Thoughts & Observations

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Sometimes when it comes to new ideas, big plans, and long-term to do lists, all we do is add.

With each conference we attend or book that inspires us, we add things to our list. We set new personal goals, new work goals. We get excited about all of the new things we can potentially do.

And this is all great…except that we often forget to think about whether there is anything we can subtract, anything we can stop doing.

It’s like constantly filling a closet with new clothes and never taking out the items that no longer fit or you never wear.

Yes, add all of the amazing new things, but at the same pause for a minute to see what you can subtract as well.

 

 

 

Thoughts & Observations

Everything Else Can Wait

“Everything else can wait.”

I first heard this phrase from a yoga instructor who offered it as we begin the day’s practice a number of months ago.

It is now what I say to myself when I sit down to meditate.

And what I say when I feel my mind migrating towards my to do list at moments when I want to be present with those around me.

It is what I say when I have a million tasks to do and everything feels urgent but I know nothing is going to get done unless I focus.

Everything feels urgent. Few things truly are. And most of the time, everything else can wait.

Thoughts & Observations

How Do You Feel When Others Shine?

For some, watching another person shine is uplifting – it’s a sign of what’s possible, of how stunning human beings can be.

For others, watching someone else shine feels absolutely horrible – it’s threatening, it makes them feel small, feel jealous, even feel angry or depressed.

I’ve often heard people explain this feeling of threat by saying something like “I’m just naturally a jealous person.” But what does that mean?

I don’t think it’s just about the characteristic of jealousy. The more I read Carol Dweck‘s work, I think it’s about something deeper than that: fixed vs. growth mindset.

The people who find watching someone else shine uplifting are the people who are in growth mindset: they believe that we can all continually improve and become better, that one person’s success is in no way a threat to their own.

The people who find watching someone else shine threatening are the people in fixed mindset: they believe that we are born with a fixed amount of intelligence or talent or natural ability and therefore that everyone is ranked on a hierarchical scale (I’m smarter than you, I’m more talented than you).

Everything then becomes about protecting their rank. When someone else shines, it threatens where they see themselves on the hierarchy. And because they believe that effort is something that you only exert if you don’t have natural talent (and that effort doesn’t really change the natural talent you have that much), they don’t react to that threat by feeling motivated to work harder. They just get angry and depressed.

It’s not a pleasant way to experience the world. And it can lead to things like lying and corruption (see Enron), as those who are in fixed mindset try more and more desperately to protect the world’s view of them.

But for many people in fixed mindset, they begin to see that there is something harmful about their way of viewing the world – they aren’t growing as much as they’d like to or they’re tired of feeling jealous all the time – and the good news is that those who find themselves in fixed mindset can shift to growth mindset. It just takes a little effort.

Thoughts & Observations

Monologue to Monologue

Arianna Huffinton pointed this out at the Wisdom 2.0 conference and I’ve noticed it in one-on-one conversations, in meetings, on panel discussions: instead of truly having dialogue that is responsive to what someone else just said, we simply trade monologues.

One person says their monologue and the other person, instead of truly listening, is simply rehearsing their monologue in their head, waiting for their turn.

In communicating monologue to monologue we never get the chance to actually hear each other or to then truly deepen the conversation and move it forward.

 

Thoughts & Observations

We Are All Opposing Ands

For those who see people in black and white, in mutually exclusive attributes, saying something like “She’s a great person and she’s a horrible boss” just doesn’t work.

Horrible bosses are not great people. Period.

But when we turn that same judgmental eye inward, and closely examine ourselves, we can see clearly how we are all walking contradictions. We are all opposing “ands.”

You can be smart and still do stupid things.

You can be both empathetic and selfish.

And yes, you can be a great person and a horrible boss.

And yet when we judge others, we often use one point of reference – one experience or attribute – to holistically determine their whole character.

There is unfairness in that judgment: imagine if someone were watching a film reel of every second of your life and stopped randomly on one frame – a frame where you were being selfish, or uncaring, or angry – would you want that frame to define the totality of your character? Should it?

We use behavior as a shortcut to help us judge deeper character, and while that is sometimes an effective method of keeping us safe, it can also short change us and distance us from our own innate goodness.

Thoughts & Observations

Do or Feel?

When we think about an upcoming weekend, we often think about what we want to do.

We want to go out to brunch. We want to go for a hike. We want to sleep in. We want to get a work project done.

But sometimes even when we do the things we think we wanted to do, we feel unsatisfied.

Instead, what if we spent more time thinking first about what we want to feel, both during and at the end of the weekend?

Do we want to feel rejuvenated? Reconnected? Caught up?

If you start with the feeling that you hope to achieve and work backwards to figure out what you need to do to get there, you’re more likely to get where you really wanted to go in the first place.

Thoughts & Observations

The Difference Between Winning and Triumph

Winning most often requires that you beat someone else at something.

And therefore not everyone can win all the time.

There is only one person who gets the Gold.

One person who crosses the finish line first.

But everyone has opportunities to experience triumph. And I would argue that moments of triumph are even more important than moments of winning.

Moments of triumph are personal, and they are moments that we can accomplish largely through effort.

We experience a moment of triumph when we’ve never been able to run more than a few feet and we run our first mile.

We experience a moment of triumph when we get back up after we’ve fallen down and we cross the finish line, even if we come in last.

We experience a moment of triumph when we have given something our all and still aren’t sure whether it is going to work, and then it does.

Triumph, in many ways, is the healthier form of winning.