Archive | August, 2011

Finding your Fineprint

28 Aug

When I bought my house I was terrified I would miss something crucial in all of the paperwork I was signing.

The title company guys, the lawyer, and my realtor were ready to shoot me as I read through every line, meticulously extricating anything I did not understand, and carefully asking questions.  Eyes rolled, frustrated sighs escaped when breaths could no longer be held, and each tick of the second hand was an agonizing reminder that there sat a young woman who was making one of the most meaningful investments of her life and did not want to make a mistake.

I’m a planner, a problem-solver, and a solution-focused thinker. But I’m also a feeler, one who can easily emote, and over the years have gotten pretty darn good at being aware of what the weather going on inside of me is all about.  I react sometimes. But most times I am a responder.  I can recognize through the signals my body sends me (thoughts, feelings, and physiological changes) that something is happening– the rain is coming, a hurricane is brewing, or my barometric pressure is rising.

When I’m feeling most vulnerable is when I have a more difficult time paying attention. When I’m experiencing more stress than is typical, or I’m hormonally challenged (we’ll call it this– women, you know what I’m talking about; guys, it’s not a made  up phenomenon), I am more impulsive, may say things I haven’t thought through, or make decisions before I’ve given myself an opportunity to analyze the alternatives.

In the moments I was scraping my way through all of the confusing law jargon of my closing paperwork, I could feel my frustration rising.  The bigger print was taking amazing fortitude to get through, but when I looked down and saw all the fine print at the bottom of each page I had to sit back, close my eyes, and breathe for a minute. I don’t know what the people across from me were doing. I imagine they all had “what the heck?” looks on their faces and furtively glanced at each  other with little smiles…..”she’s about ready to give up” they may have been thinking.  And that’s how I felt! I was on the verge of tears. There was no way I could understand all of what was written in front of me, in stacks and stacks of dead trees!

I made a decision to focus on the fine print– to skim it and understand it. It seemed a worthwhile endeavor. I spoke up, “Okay,” I paused here to take a deep breathe. “I’m overwhelmed, I need your help to understand the important stuff here, what it means, and how it impacts me.  I can’t get through all of this on my own.” They looked back and forth at each other and gathered around me.  Perhaps they felt relieved. The  meeting was moving and they could help to expedite the process. Maybe they genuinely wanted me to feel confident in my decisions and to really grasp the concepts on the pages.

But in that moment, I realized that the fine print on the paper was revealing to me my personal fine print! I was trying to maintain my cool. I didn’t want to reveal my fear. Why? What was the point of hiding it? I felt ignorant.  But did they honestly think I should know all of this stuff?

Our fine print can be those locked away beliefs and values, scripts we’ve written as we’ve experienced life, and how we’ve come to know ourselves.  The words may be ugly, distorted, and reveal nothing of the truth about us. They may contain plots designed for self-protection.  Characters developed within the story of your fine print may act incongruently with what you believe your goals to be.

Just like the fine print we often skip when we’re reading documents, books, or contracts, our fine print is important.  It is revealing of our core drives and motivations. Finding your fine print is crucial to knowing who you are and why you behave and think the way you do.

It’s worth the read when you are willing to take the time.

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Stress is the story you’re writing!

20 Aug

Stress doesn’t happen to us folks….our thoughts happen and they create stress. But guess what– we control our thoughts!

The story you create will convince you of what and how to feel.  It goes in that order– event, thought, feeling, behavior.

“Five clients cancelled their appointments with me this week, Kori. I’m completely stressing about how to make ends meet this  month.  Then the quarterly tax bill rolled in and now I feel completely out of control. I can’t concentrate. My sessions with the clients who are showing up are suffering….I don’t know what to do!”

Event: clients cancelled

Thought: I’m can’t make ends meet this month

Feeling: Overwhelmed, anxious, out of control (STRESSED!)

Behavior: Catastrophizing, ruminating, and poor concentration and performance.

Not ideal.

Task #1: Identify the facts (evidence based)

Fact: 5 clients cancelled

Fact: tax bill was received

Task #2: Identify and dispute the distortions and irrational beliefs

Not fact: I’m out of control ,the world is caving in and I’m being engulfed (this is a thought- not a fact- and has no evidence to back it up; it has never happened )

Not fact: The clients cancelling and the tax bill are connected (“When it rains it pours” type thinking).

