Navigating Nastiness

Many of you that I talked to last week are going through some STRUGGLES.  Woo.  Seems like people are being a little harsh with each other right now.  So, my dears, it is time to give yourself a big hug, take a deep breath and see if you can go easier on yourself — and those around you.

 

A taxonomy of the challenges other people may bring to your life, and how to think about responding.  Also, recognize when you are doing the mugging🙂
 
For when “you’re going along minding your own business, and suddenly, when you least expect it, you’re faced with a shocking attack on your mood or peace of mind.” – Martha Beck
 
A great little video.  The title idea of the video is both easy to dismiss and really thought-provoking and inviting, if you give it a minute.  Also a reminder of the power of gratitude.  Listen to Louise, and stay with her.
 
3. Breathe, people, breathe.
And finally, the super basics.  When stressed, you are probably holding your breath.  It’s your inner two year old, holding her breath in reaction to what is upsetting her.  As an adult, you have the wherewithal to realize that the opposite might be more handy.  So here’s a little exercise that you can do right this second —
 
breathe in for 4, hold it for 7, breathe out for 8
[…and repeat, 4 times]
 
Relax your jaw,
relax your tongue,
relax the skin between your eyebrows, and at your temples.
No need to squint.
Let your eyes sink back into their sockets.
Let your shoulders fall
down your back.
Let your spine get a little longer.
I also like to put both feet on the floor,
since I usually sit Side-Saddle Sam Style, all twisted up.
Relax and let your belly expand
as you breathe in — when you breathe into your belly,
your diaphragm pushes down, and
the bottom of your lungs get to expand.
So they get a chance to get some oxygen too.
It also super relaxes all that tension you’re holding
in your back and hips.
Watch for little spots in your body where you feel tension,
where breath seems to get “caught”
Can you send your inhale there?  See if it softens that place a little?
Get in there, oxygen.  Work some magic.  Quick quick.
 
[More official version below]

The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
“This exercise is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.

This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it but gains in power with repetition and practice. Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass.

Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep. This exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.” -Dr. Andrew Weill

Motivation Hacks

Hi, all.

Ok, I got a little overwhelmed.  I’ve been avoiding you.

So this week, I am back with a few thoughts on motivation & getting yourself going.  Think of it as helping me help you help me.  Help you.  Give one a try, see if it leads to a better day, or even a little forward momentum on that thing you wish you were doing but keep not doing.

And look for another note soon about “office hours,” for anyone in your lives who could use some 1:1 career brainstorming & forward-movement support! -Liz

  1. Mise En Place – the best use of the first 10 minutes of your day:

Hint: It’s not checking email on your smartphone from bed.

“The Meez” (click for full article, solid quick read)

“What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at your desk? For many of us, checking email or listening to voice mail is practically automatic. In many ways, these are among the worst ways to start a day. Both activities hijack our focus and put us in a reactive mode, where other people’s priorities take center stage. They are the equivalent of entering a kitchen and looking for a spill to clean or a pot to scrub.

A better approach is to begin your day with a brief planning session. An intellectual mise-en-place. Bourdain envisions the perfect execution before starting his dish. Here’s the corollary for the enterprising business professional. Ask yourself this question the moment you sit at your desk: The day is over and I am leaving the office with a tremendous sense of accomplishment. What have I achieved?

This exercise is usually effective at helping people distinguish between tasks that simply feel urgent from those that are truly important. Use it to determine the activities you want to focus your energy on.”

  1. Want Over Should

Someone recently turned me on to the psychology / irrational thinking blog You Are Not So Smart, specifically a post about procrastination. While I found the article a little obtuse, there was one premise that stuck with me: 

“In the struggle between should versus want, some people have figured out something crucial – want never goes away. Procrastination is all about choosing want over should.”

