Is is too late?

Is is too late?

I’ve always loved the weekly ritual of reading the Sunday New York Times. The digital version is nice, but to me, reading the actual paper feels like a tradition and therefore more comforting.  However, if a week goes by and I haven’t finished the previous Sunday Times, I fall into my own little hell of newspaper guilt.  Sometimes the piles of my FOMO back issues turn into three issues short of a “Hoarders” episode.  It turns out “newspaper guilt” is actually a thing and it’s called “time anxiety”. When I’m unable to read for a few hours in the morning, I become anxious about how I’m spending my time if I’m not actually learning anything. When this happens, I end up feeling like I’m not being useful and purposeful with my time.  

Ness Labs is an excellent resource for all kinds of cognitive behavior information and the author, Anne-Laure Le Cunff explains it this way, “While death anxiety is the fear of running out of time, time anxiety is the fear of wasting your time. It’s an obsession about spending your time in the most meaningful way possible. And when society tells us—or when we interpret signs from society as saying—that it’s too late to achieve a particular goal, we don’t perceive it as meaningful enough. We need—we demand—that what we do with our lives actually matters.”  

“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
                                       ― Jack London

This rings true with most of the midlife professionals I’ve spoken to over the last year or so.  Many feel like they don’t want to waste a minute because they want their lives to mean something.  They also said things like,  “It’s not a feeling of a midlife crisis.  It’s more like a feeling of wanting to grow, learn and start over - the second half is my chance to get it right.” Others talked about wanting to add value in their lives and their fear of wasting time on frivolous things was a top concern.  Below are four suggestions in order to mitigate time anxiety.

  1. Question what you really love to do
  2. Carve out time for that (sounds easy) but with overall anxiety in the air, it’s not
  3. Eliminate distractions: Whether it’s doom scrolling or binge watching “Bridgerton”, prioritize what really matters 
  4. Timebox it:  We all have distractions so setting time limits on them is one way to come back to what you really want to spend time on

For now,  I’ve stopped carrying my Kindle wherever I go and I’m prioritizing my time to make room for more meaningful projects. I know it will be an adjustment but more living in the moment and less time anxiety sounds nice right about now. 

Reviewed & Recommended:

Ness Labs: The psychology of happiness

Psychology Today: Comments on "Time Anxiety"

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On Gratitude

On Gratitude

When I lived in San Francisco, I used to attend Glide Memorial church in the Tenderloin. I loved it because it was a self-proclaimed “counter-culture” church. There were people from different walks of life and Glide celebrated and accepted everyone. I’ll never forget seeing Reverend Douglas Fitch dance on the stage saying, “Ya’ll need to have an attitude of gratitude!” causing everyone in the pews to laugh and cheer him on. It turns out, he was right. Having an “attitude of gratitude” doesn’t cost anything and research indicates that the benefits of gratitude are enormous. It affects all aspects of our lives - which is why it’s often discussed in psychology circles. The impact of having a sense of gratitude has the potential to increase our basic happiness.

Shifting our mindset to something we’re happy about right now in our current situation is a start. Not always easy during a pandemic and when searching for a job but if we’re always looking for what’s next and always reaching and striving to attain big goals, it’s not an emotionally healthy place. It’s about recognizing the good instead of focusing on the bad. It’s about setting aside time in your day to write down what you’re most grateful for or even say it out loud in your private space. Research indicates that gratitude is so beneficial to our well being that it affects our sleep, it reduces depression and aggression. It even improves self-esteem and mental strength.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

So if it’s so important to have a sense of gratitude for our overall wellness, how do we cultivate more of it? Here are a few ideas taken from Harvard Health Publishing.

5 Ways to cultivate gratitude:

Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can't feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.

Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis.

  1. Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person's impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
  2. Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual
  3. Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you've received each day.
  4. Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
  5. Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as "peace"), it is also possible to focus on what you're grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).

Cheers to more gratefulness in all our lives. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

-Emily & Nick

Reviewed & Recommended:

A New Study Busts All Your Excuses for Not Saying Thank You More

Helping Others Can Help You Cope with Lockdown

7 Surprising Health Benefits of Gratitude | Time

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Combatting Imposter Syndrome

Combatting Imposter Syndrome

A journalist friend of mine said she felt like an imposter at her old job. I said, “What on earth do you mean?”  She said, “I had these feelings that I was not qualified to be here - to write and to be an expert in this field”.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  She was (and still is) an accomplished writer and investigative journalist. She felt like if she asked too many questions, she’d expose her ignorance but if she didn’t ask enough questions, she’d feel like she was trying to hide her mistakes (which she was).

