Leaning Into Discomfort

Leaning into Discomfort

Ep. 18 Leaning Into Discomfort

Leaning in is a power principle with multiple applications. Today we’re discussing the power of leaning into discomfort in a specific area. I invite you to stay with me to the end and I have an invitation that I think you’ll accept, even if you never thought you would.

What Does it Mean to "Lean In"?

Have your ever heard the expression, “Lean into the wind?”  

Growing up, my brother and I walked to and from school no matter the weather. Which meant that sometimes we would push forward through fierce storms and arrive at the school building to learn that school was cancelled because buses couldn’t get through the snow. Anyone who has walked in strong wind know that in order to stand up straight in high wind, you can’t just stand up straight, you have to lean forward. You have to lean into the wind. Leaning into the wind means pressing forward in the direction opposite the way the wind blows.

Last summer I did a pioneer handcart reenactment in Wyoming. I don’t know if it has something to do with being near the Continental Divide, but that Wyoming prairie gets a LOT of wind—like blow your tent away in the middle of the night with you in it—kind of wind. And when we were walking and pulling our handcarts, if we wanted to move forward, we had to lean into the wind.

Traditionally lean in has been used in the context of sports to mean “to shift one’s body weight forward or toward someone or something.” In water and snow sports, you can lean into a wave, the wind, a slope, or a turn. You can lean in to a pitch or a throw. You can even lean in to a catch.

The first printed use of the term “leaning into”  comes from Hartley Burr Alexander’s 1906 Poetry and the Individual, where Alexander uses the phrase “leaning into the future” in reference to the power of poetry deriving from its “leaning into the future.” And Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, used “lean in” as the title of her 2013 book, a call for women to embrace challenge and risk in the work place and leadership. All uses of the term “lean in” point to the act of moving forward against an opposing force.

Leaning Into Discomfort

Why would we talk about leaning into discomfort? Why would a nice person like myself, ask you to lean into discomfort?

Episode 12 The Power of Imbalance, has been the most downloaded episode to date. (If you haven’t listened, go there next.)  I think because it strikes a universal instinct in all of us. We don’t like to feel out of balance or out of control or out of our comfort zone. We don’t like to feel uncomfortable. But, as Shawn my personal trainer taught me, growth happens in the zone of imbalance, in the zone of discomfort. If  you never lean into discomfort, you can not grow.

In yoga there is an expression, “Breathe into the stretch.” Yoga instructors emphasize that you shouldn’t push your body to the point of pain, but you should take your body to the point of discomfort, then breathe into that discomfort. Yoga teaches that rather than resisting what feels uncomfortable to move towards it, and in this way your muscles grow. This is opposite our instinct. Our knee-jerk reaction is to move away, to back away, to shy away, or to straight out run away from any discomfort. But, someone the act of leaning into the discomfort, of breathing into it, lessens the discomfort. Keep this in mind as we move to our third point today.

Leaning In to End the Stigma of Mental Illness

Earlier I said I had an invitation that I thought you would accept, if you can stay with me to the end. I invite you (and me) to lean into our discomfort about discussing mental illness.  

When you hear the term “mental illness,” pause to observe your reaction. Do you feel a jolt of resistance? Maybe you really don’t want to hear about it or discuss it. Maybe you feel a strong urge to change the subject or leave the conversation. That’s okay. Whatever reaction you have is okay. I am NOT asking you to change your reaction. I am NOT judging your reaction or saying it is wrong or saying you need to have a different reaction. Not at all. I am simply inviting you to OBSERVE your reaction, your thoughts and feelings, and instead of resisting them, moving away, 0r running away, I am inviting you sit with your discomfort and see what you can learn about yourself. This is an invitation to lean into your emotions. And remember to breathe.

I am assuming that most, if not all of us, have what I would call an averse reaction to hearing the term mental illness. There might be some extremely enlightened yogis and gurus in the world who have no reaction, but most words aren’t neutral. Any word we come in contact with triggers some kind of thought in our brain, which triggers a related emotion. And most of you grew up in the same society I did, with the same social conditioning about mental illness.

And where did that conditioning come from? Movies, stories, experiences.

