Ted Talk Friday: How to Let Go of Being a Good Person and Become a Better Person

This talk is especially important right now. I think there is immense pressure to stay on the moral high ground, that we often sacrifice how we could be better or think more deeply about our action out of fear of being perceived as bad, politically incorrect, etc. Chugh’s commentary on how we perceive goodness and how we can evolve to be better people.

 

***
How do you think about being a “good” person? What was your favorite part of this talk?

Ted Talk Friday: A love letter to realism in a time of grief

I was not sure what to expect when I began watching this talk, but I was quickly drawn in by the obvious bravery and strength of both speakers. I enjoyed Pollock’s approach on realism over optimism; I find it a refreshing break from the usual story of struggle and resilience. I hope you enjoy!

***

Do you consider yourself a realist or an optimist?

Coping with Loss: One Year Out

It’s been a little over a year since a dear friend of mine passed away. While certain songs still bring him to my mind, like any song by Jurassic 5 or Biggie Smalls–some of his favorites, they make me smile more often than they make me cry. I’ve been thinking a lot about this difficult period in my life and what it means to me a year later. Studies show that how we cope with difficult events helps us make meaning and come out a little wiser on the other side. We need social support to make that happen.

I’m so grateful for the many shoulders I’ve had to cry on, the friends who have listened to my stories, and the loved ones who’ve checked in on me. I’ve also found amazing community through sharing my grief on social media; over 30% of young adults know someone who has died of an overdose. That is a large portion of the population, and sharing our stories is one way to cope with our losses.

I was lucky that his parents and the Nashville community spoke so openly about his death. My friend had suffered with different addictions for years. I remember a call from him a few years ago and hearing fear in his voice. He asked me to hold him accountable, and I did. He went to rehab a few months later, spent more time with his family, graduated from college and had a job that let him be outdoors. I remember meeting up with him and his dad about six months before his passing; I went to one of his father’s graduate school lectures with my friend for fun. We reminisced and he told me some of his stories that inevitably cracked me up. He had a wonderful sense of humor, kindness, and genuine friendliness about him from the first day we met that always struck me.

We texted in the few weeks before his death; he seemed to be doing well and I told him I wanted to visit him in Colorado and finally learn to ski. Skiing was one of his many beloved outdoor hobbies. There was no hint that he was not ok, no signs that I detected. That is one of the scariest parts of addiction–it is an ongoing battle. As friends and supporters, we can only do so much. Addiction is not a choice we can prevent, but rather a disease well beyond the control of friends and family.

His death has prompted me to look deeply at the way I live my life. He was always carefree, calm, and in awe of nature. I’ve taken some amazing trips, hiked new trails, and taken chances with new challenges.  I’ve also started prioritizing my social ties–staying connected to those who matter most with phone calls, letters, and visits. Research shows that our social network actually heals after the loss of a friend. Friends are pulled closer together following a loss–helping to heal both the group and the individual.

While it will never be easy, I am starting to feel that it is getting easier.

Rolling with the Punches (+ Rolling Down Hills)

Last weekend I took a tumble while hiking on one of my favorite Bay Area trails (Gray Whale Cove Trail in Pacifica). It was a beautiful day and a lovely hike–moderately sunny, light wind, lookouts on to the gorgeous Pacific. As we neared the end of the hike, I tried to go a bit faster going downhill and completely wiped out, landing on my knee.

Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 2.05.47 PM.png

At first it felt totally fine and as I got up and walked a few steps, I looked down and noticed the whole knee of my leggings was ripped off and my knee was bleeding quite a bit. Hobbling the rest of the mile, I was pretty mad at myself. My friend was supportive and didn’t make a big deal of it, and that made me stop and re-think the incident. This is a good lesson on people; choose to spend time with people who show compassion and support during times like this!

Could I have done something different? Sure! Does it matter now? Nope! I fell and that’s that; all I can do now is be gentle with myself, body and mind, and let it heal. I always joke that I hardly ever get injured, and it certainly came back to bite me this time.

