51 percent

From a young age I have been encouraged to strive for excellence. My parents did not exert much pressure, mind you. But I think the fact that they were teachers probably drove my expectations about academic achievement. I thought that “winning” was doing well in school, and since learning came fairly easily to me, I aspired to this type of achievement.

Looking back, I remember taking on a heavy course schedule, especially in middle and high school, when we could select our electives. I also participated in many school activities, band, forensics (what they called public speaking) and various other extras I was encouraged to add because I was deemed “gifted” due to test scores.

At the same time, some teachers in middle school in particular thought that I was not working up to my potential. I distinctly remember my 6th grade reading teacher explaining this to my parents at conferences. We had page number requirements for books we had to read and I remember that 1500 per quarter was considered grade A level (1200 = B, 900 = C). My reading list typically listed 4000-5000 pages for each quarter, or about 300% of A level.

I was (and am) a voracious reader, but not as excited then about writing reports or summaries of what I had read. Of course, I did not always remember a lot of what I had read (and I now know variable attention was a factor). At the speed I was going, I just wanted to cover as much ground as possible. Even today, I typically get through books quickly. But now I tend to read them more closely a second time if they have a larger impact on me. This habit worked well in college for getting through vast amounts of material, and then selecting what needed to be studied rather than simply read.

Fifty one percent

At work, it has been my habit in my career to attempt to give 110%, to go above and beyond what is needed. I realize this was a cultural norm for the company I recently worked for, which had in its mission statement the words “striving without reserve” for the greatest possible reliability and quality. While I appreciate the intent, the “without reserve” part always bothered me.

For many years, my personal “reserves” ran low constantly. By giving so much to my work so consistently, I short-changed close relationships, friendships, and even my own health at times. I received promotions and advancement, but at what cost? Since I experience variable attention, I often arrived early or stayed late so I could work while it was quiet and there were less interruptions.

Ironically enough, in my final year I realized that cutting back on work hours generally, and giving less (more like 90% rather than 110%) made me much more effective in the hours I actually worked. When I use the tools of more sleep, meditation, better mental and emotional management, and good quality food and exercise, and more time away from work to rest and play, I make better decisions.

In yoga teacher training, we are learning about the concept of non-striving, about giving 51% in our practice, the just right stimulus for growth, rather than 110%. As someone who has taken a break from the full time work world for 9 months, I likely embrace the concept more readily than many. It chafes against our cultural conditioning. And that can be a good and necessary thing.

In a world that often tells us we are “never enough” we need to re-think what is essential, and what is extraneous. Not all days or phases of our lives are identical, of course, and we may need to adjust accordingly. But sometimes giving 51% and keeping some energy for ourselves is appropriate and what gives us resilience for the longer term.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Finding your edge

As I was sitting my evening yin yoga class on Thursday, I found myself thinking about where my “edge” was. For those of you who have not practiced yin, it involves long-held poses where you relax into a pose for typically 5-8 minutes.

Typically you just soften into a pose, where eventually you find a bit of an edge, a slight discomfort when this pose is held. This allows the fascia, or connective tissue of the body, to respond to a gentle stress. It can allow for greater flexibility and release some tightness which we often develop over time, sitting for long periods, or doing repetitive actions.

I have been practicing yin yoga for 4+ years now, and I have to admit, when I first tried it, I did not like that discomfort. I was restless. I wanted to move, to come out of it. But as I practiced, I learned to sit with the discomfort, observe it, notice how it changed and shifted even when I was very still. Now I rarely miss my yin classes twice a week, I have learned to embrace that edge, and to understand the benefits of this practice.

wbl sunset edge
Sunset at the “edge” of my day today – gorgeous

When I think about life also, I believe we have a “growth edge” in our lives. We have a place where we long to lean into it, to embrace the slight discomfort that comes from trying something new or practicing a new skill. At first, our minds resist: this feels unfamiliar! Am I doing it right? What if others laugh at me? What if I make a mistake?

