Tag: action

MVP Philosophy: The Quickest Path to Clarity and Confidence

MVP Philosophy: The Quickest Path to Clarity and Confidence

An MVP philosophy, adopted from the field of software development, is the fastest way you’ll find your dream career. Why? Because taking consistent, imperfect action (a key element of the MVP philosophy) builds two elements of a fulfilling life: clarity and confidence. 

The problem with your typical approach

We often think we need to figure everything out before we move forward. But action leads to self-discovery, giving you loads of information about what you want. 

Action also builds confidence since it requires facing fear. And this isn’t faux confidence—it’s evidence-based.

Once, I had a dream to run my own Etsy shop. I spent most of my free time in my fully-stocked craft room making things. Why not make money too? 

After weeks of researching and planning, I opened Color Riot. I liked being an entrepreneur, but I didn’t like sitting at craft shows all day. I enjoyed designing new products, but I didn’t like recreating them in bulk. So after running the shop for a year, I stopped.

I learned so much that I couldn’t have known before taking action, and I had the confidence of a woman who had made her dream a reality. 

“Action is absolutely essential for people who don’t know what they want.”

Barbara Sher, speaker, coach, author

The MVP philosophy

The concept of a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) is popular in software circles, but everyone in every field should know about the power of an MVP philosophy.

In simple terms, an MVP philosophy asks this question: What’s the least amount of effort I can exert to create any amount of value?

Instead of focusing on creating the most value—which means lots of time thinking and planning upfront before delivering anything—an MVP philosophy ensures that you’re creating and delivering value as quickly as possible. Instead of waiting for everything you do or create to be “perfect” before anyone sees it, an MVP philosophy pushes you to incrementally take real-life action and experience how that feels, one small step at a time.

Applying the MVP philosophy to your work life

Think of your work life as a “product” that you’re continually building and enhancing. With your career, what’s the least amount of effort that allows you to feel the way you want to feel, at least a little bit?

What’s the easiest way to feel the way I want to feel?

Here are some examples of how an MVP philosophy of life can look:

  • You want to write a book. So, you create a blog website. Then, you write a short article. Then, you write another article and share it with friends…
  • You want to create a product you can sell at a much higher price point than your existing products. So, you list out your ideas for the dream product. Then, you package up the elements of that product that you can already deliver, and sell that. Then, you build one new dream element…
  • You want to feel more balanced by working 35 hours per week instead of 60. So, you experiment with one week at 50 hours. Then, you reflect and ask your coworkers for feedback. Then, you try a week at 45 hours…

Make it easy, every day

Have you ever been super jazzed about a goal, but soon after completely dropped the ball?

Maybe you signed up for a marathon, but never made it out of your neighborhood.

We get overwhelmed when we try to take too much action at once. Remember that all change, no matter how big, happens one tiny step at a time. To run a marathon, you have to run a mile. To run a mile, you have to put on running shoes.

“All change, no matter how big, happens one tiny step at a time.”

Mandy Kubicek

Always identify a next step that’s literally easy, otherwise keep breaking it down.

I once went months without working on my memoir. So, I set a goal to write 15 minutes a day. It sounded easy. But, it didn’t happen. So I let go of my ego and allowed myself to commit to just 2 minutes of writing a day. Once I was consistently writing for 2 minutes, I was able to write even more. Why hadn’t 15 minutes been possible before? Who cares! Without overanalyzing my resistance, it was gone. 

Making it easy also means you should be able to do it every single day.

Every day, take at least one step towards what you truly desire. Think of these as your daily risks. They’ll be scary, but if you can make them easy, you will do them!

“If you want to live a life you’ve never lived, you have to do things you’ve never done.”

Jen Sincero, author, speaker, coach

Are you ready for action?

Are you ready to take action? Do things you’ve never done before? Lean into fear and discomfort so you can create the life of your dreams? 

YASSS! I’m so excited for you! And I’m here to help make your dreams come true. Applications are now open for a free one-on-one Clarity Call with me. Will you say Yes to yourself?

