InFLUenced by our Flu shot!

 

 

The morning our Pharmacist dispensed Transcendence…

Rick and I differ on how we like to spend our weekend mornings.

I’m an artisan type; getting up early to read and write (ok, more reading than writing) savoring the hours before anyone else gets up so I can enjoy my ‘nothing-ism’ alone, in my PJ’s, sipping coffee. My happy place.

Rick, on the other hand, tackles Saturday mornings like a warrior preparing for battle. Once his feet hit the floor, my peaceful procrastination ends with his need for productivity.

One Saturday morning he was up earlier than usual, I hadn’t finished covering the political highlights (aka: Seth Myers and SNL) and he had already stomped down the stairs and was banging around in our kitchen (think Bam Bam).

Rick does everything with the same determination and urgency; whether that’s coaching teams to victory or getting a spoon from a drawer. That morning felt like we were on The Amazing Race when he announced a detailed game plan on how we’d complete ‘our’ (his) to do list before noon, inclusive of a stop to a pharmacy for our annual flu shot.

I winced at the thought of a sore arm at the gym later, but more, at the thought of a rushed morning when all I wanted to do was navel gaze.

Begrudgingly, I got dressed and with having been given a full 5 minutes to get ready, pulled on ‘work out’ gear to hit the gym later.

So, away we went, squeezing as many errands as was possible in less and less time. I will admit that my mood lightened when Rick told me we’d be visiting Akil’s pharmacy for our flu shot. Akil was an influential Independent Pharmacist and a genuinely kind hearted guy (when we first moved to Toronto Akil whispered a ‘heads up’ on where I could find the best shopping in the city – you never forget people like that ;- )

We arrived at the Pharmacy and were surprised a crowd had already gathered. Akil’s team was incredibly welcoming and had the place buzzing with clowns, face painters, balloons, coffee, cake… Rick had failed to mention that this flu clinic was a special one; exclusive for refugees with special guests invited like politicians, key business owners, immigration stakeholders, community leaders and representatives from all levels of government.

We were ushered into the swell of the gathering and I was soon exchanging a firm handshake with the impeccably dressed Federal Minister of Immigration in my Under Armour Leggings….

I shot Rick an “I promise to hurt you when this is over” look to which he merely shrugged an apologetic “I didn’t realize it was going to be this big so roll with this” look back at me.

My insecurity turned to horror when I caught a glimpse of the Global News team setting up to film for national television.

That was it, I was far too vain (shallow?) to be photographed looking like I was there for a makeover at the beauty counter or directions to the nearest GoodLife. I hid amid the feminine protection isle where I found myself nose to nose with a refugee watching his son get his face painted.

With a Kotex backdrop, we engaged in conversation and I said something about how crazy popular flu shots seem to be so early on a Saturday. To which this super friendly, soft spoken man said “yes, popular, but you need to understand, too, that it’s Akil who is popular, we’re here to show him how supportive we are”. He spoke with emotion as he went on to tell me how much he appreciated all that Akil had done to bring his family to Canada; the sponsorship, the paperwork, the immigration details, the incredible follow up over years and most of all how well he treated his family (and so many other families) through the process. While he didn’t share the graphic details surrounding the circumstances his family had been through, he didn’t need to, the anguish on his face had said it all.

I followed his gaze over to Akil (who was being swarmed by admirers) and in a trance-like tone, began to speak as if it didn’t matter if I was listening:

“Akil is a Saint in our eyes, he’s done so much when he didn’t have to that it hurts me to say that I’ll never, ever be able to repay him….”

I watched Akil with the fascination a child would watch Santa; he had a special appreciative grin on his face and was taking delight in watching ‘his’ families run around with balloon animals, getting their arms punctured and chatting it up over coffee and cake.

While I’m sure Akil was proud of his accomplishment, after all, it wasn’t every day when you rescue entire families from atrocities; but it wasn’t the look of pride on his face.

It was a sort of blissful contentment. It’s like he had just received an incredible gift, but the reality was that he had just GIVEN one (and many, for that matter). But, I guess what I witnessed was one of those moments when we’ve given something that made us happier to give than the receiver was to receive.

You remember…. those magical times when you were so excited for someone to see what you bought them you were bursting at the seams; hopping from one foot to the other, biting down on your lip, practically grabbing the gift from them so you could unwrap it quicker for them! Then, finally, you get that incredible rush when you watch their face light up and an incredible after glow settles over you.

That’s what it was: Akil had the “after glow” from the spirit of giving. And it was contagious. So contagious, that it lifted me out of my self-absorbed thinking and I fought my way back through the crowd just in time for the pictures… what I looked like no longer mattered.

