Someday I’ll Be Happy: How Live Beyond Just Getting By

kurtxio on flickr.comRobin contacted Someday Syndrome because she suffers from Someday My Ship Will Come In. She does not know what she wants. She just know that she does not want the life she has now.

When asked to finish the sentence “Someday I’ll…” she answered:

be happy.

She feels that she doesn’t accomplish much. She feels overloaded all the time and since she doesn’t know where to begin she does nothing.

She has tried reading motivational articles and journaling but neither has helped.

Finally, when asked how she pictures her life a year from now she said:

I really can’t answer that. Finances are short and I’m raising two small children alone. It’s hard to dream when you are barely getting by.

The Someday Challenge

First off, I congratulate Robin for getting by, even if it’s barely. Raising kids on her own is not a simple task and that victory needs to be celebrated.

There are probably many other things in Robin’s life currently what we could celebrate, but since Robin’s Someday is a general desire to be happy she likely doesn’t see much of those celebratory moments.

Speaking of her Someday, this is exactly what most people who suffer from Someday My Ship Will Come In feel. There is no future, no idea of what’s possible. There’s just blankness in the future and often bleakness in the now.

If Robin is going to bust her Somedays first we need to clear out this bleakness, then start building excitement.

The First Step

So, let’s take a look at this future blankness and present bleakness.

Many people will say things like “Come on! Put on a happy face! Fake it until you feel it!” and sometimes that works, but all too often it’s like painting over a damp patch in the wall that’s hiding major structural damage.

We need to pull the drywall down, clear out all the rotten supports and then rebuild the structure before we can decorate and make it look pretty.

In Robin’s case the unhappiness she feels is that rotten material behind the drywall. We need to clear it out before it causes the whole house to fall apart.

And the best way to clear out negative thoughts and emotions?

Put them down on paper. When emotions swirl around in our heads they build and build and build until they break out and cause more damage than a hurricane.

If however we let out the stream of emotions and thoughts in a controlled manner they don’t overwhelm or do damage. But putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard Robin can get rid of that overloaded feeling she mentioned.

Yes, it might seem like a strange thing to focus on the negative when we want to get Robin to a positive place, but unless she unloads all the negativity first the positive thoughts and actions will have no place to go. There’s currently no room for them.

Once Robin has this list of everything that’s wrong with her life right now, it’s time for one small success, some positive result based on a single action. Looking at the whole list of complaints, whines, moans and all the unhappy parts of her life, Robin will pick one small item and commit to changing it.

It might be as simple as a conscious decision to see mornings with the kids not as a battle to get them out of the house to playtime where she gets to spend time with them. Or a feeling that she’s not active enough and committing to a twenty minute walk three times a week.

Robin’s Homework:

  1. Write out everything that’s wrong with your life. Let it all hang out. Start with all the big stuff and take it right down to the minor irritations. Reward yourself with every page you fill. Nothing is too petty or going to be judged by anyone. This is just for you.
  2. Read through the list and pick one thing that you feel you could change. It needs to be something small, something that would take only one or at the most two steps to turn from negative to positive.
  3. Put the change into action and then pay attention to how the change makes you feel. Plus note if there are any side effects to this change (positive or negative).
  4. Pick a second small irritation and change that, then a third and a fourth, each time paying attention to the consequences of each change.

The Long Term

Once Robin starts to see the positive effects of the small changes she is making, she’ll then want to start building up the structure of the wall we’ve torn out.

To do that she’ll need to figure out what she wants out of life. Sounds easy but it’s not. It will require a lot of inward reflection and self-awareness.

The effort will be worth it, especially for her children. Robin can use them as a motivator – if she can find her dream and pursue it, think of the great lesson she’ll teach her children in the process.

What do you think? If you were Robin’s Someday Mentor what would you suggest? Join the discussion over on the Facebook Someday Syndrome fan page.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , ,

Stretching Your Mind: Your Mind as a Rubber Band

Rubber BandsYour mind is a reservoir of creative potential, just waiting for you to develop and nurture it. Too many people say they aren’t creative. I say – they either haven’t developed their creativity or are looking at creativity through a narrow focus.

Your Mind as a Rubber Band

I want you to picture a rubber band, one of the really thick, strong one’s used for bundling large packages. You’ve just taken it out of it’s box and what’s the first thing you do with it? You stretch it. Stretch it out to soften it. Coming straight out of the box it’s stiff and inflexible. After stretching it a few times it becomes softer, more pliable and stretchier.

