Ep 30: Use Discipline to Find Inspiration

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How do you find inspiration on the days when you’re not feeling inspired? Many times we rely on external things to pump us up for our day.

But inspiration comes after the work. Disciplined action always precedes motivation.

Learn where to place your focus so you can inspire yourself.

You can listen to this episode right here! 👆

And don’t forget to subscribe to hear future episodes wherever you are! 

Full transcript

Some days are just uninspiring, aren’t they? If you’re working towards improving your life or meeting a new goal, then you are probably very focused on discipline, change and discovery.

But some days seem to contain exactly zero discipline, change and discovery. 😏

And that’s perfectly okay.

Not every day is supposed to look like a Forbes feature article.

We have access to millions of stories of achievement and motivation. There are some incredible people out there doing some amazing things.

Those stories are inspiring, no doubt.

But they’ve also conditioned us to believe that our own lives are somehow lacking if every day isn’t a grand adventure of some sort.

So we’re disappointed when we don’t feel like we conquered something at the end of the day.

But that’s not how a disciplined life works.

Discipline is about being a principled student (a disciple, if you will) of whatever it is you’re trying to become.

  • Do you want to be a world recognized chef?
    Then you must become a disciple of all of the time tested traditions of a world-class kitchen.
  • Do you want to develop a well-rounded yoga practice?
    Then you must submit yourself to explore multiple forms of yoga and learn from those with experience and wisdom.
  • Do you want to lead a more mindful and centered life?
    Then you must have the courage to acknowledge that there’s a better way than the frenetic, scattered life you’ve been living so far.

In order to master something, you have to find humility to submit yourself to the process.

Regardless of the outcome in every day.

This means still honoring the path you’re on even when you’re just not feeling it.

You become a disciple to the process.

What does it mean to be a disciple?

  • A disciple learns by applying what she’s gleaned from others wiser than her.
  • A disciple applies those principles no matter what the external circumstances may try to dictate.
  • A disciple looks past the raw emotions each day brings and chooses to focus on what she’s already decided for the future.
  • A disciple never loses her keen focus on the destination, even if the path to get there gets a bit crooked and rough.
  • A disciple passes on those same principles to others walking behind her to create more little awesome disciples.

Become a disciple of your own life.

Do the work that pushes back against you every day.

Learn to celebrate the process, not the progress.

Apply your focus and concentration to what’s present and right in front of you.

This is where you will find inspiration in your days.

For articles and videos about stress and mental health, visit my website at Lorimiller.me. You can catch Mental Health Moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Visit Lori Miller.me for info on how to subscribe.

Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

  • Leave a note below or ask me a question in the comment section below.
  • Share this episode on Pinterest, Facebook, and LinkedIn .

Help spread the message about good mental health!

 


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Ep 29: How writing helps you find solutions in your stress

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Writing is a pretty basic tool to express emotions and discover new insights. But writing can also help you gather the data you need to generate solutions.

Maybe you don’t consider yourself a writer, but you can use this powerful skill in a strategic way to hone in on what you want to see change in your life.

You can listen to this episode right here! 👆

And don’t forget to subscribe to hear future episodes wherever you are! 

Full transcript

Hi I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

The other day I heard a song from Kelly Clarkson called Piece by Piece. It’s a story about a young mother confronting the father who left her at six years old.

It’s an emotionally charged song. Kelly wrote the song based on her own experience of her father abandoning her at the young age of six.

The song intrigued me.

Many song writers write about painful experiences, that’s certainly nothing new.

But she took it a bit farther than just a cathartic experience to ventilate her emotions.

She turned the song into a declaration of what kind of parent she would be. She would find a father for her children that would be the father he never was.

Kelly made meaning out of the experience by writing about it, sure.

But she went a step further to spell out how she would move her own life forward in a very prescriptive way.

That’s about as therapeutic as it gets.

Writing about your experiences and trying to make sense of events in your life is nothing new. It’s one of the first things many therapists pull out of their toolbox when they work with a new client.

Writing is the best and easiest way to capture data spinning around in your head where only you can see it.

How can I help you if you can’t tell me what you’re thinking and feeling beyond right this minute?

You can’t change your thoughts until you know what those thoughts are.

In order to make progress, you have to interact with the thoughts and feelings that are getting in your way.

Writing is the best way for you to collect meaningful data about your thoughts.

Trying to remember how you felt last week on the fly means that you’re relying on anecdotal information and what you might remember.

Good luck with that.

You’ll have an average of 50,000 thoughts fly through your head just today. How in the world are you going to pull out the important ones you need to work with?

If you were doing a science experiment, you would record your data along the way, right? You wouldn’t wait until you present your findings to try to remember how it all went down.

No, you would have listed all of the possible results and logged the events that led to the outcome.

So at a minimum, writing is a way to capture raw data without judgment so you know what your variables are.

Here’s another great thing about writing.

Recording your progress and your impressions along the way helps you see the patterns in your thoughts.