Forget dopamine, serotonin, Oxycontin and all those other neurochemicals I regularly write about ….this was the mother load of “neuro-highs”. This must be what Abraham Maslow meant when he came up with ‘Transcendence’ his ‘top  tier’ in his Hierarchy of Needs model; the level he called ‘metaneeds’ when we get past ourselves and feel the need to help others.

Perhaps the recent trending in bucket lists will shift from what we need to SEE and DO before we die, to what we need to FEEL and BE to access the full range of our humanness. Maybe spiritual fulfillment doesn’t have to come from a denomination or from diving deeper into ourselves with meditative mantras but rather, it’s helping out others in need.

Seems that if helping others with their basic needs (the bottom tiers of Maslow’s chart) can allow still others to fulfill their ‘transcendence’ needs (top) then, maybe, with more connection there is hope for our planet’s overall needs right now.

We’ll need more of us to operate at a higher frequency and learn from those who already do. From what I could tell from that morning, Akil is one of them.

We were silent leaving the pharmacy but once back in the vehicle we blurted out a ‘wow” in unison. The rest of our ‘to do’ list and getting to the gym didn’t happen and we spent the drive back discussing how we can “give back”. We laughed at what Akil’s reaction might be if we started to visit his Pharmacy every Saturday morning.

Maybe, when it comes to how we’d like to spend our weekend mornings, Rick and I aren’t that different after all.

 

 

STOP Screen Time and Social Media from messing with our Heads!

Hi my friends!

A new blog and mini video on a topic that affects all of us and has been a popular coaching topic lately; How to Stop Screen time and social media time from messing with out minds!

Would love it if you’d share your comments and share with others you feel could benefit. The book I reference is a classic and has helped so many (even though it’s a bit of a dry, boring read, reminds me of the Buckley’s commercial, it tastes awful but it works 😉 

Thanks all!

Mq

STOP Screens and Social Media from Messing with our Minds!

Overwhelmed?? …..your screens, blame not.

As I mentioned in my video, our minds can go to unhealthy places when we don’t control them while surfing, swiping, and scrolling. It’s like we have 2 brains; one is is automatic, and was developed millions of years ago at the base of our brain stem to keep us safe. It alerts us to danger and threats but tends to be overly dramatic and makes our minds ‘spin out’ unnecessarily at times – think of Chicken Little…..

Our other brain was developed later (100’s of thousands of years ago)  to advance our species. It’s where our logic, reason and planning abilities reside and it functions with more optimism. The big difference with this brain is that it is NOT automatic we must consciously activate it.

The two should work in tandem. when walking down a deserted street on a rainy night, our chicken brain alerts us to an unfamiliar sound along the curb. Chicken brain raises the hair on the back of our neck and warns there could be a face in the gutter. Most reasonable people would check in with their “inner Yoda” and it will advise us to laugh it off. There are other types, like me, who’d run home first, then check in with Yoda once I was safely hiding under my covers).

Same sort of teamwork should happen when we’re surfing the net, playing on FB, Instagram & Snapchat or scrolling over news channels;

We make comparisons to others: what they have, what they look like, what they’re doing and we have an interpretation of these images.

If our interpretation is a healthy one all is ok:

“Gee, just look at that those hot abs!! I must get back to the gym * goes off to get gym membership *

Unhealthy interpretations sound something like this:

“Gee, just look at those hot abs!! I could never look like that, FML, I was born to look like a barrel, that’s why I’m sitting home alone, I’ll never be happy…..*grabs another piece of cake*

The first statement is positive, proactive and affirming while the second one is negative, paralyzing and self defeating.

Repeated self defeating statements can be damaging because we believe what we repeat to ourselves. We need to recognize them, dismiss them, refute them and replace them.

Our Cortex/inner Yoda can do this for us ….

But, here’s the thing, when we’re on social media we’re so inundated with information from our feeds coming at us in rapid fire that we remain in auto pilot and don’t check in with our inner Yoda to make sense of what we’re telling ourselves and stop the banter.

By the time our heads hit pillows, some of us have put in full day’s worth of self loathing. This downward spiral of negativity can lead to #mooddisorders. Samantha (a Professional Financial Consultant, wife and a mother of 2) had been feeling irritable and moody for some time and described her state this way: “I feel like I’m permanently in a haze of overwhelm and cranky”.

To help Sam in figuring out where her irritability and restlessness were truly coming from, she captured her moods for 2 weeks (mood log in half hour increments). After reviewing her raw data, she came to some A HA moments: 

1) She was happiest doing things she thought she resented: making breakfasts and getting her kids off to school and making dinners while helping her kids get their homework done and when she was busy at work with her clients.

2) She was at her lowest points doing things she thought she loved: time spent on social media, watching or reading the news or on Netflix.