Now imagine your mind as that rubber band. As we put creative ideas, dreams and inspiration into it, your mind stretches and flexes around the new thoughts. As the mind is stretched it becomes more capable to stretch and flex, able to accommodate and generate more and greater ideas and creativity.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said “The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size.” Once you’ve added a new idea into your head it creates a new neural pathway within your mind. The dendrites and synaptic buttons in your brain form new connections within the biochemical/electromagnetic network of cells and nerves. (for more information on how this works, see The Mind Map Book by Tony Buzan)

Just like the rubber band becomes able to stretch more, your mind is expanded and able to accommodate more growth. Over time those pathways become a permanent part of your mind and enable more and more creativity to happen. They become reinforced, stronger and reinforced through repetition, enabling them to develop side pathways of their own.

Use It or Lose It

Now think of a rubber band that has been left in the drawer, unused and neglected for a long time. What does it look like? Dull, white-coated, shrunken. What happens when you try to use it? It snaps, yes? It’s flexibility and potential has been lost because it was not used.

Growing Pains

Ever felt the pain of trying to learn something new? Been to a seminar or workshop and heard so much you want to ask the speaker to stop so you can process the information? That vertical learning curve of working to master a new skill? I have a friend who called that discomfort a ‘mind expansion headache’. It’s when information is packed into your head faster than your brain can comfortably adapt and stretch to accommodate it.

That rubber band around your mind becomes stretched to the max, working hard to assimilate and understand the new ideas being poured in. Now think about how you feel a little later on, when you’ve had time to understand, work through and use some of the new information. Feels better, yes? That’s because your mind has adjusted and expanded to fit those ideas in.

Your mind is more than a muscle. In fact, it’s actually a bundle of nerves and pathways more than a muscle, but that’s beside the point. Creativity, stretching and using your mind, increases the capability of your mind. It’s a catch-22 in reverse – the more you use and develop your mind creatively then the more able and capable you are of developing it more. Like an ever expanding spiral your creativity develops as you stretch that rubber band more and more.

How Far Can You Stretch?

Visualise stretching that rubber band again. Really see it in your mind, your hands stretching that band out for maximum flexibility. Watch the movement of your hands and the rubber band. See how you’re doing it? If you’re like me, then you’re stretching it out and then allowing it to relax back before stretching it out again. Just as the band needs to relax, so too does your mind. The relaxing allows the creativity to flow and settle, before stretching out again further than before. The rest, the relaxing, is just as important as the stretching and development.

How far can a rubber band stretch? How much can your mind hold and process? Eventually the rubber band will snap when it reaches its limits. Your mind however, has no such physical limits. Provided you take breaks, relaxing the stretch, your mind can develop and expand infinitely. The only limits we have on our minds are those we put there ourselves. Allow your brain time to relax and process the information you’ve put into it and you’ll quickly be able to develop more creative ideas and expand it further.

About Melinda

Melinda BrennanMelinda Brennan is a Business Coach who helps her clients use the power of their own minds to develop their businesses and get past limiting beliefs.

Visit her online at WAHM Biz Builder

Tagged , ,

The Drag of Inertia:The Lab Rats Explore What Blocks Them

Rahul3 on flickr.comBack in the first Lab Rat series, I talked about inertia as one of the reasons why people choose to be unhappy even when they know what they want out of life. That discussion prompted a section in I’ll Get Around To It Someday about how we block ourselves from following our dreams due to a habit of inaction or a habit of action in things that don’t help our dreams.

For example, I’m suffering from a sinus infection as I write this. I know where the sinus infection comes from – eating too much wheat irritates them (allergies) and they become vulnerable to whatever infections are floating about in the air. I could stop the cycle easily by not eating wheat, but I have a habit of including it in my diet and the habit’s a hard one to stop mainly because I enjoy bread and pasta and sweets.

The current crop of Lab Rats all have their own blocks related to inertia, although in Kristin’s case it’s the sudden removal of inertia (the imminent arrival of the baby) that has created her blocks.

Generally the blocks we have in our life can be divided into four areas: family, work, relationships and health. Let’s see how the Lab Rats block their dreams in each of these areas.

