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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Wellness Wednesday – Forgiveness

How easy do you find it to forgive people? 

How easily do you forgive yourself when you make a mistake or do something wrong? 

I just finished reading Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life, and I found the premise fascinating. She believes that what we think about ourselves becomes the truth for us. What we give out, we get back. The only thing we are ever dealing with is a thought, and thoughts can be changed. We can change our attitude toward the past. To release the past, we must be willing to forgive. Also, she claims that “all dis-ease” comes from a state of unforgiveness.

She goes on to explain that forgiveness is not about condoning the behavior. It is just letting the whole things go. I agree that there are few advantages to holding resentment against someone for past actions. The past is over, and the more we time we spend on holding onto that resentment, the worse our health seems to be.

An article from Hopkins Medicine explains that unresolved conflict or chronic anger can put you in fight-or-flight mode, which results in changes in heart rate, blood pressure and the immune system. These changes increase risks of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions.

forgiveness.JPG
Photo credit link –  Mindful.org: Forgive Your Imperfections

Forgiveness is an active process in which we make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings whether the person deserves it or not. Karen Swartz, M.D. director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, says forgiveness is a choice. “You are choosing to offer compassion and empathy to the person who wronged you.”

Even if the person never apologizes, and you simply resolve this by journaling or through your own reflection, by letting go of expectations, you will not feel disappointed. When you start to acknowledge the fact that nobody is perfect, and that the action probably had nothing to do with you, and rather is a reflection of the other person’s capacity (or lack thereof) for love, you can move on.

While it is not easy, forgiveness will help you heal and move on with your life. Sometimes talking with a therapist or a trusted friend to receive a “caring witness” to your pain can help. But at some point, then it is time to let the past go. Remember: you are not hurting the other person in refusing to forgive, you are only hurting yourself by carrying that negative energy into your future.

A quote I love from Louise Hay’s book is:

Love is always the answer to healing of any sort. And the pathway to love is forgiveness.

Give it a try and watch your overall health improve as you develop a regular practice of forgiveness. Check out “You Can Heal Your Life” if you want exercises and affirmations to support this process of letting go.

cristy@meximinnesota.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

Throwback Thursday: time enough at last

As the end of my time in my current company draws near, I return to a post from December of last year. I am looking forward to the month of August, since I have a road trip planned with my sister, LOTS of reading and thinking time ahead. What a relief! Time enough at last!!

***

Do you remember that episode of the Twilight Zone called “Time Enough At Last“? I own the Twilight Zone complete collection on DVD, and this is an episode worth watching if you have ever wished for “time enough” to do what you want.

henry bemis
Photo credit link – episode wiki page

Henry Bemis wants one thing in life: more time to read. I have so much empathy for Henry. There are times when I really long for more solitude, reading (and writing) time. Henry works at a bank but sneaks down to the vault during his lunch hours to read.

But not only does he do that, he tries to read while he is doing his job, which means he does not do that job so well. He clearly feels “put upon” by the world, his job and his wife, since nobody seems to understand his thirst for books and reading time. But I have deep empathy for his suffering.

Prior to my appendectomy in December, I was really wishing for some reading time and contemplation. I wanted some time off from work when I could just read, relax and enjoy some time to myself. I looked forward to the holiday break coming up – my workplace shuts down between Christmas and the New Year. I was feeling rather “put upon” at work myself, and I just wanted an escape. I had in mind a sabbatical, and while I think this was not so practical in my current job, I viscerally ached for this kind of break.

I would not have chosen to go to the hospital to have emergency appendectomy surgery in order to get out of work. But I was fortunate to recover very quickly, so it felt like a blessing in disguise.

One day while reading down in the vault Henry Bemis is knocked unconscious by a shock wave. He awakens to discover that the world has been devastated by a nuclear war. At first he is in shock, walking through all the devastation around him, and he decides to commit suicide. But then he sees the ruins of a library, his paradise!

henry bemis and clock
Photo credit link

Henry gleefully piles up the books, thinking he has a supply to keep him busy for years to come, with all the time he needs. But as he settles to read his glasses slip off his nose and smash on the ground, trapping him in a blurry world forever. “That’s not fair! That’s not fair at all! There was time now. There was all the time I wanted! That’s not fair!” (I found a 3-minute video on YouTube if you want to see that scene. It still breaks my heart).