Studies and research (validated by Psychological & Mental Health Associations)  corroborate Samantha’s experience. Social media platforms have been linked to  anxiety, depression, panic disorders and other mood disorders, especially in kids.  The main reason for this is our internal dialogue when we compare ourselves to the social personas of others and 60% adults report that they check in on social media platforms multiple times a day.

When Sam captured her thoughts during her lowest moods, she realized she was comparing herself with friends and complete strangers on Instagram. She felt jealous when her friends were doing things she wasn’t doing, then felt guilty for being jealous. She berated herself for not getting to the gym when she saw fit people on IG, then felt more guilt when on Pinterest because she had no time for DIY projects with her kids.

After Netflix, she felt “behind” in her housework, and after the news, she ruminated about things like Lyme disease getting her son (who loves to play in the woods) and the Tax Legislation affecting her clients. Just before closing her eyes, she remembered how much work she had to face at her job the following day.

Essentially, it’s not our devices, platforms, news or our email that puts us in a funk but rather our interpretation and internal dialogue with ourselves that does. 

 

All of these distorted thoughts (Sam’s #worry, #guilt and #ruminating) can be categorized into 10 types according to David Burns and his classic book of Feeling Good in which he shares how to identify and refute them (btw the book is the #1 self help book most frequently recommended for depression and anxiety by Mental Health professionals in USA and has a podcast )

Sam applied this technique with herself and then her kids; using chicken brain and Yoda brain as analogies. She had her youngest boy who loved gaming to use emoji stickers on the fridge to log his moods; after basketball practice, after reading, after getting chores completed and after gaming. Her teen girl used the techniques to refute her #FOMO thinking:

Sam’s kids could see, for themselves, (using neuroleadership approach), what activities improved their moods and which ones didn’t. They’ve learned earlier than most of us, that their interpretations when they surf, scroll and swipe are what impact their moods not the images and events they see.

Sure, Sam’s kids could shut off their devices to ensure their minds were healthy, but that would be like adults not driving to avoid collisions. Eventually we need to get back behind the wheel.

Just like driving, exploring our the net far, far away is a privilege for which we need both brains on our screen so we can stay out of our inner dark side.

Spark Up Some Dope!

Hi everyone,

Yes, Yes, I know it’s been awhile! Check out my first ever mini intro video to #NeuroLeadership and check out my post below. Love hearing your comments……

Mq

Using #dopamine to excite, engage and empower….

Swooning over his big blue eyes, his wispy blond hair and his cuffed jeans, I held his gaze as I handed him a drink. But, I knew his interest in me would wane, because after all, Cam was only 2 years old and our cottage was a snore for a toddler on a rainy day.

I scrounged up a set of dominoes to “wow” my little guest with the domino effect but instead of a chain reaction, the pieces collapsed all over the place. Cam was visibly underwhelmed but thankfully was eager to put the pieces back in their box like a puzzle.

One by one he manipulated the glossy rectangles into place until he was left with 3 that wouldn’t fit.
Cam was stuck and his mom had left the room so he leaned over to me and whispered: “howp pwease” (be still my heart)

 

 

Desperate for his affection, I was tempted to arrange the pieces for him, but instead, I prodded him to figure it out for himself; with tongue hanging out, his breath heavy in concentration, his chubby little hands went to work at twisting and turning.

Then, after reassembling a few times, it happened: all of the pieces clicked into place!!

He jumped up and down in jubilation, “high-fiving” me with a smile that lit up the room; it was as if he had just been given an ice cream cone.  

Young Cam was having an “a ha” moment: that familiar sensation we get when we solve our own problems.

In his ground-breaking book  “Quiet Leadership”, David Rock explains that this “eureka” human sensation is bio-chemical: when our brains release a neurotransmitter called Dopamine.

Left unchecked, this dopamine rush is so addictive it can cause gamblers to go into debt, gamers to live in online fantasy worlds, turns humans into wolves on wall street and makes us check our phones for likes incessantly.

Essentially, neurotransmitters are our internal reward system, motivating us to keep the human race going by rewarding actions that support our survival like eating, sex (being liked) and making money.

 

Being internally motivated is powerful. Getting others to do what they naturally want to do is such a breeze to teach, coach, and parent. But, as people, we vary on what gets us excited and why we rely on external rewards to fill in for motivation gaps.

Borrowing from Behavioural Psychology and pain and pleasure principles we use a variety of rewards, especially at the workplace: managers give bonuses to sharpen focus on goals, reward strong performance with promotions and dole out recognition for the right behaviour.

We do the same in educational settings and at home. As a parent, I confess to potty training one of my kids with money and we may or may not have used  “puppy points” towards chores and I might also recall using chocolate chip pancakes to get one of them out of bed in the mornings for school (yes, I’m well aware of the sugar content, please don’t judge).