Task #3: Identify what you can control

There’s always something you can control– that “always” is your perception.

There is always something you can’t too, and that is change– it’s inevitable. You get to decide where to focus.

Task #4: Assess and bolster your resources

We have internal and external supports that can help us to cope with changing circumstances– buffers, so to speak.

External: friends, family, groups

Internal: self-efficacy (belief in the ability to influence events and have an impact on your life); optimism (viewing events as opportunities for growth and learning); awareness (a sense of reality in time and space and the ability to be present focused)

Stress is a response to a stimulus based on how you perceive the stimulus. If you see, assess, and evaluate your experience, you can control your level of distress. This is mindfulness.

Gandhi said, “Be the change you see in the world.”

And Gandhi wasn’t a stress case!

Mind Expansion

12 Aug

In reviewing some of the sessions I’d had with my mental edge clients this week, I noticed a common thread among them. I’ve seen a strong focus on magical thinking– what “might” happen– and these thoughts leading straight to negative assumptions and then fear, anxiety, and discomfort.  I’ve heard a lot of categorizing and labeling too. The labels are rarely kind or inspiring, and more often take the shape of ugly, fat, guilty, or weak.  And last but certainly not least I’ve seen a pattern of creating a rushed, frantic pace to get things done on a to-do list of epic proportions, leading yet again, to feeling overwhelmed and incompetent.

Okay, I understand the go-go-go mentality. I’m Type A and fill up all of my time. There, I labeled myself. But allow me to define it: 1. An individual with a high level of responsibility; 2. One who takes great pride in accomplishing her work with precision and organization; 3. One who engages in meaningful activities that create opportunities for learning, growth, and advancement in her personal and professional endeavors. Some of you may read this and think “workaholic! She’s just justifying her behaviors!” Perhaps, but here’s the difference.

I see quite a few people most days, so I’m often asked how I’m doing. My answer is usually “Great! Very busy!” And then what has become the inevitable question follows. It pours from people’s mouths predictably, like the ticking of a clock– “Do you ever take time for yourself?”

How do I answer this question? No one is forcing me to go back to school to get my PhD. I chose this activity and so it is for myself. No one demands that I work 12 hours a day. I could just as easily work from home if I chose to. I enjoy being there. So justification? I don’t think so.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this unless I’m operating day-to-day questioning “when am I going to catch a break?” or not sleeping due to significant anxiety or am unable to cultivate meaningful relationships or be with the people I love because of what I perceive I MUST do rather than recognizing what it is I’m choosing to do.

The key word here is “perceive.”  If ever there was a loaded word- this is it.  Perceptions are chock full with values, beliefs, meaning, personal scripts, motivations, and often distortions.  Our perceptions are our reality though, as distorted as they might be! So if we’re thinking “I’m never going to get out from under this huge pile of work,” your reality is that you’re drowning.

In my previous blog I addressed the concept of mindfulness. Inherent in this concept is mind expansion–to see things as they are and to let go of judgments (i.e. the load that perceptions carry). Mindfulness conveys acceptance, awareness, and attunement to “being”.  Rather than honing in on one unrealistic, non evidence-based thought, mindfulness means allowing everything into our mind, remembering that no thought needs to carry more weight than another. We let them come in and we let them go out.

This is what I am working to teach, and I practice it myself. It is Friday night at 8:20pm. I’m on my computer happily writing a blog about a topic I’m passionate about. I ate dinner by myself, not  leaving the office until 6:30pm. Will I label myself overworked and complain about not enough time in the day and not being able to get everything done? I could.  And that thought might creep in, but it certainly isn’t going to hang around. I’m not latching onto it. I’m expanding my mind. I’m making a choice. I’m choosing to be aware and know that my mind can run away with me if I let it. I’m thinking that I left at 6:30 from work and I’m writing a blog. That’s it!

I’m committed to mind expansion and seeing things as they are. Are you?