As you look back on your writings, you’ll start to see similarities in how you perceive certain events. Or you may see that you respond a certain way when confronted with specific stressors.

You may have never noticed these similarities before because it all just floats around in your head with all the other stuff you’re managing today.

Writing helps you pinpoint exactly how your thinking is holding you back.

Once you do that then you can decide what thoughts and patterns will be more helpful for you.

It’s like putting a puzzle together.

Once you’re in the act of writing, your brain starts to make associations that it doesn’t do in any other way.

The words you use when you reflect on something can prompt you to remember something else. So you write about that, which prompts yet another remembrance.

It’s a living, active process.

Writing engages the part of your brain that processes thinking and decision-making.

Leadership expert John Maxwell says that writing marinates your thinking. That’s such a great description, isn’t it?

Those associations you make between words and thoughts take you down a path of discovery and help you find solutions you really can’t find any other way.

So how do you do this?

What if you’re not a “Dear Diary“ kind of person?

Think of it less as a journal or a diary and more of a recording exercise. You don’t have to be Hemingway, here.

Here’s an idea to get you started.

  • Spend a few minutes this evening reflecting back on the day.
  • Think about one thing that was difficult for you or that tripped you up today. Just one thing, please.
  • Write down the emotions you felt when it happened: sadness, frustration, disappointment, embarrassment, whatever you can identify.
  • Try to remember what thoughts went through your mind.
  • What did you tell yourself right in that moment?

Don’t judge it, just transcribe it.

Write down any other things that come to mind.

Now just do that again a few more times this week.

At the end of the week, go back and look at what you wrote.

You should see patterns emerging.

  • What specific behaviors do you see in how you responded to things?
  • What words did you use in what you told yourself in those moments?
  • What were your most common emotions?
  • What interesting observations can you make?

Use that information to figure out what’s not working for you and the behaviors you’d like to see.

This is how you start making real change in your life because you’re making one small change based on evidence you’ve already captured.

Even if you’re not a writer, you can use this powerful skill to help find solutions to the things that keep getting in your way.

For articles and videos about stress and mental health, visit my website at Lorimiller.me. You can catch Mental Health Moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Visit LoriMiller.me for info on how to subscribe.

 

Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

  • Leave a note below or ask me a question in the comment section below.
  • Share this episode on Pinterest, Facebook, and LinkedIn .

Help spread the message about good mental health!

 


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How to go beyond positive thinking

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Stuffed toy sitting next to a coffee cup that reads "Today is gonna be a good day."

It’s no mystery that positive thinking is a valuable part of good mental health. You don’t have to be a genius to know that negative thinking will get you nowhere. So why should you go beyond positive thinking?

There’s nothing wrong with having optimism for the future.

It’s important to be able to believe that somehow everything will turn out okay. I believe we refer to that as hope.

But how do you make that hope tangible?

How can you feel invested in how things turn out instead of just hoping for the best?

I can remember when I was first exposed to the power of positive thinking. It was in my early married years when my husband and I became part of what was then known as Amway.

Amway was a multilevel marketing company that sold everything from toilet paper to vitamins. Not only could you buy products you used every day, but you could also make a little money and grow a business.

Well, we didn’t make a lot of money. But what we did do in Amway was make excellent friends.

Those excellent friends encouraged us to listen to cassette tapes each week. These cassette tapes had inspiring stories from people who had gone before us in business. They also contained positive messages from the big guns of positive thinking: Napoleon Hill, Norman Vincent Peale, Zig Ziglar, you name it.

The idea was that if you listened to these positive messages enough, you would just start to believe them. Your brain would naturally absorb these messages.

If you listened to them in place of negative feedback — for example the daily news — you would really start to see growth and progress in your business and your life.

Garbage in, garbage out. 🗑️

Makes total sense.

This was an earth shattering concept for me at the time. If I’m honest, negative thinking is kind of my default mode.

I’ll look at what’s not working before I try to figure out how to make things work. (Hmmm…..this might actually make me a good therapist. 🤔)

I’ve often been accused of always finding ways to shoot holes through things right off the bat.

I understand now that it’s part of my personality, but I know there is much power in trying to be positive first. So this was a real challenge for me to apply these principles to my everyday life.

I’m grateful for this time in Amway because I learned that I had the power to map out and visualize a life that I wanted with positive thinking.

I could choose to keep that picture in front of me. Using the power of my own thinking, I could march towards that picture.

But the hardest part about this for me was that every time I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “This is going to be the best day ever,” and “I am awesome,” I didn’t believe it.

In my perspective, there was too much evidence that said otherwise. It felt like I was lying to myself.

All I could see was that I had several issues I needed to resolve that day and being awesome didn’t really give me a roadmap for how to solve my problems.

I was just giving myself a whole lot of thumbs-ups. 👍

What I was missing was adaptive thinking.

Adaptive thinking goes beyond positive thinking.

You have to do more than just believe things will be okay.