Family

For most of the Lab Rats a lack of progress on dreams related to the family comes from a desire to avoid conflict. For example Joyce allows the emotional problems of her son to interfere with enforcing chores and Helen lets her younger brother get away with saying offensive things because she doesn’t want to fight with him, although in Helen’s case she’s developed a much better relationship with her father by learning not to avoid conflict, so she has one success under her belt to help her with her brother.

Marie has a variety of toxic relationships to manage and has to do so actively which makes moving forward difficult as her energy goes into managing the toxicity instead.

Johnny’s family related blocks come from wanting to be a great parent but not devoting enough time to do things he wants to share with his kids. I’m certain that this is a common challenge for parents – where do you draw the line? What does “quality time” mean? Being a parent is a full-time job on top of all other commitments and there’s always something more a parent could be doing, so sometimes it’s just easier to do nothing.

Finally Kristin’s family blocks come from distance. She lives five hours away by plane which makes staying in touch difficult. Her pregnancy has also distanced her even more from the family, blocking her from taking a whole-family trip that’s been in the works for five years.

Work

Let’s go back to everyone’s Someday Challenges for this one. Helen said her life was almost perfect and at work she loves 90% of what she does, but because she enjoys it so much she has a habit of using work to put off the other things she’s blocking in her life (like her health).

Marie struggles to finish her dissertation but her hostile work/school environment makes it difficult to actually want to do anything. She needs to actively remind herself every day that she loves the topic of her dissertation, which again drains energy from moving forward.

Although she says she wants to work on her writing, Joyce finds other things to do, doesn’t insist on the quiet she needs to write (see avoiding conflict above) and feels uncomfortable promoting herself and her writing. Many writers are like this. We can’t not write and yet we spend much of our time avoiding writing altogether. It’s like we find the idea of writing so overwhelming we run from it instead of embracing it.

Kristin is another writer-in-the-works but her worry isn’t avoiding writing. She worries that by living in the unstructured world of new motherhood where everything revolves around the baby she won’t create the time to work on her dreams. She’s going to try to set up some routines before the baby comes, but of course all bets are off once the baby actually does arrive.

As for Johnny, he knows that his paid work is a habit and that he will use it and anything else to avoid the career development for what he really wants. He also knows that if he sticks to his plans he could find work in his dream profession within three months and yet he’s spent many more months avoiding doing just that. He’s always struggled with inertia in all his jobs and being motivated doesn’t matter – he still delays. For Johnny, as we move forward we’ll look at developing habits of small actions to turn inertia into motion.

Relationships

Marie and Johnny have no major blocks with their relationships and Helen’s only block is a lack of time (see work above) to commit to her husband.

Kristin on the other hand uses the conflict-avoidance method on her husband because she knows that for the next while she will depend on him for “everything from finances, to emotional support, to adult company, to plain old heavy lifting.” So of course she doesn’t want to rock the boat, but avoiding conflict often creates more through resentment and misunderstandings.

And Joyce struggles with interactions with others because she has a social anxiety that keeps her home and that tires her out too much to enjoy it. Plus she has this to add:

From what I can tell, having had to rely only on myself since I was a very young age, I have developed a block that keeps me from opening up and asking for what I want.  I allow fear—of appearing weak, stupid, inefficient, being rejected—to take over and stop me from doing what needs done.

This fear of hurt is harder to overcome than inertia because beyond getting moving, there’s also the protective shell that needs to be removed first (because it blocks her vision and limits how far she can travel). The fear does, however, explain some of Joyce’s reluctance to write. When a writer puts words down on paper she opens herself up to rejection and although Joyce has previously published books, each time it’s a brand new experience.

Health

Not surprisingly everyone says that they could be doing better health-wise with Marie being the only person to say she exercises every day.

Joyce, instead of not doing enough, does too much at times thus creating more pain but, as I learned through living in constant pain for ten years, on those days where we feel all right we take too much advantage of the feeling and make the next day worse. Balance evades us because when we feel good we want to squeeze everything in before the next bout of pain.

Kristin, of course, with the pregnancy experiences new sensations every day and wishes she would pay more attention to what she eats but she knows that it’s just a matter of making the time to do so and to not create her schedule around her work, her friends or her husband (again see conflict-avoidance above).

Johnny gets chronic headaches from so much time in front of the computer and knows that if he treats his body well, they go away, but sometimes it’s tough to remember even with the pain as a reminder.

