Just Ignore that To Do List!

Yes, you read that right! When I make this suggestion in my resilience workshops, the gasps and protests don’t take long to surface. It seems blasphemous in our multi tasking, addicted to busyness culture to suggest that one ignore the “to do” list.

Once people get over their shock, I explain that it isn’t a permanent state of affairs, but rather a conscious choice one needs to make on a regular basis. In my experience, the more driven I am by my to do list the more my health suffers. I experience a myriad of chronic, and seemingly unsolvable, problems like stomach issues, neck and shoulder pain, insomnia and migraines.

We live in a quick and easy fix, immediate gratification type of society where we turn to medical experts to help us with our health issues. I know I have certainly had my share of visits to the doctor. I’ve recently been exploring how the brain starts to wire itself towards pain when we feel threatened. There’s a lot to be threatened by today and so it’s no surprise that so many people I talk with experience these baffling health issues as well.

Our to do list can also be threatening, especially if it’s long and not achievable, includes tasks that are highly unpleasant that stay on the list for weeks or months, or just reminds us that we are never “done” no matter how hard we may have worked that day. I think these to do lists often provide us with the illusion that if we just do all these things, we can control events and prevent bad things from happening. I know that some of my clients are really threatened by NOT doing their to do list as they really believe very bad things will happen.

While world events might be beyond our control, our to do list is in our control. Give yourself a regular break from being driven by the to do list and see what happens. Or at the very least, take some items off the list that don’t need to be there. I let go of several big to dos in the last 6 months that were keeping me in a constant state of “not enough.” My health has definitely improved and I’ve certainly been enjoying life more … and, even more important, nothing bad has happened 😉 In fact, a couple of remarkable things have happened that probably wouldn’t have if I had kept to that list.

How is your to do list working for you?

Getting Over Procrastination

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I can be a procrastinator at times (even about things I want to do!) and have been thinking about the combination of things that leads me to procrastinate and how I might address that. I realized that it`s the intersection of three things … thinking that whatever I need to do is too big, too hard and that I have to do it all at once. I love blogging, for example, but if you have been following my blog you know I go through periods of regular blogging followed by no blogs for months!

I realized this past fall (after not having blogged for over six months!) that these three things were at play. So I was able to start again by telling myself to spend 10 minutes just thinking about the blog, even if I didn`t do anything else with it that day. Well, to my amazement I did an entire blog that day!

I have a work project right now that feels too big and too hard and so I am reminding myself of bigger and harder projects I have done. Then, I am committing 10 minutes towards the project. This combination seems to be working for me for now!

What are your patterns of procrastination and how have you deal with them?

Didn’t I Do This Yesterday?

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I’m a bit of a biography nut and was intrigued by an article on Bruce Springsteen in a recent Vanity Fair article. In it he stated that, ““You have to create the show anew, and find it anew, on a nightly basis,” Springsteen said. “And sometimes,” he concluded, laughing, “it takes me longer than I thought it would.” Later on in the article, he says, “I’ve always felt a lot in common with Sisyphus. I’m always rolling that rock, man. One way or another, I’m always rolling that rock.”

I was struck by the connections to creativity and leadership in what he said. Our creativity gets expressed when we continue to push that rock uphill. In my case, just because I may have created a blog I really liked yesterday (or many other previous days!), doesn’t mean I don’t have to go through my creative process again and find some inspiration. While my creative process might become familiar to me, I don’t know that it’s gotten any easier. Some days that rock is pretty heavy!

And this is certainly true of leadership as well. We need to show up every day and find the inspiration and best parts of ourselves. Just because we made a difference one day doesn’t mean we don’t need to do the same the next day. We have to recreate our passion and commitment for leadership every day. And that, too, can feel like pushing a big rock uphill.

What Are You Hiding?

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One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious. Carl Jung

“What most concerns you about the upcoming team session?” I asked one of my clients. I had been hired by the manager to help the team rebuild trust after a rather messy and complicated situation left many deeply hurt.

“That things will get really emotional and end up being worse.”