Did you know that the month of May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and has been since 1949. Congratulations. We are celebrating 70 years of Mental Health Awareness, and you didn’t even know it. I didn’t until this year. Now, think about our social relationship with Mental Illness 70 years ago, 40 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, (that’s when I was seeing doctors and getting confusing, conflicting, and unsatisfactory explanations about what was going on in my brain), to this year 2019. Good news. There have been a lot of positive changes in diagnosis, treatment and understanding of mental illness, largely due to development in brain science.  I feel optimistic and excited that we will continue to progress forward, AS LONG AS and to the extent that we allow ourselves to LEAN INTO the discomfort of entering conversations and getting educated about Mental Illness.

An Interesting Story

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In versus Into

Postpartum Depression with Amy-Rose White Part 2

mom postpartum depression holds baby

Ep. 17 Conversations on Maternal Mental Health (continued)

Episode 17 presents Part 2 of my conversation with Maternal Mental Health Specialist Amy-Rose White, LCSW. We discuss the importance of modeling emotional healthcare for our children as well as what dads, partners, and families can do to watch out for signs of postpartum health illnesses and steps for preventative care. Exciting changes are happening for Maternal Mental Healthcare in Utah, plus Amy-Rose tells us what changes she still wants to see. 

Did you miss Part 1 of this interview? Click Here for Part 1 

Q: Why Is It Important to Model Emotional Health for Our Children?

A: One way to help end the stigma surrounding mental health is to model healthy emotional needs for our children. We can say to daughters and sons, “I’m not well and I’m going to go get help and I’m going to figure this out.” Often it’s not easy to find the right help, the right team. Show your family that you are willing to keep trying, to keep opening doors and walking through until you feel well again.

Allow your children to see that you need rest and to see that self-care is natural and part of wellness. Know your self-care routine and what recharges your battery.  I expect my sons to contribute as community members now so that when they grow up and have partners, and possibly decide to have children, they will take the responsibility on as well. They will help carry the burden of raising children. Especially this generation of women, the “Millennials,” fight the “Have everything and have it all now”  pressure. Up and coming mothers are such high achievers and have a burden of options. The pressure is high, it really is. So it is essential to model caring for self and caring for emotional and physical health. 

Q: What Is Your Advice for Partners?

In the film about Postpartum Depression, entitled Dark Side of the Full Moon, one husband says, “Watch your wife. Keep your eyes on your partner.” I agree. 

  1. Focus on the basics. First, help mom get that 4-6 consecutive hours of sleep as soon as possible. This might mean paying for night nursing or doula care. Good nutrition and drinking two big pitchers of water a day are musts
  2.  Grounding is an anti-inflammatory measure which entail putting your bare feet in contact with the ground. Even in cold months, getting outside in nature, maybe a brief walk around the neighborhood, is healing. 
  3.  Getting a break from children every day.  My OB gave me a prescription for a daily break and it changed my life. I’d never had a medical provider say, “You matter and you have to nourish yourself and take a break. You’re not just a feeding machine. This is essential for you as a human being.” Mom needs an hour break to herself every day.
  4. Watch the signs. If your partner has history of depression or a history of sensitivity to hormone changes, they are at higher risk for postpartum emotional health complications. Other high risk factors include women who have tried three to five birth control pills before giving up because they all made her feel “crazy.” Or if your partner get PMS or Premenstrual Syndrome, watch them carefully during and after childbirth.

If partners can be educated about the warning and also help mom sleep, eat, drink water, and take breaks, these are preventative measures that can go a long way to prevent emotional health changes. Notice what your partner is going through and make the call with her or for her. Going with her to appointments says, “I love you enough that I want to help you get help and we’re going to figure this out together. There is nothing wrong with you.”

Q: How Can Fathers Keep Themselves Healthy?

Ten percent of  dads will develop postnatal depression, so a man also needs to watch out for himself, especially if mom can’t. Warning signs of postnatal illness in men are typically anger or withdrawal. The best remedy is to reach out to a counselor, which is not a guy thing to do. The language centers for men are different than for women. Men tend to need time alone to decompress. Another warning for dads is to be aware that if his partner has an illness, then his risk increases. Often I see that once a women is in remission and recovered, then her male partner gets the symptoms.