But we parents, educators and leaders know that external rewards are effective for some behaviour but it’s short lived and can be dangerous when external rewards are expected for what should be intrinsic pleasures like learning, creativity, reading etc… (hmmmmm…. IS he getting up in the mornings at university without pancakes?)

This is why the research in the last decade on our naturally occurring internal reward system has been so fascinating.

The recent Biochemical and NeuroPsychology field has begun to crack open the elusive intrinsic motivation puzzle or at least as it relates to how our neurotransmitters influences our behaviour. Out of this research has sprung what’s called  NeuroLeadership and the game changing  #neuro-coaching methods on how we can channel the power of dopamine to improve # engagementinitiative, decision making  and empowerment at the workplace. 

One type of “NeuroCoaching” works like this… 

Quite simply, its just letting others do exactly what Cam did in solving his own puzzle. It’s coaxing, nudging others with probing and reflective questions to help others think about their problems, not fix it for them.

Not only does this method of leadership produce “aha moments” (even validated by PET and MRI scans) but it creates an urge for more of them (like addictive gaming), so thinking and problem solving evolves.

Even better is when the solution is their idea, people act out of commitment and passion to ensure successful execution and results instead out of empty obligation, duty and compliance to someone else’s idea.  

This Coaching method works for parents too….

True story: a client was “fed up” of trying to get her son off the couch to find a summer job. She tried everything right down to threatening to take his phone. She applied a neurocoaching dialogue and within a week he went out and landed a job with a Landscaping company. 

 

At first she said things like: 

  • “This is what you need to do: 1) get your resume done tonight, then 2) tomorrow call this person 3) write a cover letter  …….” (Giving directions)

and….

  • “Here, look at this list of jobs I downloaded for you, also, I spoke to so and so and all you have to do is call him….”  (Doing all of the work)

and….

  • “When I was your age this is how I found a job, or if I were you this is what I’d do …..”
       (Seeing the problem through HER lens)                                         

Then, she tried questions like: 

  • “What are you going to like most about having a summer job? Why? 
  • “What types of jobs do you think you’d like? Why? What other ones have you thought about? 
  • What haven’t you thought about yet? 

What shocked her most about her son was not that he found a job but that he actually wanted to find a physically challenging job outside and once he took over his own search he moved at lightening speed.  

” If you want to grow people, they need to come their own insights…”

David Rock 

 

BUT, NeuroCoaching isn’t as easy as it looks,…

Refraining from advising someone on what to do when they are struggling with a problem is tough. We want to quickly jump in to help them especially since many of us are in helping professions; trained and paid to provide answers, not questions.

Further, in our busy lives, it’s not easy allowing “space” to cultivate better thinking in others when we barely have time to think for ourselves.

Finally, and this was an “A HA” moment for me: we, as parents and leaders get a release of dopamine when we solve other people’s problems.

So when we dictate, control agendas, do all of the talking, helicopter and snow plow issues for our kids, make all of the decisions, reduce jobs to tasks that require no thought…..our behaviour might be more about grabbing dopamine for ourselves than it is about helping others.

NeuroCoaching makes us shift problem solving onto others; because when we take it away from others, to make things easier or faster, we risk taking away one of the best parts to being human. Our brains need and want to figure things out and it just so happens that our world needs a variety of problem solving right now.

We don’t need students who can memorize, automation is making that skill obsolete. Nor do we need employees who can calculate and follow directions well; we have algorithms and automation for that too. Nor do we need kids whose minds have already been shaped by the previous generation (us).

No, what our world needs now are students, kids and employees who know how to think creatively and who are courageous and excited enough to share their minds to rescue our globe.

For that to happen, we might need to transform the way we influence; perhaps, instead of measuring our success on what we think should be learnt, or what we think should be done, we should measure ourselves on how many ice cream moments we’ve created.     

The Home that Jack Built

For such a little guy, our beloved Yorkie Pomeranian has left a gaping hole in our home.

It didn’t take long for Jack to become the most important family member in the eyes of our kids. It became clear within the first week he arrived, when I accidentally fell down an entire flight of stairs.

My daughter (age 10 at the time) was my “first responder” running from her room down the stairs after me. But instead of tending to her mom, laying in a heap of agony on the floor, she stepped OVER me in search of her new puppy in another room; to ensure he wasn’t ‘frightened by the ruckus’ I had made.

Generally, he was a typical dog and like all dogs he had his own quirks:

Like, Jack’s idea of how a game of fetch was played wasn’t quite the same as other dogs.

Other dogs: 1) Owner throws ball 2) Dog chases, 3) Dog comes back and gives ball to owner. Repeat.

Jack’s version: 1) Owner throws ball, 2) Dog chases, 3) Dog comes back 4) Dog keeps ball and taunts owner with it 5) Owner puts down remote or iPhone to chase after Dog with ball 6) Owner catches Dog 7) Owner and Dog engage in tug of war over ball  8) Dog releases ball. Repeat.