Helen identified her health as her number one Someday and has this to say about the her health blocks:

Boy would I be fibbing if I said I have no blocks here!! I cannot seem to get a hold on what I want to achieve or even work out how to start. I know I want to be fit and healthy. I know I want to loose some weight but there is a bit of me that says I can’t be bothered – but I know that is an excuse – I think the reality is that there are so many things in my life I enjoy doing more.  Also my diet is very location dependent. In London I have a really healthy diet and I walk miles each day regularly doing 20,000 steps a day but at home it is rare for me to leave the house although my diet is still ok. I know there are blocks here but I just have difficulty seeing them and finding the energy to break through.

Procrastination is a tricky beast. Most of us know what we need to do to reach our goals but we can’t find the energy to do so. It’s like the carrot isn’t enough and sometimes the stick (of pain) doesn’t work either.

It’s a matter of finding the right carrot and the right stick to get us moving. What might be the right combination for someone won’t work for another. As we continue through the ebook, each of the Lab Rats will discover what dreams inspire them and what fears motivate them until they’re moving forward with ease.

And if you want to know what might help you with your Someday Journey, check out the Personalized Someday Assessment. You know you want to live more, so go for it!

Tagged , ,

Actively Involved in Change Mentoring vs Coaching

  • Someday Lesson: A mentor provides active assistance by pulling you up past your obstacles.

Laram777 on Flickr.comAt the top of this page in the menu, you’ll see the word Coaching but in reality I’m not a Coach. I’m a Mentor.

I don’t encourage and let you develop your own path through a series of sometimes oblique and sometimes direct questions. I use my own experiences and my unique ability to see patterns where others don’t see them to tell you like it is.

After seeing patterns in your life that you may not, I make suggestions so that you can change those patterns and create new ones that clear your life of Somedays and open up your future to the life you want.

You’re here at Someday Syndrome for a reason – you want to live more. You want to take action of some sort and kick the procrastination habit. You want to change your life and create the freedom to choose exactly what your future will look like.

This process can happen slowly or quickly.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a pretty impatient person. Changing a lifetime of habits can take another whole lifetime and I’d rather actively live the changes than spend a long time discovering them.

For that reason I created my Someday Syndrome ebooks and services. I don’t want you to spend years finding the blocking patterns in your life. I want you to stop talking, stop analyzing and stop waiting. I want to get you doing, living, choosing and feeling happier with your life.

So, I prod, I poke and I offer my (sometimes rather strong) opinions.

Am I right all the time? No.

But by being just as active as you are in the change process, I open up a discussion that provides you with a place to tell me what you really do want rather than what your fears, habits and personal blocks try to get you to do.

Someday Syndrome clients really want to change. They don’t just talk about it. They want to take action but don’t know how.

You understand that, don’t you? You have a dream, or maybe just a sense of wanting something better out of your life, but you have no idea how to achieve it.

You’re also someone who likes to think things through. You don’t want to deal with a phone call or face-to-face meeting where you can’t think about what you say first.

I get that. I’m a writer and believe that writing out your thoughts, your desires and your committed actions makes them more real.

But I’m not passive and I’m not oblique. I’m direct and I demand action.

And for that I don’t call myself a Coach. I’m a Mentor.

A mentor is someone who has already gone through it all and wants to show others how do it without making all their mistakes. That’s me (and believe me, I made a lot of mistakes by putting off my Somedays).

It’s time to take the next step in your Someday Journey. Time to take action.

And the action I ask from you is just a simple one. Fill out the Personalized Someday Assessment form and let me provide you with two complementary mentoring sessions via email to show you exactly how much progress can be made when you work with a mentor rather than trying to muddle through on your own.

Because you don’t want to live with Someday Syndrome your whole life, do you?

Tagged , , ,

The Difficulty of Doing: Janice Cartier Interview

For the final Someday Interview in its current format, we have an interviewee that I’ve been pursuing for months. Janice Cartier, an artist from the Garden District of New Orleans displaced and dealing with what happens when life as you know it explodes, who also paints breathtaking images with words, wasn’t sure at first she could do the interview. I nagged, cajoled and begged. Finally she gave but said:

“But Alex… I may not have answers, I am still in process.”
“That’s fine Jan, we’ll do it in November. Creativity, I‘m focusing on creativity then.”
“Creativity?” she smiled quietly, “Yes, I can do that. “

And then she thought:

Somedays? Hm…That’s a bit tougher story… And it was.