  • What happens if they’re not okay?
  • What do I do then?
  • Am I still awesome even though I dropped the ball?

This is where anxiety can so easily enter the picture because you don’t feel like you have any control over the outcome.

In order to solve problems, you have to know what role you play and which of your strengths you will use to come up with a solution.

Adaptive thinking allows you to keep a positive attitude as your foundation and lets you build on that to actually generate solutions to your problems.

Adaptive thinking helps you form contingencies.

Being able to plan around unexpected stuff without losing your stuff is the biggest key in remaining flexible. Anymore, being flexible is everything, especially at work.

Positive thinking would tell you to hope for the best when something you didn’t expect flies in to your day. You got this!

Adaptive thinking would tell you to consider all the possible scenarios in front of you and come up with solutions based on how you’ve handled these things before.

Of course you should stay positive that you can handle whatever comes your way.

But adaptive thinking gives you some real data in the moment so you can see how this might actually turn out. This is how you calm yourself.

Adaptive thinking helps you create observable and measurable plans instead of going off of some vague feeling of trying to feel better about the situation.

Adaptive thinking focuses on your strengths.

We all have things we are really good at. Those strengths give us the confidence to solve the problems that may pop up in the day.

When you are faced with a difficult situation, using positive thinking to hope for a positive outcome can help you persevere.

Adaptive thinking, however, lets you focus on your specific skills that will help you power through this situation.

  • Are you good at bringing some order to chaos? Focus on using that skill to make a step-by-step list of the things you will take care of today.
  • Are you the person who can find solutions under a rock? Bring that strength to the equation to help you and your team see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Are you the empathetic one who can help keep the peace in tense situations? Please, yes, your strength is superhuman and can help your team survive some tough times. (Why is there no Superman emoji?)

Focusing on the strengths you’ve already developed builds tremendous confidence for the next challenge that comes along. You have results you can point back to. 👈

“I’ve got this because I’ve done this before.”

Feeling inspired or hopeful is a great place to start. But you will really succeed when you go beyond positive thinking to focus on applying your strengths and skills to a challenge.

Use adaptive thinking to paint yourself a track record of what you’ve already done really well.

Adaptive thinking allows you to be curious and forward focused.

Positive thinking is forward focused all by itself. It always points you to believing you can succeed in some future moment. This is great.

Adaptive thinking takes you to the next level by letting you create that specific future moment for yourself. It allows you to explore your own natural curiosity.

  • What questions can you ask to look at this problem from all angles?
  • What strategies can you look at now that will set you up for that next level?
  • What have I done before that didn’t work?
  • What did work?

Interacting with your strengths, skills, and investigative prowess helps you keep moving toward your goal.

How do you build adaptive thinking into your day?

Let’s say it’s time for your annual evaluation at work. Nobody really enjoys these, including and especially your boss.

But you have a bit more of a disadvantage of being judged by someone who doesn’t sit in your seat every day. Performance evaluations are ripe ground for positive thinking because you really have no idea how this may go. You want to feel as good as you can when you walk in the door.

If you’ve had a bit of a tough year in meeting your goals, you may already be a little worried.

So you tell yourself that things will be good. You’re a valued employee, you know that, and you can handle whatever your boss may bring up.

FAN-tastic.

But take that positive attitude a step further.

  1. Before the meeting with your boss, make a list for yourself of specific areas where you already know you missed completing some things.
  2. Ask yourself some questions about how and why you missed the mark. Don’t beat yourself up, but do come up with some data on what you could have missed.
  3. Generate some ideas for how you can come up with a plan to address those issues. What will you do differently next time? Who can you collaborate with in the future that might help complement your skills?

If those ideas come up in the meeting, you have some actionable and forward-focused stuff to bring up if you need it. Now you have a better chance of contributing good information to the meeting and being a little less on the defense.

This takes you much further down the road than just telling yourself things will be fine.

I wish I had done more of this when I was in the corporate arena.

When I did finally understand the importance of adaptive thinking, I came to the conclusion it was time to leave that arena.

So that prompted a whole new round of adaptive thinking.

But I was confident I could take the next step because I started a new chapter of my career based on the track record I had already built.

I was positive about my career change, but adaptive thinking helped me to be pragmatic about what I needed to succeed.

Think about it

What are some areas where you could apply adaptive thinking?

Drop me some comments below! 👇👇👇

 


Check out my new Alexa Skill – Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller

You’re busy at work and at home, and you take care of everyone else. You’re allowed to have a few minutes in each day to set your focus, regroup and feel a little more in control.

Join me every day as I bring you simple and practical tips you can use right now to gain a little more control over your life.

Visit my Amazon page for more information.

Amazon Alexa skill - Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller


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How to simplify your week to reduce stress

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“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” Steve Jobs

I’m not one to quote Steve Jobs too much. He was brilliant, no question. But I’m not sure he’s the model to follow for a low-stress life in the workplace.