It’s a very sad thing I see in my practice, but sometimes relationships do end because of untreated Postpartum Depression. Divorce can occur during the postpartum period because the husband thinks, “This isn’t the person I fell in love with and I don’t see this ever getting better.” Or sometimes the woman might not be ready to get help, or the husband isn’t ready to get help. Postnatal health complications are challenging on a relationship.

Q: Speak to the Positive Side of Postpartum Struggles. What Growth Do You See?

The hundreds of women I’ve worked in say that even though their postpartum struggle was one of the hardest things they’ve ever endured, they wouldn’t trade the experience because of what they learned and who they became in the process of finding healing. Overall, couples who successfully work through postnatal emotional health complication come out with a deeper sense of empathy and compassion for human beings in general, as well as less judgment for women and for other moms.

The struggle creates a deeper connection for this universal experience on this planet of moms. Every mother in every country worries about essentially the same things: if her baby is eating enough and gaining enough weight and will get the education they need. We have a common thread as human beings that suffering brings to the forefront. 

Another positive outcome I often see, and this was certainly true for myself, is a sense of purpose and a calling to connect with other moms and to help women and families to know they are not alone, they are not to blame, and with help they will be well. Which is the message of Postpartum Support International.

Becoming a parent forces you to become less selfish. With a child, you are instantly integrated into the world of babies, preschool, and school, so you have a vested interest in community, school, safety and what our world is becoming. The process is beneficial for our communities, so it’s not a thing to fear. There is a lot of growth that can come through the journey. Like we’ve mentioned, a deeper sense of strength, connection to the human spirit and to moms and motherhood and that we have more in common than we have different. And a desire to contribute and give back

Another positive outcome of postpartum health struggle is the “unlearning” of false beliefs and patterns. A lot of our role models as women were stoic and muscled through pain and illness, often because they had no other choice.  Our mothers and grandmothers did the best they could, but now we are entering a different era where we can model being self-full. A postpartum health journey can help us to unlearn the conditioning of our ancestors to muscle through. Instead we can learn that when I am healthy, strong and centered, then I can be there in service for my children, my family, and for the planet. 

Therefore, focussing on the personal strength you are developing through your postpartum health journey can be empowering. Though it’s a struggle, it can result in positive life changes including developing personal characteristics of empathy and connection as well as breaking down age-old habits and false beliefs.

Q: What Changes in Maternal Mental Health Are You Excited About?

This February PSI-Utah was successful in getting an appropriations measure passed in the state legislature to receive funding for three years to: 1) fund telehealth services for rural moms, 2) increase public health authority’s ability to screen and refer women, and 3) support the development of a new website through the Department of Health which will be a massive resource referral database where users can click on a geomap in your county and find counselors and support groups in your area that take your insurance.

The Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Conference is coming up May 31 and June 1, 2019 in Salt Lake City. This is cosponsored by Intermountain Healthcare with keynote speakers and breakout sessions by postpartum health experts. The conference is open to medical professionals as well as the general public. Information and registration found at psiutah.org or click here. 

A State Subcommittee for Maternal Mental Health came out of PSI-Utah. Through the Utah Women & Newborn Quality Improvement Collaborative and the Department of Health, we are educating clinics  and providers how to screen.Primary Care is where that subcommittee is focussing on improving quality measures and outcomes. Neither medical schools nor social work schools teach Perinatal Mental Health.  

A lot of watch guards are hard at work continuing the dialogue about programs that need funding and increasing capacity for care. 

Q: What Are Changes You Want to See for Maternal Mental Health?

  1. For every woman to be educated about the different possible health complications, what the symptoms look like, and how to decrease her own risks. I want every mother to know that it’s in the best  interest for  her baby to take care of symptoms as soon as possible. To know what to look for and where to go. Part of that prevention is to do things while she feels well. Some postpartum symptoms begin during pregnancy, especially the 3rd trimester. 
  2. Have every person who serves and comes into contact with a pregnant woman to be educating and screening her. The conversation conveys the message that mother matter and we want to be involved in helping you feel well.  Even more, for women not just to be given information, but to know what to do and that there is hope. We need to be proactive and not just crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.
  3. For every woman to know about the resources available through Postpartum Support International (PSI) which is Postpartum.net.  You can click on any state and get free social help. There is also international, Spanish speaking, and  LGBTQ support. You can call a local number and speak to one of 8 or 9 volunteer moms who have been where you are.
  4. My biggest want is that women wouldn’t feel ashamed. It is changeable. Education is key. Understanding that it isn’t a character weakness, that there are physiological changes in the body causing the symptoms. This will take everyone telling stories and going to the State Capitol. Speaking up makes a difference.

