are just on the other side of a little teeth chattering and quaking.

Accessing Vacation Vibe

My family and I just returned from our annual trip to the Chautauqua Institution. It is a summer ritual that I cherish. Chautauqua is a spectacular place, and leaving is always difficult. We spend a good bit of our drive home in a repeated chat pattern. The first hour or two are usually spent thinking of ways we can spend more time there. Do we want to spend more money? When would we go? What would that look like? We usually come up with a scheme or two on that front in those two hours and then take some time introverting (which is not as hard as it sounds in a car, but takes practice and a good supply of interesting podcasts). After we’ve both recharged by pretending to be alone, we enter phase two of our annual conversation, which is how to extend what we get at Chautauqua into our every day lives.

This vacation we take is unusual in that it is not necessarily about resting and relaxing (no palm trees or umbrella drinks). On our trip we typically see live performances most nights, attend lectures and classes during the day, go to art galleries, take walks by the lake, and ride bikes everywhere. The usual summer vacation indulgences also make it in there (books, ice cream, the occasional nap), but we don’t really spend a lot of “down” time while we’re there. So when we get home, we are sort of pressed to acknowledge how we are spending our time. If we want to feel more often the way we feel at Chautauqua, we may need to change the way we’re doing things at home.

For us this means more engagement. We need to get more intellectual stimulation and banish the buffer box (the TV) more regularly. We need to see more art of all kinds, and plan to do it so we don’t have the option of bailing at the last minute. We need to be more engaged in social and political discussions; being places that are so interesting and stimulating that taking notes seems like a good idea. Perhaps more importantly, we also need to take a look at what we are thinking, because the way we feel at Chautauqua has a whole lot to do with what we think when we are there: “This is a magical place. This is a special place. There is so much here that I cherish. This place makes me feel alive. I wish there were more places like this in the world.” How could I not feel good and have a great time with those thoughts?!

Slide1The contrast with vacation, the reality of vacation letdown (boo hoo, I know) can make home seem kind of boring, but in reality I am surrounded by opportunities that I ignore on a regular basis. I get into my habits, I get into my thought patterns and I miss out on things that I enjoy, and I miss out on just feeling great right where I am.

For a lot of folks vacation means a time of exquisite self-care, a chance to rest, or a time to just play. What would your perfect vacation include? A lounge chair? A window, blanket, and book? A long hike followed by some tea? A puzzle and your kids? What is it that you’re missing that you long for during those vacation days when we allow our desires to take center stage?

Slide2The obvious question is if you are 100% sure you can’t fit some of that in to your every day life. I know, I know, you’re busy. Do us both a favor and just for a minute try on the thought: “I have time.” Just say it to yourself a few times and see what happens. Do you feel a sense of relief? Do you laugh a little and realize that you DO actually have some time, especially if you stop freaking out about being busy? Now, having done that, what part of your vacation dream can you fit in that slot? What nourishment can you sneak in when your super busy brain isn’t looking?

Slide3If you’re really wanting to go the extra mile, ask yourself how you feel on that dream vacation (close your eyes and picture it if you need to). What’s the feeling that you’re wishing you had right now? Got it? Now, ask yourself what you’d need to think to feel that way. What thought would you need to have in order to feel the way you want to feel? Is there a thought that’s getting in the way of the good feeling thought? Because here’s the thing. Those thoughts? The good one, the bad one that’s in the way, all of them… they are a choice. You can unpick them just like you picked them (at least the first time you had them). You can choose a new thought. You CAN feel more like you do on vacation; it’s totally within your power to do so. You just have to think the way you do when you are there.

If you could use a little more vacation brain, but aren’t sure where to start, I’d love to help.

How I Lost Weight

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about how I’ve lost weight. I did not have a ton of extra weight to begin with, but I guess I’ve gotten to the point where it is noticeable. I think when people ask me this question, what they are really asking is: “What diet did you try?” OR “What food did you give up?” People want to know what the magic solution is, and I totally get it, having looked for magic solutions many times in the past (grapefruit as the key, really?).

Slide1The truth is my weight loss process has been both easier and more complicated than the answer to the question that folks are asking. I could tell you how I eat, which at this point is pretty significantly different than it used to be, but that would be a woefully incomplete answer. The truth is the first part of my “weight loss journey” (I really hate that phrase), had everything to do with what was going on in my heart and my mind. Why did that have to happen first?