He seemed to ooze complexity. At least that’s what it looked like from my judg-ey overstuffed reading chair and ottoman.

I think he was onto something here, though, in understanding how we can simplify one of our real stressors at work — our workload.

Simplifying your work helps you do work that matters

If we think about the Apple products we use, they are dead simple.

My iPhone requires almost no instruction. The apps on it reduce complicated processes down to one or two steps I can do while I’m in the bathroom. (Don’t judge me, you do it too. 🙃)

In spite of the challenges the smartphone era has brought us, it’s also made so many things in life easier.

  • Don’t you remember what it was like trying to find answers to life’s big questions on Yahoo using your two-inch-thick Compaq laptop?
  • Remember scribbling tasks in your Monticello-themed, double-binded Franklin Planner?
  • Have you forgotten just how complicated it was to take your own pulse by using two fingers on one hand?

This was the crazy world the iPhone entered back in that dark age.

Apples’ development team started with the simplest version of what they thought could work and built on it from there. I’m sure they had a veritable scroll of features they probably could have included in that first phone (known then sweetly as “iPhone”).

But we’d probably still be waiting for that first iPhone, clumsily walking around with two fingers on our carotids and using hash marks to count our 10,000 steps.

The ensuing versions of the iPhone — all the way to today’s iPhone XR — came about once humans started actually using the phone.

I mean, who knew one day we would rarely even use these things as a phone? Who saw that one coming? 🤷

Use an MVP to simplify your work

You business-minded folks may recognize this process as a principle called “Minimum Viable Product,” or MVP.

(Bear with me. The therapist is using a business principle to make a point here.)

Entrepreneur Eric Ries was the first to toss this definition of MVP around in his book, “The Lean Startup:”

A Minimum Viable Product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

In regular-people speak:

  • Build the simplest version of your product that will let you learn how people use it,
  • Gather feedback from them while they’re using it, then
  • Add new features from what you learned.
  • And so on, and so on….

This can save you time and energy because you’re not trying to build the best product ever by just guessing what might work. That’s so old school.

  • MVP gives you a real-life lab to build a product that helps people solve the annoying problems in their lives.
  • MVP helps you see what really helps people, not just stuff you and your team think is cool.
  • People tend to celebrate and buy stuff that helps them solve problems.

Maybe you don’t build a tangible product per se.

(Actually you do! Your work is your product. Make work your product!)

Apply the MVP principle on this Monday to simplify the rest of this week

This frees you up to do the work that solves real problems and creates forward momentum.

I don’t know about you, but nothing stresses me out more than doing work that doesn’t matter.

Here’s a little MVP roadmap I made for you:

1. Create and plan a wicked simple baseline for what you want to accomplish this week

I’m showing my INFJ skin a bit here, but planning is essential to reduce stress at work. Sorry.

You have to create some buckets, even leaky ones, to capture your important work or you’ll just end up with a messy pile of pointless doo-doo on Friday.

I know that may fly in the face of your possibly more spontaneous nature, but spontaneity and joy are not mutually exclusive.

Don’t go crazy and overplan (see also: procrastination).

But do plan, please.

Give some thought ahead of time about how you want this week to end up.

  • What do you want to hold in your hand on Friday (besides a cold beer)?
  • What MVP product can you produce this week that you can then build on next week?
  • Put everything else on a “next release” list of some kind.

Be honest about what you can really do. This is an area where we create a lot of our own stress.

Our work eyes are sometimes bigger than our work stomachs, if you will. 😋

Create a workable plan that is do-able with the time and resources you have this week and focus the week on that.

2. Protect your plan by establishing boundaries around your work

I know what you’re thinking. That’s great and all, but what about when my boss runs in with a little project on fire, and I’m the one who’s supposed to put it out? 📝🔥

What happens to my well-crafted plan then, sister girlfriend?

In many cases, you can give your boss some options on how you put that fire out.

“Sorry this project is on fire, Susie. Take a deep breath. Here are a couple of things we could do. Which one do you like?”

  1. Use the fire extinguisher. This will put the fire out immediately but it will also trash everything around us. It will resolve the problem immediately but we’ll spend two days cleaning up. This will delay all our other projects.
  2. Use the sweater slung over the back of my office chair to put out the fire. This will suffocate the fire and ruin my sweater, but it will most likely resolve the problem and preserve the working environment. We’ll need a minute to regroup, and I’ll need a long lunch to go buy another sweater. But we can get back on track today.

(Fire people are going to kill me on this one. It’s an analogy. If there’s an actual fire in your office, please be safe and follow your company’s fire safety plan.)

Of course there are plenty of unexpected things that pop up in the work week. But they don’t have to completely derail your work.

Unless they truly have to.

The best part about having a plan is how you can adjust it to meet changing needs.

But you can also protect it by offering other options besides you always having to set everything else aside.

And you still have a shot at maintaining momentum with your plan while getting credit for helping put out a fire, too.