A toolbox for creating lasting change with Anne Thompson

A toolbox for creating lasting change with Anne Thompson

What would a healing practitioner say about how to deal with our strange political environment?

I recently met with Anne Thompson—founder of Healing Spirit and EarthOmaha.com—on the sunny patio of an Omaha coffee shop

Also known as EcoAnnie, Anne uses her MS in Psychology; certifications in hypnotherapy, energy work, and yoga; and her own dramatic life change experiences to guide people through life transformation. A passionate environmentalist, she also educates on the health of the planet.

Anne was decked out in Bohemian attire for our interview, down to the bright boho bag she told me she had sewn with her daughter from an old patchwork skirt. You know how some people just light up a room and make you smile? That’s Anne.

Read on to see what Anne says about living a full life, covering topics as diverse as politics and intuition.

Easy steps to help Mama Earth

Mandy Kubicek: You’re known as EcoAnnie because you care so deeply for the Earth! As you know, I’m big on teeny tiny action steps. What are some little things we can do to help the environment?

Anne Thompson: There are so many easy ways you can help create a healthier planet!

Ask questions, build awareness, just notice. Think local. Appreciate the Earth, plants and animals. 

Buy less stuff. Reuse or buy used when possible. Refuse to use plastic when possible. Share with your neighbors. Buy produce without packaging. Use both sides of a piece of paper. Buy recycled products.

Allow “weeds” to grow. Toss your kitchen scraps into your yard or a compost pile. Leave your lawn clippings on your yard. Mulch your leaves. Plant flowers, bushes, and trees that support wildlife and the planet. Use a rain barrel to water your plants. Catch as much rain as you can in your yard.

Divest from big banks that support the pipeline, pharmaceuticals, and Monsanto. Support companies that care about the earth and the people. 

“Be patient with yourself and others.” – Anne Thompson

And be patient with yourself and others in the process of transitioning to an Earth-healthier lifestyle!

The state of our nation

Mandy Kubicek: There are so many infuriating things in the news these days. I wish I could contribute more without feeling overwhelmed. What do you think we can do to solve our country’s biggest social issues? 

Anne Thompson: When you look at how a family operates, how a business operates, or a country, it’s really all a reflection of the emotional health of the people involved.

Our president is the shadow side of America rearing its ugly head. That’s a good thing, because it needs to be seen and acknowledged, and simultaneously, we can heal and move more and more into our hearts to change how we interact with one another.

So what do I do about that? In addition to taking actions that feel right to me, I focus on healing my own emotional wounds so I can love better.

We all affect one another. When one person makes a change, it affects the whole. It’s the little things, like you talk about. In each moment, learning to be aware of your own intentions, how open your heart is to those you are with, noticing where we are judging another and ourselves, or closing ourselves off.

You practice it here, in your own moment wherever you are, and the effect grows to those around you and beyond.

The 3 ingredients of your self-love toolbox

Mandy Kubicek: What have you learned that you’d want anyone just getting started to know? 

Anne Thompson: Be authentic! People love heartfelt, vulnerable authenticity, and they will be drawn to you when you show them your light.

Pay as much attention as you can to your intuition, including how you feel emotionally about what you are doing and experiencing around you. Let that be your guide. Set your intentions clearly and follow your intuition on which action to take next. Don’t expect to know how to do it all, because you won’t. Just hold your clear intention and take some action. You’ll find your way.

“Set your intentions clearly. Follow your intuition. Take some action.” – Anne Thompson

Find people who can help you learn the skills you need. If you’re scared, find someone to help you move past your fears because you’ve TOTALLY got this!

Learning how to apply these concepts

Mandy Kubicek: These are such important concepts! I find that things like authenticity and intuition can be hard to put my finger on. Is there any way people can learn more about how to apply these techniques to their everyday life?

Anne Thompson: Yes! So many people ask me, how do I connect with my heart to access my inner wisdom? I’m excited to announce that registration is now open for my Self-Healing Classes! You’ll experience the transformational power of the heart as we explore mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual healing over the course of 5 weeks. We start October 16, 2019.

