Choose ye this day…

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Don’t hate me. I love Mondays!

Mondays are special because they’re like a do over. Whatever you missed last week, well now, sister, you have a chance to get it right this week.

New chances to say the right things, the way you imagined last week that you could.

The chance to make the choices you may have opted not to make last week. Maybe because you were afraid to or you just didn’t want to.

The chance to lead others the way you envisioned last week.

The chance to check off your goals and go into the weekend knowing you moved some important stuff forward.

Mondays are another opportunity to continue to create that version of yourself you see in your head (am I the only one doing this?)

And really, everything we do comes down to our choices.

Talk isn’t cheap

My world is a world of talking, of gathering data.

People talk to me and tell me things they have done, things they have thought about and choices they’ve made. Healthy choices and not so healthy choices.

Talk therapy is great for discovery, to find patterns to connect the dots on our behaviors.

Choices are behaviors, by the way.

So the whole point of therapy is to process and understand, get some clarity, figure out what wasn’t your fault and what you do actually own.

But the next step, after all the talking, is this:

“What do I do with what I know?”

This is how you make real change.

It’s not enough to get the grand realization.

It’s not enough to share with your friends and family your realization of why you are the way you are.

You gotta follow the epiphany with something.

You gotta choose to change something.

It could be as simple as making a choice to change your perspective.

Or it could be setting a small goal to do one thing better. (Baby steps and all that.)

Or choosing what to think about yourself, no matter what your internal chatter may try to tell you.

And by the way, your choices aren’t always going to be choices that make you happy. It just may be a decision that elevates or builds someone else up and leaves you in the background for now.

So don’t be afraid to require things of yourself.

Choose your path this week and take it.

Because not making a choice is a choice, just sayin’.

Happy #TGIM!

#alwaysbelearnin

Happy Monday! Now go add some value…

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“Whatever you do, add value!”

Okeedokee.

But what does that mean? And how do I know I’m adding value?

A few pithy thoughts on the matter.

It is what it is

We all like to throw this one around. If something doesn’t go our way, we shrug our shoulders and say, “Yep, it is what it is, y’all.”

But how can we make “it is what it is” work for us?

In dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) “it is what it is” has a more clinical name: radical acceptance.

Radical acceptance means accepting your circumstances. It doesn’t mean you approve of those circumstances or even expect them to never change.

But where you are now is where you are now.

You can’t control what you can’t control.

DBT was initially developed for people with borderline personality disorder. Clients with this disorder struggle with extreme emotional dysregulation. They can’t even think of moving forward because they are completely ruled by their past and their emotional response to it. It’s a very difficult place to be and hard to change.

Radical acceptance is a critical part of a plan to help these clients simply manage their emotional selves.

We can all benefit from radical acceptance.

You can’t really move forward and take meaningful action until you acknowledge that things are the way they are, for whatever reason they are.

The serenity prayer is based on this idea. Having the courage to accept what you can’t change is very powerful. Because it allows you to leave a lot of junk behind you.

Sounds simple but it’s hard, I know. Practicing radical acceptance is a deliberate and purposeful action.

Once you do that, though, you can look ahead and really weigh your options. Now that you know and accept what you can’t control about your life, you can decide what, in fact, you do have control over, and what you can change.

Radical acceptance creates a line in the sand that you can step over.

It engages you in your options instead of looking back and wallowing in things that may never change.

Don’t hate on anger

Anger gets a bad rap.

Out of all the emotions, it’s the only one people don’t seem eager to embrace. No one really relishes wallowing in anger like they do disappointment, sadness, and especially fear. (Don’t lecture me, some people enjoy their pain. You know I’m right.)

While there are certainly enough books on managing anger or letting it go, there aren’t as many trying to explore what anger may be trying to tell us.

Things like, “Hey, this person’s not good for you.”

Or, “Look how that lost opportunity really meant something to you.”

And the always popular Twisted Sister-esque, “You don’t have to take that anymore.”

We can learn from this scorned emotion before we start trying to shoo it away. Anger can give us valuable data to discover some things we need to work on.

Anger isn’t a bad emotion.

One of the first things I like to tackle with my clients, especially with kids, is the perspective of emotions as good or bad.

First of all, we therapist types like to think in terms of healthy or unhealthy. That removes some of the character shaming that can come from labeling things as good or bad.

Because if we think of emotions as good or bad, we might be tempted to think of ourselves, the carriers of those emotions, as good or bad.

And nobody wants that.

If I hold a pen in my hand, and with said pen I stab you in the hand, is that pen a bad pen?

What if I took that same pen and wrote you a beautiful note extolling your wondrous virtues? Is the pen now miraculously a good pen?

If you’re keeping score at home: it’s neither. Pens are neither good nor bad. They’re just pens, for corn’s sake.

The devil is in how they’re used.

Anger protects softer emotions.

Anger is sometimes called a “hard emotion.” It lays over the top of softer emotions like fear, vulnerability, hurt, and disappointment.

Consider, if you will, the plight of the beetle.

Beetles have a pretty hard exoskeleton. It’s designed to protect the vital organs just under that hard shell, and it’s quite durable against many natural predators.

But when you step on a beetle (by accident or on purpose, I’m not judging), what immediately comes splattering out? White, gooey, soft liquid. That’s the real existence of the beetle.

Lying just under its supposedly impenetrable exterior was its own true nature, where the real beetle lived. That hard shell was doing a bang up job. Until it wasn’t. Now the beetle is exposed and in our little scenario, likely dead.

Wow, that’s really gross, Lori.

