What do you most want to learn?

It is said that we teach what we most want to learn. Research is “me search.”

One of the exercises I have tried while crafting my “offer” to my ideal clients is to consider the topics I most enjoy exploring through writing. By looking at my “tag cloud” or my category list, well-being and consciousness are big on my list. I also love thinking about and experimenting with how to increase employee engagement and career satisfaction.

Regarding my well-being focus for the past few years: in 2015-2016 I realized I had gained more weight and life felt stressful. More travel and meetings were required of my position as a manager for an international division. I knew something had to change. I did not like the feeling of my clothes getting tighter, or my need to take the “edge off” with a glass of wine as soon as I got home each day.

I decided to take a 10-day pause from my nightly glass (or 3) of wine when I came home each night. Whew, lots of emotional stuff came up. Then I realized I’d started taking the “edge” off by over-eating more often, or justifying extra chocolate or dessert because my day had been stressful and “I deserved it” I told myself.

But what if I could live a life where I did not feel a need to buffer my emotions with alcohol or food? What if I could learn to feel my difficult and uncomfortable feelings, without needing to dull them? 

As someone slightly on the introvert side of the introversion/extroversion spectrum, being with people for the majority of my day is taxing. Susan Cain advises introverts to find “restorative niches” of quiet or tranquility in our day, in order not to be overwhelmed by the social interaction required.

As a nexus point for 5 different departments and many different countries and regional units, it felt like constantly being “under fire” from far too many bosses or project managers, to whom I was accountable, even though I technically reported to just one director.

Restorative niche? Only if I could work at home (and I did now and then). I craved “deep work” assignments when I could have uninterrupted time to work on a project or develop a tool or workload model, for example. But the number of conference calls and meetings grew exponentially with the number of different initiatives we were called upon to execute.

I got really good at saying “no” toward the end, and also much better at delegating to fellow team members while developing their skills. Not always a popular choice for the entities which funded our small team. But a necessity nonetheless, since we were not able to deliver high quality results when spread too thin.

Fall inlove with taking care of yourself. (1)

So what do I want to teach and learn?

  • We must make conscious choices in our lives. We cannot do it all, nor should we. We must decide on what is essential and strategic, and do only that.
  • Wellness is non-negotiable. Our employer may think our mid-day run or yoga class is optional, but for many of us, it is the restoration we need to be most productive.
  • Working harder is not an option. Most of us are already maxed out. Working smarter is an alternative. Turning down calendar appointments is an option. Setting boundaries and expectations and communicating those is critical.
  • Being willing to receive tough feedback as a leader is essential. When people know you trust them, and are willing to listen and make changes, or help influence the process based on feedback, they trust you. Trust is essential to getting the work done efficiently.

These are some of the hardest lessons I had to learn in my time as an operational manager in a very large medical device company.

What do you most want to learn? Do you spend time writing about this topic as well? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

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Letting life unfold

My body has been sending me a lot of messages lately about allowing for rest and play in addition to work. It is quite interesting. I sometimes find when I am planning or stressing about something, there is this uncomfortable pit in my stomach.

When I notice that slight pain, and I come back to the present and just breathe, typically it releases. I know that people talk a lot about making detailed plans for their future endeavors. And normally I subscribe to at least having a loose plan, and a vision for the future.

Something in me is telling me not to make super concrete plans just yet, and to play a little looser for now. I typically start with a “shape of the week” plan and then time block in 2-3 hour increments.

I start with a healthy dose of time for writing, reading and thinking from 6-9 a.m. That is when my mind is clearest, after I have meditated and had my coffee. Then from 9-12 I either go to a yoga class, a dance class, or sometimes a coffee meeting with a colleague.

Noon to 2 p.m. is blocked off for my lunch break and any small errands I may have to do, or sometimes just a little nap break or a podcast. Then 2-5 I work on things that do not require as much focus, sending email correspondence or doing smaller projects.  I do not work in the evening, unless I am very inspired to write something in particular.

life unfolding
Photo credit link

I find that keeping a very regular routine helps me sleep better and also I can produce “on demand” when the time is scheduled for me to do so. Right now I am taking it one week (and sometimes one day) at a time.

When I get very excited about an idea, I follow that path. When I feel a sense of dread, I avoid that path. Right now, that seems to be where I need to be, just letting life unfold, not getting too caught up in doing all the right things.

I recognize the privilege of allowing this time. I also remind myself that I planned for it. I trust that using this “body meter” intuition to follow what is right for me will lead me where I am called.

How is your life unfolding? Do you ever doubt the process of finding your path? What helps you nurture that trust in yourself?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Saturday Share – Girls and their cats

Hello Reader Friends,

This Saturday’s blog share goes to GIRLS AND THEIR CATS. GATC is a photo series created by Brooklyn-based photographer BriAnne Wills as a way to showcase cat-owning women in a positive context.

Girls and Their Cats
Snipped from the home page as of Oct 12, 2018.

I love her beautiful photography and stories of professional women and their cats. If you are a cat-lover and/or just enjoy a unique take on people who love animals and care about their fur children, check it out.

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Dance as rhythmic sunshine

On Wednesday morning it was rainy and gloomy for a fourth straight day in the Twin Cities. It can be get cold here, but usually we do not have days and days of rain on end. Winter may be icy, but there is usually sunshine intermittently. “Clear and cold” is often the forecast in January, February and March, when it is not snowing.