I almost went to the ER because the abrasion was full of debris with a few deep wounds, but luckily I was able to wait until the next day  to go to the doctor to get it checked out. I got a tetanus shot and a thorough cleaning of all my cuts and scrapes. I am incredibly lucky that there was no real damage–no breaks, sprains, or anything that will cause long-term problems. Pretty miraculous all things considered! I was super bummed that I couldn’t work out for a while my knee heals, but I’ve been trying to take it easy and give my body a respite from working out. I think my body has thanked me for it–it’s been a little more relaxing and it’s given me a few extra hours of sleep.

Five days post-fall and I’m still hobbling a bit while I walk, but I’ve been able to get into the gym a bit for some light exercise–focusing on upping my arm workouts and a few ab intervals. I have been taking it easy overall–giving myself a bit more permission to be “lazy,” take it easy, and feel gratitude for my normally healthy body.

***

When was the last time you took a hard fall? How do you cope with an injury?

 

Strategies for Coping with Perfectionism

I’m a self-proclaimed recovering perfectionist. In hindsight, for the first twenty-something years of my life I tortured myself striving for perfection that couldn’t exist; 4.0 GPA, leadership positions in too many clubs, staying in touch with endless people. If I was late to a meeting by five minutes or got an A- on a paper, I was so angry and frustrated with myself. I’d spend so much time thinking about what I should’ve done differently.

I should’ve left ten minutes earlier.

I should have phrased this sentence differently.

art-blueprint-brainstorming-8704

All the “should haves” and wasted energy I poured into my mistakes was exhausting, unproductive, and self-destructive. In the past year and a half, I’ve been working harder to shake this negative self-talk and deeply entrenched perfectionism. I have respect for all perfectionism has allowed me to achieve–a wonderful education, strong friendships, a solid work ethic–but I have also learned a few tools that allow me to ditch the downsides of perfectionism:

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who actually cares? Probably NO ONE, but if someone does care they likely do not know you well and might not be the type of person you want to value in your life.
  2. Will this matter in five years? Most likely not. Think about small mistakes you made five years ago–do they impact your life today?
  3. What am I losing? You’re probably only losing out on time you spent feeling regretful, upset, or disappointed.

agenda-appointment-business-1020323.jpg

Do these things:

  1. Give yourself a hug, maybe even a small kiss on the shoulder–practice self-compassion.
  2. Treat yourself like a friend. If your best friend made this mistake, say to yourself what you might say to them
  3. Distract yourself: watch a quick show, ted talk, or call a friend.
  4. Focus on the positive: sure, one thing in your day went wrong. Now, focus on what went right.

adult-architecture-building-786924

In school mistakes might mean a less than perfect grade and in the professional world, it might mean a frustrated client or a mistake in a presentation. Whatever it is, it’s likely not life-threatening and often we are the ones who suffer most. If you’re anything like me, I highly recommend trying out some of these tips and learning how you can change your perception of perfection.

***

Are you a perfectionist? Do you use any of these strategies?

Relationships: sustaining what matters

My biggest lesson in post-grad life: you have to nourish relationships–and it’s not always easy. I’ve divided my friendships into distinct categories that have helped me think about friendship and moving on in the “real world.”

There are friends who always check in or call me regularly, and I reach out to them an equal amount. These are what I call my natural “give and take” friendships. Occasionally, these fall out of balance during a particularly busy time; a move across the country, a newfound romance, or the holidays–but all in all, steady, easy back and forth. These are few and far between!

Another category of friendship is one that is highly prioritized and requires scheduling to maintain. I have to schedule time with some of these people weeks out, or we likely will never talk. It’s not because one of us doesn’t care–our schedules are simply different or we are in different time zones. For example, one works odd hours in Eastern time and his weekends don’t always line up with the regular work week.