It’s easier to be pissed off and angry than to admit you’re hurt and scared. Because that means you’re out there and you can be hurt even more. And then you have to do something with that hurt. Who wants that?

Better to just avoid flat-footed humans and keep that outer shell in place.

Stay angry, my friends.

Anger is an indicator of what we’re not getting.

Think about the last time you got angry at someone who cut you off in traffic. I know you can think of something because everyone these days has a bad traffic story.

Why did you get so enraged at a perfect stranger, someone you’ll never see again and who has nothing invested in your life?

Think about it.

What would have happened if, in cutting you off, they hit your car and caused you to spin out? And what if you suffered a traumatic injury as a result of that collision? That stranger’s actions would have kept you from arriving at your destination safely, which was your intended goal.

Not to mention possibly changing the trajectory of your life, maybe keeping you from achieving your life’s dreams.

Believe it or not, all this goes through your mind when you get cut off in traffic (in addition to any relevant profanity).

We get angry at people because their actions are blocking us from our goal.

  • We get angry at a spouse who cheats because they are blocking us from our goal of a healthy marriage and a strong family.
  • We get angry at an abusive parent because they are blocking us from the unconditional love and acceptance we’re supposed to get from our parents.
  • We get angry at a boss because their actions may keep us from advancing in our careers.

Breaking free from all that anger really isn’t the goal. Without anger it would be hard to know what’s bothering us.

And of course, I’m not talking here about anger that results in violence. We all have to make responsible choices about what we do with that anger.

But we can use anger to measure our discomfort in certain areas, and ask ourselves some real questions.

Should I leave? Should I forgive? Should I set some boundaries? What’s really going on here?

Seeing anger as a diagnostic tool, rather than a character flaw, can open your mind to discover a way forward in some very difficult situations.

#alwaysbelearnin

Photo: Creative Commons “Anger” by Rob Oo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Is imposter syndrome a fraud?

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Have you heard of this thing called “imposter syndrome?”

Imposter syndrome is the fear of being discovered to be a fraud. You, a competent, accomplished, recognized, high-performing professional.

Outwardly you are crushing it on all levels. But inside your head you’re telling yourself, “Yeeeaaah, it’s basically all a sham. They’re gonna find out soon enough what a big fraud I am. If they only knew! *sigh*”

You stay under constant stress with every project, wondering when the big Scooby Doo reveal moment might happen, leaving everyone pointing and gasping in animated horror.

And so this is how you spend your good mental energy every day: analyzing whether or not you are for real!

I’ll be honest, I’m struggling with how I feel about this one. I’ve certainly struggled with this mindset a lot in my own work life.

Early in my first career in communications, I was the Harbinger of Output. Don’t give me something unless you’re looking to do a silly victory dance with me in the end zone in pretty short order.

There was nothing I couldn’t take and run all the way down the field for you because aptitude is almost never a problem for me (exceptions: math and most likely, brain surgery).

But It took me many years to learn to accept my accomplishments purely at face value: I was, in fact, awesome at my job. At least that’s what people kept telling me.

I seemed always to have a, “Yes, but…” bouncing around in my head. I was unwilling to own my accomplishments and use the little bumps along the way as learning moments.

Instead, I used them to beat myself up, disregarding many of the things that had gone right. I remember always being worried that I had still somehow gravely disappointed people.

Great pattern, Lori. Good times.

So okay fine, imposter syndrome could be a real thing.

But I’m having trouble giving in to the idea of a full blown syndrome.

First of all, we may not need another workplace condition to worry about.

I already have my hands full trying to be one of the 15% who stays engaged, learning to explore my emotional intelligence and trying to keep my “monkey mind” from ruining my day.

So let’s not go looking for another thing to fret about in the workday, shall we?

Second, you’re in good company.

If I peek over the cubicle wall or leer around the corner, I’ll discover plenty of other folks who feel this way. Most of us struggle at some point with competence and skill.

That struggle may be an opportunity to consider investing in some training. This one has always saved me. It’s not that I don’t already know enough to be competent, but educating myself is a super confidence builder. I’m eager to get out there and use my new skills.

It could also be time to look for another position that can challenge you to learn and stretch in different ways.

Sometimes stagnation masquerades as imposter syndrome. If you have enough time to consider your “fraudulent” ways, you may not be challenged enough.

Plus, a job search can engage you to start thinking about your accomplishments and how you can best communicate your great work to others. If you actually snag a new position, you have to fully engage in that new work, which leaves little room for all of this peripheral stuff.

So instead of thinking of yourself as a fraud, you can simply choose to grow.

Third, you can defend yourself against your thoughts.

Let me ask you this. What if someone walked in your office and said, “You know what, sister? I’m on to you! You’re a big fraud! You’ve been fooling us all this time. You aren’t as great as you want us to think you are.”

Would you just sit there and take that? What would you say to that person to challenge those accusations, before you called security? (Feel free to write down what you would say. I’ll bet you would find at least 20 things real fast.)

Then why do you take such unproven accusations from your own thoughts without a fight?

You get to push back on that as hard as you can.

Respond back to your accuser with the reasons why you are great, competent and how you get crap done. (You can use the 20 things from your list. How convenient that you wrote them down!)

I’m being a little cheeky about this, but it really can be that simple. Don’t be lured into thinking you are stuck in a syndrome, especially one of your own making.

Challenge yourself to own and share your accomplishments, keep learning, and use your discomfort as a springboard to the grace and confidence you deserve.

#alwaysbelearnin

Photo: Creative Commons “The Imposter” by Transport Pixels is licensed under CC BY 2.0