Resources:

Amy-Rose White, LCSW:  http://www.arwslctherapist.com/

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Conference May 31 – June 1, 2019 Salt Lake City Utah:  https://www.psiutah.org/2019-perinatal-mood-anxiety-disorders-conference/

Documentary “Dark Side of the Full Moon” Maternal Mental Health: http://www.darksideofthefullmoon.com/

Postpartum Support International UTAH: www.psiutah.org

Postpartum Support International:    www.postpartum.net

The Emily Effect: https://theemilyeffect.org/

Ep. 15 Rally for Healthy Mothers

Vibrant Motherhood

Below is a list of resources and opportunities to Rally for Healthy Moms during the month of May. 

World Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day May 1, 2019

Please sign the petition calling on the World Health Assembly and the UN World Health Organization to officially recognize World Maternal Mental Health Day (WMMH Day), to be commemorated annually on the first Wednesday of May. The next day will be Wednesday, May 1, 2019.

Maternal mental health advocates, researchers, academics, clinicians, and people with lived experiences are committed to improving the mental health support for women during and after pregnancy throughout the world.

https://www.change.org/p/world-maternal-mental-health-day

The Emily Effect

Founded in February 2016, theemilyeffect.org is dedicated to support and provide resources for women and families during and after childbirth. After her death from complications of Postpartum Depression/Anxiety, Emily Cook Dyches’ family and friends started TheEmilyEffect as a way to expand the conversation about and end the stigma surrounding Perinatal Mood Disorders. The Letters of Light section is a library of real women’s stories about journeying through Postpartum Illness. Women also share their stories through Videos of Light on TheEmilyEffect YouTube Channel

On today’s podcast episode, I share my story about the twists and turns of life that led me to volunteering with TheEmilyEffect. 

You can read my own Letter of Light herehttps://theemilyeffect.org/project/maleah/

Or watch my Video of Light here: [not yet published]

Climb Out of Darkness

These hikes are the world’s largest fundraising events to support the mental health of new families. Organized through Postpartum Support International (PSI), these local hikes bring women and families together to symbolically climb out of the darkness.

For more info on joining or organizing a hike in your area, visit: https://www.postpartum.net/join-us/climbout/

The Utah Valley Climb Out of Darkness Event will be Saturday, May 11th at 9:30 a.m. at the Battle Creek Falls Trail in Pleasant Grove Utah. The hike is one hour round-trip with a fair amount of incline leading to a beautiful waterfall. The short hike is kid-friendly. Bring your spouse, children, parents, best friend, or a new mom you want to support. 

For details or to donate click here .

Be Your Own Best Advocate

It is up to us as mothers to promote change in postpartum diagnosis and care. No one will solve the problem for us. Speak up. Use your voice. Be clear to doctors and health care providers about what you are experiencing. Demand satisfactory answers. Question diagnoses and treatments that don’t feel right. Ask clinicians to look beyond the “mood disorder” to find, explain, and treat the physical malfunction that is causing the emotional symptoms. 

Ways to Speak Up and Get Involved:

Share Your Story:

 https://wmmhday.postpartum.net/blog/

theemilyeffect/lettersoflight

 

Share Your Story

Ep. 14 What Rumpelstilskin Teaches about Curing Depression

The Power of Naming

The name depression implies personal weakness.

And people would rather be sick in secret than be perceived as weak in public.

Cure "Depression" by Changing its Name

I have an idea. A theory.

I think that one reason Depression (and resulting suicide) is a rampant problem in society is because we are calling it by the wrong name.

And I propose that we will never successfully eradicate  this disease UNTIL we identify and address it by its accurate name.

My thesis for today’s podcast is three-fold.

First: That using the word “Depression” to name a disease is a misnomer.

Second: That calling “Depression” by the wrong name leads to incorrect or insufficient treatment to cure the disease. 