The third category are my “fly by” friends. These are people who I don’t talk to often, and it’s typically brief when we do talk, but they provide support, meaning, and true friendship even in those short interactions. I love these friendships dearly because they exemplify how small interactions can feel so profound and connecting.

There are some people that I’ve learned to let go. Some friends were wonderful friends during the time and place of college. People I grabbed a meal with, went to a party with, or studied for a class with–these are the people who were convenient friends. Still true friends, but not the people I would go pick out of a crowd. I often miss these people and shoot them a text or quick call, but I don’t think much of it. It’s painful sometimes, but it’s a necessary part of moving forward.

Looking back, there are very few friends who I’ve totally lost touch with. Even in college, I was well aware of the importance of maintaining relationships; I had lunch plans with a different person everyday to keep up with the people who mattered to me. I definitely gave my mother to thank for teaching me this lesson early on; she was nearly always on the phone with her friends (scattered all over the country) and taught me the value of friendship from an early age.

***

Have you kept up with your friends? Do your friendship categories look like mine?

The Deep Dark Email Abyss

I recently read a new article called “Killing Me Softly: Electronic communications monitoring and employee and spouse well-being” and I immediately thought of the number of people this issue impacts in the Bay Area, let alone the US at-large. In essence, the study found that the culture of an organization was more important than the actions. A culture that expects employees to check email 24/7 means more than the hours an individual actually spends checking email outside of work. This is a classic example of “spillover“, or stress that bleeds from one area of our life to another.

While this is a mild stressor, I think it is one more example of chronic stress and an inability to “turn off” our brains and simply live in the present moment without worry about the newest email alert or slack notification.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 9.21.43 PM.png

I vividly remember sitting in the car as I was about to go drive off to see Christmas lights with a friend. I was so relaxed, happy, and suddenly inbound slack messages began popping up on my phone. This was 8pm on a Sunday evening; I felt an immediate wave of frustration, but also sadness that my coworker was working on her Sunday night. I felt like I had no choice but to respond right then since she was working on a task for one of my clients and had a question. I saw there and my friend asked, “Why do you have that on your phone?”

I was dumbstruck. My response, “Everyone has it.” Yup, and would you jump off the bridge too? He just kind of looked at me, shaking his head. He did not even have his work email available on his phone. When he left work, he left work.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 9.22.59 PM

It’s not quite that simple at every organization. A culture like this creates such a sense of urgency and an inability to turn off. I even brought my laptop on my one real vacation of the year and responded to emails that easily could’ve waited. One of my clients even told me that I should get offline and go enjoy my trip…

Research shows that its not just the employee that suffers, but also their significant others suffer as well. Just think about the ripple effects that come from one bad workplace. Pretty crazy, right?

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 9.24.24 PM.png

Luckily, I don’t have that experience at my current organization, which is a blessing. I do not take it for granted and fully enjoy my evenings and weekends free from pings of any type. And even if there is a ping, there is not an expectation that it will be answered before 9am the next business day.

I know not all of us are that lucky. So, what are some strategies to deal with a workplace with the expectation of constant communication?

  1. Have a very blunt conversation with your manager–the research is backing you up! It’s not just about you; it’s about your significant others and your on-the-job productivity.
  2. Turn off notifications.
  3. Set the example; when one person sets boundaries, it can set off a positive chain reaction.
  4. Practical tips: leave your phone out of sight or turn the phone off at a certain time each night.

Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 9.25.40 PM.png

***

Do you feel tied to your email? What is your company culture like?

What makes a leader?

I heard about a new study on NPR this morning about what differentiates leaders from “followers.” I think these terms are also far too black and white; leaders and followers exist on a continuum. I have always been interested in what makes a leader lead and a follower follow. In high school, I was definitely a follower. I lacked confidence in my abilities across a number of areas. Why? I’m not sure. Perhaps because I was simply a teenager. It might also be due to the school I attended; I was surrounded by very intelligent people (and generally people on the aggressive, competitive side). I am not aggressive and I would typically rather follow than fight to be a leader over small issues.

