Sunday, November 12, 2017

How do you play a waiting game?

© Can Stock Photo / Evgeniy_p
When we had small children and busy schedules, my husband would say "cherish dull moments."

But moments can stretch and become uncomfortably long. I teach in a system that has been on strike for about 5 weeks. The end may or may not be in sight, and even if it is, the results of the waiting are unpredictable. For me, it is not a matter of life or death, but it does impact my ability to plan for my business and my life. I don't know if I'll get paid again or when. I don't know how I will manage a too-heavy schedule with few breaks. I don't know when I will decide it's time to make a change, since life is risky either way.

Does this sound familiar? On any given day, many of the people you encounter are playing a waiting game for something not quite predictable and possibly unpleasant. While I've been waiting out the strike, I've been observing the way waiting influences my states and choices. Here are three things I have been doing to stay focused on what I want while trapped in the hallway of life:
  1. Make tangible progress where you can. I've set up a plan for new programs, scheduled the first of them, and gone through them with my team. Whatever does or does not happen, I can point to these courses as things that started while I was waiting. I've also cleaned and reorganized all my kitchen cupboards.
  2. Be mindful of your state. Notice the signs of stress as they show up in your thoughts and your body (especially when you would rather be sleeping). Label these as signals that waiting is stressful. Accept and be gentle with yourself (and maybe with the people around you).
  3. Create interruptions by connecting deeply with other people. There's nothing that uses so much of your brain as being fully present and engaged with others. When you dive into a connection with all your best stuff, you create a break in the endless internal dialogue about what comes next.
  4. When in doubt, watch a good video, listen to a podcast, or read a good book. Learning makes everything better.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Pick five words that describe the way you want to experience your life

The people who study emotions tell us that there are six basic emotions: joy, surprise, fear, anger, sadness and disgust.  If you believe them, then most of your emotions are unpleasant.  This is how people have written about emotions for hundreds of years: as if they pull us down into the mud. The better way to live, the reasoning went, was like Spock in Star Trek. All decisions would be made better by reason alone.

Now we know that people with no access to emotions have a hard time making any decisions at all. It turns out that emotions are a complex signalling system that allow us to know very quickly that our brains have recognized a pattern that might help us or harm us. You can see how all those negative emotions might be useful in this way: they are an early warning system that might allow us to avoid danger, or at least to recognize it when it's all around us.

This is important if you believe that the goal of the human being is to persist, to stay alive. It's certainly a key to understanding how much of our automatic responses work. But that's not the whole story. We don't want to just stay alive; we want to experience our lives as joyful, satisfying, challenging.

© Can Stock Photo / osons

So this week, pick five words that describe how you want to feel. In addition to joy, what words describe the way you want to experience your life? What words describe the way you want to feel?

I guarantee, that after you pick your five words, you'll be more sensitive to how and when those emotions show up in your day.  We don't always get what we aim for. But aiming for a destination makes it much more likely we'll end up there.