Apply here!

How to make quick decisions

How to make quick decisions

Do you make quick decisions? If you’re like most people, even though that in-between time is uncomfortable, you hang out! We often stay stuck because we’re afraid we’ll make the “wrong” decision.

How can you make decisions more quickly?

How do you know whether something is right for you?

What’s the difference between an uncomfortable feeling that means “That’s not for me!” and one that means “This is SO right for me, but I’m scared!”

Our 2 decision-making tools

Gut feelings, inner guidance, inner wisdom, true self, essential self, soul, the human brain, heart, spirit…

Whatever words you choose to use, we all have this wise (and loving) part of ourselves behind our fearful thinking.

The key to distinguishing between the two?

Become more aware of your physical sensations.

Why? Because this wise, loving part of you literally feels different from your fear-based mind.

True wisdom feels different.

Which tool are you using?

Let me explain via example.

A coach once asked me, “What do you need?”

I immediately thought, To slow down.

This felt clear and peaceful. My body was relaxed, my breathing steady.

Then, so quickly that I almost missed the first thought, I had thoughts like these: That’s a bad idea. That’s not what I really want. I have too many important goals to slow down!

This felt stressful and messy. My heart sped up. My neck and shoulders tensed. 

Make quick decisions

With practice, I’ve come to recognize that the thoughts that make me feel calm and steady are wiser than the frantic ones that cause physical tension.

So what decision, big or small, have you not yet made? How can you use this new insight to make at least one decision today?

What decision will I make today?

Clear the path

This work can be much easier said than done. As a professional life coach, I can help you explore the details of your decision and clear the path to your inner wisdom so you can feel confident that you’re moving in the right direction. Let’s talk!

Get more done (part 3): Why and how to review your goals

Get more done (part 3): Why and how to review your goals

So you’ve set your goals, created a plan to achieve them, and are taking action. But do you review your goals regularly? As you move forward, do you take the time to look back? 

Ask any project manager: plans are meant to be changed! 

To reach your goals as quickly as possible, you have to slow down enough to appreciate how far you’ve come, learn from this progress, and adjust your plan.

Review your goals: the basics

Review your progress on a regular and consistent basis. 

Decide on a review cadence and the content of your goal reviews. Then schedule them.

Guard this precious time

Be sure to protect this time. 

If you miss a review session, reschedule it, and reflect on why you missed it. What are you telling yourself is more important than your dreams? Are you afraid of something? Or do you need to adjust your sessions to make them more valuable?

An example plan to review your goals

Annual (1-2 hours): review vision and core values; review annual goals, wins, lessons learned; set goals for next year

Quarterly (1 hour): review vision, values, and goals; review quarterly wins and lessons learned; set goals for the next quarter 

Monthly (30 minutes): review vision and quarterly goals; review monthly wins and lessons learned; update desired feelings

Weekly (30 minutes): review vision and quarterly goals; review weekly wins and lessons learned; set weekly focus; schedule everything.

Daily (15 minutes): review weekly focus; review daily wins; review calendar appointments; create daily success list

Tools to try

  • Trello is a simple & powerful tool that allows you to create boards, which are lists of lists. This page is a collection that inspires creative uses of Trello.
  • Learn the simple process of bullet journaling here.
  • Leuchtturm makes a dot journal that’s nice for daily bullet journaling.

The whole shebang

This article is part of Get More Done, a 3-part series:

Looking for more support? I won’t leave you hanging!

I’m offering a way for us to connect at no cost. Walk away with new clarity and at least one action you can take immediately to create a more energizing and fun work life. Apply here!

Get more done (part 2): The habit that’s costing you hours every day

Get more done (part 2): The habit that’s costing you hours every day

We all know that task-switching hurts productivity. Every software engineering team I’ve ever worked with has debated how to minimize interruptions. And yet, we still let it happen. Perhaps because, even presented with data, we underestimate its full impact? 

