Looking Back Without Turning to Salt: The Lab Rats Review Their Progress

  • Someday Lesson: You can’t know you’ve moved forward without looking back to see where you were.

Cervelli Orfeo ed EuridiceA lot of times you hear the phrase: “Full steam ahead. No looking back!” In the Bible, Lot’s wife was turned to a pillar of salt for looking back. In Greek myth Eurydice dies for a second time because Orpheus looks back too soon.

If you want to know how far you’ve come, however, you need to look back. As the Lab Rats come to the end of the program (has it been three months already?), I asked them to look back at the first nine weeks and see how things have changed from when they did each of the exercises.

Not surprisingly Brett noticed the most change, but then again he was focused on a very specific task: decluttering and remodeling his basement. Cat and Jim, since they were after less concrete goals, slid around more throughout the nine weeks. That’s okay though because for them the process has been more of an internal journey than an external quest. A quest goes straight to the source, while a journey meanders more. With both you learn a great deal, but in the latter the lessons are hidden in the twists and turns of the journey itself rather than reaching the destination.


Specifically, this is what the three Lab Rats had to say about their progress since doing each lesson:

Lesson 1: Wallowing
Cat: I definitely feel like I’ve had a shift in attitude. A lot of the stuff on the list still annoy me, but not to the extent that they used to. I remember after writing this list, I felt a huge weight off of my shoulders. I think just KNOWING what was bothering me was a huge thing, and by knowing what it was that was bothering me I could then take steps to change it. I’m studying for both Japanese AND the GRE. I went through a spurt where I was writing almost every day, if not at least two to three times a week. I still hate asking for help, but I’ve sort of learned how to do it a bit more gracefully.

Jim: Since I had a master list of 105 sucky things, I’ll have to summarize and say that, yes, some of the things are still sucking, but they still are mostly a question of attitude.

Brett: I had a massive list… After reviewing this, I was able to distil the list somewhat as many of them were similar enough to be the same.

Lesson 2: Creating Desires
Cat: I feel like I’ve made some progress. My desk….well…. I won’t be sending you any pictures. However, I’m learning how to wait for the big payoff and take small, manageable steps instead rather than get frustrated when things don’t immediately go as planned. I’ve yet to finish anything, per se, but I think I have a clearer idea of the projects I need to finish.

Jim: I still desire to break free. I’ve done some research into freelancing and composing… but I’m no closer to breaking free than I was. Heidi is going to be moving back here in the fall. I have to remain focused.

Brett: Well, as I mentioned we are on our way. New carpet and vinyl flooring is in, builder is putting together their plans and electrician will be in soon to start.

Lesson 3: The Big Picture
Cat: I actually completed that plan. Well, all except for the whole maintaining it. I think I could probably learn to file things better. Or at least figure out a filing system that actually works for me, since what I have now clearly doesn’t. I think the general plan was helpful, in the sense that it just told me the big bullet points I had to accomplish, and depending on what the situation was that day, I could adjust my approach accordingly.

Jim: It’s hard to say if I’ve made progress. I’m still struggling with the same issues. Heidi thinks I’m making progress, but it is too small or gradual for me to see. I am working on the things in my list, but I have not come up with the strength for a major change.

Brett: We did get downstairs packed up. The very fact that everything is out makes this a resounding success for me…

Lesson 4: Naming Fears
Cat: I think I have a better handle on my fears. Not so much that I’ve conquered them. However, I’m much bettered prepared to deal with them. I think I’m much more comfortable with the idea of dreaming than I was. I’m still concerned about my potential loss of interest in grad school/my field, but I think I’d be happier failing there than where I am right now.

Jim: The same fears are still present, perhaps even stronger right now (I’m having a pretty bad week). I’ve backed away from them as I’m afraid to make forward progress. I’m going in circles right now, including being distracted by “other” priorities at work and home.

Brett: Well, my fears are still there, more so on some days than others. however, noe that they have been identified and I are aware of them, I can feel when my fears have influenced me and stop, step back, refresh, and reload…

Lesson 5: The Someday Check-In
Cat: My office is still cluttered. However, I did get the old printer out (finally). However, it was done at one point for maybe the span of a day or two. Should probably go tackle it again. Organization has never, ever been my strong point.

