Archive for January, 2008

Evidence

sherlock 

Evidence always seemed like a rather black and white thing (Law and Order SVU is one of my favorite shows after all). The bad guy commits a crime and there’s this handy trail of evidence to prove when, where, how, and if they’re lucky, why he did it.

I’ve discovered evidence is way more subjective and wiggly in my own life. For instance, if I’m feeling crappy about myself for say, not exercising enough, I can find all kinds of evidence to support my crappiness:

“Look there! On Monday you slept late and didn’t go to the gym.”
“You didn’t do the 100 lunges you were supposed to do.”
“Jeez, you didn’t even walk the dog in the last 3 days!”

As you can see, the evidence is clearly overwhelming. Except…

When I’m feeling great about myself and have thoughts like: “I take great care of myself,” then the very same events that fueled the evidence above can now be used as evidence of my fabulousness:

“You’re awesome, on Monday you slept late because you were feeling like you might be coming down with something.”
“You created a really fun workout (instead of those boring 100 lunges) that was so enjoyable, you’ll for sure be back to the gym tomorrow.”
“Since it was sleeting and snowing and Scruffy hates that weather, she was glad you just played fetch with her inside.”

If you don’t like how your evidence is adding up, try looking for different evidence.

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January 22, 2008 at 7:06 pm 2 comments

Meaty Advice for Setting Work Boundaries

I have to admit that I have not yet read Tim Ferris’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek,  but I am a fan of his blog. I found this fantastic article about setting work boundaries there. It goes way past the usual blah, blah on this topic and offers some tangible and engaging ways to truly take a break.

January 17, 2008 at 3:40 pm Leave a comment

Stuck or Not? It’s Your Choice.

Curve Ball

There are many times when life throws us huge, bending curve balls–those ones that are so scary they make us not want to just back off, but to dive out of the batter’s box altogether. When this kind of curve ball comes our way, we usually define ourselves differently on the other side: drunk/sober, healthy/sick, married/divorced, working/laid off, etc… It’s easy to feel victimized by these disruptive, even catastrophic, events, we ask, “Why me?” and “Why can’t it be like before?” We rail at the universe, grieve, rage and cry.

While no one chooses to have cancer, be an alcoholic or lose their job, it is completely and absolutely within your control to choose how to face it. Here are some thoughts on dealing with life’s curve balls; I’d love to hear your comments as well.

Accept the Situation – Acknowledge that life is not going to be business-as-usual for a while (maybe forever), accepting this allows you to stop fighting your current reality and wishing things were different. The past will never return, wishing for it only creates more stress and removes your focus from helping yourself in the present.

Focus on the Moment – While the past will never return, by the same token the future hasn’t happened yet. Avoid “future-tripping” about things that may or may not happen. Stay in the now. What is going on right now? What can I do in this moment to help myself? Future-tripping leads to feeling overwhelmed and worse—helplessness.

Tackle Stressful Thoughts – Many times we not only have the curve-ball-event itself to deal with, but all of our own baggage it brings up. I don’t know about you, but I call this going into the spin-cycle and it goes a little something like this: “Oh no! I lost my job!” moves to; “I had no right doing that job anyway, I was a total imposter.”; blossoms into “Bad things always happen to me.”; culminating in, “I might as well just give up now.” Don’t go there! Ask yourself, what’s the truth here? “I’m not working at this moment.” might be the truth. How would you deal with that truth in the absence of the other baggage? Hint: you would probably just go out and find another job. Done. Byron Katie has a great tool called The Work for turning around stressful thoughts—I use this a lot with my clients.

Actively Choose – There are always choices, maybe not the choices you want, but choices nonetheless. You may not be able to choose to have your chronic illness or not, but you can choose to follow the nutritional plan you know helps you feel better. You can choose to keep your working hours in order to stay focused and feel professional during your job search rather than vegging out in front of the TV. You can choose to hug your child/favorite pet/loved one rather than feeling like you’re all alone. Actively making little and big choices allows you, and not your circumstances, to be in the driver’s seat.

Create your own Cheering Section – Find those people who have your back, who will provide invaluable support and cheer you up/along as you make your way. This is not necessarily the group of people you’ve always relied upon; it may require looking in new places: support groups, online forums, new friends, or people you already know may surprise you by stepping up when you’re down. This may also involve distancing yourself from people who aren’t supportive.

It Will Change – The optimist in me wants to say it will change for the better, but that may not always be the case. Regardless of what happens, your present situation will change (and most of the time it is for the better). You will not always feel like this, you will laugh again, the sun will rise again, you will learn how to cope, life will evolve, you will move on.

Give Yourself a Bunch of Credit – We are tougher and more resilient than we think. I regularly see people do amazing things in their lives and not only come out stronger, but better–more vibrant and alive. Our adversities make us who we are; they force us to dig deep and bring our core strength to the surface. Plus, we can show everyone our cool battle scars.

January 15, 2008 at 1:22 pm 2 comments

Dysfunctional Meeting Bingo!

Bingo

Don’t let boring, endless and unnecessary meetings get you down. Here’s a little game you and a friend can play that turns meetings into instant fun – the crappier the meeting the better!