Because I needed to learn how to be happy with myself, no matter what my body looks like. I needed to learn how to build a full life without relying on my dinner to be the best part of my day. I needed to learn to push myself harder so I could figure out what would make me deeply happy rather than being satisfied with knowing another meal or snack was coming.

My relationship with food was complicated. I used it. I used it to cheer myself up. I used it to distract myself. I used it to excel at something while I was a stay at home Mom. I used it exercise some control on my life when things felt out of control. I used it to avoid feelings and to bring on the physical buzz of overeating. I used it to impress people. I used it to practice my writing skills. I made food such a huge part of my life and then was disappointed when the other parts were so small and unsatisfying. I used food as an escape hatch, a wubbie, a friend. Before I could really make good decisions about how to eat, I had to REALLY learn how to deal with my emotions without food making it easier or unnecessary.

Slide2AFTER I did all of that, the question of what I ought to be putting in my body becomes a series of scientific experiments. What can I eat that will fuel me and be pleasurable? It’s so much easier. When I don’t need to eat for emotional reasons, all of these questions about what I choose to eat and not choose to eat just become math and planning that I do rather than some sort of horrible self-imposed deprivation. I get to stop thinking about food all of the time and then beating myself up for it. I get to get on with all of the wonderful things there are to do with my time on this earth. I still celebrate things. I still have friends. I still enjoy myself. All of it is good. In fact, all of it is a whole lot better because I did the REAL work first.

My BARE program will help you do that real work AND it will help you discover what kind of eating works best for you, and if you show up and really give it everything you’ve got, you will blow your own mind. The new school year is coming, a perfect time to make a change. I’m ready if you are.

What Feels Like Freedom?

I talk about decisions a lot here in these pages because a lot of people, and I include myself amongst those people, get hung up on decisions. We get hung up collecting information, we get hung up measuring pros and cons, we get hung up with figuring out how we really feel and how much of that is old programmed nonsense that we really don’t believe anymore. We get hung up because we’re terribly afraid that we’re going to make a mistake, do it wrong, fail, look foolish… I could go on. There is a test that helps us get past all of that, at least for the decision-making part. It’s simple, really. Acting after that is a separate discussion, but the test for a decision is remarkably easy.

Martha Beck, the brilliant PhD with whom I trained as a life coach and one of my esteemed mentors, agrees with other brilliant souls that the defining feature to look for in these times is a feeling. WHOA! I realize I may be losing some of you already. If this is not your first time at my personal rodeo, you probably saw that coming. The feeling that Martha Beck suggests we look for is something she calls “shackles on.” Looking for that shackles on feeling requires a couple of things. The first thing you’ll need to do is get quiet; stop the clamor of data in your head; stop the pro and con list (you can have them back later if you really need them). Get quiet and take some deep breaths. Let yourself temporarily let go of all of the reasons you SHOULD choose one thing or the other. When you’ve gotten yourself quieter, imagine one of the possibilities you’re considering, and see how it makes you FEEL.

Slide1Does it feel like you’ve got shackles on? For me that usually means heaviness and a feeling of being drained; my body will actually respond by slumping in my chair and emotions like dread and sadness usually come as well. Does it feel like shackles off? For me that means feeling physically lighter, breathing more fully; my body responds by straightening up, my head drifts upward and back on top of my neck where it is supported. I feel airier, like there’s room for me; I feel unlimited. THAT feels like freedom. That’s shackles off. My body knows where my true preferences lie, without all of the mental gymnastics I torture myself with. When you stop to see how you REALLY feel about options, sometimes the right decision becomes incredibly, even physically, clear.

BUT WAIT you say, I can’t possibly because… yes, I know. You have responsibilities. You have financial realities. You have obligations. I’m not being sarcastic. I TOTALLY get it; believe me. I have them too. Here’s the thing, recognizing what choice feels like freedom doesn’t mean you have to do that thing right this minute. What?!