In an article last year by Harvard Business Review called Overcoming Imposter Syndrome by Gill Corkindale, it explains imposter syndrome in detail. “It starts with recognizing it in yourself and others. Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence. They seem unable to internalize their accomplishments, however successful they are in their field. High achieving, highly successful people often suffer, so imposter syndrome doesn’t equate with low self-esteem or a lack of self-confidence. In fact, some researchers have linked it with perfectionism, especially in women and among academics. Some researchers believe it has its roots in the labels parents attach to particular members of the family. For example, one child might be designated the ‘intelligent’ one and the other the ‘sensitive’ one. Another theory is that parents can program the child with messages of superiority: the child is so fully supported that the parents and child believe that he or she is superior or perfect.

Guess What? We’re all Faking It

No one knows what they’re doing most of the time. For people who step out of their comfort zones frequently, uncertainty is a constant.  Almost everyone feels like an impostor at some point in their lives. If you can focus on the fact that those around you are feeling the same sense of anxiety that you are, then pushing through the fear becomes easier. Instead of succumbing to self-doubt, embrace it. Successful people all “fake it until they make it” to some extent, so keep moving forward.

Being Wrong Doesn’t Make You a Fraud

Some people can let a mistake go and the criticism that may result from it. But for others, mistakes lead to longer-term harmful consequences such as self-sabotage. They become paralyzed by fear of making another error. They let their mistakes define them. Remember that everyone makes mistakes and that it doesn’t make you a fraud. The next time you make an error, experts recommend taking responsibility for it, learning from it, and moving on.

4 Steps to Combat Imposter Syndrome

  1. Be Aware:  When imposter feelings come up, pay attention. Awareness is the first step to make a change. Ask what they are about and when do these feelings emerge?
  2. Reframe it: Remember that it’s normal not to know everything and that you will keep learning as you progress in life.  It’s also a win to think of a failure as a learning opportunity instead of a giant mistake.  
  3. Share your feelings: Share these imposter feelings with a close friend. To combat these feelings, it’s much better to discuss it with someone and release those negative thoughts. 
  4. Envision success: Instead of envisioning something bad coming out of a situation, envision success and that can help keep refocus on a positive outcome

Reviewed & Recommended:

Top Books on Imposter Syndrome

Here are the top books on how to combat imposter syndrome and why it happens in the first place.

Books written by psychologists and career coaches on imposter syndrome

Tedx Talk: Do you have imposter syndrome?

Phil McKinney, retired Chief Technology Officer for Hewlett-Packard suffered from imposter syndrome. In this Tedx talk, he shares a secret that he kept hidden for 25 years and the result of that secret being revealed on the front page of a national newspaper. 

Phil McKinney: Do you have Impostor Syndrome ... too? | TED Talk

Podcast by Dr. Caroline Leaf: Cleaning up the Mental Mess

In this episode, she interviews master life coach Kara Loewentheil on how to overcome imposter syndrome, defeat self-doubt, boost your self-confidence, and deal with past hurt and rejection. Kara gives some great tips on how to "unf*ck your brain!"

Kara Loewentheil is a Master Certified Coach with a B.A. from Yale and J.D. from Harvard Law. In the last three years after pivoting from a legal career, she has grown her life coaching business from 0 to 7 figures.

Podcast 133: How to overcome imposter syndrome, silence your inner critic, & boost self-confidence

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Editing in the Second Half

Editing in the Second Half

Chip Conley, Author of “Wisdom @Work” said, “Accumulation is for the first half of life, editing is for the second half.”  Looking at all the things I don’t need or use has been eye opening.  Why on earth did I purchase so many shoes?  And dresses?  And jackets?  Since there’s nowhere to go wearing all those items, it was time to re-think (and stare at) my stuff.  

In his book Stumbling on Happiness,” psychologist Daniel Gilbert says that satisfaction and joy from owning an object quickly wanes.  It’s what psychologists call habituation and economists call it “declining marginal utility.”  As you accumulate more, one’s happiness quotient declines over time. So why do some of us develop strong materialistic values and others don't?  Research indicates that financial and emotional insecurity--lies at the heart of consumeristic cravings. If you care a ton about what others think of you, you might be suscestible to buying more. In addition to that, it’s not money but rather the striving for it, that's linked to unhappiness.

The decluttering process is something many of us avoid - only making it worse.  That might be because it forces us to take a closer look at ourselves. According to Marie Kondo, author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, she wrote, "The process of facing and selecting our possessions can be quite painful. It forces us to confront our imperfections and inadequacies and the foolish choices we made in the past." 

