Blog Short #15: How to Increase Your Willpower!

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you . My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!

There’s a great little book called Eat That Frog. It’s written by Brian Tracy, and has sold 1.5 million copies! I bring this up because today’s blog short is about willpower and how to best take advantage of it, and this book ties in.

The phrase “eat that frog” refers to doing your most important tasks first thing in the morning so they don’t get lost in the day and you never get to them. Brian words it this way:

Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it. It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.

It’s easy to start the day doing things that are maintenance oriented like checking email, setting up appointments, or planning and making lists. These are all important, but if your goal is to finish school, or become a writer, or teach a class, then your frog is not going to be answering emails, making plans or setting up your calendar.

Your frog is going to be studying for the test, writing a blog, or creating a lesson plan for your class. Your frogs are the tasks that take the most brain power, the most engagement, and the most energy. They’re also the tasks that lead you to accomplish your most important goals.

It follows then that your frogs require the greatest willpower, because we naturally resist them. That means you should time your “frogs” to coincide with when your willpower is strongest.

Based on research about willpower, here’s some things that have been found to be true that will help you get this timing right. I’ll give you some resources at the end.

  • Will power is a mind-body construct meaning that it involves both mental prowess and physical energy.
  • Will power is a limited resource. Trying to write a paper, maintain a fitness routine, stop smoking, or keeping your temper in check all pull from the same source of strength. So when you use your willpower again and again, it gets depleted and you can lose some of your control. This aligns with the finding by neuroscientists “that with each use of your willpower, the self-control system of the brain becomes less active,” (McGonigal, p. 60).
  • A second important finding is that your blood sugar drops with each use of willpower. In other words, using your willpower and maintaining self-control drains your body of energy, and conversely, the lowering of energy weakens your willpower.
  • Your brain exaggerates the depletion of your willpower before you’re actually running out, meaning that you can push yourself further than it may seem that you can if you have strong commitment to doing something. However, it’s important to know when you’re pushing too far.
  • Self-control is highest in the morning and steadily deteriorates as the day goes on.

Five Things You Can Do

So with these facts in mind, here’s some things you can do to make the best use of your willpower as well as to preserve and enhance it.

  1. Do your most important tasks first thing in the morning. One caveat is that there are some people who are actually better later in the day and if you’re one of those, you know when that time period is and you should take advantage of it.
  2. Watch your diet. When you’re stressed and feeling depleted, it’s tempting to go for the high carb processed foods that give you a jolt of sugar and usually a lot of fat. Eat food that will sustain your energy over time. Stick with nuts, beans, veggies, whole fruits, lean protein, whole grains and water. These foods keep your blood sugar steady. Your brain runs on glucose, so a low carb diet may leave you feeling tired. Whole fruits are a good source of glucose, and complex carbs in general help maintain blood sugar.
  3. Get enough sleep. Sleep-deprived people are more likely to engage in impulsive behaviors, be more moody, and have less brain power available to maintain self-control.
  4. Maintain a regular exercise habit. It doesn’t have to be long or difficult, just regular. Exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, boosts memory and thinking skills. Walking works!
  5. The greatest help comes from regular meditation. Start with 10 minutes a day and do it every day. People who meditate regularly have more gray matter in their brains. Gray matter helps the processing of information in the brain. Meditation also creates emotional space, makes you less reactive, boosts energy, and keeps you calm. All these things directly impact willpower.

A Word About Stress

Stress has a direct negative impact on willpower.

The more stressed you are, and especially chronically stressed, the more depleted you are both mentally and physically.

We know this already, right?

And because stress wears you down, it directly effects willpower by lessening it and opening you up to more impulsive behaviors in an attempt to get relief.

All the above suggestions work on stress as well as on willpower, so if you work on maintaining willpower, you’ll also alleviate some of your stress and vice versa.

For stress in particular, meditation is the most important of the five things I’ve listed. If you meditate daily, you’ll find yourself working on some of the other habits automatically such as cleaning up your diet, or beginning a walking routine, and sleeping better.

I would suggest doing two things right away:

  1. Eat that frog! Do your hardest and most important tasks first thing in the morning. Save your planning and maintenance tasks for later in the day because these don’t require as much brain power.
  2. Start a regular meditation habit. Just 10 minutes a day every day at the same time. I’ve meditated regularly for 25+ years every morning and nothing has had a more positive impact than that has. It makes everything else fall into place and immunizes you somewhat to high stress.