Third: I propose that the simple solution of changing the NAME of the diagnosis from “depression” to a term that more accurately fits the physical causes of the disease will result in a decrease of resulting suicide, length of time suffered, and an increase of pro-active treatment.

Why "Depression" is the Wrong NAME for the Disease

Depression is an inaccurate name because:

  1. Depression is the name of an emotion, not the name of an illness. And not everyone who feels the emotion of depression has the disease the word is attached to. 
  2. Depression is only one of many possible symptoms of the illness.
  3. Not everyone who has this disease will have the one symptom it is named for.
  4. Depression can be a Symptom of Many Different Illnesses

Depression is an Emotion, Not a Disease

Have you ever been depressed? Yes! Depression is a human emotion. Feeling depression doesn’t mean you have the disease that society currently calls “Depression.” Why do we have an illness named for an emotion? The name “Depression” 

Depression is a Possible Symptom, Not the Cause

The term depression doesn’t go far enough. It stops at a symptom and doesn’t continue to address the root of the issue. Depression is an emotion, not a disease. Depression is a possible SYMPTOM of the illness, but it is not the illness. It’s like saying “Jody has low energy” and stopping there. When, if fact, Jody has anemia. Low energy is a symptom, not the cause. Low iron levels in the blood in the cause.  The name “Depression” puts all the focus on a symptom rather than focussing on treating the cause. 

I have had doctors explain to me the physical causes for “depression” such as low levels of brain neurotransmitters or malfunction in chemical absorption by the neuron synapses. So there is a physical cause. There is a malfunction in the body, in the brain specifically, yet we continue to call the disease after an emotion rather than for the physical cause. Diabetes is caused by the body not making enough insulin, but we don’t call the disease Shakiness or Exhaustion, we call is Diabetes.  

The fact that depression is only one of many possible symptoms of this disease increases the confusion caused by this misnomer. Other symptoms can be insomnia, significant weight loss or weight gain, loss of appetite, muscle pain, moving slowly, difficulty concentrating. Furthermore, it is possible for a person to have this “disease currently known as depression” without experiencing the symptom of depression. I did not treat my illness currently known as Postpartum Depression because I didn’t feel depressed. I didn’t feel well. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep. I ached everywhere and my body felt heavy as if I were made of concrete. I moved slowly. I lost a lot of weight, not in a good way. My head was always foggy. But I didn’t feel “depressed.” And failing to treat the physical causes of my disease caused my overall health to get worse until I also had auto-immune disease and chronic illness. 

The inaccurate label “depression” hindered me from getting correct treatment.

Depression Is a Symptom of Many Illnesses

Another reason that the term “Depression” is a misnomer is that it’s too broad. The feeling of depression can be a symptom for multiple diseases, like head injuries, cancer, or MS. Also we can experience depression without having a physical disease. We can experience depression while grieving a loved-one’s death or after losing a job or because it’s winter and there’s not enough sunlight. Depression is a common and variegated emotion. I can feel depressed in the morning and be happy by afternoon. So to call a real brain illness after such a kaleidoscopic EMOTION, seriously interferes with treating the disease.

Calling it Depression Causes Misdiagnoses and Treatment

The name Depression deters people from seeking treatment and taking steps to heal the disease.

The word “depression” connotes a character flaw. The term “depression” does not separate the person from the illness.  Why? Because we identify with our emotions. Our emotional state is linked with our personality. We describe people by their emotions:  He’s a jolly person, a happy person, an energetic person, she’s a sluggish person. She’s always “down.” We even have a nickname for this personality type: “Debbie Downer”  Calling a disease after an emotional state creates a false perception that a person diagnosed with depression has a bad personality. This is viewed more as a personal weakness than a physical issue.

The equivalent assignation for a person who’s had a stroke would be to say, “He’s a mumbler, you can’t understand when he talks. Mumbling is associated more as a character trait. But we don’t say that. We say, “He had a stroke and it’s affecting his ability to speak.”

In most cases we are good at separating the results of an illness from the character of the person. But not with depression. And the social impact is that many people who have “the illness currently known as depression” don’t say anything, don’t seek treatment because the name Depression insinuates personal weakness. And they would rather be sick in secret than to be perceived as weak in public.