Like other dogs he’d do tricks for treats, his most impressive act was rolling over on demand. Even though, sometimes, he’d confuse rolling with spinning and in his eagerness to get a treat would do both at the same time in a frenzied bizarre maneuver resembling a seizure.

But it wasn’t all fun and games, he was serious about his duties of property surveillance and beach patrol. He tirelessly kept watch for life-threatening rabbits & squirrels around the cottage and fended off sand pipers and gulls attacking our shoreline.

It should be noted here, there were days Jack felt unappreciated for his dedicated work. Especially, when he’d find his water or food dish left empty by mistake. It was during these times when I found it necessary to become his ‘whisperer’ to remind family members of his basic needs. It could also be mentioned here that he may or may not have ranted on his twitter handle “citydawg in the 6ix”.

Online or on the beach, Jack enjoyed celebrity-like status as everybody knew his name and the rest of us became known merely as “Jack’s owner”. He pranced like a prized pony and I’m quite certain his Pomeranian tail would curl tighter when complete strangers would swoon over his resemblance to the legendary Toto from Wizard of Oz.

So sure, he was adorable, he was cuddly, he was the perfect companion but somehow his absence feels deeper than that. So I found some recent research on the benefits of dog ownership to explain the human/canine connection:

  • They’re our our personal Buddhas.  When Jack insisted on going out, I’d feel too busy and grumble as I’d grab his leash and rush the poor little terrier along to ‘just get it over with’. But, within 5 minutes of being outside, I’d appreciate nature like Jack did, and always found I had needed the break. Apparently, these ‘pet pauses’ anchor us into the now. Whether its playing, petting or talking with our furry friends, these regular  mindful moments are said to boost our immune system, reduce stress & anxiety, and give us better focus.
  • They love us for just being us. Jack showed the same exuberance to see us if we had been away for 5 days or away for 5 min. putting out the garbage. He made us feel missed, appreciated and special and didn’t care if we messed up on a math test, we didn’t return email, or lost in the finals of a hockey tournament. In a world where we’re compared and bombarded with expectations, being loved for just showing up is powerful.
  • They are furry Pharmacies: I was blown away with studies establishing that when we interact (handle, play and pet) with our animal pals we release powerful chemicals (Endorphins, Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxycotin) associated with the feelings we get from chocolate, pleasure, love, runners high and pain killers.

Couch potatoes will take delight in knowing that sitting around with Fido can slow down our heart rate and breathing, lower our blood pressure, stop us from ruminating, inhibit the production of cortisol (stress hormones) and lowers our risk of cardiac disease by as much as 4%!

The research is so compelling, ‘dog therapy’ is being applied in nursing homes, rehabilitation programs, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome therapy and drug addiction to name a few. Insurance companies have been considering ‘Pet Ownership’ to be a viable factor for premium consideration and there is even progress towards pet expenses becoming tax deductible. Workplaces are catching on, too, and have found  improved productivity and morale when pets to to work with employees.

However, the scientific community has just proven what, we dog owners, have known instinctively forever; dogs are just good for us.

But here’s the thing, we didn’t get Jack because he’d lower our blood pressure, nor do I feel we miss him because of what he did to our brain chemistry or because he made us calm and focused.

No, their value isn’t something you can scientifically explore and as  Dr. Seuss would say perhaps, dogs, are just a little bit more.

As a mom, it made me smile when we spoke to Jack in our own special “jack voice”. A pitch and tone we reserved for magical moments with a baby or gazing into the eyes of a wild animal feeding from our hands.

That voice is really our own from a time when we, too, were that innocent. A time when our hearts were just as open and we saw the world as a place of harmony & happiness and without harm or hate.

Maybe the canine connection is that they remind us daily of who we were and can be.

Thanks, little fella, perhaps we’ll fill this hole in our hearts with memories of you and of our best selves.
RIP our little Jack.

Sign up for more…..

Our Vacation ‘Miss Takes’

 

 

 

The first 24 hours of our trip to Costa Rica didn’t quite go as planned. Let me share just a few snippets:

  • Despite a) flying super elite status which was supposedly prioritizing our luggage, and b) arriving crazy early before departure (Rick likes to be so early, I can finish a small novel before liftoff), mine was the only suitcase not to arrive with the plane out of about 300 passengers.  Reflection: you don’t really know yourself until you’ve lost your luggage…
  • Even though our emailed agreement didn’t stipulate this, we had to pay extra mandatory national insurance for our car rental.  
  • Got lost trying to find hotel – 11PM ish, circled the section of geography for close to an hour and went through the same toll booth and paid the same lady 4 times. Reflection #2: nothing tests your marriage more than being lost in a foreign country at night when you’re hungry.
  • Our phone pinged us in the night; son, Morgan, who was supposed to fly in that morning broke the news that he mistakenly booked tickets to San Jose, California instead of San Jose, Costa Rica. We devoted the first part of the next day finding new flights for them and then the remainder of the day revising our retirement plans in order to offset new costs.
  • During our ascent up the Mountain (boasting a height of what felt like 7000 ft. above sea level*) and with an altitude so severe my ears popped twice we found out our expensively insured 4×4 wasn’t really a 4×4 but, instead, contained an engine the size you’d find in a lawn mower. Our first clue came when we began to slide backwards down the mountain* Positive note: we didn’t die. Not so positive note: we had to rent another vehicle – the climb was steep in altitude and in cost!

But the real point to my story was not to share vacation incidents but to say that I noticed all of this tension was void from my Instagram pics; I posted the most tranquil panoramic views of the mountain, soothing scenes of the jungle and the incredible serenity of our infinity pool.

Comments from friends were “ahhhh you must be soooo relaxed”. Yet, nothing could have been further from the truth at the time. I felt like a fraud and contributing to “fakebook”: criticism of #socialmediaplatforms causing #depression because we compare our lives to the fabricated versions of others.

But here’s the thing, I didn’t consciously ‘fabricate’ anything but I most certainly made a decision not to share our family trauma and took pics of the part of our trip making me smile.

After all, social media IS about our #socialpersona which is different than our reality and personal selves; the teen in her duck lip poses, the couple on their date nights and the mom on her “family adventures” are the parts of their lives they elect to have socially shared.

Shaping how we want to be seen and having that identity validated is so psychologically needed it fuels the power of social platforms; cleverly luring us with those adorable little like and heart buttons.

Behavioural science has always established how we adjust our behaviour for rewards and now research into behavioural addictions (social platforms, gaming and gambling) clinically link chemical releases in the brain making it tremendously difficult to look away from our screens.

It gets unhealthy when our passive enjoyment of “likes” turns into obsessively needing them to the point of adjusting realities; like making plans on a weekend just to add pics to a feed. Even worse is getting hooked on being liked for the online version of ourselves at the expense of our real selves.

To prevent the ill effects, experts tell us to reduce our screen time and people I’ve worked with have found tremendous success when they take their mind off auto pilot and became aware of how their thoughts are being influenced when they scrolled and surfed the net.

One lady, in particular, mentioned how irritated she got when seeing posts about her friends’ escape weekends with her new boyfriend. When she jotted down her thoughts, she realized she sensationalized the positives of her friends’ weekends while downplaying her own. She also stumbled into the revelation that she had issues with her marriage – the true source for her irritation (insights into why some images “sting” and others don’t is another journal post someday 😉 )

We don’t need filters for our pics we need filters for our minds so we can better interpret the bombardment of images and info. technology is hurling at us.

Advances in #neuroscience and #mindfulness techniques can help us co-exist with social media rather than fear it, shut it down or blame it for our psychological dependencies.

Social platforms are amazing when they are used for capturing an electronic chronology of our lives. In the big ‘picture’, it really doesn’t matter what kind of image we post because what’s more important is the memory anyway.

Memories are not always directly captured in our pictures; like there was never a real picture of Uncle Ned spitting in the punch bowl but that story always comes up when we flip through the wedding album. Nor did we take a selfie when we learned of Morgan’s scheduling snafu…. but I’m quite certain it’ll come up again….probably when we’re revisiting my Costa Rican mountain pics and someone says “wow, you look soooo relaxed”.

 

Ps: Asterisk denotes MY recollection of what happened – my journal, my facts 😉  Rick mentioned he might start his own blog to share HIS version.

Sharing stories in the area of professional and personal growth....

 

Learning to be a Badass!

Learning to be a Badass!

This happened: I’m 12 having just got home from school, emptying my book bag and having a conversation with my mom that went something like this:

Me: “Where can I find a pen in this place?, Marrianne grabbed mine right of my hand today…grrrrr…”

Mom: “How’d that happen and why didn’t you get it back?”

Me: “you know Marianne, that mean girl I told you about, she needed a pen so she just took mine and made it quite clear I wasn’t getting it back. Had I tried to take it back, she’d have beat my head in. Besides, it’s just a pen.”

Mom (stopped flipping her fish sticks, or pork chops depending on what day of the week it was, and looked at me sternly): “Make sure you get it back tomorrow, even if you have to fight her for it.”

Me: Gulp!!???

I found it unbelievable that my own mom thought I should go after the school bully over a measly pen. And my dad was no help, as by the end of that night, he was showing me how to block a punch to the face. I had gone to bed not sure if I was more shocked I had decided to confront THE Marianne, or by my parents’ mafia-esque training.