3. Capture feedback to build your next version

In building an MVP, capturing feedback is what drives the best new version of the product.

Thoughtful and engaging feedback makes your work better.

If you work in a team format, you absolutely should be open to feedback. Unless you’re freakin’ Leonardo da Vinci, you need other perspectives to do great work.

Here’s the dealio with feedback, though.

You’re not necessarily required to convert that feedback into action items. And certainly not this week.

If the feedback is a game changer for where your work is headed right now, then be for real and change your plan.

But don’t feel like it’s always required. Put the feedback on your “next version” list and see how it may fit in later.

Put a little fence around your work and be your own gatekeeper.

This serves to focus your best cognitive energy on the feedback you can use now to do your best work this week.

4. Make it your task to understand how your work ties in to a larger goal

Why do you do the work at your job? I don’t mean to start you on an existential quest here, but really … why are you doing this work?

Part of an MVP is knowing that your work is accomplishing a specific outcome. You can touch it, define it and explain it.

Apple’s slogan for the first iPhone was “Apple reinvents the phone.”

Apple reinvents the phone - 2007 Macworld Steve Jobs introduces the iPhone

“Apple reinvents the phone” by Nobuyuki Hayashi is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Did the developers working then understand that? I hope so because they did reinvent the phone. They absolutely did.

This is where Steve Jobs’ focus on simplicity comes to bear. He was obviously great at painting a vision, not just for customers but for the people doing the work.

And it made all the difference.

Many leadership teams lack the skills to communicate business goals in simple ways.

How does Allison in accounting understand how her weekly report contributes to the company’s quarterly success? To her, it may be just a thing she does on Monday before lunch.

Yes, the burden of that understanding should really fall on Allison’s company.

But remember, the power to reduce stress is in our hands, not waiting for someone else to figure it out for us.

So Allison may have to ask that question of her boss or someone else at her company who’s in the know.

This is an excellent way to make sure the work you’re doing is needed.

If not, you can apply your efforts toward something that will.

Now what?

Companies who use the MVP approach have seen enormous, even overwhelming success. It allows them to put great work out there and let others help them refine it.

You can do the same in your workweek if you resolve to keep your stuff simple and workable.

  • Be honest with yourself and others about what you can do.
  • Don’t be afraid to set boundaries around your work.
  • Let others use their perspective and knowledge to inform your work and make it better.
  • Seek out the larger picture for yourself, and bring it back to your desk every day.

 


Check out my new Alexa Skill – Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller

You’re busy at work and at home, and you take care of everyone else. You’re allowed to have a few minutes in each day to set your focus, regroup and feel a little more in control.

Join me every day as I bring you simple and practical tips you can use right now to gain a little more control over your life.

Visit my Amazon page for more information.

Amazon Alexa skill - Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller


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Info and tips each week to help you improve and change your life!

Give yourself a Mental Health Moment every day!

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Amazon Alexa skill - Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller

Sometimes you need some encouragement right at the top of the day so you can stay focused on what will keep you energized and productive. 🌝

I’m excited to debut my Alexa skill, Mental Health Moment with Lori Miller.

It’s a little shot in the arm to start your day.

Every day I’ll talk about small ways you can inject a bit of sanity in your day.

If you have an Amazon Echo you can enable Mental Health Moment in the Alexa store. You can also download the Alexa app on your phone or tablet and enable the skill there.

Check out all the details on my Amazon skill page.

Feel free to leave me a review. I’d love to know what you think! 🤔

Episode 2: Sticky note wins the day

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Here’s a quick way to set yourself up to find your wins for the day. And it uses an old-school office favorite – the sticky note!

You can listen to this episode right here! 👆

And don’t forget to subscribe to hear future episodes wherever you are! 

Full transcript

Hi I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

It’s important to recognize what you do well every day.

This is especially true if you’ve had a day when everything seemed to feel like an Avengers movie. You know what I’m talking about.

It’s so easy to forget what you actually accomplished today when all you remember is that new project your boss dumped on you at the last minute.

Here’s a quick way to set yourself up to find your wins for the day right from the very beginning.

Grab a sticky note right now. On it, write the words Today’s two things.

Then list the numbers 1 and 2, and leave some blank space next to each one.

Stick that bad boy on your steering wheel so you see it when you get in the car at the end of the day.

Or stick it to the inside of your iPad case so you see it when you settle in on the train ride home.

Or put it on your bathroom mirror. Doesn’t matter.

Any predictable after work place will do.

At the end of the day, when you get to that spot, right then and there, stop and give yourself two minutes to list two things you accomplished today.

Reflect on anything that felt good to finally finish, or maybe helped someone else finish something. Or maybe it’s just something that made you look good.

You probably came up with two things right off the bat.

Those wins are there for you no matter how busy or stressed you feel.

We tend to give our mental attention to what’s always vexing us, right? And then what do we ventilate about when we get home? All the stuff that went wrong.

