Decisions and deadlines

Today is my final day of work before I begin a 2-week vacation. I am grateful for a stretch of time off, when I will not have a laptop and will have some open space to allow my heart and soul to rest and contemplate.

When I return, I will finalize some decisions about the transition I intend to make this summer, and the timeline which I intend to communicate to my current boss. I have been putting off making some decisions on the transition timeline. Or rather: I made the decision, and then “took it back” last month, in a flurry of panic about worrying that I was making the wrong decision.

Yesterday I met with a consultant colleague of mine who encouraged me to make this decision and move forward. This is something my coach has been coaxing me to do as well. I recognize that I am still hanging onto the “reliable salary” excuse in my current role, even though I know that in August/September time-frame I intend to be somewhere else.

decisions
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But as I move forward I realize that closing certain doors causes others to open. By delaying my decision I actually end up spinning around without a good sense of direction. There are good reasons for tying up loose ends, and I have certainly made progress on my work transition plan in terms of delegating responsibilities and involving team members in my current projects.

But now, I believe I need to make a deadline for communicating my plan to my boss directly. It has been hard for me to have these conversations with him, but I have shared with others my intentions and timelines. Part of me does not want to be “talked into” staying in my current role when I know I am no longer being as effective as I could be.

My soul has already made the decision. My body and my mind need to follow up with action and communication, because that will allow full integrity for me in the process.

So I am giving myself a deadline of July 3rd (before the holiday) in order to communicate my intention to my boss and to map out my plan of transition in more detail.  This will allow me to stop carrying the burden of knowing what I know, but not taking action.

Just writing out that decision has helped my body relax, and gives me some determination to move forward.  Ahhh… this will help me be able to enjoy my upcoming vacation as well.

Cheers & happy weekend, amigos!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

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Getting unstuck

Do you ever have times when some idea or dream emerges into your consciousness out from where it was hiding? You are surprised to find it there, buried in the soil of unconscious distractions and everyday life, and you gasp. Wow, have you been there all along? Why did I lose sight of you?

I have been working on my coaching homework while working here in Mexico this week. Yesterday I traveled to Guadalajara with some colleagues and I spent a good part of the day interacting in Spanish, my second language. I had good conversations, and made a few decisions that were important to advance the work in my department, and to bring some relief to an over-worked colleague.

At 8 p.m. I gracefully exited the people-interactions in the evening to get some time to myself. Then I wrote a big long email to my hubby with some thoughts on what had kept my brain churning on Tuesday night. Well, it’s always a confluence of factors, not usually one issue that does this to me. Somehow I tend to do this more when I travel than when I am at home.

Perhaps that is because in our regular and routine lives, we don’t necessarily give ourselves the space to “upset the apple cart” and think about bigger things. At home, there are always the domestic chores to complete, the bills to pay, the usual day-to-day concerns that seem to get in the way of really allowing ourselves to dream big.

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Getting away can dislodge some of that detritus in the mind, clear away or at least temporarily suspend some of our resistance. It is our brain’s resistance to change that keeps us stuck sometimes, not any actual real danger or threat.

Yesterday I spent a good portion of the day with one of my direct reports, a colleague who reminds me a little of my younger self. She is a hard-worker, very conscientious and a bit anxious too. Over coffee and quesadillas we told stories and got to know one another better, and I coached her on a couple of points I thought may help her confidence.

It occurred to me later that I was preaching what I try to practice: an awareness that our thoughts and beliefs are not real. They are just sentences in the mind, and sometimes we have “loops” that we play on auto-pilot, old ideas that actually no longer serve us.

When we step outside those thoughts, and realize we have the power to change them, and therefore create a new reality, it can feel threatening. Letting go of these worn-out ways of thinking requires us to step into the unfamiliar. Eventually, we may surprise and delight ourselves with our accomplishments. But for now, our primitive brain urges us to crawl back into the cave, stay safely ensconced in our old beliefs. They are what kept us safe in the past, and so that is evidence enough to keep re-running them.

So in getting unstuck, we must get comfortable with some discomfort. This reminds me of the experience I had years ago when training for a marathon (2011). That’s what the training plan is about – you must get used to those feelings of fatigue and those thoughts of wanting to quit in the last few miles.

You can become comfortable with discomfort. And then in a couple more miles you notice: the feeling has passed and you are fine again. This is how yin yoga is for me as well – stay in a slightly edgy position for several minutes, and you notice how every feeling is just a vibration in the body. Rather than fixed and stationary, these vibrations are dynamic and ever-changing.

That is how I would describe my personal explorations now. As I begin to dream again, I begin to see my life differently. As I get unstuck, the discomfort of change comes up and admonishes me to go back into the cave. But this time, I will venture out. My soul beckons for something more, some evolution to the next version of myself. While my ego may beg for protection, and whine about the unfamiliar, my soul knows better.

I am ready to dream again.

Un-buffering your life

We are often taught that going “outside our comfort zone” is where the most growth happens. I believe this is true, to a large extent. Our human species evolved to seek comfort or pleasure and avoid pain. These impulses largely kept us alive, along with developing communities which could provide protection and safety in a wild world.

bird rising watercolor

But as humans evolved to go beyond our basic necessities, we must also evolve in our consciousness. We must make different choices beyond survival day-to-day in order to respect the long-term sustainability of ourselves and of our planet. I write this knowing that many people around the world lack clean water, or sufficient food to eat, and I am aware of my privilege in writing these words.

The practice of creativity and if making things purely for own pleasure is one magnificent part of our existence. Whether composing songs, decorating one’s home, writing a story, or playing with color on canvas, we are a species that delights in using our imagination and creating something from nothing.