Change its Name

Rumpelstilskin had power to take the Queen’s baby unless she could call him by his true name. Calling a physical disease after one possible emotional symptom is like  calling Rumpelstiltskin by the wrong name and then crying as he steals our baby.

I propose we begin by discontinuing the term “Mental Illness” and instead calling it “Brain disease” or “Brain Illness.” The brain is an organ just like the kidneys, lungs, and heart. When the lungs are sick, you can’t breathe well. When the brain is sick, you can’t think right. Thoughts and emotions are processed in the brain through electrical-chemical reactions. If the electric wires malfunction, the thoughts go dark, just like when power lines go down. If the chemical recipes aren’t right, the emotions come out bad, just like using salt instead of sugar when baking cookies. It’s science, not emotion.

So let’s call it by what it is. Let’s name it for the cause, not after one of the numerous possible symptoms. I don’t have authority or the training to come up with the best name, but I propose it be scientific, sound official, and be related to the root cause of the ailment rather than a resulting emotional symptom.  

For example, the term diabetes is shortened from Diabetes Mellitus which comes from the Greek word diabetes which means to siphon – to pass through and the Latin word mellitus meaning honeyed or sweet. This is because in diabetes excess sugar is found in blood as well as the urine. Excess sugar is siphoned through or passes through the blood. This name helps us to focus on treating the cause of the illness rather than concentrating on the idea that in the United States we currently have over 100 million people who can digest their food properly.

Recently my son was experiencing lack of focus, bouts of anger or depression, head fogginess, and headaches. I dreaded hearing the diagnosis “Depression.”Rather he was diagnosed with Postconcussive Syndrome. That name empowered us. We know to let his brain rest, to cut back on learning new things like memorizing his violin music. He told his school teachers who were understanding and willing to accommodate if he needed extra time for assignments. It was much easier to tell his teachers that he had a concussion than that he had depression.

Currently, this same care and attention isn’t happening with the disease known as depression. The word Depression holds a lot of judgment and misperception. The stigma surrounding depression interferes with accurate diagnosis and treatment. 

To reNAME this disease will empower us to  perceive & understand in a different, more enlightened way. It will help us move out of the space of impatience. The attitude of “Snap out of it” and “This needs to be fixed NOW!”  and into the place of giving people time and  support to heal.

Ep. 12 The Power of Imbalance

Our goal isn't to achieve balance.

The Power of Imbalance

I used to believe that achieving balance was my life’s goal. I pictured a balanced life as a kind of Utopia, a paradise of bliss and perfection. I believed that once I attained this Promised Land of Balance, I could kick off my shoes, find a reclining chair, and bask in the light of Balance’s Sunny Beaches.

In my mind, I had an image of what a Balanced Life would look and feel like. My balanced life would look organized, clean, planned out. Everything would be in order. In my balanced life I would feel unstressed, calm, settled, grounded, and in control. In my mind, I had a picture of waking up early before my kids, spending time in prayer, meditation, journal writing, exercising, cooking a nutritious breakfast and being on time for every appointment. Aaaah, perfect balance.

My life looked nothing like that. Raising four children, my days were filled with unplanned, unexpected, and often unsavory glitches. Inevitably someone would wake up in the night with the stomach flu and dreams of my “perfect” day would dissolve into mountains of laundry and frantic trips to the store for Pedialyte. 

Thankfully I met a personal trainer who taught me the truth about the Power of Imbalance.

Imbalance Develops Strength

I am not a work-with-a-personal-trainer kind of girl, but my gym membership included six months of free personal training and I never let a coupon go to waste. This is how I met Shaun. He taught me a routine using free-weights, and just as I started to feel confident with the routine, he made me move from the flat floor to standing on a balance saucer. After teetering and falling into the mirror, I complained, “Nothing about this feels right. I feel completely out of control, completely off-balance. I was doing better on the floor.”

Shaun said, “It’s not supposed to feel comfortable. You are not supposed to feel balanced.”

Then Shaun taught me this importance lesson about balance.

Stop focussing on how awkward and embarrassed you feel. Stop worrying that people are judging you. Instead, pay attention to what your leg muscles feel like.  Feel how the muscles are correcting you, when you tilt too far to the right, your leg muscles fire up and grab your body and correct you back to center. It’s the imbalance that is making your leg muscles smarter and stronger. Being off-balance is what’s building your strength.”