Jim: I made my goal of composing and arranging the song. Strangely, I don’t feel that great about it. The song is good… I’ve just forgotten about it completely. Heidi reads the lyrics every now and then. I haven’t given it much thought since I was done. There has been no momentum.

I’m still seeking balance…

Brett: When I review my Big steps, I can see that I am progressing, I have completed half of my first big step (emptying downstairs and new carpet) as well as progressing on the rest of that first big step. As we all know too well, the first step is the hardest.

Lesson 6: One Page Plan
Cat: I’m still just studying for the GREs. I’m anticipating to start hitting the books hard this week, now that I have my mornings back.

Jim: (no comment) 😉

Brett: My plan is on track… we have made a slight correction, for the better I think. We are going to go with a builder rather than try and do it ourselves. This will reduce the pressure on us to complete it and will also get it done a lot faster…

Lesson 7: Supports
Cat: Again, it’s amazing what being mindful of your supports will do. I listed “vegetate” (i.e. watch TV, surf the net) as one of my supports, and since week 7 I’ve been doing much less of that and more of the other, more productive things that support me. I’ve been seeing friends more often. I read more. I bake more.

Jim: Heidi has really been a strong supporter of me, in all things. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had a pretty rough week. I haven’t slept well in several days, I’m having issues dealing with my ex-wife, etc. Heidi will be visiting again in a week’s time, and her physical presence will emphasize the support she is providing. Simply put: I need a hug 🙂

Brett: I do believe that identifying my supports and letting them know that they are my supports has strengthened the relationship with each of those people. All of them have been crucial in the last few weeks of getting these renovations done without “incident”.

Lesson 8: Asking for Help
Cat: Asking for help is still something I struggle with. For the most part, I’m not exactly sure who would be able to help, and also I don’t think what I’m doing right now requires much help. I know when I start writing application essays, I’ll ask for friends (or, perhaps, even my mom! *gasp*) to look them over for me.

Jim: Yes, I’ve asked for help again. As above, I talked to Heidi when I got discouraged about composing. She’s given me suggestions and support continuously.

Brett: My relationship with my wife has certainly improved over the last few weeks, mostly in areas where I didn’t think there was an issue, primarily communication. The fact that I have not gotten (too) frustrated or lost my temper during these (admittedly early) days of the renovation, have been a revelation for us both.

Lesson 9: The Personality Zoo
Cat: Personalities have been…quiet, for the most part. I’m sort of aware of them, but I ignore them. Again, I don’t think I’ve been challenging myself enough to make them raise their heads too much, though.

Jim: I think the same cast of characters are there. The negative ones have been pretty vocal of late. I may not be able to immediately tame them, but at least I hear them as distinct from the “real” me.

Brett: As with Week 4, identify these different “personality types” means that I can short-circuit their effects on me and stay focused. Also, my sister helped me identify a number that I wasn’t aware of:

  • Witty Brett – who comes up with the quickest one-liners
  • Humble Brett – who doesn’t put himself above others
  • Caring Brett – who’s always been kind and generous, especially with kids.
  • Transparent Brett – who just can’t lie because it shows
  • Reader Brett – the walking encyclopaedia
  • General Knowledge Brett – who can recall said encyclopaedia
  • Tech Help Brett – who always helps out newbies
  • Dutiful Brett – who doesn’t forget his obligations, even if painful
  • Fun Brett – who hasn’t forgotten how to play.

I need to spend more time focusing on the positive ones and less time with the negative ones.


Next week the Lab Rats are going to get some tips on maintaining the momentum they’ve created and then the week after we’ll hear back from them on what they thought of the journey as a whole.

Plus don’t forget – I’m looking for a new set of Lab Rats! Get your application in before June 11th. Click here to get details.

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2 thoughts on “Looking Back Without Turning to Salt: The Lab Rats Review Their Progress

  1. Anthony says:

    I think naming your fears truthfully is the greatest challenge.

    Anthony´s last blog post..Having the best Job Training in Pennsylvania

  2. Alex Fayle says:

    Yes, I agree because fears do their best to hide themselves as practicalities, “common sense” and other protectionist tactics.

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