Before we get into the interview itself let’s take a deeper look at Janice’s process because what Janice went through coming up with the answers to this interview exemplifies exactly why I run Someday Syndrome.

The lesson is sometimes the doing of something very difficult to do. The interview was at 7,000. It took me all day yesterday and the day before to get it to 3,000. Editing and writing hell. And today to get it to 2000.

I had to work, break, work, unkink, work, curse, work, check word count, all day long. And stay with it to the exclusion of all else. Because somewhere in the doing of this, with your template, with your questions, and artistic creative process, that intersection… somewhere in that was a problem for me… and a key. A clue. A knot to unravel.

And I had to find out what on earth it is. It’s a simple interview for goodness sake… I think I found it, and it was more than one thing really. Honestly, I am laughing a bit and shaking my head and unkinking my shoulders with a discovery I just made and a decision… to ask you to read it and help with the editing, help with the polishing, so it comes out in the sincere and helpful way it is intended, and carries the value of context as well. Helps your audience with their creativity.

Taking the overwhelming amount of information and choices we have available to us and narrowing it all down to the essential and the precious. That’s what Someday Syndrome helps people do. It’s a process, it’s a struggle and it’s monumentally rewarding journey.

Thank you, Jan, for being such an amazing person and painting us a beautiful picture for the final Someday Syndrome Interview.

Jan CartierName one moment in your life when you threw a pity party for yourself and the reasons why you felt you weren’t able to achieve your goals. Were you feeling stuck? Had you felt you failed? What wasn’t working in your life?
I came across a note to myself, while working at my desk the other morning, in my active projects notebook: “Deer Tracks” collage. It’s a comprehensive, exciting plan for a different kind of piece. It has some names, some influences, written on it, ink drawings, and ideas for the piece…it’s the kind of thing all artists have around…our conceptualizing bits of this and that. I thought I had made this plan last spring. It’s tied to the current work, the huge “Deer Tracks Nearby” monumental watercolor, but the ooh-ahh notes I made are from four years ago: August 3, 2005.

Seeing the date brought tears and I looked again at the second name on the plan. Passed my fingers tips over it. Felt the sheer eagerness and risk taking ambition of what I had written. The zeal of new, fresh, adventurous work. For a moment I was right there again. I saw his face. Felt his presence. In that moment, in that space. In that bloom of new thought, new ways to work, new direction forward, and working anywhere near or with John T. Scott some more… I remember planning to do whatever it took to do that.

But John is dead. There will be no working with John. And this project? A few weeks after my pen made those marks, Katrina hit. Pillars in my life fell in that storm, or shortly after. And in second waves. One close friend after another… work, personal life…public… collectors…colleagues…loved ones… opportunities…It stuns me even now. Even my source material, the land I paint, became inaccessible to me.

So the tears come. But I only let them flow for awhile. I miss them. These marvelous people. This incredible place and my relationship with the coast. The rich ties to community. Walking my brick paved sidewalk. Moments big and small. Yep. Pity party material alright.

Even our worst behaviors fulfill a need in us or express our desires. When you threw yourself that pity party, what did you hope to gain? What need did you fulfill?
Becoming masters at process is invaluable for artists. Things occur again and again until we deal with it. If we are resisting something, or emotional about it, there’s probably a decent reason why. It’s the same in studio process. If you can’t solve what you are after one way, take a look, experiment a bit until you come to another aha moment. Ask questions of the stumbling point. That’s how you break through.

Tell us what you did to break up the pity part. What actions did you decide to take? Did someone help you buoy your spirits? Push you along?
I acknowledge that things are more than a little out of whack. That’s reasonable. Some people know that I was right there, right in the eye of the storm in that “sliver by the river” when the storm hit. What people may not know is that where the heart of my painting comes from is exactly where that storm made landfall near the Pearl River. Every facet of my life was disassembled, tumbled and tossed. I lost a disproportionate amount of people I am close to in such a short period of time. But I made a decision some time ago not to just survive. I want my whole creative self intact. So I work everyday toward that.