Here’s the thing about big changes and hard decisions and knowing what makes you feel free, knowing what your deepest desires are; these are treasures, precious cargo, and they deserve to be treated with the utmost respect, and sometimes that doesn’t mean jumping in with both feet into something big. Sometimes that means holding and refining that vision until you know exactly how you want it to go, nurturing it, cultivating it like a tender seedling. Sometimes it means asking yourself: “What are 10 small things I can do to get closer to THAT version of my life? What is it about that vision that works for me? Can I get a little of that while I work on all of this?” and then doing some of that, doing the work that will make it possible to get to where you ACTUALLY want to go; doing the work that will make the voices that tell you that you’re being foolish or that your dreams are impossible have to stop because, look, you’re doing it; doing the work that will make it easier to make a transition that might not be as immediately gratifying as going into your boss’ office and telling her exactly what you think of her. You can start to build your dream with little bricks, little motions, little efforts to tend your garden

Slide2You can do all that, OR you can keep using your spreadsheet and concluding that staying where you are or choosing the thing that most certainly does not feel like freedom is the only possibility, convincing yourself that how you feel about it is immaterial. You can pretend that there is nothing between choice A and choice B because it feels too painful to admit what you actually want. You can pretend that you have no choice because of all of your obligations and you can continue to feel shackled to your current reality.  You can continue to collect evidence for why it’s so awful. You can do that, but I’m not sure why you’d want to. Wouldn’t a little freedom, even if it’s just in the form of a vision and a list of steps, feel REALLY, REALLY good?

If your vision maker feels broken or you’re afraid of what you’ll find if you look for your feelings, I’d be honored to help with that.

On Becoming a Curator Of My Life

There are two separate processes in the BARE program where the focus of the work is to let go of things which 1) no longer serve us or 2) actively deplete us mentally or physically. This can be a surprisingly difficult task. We hold on to so much, I suppose in an attempt to maintain stability, to convince ourselves that we are okay because of sameness, to ensure ourselves that while the whole world is changing at a million miles a minute, we are standing on solid ground.

This work was difficult for me. I didn’t want to evaluate the things in my home, even though I could sense that their number was too great for my sense of well-being. I didn’t want to evaluate my time commitments and my relationships to see if they were more than draining. I REALLY didn’t want to go into my closet and be honest about what clothes didn’t fit and which I didn’t like and probably shouldn’t have bought in the first place (the self-judgment about wasting money is perhaps the most fun part). I didn’t want to do any of that, but I did, and it paid off in spades. How?

declutteringMy stress level went down as I became a curator of the things in my environment rather than just an acceptor of all things. My stress level decreased as I became more honest about the amount of time I wanted to spend on various pursuits and in various relationships. My happiness and confidence went up as I got rid of clothes that made me feel dumpy and as stained as a toddler Mom and replaced them with clothes that made me feel my best, helped me express how I WANT to look, not just what’s in my closet. Letting go of that which no longer served in my physical world has been a game changer.

The interesting thing is that performing those purges has helped to create a mindset that has made me a more careful consumer, planner, and doler-outer of my time. I really have begun to curate my experiences. I have begun to question how I’m spending my time and what I’m getting for it. And I’m making some changes that will exchange unpleasant time for time that will satisfy me.

And here I come to the issue of my garden… not my garden as in English garden with flowers and such, but my vegetable garden. We moved into this house 10 years ago and I have attempted to grow vegetables every year since (although I should note that if you are an aspiring gardener, buying a house in a neighborhood that has street names with “Slate Hill” in them is probably not a great move). We have had a few good years. Even those years, however, did not produce as much as they SHOULD have based on the amount of effort required. Why?

Our yard backs up to a protected woods that has a creek running through it. It is a magical place that we explore with the kids. We find critters, we wade, we take long walks and make up stories about what goes on at night. That woods backs up to a very large county park, which connects to other parks in our fairly rural and wooded county. What does all of this mean, other than that we live in a beautiful spot (which we really, really do)? It means our yard is part of a vast wildlife highway. We have groundhogs; we have rabbits; we have squirrels; we have even had a black bear. And the deer, please don’t get me started on the deer. I know all of you gardeners out there are chomping at the bit to give me advice on how to keep them out. Whatever you’re about to say, short of enclosing the whole thing in chain link fencing including a roof, which would be the only way to keep the squirrels from stealing my tomatoes, we’ve tried it. We’ve done everything short of shooting and poisoning them, which I’m not willing to do. For everything I grow in my garden, assuming the plants thrive, we might get 20% of the harvest. And I haven’t even talked about the bugs.

