Got analysis paralysis?

One of the clients I started working with recently mentioned how they tend to get analysis paralysis when they are thinking of starting something new. This concept of thinking more than doing, is so common and one of the main obstacles individuals must face when embarking on something like a Power Year.

start-a-journeysThere can be a tendency to want to start out excellent or perfect at something. This desire can hijack our ability to try new things that stretch us and make us grow. I imagine Dr. Carol Dweck would say that this challenge is rooted in the fixed mindset mentality.

When I’m working with clients who slip into the groove of analysis paralysis, one thing I emphasize is that experience rewires the brain. Yay plasticity! Each of us has the ability to reframe how we approach problems and our ability to make change in our lives. It takes work, but is possible.

I am always impressed when I see a client who is willing to do heavy cognitive lifting during their Power Year. It’s so essential and beneficial, I have no doubt that the client who shared their tendency of analysis paralysis will shift that habitual thinking by the end of our time working together.

Inspiring Individual Spotlight: Tatianna Santos

photoformegI met Tatianna when I worked in the non-profit sector, teaching comprehensive sexual health to teens. The non-profit field is full of caregivers and passionate individuals who are so driven to fulfill the missions of their organizations, that many times, self-care falls by the wayside. In addition to being impressed by Tati’s ability to develop meaningful relationships with the youth we worked with, I appreciated her ability to recognize when she needed to rejuvenate and take a moment for herself. I asked her for an interview because I find her inspiring, she was kind enough to share some kernels of greatness.

What drew you to teach sexual health?

My initial draw towards the field was when I noticed the tie between comprehensive sexual health and gender violence. My first role as an educator was during college, where I facilitated mostly conversations about gender violence, including rape culture, consent, and healthy relationships. A lot of these talks always struck me as focusing so much on the harm that people experienced but never on what a happy, healthy, fulfilling, sexual life could be. Eventually our conversations made the shift to include more sex positive conversations, and I realized that I felt most fulfilled when I was addressing the culture of gender violence from multiple directions.

Can you recommend any books that cover sexuality, identity, and expression in an inclusive and comprehensive way?

Yes! One of my favorite books is “What Makes a Baby”, by Cory Silverberg. What I love most about this book is that to me it is so inclusive of all families, all gender and gender identities. Cory alongside Fiona Smyth (the illustrator), do a wonderful job in addressing topics like pregnancy, bodies, birth in inclusive and visually appealing ways. I highly recommend this book, especially to those with youth in their life.

Who are your professional and personal role models? What is it about each one that resonates with you?

In the hopes I don’t sound too cliché, my father is my biggest role model. He, alongside my mother, moved to a new country, not speaking the language, with two children under the age of ten in the search of “the American Dream”. My father is perhaps the most resilient person I know. He is continuously showing me the fruit of hard work. Still to this day, my father is my go-to person when I am in the need of some wisdom and a pick me up. He is careful to not tell me what I should do, or how I should spend my time. All that he asks is that I take care of myself and that I prioritize my happiness.

Professionally, my supervisor Julie LaBarr takes the cake! Even before she became my supervisor I had crossed paths with her multiple times and she always left an impression. So much so, that during the day of my interview for my current position, I might have possibly been more nervous about having to present in front of her than the interview itself. There is so much to be said about Julie; she is knowledgeable, caring, kind, hilarious, and supportive. What most resonates with me is that Julie does not shy away from talking about mental health. Often times from what I’ve seen in the non profit, direct service world, the expectation is that we are always giving, always giving more and more and pushing out boundaries—the more you give the more you care. With Julie, she understands that there are days that giving is tough, that some days you leave a classroom and you just need to cry it out. Knowing that I have a supervisor like that has made the world of difference.

What’s your self-care routine/regimen/philosophy? 

“You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.” I came across this quote a long time ago and it’s truly become my truth. I remind myself of that every day, especially in those moments when my energy is going outwards so much that I am feeling like there is not any left.

My routine varies, I keep an ongoing list in my agenda, my “self-care” list. This is usually my go to when I need some sort of pick me up. I try to incorporate self care daily, some days it looks like setting my alarm clock 15 minutes earlier than usual so I can cuddle with my cat a bit longer in the morning, other days it means getting a slurpee at 3am. Self care, to me, means doing what feels right and fulfilling for me in the moment and not feeling guilty or selfish about it. Here are some of the things on my list:

  • Call home
  • Eat something sweet
  • Listen to “This Feeling” by Alabama Shakes
  • Cuddle Bandit (my cat)
  • Turn off my phone
  • Cry
  • Watch a funny video online
  • Ask someone out for a walk
  • Take a long shower
  • Stretch

What would you say to someone who says they don’t have time or money to spend on self-care?

Money is not necessary for self care, not at all. There is absolutely privilege tied to being able to afford getting a massage, treating yourself to new things, attending concerts and all that – but those are not the end all of self care. Prioritizing you and taking care of yourself does not require taking your wallet out, sometimes all you need is one minute of taking deep breaths. Breathing goes a long way.