The most important question any artist can ever ask or answer about that is this:
“Did you show up?” Seriously, not one single thing creative thing can happen good, bad, or indifferent if you don’t show up, fully present, and give it your best shot on that day in that moment in that space with what you have at the time.

I have a few extreme encouragers to help get me through, or to laugh with when I need a laugh. And I have some fabulous ghosts, the spirits of some fantastic people right here in my heart.

But I want new whole experiences, too. So that, being able to go out there fully and take it all in again. That’s a powerful incentive. So when it is important enough and you know why it is, you choose it. You show up there.

Can you look back on that moment and tell us how you felt when you did decide to take action? What results came about from your decision to take charge and move on?
Boots and saddles moments. Get in the boat, jump on the Jet Ranger kinds of now we talking…moments. Love them.

We are sensitive souls after all. What makes us creative and richly engaged in the studio is the very thing that makes us vulnerable outside of it. It’s a matter of finding balance. Of letting some things go and acting on others. I love that moment of powerful intent, acting on it. Prepping for it too. What’s happens now after the storm sometimes is I will jump right in, know it’s fantastic full speed ahead, and hit a wall I did not know was there when I set out. Ouch. So it takes figuring out where the fault lines are sometimes and overcoming them.

It feels great to overcome those. I can tell a huge difference from even a year ago. An exciting tickle, the tingle of just being in it, just being there, in that place that is so you. Your creative self at play is one of the best parts of self. My creative self keeps leading me back to me. Into those boots and saddles moments.

Like returning to “Deer Tracks Nearby”. That is a huge and wonderful thing for me to be doing. Right at the center of my heart. It is a challenge, but it feels…scrumptious, in spite of what I have to do to do it.

Everyone has a Someday problem hiding deep inside, even little ones. What variety of the Someday Syndrome do you currently harbor? What would you like to achieve but haven’t yet?
Hm, good question. I need constant updating to see, is this or that true now? Can I do this now? What do I dare wish for now? Things like that.

Examining your Someday Syndrome problem, what are you currently doing to resolve it and eliminate it from your life?
I am trying to shorten steps. Get back to the level I need to be at to actually exceed it. Complete work. Find new distribution, new clients. It isn’t easy. Everything is tinged with a poignancy that I have yet to find a way around or over, so through seems to be the path. And of course the economy is what it is, not to mention the gate keeping landscape in flux. But I am looking for ways to leapfrog some steps and not lose any quality or richness. Make sure that I let go of anything that creates an obstacle that doesn’t have to be there.

Many people suffer the same problems you do. You’re not alone, and neither are they. What would you tell people in your situation right now to help them avoid what you’re going through?
Avoid it? I don’t know of a way to avoid the kinds of things that just happen in life. If you notice I am not on a coast at the moment, not because I wouldn’t like to be, I would, but I have to settle some health issues, find some way to decrease sensitivities to mold and environmental things like that. Irony, huh? And I have to face that I may not get to ever really go back.

I never expected ever to have to do so much so all at once. Devastation is truly a real thing for me. 90, 000 square miles inside and out…everything I touched… Takes a little time. So give yourself time. Protect that inner self. It’s where the creation comes from. Not the surface. Not the circumstances. Make some peace with being in process. And that that is very much okay.

Transitions by nature are uncomfortable. They are those places in between, but they can also hold riches, discoveries, things that help us get to the other side. And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. We all need it.

If you could ask for one thing, right now, to help you overcome your Someday Syndrome, what type of help would you ask for?
Technical help. Referrals. Cash.

Actually, it helps to have another perspective to shorten steps, or to hold your hand, a soft place to land, help to stop the nightmares or the stupid fears. I mean it’s silly, I would jump into a helicopter and hang out over a barrier island in a second but updating my WordPress site terrorizes me, presenting my portfolio to one more glazed over gallery owner wears me out and trying to compare myself on paper to others seems absurd, irrelevant to me. Resumes seem…not to cover it.

I want ways to shorten those steps or throw the book out. I passed a line of experiences some time ago that just makes it very hard for me to conform. Just let me get to the creating part. Just let me find home again, or maybe just let me have the ability to roam.

Help me sell my work, or consult on any and all things creative. I am very good at that.

Tagged ,

Controlling Control Issues: The Lab Rats Look At Who’s In Charge

  • Someday Lesson: If you let others control you or if you try to control others your own dreams will always stay out of reach.