Visually Disturbing

One study by Princeton researchers found that physical clutter in our surroundings competes for our attention, resulting in decreased productivity and increased stress. 

Piles of paper stacked in a corner may not seem like a big deal but research shows cluttered areas have a cumulative effect on our brains. Our brains like order, and visual reminders of clutter drain our cognitive resources, reducing our ability to focus. The visual distraction of clutter increases cognitive overload and can reduce our working memory.  I’ve often said that if something was out of place or a complete mess that it was “visually disturbing.” I didn’t realize how true that statement was and how we can control it which helps reduce our anxiety and depression.  

When we store too much and hold onto things we no longer want or need, it’s another thing to think about and focus on rather than more important things like relationships.  

Tips for Editing Possessions:

  1. Set your timer for 10-20 minutes, and begin "a speed elimination." Move through your home tossing or recycling anything that you no longer want or need. 
  2. If #1 is too severe, give yourself a month and hit it room by room or closet by closet.  After 30 days, the burden of owning too much stuff will be lifted. 
  3. Choose quality over quantity.
  4. Divide your things into four boxes: donate, throw away, keep, and things to sell. If you don’t love it, get rid of it.  Do NOT change your mind and pluck it from the get rid of it pile. 
  5. Consider gifting things on a neighborhood “Free Stuff” post - you never know how you might impact another person’s life.
  6. Envision your end goal - what will it look like and feel like to get rid of loads of unwanted items and clutter?  As a result of your self imposed “cleanse” how much more accomplished will you feel?

“A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. It is life-transforming.” 

-Marie Kondo

Our world has been overwhelmed by consumer pursuits for a long time. Home sizes are growing, but happiness and mental health are not. Too much purchasing has proven detrimental and causes more stress, anxiety, fatigue, and regret in people’s lives.   Changing that dynamic can be life changing (according to Marie Kondo) which is why I’m living by this quote.

Reviewed & Recommended:

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Top Takeaways: 3 Steps to Uncover Your Hidden Strengths for Midlife Professionals

Top Takeaways: 3 Steps to Uncover Your Hidden Strengths for Midlife Professionals

Recap with Amy Krymkowski, Executive Coach

Last week, we had Amy Krymkowski, owner of Better Path Coaching as our guest talk about how mid career professionals can find their hidden strengths, reinvent themselves and create their own career story.  She’s been an executive coach for over ten years and has worked for companies such as, Men’s Wearhouse, Genentech and Challenger, Gray & Christmas.  Here are her answers to our questions:

1. How can a mid-career professional uncover hidden strengths?

Amy said there are many ways to find hidden strengths in mid-career and here are a few ideas on how to get started:

  • Ask yourself and others who know you, “What are you known for?”
  • Who has offered to give you feedback?
  • When was the last time you discussed your strengths and skills with someone?  
  • Have you completed an assessment lately?  
  • Write down your strengths and your weaknesses
  • There is a book called, “Positive Psychology” as well as a website which includes a pdf regarding tools to use.   They talk about the process of how to look at strengths and weaknesses and provide exercises.  Positive Psychology Exercises
  • BOOK REFERENCE:  Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton. 

    The authors suggest a true strength meets three criteria:

  1. You are good or have the potential to be good at it.
  2. You are energized by doing it. 
  3. It benefits something greater than yourself. 

2. We talked about a book called “Working Identity” by Herminia Ibarra – she talks about mid-career reinvention. What advice resonated with you and helped your clients?


Dr. Ibarra talks about two approaches to change or transition:
Answer-driven or Process-driven.

Answer-driven:

 “I want to get from A to B” so I will make a plan and execute.” 

In this example, the focus is on the outcome and it creates the strategy first and then moves to action.

Process-driven:

I want to apply my skills in a different way, how can I make that happen?”  

In this example, Amy explained there are more experimentation and active learning. 

My biggest recommendation is to act your way into a new way of thinking and being.  She explained that clarity can come through action and the key is getting “applied experience” one needs in order to make the transition you want. 

An online resource by the Author, Dr. Dawn Graham who wrote, Career Switchers is incredibly helpful for people going through a pivot. Linkedin Learning: Switching Your Career | Dr. Dawn Graham on Careers (free for premium members of LinkedIn and it’s an hour long).