He goes on about the theories of hyperbolic discounting (which sounds like the heart and soul of procrastination), and gives a few examples of ways to force yourself into being responsible: 

“This is why food plans like Nutrisystem work for many people. Now-you commits to spending a lot of money on a giant box of food which future-you will have to deal with. People who get this concept use programs like Freedom, which disables Internet access on a computer for up to eight hours, a tool allowing now-you to make it impossible for future-you to sabotage your work.”

But what I found more interesting was the want versus should mentality. 

I mean, I was procrastinating against sending this very email/post!  Something I really do WANT to do.  But I’d mentally put it in the “Should” pile — and found myself hesitating and delaying and avoiding it.  

When I realized that I was thinking of this email (and a few other things) as a “should”, I wondered if that wasn’t the very cause of my hesitation.  So, I thought about why I *wanted* to do it…well, here I am writing.

The next few times I find myself avoiding something, I’m going to try this little re-framing exercise: 

  1. set aside whether or not I “should” do it, and 
  2. think instead about why I “want” to do it. 
  3. …see if I do it.  :)

If anyone else tries it, lmk if it works for you!

  1. Work Warm-ups: Figuring out how to “drop in”

You’re going to have to tolerate a little yoga-talk in this one, but stick with me — I promise the application will apply regardless of your interest in striking up a yoga practice.  Full post will be linked on the blog!

There’s a saying in yoga, that you want to “drop in” to your practice — meaning get centered and focused and THERE.  The beginning of most yoga classes try to help you drop in — focusing on your breath, closing your eyes to shut out external distractions, doing simple poses to “listen” to how your body is feeling today.  

That “dropping in” can ALSO come when you get your blood pumping.  I was reminded of this in a practice recently.  I let myself have a more intense start than normal — a simple, repetitive, fast-paced sequence that really got my blood up. Instead of feeling harried and a little stressed by it, as I thought I might, when I paused at the end of that warm-up sequence, I was completely in my zone and focused. 

I wonder, as I think of the blood pumping and the energy I created from a simple, strong, energetic sequence — in the practice of work, do I have simple things to do that would energize me with ease?  That would “get my blood up” so to speak?  Do I take on tasks and work that could be this sort of warm-up, the thing that gets the blood pumping?  What is my professional equivalent of sun salutations?

And on the flip side, in the rhythm and pacing of a “day’s practice,” aka work, do I have things that allow me to pause, to wipe the slate clean, before I dive in again?*  

I’m most curious about the first.  Do you have simple things in your work day that get your blood moving, that you like to do before diving in to the meaty, tough stuff?  Share!  I am curious.

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That’s all for now.  Until we meet again — wish me luck organizing my mind before checking email, keeping this blog/email list in the “Want” pile and out of the “Should” pile, and finding a few warm-up work things that I can do to get a strong start for every day.  Share and send feedback / thoughts / comments. 

Love,

Liz

*(Facebook & email checking would not count as things that allow me to pause — while they cause me to pause, they don’t wipe anything clean, they more serve as the Alice-in-Wonderland rabbit’s hole, leading to a whole world of new distractions and…(she says as she checks her email for the 4th time in a minute)) 

Work/Life Balance: Seeking Fulfillment

As you all know, I’ve been searching high and low for good tips and insights about balance. Nothing tactical worth sharing, yet… But I HAVE come across ways to look at your work/life balance, concepts that may give you a new perspective. So I’ll start by offering those. Try them on, see if they fit, and respond to me with your own perspectives and tips, what’s worked and what hasn’t. Every time I talk about this topic, I’ve picked up something – so let’s start a conversation.

In the physical world, balance feels pretty black and white. The reality of life is that there are a lot of proportions that find equilibrium.  If you want to change to a different “balance,” you’re going to have to disrupt the one you’ve got. In our physical lives, balance is complemented by strength, flexibility, endurance, energy and the ground that you’re standing on. Let’s look at those complements to balance, see if it lends some perspective.