One study shows that it takes 25 minutes to get back on track after a task interruption. (Shit, that’s a lot of wasted time!) I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s twice this in a typical work environment, when you mix in exhaustion, unbelievable frequency of interruptions, and high-pressure deadlines. 

So, if you task-switch regularly, changing this one habit will save you hours of (wasted) time every day. Before you work through the tasks on your success list, check out these tips.

Use your calendar

Are you organizing your day to minimize interruptions? 

You probably know I’m a big advocate of focusing on what’s most important. So get that right, decide to make it happen, and then…

Schedule blocks of uninterrupted time (3 or 4 hours) to focus on your most important tasks. 

Yes, I said 3 or 4 hours. Yes, this can be done in the corporate environment. And once you identify your true priority and decide you’ll make it happen, I’m positive you’ll figure out the how.

That email can wait

Are you still leaving your inbox open all day (or your app notifications on) and responding to emails as they come in? Does your boss know you’re wasting hours of your creative potential every day with this fear-driven habit? 

Stop it!

Schedule non-real-time communications—like email and social media—once or twice per day, and avoid them outside of these scheduled times.

Remember, the sender intentionally used a non-real-time communication method. Email isn’t urgent. You’re making it seem that way.

If this really terrifies you, consider an auto-responder that explains your new habit. You might even inspire others to take more control of their work days.

Thanks for your email! Just a head’s up—so I can focus on helping my amazing clients create energizing, spontaneous-jump-for-joy work lives, I respond to emails between 4 and 5 PM CST Monday-Thursday. Have a great one! – Mandy

Design your environment to minimize interruptions

Notice your most common distractions and use your environment to help you.

If you have a tendency to reach for your cell and thumb your way to Facebook, put your phone in another room. Install an app that blocks the websites you’re trying to avoid, or slows you down enough to make the decision conscious.

What’s distracting you? How can you change an element of your physical environment to easily avoid this distraction?

Strategize with your team

If you work with others, you probably aren’t the only one frustrated by the interruptions and distractions within your work environment.

Create team norms that empower each team member to communicate when they are focused, and when they are open to interruptions. This doesn’t have to be complicated, but you and your team do have to be committed. 

Hang a sign on your cubicle wall, use a status message in Slack, or schedule a meeting-free block for the whole team each day or week. Then adhere to these new standards without exception!

Make it easy to minimize interruptions

Eliminate the everyday mindless distractions you’ve been allowing and watch yourself easily get way more done in less time. Start small, incorporating just one change at a time, and celebrate every win along the way!Want to be among the first to know when the next article in this series is published? Sign up here.

Get more done (part 1): Stop wasting brain power

Get more done (part 1): Stop wasting brain power

Where to begin

In this 3-part series, I’m going to share my most effective task management* tips so you can get more done in less time.

Keep in mind that all of these practices assume you know your most important vision, decided on a strategy, and set measurable goals.

vision strategy goals tasks

*This is the thing you probably call “time management.” We don’t control time. We can, however, choose what we do within (the illusion of?) time. So upgrade your language, and notice how much more powerful you feel. 💪

Why does this matter?

Ever let a project fall off your radar? Of course you have!

Gee, I was going to write/work out/start a company, but it just didn’t happen.

You mean you didn’t make it happen, right?

This quick and simple technique solves that problem. You’ll never again forget about a project, or that “crazy” idea you had one time.

Second, and imo more importantly, you’re going to literally create space for more creative thinking. Which means better results on whatever projects you choose to pursue.

You’re better than this

Our thoughts are so damn repetitive. 

I need to feed the dog as soon as I get back from the gym.

I need to feed the dog when I get home.

As soon as I get home, I’m going to remember to feed the dog…

Sound familiar? What a waste of your highly advanced analytical power!

Write it all down

The key is to write it down as soon as you can. This gets it out of your head.

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”

David Allen, productivity consultant, author

Have a system for recording 3 things: ideas, projects, and tasks.

Keep a list of ideas that you aren’t working on atm.

Keep a list of active projects. Mine include “Program Upgrade!” and “Write Memoir.”