Taking a few minutes to reflect on what went right today goes a long way to help reduce stress. And it’s also a nice buffer to help you relax and enjoy the rest of your evening.

For articles and videos about stress and mental health, visit my website at Lorimiller.me.

 

Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

Help spread the message about good mental health!

 


Subscribe to the Be Well, Do Well newsletter

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Info and tips each week to help you improve and change your life!

New you, new year

New Year, New You

Are you wanting to create a “whole new you” in 2019?

I had the same brilliant idea two years ago as we were ushering in 2017. In fact, I even encountered this sign as I was biking near my house just before that new year. New year, new me!

It was like a sign that I was headed in the right direction. I even laughed at God’s sense of humor that He had sent me an actual sign. 😂 (I don’t think we give God enough credit for His levity.)

I was so inspired I posted it on Facebook with my loftiest declarations in full hashtag mode.

And I feel like I largely did create a whole new me.

After being part time in mental health for several years while working full time in my corporate marketing career, I decided it was time to pick something and go with it.

I knew in my heart that mental health represented a much bigger future than what corporate America could offer me. But getting paid every two weeks is a pretty attractive feature, too, and with a kid in college, doing anything different was a scary option. 😳

As we were waiting for 2017 to dawn, I just couldn’t do it anymore. The corporate gods had aligned to make my job pretty uncomfortable, and I felt almost guilty that I was just biding my time for a paycheck.

There I was, sitting among the 70% of Americans feeling disengaged and trapped at work.

That’s not what I’m about. I’m very much a “learn or die” kind of gal, so this wasn’t a good place for me to be and I wasn’t a joy to be around.

After much banter back and forth with my husband and more than a few late night Chips Ahoy!, I decided it was time.

So in March 2017 I quit my marketing and communications job and shifted out of the career that had given me so much and opened a lot of doors for me for more than 20 years.

I left behind a decent salary, benefits, and a somewhat predictable future (and I think I left my Rubik’s cube in my desk, too!).

But I was ready to embrace my new identity as a mental health professional. 🙋🏻‍♀️

All mental health, all the time. I was a walking tagline.

I felt like Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat in the air. I was gonna make it after all!

I realized at the time that I was creating a new professional identity and really had to rebrand myself. All the things I was an expert in were about to shift.

I always love this part!

I dug in and learned a ton about insurance, working with people from all walks of life in community mental health, and putting my own paychecks together as a fee-for-service counselor.

The way I worked was completely different, and the work I did was largely up to me.  After 20 years of taking direction from others, this was a paradigm shift.

I think that’s what made it feel like a whole new me. I was doing it!

But honestly, two years later, I think I was wrong about this “whole new you” thing.

While I’ve learned a lot, I’ve also put a ton of pressure on myself in the last two years to create a whole different version of myself.

  • I set too many goals that were too big for where I was in the process.
  • I started and stopped many, many things. Not finishing something is the devil for me because I use it as ammo against myself on the tough days.
  • I compared myself against what I had done before.
  • I berated myself for finding ways to be lazy in spite of being more engaged and chasing a new identity.

But I rationalized that I had jeopardized a not-so-terrible career to do this, ya know? I had to make it work — for me and my family.

Go big or go home, right?

And the reality is that I really have made it work.

I remind myself every day to look back and see how far I’ve come in just two years.

But not in any big, amazing way. Just in a million small ways, one foot in front of the other. 👣

*sigh*

If I’m honest, I’m disappointed that the “whole new me” is still out there in front of me. I think she’s probably pretty cool, if I can just catch up with her. 💃 (<—Apparently she’s blonde, too!)

Alas, I’m still just regular old me, albeit with some enhancements and a fair amount of newly-discovered discipline.

But that’s a lot to work with.

What can this mean for you?

As you start considering what kind of goals you want to set for next year, it can be tempting to upend the whole apple cart.

We have so much information available to us today that we can literally change anything about ourselves by doing a smattering of research. Keep a few things in mind, though:

There really is no “whole new you.” Just you, only better.

Please know that you can change your habits, perspectives and goals, but the person you are right now is the foundation for all of it.

If you don’t like who that person is, you should do some work to discover ways to acknowledge the good things about you. (I can recommend someone. 😉)

No amount of “go big or go home” is going to fix that deep-seated need for approval and significance.

Learn how to appreciate the qualities and talents you got right out of the baby chute.

The science people tell us that our personality is really set early in life. What we do from that point on is build on it to find our strengths and learn how we can use our unique skills to create opportunities for ourselves.

This is exciting because it means you’re like a Lego set. You can add a few new pieces and come up with something different every time.

It may not look like what’s on the box, and you’ll probably lose some of the pieces, but it’s a unique creation with room to add even more.

And Lego sets are really never done, are they?

Don’t underestimate the power of small changes over time.

Big changes are scary and can cause you to quit if you don’t have a plan for what might go wrong.

Taking change in bite-sized chunks makes the challenges easier to swallow.