Petrified the next morning, I chose my least favourite clothes in case they’d be splattered in my blood. The optimum moment came later in the day when the lioness was at the water fountain away from the rest of her pride. With quivering legs, I tiptoed over and meekly told her I needed my pen back.

Despite my shaky voice, I somehow found the nerve (or survival instinct) to hold her gaze as she glared down at my audacity. She raised her hand, and just when I thought she was about to yank the hair off my head, she motioned me over to her desk. Like a timid sandpiper, I flitted over and gently retrieved my pen.

That was it…no Disney movie showdown.

“Marianne-type” run ins continue into our adult personal and work lives and while they may not be as bully-like (although sadly that exists too) they occur in the form of “#microaggressions”: or incidents that leave us with a knot in our stomach and we tend to hide behind phrases such as “I didn’t want to cause a scene”, “he’s the boss, nothing I could do”, “I don’t like to get politically involved”, “I don’t like to make waves” and “maybe she didn’t mean that”.

Perceptive coaches, parents, leaders and friends probe behind these statements and call us out when we say we’re keeping peace but what we’re really doing is avoiding confrontation and not speaking up for ourselves.

Defending or speaking up on what matters to us takes guts. Psychological and sociological reasons for this are numerous and have been hard wired into our minds even before we’re born and then conditioned into us throughout our lifetime.

Classic fears of #rejection and #publichumiliation are obvious ones but we also follow the #wolfpackmentality and have learnt not to challenge the informal or formal alpha dog, because it threatens the survival of the pack. We also live by #socialnorms that perpetuate behavioral conformity: think religions, cultures and political governance. Our work life can be especially challenging especially within an  #industrialeconomy where mass production and maximum efficiencies encourage teamwork’s needs over individual and personal needs.

Throw on top of all that, the #pain/pleasure principle that says we’re more motivated to avoid pain than to go after a reward and we tend to choose the path of least of resistance to seek comfort.

All this to say it’s just plain easier for us to shut up.

But there’s a cost to silence.

Every time we stay silent we send a message to the brain that our personal values aren’t worthy of defending. Over time, we form a habit of adjusting ourselves internally instead of dealing with conflict externally and this weakens our sense of self and personal values.

Further, every time we’re silent it’s one less opportunity to learn how to “speak up”. A skill that takes tremendous practice and correlated to success in career advancement, leadership, healthy relationships, academic performance and societal governance.

Taking this further, when entire populations are quiet and let others speak on their behalf (taking path of least resistance and not differentiating values) then they risk blending into what’s popularly called the #silentmajority (citizens who neglect to share their political opinions).

Then, one day, we look up and someone who doesn’t represent our values is in control of our destiny.

The world is evil not because of evil people but because good people don’t stop them (Albert Einstein)

For most of my life, political demonstrations were alien to me, they happened in faraway lands over distant causes. The only collective cause I could relate to was cheering, rink side, for ringette and hockey teams. I thought world views & political opinions were for ‘other’ people who were in opposition to something, had more to lose, liked protesting things, or had more political background and rage.

I was wrong. With the recent marching closer to my address and my heart, I realize now that speaking up in the form of demonstrating isn’t always (if ever it even was) about raising hell but raising awareness of what’s important to us just like defending a position isn’t about fighting, but just being prepared to.

I’m still a weenie when dealing with conflict; I only think of great comeback lines 3 years later. Typically, I never deal with personal attacks at the time they happen and, now that I think about it, apply the same tactics I did when I was 12: “ahem, excuse me but….remember when you said…?” with one on one, non-confrontational and applying everything in my arsenal of weaponry to alleviate the knot in my stomach or for others (psychology, humour, data, logic, threats…kidding, sort of).

But here’s the thing, I have found (based on own experience and in supporting so many others) there is no “right” way to deal with conflict or speak up other than to recognize that the success lies not in directly changing others but in being clear on how we’ve been hurt or offended and why. Remembering that we don’t have to be fearless we just need to be sincere and it usually works out.

Being authentic with our selves takes practice;  discussing personal values within the context of social topics with our kids over dinner or using Facebook as a platform to like and share opinions that reflect the changes we want to see in the world is a great start to validating our beliefs.

I used to think my neutrality on Facebook was a good thing but now I’m changing that and learning to “speak up” on there. I truly admire my Facebook friends who weigh in on things that threaten our social values.

There are many heroes on Facebook showing us how to step out of the silent majority and making a difference like young Becca Schofield who had every reason to take the path of least resistance and literally stay in bed #beccatoldmeto and all of the bravery I see from #globalcitizen.

If for the only reason, I am a citizen on this planet, I’m working on speaking up through writing. Taking back my pen had more significance than I thought.

 

 

Cleaning in my Leopard Skin!