That’s it for this week! See you next Monday.

All my best,

Barbara


PS: Two books you may enjoy reading about willpower are The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, and Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney.

Will Psychotherapy Help Me?

I subscribe to Mark Manson’s Monday morning newsletter which I greatly enjoy. He has a talent for putting together ideas and adding his own twist to them that’s both interesting and informative.

A couple of months ago he wrote a piece entitled “How to get better.” He talked about the value of psychotherapy, journaling, and meditation to improve self-awareness and effectively deal with psychological and emotional issues. Although I’m interested in all three ideas, I want to speak to the first one today which is the value of psychotherapy.

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Blog Short #14: Important conversations should be face-to-face.

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you . My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!

Today’s subject is about how technology has interfered with our capacity to truly connect with each other. The kind of connection I’m talking about is one where there’s an empathetic exchange, a sense of closeness, a willingness to explore emotions and deeper thoughts, and true intimacy.

One of the primary ways we make these kinds of connections are through conversation. The question is what type of conversation most enables intimate connection and real understanding.

This subject is increasingly critical because of the profound influence technology has had on our modes of conversation. Whereas we used to communicate primarily through face-to-face interactions, we now communicate additionally and sometimes primarily through texting, email, social media, and more lately, video chatting such as Zoom.

What are the effects of these techno-forms of communication?

There are many, but today I’ll discuss just two.

  1. A reduction in empathy.
  2. A negative impact on intimate connection.

Both these are important because they lie at the base of our capacity to understand ourselves including our thoughts, feelings, motivations, and behavior – and to understand the same in others.

Empathy in particular is a foundational necessity for relationships that flourish and last. It’s also the basic ingredient of a well-developed conscience. Without either of those, we wouldn’t survive as a species. It’s that important!

Research has shown that face-to-face conversation both encourages and builds empathy. This is how.

  • You see the body language and facial expressions of the other person and you learn to read their emotions, as well as feel them.
  • You talk in real time with no opportunity to edit what you say. It’s authentic and spontaneous.
  • You can see and feel someone’s response to what you say, which allows you to empathize.
  • You can work toward understanding through questions, comments, and feedback with clarity.
  • You can see someone’s eyes through which communication is most potent.

When you converse by text or email, you:

  • Can edit what you say so that the other person misses out on your process of getting there, and your emotions as you go.
  • Avoid experiencing what the other person feels to some extent because you can’t see their facial expressions or body language. For example, if you hurt someone in some way, you may see their words by text or email, but you won’t actually see the pain as you would if you were face-to-face, and as a result, may not have the same degree of empathy or need to repair.
  • Let time lapse between communications and miss the process.
  • Easily misunderstand what’s said, and then act on that misunderstanding.
  • Can’t see the eyes of the person you’re conversing with.

Studies back this up.

One study measured feelings of emotional connection among a group of adolescents by having them converse using four different methods of communication: face-to-face, video chat, audio chat, and IM. The results confirmed that emotional bonding was felt most during the face-to-face conversation, and least during the IM conversation.

Another study found that even the presence of a phone on the table where people are sitting and talking can have a negative effect on closeness, connection, and the quality of the conversation. This was especially true when people were discussing topics that had personal meaning to them. So if you’re trying to talk to your partner or maybe your child about something important, having the phone in view can inhibit how well you’re able to empathize with each other and feel connected.

There are many other studies that deal with the effects of screen time and technology-based communication on the development of empathy and self-awareness, but for now I just want to get you thinking about the importance of using face-to-face conversation more often, and especially for conversations that involve emotions, relationship issues, conflict resolution, or anything that’s personally meaningful to you or the person you’re conversing with.

Here’s a couple of rules to follow when you talk face-to-face:

1. Put your phone away. Not just down, but out of sight. If you really want to listen and be heard, your phone’s a distraction.

2. Don’t multi-task while you talk. Turn your attention toward the person you’re talking to and give 100% of your focus.

3. Look directly at the person. Not every second if that feels too difficult or awkward, but make sure there’s sufficient eye contact.

4. Abandon any other activities while talking, and if you don’t have enough time for the conversation, say so and decide when you can talk without distraction.

5. Don’t use text or email to resolve conflicts, or emotionally packed issues. Do these face-to-face. Texting is great for logistical conversations or checking in, but not for important conversations that require reading the other person and vice versa.

