Making it up as we go

I have been experimenting with different titles on my Linked In page lately and the results are fascinating.

Recently it occurred to me that “researcher” describes a lot of what I do best and still love to do – constantly learning and taking in new “data” while evaluating and coming up with theories about how to apply knowledge in new ways. It made me giggle when I described myself in a new way on my page. I also added my company name (which is a little generic right now, a place-holder for the freelance LLC). I suddenly I had a lot of congratulatory messages on the new job. Ha, I thought. I am just making this up, people! 

No titles can ever encompass the totality of what makes you YOU in a professional or a personal sense. When you seek employment with a company, typically titles mean something specific, and have a particular job description that accompanies them.

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Photo credit link

When you are a freelancer, or are starting a company of your own, nobody tells you what title you can have. A lot of folks like the “grand” titles: CEO, President, Creator, Founder… I like those too. But they imply a lot of things that I just don’t care to embody in my new venture. I don’t plan to have a slew of employees, so they do not apply.

I landed on “Principal Researcher” (for the moment) because it reflects a large part of what I truly enjoy, and I like it better than the generic “consultant.” But there are so many other phrases that could describe what I like to do – Creative Director, Facilitator, translator of cultural norms, etc. The “glue that holds a team together…” But since I am Minnesotan and we are taught not to brag, I’ll move right along. 😉

What’s great is that I get to make this up as I go along, and I can change it when I wish. There are NO rules! That’s liberating. I like to defy definition.  Of course, I am more comfortable with ambiguity than most, so that works for me.

What about you? What title would you give yourself, if you could just make one up? 

 

 

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

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

Sunday blues as habit

I had a weird feeling as I was doing my chores on Sunday, getting ready for the upcoming week. My husband has been on vacation with me for the past 3 weeks of my sabbatical and he has to head back to work tomorrow. It was that “Sunday blues” feeling…

Sunday near Prescott
No excuse for the blues: we had a lovely motorcycle ride out to Prescott, Wisconsin and beyond. Gorgeous day to be outside.

But then when I remembered I am not going back to the corporate job I had before, I had a sudden burst of happiness and relief. This was quickly followed by the realization that I do not have an income right now, so will begin work in earnest to conjure up freelance consulting projects.

I will work from home and finish revising a piece for I was asked to write for my alumni magazine. I will narrow down my focus and the “offer” for my consulting practice, attend a session with my coach, and schedule networking appointments. I will go to a Zumba/dance class for fun in the evening. I will de-clutter and map out my plan for the next couple months. I look forward to these activities, so the Sunday blues is not necessary. That feeling is simply a habit, not actual dread for the week (as I used to experience so regularly, especially facing the hundreds of emails post-vacation).

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I know my former team will be meeting in Miami this week. I won’t be there, but I was initially involved in choosing the meeting date. I will miss them, but I am relieved not to attend the meeting. Is this feeling vicarious dread for the cross-functional meetings they will have to endure (that I found so painful and pointless)?

Perhaps. That is some weird pathological empathy, methinks. Maybe I will explore this with my coach.

My husband suggested my blues may be related to the uncertainty of not knowing what is next. I agree. I will need to make my own decisions about where to focus and what to prioritize. While I also did this before, it was often more a function of which department was most “on fire” rather than what was truly most important.

This week is mine. I get to define how I will spend it, as we all do. I will choose how to make the most of it. This new beginning is a time of joy, gratitude and opportunity. I will overcome those habitual responses, and embrace my freedom.

Do you ever sing the Sunday blues? Are there ways you can change your tune? 

 

 

Saturday Share – Pursue Your Path

This week’s Saturday Share goes to the blog at Elizabeth Dickinson’s website, Pursue Your Path.

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Photo credit Pursue Your Path website

Full disclosure. I have already read Elizabeth’s recently released book, The Concise Coaching Handbook: How to Coach Yourself and Others to Get Business Results. I posted my review on Amazon if you are interested in the topic, well worth the read. I also plan to do some coaching with her over the next few months as I launch my consulting venture. I have really been impressed with her career and accomplishments over the years that I have known her.

Elizabeth writes about many topics of interest to me, such as developing leadership on your team, and the fact that you are your own expert on your life. I really like her premise and her approach. If self-coaching or coaching others is of interest to you as well, I encourage you to check out her work.

Happy weekend!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Wellness Wednesday – move toward Joy

What brings you joy? 

This question can strike fear into the hearts of some people. If it has been some time since you experienced either spontaneous or cultivated joy, you may feel scarcity or grief.

If you have been living someone else’s idea of a “good life” but not your own, you probably feel a lack of joy. Or if things seem to be not going as planned in your life, and you feel a sense of numbness or sadness, joy seems far away. You may be like a poor kid looking through the windows of the candy store, knowing that joy exists (not in the form of candy, actually) but believing you cannot have it.

However, joy can be a daily practice as much as a feeling or an experience. I first learned about this from Martha Beck in her book The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life. I pulled out her book from my shelves last summer and started cultivating joy more intentionally when I realized my work life was no longer bringing me joy. For years, it had provided me with growth, challenge and satisfaction.

Then it seemed the minor annoyances I was tolerating started to grow into major annoyances. The bureaucrazy (yes, this is Freudian slip, and also deliberate) felt more overwhelming. On balance, the joy did not outweigh the suffering anymore. I no longer felt I belonged in that place, in that position.

joy disney
Photo credit link – Disney’s Joy character

I started finding joy in doing art projects at home, meditating, writing, doing yoga, reading books, and listening to podcasts that fed my brain new ideas. I started taking more joy in my relationship, planning my wedding (which took place last September). Instead of working late, I left the office early, enjoyed evenings on the patio, which is quite lovely in Minnesota this time of year.

My focus on finding and appreciating joy daily led me to the place where I am now. I feel healthy and more balanced than I have in years. My sleep has improved considerably, with much less insomnia than before. My eating habits have improved, and I struggle less with fighting cravings for sugar and junk food. Those things had been a “buffer” to my feelings and did not allow for me to sit with the reality of the change my soul was calling forth.

Joy is always not in the big, bright moments of happiness. These can be a part of a joyful life. However, it is often in the small, quiet moments of gratitude for the abundance that surrounds us. Joy exists in moments of internal peace and in finding our center. Sometimes there is suffering embedded in joy, and it is an almost bittersweet experience. I would not trade it for any material thing.

What brings you joy? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

The final countdown!

I woke up this morning with the song in my head by Europe: the Final Countdown!

For a video from YouTube:

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Link to the YouTube video

I love the 80’s hair and the head-banging musicians. I had to re-read the lyrics of the song because I guess I really never knew them.

With only 5 days to go, I feel excited with a little nervous trepidation. There are a lot of things I want to complete this week, and yet I know I have time for what really matters. Anything that is forgotten or does not occur is probably not important.

I will make sure to have my contacts secured on my new phone/computer. I will have lunches with people and one dinner with a project team that is still developing a product that came from our Innovation Jam efforts. I will make sure to transfer any final information to my team that they might need in order to get things done.

I will clean out my desk and take home any personal items. I guess I will turn in my work laptop and phone, so probably good to have any personal things cleared off there as well.

Since this change has not happened overnight, and I have been intentional since March about readying my team for this eventuality (even while they did not know my specifc plan) I feel ready.

I slept well last night. I am ready for this. I will savor these last days with gratitude.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com