Poor Henry. Life is not fair. Bad things happen. And yet this is the way of life. We get sick, our plans go awry, and we have to adjust. We must get extra rest. We must slow down and respect our body’s limits. We must acknowledge that we do not control everything, and stop resisting and arguing with reality.

Oh, Henry. I am giving myself the gift (in August and September) of time enough at last! It has been so long since I had more than 2 weeks off for a summer vacation. I am beyond grateful.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Wellness Wednesday – your priority

What are your priorities? 

I asked myself this during the late afternoon when I noticed *hours* had slipped by this afternoon while I was working, and it was nearly past the time I usually leave. I suddenly realized it was a gorgeous Minnesota day, about 80F without humidity.

Immediately I realized I should not be lingering at work, and that my husband and I had the opportunity to spend time out on a lovely patio somewhere in the neighborhood. But this realization and choice came about when I considered my priorities, or rather my priority for that moment.

While I know work is important, my more important priority is my relationship with my husband. Other relationships are important too, and I reminded myself the other day to schedule some time with friends I have not yet seen this summer. We plan to see a play and spend time together next week.

Willy, my cat, just gave me a LOUD MEOW to indicate that HE is a priority too, and he did not appreciate my husband and I lingering over live music on the patio tonight. Okay buddy, point taken.

Relationships are an important priority in our lives. Several recent studies have touted the benefits of social relationships on one’s overall health status. This does not mean we are all good at prioritizing our relationships, however. I have struggled in the past with making time to nurture my friendships, sometimes getting wrapped up in personal projects or professional goals, and neglecting to reach out as often as I would like.

Lions Tavern
Hot air balloons outside on Tuesday night while hubby and I listened to live music on the patio of Lion’s Tavern.

I start feeling “out of balance” when I do not get enough hubby time, or kitty time or time with good friends that make me laugh. There is something about spending time with people who love you, people you care about, and those who bring meaning to your life.

And if you feel lonely? Maybe you live far from friends, or do not have family in your area. Please reach out to someone to connect. Make an effort to form relationships that sustain you. If making new friends is difficult for you, realize that it can be difficult for all of us as adults. You are not alone in feeling like this.

But attempts to connect with others is almost always worth it. We may fear rejection, or believe others do not have much in common with us. But I believe it is a bigger risk NOT to connect, and not to allow ourselves to be a little vulnerable to build connection. Sure, they may reject us. But that is only a problem if we make it mean something about us. I like to think when people reject me, they don’t know what they are missing. 😉

It can be as easy as asking someone about themselves, and listening well. Or greeting someone with a smile and a friendly word can bring about a moment of connection, making us (and them) feel less alone, to feel seen and appreciated.

Human beings evolved as a social species. But we can feel lonely in our relationships sometimes, or we can feel lonely on our own. As an introvert, I enjoy being alone and seldom feel lonely. But even I have my limits in terms of “me time.” There is no substitute for being around people who accept me as I am. What a great gift. Let us not forget to be grateful for those kindred spirits when we find them, and to nurture and prioritize our relationships. 

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Wellness Wednesday – vacation

I recently implemented Wellness Wednesday as regular feature to my blog to give it some rhythm and focus during my week.

This week, since I have a vacation coming up starting on Saturday, I want to focus on the wellness practice of scheduling vacations at least twice a year, and being committed to taking them. This can be challenging in the U.S., where we do not have mandated vacation time by law, and companies have discretion about how much vacation to grant.

However, whether paid or unpaid, time off is a very important part of self-care that allows us to recover from stress. It also allows for time away from the day-to-day grind that can sometimes sap our energy and dampen our creativity. A change in setting and in the rhythm or pace of our week can provide the necessary variety to rejuvenate our ability to generate new ideas.

I used to believe I could not take a vacation, that people could not cope without my absence. Now I look back on that as a youthful delusion. Planning ahead, putting it on the calendar, and committing to taking it means I anticipate activities in advance. I allow others on my team to be resourceful and solve problems in my absence. I make sure to communicate on any pending projects where input may be required.