My Position Statement on Positive Attitudinal Positioning

7 Aug

Not a single day goes by when the words ‘attitudinal positioning’ don’t scroll across the marquee of my brain,  escape my lips, or become a practice I make a point to engage in regularly .  I created it, and I’d feel lost without it.

In my nutrition consulting work I talk of metabolic positioning, The Diet Doc, Dr. Joe Klemczewski’s,  term for the physiological trajectory that  must be reached in order to burn fat most effectively. That position is different for everyone.  I’d feel lost without those words also.

Both of these positions operate on a continuum, and both require, in order for them to be useful,  a re-positioning of the mind and body.  Their purpose is stability, and they demand an awareness of the present condition. Allow me to explain what I mean.

Stop here and assess where you are, what you’re doing, what thoughts you’re having, what your body is feeling. Strange? Do  you constantly find yourself feeling as if you’re just treading water and thinking, “When am I going to get a break?!” or “I have so much to do!”; if you are so used to ‘doing’ and find yourself filling the time when the time could be spent resting; or if you find yourself in the grocery store line ready to blow a gasket when the cashier has to call customer service for the patron in front of you, you’re due for some repositioning.

The lady on the Garmin likes to call it “recalculating.” She’s quite annoying (but only when you’re thinking too far ahead about your destination and not getting there on time!), but smart nonetheless. She recognizes that if the direction you were going in didn’t quite pan out how you thought it would, you can redirect your efforts and try again. We could take lessons from her in staying present-focused. She’s right there, in the moment, assessing the situation from the intersection at which you’re idling.

“Kori I realized this week as I was practicing being more present that I’ve always been operating from a place of go-go-go. I’m always looking ahead at the future. Okay, finish college, get a job, acquire my license….maybe go to grad school, do some traveling nurse work….I had it all mapped out. When I left my boyfriend to move for my final couple years of school, and he said he wanted to come with me, I freaked out. How could that work? He wasn’t on the map!”

We agreed, however, that the map has many different roads leading to the same place. And the map has detours because of construction. And the map has dead ends, bridges to cross, flood plains, earthquake faults, rivers, valleys, and canyons.  The ‘loneliest highway in the world’ is a straight line, and it runs through a desert!

“Then I thought about what you had said about marriage and relationships and how it’s a choice. You know when I told you that I was scared about us growing apart? Like what if he wanted one thing and I wanted another and the same thing ended up happening to us like it did my parents? I had this moment where I realized that I don’t have to let the behaviors and actions of my parents become my own. And everything IS a choice. I can choose to move away from him or I can choose to move toward him. I can accept how it is right now but also honor how I’m feeling. I don’t have to move on those feeling, but just recognize they are there! No judgement!”

She spoke of her focus on the opposite end of the continuum, the past. Her mind set her up for living in a manner that had her running from a relationship occluded with the mistakes of her parents. She is realizing through practicing awareness and acceptance though, that she gets to write her own script. But it took her being present to recognize how she was being guided by unrealistic thoughts.

Attitudinal positioning is just this–recalculating to a position where you will idle for a while. Just be.  Author and stress reduction expert, Jon Kabat-Zinn speaks of meditation in virtually the same manner. “Meditation is really a non-doing. It is the only human endeavor I know of that emphasizes being where you already are. Much of the time we are so carried away  by all the doing, the striving, the planning, the reacting, the busyness….we tend to have little awareness of the incessant and relentless activity of our own mind and how much we are driven by it.”

In the spirit of honoring my own quirkiness, I will tell you that I often talk to myself. When I do I’ve noticed that I’m breathing deeply. Centering behaviors for me like this have become habitual now over years of practice in  being mindful. “We’ve all got minds…” says Dr. Zinn, “…we seem to need to ‘re-mind’ ourselves  (of that )”.  Talking out loud is my reminder. “Wow, Kori, that was a strange thought. Where did that come from?” Recognize that the thought was not “Wow, Kori, that was a stupid thing to think.” Present and non-judgmental.

I challenge you to take some time in the coming week to practice just recognizing and tuning in to yourself, remembering that your thoughts are not you. Yes, you read that correctly. They just “are” until you give them meaning. If you need some help as you move forward with your attitudinal positioning, you know where to find me– right here.

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