Yes, this is another reminder that life is not about the destination. The growth is in the journey. And if the process feels like a struggle, then you are probably doing it right.

Balance Signals End of Growth

We talk so much about achieving balance because balance feels good. Being in balance feels comfortable, and don’t we all just want to feel comfortable? YES! But remember:

There is no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone. 

Once I mastered my free-weight routine on the floor, I felt confident and in control, so naturally I wanted to stay there. But my growth had peaked out. I was no longer challenging my core muscles. Shaun taught me that life is not about achieving balance, life is about struggling to achieve balance.

Think about this: stand perfectly still with your feet aligned side by side. You feel balanced, but you also aren’t going anywhere? There is no moving forward while balanced. In order to take a step forward, you have to tip off balance, shift all weight onto one foot while the other foot moves forward, then shift all the weight back onto the other foot while the other moves. Progress in life comes only through transitory periods of imbalance.

If I am balanced, I am not moving forward. If I am balanced, I am not growing.

Balance is a Goal, but Not a Destination

So why are there a gazillion self-help books about achieving balance? Are they all wrong?

The answer is NO. They are right because we do want to work towards balance. Balance is our goal. However, balance is not our destination.

We often tend to think of balance as a destination and that once you get there, you stay forever, like arriving in Hawaii. I had friends who moved to Hawaii, and they loved it for a few months, then guess what happened? The beaches, the ocean, the scenery became the normal backdrop of ordinary daily routines. When they brought their kids to visit Utah, their youngest exploded with joy at the sight of pinecones and squirrels. 

If Hawaii can become hum-drum, then balance can certainly become boring. 

Here is the sad news about encountering balance: the moment we meet balance, it’s already time to move on. Why? Because it is not finding balance, but the struggle to find balance that moves us forward. 

Myths of Balance

Do you hold on to any of these myths about achieving a balanced life?

Myth #1  Balance is a destination. Once I arrive, I can stay forever.

Myth #2  In order to be successful, I have to achieve a balanced life.

Myth #3  Balance means symmetry, an equal focus on all areas of my life.

If so, try on these truths.

Truth #1: Balance is a goal to work towards, but I don’t want to stay balanced. As a human, I seek growth, which require me to continually step forward out of balance. 

Truth #2: To be successful, I must often struggle through transitory periods of imbalance.

Truth #3: Progress requires extra focus on in one or two areas that sometimes leave other areas a bit neglected. But that’s okay because at another time, those areas will get the attention.

Conclusion

Understanding the Power of Imbalance has helped me to embrace the discomfort of the struggle. While remodeling the kitchen, we may eat too much fast food and cold cereal, but that’s okay. Once the remodel work is done, I can refocus on cooking nutritious family meals. When my garden is thriving, my kitchen is usually a disaster because my counters are covered with squash, cucumbers and tomatoes and a lot of flies. During the winter my countertops stay clean, but I eat canned vegetables. There are times and seasons for everything. When life feels out-of-balance, take some advice from my trainer, Shaun. Stop worrying about how uncomfortable you feel and pay attention to where the growth is happening. 

Ep. 11 Permission to Be Bad at Things

Permission to Be Bad at Playing Piano

Power of Permission

Episode #11 “Permission to Be Bad at Things” wraps up our Power of Permission Series.  Permission is a power principle because too often we remain stuck in place waiting for someone else to give us permission to move ahead. The truth is that no one is a greater authority over my life than I am. No one has more power to decide what I can or can’t do than me. The Brooke Snow Podcast Episode 28 talks about Choosing You. She tells about composing an Opera in college and getting it performed on stage. After the performance, a fellow music student said, “I wish someone would ask me to compose an opera.” Brooke explained that no one had asked or even invited her to compose the score. She decided she wanted to do it and she gave herself permission to try. 

Permission to Be Bad at Things

It is so hard to give ourselves permission to be bad at things. Now I’m not talking about being bad, like rob a bank or burn down a forest. I’m talking about wanting to learn to sing or play an instrument or write a book or learn to golf and recognizing that we are not very good. When I taught piano lessons, my adult beginning students struggled far more than my young beginning students. Adults don’t like begin beginners. We know how that Beethoven Sonata sounds, and we are painfully aware that our feeble attempts at plunking out Hot Cross Buns is miles aways from real music. We can see the end project and we want to be there now. It’s awkward and embarrassing to be a beginner. 