“That’s a pretty normal response,” I replied, “but surfacing those emotions in a healthy way will lead to healing and transformation for the team.” 

My client looked skeptical but knew that not doing anything was no longer an option as people were avoiding each other and the morale was in the tank. 

Dealing with those dark emotions we go to great lengths to hide is indeed uncomfortable. But hiding them leaves us depressed, anxious and stuck (and perhaps broke, overweight and alcoholic, depending upon what you do to keep them hidden!) 

The next time you find yourself hiding from a dark emotion, take a moment, breathe, and:

  1. Surface the emotion.
  2. Name it.
  3. Experience it fully – where do you feel it in your body?
  4. Accept it as a part of being human.
  5. Ask yourself “What’s possible from here?”
  6. Consider developing a mantra, like the one I developed in the image above to help you move into those dark emotions.

A big thanks to Lisa Sonora whose 30 day journal challenge led to me developing this mantra and blog.

Transforming dark emotions is at the heart of my book, How to Forgive Your Boss. Visit the website and you can download the first chapter free.

Fake It Til You Make It?

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I have had several conversations the last week about how it is we change. There are many who believe that unearthing how we think about things is a key step in the change process, a great example the work of Kegan and Lahey who wrote Immunity to Change. I believed strongly in this for many years and find their model very powerful.
Then there is the compelling research of Amy Cuddy who suggests we fake it till we make it. In essence, we need to act like we are confident, happy, a leader, creative etc and eventually our thoughts will catch up because we will start experiencing something different.

As with many things these days I am starting to think it’s both, not either or … And depends on the person. For those given to endless negative rumination, faking it gets them out of their head. For those given to lots of action, getting into their heads might slow them down and lead to the change in behavior.

What do you think? What has led to your significant changes?

The Spa Just Isn’t Cutting It Anymore

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 As leaders we do need to look after ourselves and I know many who make a visit to the spa with girlfriends a regular self-care ritual, myself included. (Not to overly stereotype but in my experience more women than men do this.) 

When one of my clients said to me that the spa just wasn’t cutting it anymore, I took real notice. In the conversation that followed she explained her desire to take stock of her life, and bring some new energy and insight to it. 

This takes courage and reminds me how important it is to make time for inner personal development work. The spa, while a temporary reprieve, just doesn’t really cut it when your soul is yearning.

On Loss

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I’ve observed and personally experienced different approaches to loss over the years. Whether it is personal or professional, minor or devastating, it seems that those who consistently “numb” (whatever that might be – working, drinking, dwelling, exercising too much, etc) seem to get stuck, often regress and sometimes even bring about their own death, metaphorically and physically. 

Those who engage in learning reinvent themselves, often creating meaningful legacies around their particular loss or just finding new meaning and energy in their lives.

Some would say that without loss there is no growth or movement, that it’s actually necessary in order to create or bring about something new. As I reflect on my life, I agree. Our challenge it seems is to know when to stop circling the drain and get on with reinventing ourselves.

The Number One Way to Ease Your Suffering

  The Number One Way to Ease Your Suffering happiness emotional intelligence change   
There is an inverse relationship between accepting what is instead of wishing it were different. The more we can accept the less than ideal boss, family, job, the less suffering we experience and, ironically, the better things get. 

This is not a single moment in time, but rather a gradual process of acceptance, at least in my experience. 

What’s one thing you can accept that will ease your suffering?

Honour the Seasons

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I was inspired yesterday by the beautiful fall colors and took this photo on my phone. It got me thinking about the seasons and how important it is to take note and honour them. I used to miss the beauty and meaning of the fall because I loved summer and hated winter and so the fall just reminded me that summer was over! I am getting over that and appreciating what each season brings as opposed to wishing it away. 

Fall and winter clear the way for new growth; they give us a blank slate from which to create. Fall is a time to harvest and celebrate what we have planted and  grown; winter allows us to take a pause and think about what other possibilities are out there for us.

What are you harvesting and celebrating in your own life? Take time to honour the fall!