1. Fix your gaze: Vision & fulfillment

Our perception of work/life balance is tied to what we are trying to accomplish. Deepak Chopra captured that in an article on the fear that we do not have “enough” – not enough money, not enough time, not enough energy, etc.

In addressing this fear that we don’t have enough, he talks about feeling fulfilled:

“There is such a thing as rich but miserable—we all know people who fit that pattern—but there is no such thing as fulfilled and miserable. Material abundance, which can be useful, contains no fulfillment by itself. Fulfillment comes from a vision that comes true. The higher the vision, the greater the fulfillment. In effect, vision acts like a trigger for abundance.” – Deepak Chopra, How To Recognize Life’s Abundance

Fulfillment comes from a vision that comes true.” Is part of the stress of feeling that you are “out of balance” symptomatic of not feeling fulfilled? That there’s something else out there that you need to fit into your day to feel fulfilled?  What if that’s the wrong way to think about fulfillment?  What if instead, fulfillment came from setting a vision and feeling yourself achieve it?

That lays a different foundation for how to work on work/life balance. Start at the top: If I know what I’m working towards, I can figure out what I might need to let go of.

Also, if you have a vision, you could watch the places where you wobble away from moving towards that vision. What distracts you? Own your wobble. Forgive it, see it with love, and be curious about what you can learn from it about the balance you’re currently living in, and what it would take to change it.

Do you have a vision you’re working towards? If that’s too big, do you have a vision of a strong week? Is your current work/life/everything balance going to create that for you, this week? If not, what’s getting in the way?

Consider the insight, and tell me if I’m full of it. Or just send back your thoughts, or your more practical insights. As I said at the top, the odds are, any advice I give on work/life balance will be more irritating than helpful – so please add to the thought I’ve offered with some reality from your own experience, help me get closer to helpful!

Dreaming the Dream: Work/Life Balance

Oh, “balance.” How you elude us.  Here’s what I heard about work/life balance from you all:

“How can I travel for work and still go to the gym…or at least not eat fried chicken all the time?”

“How do I balance running full tilt at work, while still being there for my family?”

“How can I have a personal life without ‘coasting’ at work?  What does job ‘maintenance’ look like, when you’re not falling behind, but you’re also not ‘leaning in’ like crazy?”

Such good questions. I’ve been searching high and low for good tips and insights about balance. Nothing tactical worth sharing, yet – this turns out to be a tough topic to tackle on week 2🙂

I HAVE come across ways to look at your work/life balance, concepts that may give you a new perspective. So I’ll start by offering those. Try them on, see if they fit, and respond to me with your own perspectives and tips, what’s worked and what hasn’t. Every time I talk about this topic, I’ve picked up something – so let’s start a conversation.

To start with the [wo]man in the mirror: different stages of my life have been / felt “imbalanced” in all different ways. It’s often because I am juggling too much or feel overwhelmed. I’ve prioritized some things over others, and/or barely given enough time to anything. Then, I judge myself for the balance that I’ve struck – it’s never quite “right,” and thinking that it can / should be different can really stress me out. Not enough time keeping up with friends, didn’t do my best work because I left a project til the last minute, made it home at 6 for dinner but am stressed after dinner because I wasn’t “really done” with the day and now have a lot on my mind and a lot of dishes in the sink. In the moment, I get stressed, and in the aftermath, I can get depressed or a little anxious about not being able to handle it better. Perhaps some of this sounds familiar?

Balance means being steady, stabilized, finding equilibrium. Balance is also defined as having things “in correct proportions” – and this is the definition that we get hung up on, the idea that there’s a “right” balance that would let us juggle all of these things perfectly if only we could find it.

I wonder if our belief that there is a “correct” balance doesn’t come from our physical lives. In the physical world, balance feels pretty black and white. You are sitting there, balanced and stable; or you’re precariously perched, wobbly.

The reality of life is that there are a lot of proportions that find equilibrium, whether we judge them to be “correct” or not. If it’s your pattern, you might say it IS “balanced”: it has stabilized into your status quo.