Foxtongue on Flickr.comControl.

Such a loaded word, no? Control-freak, self-control, lose control, keep control, the situation is under control.

What does it really mean though? In a positive way it means taking responsibility for what’s your business, like your health for example. If you aren’t in control of your health, who is? Your doctor who has a hundred other patients to worry about?

Negative control lurks at the two extremes of taking responsibility – taking none or taking on responsibility for other people when you don’t need to.

When people say they don’t have time to do what they really want to, or say that no one allows them to follow their dreams they lean to one of the two extremes in the control continuum.

People who live with a habit of extreme control (either too much or too little) don’t pursue their own dreams because they either pursue someone else’s dream or try to force others to follow what they think is the other person’s dream.

I used to be a mix of the two, taking on too much control in a business situation and handing too much control to other people in my personal relationships. I’ve since learned how to run the control maze more quickly, being more assertive in relationships and letting go of my business perfectionism.

Let’s see where the Lab Rats fall:

Michelle

Michelle falls on the too little control side of the equation. She lets her family make her responsible for her sister’s life from chauffeuring her about to giving her money. And at work although everyone else is cross-trained, Michelle is the only one who does her job, so she gives her boss personal contact when she’s supposed to be taking time off. Plus she gets way stressed before and after time away from the office prepping and recovering.

She’s known her boyfriend since they were young and has always let him take the lead. Usually it’s no problem, but Michelle’s now beginning to assert her desires and her boyfriend is shocked, to no surprise. After so long of giving control to her boyfriend, the change to more personal control leaves him shaken and angry because Michelle is changing the “rules” of their interactions.

Marie

Maries goes to the other extreme and chooses to take on too much control of other people’s live to the point that if she doesn’t do it, nothing happens, from her mother’s life to work to relationships. The only place the extreme control has a positive result is with her health where insistence on her part revealed nerve damage and a vitamin deficiency that no one initially believed because they weren’t looking for it.

The most damaging part of Marie’s controlling nature is with relationships as she says:

I am very demanding. I expect the best of people and that people will use all their talents and abilities in life. I don’t understand the sitting by the sidelines mentality. I tend to be the alpha partner but will share control if the other person is deemed thoughtful and competent.

These last four words stand out for me and leave me wondering what Marie uses as a measuring rod. Sharing control happens naturally in most cases and isn’t something that gets doled out based on some internal worthiness score.

Reading Marie’s responses, I wasn’t surprised at her lack of progress on finishing her PhD. Submitting something that she’s been working on for so long for validation from a group of outsiders is a form of giving up control that must feel close to impossibly scary for her. Much easier to linger and not get anything done and not relinquish control. Better to have nothing to show than open up to possible criticism and judgment.

And in Marie’s case, the situation is made worse by hostile faculty members who will be reviewing her dissertation, doubling the reluctance to submit. When the validation isn’t going to come, why bother?

Helen

As a self-aware control freak, Helen has been working on letting go. In her family she feels that outside of her mother, if she doesn’t make arrangements to see each other, no one would make the effort. In her friendships, however, she has achieved a decent balance shedding people who only want to take or expect her to run their lives. Instead of using her controlling nature to take charge, she uses it within herself to maintain a balance of give and take in relationships. And at work she’s discovered a love of mentoring and helping out people who ask for assistance as a way to channel her love of control to create positive outcomes.

Her biggest control issue is around health, which isn’t surprising given that Helen volunteered as a Lab Rat to learn to control her body better. She’s bounced from too little control to too much control with changing sizes, suffering from bulimia, going on starvation diets and doing extreme training regimes. She’s recognized the unhealthy patterns and has recently turned to meditation and acceptance instead of self-critical control to maintain optimal health and body image.

Johnny

Johnny and his wife have a good relationship with lots of communication, so they know how the division of labor breaks down and neither feels either too controlling or too passive when it comes to each other and their children.

In general, Johnny doesn’t believe that his procrastination problems come from control. At work and in friendships he feels a certain level of obligation, but that’s normal and is a natural consequence of committing to a contract or something like his garage band.

Joyce

Joyce has no control issues either. She’s a single mother on disability with a mother who has begun to suffer from Alzheimer’s. Joyce is aware of what she needs to do but doesn’t overreach and start controlling other people’s lives except where she must (as with her son who is still a minor and her mother who’s unable to manage on her own).