Capture your tasks, which includes your daily success list and any tasks you want to remember for later. When you’re creating task lists, review your project list as a reminder to record the next action for each important project.

(Side note. Unlike my beloved Martha Beck, I am SO not a fan of detailing out every single task required to achieve a project. Just a few easy next steps works for me!)

Capture these lists in a simple online tool like Google docs or Trello, in a physical list such as a bullet journal, or a combination of both. 

Peaking required!

For this to work—for your mind to trust that you’ll look at that note later—you have to have a trusted system.

So you’ve written it all down. Now, decide how often and when you’ll look at these lists. 

You want to free up mental capacity. The thing is, your brain is smart enough to hold onto your thoughts if you’re putting them in your Notes app where you might see them again 8 months from now.

So decide how often you want to review (read and update) each list, and schedule it in your calendar.

Get even more done

So, write down your ideas, projects, and tasks. Look at it on the regular. Keep them updated. 

You’ll not only remember to move forward on your most important work, but you’ll have more creative brain power, which dramatically ups the quality of work you’ll produce!

Sign up here to be among the first to know when the next article in this series is published!

Need more time? Here’s where to find it.

Need more time? Here’s where to find it.

Oh, the stories I hear from people wanting more time…

“There’s not enough time in the day to accomplish everything I want to get done.”
“I don’t have time to be creative!”
“I feel like my days, weeks, years just fly by, and I'm missing out on so much.”

I hear the Not Enough Time story almost as much as I hear the Not Enough Money story. The root of this problem, as always, is mindset.

Until you’re convinced that you have all the time you could possibly need (you do), let’s talk about what action you can take right now to experience way more time.

Let’s give it a name

First, allow me to introduce a term: energy drainer.

An energy drainer is anything that makes you feel less energetic. It costs you time, both directly and indirectly. 

By noticing, then actively eliminating or changing your energy drainers, you’ll win back time you didn’t even notice you were wasting. 

Step 1 to more time: Be on the lookout

Awareness is always the first step of intentional change.

A straightforward way to find what’s draining your energy is to notice what you complain about—aloud, in your mind, or even subconsciously.

Look for both little annoyances and big complaints in every corner of your life:

  • Things (a cluttered closet, no household budget)
  • Schedule (long work hours, an overdue oil change)
  • Relationships (an aging parent who needs more help than you’re able to give, a not-yet-fulfilled promise to schedule a date with your friend)
  • Body (avoiding a doctor, not getting enough sleep)
  • Thoughts (comparison, self-doubt, worry)
  • Feelings (an abandoned creative project, grief you’re avoiding)
  • What else?

Sometimes the source of a drain is obvious, like when your work schedule shoots up from 40 to 60 hours.

But usually, it’s a little trickier. You might yawn every time you walk by a certain closet at home and not even notice. Its clutter makes you tired, and beyond that, the grief connected with the photos inside exhausts you.

What have you been tolerating?

Step 2 to more time: Know the true cost

As I’ve said, less energy means less time. There’s also your own and others’ disappointment, stress, physical or emotional exhaustion, health issues, feeling imprisoned…

For each energy drainer you identified, notice specifically what pain it’s causing you. What’s the cost of doing nothing?

Step 3 to more time: Do something

For each complaint, if it’s not worth the cost to you, do something about it.

You have two options.

Option 1: Come up with a plan to eliminate or lessen the energy drain. Set a realistic date. (Schedule your decluttering. Call the auto repair shop. Ask your brother to take your dad to his appointments.)

Not sure how to get rid of what’s draining you? I can help!

Option 2: Accept it with gratitude. What’s great about the situation? What can it teach you? (You notice you’ve been nagging your husband about his clutter without taking care of your own. You’re grateful for the chance to give back to your dad who gave you so much throughout the years.)

“Leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.” 

Eckhart Tolle, spiritual teacher

Key questions to ask yourself

First, be on the lookout. What do you complain about? What have you been tolerating?

Then, know the true cost. What pain is this causing you? What’s the cost of doing nothing?