Even snow is more preferable to me than days and days of rain. Okay, yes. A couple of cloudy days doesn’t usually spoil my mood but 3-4+? Oy. I treated myself to some extra light box this morning. Though I had not slept very well and suffered some insomnia, I was truly NOT going to miss my Zumba class with Ruth at Tula Yoga and Wellness!

Zumba
Photo credit link

I have begun attending Zumba twice a week since I returned from vacation in September (there’s a Monday night class) and I find that I am learning faster in practicing more often. I make no claims at being “good” at dancing. But we dance to upbeat Latin, Reggaeton and Pop music that is super fun and energizing.

I told Ruth this morning that her class is like rhythmic sunshine to brighten up our day! Indeed, after the class, I felt happy and energized. Every class, as I am learning how to dance, beginning to feel the rhythms and getting the footwork down, I am building some “muscle memory” on the routines.

My determination to learn to dance this year is going very nicely since I started out with the foundations class back in June.

Dance is teaching me many new things:

It reminds me how much I love good music, and moving my body is a natural extension of that.

It does not matter if I do it perfectly. I am a beginner, and I am in it to have fun, get exercise and feel more comfortable in my body. Yoga was a big part to starting that process, but dance is a great extension to that.

Putting all the things together at once is not always possible for me, and that’s okay. Sometimes I have to master the footwork before I can add the arms. Sometimes I miss a “shimmy” or my hips are slower to catch on to a particular move, and I need to ask for a demo of a more challenging step. No matter, it’s all part of learning.

Dance is about expressing joy physically. When I was too self-conscious to let myself dance, I missed out on that. But now I am just making up for lost time. At 44, I feel really good about that!

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

Wellness Wednesday – healthy boundaries

It is Wellness Wednesday! The question for the day is this:

Do you consciously set healthy boundaries in your life and work?

I only recently started understanding what good boundaries are for me, and how to say a courteous “no” to certain requests when appropriate. We are wired for connection, and this means we often strive to please other people, not out of any weakness on our part. This is part of the human condition, and how we survived as a species, through relationships and connections.

The problem comes in when we do not see how the multiplying complexity of our social platforms and our networks creates an ever larger amount of choices and opportunities. That can be a blessing. But it can also have a cost, in terms of our overall productivity and focus on the things are the most relevant to us. Do less, but better (as Greg McKeown would say).

Wellness Wednesday

My need for regular solitude and time to think and reflect sometimes comes into conflict with my desire for input and learning, for example. Often I must put some constraints around the input, whether through books, podcasts or audio books.

I have learned that adding some constraints to my schedule, such as when I will meet with people or how many calendar items I will schedule in a given week, helps me be more productive with my time. In my previous position, when I was working in a corporate environment, it helped to block off some time for planning and thinking. Otherwise, I was at the mercy of others dictating my calendar.

It was harder in the days when I was traveling to put constraints on my hours because I often wanted to take advantage of the time to meet with people locally. But at the same time, I learned that running myself ragged did not increase my productivity at all. In fact, it usually led to consequences such as less quality sleep and less creativity about problem-solving.

It can be a tricky balance. Some people have an easier time with boundaries at work but home is the place where the requests can feel mandatory. I am interested in your experience with this idea, and where you find it most challenging.

What can you do to set healthy boundaries to fulfill your needs for rest, creativity and play outside of work and family obligations?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Light a candle – my tidying festival has begun

On Monday my appointment for the morning had to reschedule, so I found myself with an unexpected chunk of time without something specific planned.

I have been putting off the task of tidying my office/spare room, mostly because dislike tasks like this. But also because it seems so tedious and annoying. But lately I have been suffering from a lack of ability to find things quickly that I need. So I know I was overdue for another “KonMari” festival.

Marie Kondo describes in her book “the life changing magic of tidying up” how the act of tidying must first begun with thorough discarding, all at once. She approaches the act of tidying as a special event that can take up 3-6 months depending on how much stuff we have and need to discard. I believe it.

About a year and a half ago in the Spring, I really worked at this, clearing out my entire closet and working my way through most of my wardrobe. It felt great, and I got rid of so many things I never wore, or seldom wore. Her criteria for keeping things: if it sparks joy, keep it. If not, discard it. 

Clothes on floor

I began in the “correct” order as she describes, and put all of my shirts and blouses on the floor of the room. Clearly she does not have cats at home… that has a hazard for certain types of clothing when you do not want cat fur on everything. But I am including a picture so you can get an idea of how bad it was to start.

A lot of things had to go, but I only started with the “tops” category today, and I am planning to work through her list all week, spending at least 2 hours a day tidying. Today I spent about 4 hours, but I must say once I made all of those choices and then put things away, I was feeling really exhausted.

So many decisions! Oy!

Candles

You minimalists have the right idea! More stuff equals more stress. By having less stuff, and minimizing my decision fatigue, and lessen the time I spend looking for stuff I cannot find. I hope this helps to optimize my focus at home, something we “work at home” folks truly need.

But I like the idea of approaching this project as a one-time special event, and treating it with the sacred process that it is. I decided to light some candles when I started to make it more of a ceremony. It definitely helped. Let’s see if I can sustain the mood and keep this going tomorrow. Wish me luck!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com