When it comes to time, my suggestion is to always add pieces of self-care to your routine. For instance, stretching while you brush your teeth, having a playlist of your feel good songs you listen to while you get ready in the morning. I even carry things on me that smell nice, like lavender oil, and sometimes that’s all I need to get through a tough moment.

Do you consider yourself spiritual? If so, what do you do to encourage your own spiritual growth?

I don’t know if I would consider myself a spiritual person. I believe in the Universe, and thank the Universe often. That’s my way of acknowledging a bigger larger connection and power that I can’t fully grasp. There are days that I feel like the Universe has it out for me, but it always seems to provide what I need just when I need it.

What’s your philosophy when it comes to living?

Live with intent.

What’s your philosophy when it comes to dying?

Celebrate your live and the life of others while you are still around.

Describe the last time you felt inspired.

Seeing my niece grow, her little successes like rolling over on to her belly or standing up for longer than 10 seconds are a constant reminder that life is full of little “wins,” and it’s okay to celebrate those too!

What are you grateful for these days?

I actually keep a gratefulness page in my journal and add to it often. Somedays I am grateful for a phone call from home, sometimes it’s my comfy cat lady socks. I used to think that being grateful was only reserved for the “big” things, like a job or a car. I shifted the way I approach gratefulness, these days it’s the little things that keep me going.

What are you working on letting go of these days?

I’m working on letting go of negativity in my life and unnecessary weight. I’m an energy sponge; if I’m around people or places that aren’t lifting me up my energy is sucked out.

What pop culture are you loving lately?

Anything that has to do with Beyonce, all the time.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you?

When people tell me that they know someone who is Brasilian, I like to pretend that their friend is my cousin.

Hard habit to break

For the past 10 days I’ve limited my time on Instagram and Facebook to 10 minutes total each day; I literally set an alarm and close everything out when it goes off. Limiting my time online is something I’m doing as part of the creativity challenge I’m participating in this month—the idea is that in order to make space for creativity to bloom, my day needs to be free of distractions (which abound online) and habits that eat up time that could be used creating. For the first few days of my self-inflicted limit, 10 minutes flew by and I found myself habitually reaching for my phone to check-in on what each of the apps’ feeds had to offer me.

IMG_9069My awareness of the reach made me able to stop it; almost like I was able to watch my hand reach for my phone in slow motion, and my brain redirected my hand, reminding it, “We’re replacing phone time with reflection or creation, remember?!”

I started thinking about habits in general—how pervasive and powerful they are, which makes sense because they work on a neurological level. I’ve been in awe of our human brains for as long as I can remember; I posted the John Milton quote on my bedroom door when I was in high school, “The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” It’s so expansive and complex! The reptilian part of our brain is mighty and essential—it keeps us alive, but can also hijack our thoughts, causing us to fear the simple act of being separated from our loved ones (catastrophe thoughts, anyone?). The basal ganglia is a part of the reptilian brain and stores habits. This small golf ball sized oval of cells is where my habit of reaching for my phone is stored, along with other automatic behaviors I don’t have to think about (tying my shoes, brushing my teeth, pouring water from a pitcher, etc.). I suppose I’m working on dismantling some old habits and forming new ones this month. Sure, habits are powerful, but they can also be reshaped. And I’m a firm believer that any habit that isn’t serving you is a habit worth changing.

A key to changing a habit is identifying the trigger or cue that initiates it. In the case of me reaching for my phone, the cue is a lull in activity or a transition from one activity to another. Next, replacing the habit with a more desirable behavior is needed. Instead of reaching for my phone, I reach for my journal and spend a few minutes jotting ideas down or reflecting. Lastly, the replacement activity must be satisfying to me, I must identify the benefit and view it as a reward, for the new habit to stick.

So much of our lives are made up of habits! By definition, a habit is something we don’t have to think about when we do it. What habitual thoughts or behaviors of yours are no longer serving you?

Clients: Do you have a specific habit you’d like to change? If so, bring it up during our next call or email connect.

Say what you mean, mean what you say

I’ve mentioned how one of my pet peeves is when people offload ownership of a request by turning it into a question; please complete this report becomes do you want to complete this report?; please go to the grocery store becomes do you want to go to the grocery store? This trend is so prevalent that when I find myself asking someone a genuine question (Do you want to go to the grocery store with me?), I sometimes worry they think I’m doing THAT OFFLOADING OWNERSHIP THING and say yes because they think I want them to say yes.

See how energy consuming and complicated this lack of clear communication can quickly become?!

That’s why when I met up with a friend and her almost four year old the other day for a tour at the Denver Art Museum, I was thoroughly entertained by the kid’s straightforward communication. I could tell he was excited to see me when I arrived because his facial expression looked like joy and he came toward me for a greeting. On the other hand, I could tell he did not want to have anything to do with the tour guide who came over to him and asked him his name. She introduced herself and the kid just closed his eyes and slowly tilted his head back. I was dying laughing on the inside, because I imagined what it would look like if an adult did this.