Like Johnny, Joyce’s procrastination doesn’t come from control, so she runs through this particular maze without any confusion on which turns to take.

Kristin

Kristin suffers from the control issues that many women do. In her family she’s had to learn to stay out of her siblings’ lives if she wants to avoid conflict and with her husband she does the lion’s share of household chores because doing them is easier than complaining to him because they aren’t done or getting stressed because there’s no milk and the laundry’s piling up.

It’s not a great situation, but sometimes we just accept the other person’s personality and interests as they are and get on with living. When the baby comes, however, Kristin might find that she just doesn’t have the energy to do everything and her husband might need a good kick in the butt to step up and help out.

The problem could be this: Kristin’s better at household management than her husband, so he lets her do it, rather than making the effort himself. It reminds me of a friend who worked as a delivery boy and got around town fine but if anyone else was in the car with him, he had no idea where he was going and depended on others to navigate for him.

As you can see, the control maze has many routes through it. Some like Joyce and Johnny run right through without having to consider their paths, while the other four get waylaid by others (or themselves) distracting them as they make decisions about which turns to make.

What path would you take?

Tagged ,

Just Let It Happen: How to Stay Productive While Sick

  • Someday Lesson: Plan in catch up moments for unplanned breaks in productivity.

Kai Hendry on flickr.comLast week I updated you on my mostly successful first week of a hyper-schedule. My creativity and productivity soared and I was taking plenty of time off. My second week was going to be even better than the first.

And then I got sick but not can’t get out of bed sick. It was a weird sickness. I was dizzy and had a strange sinus pressure just above and behind my eyes, likely the cause of the dizziness. And I couldn’t concentrate, especially creatively.

So what happened to my creativity and productivity? They, of course, vanished.

I wanted to get things done. I wanted to be creative and move the novel forward, but any time I sat down to write pretty much anything the world spun and my stomach flipflopped. I could still do technical things and very logic-heavy tasks but anything that required creativity made me ill. It’s like whatever was wrong with my sinuses only affected my right brain.

Dealing with the Unexpected

I could have gotten cranky. I could have pushed myself and produced utter crap. Or I could have taken a break and let whatever was bothering me pass.

My lazy tendencies stirred long enough to convince me of the virtue in the last option. I dedicated myself to getting the bare minimum done and relaxing the rest of the time. I watched the entire latest season of Project Runway and spent most of the week in bed.

But I wasn’t completely unproductive. I also took the time to come up with a series of visions for my future – not the outcome kind of future but an action-based one. I looked 6 months, 1 year, 3 years and 5 years into the future and decided what I was doing. As Richard Wiseman points out, in his book 59 Seconds, people who picture future actions rather than future outcomes are more likely to achieve their goals.

And for some reason my dizzy right brain let me come up with some pretty awesome stuff. I guess it wasn’t a very right brain activity. I also focused on other left brain activities like creating the Personalized Someday Assessment form now available on the website, and created a flowcharts and processes for the business.

Letting It Happen

Instead of fighting with myself and making the week even worse, I let myself be sick. I enjoyed the time instead of whining about every moment that I wasn’t sticking to my schedule.

By Saturday evening I was feeling much better and by this point itching to write. So that’s exactly what I did, catching up two of three writing sessions I had missed during the week. If I had tried to push myself and fought against what my body and brain wanted, by Saturday night even writing a single word of fiction would have been as impossible as forcing a cat to play with a string it had no interest in (and I would have only ended up with the mental/emotional scratch marks to show for it).

And even though I didn’t follow my schedule much at all, by having it and knowing my goals for the week, I could pick and choose what I would get done and what I would leave unfinished. And in the end I got almost everything accomplished even though each day my tracked schedule was full of missed activities.

Plus by scheduling in plenty of relaxation time I gave myself wriggle room to catch up after feeling better. If you don’t give yourself that sort of space, then when you do fall behind, you just keep moving backwards struggling every moment.

So be kind to yourself and stop struggling – plan your time well and give yourself the best chance to achieve success, creatively.

P.S. Remember how last week I mentioned and interactive Someday Interview series? Well, it’s ready. Fill in the Personalized Someday Assessment form and starting in December your situation and my suggestions could be featured on the blog and maybe help someone else bust their own Somedays. Go check it out!

Tagged , , ,