Finally, do something. How could you eliminate or lessen this pain? Or will you accept it with gratitude instead?

Photo by Vlad Chetan.

Ditch your to-do list (and create this instead)

Ditch your to-do list (and create this instead)

What’s on your to-do list today? It’s a lot, right? You don’t want to do everything on that list. Some of those things have been there for weeks.

Why keep stressing yourself out with that lame, overwhelming list when you could be creating a shorter, more powerful, and energizing list instead?

That’s what I’ll show you today. You’ll learn how to transform your typical to-do list into a success list to get more done in less time and feel more creative, focused, and powerful.

Your to-do list replacement

Each morning, instead of creating a to-do list, I want you to start creating a success list—a prioritized list of important tasks.

A success list is a prioritized list of important tasks.

Let’s look at this definition closely 🔎 before we jump into the how-to.

1st keyword: prioritized. When you prioritize before you start work, and then only do what’s on your list, busy work evaporates.

2nd keyword: important. They create value that matters. We’ll get into this more below.

3rd keyword: tasks. (Didn’t expect this word to be special, did you?) How often does your task list include massive undertakings like “declutter” or “find job?” These are not tasks, my friends—these are projects which belong on a list of their own. You want to know exactly what action to take for every item on this list. What is the next step(s) to move your project forward? (If you’re stuck, your next task might be, “Break project X into tasks.”)

Getting started

Start with a list of things you’d like to get done (aka your traditional to-do list.) Then use these items to write a new prioritized list of vision-aligned tasks. Use the following tips for deciding what makes the cut.

First, if it takes less than 2 minutes, just do it.

Otherwise, ask the focusing question, the importance question, and the strategic question.

Ask the focusing question

To get more done with less effort, always ask yourself the focusing question:

Question 1: What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

This comes from one of my favorite productivity books, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

You can use this question with your daily success list to decide how to approach a problem or goal. You can also use in the ideation phase of a project, or even earlier with strategic planning.

What do I mean by “easier or unnecessary?”

For example, say my #1 goal is to have one Focus Session scheduled by the end of this week. As I sit down Wednesday morning to write my day’s success list, I’d ask myself this question:

What’s the one thing I can do to book a Focus Session by Friday, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

Say I have a list of ideas already noted. I can eliminate tasks that don’t impact this outcome—program content creation, for example.

When I ask this question, I’ll get new ideas: do a Facebook Live video describing Focus Sessions, send 10 emails inviting people to Focus Sessions…

If I do a Facebook Live video that’s engaging and creates a sense of urgency, people who already know me will see it, and it’s likely that at least one person will schedule. And if they do, I don’t have to do anything else on the list to reach my goal—they become unnecessary!

If they don’t schedule, then I’ll send 10 email invitations. And since I’ve just practiced communicating the value of Focus Sessions, this task will be easier!

Ask the importance question

Second, consider the Eisenhower Matrix of urgency vs. importance to resist the trap of letting unimportant work get in the way of what matters most.

Question 2: Is this important?

An urgent task requires immediate attention. You can either do it or delegate it, depending on its importance (and your creativity in finding a way to delegate.)

An important task is expected to have a considerable effect on your success or well-being. It aligns with what actually matters to you—the person you want to be, the way you want to feel, the vision you have for your future life. For an entrepreneur, it might be revenue-generating activities and rest. For a recovering creative, it might be those 20 minutes you’ve decided to spend every day practicing your favorite artform. Generally speaking, you know what’s important. But are you allowing this to drive your behavior?

Here’s a visual of how to act once you’ve determined whether a task is urgent and/or important.

The Eisenhower Matrix

UrgentNot urgent
ImportantDo it today.Plan when to do it
and schedule it.
Not importantDelegate it to
someone else.
Eliminate it.

Ask the strategic question

You might have tasks that you want to do, but they don’t make the cut using the above two questions. This is true, for instance, when we have creative ideas that don’t fit the traditional model of business value.