6. And if you have kids, use these same rules.

If you’d like to read more on this subject, I’d suggest Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle. It’s a great read and has so much more information than I’ve touched on today, as well as ideas on what to do to reverse damage from too much screen time.

That’s all for today. Hope you have a great week!

All my best,

Barbara

Blog Short #13: The 24-Hour Decision-Making Rule

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you . My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!

Making decisions is a big deal because there are always repercussions.

Some decisions are easy and the repercussions are minor, but others can produce a string of reactions that come back at you, or keep showing up out into the future. Either way, it’s good to use a strategy which I call the 24-Hour Decision-Making Rule.

You can pretty much figure out what that means just by the title. When you have to make a decision, or you have the impulse to do something or say something (which is a decision), give it 24 hours and see if you still want to do it. Better yet, make this a habit so you don’t impulsively do something you’re sorry about later.

This can apply to decisions of all kinds including simple things like posting something on social media out of anger. Or maybe a more serious decision like going into your boss’s office and giving him a piece of your mind. Or buying something on the fly without thinking about whether you can really afford it. Or getting the rescue dog at the pet store that’s so adorable without considering whether you have the time or right circumstances to take care of it.

You need your emotional brain and thinking brain to work together, and that doesn’t always happen with snap decisions.


Good decisions are made best when both our emotions and thinking capacity are engaged in a concerted effort to deliberately and consciously make a choice with the best possible outcomes, or avoid a choice that will be detrimental to ourselves and others.

Allowing a time lapse between the impulse to act and the act itself allows this process to occur. And for serious decisions with big consequences, it’s definitely a life-saver.

Here’s when you don’t need to use the 24-hour rule:

  • A fast decision is required as in the case of an emergency.
  • The decision isn’t impulsive and you’ve already done the necessary deliberation and planning to make the best choice.
  • Simple decisions that are made every day that aren’t emotionally driven such as what time to get up, when to eat dinner, or anything that’s just part of your normal routine.


Here’s when you need to use the 24-hour rule:

  • The decision is emotionally driven. Maybe you’re angry, depressed, or anxious and your mood is pushing you from the inside to act now!
  • There’s an important relationship issue involved. This can be with a partner, friend, child, boss, co-worker, or even someone you don’t know but are interacting with.
  • The decision will have consequences for your budget or time consumption.
  • There’s a grey area between what you want to do and your values or conscience.
  • You’re physically or mentally impaired. Maybe you’re ill, foggy brained, or simply in a bad mood and not thinking clearly.


Just to make it easy, I generally use the 24-hour rule for every decision I can, even small ones, as a matter of habit. It simplifies things. You know that if you still want to do that thing in 24 hours, then you feel good about the decision because you’ve thought about it and likely run it through your pros/cons lens.

What’s surprising when you begin this is to find out how many decisions you decide against when you allow the 24 hours, and what kinds of problems you avoid by doing that. That’s the silver lining!

It also gives you a lot more control over your future – even your next day future! It feels good to have that self-discipline and be able to use your emotions to work for you instead of against you.

For the next several weeks, try deferring some decisions, even small ones, for 24 hours and see what happens? You might learn more about yourself!

That’s all for today! Have a great week!

All my best,

Barbara

Blog Short #12: It’s time for a check-in with yourself.

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you . My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!

Well, we’ve finally reached 2021! Does it seem different yet? Likely not, but maybe you’re feeling the stirrings of momentum as I am. I hope so!

As part of any starting point, there’s an exercise I like to use. It’s helpful when you want to reset emotionally and see if you need a shift in perspective, or uncover something you need to attend to or consider.

I call it a “check-in with self.” Basically it’s taking some time to reflect on how you are, where you are, and where you’re going.

Here’s how to do it.

You’ll need a free hour. At least one hour and more if you like, but not less.

You’ll need to be alone without distraction.

This means being far enough away from everyone so you can’t get interrupted, or hear what anyone else is doing or saying. The optimum situation is to be completely alone, however, you could be sitting outside or in a public place where there’s little in the way of distracting noise. You have to be able to attend to your own thoughts without any disruption. That’s the criteria.

The second rule is absolutely no technology. No phone. No computer. No music. No outside input of any kind. Just you.

Once you have the place and environment nailed down, you can proceed with the exercise. Ask yourself these questions, and really think about them.