 

Fear is beneath my every hesitation so I typically recognize it right away. Not this time. It baffled me as to why I procrastinated for weeks to submit the required reflection notes for my coaching certification. I typically love to write and even more-so journaling. But here I was, back against the proverbial wall with only a weekend left to complete tons of notes.

To that end, I woke up before the break of dawn that Saturday morning, slipped into my overpriced Lulu lemon loungers, my oversized East Coast Lifestyle sweatshirt and with a mug of my favourite java, plunked myself in front of my little think pad to get down to work. Nothing was going to get in my way this time.

Then, this happened: nothing. I blinked into my screen. My mind was as blank as cement. No words, no sentences. Nothing. I stared some more, I fidgeted, I agonized until my mug needed a refill.

Then, as I made my way back to our Nespresso machine, I picked up scissors needing to be returned to our ‘junk drawer’ (don’t judge, everybody has one of these, right?). Once there, and for reasons beyond my comprehension at the time, I rummaged through that drawer with a fascination only seen on Storage Wars. I re-discovered Indian & Thai Food brochures, hair clips, dead batteries, elastics, a Costa Rican coaster with a toucan bird, and inkless pens.

Two hours later, the drawer was organized, so too, was the adjacent cupboard of Tupperware (I’m convinced there’s a place in our galaxy where lost socks have hooked up with missing lids). My linen and broom closets didn’t escape my wrath and they, too, were sterilized. Here’s the thing. I had wasted two hours to clean, something I hated to do, in order, to avoid something I loved to do and, worse, something I critically needed to do. What was wrong with me?

Then it hit me. The procrastination and my apparent “writer’s block” could be traced to what’s popularly known as our fight/flight response. This fear reaction was developed in our brain millions of years ago, for our survival. In short, when a threat is detected, our amygdala in our midbrain (aka: our mammalian brain because it’s shared with our chimpanzee cousins), shuts down our cortex and, with it, our ability to speak or think, by redirecting blood flow to other parts of our body, namely such extremities as our hands and feet (get sweaty, twitch,) so we can automatically fight or run from danger.

Not only does it save us from sabre tooth tigers in our external environment, but our power-hungry amygdala patrols our inner world for psychological threats as well like potential romantic rejection or public humiliation. Hence, we can thank it for all those times we needed to be eloquent but instead we tuned into tongue tied clammy catastrophes on first dates and on stage.

My guess was, that despite my love for regularly journaling, I had never shared any of my personal insights before and it occurred to me I was downright petrified with having my own opinions of myself judged and potentially rejected (kill me now). So, you see, my amygdala felt my fear even before I did; and in doing its job as commander in chief, pulled the plug and drained creative juices out of my cortex (the few drops that I might have had).

This was making sense, except that my overactive amygdala didn’t explain my urge to clean. If I wanted to procrastinate through a bout of writer’s block, why didn’t I do it while binge watching Game of Thrones ’ like a normal person?

After much research, and by, that I mean, I entered the topic in my Google search bar, I’ve since learned that my urge to “nest”, as it were, is not really that bizarre and not just instinctively reserved for “expectant moms” but for other reasons deeply rooted in our reptilian brain (located in our brain stem; our first brain, developed brain millions and millions of years ago, when we were reptiles)   

 Apparently, back when we roamed the earth in our leopard skins, we kept things simple; we were either hungry or happy. When hungry (most of the time), we were in high alert mode, always in danger fighting off predators or hunting. It was only when we were safely back in our caves, when we contentedly engaged in other stress-free activities like nesting, eating, and sex. Fast forward to today and our primitive brain still associates happiness and security with these activities and why we use them to soothe ourselves when anxious or feel threatened. This explains some, otherwise, inexplicable behaviour tendencies like organizing junk drawers,  “nervous eating” or diving into a container of ice cream when we’ve been dumped, or still others who get it on sexting or watch online porn when under pressure at work.

Workplace studies say fear impairs our judgement and decision- making. These findings corroborate the brain research that says when fear shuts down our cortex, we’ll make decisions without accessing our full rational thought and our sense of compassion thus causing defensive, reactive, short term focused decisions producing results to business that negatively impact long term sustainability.

In a world where we are feeling collectively terrified with the bombardment of shocking headlines around political instability that produce anxiety around our lives and future, we do risk reverting to primitive thinking and wanting to hide under our beds.

But, that behaviour is when we know our primal instincts are guiding us. Those days, when we slithered around on our bellies and walked on all fours, should be behind us. We’ve been able to walk erect for some time now and have since grown parts to our brain for rational thinking and compassion; these are the human behaviours that have evolved us to this point; we’d better not get paralyzed with fear and shut them down now because we need them more now than ever to get us past this point.

If not, well, at least I know my house will be clean for the next four years……