There is no “magic you” behind door number two. Trying to make sweeping, wholesale changes all at one time (like, in January) is setting you up for magnificent failure. And that will get you nowhere fast.

February will come and you’ll be quite literally besotted with disappointment. Time to break out the Chips Ahoy! (Man, I really want cookies right now. 🍪)

Decide to just be a little better at something, and do that little bit every day. You won’t miss the time, I promise.

And be sure to document it in some way so you can see the line trend up when you look back. 📈

This will give you enormous motivation to keep going when you just can’t see it.

Pick one goal that can change many things in your life.

Focus on a goal that will give you tremendous benefit in several areas of your life. This is like low-hanging fruit to supercharge your life.

For example, losing that extra weight your doctor keeps harassing you about can result in:

  • improved appearance
  • more productivity at work
  • better sleep
  • improved physical health
  • more energy for sex
  • a longer life to enjoy your family

That’s infinitely better than trying to just learn a new productivity method or shop for the perfect wardrobe.

Take an inventory of the things in your life that you wish were better and see what common theme they all share.

Then focus on making changes inside that theme.

I know that 2019 will be a year of growth and accomplishment for you.

Just make sure to trust in who you already are and start building an awesome new year!

 

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How to deal with drag in your life

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What's creating drag in your life?

Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you work, or how much you strive to do better, you’re just having a hard time getting forward movement?

The wheels are certainly spinning. The engine’s running and everything seems in order. But if you’re honest, you’re not making the gains you want.

And now your shoes are smoking and wearing down from all that effort.

You’re getting some drag.

In the aerodynamic world, drag is an element that resists and fights the force of flight. Thanks to gravity, staying on the ground is the default state.

Taking flight requires the pilot to have significant skills in overcoming that drag and knowing how to work with it to get past it.

I think there is also probably a lot of math involved in flying.

Three things can create friction and drag in your own journey. See how many are true for you.

 

Your reluctance to process the past.

You may have suffered terrible abuse, trauma or fractured relationships.

Pain in your past can definitely create drag, or stop you outright, if you don’t take the time to process the events and try to derive some meaning from them.

It won’t fix the past, but processing that pain can help you understand how it’s affected you.

Please know that painful events take a significant amount of your time, energy and commitment to deal with. Healing doesn’t just happen, and certainly not without your permission.

The good news is you can use your past as fuel to push back against the forces resisting your flight.

But did you know your past successes can also create drag? It’s easy to rely on what you’ve always done, what’s always worked for you.

For many of us, when presented with a challenge, we immediately spring into action with what’s gotten us results before. I like to call this “doing a ‘File, Save As…'”

But no two challenges are exactly alike. A new challenge may require that you develop the humility to learn new skills, especially if you want to grow and push past that experience.

Relying on what you’ve always done may have you doing doughnuts on the runway, or it may just keep you grounded.

Your reliance on comforting distractions. 

We have a bajillion ways to put something off or escape our anxieties right at our fingertips. We don’t even have to try hard to find a rabbit trail.

We spend so much time on things that aren’t terrible, really. They make us feel good and maybe they help us learn something. Yet they offer no real path toward our goals.

It’s great to be informed about the world, but if reading the news takes time away from writing that article for your blog, maybe not. It’s cool to watch what’s trending on Netflix, but four episodes in and it’s after midnight, well, now you’ve lost the chance to get your good sleep on.

And we all now know the total drag social media can be. Have you ever tried to scroll through a piece of paper? Yeah, you might be on your phone too much.

But distractions go beyond the obvious things, like news, Netflix and social media.

Seemingly worthy efforts can get us to look at something else that’s bright and shiny.

In his book, “Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done,” Jon Acuff refers to these as noble obstacles, “a virtuous-sounding reason for not working toward a finish.”

  • Spending all your time designing business cards, brochures and a website for your new business instead of getting leads and referrals.
  • Devouring books and podcasts on how to write books and podcasts instead of actually, you know, writing books and podcasts.
  • Creating a beautiful, perfectly-row-spaced project planning spreadsheet with a trendy font (and that prints perfectly in .8 margins) instead of starting the first task in the project.
  • Browsing Psychology Today profiles ad nauseum looking for a therapist instead of actually calling one (just throwing that out there).

These are distractions at their very finest because they produce something tangible, and convince us that we’re moving forward.

You’re focusing too much on yourself. 

Therapy can become narcissistic if you let it.

Obviously in therapy the goal is to improve yourself and change things about your life. It’s exciting to discover what’s been holding you back. And it’s fun to watch other people realize their a-ha moment, where just a little bit of their life now makes more sense.

But there’s a point where too much focus on you means you’re missing things about others. Your experiences may make you uniquely qualified to help someone around you, right now, even in your wounded state.

Serving others in your family, at your job, or in your community takes you outside yourself a little bit and creates connection.

You don’t have to build someone an entire house. You can serve others in all kinds of small ways.