1. How am I emotionally? Get specific. What’s your overriding feeling? Likely you’ll have a variety of feelings that come up, but try to reflect on your primary emotional state. What’s the overall tone? Positive? Negative? Hopeful? Helpless? Anxious? Happy? Content? Bland? Push down until you can identify how you really are.

2. How are my relationships? What needs attention, and what kind of attention? What do I need to let go of? What do I need to address? What needs improvement? What’s good already, and what am I grateful for?

3. How am I feeling about my life in general? Do I have a sense of control over the direction? Do I have a direction at all? Am I focused on what’s important to me? Do I have baggage I need to resolve?

4. Do I have a strong sense of who I am, and does my life reflect that? If not, what needs change? If so, how do I continue and what’s next?

If you’re not in the habit of spending quiet time with yourself and checking in this way, you might find this exercise uncomfortable. It’s easy to stay so busy that you avoid dealing with your emotional life, and when you slow down and turn your attention inward, it’s a bit overwhelming.

On the other hand, it can feel good to take the time to commune with yourself, and get an overview of where you are as well as clarify what needs attention. It’s sort of like a personal reboot, and gives you a fresh perspective to both identify where you’re stuck, and appreciate who you are and what you already have.

What if I can’t sit for an hour with myself?

If you do this exercise, yet find that sitting quietly for one hour is extremely difficult, start by sitting as long as you can and work at it every week until you can sit for an entire hour comfortably and be alone with yourself.

You might find the first couple of times, that you’re flooded with feelings and thoughts you normally aren’t aware of, or keep at a distance. Just stay with it. Eventually, you’ll settle in and feel the benefits of short periods of solitude and self-reflection.

How often?

I like to do this once a month. It’s like a retreat, and I look forward to it. I have a shorter meeting with myself weekly to monitor progress on goals and habits, but this hour is more about reflection, not goal setting.

Try it out and see what it brings. I think you’ll find it helpful and relieving. If you find that the emotions coming up are too disturbing, then think about some counseling.

I’m finishing up an article on the value of counseling that includes what to look for in a therapist. It should be up later this month if therapy is something that appeals to you.

For now, enjoy your hour of reflection, and may it bring you some new insights and provide some direction as you start this year.

See you next week!

All my best,

Barbara

Blog Short #11: How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions in 2021

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you . My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!

It’s that time of year once again when we make resolutions and set new goals.

It’s always kind of fun to think about what we want to accomplish in the coming year, and sometimes we pull it off. But, very often we start with a bang and then the whole thing peters out around February, and sometimes before that. We have great intentions, but lose enthusiasm, fall off the horse, and never get back on again.

There’s a reason for that, and here it is:

Setting the goal is not the important step to create change. Developing and establishing a system to facilitate the goal is the key factor to success.

This system is composed of select, strategic habits that are practiced regularly and consistently. Without these, goals have no real worth.

It’s fine to set a goal, but it’s better to create the habit (or habits) necessary to get you there, and consistently practice them until they’re embedded in your daily routine, and require less energy and drive to perform.

There’s an art to this, and if you follow it, you’ll be successful. Try this:

  1. Tackle only one habit at a time. It’s great to be enthusiastic, but being realistic is better. If you work at one habit until it’s instilled in your daily routine, and is easy to perform, then and only then should you consider tackling the next one.
  2. Start small. This is the most important one. If you want to cultivate an exercise routine, don’t go whole hog at the outset. You’ll only fall off. For example, if you decide you need more cardio, walk 10 minutes every day for at least two weeks. Once that becomes easy and is scheduled into your daily routine, you can begin bumping up the time a little. If you decide you eventually want to run some of it and walk some of it, you can do that, but again add it in slowly in small time increments. The way you know you’re going too fast is when you begin to dread doing it and feel like you don’t have the time for it. You need to keep it under your resistance radar. Go slow and steady. The goal is to automate the habit without thinking.
  3. Make it fun. Whatever the habit is that you’re working on, add any elements to it that will make it more pleasurable. Using the exercise habit example, you might add your favorite music to your routine, or walk in an area that’s interesting so you enjoy what you’re viewing as you go. If you like company, get an exercise buddy. Make it something you look forward to.
  4. Schedule it. Be very specific with scheduling. Put it on your calendar or wherever it is you track your activities. You should always know well ahead of time when you’re going to perform your habit. Always schedule at least the day before, but it’s best to schedule for the whole week ahead so you don’t have to think about it, and you don’t get into the mindset of deciding whether you want to do it or not. Don’t allow that mental option. Ever.
  5. Select the best time. Make sure you schedule your new habit when it’s easiest to do, and you’re most likely to do it. If you’re whipped in the evening, don’t schedule your exercise then. Schedule it in the morning or earlier in the day when you have the energy for it. Match the new habit with the best timing for success.
  6. Avoid being a perfectionist. If you miss a day or a scheduled time, don’t stop. Get right back on the horse and do it the next time. This is one that brings many good resolutions to an end. You fall off and say to yourself, “Oh well, I’ve ruined the whole thing,” and then you don’t ever come back to it. This goes for any habit you’re working on.
  7. Reward yourself. Creating the habit and reaping the benefits of it is a reward in and of itself, but you can also give yourself little rewards along the way. These don’t have to be rewards that cost anything. It may be some extra time to yourself, an outing of some kind, or if you want to spend money, something that inspires you to continue like a new Yoga mat, or a cookbook if you’re working on your diet, or a new journal if writing is your new habit.