Why am I pointing this out? Well, if you want to change to a different “balance,” you’re going to have to disrupt the one you’ve got. There isn’t (as far as I know) some “perfect” equilibrium that we could slip into, if only we would let ourselves.

So let’s imagine for a minute that perfect doesn’t exist. Let’s stop worrying that we’re not there. Instead, we can consider if we’re ready for some disruption, and get a little more creative in finding a new balance point.

In our physical lives, balance is complemented by strength, flexibility, endurance, energy and the ground that you’re standing on. Perhaps by looking at those complements to balance, we can start to understand how to strike a balance that better serves us.

I’ll offer the perspectives & reframing ideas I’ve found in four sections.

1. Fix your gaze: Vision & fulfillment

2. The ground you’re standing on: Your team & expectations

3. Strength and flexibility: Coming from a place of abundance vs. a place of scarcity; consider the fact that you’re exactly where you are supposed to be (self-acceptance) & forgiveness

4. Energy: A better thing to seek than balance?

Stand Out

Hello, willing guinea pigs!
The question we’ll start with:  At work, do you do things others think you’re good at, but that you don’t enjoy?  Do you struggle to describe your ideal job — what you are better at, what settings you work best in?
That’s what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately — knowing that I am better suited to different work than I was doing, or even just some slight adjustment in my day to day…but not knowing how to describe it.
Two tools I’ve come across for grappling with doing more of the work that’s best suited for you:
 
I found this just a few weeks ago.  It offers an interesting set of questions, and came with pages of results that help me articulate how I approach work, in what situations I’m at my best, how to work with me, all sorts of things.   Helpful for talking to prospective clients, employers, and for setting my own course.
Check out my results, attached, for a sample.
$15 online.  Worth the money, and all fifteen minutes it will take you.
(go to the bottom of the page, Individual option)
Impressed by the support I got from the quiz results, I looked up the dude who created it, which lead me to Marcus Buckingham — an Oprah protege bent on Career Intervention.  Buckingham suggests that we should identify strengths as those things that energize us.  He gives a great explanation of redefining the word “strength” here.
He also had an exercise that I found simple and clarifying, and very free:
2. The “What I LOVED and LOATHED This Week” Exercise 
(also explained in the podcast, here)
Do it this week!
Get yourself two small stacks of notecards or post-its or just plain paper in two colors.  Pick one color to be for things you love and feel strong at, and another for things you loathe and that drain you.
As you go through the week, write down activities that rise to either category.
When you do something that you love, that you were excited to do, that left you feeling energized at the end, that you lost track of time while doing — jot a note of what activity/ies you were doing on a Loved It card.
When you do find yourself doing something that you are loathing — it leaves you feeling drained, frustrated, wanting to hide / distract yourself — even if you’re good at it — jot down a note of what you’re doing on a Loathed It card.
At the end of the week, you’ll have a few of each, or maybe a mountain of them🙂  Use this podcast to think about how to process what you’ve got in front of you.
In short, these cards can help you think in specifics — How can you start to make small changes to the kind of work you “raise your hand” for, so that more and more of your job energizes you, and less and less of it drains you?
If you want to take a next step, write a strength statement — one theme, one activity that comes out of your cards that you are strong at, that you want more of in your life.  And then pick a single activity that you could do towards “freeing up” that strength next week.  He has tips to start avoiding your weaknesses, and invest in your strengths in the final podcast of the series.
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That’s a lot for one week!  I hope you’re intrigued.  All feedback, questions, other ideas and curiosities welcomed. And if there’s someone whom you think this would be helpful to, please share — and have them contact me to sign up!

Sign up!

Hello!  This blog is also a weekly service (aka a weekly email), sharing interesting tools / ideas / insights about developing your career.  If you are thinking about a job change, a career track change, or just about how to succeed at & advance in what you are doing today, this email is / aspires to be for you.