Liz Gilbert writes and speaks so elegantly of this in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and in her podcast Magic Lessons. I am grateful to have re-discovered her work, along with uncovering the Joy Diet book I have by Martha Beck last fall. Also around that time I found the work of Brené Brown on vulnerability and courage, Daring Greatly among them, but I recommend any of her books.

As I confronted my habits of “buffering” my emotions through alcohol, food, over-working, etc, I realized that I needed to slow everything down. Right before I reached for that drink, or chocolate, or “buy” button to get myself out of my feeling of discomfort, I needed to pay attention to what was going on in my body.

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Typically what I discovered was that an uncomfortable emotion was present. It might be loneliness or fear. It might be a response to avoidance I had about doing certain tasks at work, or anticipating a difficult conversation and not knowing how I wanted to speak my truth, while respecting another person.

Mostly what I found is that I used my buffers to avoid or resist the truth that I was feeling in my own body. When I learned some tools like meditation and yin yoga to help me get “comfortable with discomfort” I realized that I could sit with a feeling and just experience it all the way through, without resisting it and without attaching to it.

Once I acknowledge the emotion, named it and thoroughly sense where it resided in my body, I can move on, and not let it hijack me or my behavior. But that process of slowing down, feeling an emotion all the way through, without reaching for my phone, something in the fridge, or some other distraction, has radical implications.

Paying attention and becoming fully aware of what is happening not just around me but within me feels like a “magic” tool. I accept things as they are, embrace the suck, or just note when I feel fear, uncertainty, doubt, rage or discomfort. That allows me to examine what thoughts and stories feed these feelings.

variable infinities

When I back up and understand that emotional and physical cascade that resulted from certain thoughts, I can question whether those thoughts are even true. Sometimes I can do this from a “thought download” or a hand-written journal I use daily to get out all the junk that piles up in my curious monkey mind. Other times, it is locked in there pretty deeply, so I use some other medium, like pastels or watercolors to tease it out.

I joke with my husband that these always turn out like 2nd grade art projects (I posted some examples today). They are not really for anyone but me, but at the same time, they sometimes give me clues to what is really going on in my psyche. Words can do this for me, but sometimes they fail me. That logical, rational, ego-driven part of my mind can protect me mightily from my inner truth.

The ego knows some truths may be painful, and require me to make certain changes in my life, definitely stepping outside the comfortable world I know. Since my brain is trying its best to take care of me, to keep me ensconced in safety, it does what it knows best, seek pleasure and avoid pain.

after the rain watercolor

And yet, this is not the path where personal and spiritual growth happens. Often it takes a painful life event to get us to a place where we MUST make some change. Sometimes there is a powerful realization within us that we have become too comfortable. In my past, I find that I tend to “make trouble” for myself when things are a little too comfortable.

Looking back, I see how many times I was running from something, rather than facing up to it. Or how many times I tried to avoid my discomfort and fear, by keeping myself from know some truth that was billowing up within me. I feared as soon as I acknowledged it, I would need to change MY WHOLE LIFE and would disrupt my loved ones’ lives around me. I did not realize I could take action steps toward what was next, at a pace that worked for me.

Sometimes we must leap into the fire and destroy the previous life (or lie) we have lived, if it was not authentic to the essence of our being, who we really are. And I believe sometimes this fire burns from within, and allows us to rise from the ashes of our prior belief systems which no longer work for us.

As we un-buffer, and become comfortable with discomfort, we develop courage and determination to rise up and do what our soul calls us to do. May you, dear reader, slow down and know when your buffers are getting in the way of your highest purpose.

 

 

Activism needs introverts

If you have not seen the Ted Talk by Sarah Corbett bearing the title above, and you are interested in the topic, please watch it. Slowing down and thinking deeply is one way we make social change. I encourage you to view the video and/or view the transcript. I suspect many of you out there, as writers, reader and thinkers (that is what we bloggers do best, right?) may also be introverts.

As someone who is deeply concerned with the future of our planet, and many of the challenges facing us in the world today, I struggle sometimes with how to get involved.  Back when I used to do more political activities and campaign organizing, I realized these activities had tendency to burn me out. So I have been considering other ways I can engage people in social change. Sarah Corbett’s video is a beautiful affirmation that there are ways to become involved in a quieter way, and her story is powerful.

Introverts can make great leaders, when channeling their efforts in a way that fuels them. If you see yourself as a leader, but also know that you require a certain amount of solitude and down-time to recharge your batteries, I also recommend Susan Cain’s work. Her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking was game-changing for me. I saw myself in her work and realized that I was not the only introvert trying to fulfill my potential in an extrovert world.

Solitude can be a crucial ingredient to creativity. Having time for “deep work” and reflection are critical to choosing activities that are most productive and strategic. Our workplaces, schools and world is not really set up for introverts to thrive. Group work is encouraged in schools and required in the workplace. Offices is with “open” plans are designed to spur interaction a cafe-like atmosphere.

I had to fight to defend my office cube last year to be sure I could get a quiet corner to work when the clinical research floor went to an open plan. I spend 40-60% of my time in meetings (mostly teleconferences since my team is international). But when I need to focus on a particular project, I appreciate at least having some walls to keep out noise and block out peripheral distractions. I also work at home 1-2 days a week when I am not traveling, so that helps me manage my introvert energy. Also: I do not have to wear grown-up clothes on those days! 🙂

What about you? Are there strategies you use to go out into the world and get the work done you need to accomplish, while also honoring your introvert needs? For me, I am always sure to plan a lot of down time to recharge after I have had to travel or lead meetings. I would love to hear from you on this topic if you care to comment below.