Start thinking about what you might like to accomplish this year, and select the first habit you want to create and instill that will move you toward your first goal. Use the guidelines I’ve given you and get the specifics of how you’re going to do it ironed out. Schedule it, and set your start date. When you feel that the habit is thoroughly a part of your routine, and it’s easy to keep going, then pick your next habit and do it all over again.

If you could create even 6 new habits over this next year, think how much better off you’d be!

I would also highly suggest reading Atomic Habits by James Clear. This book was a game changer for me. He goes into detail about how to systematize your habits and reach your goals, as well as how to maintain your progress once you get to where you want to go.

Here’s to a great New Year! We certainly need one, don’t we?!!!!

All my best,

Barbara

Blog Short #10: 10 Ways to Bring Good into the World and into Your Life

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you . My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!

Since we’re deep into the holiday season, I thought I would veer away a little bit today from my usual content and focus on what I see are the two big messages of Christmas. If you’re of another faith, or do not participate in a particular spiritual or religious belief system, this will still apply because it’s about us. Human beings. How we behave and what our impact is. So let’s dig in.

I see the two universal messages of this season as Peace and Love. Sounds very 60s, I know, and perhaps I’m showing my age, but these ideas are ageless.

Here’s 5 ways that I think we can all work at expressing these concepts, although they’re more than just concepts. They’re ways of being.

Expressing Love

  1. Be Kind. Kindness is humble and caring, and can be expressed in small gestures. Smiling at a stranger in a grocery store, empathizing with someone who’s suffering, doing something for someone, listening. Really listening. Understanding that we’re all in different stages of our development, and having some tolerance for those differences. Be kind whenever the opportunity presents itself.
  2. Show Empathy. Empathy is active. It means abandoning your own state of mind for a moment and trying your best to see something through someone else’s emotional and mental lens. It’s not easy and takes practice, but the more you do it the easier it gets. Even when someone has ideas you find distasteful, you can still get inside her head and understand how she got there, or what’s holding her there. Not with an “I’m better than you” attitude, but because you want to see. That doesn’t mean tolerating values you don’t believe in, or allowing destructive behavior. It just means seeing from the inside out.
  3. Non-harm. This is a practice found in Buddhism and Hinduism called ahimsa. It means avoiding harm to any living being in thought, word and deed. It can be extended to animals, creatures, and even the environment. It’s an approach and a particular way of living, but takes regular practice. If you work at it, you’ll find you have a subtle shift in mindset characterized by inclusivity and compassion.
  4. Do unto others. We all know this golden rule, but we don’t always follow it. The best way to remember it is to keep in mind that what you do to someone else, you do to yourself. When you really get this idea instilled in your mind, it will help you avoid behavior that’s hurtful. Every thought and act we put out there has an effect, and the overall effect will come back to us. If you spend a lot of energy criticizing, hating, or scorning others, you’re harming yourself as you do it. You’re keeping your mind in a negative and aggressive place, and setting yourself up for the same return treatment. That generally halts me when I go on some negative critical rant in my head about someone who’s bothering me. 
  5. Apply all these to yourself. Be kind to yourself even as you set limits on your behavior. Empathize with your feelings even as you figure out how best to deal with them. Don’t harm yourself emotionally, mentally, or physically. Create habits that are good for you and bring out the best in you. Do unto yourself as you would like others to do unto you.