Intrigued?  Hooray!
Sign it up! If you are interested, please reply with a Yes!  First weekly email goes out this weekend🙂 and if you are so inclined, let me know what career stuff is on your mind.
Invite friends! If you know others who might be interested, please send me a note with their name / email, and why you think they’d be interested — or just forward this note on and let them reply to me to get signed up.
Send your career Q’s, or details of your fork in the road! While I have a few things I want to share out of the gates, I would love to know what career questions / concerns / musings you are grappling with.  Drop me a note or give me a ring — I always do better work when I am responding to someone’s specific need!
[Why are you doing this, Liz?  I’m in the midst of considering a career change myself, and want to share what I am learning…also, that consideration might lead me into working in career development, so this is a bit of a test run!]
Other questions or ideas?  Please send them my way!
Your friendly neighborhood career catalyst,
Liz

Yoga At Work: getting your blood pumping

Let’s take a look at life through a different lens, shall we?  The workout.  What can I learn from being active that applies to my career?  Turns out, lots.  Let’s start at the beginning, with one about warming up — enjoy! Thanks and love to Buddy Macuha, an SF-based yoga teacher I respect and adore, for the inspiration behind this one.  -Liz

I have always biased towards the long-distance work-out — I was a long distance swimmer first, than ran (read, jogged) in my 20’s.   These days workouts are walks and yoga classes — and in yoga, the longer the class, the better I like it.

I like to go at my own pace, I hate feeling rushed.  I like to get in the flow of it, “drop in,” as they say.

I just took a class with Buddy Macuha, only my second with him.  The man is high energy, to a level that I thought would irritate me, with my I-go-at-my-own-pace-thank-you attitude.  In the first few flows of a vinyasa class, I will often ignore a teacher’s cues if I feel they’re going to fast, to find my own happy pace and breath — so that I don’t lose the breath / meditative quality of other parts of practice just to keep up with their pace.

But for some reason, Buddy’s statement as we dove into the warrior sequence — “stay with me now” — convinced me to do that, to stay with him.

We did five sun salutation B’s — for non-yogi’s, think of it as a few warm-up laps with some pretty good intensity — and I stayed with him.  It felt a little rushed, but I tried to stay in his flow, and enjoyed that upbeat, rapid-fire energy for a few minutes.

And then we stopped, went quiet, forehead down into child’s pose.  And all I could feel was strong, quiet, energized blood pumping through my forehead and my chest and the rest of me.  THERE was the rhythm that we’re hoping to feel in a practice.  The pulse of great energy built, ready to be put to work.  It lead to one of the greatest practices I’ve had in a while.

I’ve had many days, lately, when I feel like I can’t “drop in” to anything at work — like in everything I do I hit a wall, and that slows me down, and I dawdle, and then I start half-doing other tasks, really doing none of them, and suddenly I’ve lost the day.

How much of the energy that we have at any given point in the day is about the kind of pacing that we practice in a vinyasa yoga class, and in many workouts?  First the centering, then the warm up, then the heating build to the deeper, harder, more meaty work, and then the slow release of stretching and cooling back down.  All punctuated with moments of pause, to not let the work of the poses take you away from the “point” — which, in the case of a yoga practice, is the breath, your own centeredness.

I wonder, as I think of the blood pumping and the energy I created from a simple, strong, energetic sequence of sun salutations — in the practice of work, do I have simple things to do that would energize me with ease?  That would “get my blood up” so to speak?  Do I take on tasks and work that could be this sort of warm up, the thing that gets the blood pumping?  What is my professional equivalent of sun salutations?

And on the flip side of that rhythm and pacing of a “day’s practice,” aka work, do I have things that allow me to pause, to wipe the slate clean, before I dive in again?

I’m most curious about the first.  Do you have simple things in your work day that get your blood moving, that you like to do before diving in to the meaty, tough stuff?  Share!  I am curious.