How to Play:

Simply print this bingo card or create your own. As you sit in the meeting, subtly fill in each square when the corresponding event happens. If more than 5 people check their blackberries, CHECK! When Fred who’s always 15 minutes late shows up, CHECK! When someone asks, “What’s the Action Item here?” CHECK! Once you fill in 5 squares across, down or vertically, refrain from shouting BINGO! aloud, although you will be sorely tempted. Instead discretely text, IM, email, or pass a note to your playing partner saying BINGO! Lunch is now on them.

For all-day retreats, go for blackout bingo. This may be the only thing that keeps you sane.

What would your bingo squares say? Feel free to comment below.

Bonus Fun Holiday Idea: Use the blank bingo card to create your own Dysfunctional Family Bingo game. Play with friends (call them when you have bingo), siblings, or anyone who could use a little levity when visiting family during the holidays.

Credit to Martha Beck for this brilliant idea!

January 14, 2008 at 2:53 pm Leave a comment

Take this Quiz! Are You a Work Junkie?

work junkie quiz

Does what you do drive how you feel about yourself? Take this quiz and find out.

1. When a project I’m leading goes really well, I:
      A. Get a great big boost, I feel validated for my skills.
      B. Feel a sense of accomplishment.
      C. Think, “Thank god Fred was on this project because if he wasn’t I would’ve really blown it.”

2. When something goes wrong at work that needs my attention I:
      A. Immediately feel anxious and responsible for the problem.
      B. Calmly address the problem to the best of my ability.
      C. Seek to defend myself from being blamed for the problem.

3. My email behavior could be described as:
      A. My name is ______ and I’m a crackberry addict, I don’t let anything slip by.
      B. I check it between tasks periodically throughout the work day.
      C. I ignore it until someone emails me 3 times.

4. When my co-workers leave for the day, they say this to me:
      A. Don’t stay all night!
      B. Have fun at your yoga/ceramics class/kid’s play tonight!
      C. Nothing – they don’t want to get sucked in to a bitch session when they’re out the door.

5. My work style could be described as:
      A. Highly competent – I have to push hard and stay right on top of tasks and people to make sure my work gets done.
      B. Highly engaged – I really enjoy my work and the people I work with. I give it my best each day and then let it go.
      C. Highly anxious – I worry a lot about my work, how I’m doing, and how others view my work.

6. Sunday night I feel:
       A. Tired because I’ve been working, checking email or thinking about work all weekend.
       B. Excited to get back to work, I have all these great ideas…
       C. An impending sense of doom about going to work on Monday.

Scoring:
Give yourself 4 points for any “A” or “C” answer, 2 points for any “B” answer.

21 – 24 points. I hate to say it, but you’re a Work Junkie.
A high score indicates you’re letting your work define who you are. In other words, you’re getting a self-esteem “fix” by achieving at work. When things go well at work, this can feel really good. The problem is when things don’t go well, your own self-worth is now contingent on outside activities, not your intrinsic value. This means your own value is now contingent on Jack in project management doing his job, Jill in accounting doing hers, and Joe in engineering doing his. Think about it, how can a project launch date sliding or a botched presentation define YOU? Chances are that you find work stressful and unrewarding. Check out the Work Detox section for tips on dealing with your “addiction”.

16 – 20 points. Work is working you.
A middle-of-the-road score indicates there’s some work you could do to feel better about your work life. Don’t settle for a ho-hum worklife, you can wake up excited to go to work! Sometimes getting there means a total career overhaul, other times a little attitude check can do wonders. Awareness of what’s tripping you up is the first step to moving past it. Try some tips from the Work Detox section and see if your score improves.

12 – 15 You’re workin’ it!
Congratulations! You have a healthy attitude toward work and likely life in general. You feel confident in your skills and abilities and aren’t looking to anyone else to validate your worth. You’re also more likely to have a healthy work/life balance. Still wouldn’t hurt to check out Work Detox and add anything useful to your worklife coping toolkit.

Work Detox
Here are some tools to help you detox from your work “addiction.” When I say addiction, I don’t necessarily mean overwork (athough that can definitely be part of it), it’s looking for things outside of you to validate how you feel inside. Doing this causes stress and unhappiness, especially when these outside factors don’t cooperate and give you the validation you’re looking for!

To start your Work Detox, ask yourself these questions:

What’s the worst thing that could happen?
Stress is caused by believing something bad will happen to you when the crapola hits the fan. Asking yourself this question can help you get in touch with the reality of the situation. Once you understand that you can handle whatever may happen to you, you can deal with the problem in a calmer manner.

Is this my business?
Wanting people to be/act differently causes stress. Read carefully–the only thing you can control is yourself. You can control the things that you do and say and how you react to what others do and say. You cannot control how someone will react to you, nor can you make them do or say differently. When you’re stressed, ask yourself “Is this my business?” If the answer is no, then figure out what you can do differently.

Why am I checking email before bed?
This is like playing Russian Roulette. If you see an email that stresses you, not only will this disturb your rest, but what can you really do about it in that moment? Now you’re wide awake, ruminating, with no ability to solve the problem. Tim Ferris, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek,” calls this “fishing for crises.” Don’t do it. You’ll sleep better.

Post your score and thoughts in the comments section.

If you want to do a more thorough Work Detox, contact me.

January 13, 2008 at 4:04 am 1 comment


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