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 12.51.08 PM.png

The summer after my freshman year of college, I was lucky enough to be accepted into a summer program focused on Ethics and Servant Leadership. During the program we had the chance to learn more about want it means to be a servant-leader; this completely changed my perspective on what and who a leader is. A leader can be strong, opinionated, and empathetic without being aggressive. This reframe shifted my mindset, now I want to lead because I value my opinions and know I can express them with confidence while having a conversation around what is best for a group or organization.

Screen Shot 2018-08-03 at 12.52.02 PM

So what about this NPR story? Well the study covered in the story found that leaders are those who are willing to make decisions for a group in the same way that they make their own personal decisions. These people trust their logic, instinct, and are willing to accept responsibility for a group outcome. “Followers” typically struggle with responsibility aversion. Being a leader doesn’t mean you are necessarily authoritarian, leaders often reach consensus with a group and then take responsibility for that choice.

At a time when we have such scary models of what it means to be a leader, it’s important that we think about what makes a leader and how we can train people to learn to lead well. Being a leader does not make you pushy, arrogant, or bossy–it means you are willing to take a risk, often for others, and take responsibility for your (or your group’s) actions.

***

What does leadership mean to you? Do you consider yourself to be a leader?

References:

Micah G. Edelson, Rafael Polania, Christian C. Ruff, Ernst Fehr and Todd A. Hare. Computational and neurobiological foundations of leadership decisions. Science: August 2, 2018. DOI: 10.1126/science.aat0036

The reverberations of a loss

Whenever we read an obituary of a young twenty-something-year-old with no cause of death listed, it typically leaves one incredibly sad option: suicide.

I found out that a classmate took his life about a week or so ago; you never would’ve known or guessed by talking to him. I can only imagine the pain he must have been in–so intelligent, thoughtful, and bitingly witty, and he hid his sadness so well.

While I certainly was not close with him and hadn’t spoken to him since graduation, moments like this and seeing such loss creates a space for reflection.

Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 9.33.47 PM

Mental illness and suicide are terrifying things, particularly when we don’t talk about them. Mental illness can take us to scary places.  If you know someone struggling, check in on them. If someone looks sad, give a smile. While these small acts may not make any real changes, you never know what it could mean. While this might sound trite, it’s true. I was crying on the train home about a week ago, and some random stranger gave me his pack of tissues. I’m not exaggerating when I say that lifted my spirits significantly.

I’ve seen so many untimely deaths in the past year and I’ve thought a lot about what it means to live well and what “success” looks like. Unfortunately, I think a lot of us have it all wrong. It’s not about the job. It’s not about the money. It’s not about the great vacation. It’s about the people, the short conversations, the connections, the joy that make the minutes count.

I have been going through a difficult few weeks with the one year anniversary of my ex-boyfriend’s death, and I know some days I’ve struggled to get out of bed and struggled to make it through an hour, let alone a day. These days happen, and when they do, practice self-care by doing whatever you can to feel good. Calling a friend, journaling, screaming into a pillow, getting into therapy. It’s different for everyone, but we have to make this a conversation that everyone can have.

NSPL_Logo

If you or someone you know is struggling, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255 

TED Talk Friday: Why we laugh

I’ve been going through a rough couple of weeks as I adjust to a new job, reach the one year anniversary of a difficult loss, and see a close friend move away. All of these things have left me in a funk and I have not been laughing as much as I usually do. It already takes a lot to get me to the deep, guttural laugh point–and it often kicks in randomly! One of my favorite childhood memories was laughing hysterically with one of my best friends–I was afraid I would hyperventilate! We were simply so deeply joyous and amused by ourselves. In an attempt to make myself laugh a bit more, I watched this video and it definitely lifted my spirits. Laughter is socially contagious at its core–whether it’s in person or in a video.

***
Did you laugh while watching this video? What makes you laugh out loud?