Being near the creek makes us a prime target for SO many pests. And again, short of spraying things that I’m not comfortable eating, we’ve tried it. We’ve tried it all and I am weary. I am tired of being disappointed when I go out to tend to my garden. This is not the experience I had in mind. There has been little fulfillment in the whole operation, and so I have decided that this year will be my last in carrying out this size of effort (I have a big garden). I haven’t yet decided if I will simply make a much smaller garden of things that do well here or stop the enterprise altogether. I do know that some flowering plants would make a nice addition to part of the yard that the garden covers up. That would feel good to me. And that’s the thing, right? These chores we assign ourselves should get us SOMETHING we feel good about, right? I am going to curate my yard so I can be in it and feel GOOD instead of disappointed or like I am a rotten gardener. I want to enjoy my space. I get to decide how to spend my time and what kind of results I want.

declutteringWhat part of your life could use a little curating? What are you accepting that is not yours? What are you committing to that is draining you? What used to be fun and now is, well, not? What’s in your closet? If you need a personal guide who can teach you how to be a better curator, I’d love to help.

Rules For Freedom: Dealing with Overwhelm

 

Look, there are plenty of good reasons to get overwhelmed in the modern world. Everywhere we look there are SO many options. I used to joke that I would do better in really small grocery stores that only carried one brand of the the thing. ONE kind of ketchup, one kind of mayonnaise, whatever. I know, I know, what would we do without the battle over Hellman’s versus Duke’s? Seriously. At times I just wanted to stop spending time on this level of decision-making. Why? Because then some time would be free and I wouldn’t be thinking about mayonnaise – right? And then the shopping would be done.. don’t worry I don’t really spend that long on mayonnaise, it’s just an illustration.

Slide1But the same level of possibility can apply to big decisions. And there’s a lot of information out there for us. We can get so caught up in the details and comparisons, data collection and analysis, worry that we’ll pick the wrong thing that we never do anything. In fact, I can’t tell you about how many adults I’ve talked to who say they’d rather be doing some other kind of work but then they get bogged down in the logistics, the details, the worries about whether or not it will work, the need to know the future. All of that becomes overwhelming, and so they stay exactly where they are, unhappy but safe. Sometimes they’ll try to put some whipped cream on that by telling me about their nice coworker.

I have a couple of reactions to this. First, it’s actually really good to stay in the blah job long enough to learn how to be happy even though your circumstances aren’t ideal. If you  can’t learn to manage your mind and emotions, you’ll just be taking that stuff with you. On the other hand… if you are just staying in a job because it’s safe and you can’t decide what to do next, the problem isn’t the number of possibilities, it’s the way you are looking at them.

Slide2When we’re taking on a new project, there are three phases involved with getting started: the idea (which may involve some dreaming), the logistical details (which often includes anything but), and action. SO many people spend an enormous amount of time in the second phase, the one that’s supposedly about logistical details. I like to call that phase: “I can’t because…” This is the time when we start with some logistical details (maybe we have some scheduling issues) or concerns from previous jobs (maybe we’ve been burned before) and those really just become the centerpieces for a big feast of reasons why we can’t ever change anything. It feels like thinking about our options, but really it’s just a whole bunch of storytelling. How do I know it’s storytelling? Because it involves predicting what will or won’t be possible in that next big career move when you have NO idea what could actually happen because you haven’t talked to anybody about anything. All stories. You made it all up. You may find that offensive because it’s based on something real. That’s okay I can take it. You still made it up. What happened to you in the past is past. The best way to allow that injury to continue is to allow it to limit you forever.

Slide3So when I have a client who’s in this kind of overwhelm, the analysis paralysis, I encourage them to focus on the other two steps: focus on the idea and the vision for what could be next, including how they want to feel and what they want to do with in great detail and THEN? Then I encourage them to act. “But I don’t know what to do….. I’m going to get it wrong… I will fail.” 1) Make a list of 10 small actions you could take to support your idea or vision. 2) Yes, you might, then you try one of the other 10. 3) Yes, you might, and you will be okay, and you will like yourself better for having tried, and you will learn what NOT to do so you can try again.

Sitting in overwhelm is paralyzing, and it’s also a choice. A good rule for freedom? Don’t allow it. Focus your sights on your vision and action. Before you know it, you just may be somewhere totally new.