Mount Rushmore
Photo credit link – one of our planned vacation stops

In order to fully enjoy vacation, I typically do not check email and I use that ubiquitous auto-responder for my email box. I used to invite people to call me for urgent issues, since I do not check email. I no longer do that. If something is truly urgent, they will probably call. But since I am not a physician (like most of our customers) and lives are not on the line if I am not in the office, fortunately, very little rises to that level.

When planning vacation, if you can take 2 or more weeks off in a row instead of just one, at least once a year, do it! One week of vacation allows for tasks to pile up while you are gone, and you may have a full inbox, because people will wait for you return rather than seek someone else out in your absence. For a two week vacation though, I find that people either solve their own problems, or find someone who can answer their question, and it seems there is less of a “build up” while being gone.

Another reason to take 2 weeks, if you are anything like me, it literally takes me the first 3-5 days to truly get my mind AWAY from work, and get into the rhythm of vacation. If you only have one week off, take means only 4-5 days to truly enjoy yourself once you find that rhythm. If you have two weeks (or more), you can truly immerse yourself in the pace and enjoyment of your vacation.

For me, this June’s vacation will be a chance to connect with my husband and share some new adventures on our motorcycle. We will see Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse (South Dakoka) and Devil’s Tower, Wyoming. I’m excited – I have never been to either one.

Do you have vacation plans for this summer? What will you do to make sure you are ready? 

cristy@meximinnesota.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wellness Wednesdays

A friend of mine recently suggested I implement another weekly feature in keeping with the idea of “rhythm” for my writing. Right now I do a Saturday Share and a Sunday haiku as regular weekly posts. I love the idea of Wellness Wednesday!

I had some trouble connecting to the internet from my hotel from Mexico this morning because the wi-fi has been a bit spotty and very slow, so I will save the content to be launched next week. But in terms of why Wednesday and why Wellness, I will provide a couple of thoughts here.

First: Wednesday is commonly known as “hump day”. Once we’ve gotten through Wednesday, we are on the downhill side of making it through a work week for most of us. Sadly, the implication of this is that we must struggle to get through a work week only to be released into the world to do what we want. I suppose if more of us loved what we were doing every day, and had meaningful work, maybe we would not be so eager for the weekend.

light and relief
Photo credit link

Or maybe we would, because there is an intensity to the work week that we typically do not experience on weekends. It is okay to look forward to that break and to our leisure time, although wishing away a work week probably means we ought to reconsider the work we are doing.

So, smack-dab in the middle of the week is Wednesday!

What better time to remind ourselves of healthy practices and strategies and to check it to see how we are doing on cultivating these habits?

Personal wellness and well-being are the cornerstone of a life well-lived, and they are achieved through conscious choices and daily actions. Planning is usually required to make sure we are able to schedule those activities and habits that keep us on track. But when we make this commitment, we gain so much energy, freedom and joy.

It starts with our thinking, which drives our emotions, and thus determines our actions and therefore our results.  I look forward to sharing a few of my n=1 experiments here (as I have done in the past) and hopefully hearing from you on your successes in this area as well.

Cheers!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Boil it down

I love to write.

Writing helps me process my life. It helps me get thoughts out of my head and onto paper or a screen so I can remove the “static” this a.d.d. brain sometimes accumulates.

Some writing is reserved for my paper journals. I’m old fashioned. I love hand-writing a journal. I take it with me when I travel to do “thought downloads” when I start or end the day.

boil it down
Photo credit link

The blog has helped me clarify more topics that interest me, and when I find new concept that are particularly relevant or helpful, I like to share those and articulate them in a clear and easy-to-understand format. It helps me, and if it helps you, awesome.

Blogs tend to be short-form, and so I think of them as mini-chapters. It occurred to me that the “tag cloud” and “category cloud” that WordPress have boiled down for me the chapter headings if I were to make a book out of what I write daily.

So far the big tags are: relationships, truth and work. The next three largest tags are gratitude, health and creativity. In my category cloud are: consciousness, reflection and personal.

It really is interesting how the focus of my blog has morphed over time, evolving with what I am reading lately and what changes I would like to make in my life.

For bloggers out there using tag or category clouds, if you do this on a regular basis, what are your big three? Do they reflect your original intentions? I would love to know.

Hasta luego, amigos. I’m heading to Mexico City today for work travel.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com