In a conversation at work that you just.can’t.handle? Close your eyes and tilt the ol’ head back a little. That’ll send the message loud and clear. PLEASE GO AWAY I DON’T FEEL LIKE LISTENING TO YOUR INCESSANT CHATTER. At a bar and some creeper keeps talking to you? Close your eyes and do the head tilt thing and bam, they actually pick up on the message and walk away. How great would that be?

The directness of my friend’s almost four year old got me thinking about communication in general. I used to use the word “like” a lot, typical for an adolescent, then it hung around in my early adult years as a space filler—an avoidance of silence. After a colleague was criticized for her excessive use of the word (a subordinate counted the amount of times she said “like” during a meeting and shared the results with her), I assessed my own use of the word and made a point to pause and say nothing instead of “like” or “um.”

I have a friend who caught herself when she started to say, “kind of” when we were on the phone together. She explained to me that she was trying to be aware of using that phrase. I want to ask her more about it the next time we talk, because it’s a phrase that I’m curious about, similar to “sort of” and when people use “maybe.” I think of these phrases as timid talk when they’re dropped in the middle of sentence where they have no actual purpose. Or when they’re not used sparingly for dramatic effect (i.e. “That person is kind of intense).

When did saying what you mean, with clarity and kindness, fall by the wayside? Why does it feel like we’re tip toeing about with our words, many times literally apologizing for what we say or ask, even if no apology is necessary?

I have a thing for efficiency, and like to imagine a world where people feel comfortable and confident to say what they mean. I have a thing for integrity, and like to imagine a world where people are sincere and mean what they say.

The path of personal development

When I managed people at the non-profit job I used to have, I always believed it was important to ask of them only what I was willing to do myself; if I asked them to clean out the staff mini-fridge that had accumulated a disgusting amount of sludge, I made sure that I had done that exact task myself at some point. If the higher ups required some tedious data entry on a broken software system from our department, I didn’t just pass off all that work to my employees. Of course, there is value in delegation, but what I’m talking about has to do with camaraderie and compassion, not the time-is-money mentality.

I approach the personal consulting work I do with the same aim. To me, it’s not fair to ask clients to explore possibilities for personal growth unless I’ve done the same. I recently went through the LifePlan process with Claudine at Ascent Life Planning; it was a valuable experience that I am grateful to have completed. For me, talking through my goals with a professional (as opposed to my partner or friends) makes me feel more accountable to complete them. Also, after two days of looking at my life, talents, and passion on flip charts, I feel confident that the work I’m doing is aligned with my values, experience, and heart.

Turning the eye inward and examining your life can be scary. I’ve come to realize that many people don’t even consider doing this through coaching, therapy, or honest personal reflection. I can say from experience that breaking away from the social conventions that attach stigma to all things self-help is liberating. It’s not easy to say yes to the path of personal development; free of busyness for the sake of always doing something; free of mobile device dependency to keep you distracted from yourself. It seems to me that true happiness and joy can be found by embarking on the expedition to pave our individual paths rather than walking down someone else’s. The first step is so close, what’ll it be for you?

Become a bedtime champ

My soul sister and I were roommates in college for our freshman and senior years. One of our nighttime rituals was to run around and “get all the hyper out” before superman jumping into bed. Or at least that was my ritual. I think it took my SS longer to fall asleep; I remember her expressing some aggravation at how quickly I fell asleep after my head hit my pillow. She didn’t hold a grudge though, and even gave me this award:

BedtimeChamp

I’ve always vaguely been aware of how important sleep is, but recently learned that it’s also an essential time for our brains to process everything that’s been thrown at them during the day. Our sleep patterns can determine how well rested we feel when we wake up, and affects our overall health. When we’re sleep deprived we may not function like our typical selves.

So what prevents people from getting good sleep?

Stress

Deadlines, responsibilities, demands at work and home, financial problems, being too busy, dependents, strained relationships with colleagues/friends/family, perfectionism…

Environment

Physical safety (camping and scared of being attacked by a bear? Probably won’t sleep that well), comfort, light levels, sounds

Caffeine and alcohol

Period.

I feel very fortunate to be the type of person who falls asleep quickly and generally sleeps through the night; on the occasion when I’ve had one too many glasses of wine and I wake up at 2:00am and have trouble (“trouble”=it takes 20 minutes) falling back asleep, I feel like I get a teensy glimpse into what it feels like to have sleep issues.

A number of people who I talk to express wanting to focus their Power Year on improving self-care. This is no surprise since it’s easy for companies to say they value work-life balance yet encourage and reward 60+ hour work weeks; self-care is about walking the talk of health and wellness, because nobody else is going to do it for you— getting enough sleep is a great place to start if you missed last week’s post about eating healthily.

In the spirit of sleep self-care, ponder these questions:

Do I wake up feeling well rested? If not,

How can I decrease the amount of stress in my life?

Can I improve my sleeping environment?

Are there relationships I need to patch up or strengthen?