  • Offer an ear to a stressed out coworker.
  • Volunteer for just one event at your church.
  • Ask your barista how their day is going so far.
  • Pack a lunch for your spouse before they head out for work so they don’t have to (I’m going to hear about this one).

Taking time for others as you’re working through your own struggles can give you a new perspective. And in order to grow and change, you have to keep challenging your perspectives.

Moving forward can sometimes feel impossible when you see the size of the machine you’re trying to get off the ground.

Don’t be afraid to tackle the areas that may be keeping you from getting off the runway.

Always be learnin’:

More than you may ever want to know about aerodynamic drag:
https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/airplane/drag1.html

Here’s some recent research on helping others:
https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2016/How-Helping-Others-Can-Help-You

Jon Acuff’s very fine book on how to finish things and his very fine blog:
https://www.amazon.com/Finish-Give-Yourself-Gift-Done-ebook/dp/B01N4VVT1Z
https://acuff.me/blog/

 

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Consistency wins the game

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Consistency is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

Wait, isn’t that the definition of insanity?

Walk with me.

Everyone chases results. You can get fired from your job if you don’t get results. Your doctor shakes her head when she sees the results of your annual exam. You’re on thin ice with your spouse if they’re not happy with your contributions to the marriage.

But few people chase the actual work day in and day out.

Why?

  • Because consistent effort, regardless of the result, is hard.
  • It’s frustrating when there’s little to show for your time.
  • And it can get boring.

As modern westerners, we don’t like hard, frustrating or boring.

And consistency is an exercise in humility. We lose our minds over big wins. We golf clap incremental milestones. So we gravitate to those grandiose efforts.

But here’s the rub: In order to see change in your life, you have to get in a rhythm with the consistent work that will get you where you want to be.

There’s no other way.

  • Do the work no one may notice to thrive in your job.
  • Make the hard dietary changes to lower your cholesterol and keep your heart healthy.
  • Serve your spouse’s needs every day to keep your marriage alive.

It’s Monday. Show up and punch the bag.

What do you want?

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What do you want? Seems like an easy enough question.

We want a new job or that great new boat we saw last weekend. But look past the stuff.

What do you really want?

I heard author Bob Goff speak a few weeks ago, and he asked the audience this question with effervescent conviction (to be fair, though, that’s kind of his thing). If you’re familiar with Bob, you’ll know he’s got a lock on what he wants.

His question threw me as I grabbed the arm of the person next to me and said to them, “I don’t know! I don’t think I know what I want!” 😱

This is a terrific way to free up a seat next to you. More armrest for me, just sayin.

“What do you really want” is a hard question if you haven’t really thought about what’s important to you. It’s still a hard question if you have thought about it.

When you know what you value in life you work hard to make reality match your vision.

Then Bob threw me over the edge with this one:

Decide what you want, then point the rest of your life, all the other stuff, toward that.

Genius!

Simplicity.

I had the whole seating section to myself at this point.

We don’t always do what we really want.

We can’t always articulate what we want in a way that drives us to make real changes. So when our lives get out of balance, our ability to tolerate incongruity overwhelms us.

It’s frustrating.

But if you let it, this discomfort can at least get you going.

You may have heard the story of the old dog and the farmer. It’s been rewritten more than a few times. This version comes from author Amanda Palmer.

“A farmer is sitting on his porch in a chair, hanging out.
A friend walks up to the porch to say hello, and hears an awful yelping, squealing sound coming from inside the house.
“What’s that terrifyin’ sound?” asks the friend.
“It’s my dog,” said the farmer. “He’s sittin’ on a nail.”
“Why doesn’t he just sit up and get off it?” asks the friend.
The farmer deliberates on this and replies:
“Doesn’t hurt enough yet.”

Getting up and moving your life toward your vision takes the discomfort out of focus and lets you lock in on what you need to do to change your life.

So how do you know what you want?

For starters, what you want isn’t what you don’t want.

Don’t define your values in terms of “A life where I don’t have to…

The goal is to move toward a tangible vision of what you want. No one ever got where they wanted to go by heading somewhere they didn’t want to go. Well, maybe Christopher Columbus, but whatever…

And your values are about you. Not what you’d like to see other people do.

A life where my brother…” No. Mind your own business. Your brother can tussle with his own values. This is about you.

Frame your values in ways that help you discover that picture of your life you’ve seen in your head since you were eight.

Picture it

This is the best part. Use all of your six senses (I’m assuming , of course, you can see dead people) to visualize yourself living and moving inside that picture.

Who do you talk to? Where do you go?

What does it feel like when you win at that thing? Who’s with you when you do?

What do you look like? What are you wearing (not in a creepy way)?

This is the movie version of your life where no one can tell you, “You can’t have that.”

Maybe you want your life to center on community, creativity, joy, spirituality, or simplicity. Or all of them.

There are no qualifiers or prerequisites. You get it all.

There’s sweet data there for you. Go get it.

Are you getting what you want?