“[When you take action based on inner knowing,] just because those benefits are not recognized by a patriarchal culture as being of value doesn’t mean that they aren’t of value.”

Hiro Boga, business strategist, writer, mentor

In this case, ask the strategic question:

Question 3: If I’m saying Yes to this, what am I saying No to?

This lets you follow your inspiration while being intentional. Simply consider its impact and decide upfront what you’ll do.

For example, today I felt inspired to post to Instagram about the animal spirit card I drew yesterday. Will anyone change their life because of it? I don’t know. But I felt that saying Yes to this didn’t mean saying No to anything more important.

More powerful and more fun

Use these 3 questions to create a success list that makes your daily work more powerful and more fun:

  1. What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
  2. Is this important?
  3. If I’m saying Yes to this, what am I saying No to?

When you feel connected to the purpose behind the day-to-day tasks, it’s easier to do the work. You can stop doing everything that doesn’t matter—or at least head in that direction. Plus, you’ll feel a renewed sense of control as you raise your personal standards for how you manage your time.

Could you use one-on-one support to help you focus and get things done?

My clients love how I save them a ton of time and energy. For example, after landing his dream job (he’s currently planning a 10-day trip to Colorado with his wife and baby thanks to this job!), Kyle shared this about my coaching: “She kept me moving forward, and I resolved unknowns much more quickly and more decisively than I would have on my own.”

Let’s chat!

The one feeling we can’t stand (It’s not what you think)

The one feeling we can’t stand (It’s not what you think)

Do you want to feel happy? It’s a pretty generic concept with universal appeal, so I’m guessing Yes.

So, how often do you feel happy? What portion of each day or week would you say you’re joyful? Maybe less often or less intensely than you’d like?

Last fall I wrote a 3-part blog series called How to build a meaningful career that explored how to identify and cultivate your most desired feelings. Since then, I’ve learned something important. And it is just screaming to be part 4.

No emotion is harder to feel

Feeling happy (joyful, content, successful, good…) can be super uncomfortable.

Wait, what?

How can the most pleasant emotions also be unpleasant?

It’s uncomfortable because we’re so afraid to lose it. In fact, Brené Brown tells us that joy is the most vulnerable of all emotions.

“There is no emotion harder to feel than joy because we are so afraid that it won’t last.”

Brené Brown, research professor, author, speaker

Similarly, in The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks writes about The Upper Limit Problem. This refers to our “limited tolerance for feeling good.”

Is this concept on your radar? I hadn’t thought about this idea until reading his book, and now—especially as someone always testing her limits—I see it everywhere!

The ways we avoid good feelings

Hendricks describes our tendency to bring ourselves back down within the bounds of this limited tolerance. We tend to do two things: manufacture painful images and take self-sabotaging action.

Think about a time you were filled with joy. Then, out of nowhere, the negativity and catastrophizing starts.

You’re walking outside, enjoying the sunny but mild spring weather. You’re wearing the shorts you recently pulled out of winter storage, and the sun warms your arms and legs. There’s a light breeze and very low humidity. It’s hot, but you love it! You’ve been cooped up all winter and can nearly feel your body eagerly absorbing all of the Vitamin D. You pause on the sideway in front of a lilac bush, lean forward, and inhale deeply to take in its uniquely springtime scent. What a beautiful smell. What a beautiful day!

But I don’t know, is it safe to feel this good?

I hate how lilacs only bloom for a few weeks.

Too bad this won’t last, it’ll be so hot and humid soon. Summers here are the worst.

Should I have put sunscreen on? Beth’s sister is wrinkly because she never wears sunscreen on her face. I’m going to get wrinkles and look old, and to protect my career I’m going to have to get Botox like all the other women execs!

Or, say you’ve woken up easily just before your alarm. Calm and smiling from a dream you can’t quite remember, you roll over and see your spouse sleeping. You feel so grateful to have him in your life. He’s sexy, and caring, and finds you so attractive.

Uh oh, this peace and joy is getting uncomfortable…

I wish he would shave that beard.

Is he dreaming of that cute woman at work?

