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

Fear of success

When I quit my job in the corporate world recently, most of my colleagues were excited for me. They assured me that they knew I would succeed at any chosen path. It was a confidence-booster. I was grateful for their kind words.

There were people who seemed very worried and concerned for me, leaving the “mother ship” as I used to call my former workplace. What would I do if I did not find another “gig” right away? Or if it did not work out to be self-employed?

To be honest, fear of failure was not on my mind. I am more concerned about decisions I will make about which direction to pursue. Since I was a young girl I wanted to do LOTS of different things in my life. I still remember being very distressed when someone asked what I was going to be when I grew up (around age 6). I listed off a bunch of things: teacher, writer, doctor, actor, store owner, etc.

The woman who had asked the question had good intentions, I suppose, but she laughed and said, “Oh honey, you can’t do ALL those things. You will have to choose one (or two).” I was immediately sad and surprised too. Seriously? You could only do ONE thing in your life?!? Crap!

I suppose that was much more true then than it is today. So she was not really trying to burst my bubble. She just did not understand my intention. I got bored easily when I mastered things. And I suppose that might have been a clue that I had an active imagination and could create compelling visions of possibilities in my life (and maybe a sign of a.d.d.)

It never even occurred to me that I might try one of those careers and fail. My parents, bless their hearts, had helped instill confidence in my abilities, and in my resilience. I still remember my Dad teaching me about “meta-cognition” when I was in grade school. Thinking was important, he said, but understanding HOW we think (or learn) is even more important.

Recently as I was completing an application for a fellowship I had a major realization – sometimes I have a greater fear of success than I do of failure. Huh? Who is afraid of success?

fear of success
Photo credit link

As an introvert, I have often looked to leaders or people who are very successful in their careers (say, in public speaking) and thought: that’s so awesome. But I would hate to be surrounded by all those people all the time… yikes. While I like some professional acknowledgement, fame has never really been a goal for my life. I value my privacy and solitude too much.

It did not occur to me that success can look a lot of different ways, or that I could succeed in a career and set appropriate boundaries around my time and space. When you are successful, people seek you out. I guess another of those fears has to do with the future – if I succeed, people will have even greater expectations of me. I will have greater expectations of myself as well.

Where does that end? Oy! The thought makes me tired.

Right now I am considering my definition of success, first of all. For some people, that means money, a nice home, a fancy car, a corner office. I am not the kind of person that craves a lot of material things. I feel pretty weighed down by things, actually. I love going on vacation adventures, so regular travel is part of my success definition.

I love time and space. I love the ability to think, learn new skills, take classes, design workshops and collaborate with my favorite people. The spaciousness of my days has been a distinct benefit to this sabbatical, and I am trying to figure out how to build this into my new gig.

My hubby might say that success means I can retire early and do whatever I want. While that is a lovely idea, I actually enjoy working, when I do the kinds of things that make my heart sing. Success is about giving back, because to some extent, I feel I have already succeeded in my life. Sure, I failed at certain things I tried. But I learned so much along the way.

Truly I am happy in my life, right now, and I appreciate the wealth of my relationships. Ultimately is that not the best measure of success?

Happy weekend,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Outgrowing your boss

When you have a boss who has been very supportive of your career growth and has helped you take the next steps in terms of your leadership, it can be hard to move on. But when you come to a point at which your boss is no longer helping you grow, and seems to have “checked out” a bit from the work, it is time to consider what is next.

They say people do not leave organizations, they leave managers. Even if you work in a highly dysfunctional company, having a good boss can be a beacon. Even one of my favorite books on Wellbeing by Tom Rath and Jim Harter begin with Career Wellbeing as a foundation to our overall wellbeing. Having a boss who cares personally about you and engages with your efforts in a meaningful way can have a very positive influence on your life. This is one reason I take my work as a manager very seriously and I am very intentional about how I work with each member of my team.

However, at some point you may realize that you and your boss may have different goals for the organization or a different outlook on the future. By necessity they have a view of the organization that may not be the same as yours. They have access to different networks and information. They may empathize with your position but not be able to connect their decisions with the operational reality of your work.

It is important to have open dialogues about your perspective and to be as direct as possible about your position. Your boss may not agree and this is not fatal to the relationship in itself. But your boss may make decisions that compromise the execution or the quality of your team’s ability to deliver, or the credibility of your organization. It is probably not intentional. It may reflect their relationships in industry, or fears that saying no will limit future possibilities.

bird rising watercolor
This watercolor reminds me of the song “I’ll Fly Away.”