Promoting Peace

  1. Recognize our oneness. We all live on the planet Earth regardless of race, nationality, religion, or political affiliation. If aliens were to attack, watch how fast we’d all come together! Ronald Reagan said this once, and I believe he’s right. Differences are relative to the situation. What we all have in common is our humanity. I believe we also have a collective consciousness which is the conglomerate of everyone’s thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Make sure your contribution is one of peace, tolerance, and cooperation. That doesn’t mean accepting ideas and behavior that are wrong. It means performing acts of peace, even in acts of resistance.
  2. Develop inner peace. This one’s the most important one because the more you accomplish this, the easier it is do all the others. My go to for this is regular, daily meditation. You may have some other method or methods, but whatever you find that works, do it regularly. If you’ve never meditated or want to know more about it, read here.
  3. Attend to your relationships. Being in discord with those you love, or those with whom you have a lot of contact, robs you of peace. Even if you aren’t actively thinking about specific issues, they hang in the background of your awareness and create underlying anxiety. Give some time and attention to your most important relationships. What do you need to work on or repair in this next year? List it. Then decide how you want to go about it. If you’re not sure about the how, then seek counseling to get you started.
  4. Reduce your stress. This one can be difficult, especially in light of this past year. Depending on your circumstances, make a list of the issues that are causing you the most stress. Select one at a time and work on it. Don’t do them all at one. Just one. Accomplish that, and then move on to the next. As you do this, you’ll create new habits that serve you well. If you want to know more about creating new habits, read Atomic Habits. If the problem is money, read something by Dave Ramsey. You can also consult an expert online, read books, take courses, seek counseling, or just dive in and do what you can. You’ll feel better as soon as you start.
  5. Remember that nothing is permanent. All circumstances change over time. Whatever’s plaguing you right now will eventually shift. Keeping this in mind will help you deal with the present. What is permanent is your worth, your love, your spirit, your resolve, and your humanness. You can be the peace and love you wish to receive.

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali (or your celebratory choice), and a new season of hope.

All my best,

Barbara

Blog Short #9: Why am I in charge of everything?

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you . My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!

Do you find yourself in charge of things most of the time? You’re the planner, the manager, the organizer, and the one who has to think about it all and make it happen. If so, no problem if you’re happy about it.

But . . . if you find yourself resenting being in this role, or angry that no one else pitches in, and if you feel taken advantage of, unappreciated, or exploited, then that’s another thing altogether isn’t it?

So what’s the solution?

Let’s look at the positives and negatives, and the solution will become obvious.

Here’s the positives.

  1. You’re a natural manager who can plan, organize and execute.
  2. You know how to prioritize.
  3. You’re super efficient.
  4. You’re a master multi-tasker. You’re used to spinning several plates in the air at the same time.
  5. You can see the big picture and also attend to the details.
  6. You’re the leader. Everyone turns to you to get it done.
  7. You like to help. It’s your natural tendency to solve problems and meet other people’s needs when they ask you to, and even when they don’t ask.
  8. You might be a “Helper” on the Enneagram.

Here’s the negatives.

  1. It’s hard for you delegate. You can do it faster than the time it would take to teach or supervise someone else.
  2. You like things done right, and it’s very hard to watch something being done differently than the way you would do it, or done less than perfectly.
  3. You aren’t in the habit of asking for what you need. It makes you feel guilty.
  4. It’s very difficult for you set boundaries. You’re not sure where those boundaries should be, and even if you are, you feel uncomfortable enforcing them.
  5. You don’t like to disappoint people, especially those close to you.
  6. You get some secondary gain (self-worth) from being the person who can do it all. It makes you feel good, even as you resent being taken advantage of.
  7. You operate under the belief that if you don’t do it, it won’t get done.

So back to the original question, “Why am I in charge of everything?”

The short answer is because you allow it.

That doesn’t mean you wish for it or like it, but those negatives I just listed keep you from asserting what you need, and requiring others to do their part.

You don’t feel like you should, and if you do, somehow it makes you a bad person, or a selfish person.

The key to correcting this problem is to change your view of yourself. You’re likely very talented, reliable, and probably have super managerial and planning skills.

But, you also have a right to say no when you’re exploited or taken advantage of. And, when you require everyone else to do their part, you’re actually being more helpful because you’re affirming that all of us have the responsibility and capacity to contribute, especially when we reap the benefits of the work that gets done. This is a normal expectation!