His breathing doesn’t sound right. He’s going to die tonight in his sleep, and I’ll be all alone, and our poor dog will be devastated, and I can just see his poor mother at his funeral…

What stories do you tend to tell to stop yourself from enjoying the moment?

Maybe you can even think of a time you’ve taken self-sabotaging action.

I’ve fallen into this trap with my diet. I would eat super clean for a few weeks—leafy salads, smoothies, snacking on fruit and nuts. I’d feel amazing! Healthy, proud, energized, powerful, even more creative. Then, I’d go into a period of weeks binging on less healthy foods. I’d swap my salads for white bread and processed meals, and add in triple servings of cookies each day. I’d notice the stomach aches and keep at it anyway. It felt too good to eat so clean so often. I don’t yet see myself as a person who consistently eats a nutrient-dense diet.

Where in your life do you tend to self-sabotage?

Lean in and stretch your limits

So, you’re aware that resistance will show up when you’re feeling your best. What do you do when this happens?

Allow yourself to lean into the goodness. Notice the discomfort—the negative thoughts, the catastrophizing, the self-sabotaging actions—and choose something different. This is how we stretch our limits.

“Letting yourself savor natural good feelings is a direct way to transcend your Upper Limit Problem.”

Gay Hendricks, psychologist, author, teacher

Play Dates

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Photo by Raw Pixel

A career change story: from teacher to tech

A career change story: from teacher to tech

What do sign language, Python, and socializing with geeks have in common?

They’re all things Abby Jones taught herself!

A few days ago, I heard Abby share the story of her career change from classroom teacher to software architect. It’s a fascinating story full of lessons.

What can you learn from Abby’s story and apply to your own life?

A big career change: from classroom to corporate

Abby began her career in special education. In her first job after college, she had one deaf student. It bothered her that while she could greet all of her other students, she couldn’t easily communicate with this kid. So, what did she do?

She taught herself sign language!

And she fell in love with the language. She went back to school for a Master’s degree and became a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing—her first career change.

She enjoyed this work. Still, she hit some major burnout after about 4 years.

Craving something totally different, Abby started spending her evenings and weekends learning the programming language Python. She didn’t know anything about programming, but she was sort of the gadget guru in her family, so she thought, why not? This little project grew bit by bit as she took online courses, bought more books, and built websites for her friends. It really took off when she immersed herself into the local tech community, where she found her stereotypes crumbling in the faces of friendly, generous dudes. (OK, the gender stereotype mostly held true.)

When did she know she wanted to program professionally?

She realized, “I’m excited to go into my office Saturday morning and do this. I think this is what I want to do!”

It was another year until she made the jump. She wanted to wrap up a few things with her current students and their families.

Once the school year was up, she explains, “I had just finished the best two years of my teaching career. I finally felt like I was making a difference. But I was still ready to go, ready for a new challenge.”

YES! This is the dream, isn’t it? To leave on a high note?

Abby made the big leap into career change again, this time to an entirely different industry. She joined Mutual of Omaha where she’s worked for the past 3 years. She continues to learn and move up the ranks, from Technical Specialist to Technical Solution Architect.

How did she do it?

I saw a lot in Abby that helped her on this journey to a career she loves: jumping into a curiosity (programming) without needing to know where it was leading, an inspiring vision of her future (generally taking on the form of cool stuff she could build), gratitude for her current work, the decision to commit fully in that final year of teaching.

Another consistent theme to Abby’s story was community. This is a theme that comes up again and again when I get to hear people’s stories in any depth. I wonder if it’s not just helpful, but necessary.

When you tell the story of your life, what role does community play? How many of the best things in your life wouldn’t be possible without community—your family, a loving friend, a generous colleague?

Her success at Mutual seems to have a lot to do with her willingness to accept roles and projects that she didn’t feel ready for. She shared, “To feel ready and be ready are too very different things. Don’t wait until you feel ready!”

Abby wrapped up her story with a reference to this quote…

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Thomas Edison

PC: Tech Omaha