Dr. Dawn Graham offers some examples of “applied experience”, which include:

  • Create your own internship
  • Side hustle
  • Contract or temporary work
  • Volunteer inside and outside of your company

 

Here are the "Different Stages of a Career Transition" (by Dr. Ibarra and William Bridges):

  •       Beginning - Shedding old identity
  •       Middle – Morphing, bridge between the old and the new
  •       End – New Beginning, clarity on your destination and ideas for next steps

How can a mid-career professional create their own career story?

Career stories are a narrative about your professional life that tells the listener some highlights about why you have chosen your career path and where you hope to take it.

The narrative ideally describes your top strengths or superpowers backed up with clear examples of how you’ve put them into action and how they are relevant to the role or opportunity you want next.

You will want to do three things to get started:

  1.  Decide what narrative you want to tell and define the major chapters of your career.
  2. Draw out and the key accomplishments and roles from your career history that reinforce that narrative and helps make the story cohesive
  3. Bring it full circle in terms of why you’re interested in a particular position/role and how you add value/make a difference

Career stories can be conversation starters, especially when networking or interviewing.

  • It helps you stand out from your competition,
  • It’s a way to explain any employment gaps or job changes you made
  • It can help others learn about your career choices and aspirations
  • It could result in advice from others and job leads

Amy created a template to help get started in developing your career story.

Click on the following link to take a look at Amy’s infographic – Defining Your Career Story

Here is another article from The Economic Times on how to best create your career story.

Finally, here is the link for the full webinar conversation. Hope you enjoy it!

3 Steps to Uncover Your Hidden Strengths for Mid-Career Professionals

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Setting Boundaries

Setting Boundaries

A pandemic, giant forest fires, joblessness, kids learning from home are all becoming a regular part of life.  Although people show their resilient side during difficult times, tension has a way of increasing when too many pressures pile up.  This is why setting healthy boundaries should be part of every midlife wellness plan.  If we happen to be people pleasers, setting personal boundaries is even more important.  It’s a way to gain more control, build better relationships and be mentally ready for whatever comes next.

Over the weekend, my friend experienced a panic attack from anxiety.  Half her body was numb, her heart was racing and she was hyperventilating.  She was rushed to the emergency room where she thought she was having a heart attack.  She’s 54.  She had been helping her sister when others in her family weren’t able to and felt compelled to be the hero.  Putting others' needs ahead of herself wasn’t healthy and this was her wake up call.

Authors Gary Lundberg and Joy Lundberg wrote this description of boundaries in their book I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better: “Personal boundaries define you as an individual. They are statements of what you will or won’t do, what you like and don’t like, how far you will or won’t go, how close someone can get to you or how close you will get to another person. They are your value system in action.”  They also wrote, “Having a strong, comfortable belief in your own value system means you have choices and must take responsibility for your thoughts, beliefs, and actions.” So clarifying our boundaries in order to make sure others respect them is critical in order to have a healthier outcome. 

Tips on Setting Boundaries:

  • Whose problems are they? Know which problems are yours and which problems are theirs. When people lash out, it’s typically because of their own insecurities and other life events they are dealing with that have nothing to do with you.  Although we can’t control what others say or do, we can control our response.  It’s OK to distance ourselves from someone who oversteps our boundaries and makes us feel uncomfortable.  Taking responsibility for your own actions helps as well.

  • Articulate it calmly: State why someone’s action was disrespectful or hurtful and that you’re not going to tolerate it.  It’s not about pushing them away but it is about clarifying your own values and beliefs and honoring what is and is not OK.

  • “That doesn’t work for me”: Although someone’s behavior may not change, your steady and consistent response will provide a mental safety zone. Have a few “no thank you” phrases and stick to those responses. Being consistent will help overcome any doubts or miscommunication.  When things feel overwhelming and people are asking for too much or push their agenda in some capacity, remember that saying “no” helps boost your own confidence and overall wellness and ability to have healthier relationships.  Looking out for yourself is important so put your oxygen mask on first.

  • Lean on your friend network:  Having a solid group of friends who provide honest feedback and lift you up is beyond helpful during a stressful time like the one we’re in now.  Happy hour Zoom calls have been a blessing.

As Caitlin Cantor, author of a recent Psychology Today article wrote, “No one else can decide what is acceptable to you besides you. If someone isn’t respecting your boundaries, you don’t have to wait helplessly until they do. You can take action to take care of yourself. You have more power than you realize, but you have to stop blaming others and start taking ownership of your life.” Amen.

Reviewed & Recommended: 

Psychology Today: Set Clear Boundaries and Stop Accepting Less Than You Deserve 

Huffington Post: Brené Brown: 3 Ways To Set Boundaries 

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