You don’t want to be the leader with no authority. That’s like being the oldest child who has a ton of adult responsibilities, but without the authority to make decisions.

This is a big subject, so I just touched on it today. If you’d like to read more about setting boundaries (which I think you should if you struggle with this problem), read my longer article which you can access here.

Have a great week and I’ll send you a new blog next Monday!

All my best,

Barbara

7 Tips to Improve Your Communication Skills

It would seem that communication should be easy and simple, but of course it’s not. It’s often quite complex due to the many layers of messaging that are present when someone speaks. Even a single sentence can be complicated.

The first layer is the obvious one. The words. You have a thought or feeling you want to get across, and you choose the words to do that. If the subject is pretty concrete, meaning it’s about something that isn’t ambiguous or up for interpretation, then the communication’s probably quite clear.

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Blog Short #8: Do you think for yourself?

Welcome to Monday Blog Shorts – ideas to make even Monday a good day! Every Monday I share a short article with you about a strategy you can use, or new facts or info that informs you, or a new idea that inspires you . My wish is to give you something to think about in the week ahead. Let’s dig in!

“Your mind is your private world, and you’re the gatekeeper.”

You have within yourself a private place that belongs to you. You can invite someone in, but only if you wish to. You’re the gatekeeper of this space, and no one can trespass without permission.

That space is your mind, which includes your thoughts and feelings.

You may choose to share these with those you deem worthy of hearing them, but the point is, you can sort through them yourself and decide what you want to expose.

But what about others’ influence?

Because we’re wired to be social, we’re likely to be influenced by those around us. Other people’s thoughts, emotions, values, beliefs, opinions, and behavior can affect us and have an impact on what we think and how we feel.

We’re a tribal species, and although we see ourselves as individuals, we seek membership in our tribes. This might include our families, friends, co-workers, or community, or it might include ideas or beliefs such as our religious tribe or political tribe.

What’s crucial about remembering that we have our own minds is that we can and should use this important freedom to sift through the daily, weekly, monthly, and historical input that constantly seeks to find a home there.

You have ownership of what you choose to think, feel, believe, and internalize. No one else.

But, and this is a big but:

If you don’t use that freedom by taking charge of your mind, you lose it. You become a slave to what others in your personal sphere think and feel.

To avoid losing that freedom, you must be in the habit of evaluating what you hear, and truly deciding what you think. It might be that you need more information, or you need time to think something through.

What’s important is that your thoughts and feelings echo and reflect your real ideas and values. Don’t automatically assume or accept.

new study reports that we have around 6,200 thoughts per day.

They come in and go out, and at such a rapid speed that you probably have no awareness of many of them, but those that are persistent or repetitive try to find a home in your mind. Those are the ones you can evaluate. Those are the ones you can question and decide if you’d like them to stay. Those are the ones you can build on or discard.

Ask yourself:

Am I parroting my tribe? Do I really agree? Is this a belief or value that I have? Is this an idea that resonates with me?

To do this, you have to allow your thoughts and feelings to come up without suppressing them. You can’t hide out. You need to see what’s there.

Here’s some things to help you with that.

  1. Don’t censor, but choose how to react. You have no control over the thoughts and feelings that arise in you. What you do have control over is what you do with them, and you can decide whether they add to your life, or provide value for you. You can keep them, or discard them, or learn from them.
  2. No one can control your mind if you don’t allow it. Just because someone says something is true doesn’t make it so, regardless of how loud they shout it or how often they say it. Remember that! You always have the ability to question, evaluate, research and decide for yourself what’s true for you. No one else can or should do that. However, keep in mind that the more you’re around someone, the more they will affect what you think, how you behave, and what you believe. So choose carefully.
  3. Pursue continuous learning to help you keep your mind open. Access new information and ideas that expand your thinking and enhance your creativity. Challenge yourself. Make your mind a fertile garden for growth.


So take some time this week to commune with yourself. As you go through your week, watch the thought trains that occupy your mind. Ask yourself where they come from.

Are they your thoughts, someone else’s thoughts, or a combo? Do they have value? Are they true? Are they distorted? What can you learn from them? What do you want to keep and what do you want to discard? What do you want to modify?

As Voltaire says, “Dare to think for yourself.” It’s one of your greatest freedoms. Exercise it!

That’s it for now. Have a great week!

All my best,

Barbara

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