Thursday, September 25, 2014

Write yourself a postcard to focus and feel better

Do you ever write to yourself?  Of course you do - we all write notes to help us remember things.
Some people put affirmations on post-it notes so they'll get a mini-pep talk from their computer screen or bathroom mirror. We write to put an idea outside of us so that it will stop wriggling and let us take a good look.

Journals are much longer - all those inviting blank pages (if you're on a computer, the screen is endless). If you fall into one, it can take a long time to climb out. As you begin to tell the story of who you are and what you are feeling, one thing can lead to another. It's hard to be positive and specific and if you're not positive, it's hard to leave the melancholy between the sheets. Longer writing carries the risk that the thoughts we wanted to focus will wriggle free and multiply.

Today, I wrote myself a postcard. There's not too much room on a postcard but it's quite a bit roomier than a post-it note. I wrote it as if I were writing to one of my friends or coaching clients.

I wrote it in two columns. On the left side, I wrote began with "I am impressed with how you. . ." and then I took a few sentences to talk about what's going well this month.  On the right side I started with "I know you are scared."

When I am being me talking to me "I know you are scared" can lead to a rather strained conversation. Either it spirals into all the very good reasons I have to be scared or it is met with some version of "you'll be fine."  This isn't how I talk to friends and clients, but it is frequently how I talk to myself.

On the postcard I said something like this: "I know you are scared. I don't know if you'll succeed. I do know you have light and power inside of you. Connect with that."

It's easier to offer encouragement after you've built up some evidence that what you are saying is true. So when you write your postcard, start with "What has impressed me about you (this month, this week, today)" and then tell the truth. Because even if you think that things are pretty bad right now, you're not just getting beat up. You're also writing a postcard so you can focus and feel better. And that, in itself, is a pretty impressive response.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

To change your mind, think! Sciency isn't the same as science

This is a rant. I am beyond tired by people who believe with all the force of true-believers that they are thinking when what they are doing is selecting "sciency" stuff that reinforces their prejudices and makes them feel superior to everyone else. It discourages me somewhat that so many people are willing to believe that bad reasoning is the same as good science.

I'm not a science-hater. I am a lover of good thinking wherever it is found. Some science is wonderfully good thinking. Even some social science is ingenious and reflective and useful. This is not a rant against science.

This is a rant about people who quote researchers the way other people quote holy books: as a trump card to prove beyond all doubt that they are smarter than everyone else. These people are rarely the scientists who actually design the research. These are people who have replaced inquiry with hearsay. They begin with the need for "proof that X is effective" and they say it with such serious authority that you are tempted to buy in.  What follows starts with researchers (never with the research) and goes on to quote numbers that have never existed in science but somehow are meant to convey the same general impression that research would convey (if it were possible to research the topic at hand).

Integrate! (this blog) is about thinking. It's about sometimes trusting your gut and sometimes trusting your logic, and often it's about not trusting anything. When you want to change your attitude, your beliefs or your behaviour, start with inquiry. Become very curious about what you know and how you know and what criteria allow you to build your life or satisfaction on an idea. If you've read many of my posts, you'll know that I don't encourage you to swallow what I say whole. I would much rather you chew on it slowly and find out what's digestible and what just doesn't work for you.

Good thinking (whether it comes from the arts or the sciences) begins with real curiosity and it's sister, real humility. If you already know, then you are not really doing research - or science. You're simply searching for ways to convince other people that you are more right than they are. There's nothing wrong with that until you pretend that your misquoting is better than their real thinking.

Here ends this rant. It's not really a sermon, and I'm not going to quote an authority (God or Science or Common Sense) to justify it. Take it or leave it or chew on it until it's digested. It's up to you.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Purpose, Presence and Play

Last night, on the anniversary of 9/11, we held a program called Purpose and Presence. It sounds like a suitably serious response to serious events.

It was also a chance to play. We laughed, a lot.

We took seriously the possibly that a dangerous world is nonetheless a world where we might focus on people we admire and qualities we want to have. It was safe, for that time at least, to open ourselves to the possibility that what we need might be available to us.  People met the interesting people in the room and the interesting people they talked about. They thought about what works. And what works is often fun.

Fun is inherently practical. By starting with the faith that you already have what you need, you can begin to notice that you have more than you thought. More direction, more support, more motivation. Fun shines the light on the good things that sometimes get pushed into dark corners while we focus on important matters.

It's Friday. Maybe you're looking forward to the weekend and maybe you're not. The elements of fun are almost always these: movement, people, imagination.  Whatever your mood, you'll find more opportunities on Monday if you manage a little fun before then.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Respect your fear - and then do the right thing

I don't believe fear is a motivation. I believe in "fight/flight/freeze." I believe the research (read Drive by Dan Pink or read Change or Die by Alan Deutschman).  Read between the lines here: if fear was really a motivation, you wouldn't have to push past it. Fear would be pushing you.

So what does that leave us to do with our fears?

I like to start with respect for them. Fear is a part of you that is trying to do something to protect your physical or emotional or spiritual well being. It's slowing you down so you have time to notice that you are running into a cliff - or off of one.  And, like every person you respect, fear is sometimes wrong.

Let me ask you - what do you do when someone you respect is wrong?  If you've started with respect for the part of yourself that is afraid, then you have a pretty good chance to make peace and move on. If you start by pushing around your fear, your fear will continue to push you around. Because your fear is you and you are a person and that's how people act and react.

I hate being afraid. I hate fear's ugly stepsisters, anxiety and combativeness. But I don't hate fear. Fear is me noticing a pattern and drawing my attention to it so that I can make a more intelligent choice. It's not always right. I'm not always right. That's a good reason to listen to my fear before I push it away.