These are thoughts I had when I first started going to dance in 2018. I felt very self-conscious. A 40+ year old Latina that can’t dance?!? But I moved toward that growth edge. You might say I danced toward it, and decided it was quite delightful, actually.

At work, I tried new things I had never done before. Eventually I decided to strike out on my own, leave my corporate job and make my living via freelance work. *That* is definitely the biggest “growth edge” of my past year. But all the edge means is that we feel uncomfortable at first, and our brains are new to this activity. Typically the brain protests a bit, since our primitive evolution designed us to seek comfort and pleasure and to avoid pain.

As we lean into that growth edge slightly, we find that we loosen up. We may notice things we did not realize before. We may actually *enjoy* some of the new things we try, even if they are edgy at first. We definitely learn along the way, and if we persist, we may even master some new skill, discover some new capability we did not know we had. It can be very exciting, embracing that edge. Not so that we fall off, but so we can see our world in a new way.

What is your “growth edge” for 2019? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

High net growth v. high net worth

I want to riff a bit on a chapter of Jenny Blake’s book Pivot on “High Net Growth” individuals. It is a concept that resonates so deeply with me. We all know that there are “high net worth” people who measure their success by the amount of assets they accumulate. They value material measures of success.

In contrast, high net growth individuals are driven by purpose, fulfillment, impact and learning. When we become too comfortable in a role, we get bored. Rather than settling in, we aim for projects and roles that will stretch our skills and capabilities and allow us to grow.

high net growth
From the Pivot website by Jenny Blake

It is not that financial resources do not matter. Indeed they do, and they allow us flexibility and choice.  But beyond taking care of our needs and earning a comfortable living, the real reward is knowing you have made an impact in a significant way. This perspective reflects some privilege. But it is one in which we use our privilege to expand possibilities for more people.

While I was at a prospective student interview for my alma mater this evening, I got inspired by the openness and curiosity of a young man in an exciting phase of his life, just before choosing his college path. When we are young, this orientation toward growth and learning is easy to cultivate. But it is a lifelong journey. We never stop growing, and though it can be uncomfortable at times, I find it is the only activity that truly satisfies me.

Are you a high net growth individual? How do you cultivate and support other high net growth team members? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Letter to my younger self

After my period of organizing journals yesterday, I opted to read through some few early ones. I was only 18 then, just graduated from high school and readying myself for college. I noticed a few things that made me sad for the young woman I was then.

You-are-beautiful.jpg
Poster found in Appleby Hall at the University of Minnesota while I was exploring campus and doing research.

I had such intense body hatred and frequently chided myself about my weight. I was convinced that no guy would ever want me because I was too fat (even though I was just a few pounds overweight). I was hard on myself about academics and I was very achievement-oriented. I did not cut myself a lot of slack. I seemed to feel lonely and disconnected a lot, while I also craved and valued alone-time.

I longed to comfort that earlier version of myself, the one who worried so much, and felt I somehow never measured up or fit in. I wanted to send her some love. So I wrote a little note that I stuck into the last page of the journal:

Dear Cristy (of times past),

You are lovely the way you are. No need to beat yourself up so much. You will find love someday and more compassion and appreciation for yourself. You will be just fine, and your life will turn out to be more exciting than you can imagine. Try to worry less and enjoy yourself more. Cut yourself some slack. You deserve it. 

Love Cristy (the older and wiser one)

***

It occurred to me that the older version of myself, perhaps 5 or 10 years or more into the future might give the me that same advice. As I continue to practice compassion and extend forgiveness toward myself and others, the burdens of life lighten. As I have begun to know myself better and appreciate the light and the dark, I continue to be curious about what I will discover.

We are always moving forward in life. I do not cling to the past. But now and then, reflecting on those lessons I have learned gives me appreciation for the person I am today. If you were to write a letter to your younger self, what advice would you give? What would your future self tell you?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com