I have so much gratitude for the opportunities that my director has given me over the past 4 years while I have reported directly to him. At the same time, he is making decisions that compromise the ability of our team to deliver. There is political pressure for these decisions, and I realize that higher up, the forces are different. But I can no longer support a department that puts what I view as undue stress on its employees.

I enjoy being creative and finding ways to be efficient in our work. It is an area where we have grown into a team that is known for going the extra mile. But now we have a situation where we are below “critical mass” in terms of our ability to execute. Dumping more responsibilities on top of an already over-committed team will not work. 

And yet, he continues to add, despite the promise that we would only do this with more resources. I realize he may define resources in terms of dollars, while I define resources in terms of people. But I find myself unwilling to swamp my team yet again when we have barely recovered from the last restructure.

So in a way, I have outgrown my boss. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I have had for personal and professional growth in the past few years. And I am ready to move on. This is something I have had to grieve at some level. I believe my boss cares personally about people on the team. It has what has kept me here so far. But it is not what will help me grow to the next level in my career.

Goodbyes are hard. And it will be especially difficult to say goodbye to my team. They are wonderful people. But they may have outgrown me as well, who knows? My soul is leading me toward a big leap of some kind. I am ready to listen, look and leap when the next step becomes clear. It is almost less important to me WHAT that move is, than the fact that I will go. That’s how I know I have outgrown my boss.

Driven to distraction

I am in the midst of preparing for a presentation I will give today so this post will be short(ish). It may serve as a reminder to myself about how to deal with distractions, and it may also be a distraction from the work I planned to do today… In any case, because I choose to write a blog, and I also choose to keep my day job in order to take care of myself and family, and writing helps keep me sane for the other, I shall proceed.

Sometimes my internal “mental clutter” provides as much or more distraction as the outside influences of the world.  Thoughts, emotions, stories I spin about “what ifs” and “this means that” are part of my consciousness can be a challenge. Then the outside: Facebook, social media, two different email boxes (one personal, one at work, and I know most people have more). Messenger apps, WhatsApp (which my international colleagues all tend to use), notifications about “likes” and comments, they are all a constant. Until we stop letting them constantly intrude, and turn them off.

It’s no wonder some of us start our days feeling like we are spinning almost the first moment we wake up. A year ago or so, I realized I had an unhealthy addiction to my phone, notifications, and other electronic brain candy. It began interfering with my sleep and my overall sense of wellbeing and balance, I began to work on setting healthy limits for myself. I no longer check the FB and the socials as soon as I wake up.

I typically enjoy my coffee, my journal and some meditation before opening up the deluge of incoming. Some days I aspire to do this, but I find that a light-hearted podcast, or some other written or auditory inspiration helps me find my center or makes me laugh before I face the challenges of the day. I try to return to the meditation and journal before the workday starts because I notice a distinct difference in the quality of the days in which I give myself this time, and the days I do not.

Orig works cdlc - distraction post
Art can be a distraction, or a nice mind-cleansing, depending on the day and the priorities.

Most of us have to use a number of communication tools for work, so it can be even more challenging to set aside the distractions and just attend to the task at hand. For those of us who struggle with attention issues, we have to develop strategies to help us focus when that is difficult. It can meaning turning off the Cisco Jabber messaging at work, realizing it is just a tad harder for people to reach me, but helping them understand I need chunks of time to finish a project. It can mean turning off my work email notifications (even harder for me during the workday) or stepping away to take a walk when my brain is buzzing but I am not moving forward.

I think this is one reason the minimalists are getting so much attention these days. What most of us crave is not MORE, it is LESS. We crave quality, not quantity. We crave focus, we crave purpose, we crave not a huge group of friends, but people we can truly trust and who truly move us. We crave less STUFF but more high quality things that help us live our lives peacefully and well. All of these aspirations require healthy boundaries around our space, our time, and our energy. These goals require us to say NO more often, to things that do not serve us, and to make commitments to the activities that give us long-term fulfillment.

Easy in theory, much more difficult in practice. Thus, this may become a theme for a series of posts.

I am interested in what tools or strategies you have used to eliminate distractions in your life, and to focus on what you truly want. If you have some advice for a mexi-minnesotana chica who is just starting to figure this out, I would love to hear it. Please add your comments below. Grateful for your support and your thoughts.