Perfectionism Can Impede Growth

Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good. 

John Steinbeck in East of Eden

Knowing that we’re far from the final goal can prevent us from even starting. When we want desperately to be a good singer, a good writer, it is painful to be bad. And that is precisely why we must press forward anyway. In order to be good, we have to be bad first. There is no fast pass, no short cut to being an expert. In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell explains the theory that it takes 10,000 hours for a person to become an expert in any area. Of course there will be exceptions. There is natural aptitude to consider, but for the average person, 10,000 hours of practice is required to develop the skill, wire the brain, development the muscle memory, build vocal muscle or hand muscle or coordination . . . whatever is needed to perform any particular skill.

Write the First Bad Draft

I remember vividly my first writing class ten years ago. Our teacher tried to explain the long and painful road to becoming a published author. I scoffed at Malcolm Gladwell’s suggested 10 years. I genuinely believed I would write my story idea in a few months and spend one year perfecting it. Then I discovered the writing, like any art, takes practice, and training, and learning, and coaching. It was incredibly more challenging to get the “perfect” book out of my head on written on paper. In the process it became a jumble of restless words, which like wild horses, need to be tamed in order to be useful. I attended writing conference, glued myself in my writing chair day after day, asked people to read my rough drafts, sought critique, and did a lot of re-writing. As soon as I stopped trying to write the next best-seller and focussed on writing my next best draft, my writing sessions became more productive. 

Show Up As You Are

Perfection can actually be boring. Have you experienced witnessing a feat performed so flawlessly that it looked too easy? Often, when a performer makes a mistake, we appreciate more the difficulty of what they’re attempting. So don’t be too worried about trying to be perfect, or famous, or gain fortune. Instead, go ahead and give your permission to try. Become an abecedarian, a word which means “to be a beginner.” Be willing to be bad at it and give yourself permission to keep being bad until you get better. Because you will improve. Give yourself the permission to be perfectly imperfect. Give yourself permission to be bad at something. Give yourself permission to be a beginner and to improve at your own rate. Give yourself permission to be proud of your accomplishments. Give yourself permission to be you.

Ep. 10 Empower Kids Through PLAY

Empower Kids Through Play

Empower Kids Through PLAY

“The opportunity for kids to freely engage in play with one another has diminished considerably over the last 50 years.” Michael Yogman, AAP

Research shows one of the best ways to empower kids is through play. Play helps kids develop problem-solving, decision-making, and risk-taking skills that prepare them to be successful adults. However, play has decreased steadily. The ramifications are becoming so serious that doctors are prescribing play as a remedy for many ills. The American Academy of Pediatricians is encouraging doctors to implement a Reach Out and Play campaign to correspond with the Reach out and Read initiative. Doctors are asking parents to protect and even to enforce playtime.  Episode 7 discussed four specific ways to give yourself permission to add more play to your life. 

What is PLAY?

According to research by Dr. Rachel White: 

PLAY IS PLEASURABLE: Children must enjoy the activity or it is not play.

PLAY IS INTRINSICALLY MOTIVATED: Children engage in play simply for the satisfaction the behavior itself brings. It has no extrinsically motivated function or goal.

PLAY IS PROCESS ORIENTED: When children play, the means are more important than the ends.

PLAY IS FREELY CHOSEN: It is spontaneous and voluntary. If a child is pressured, she will likely not think of the activity as play.

PLAY IS ACTIVELY ENGAGED: Players must be physically and/or mentally involved in the activity.

PLAY IS NON-LITERAL: It involves make-believe.

Play empowers kids because it is intrinsic rather than extrinsic. The benefits of play are internal (for the individual) rather than external (associated with outside approval or award). Play is self-chosen and the players are free-agents, meaning they can stop at any time. Because play contains non-literal elements, it buffers the individual from real-life consequences and provides opportunities to practice and grow skills essential to living in our complex world.

There is a difference between accumulating knowledge and developing skills. Emphasizing math, reading, and writing at younger ages has forced teachers to remove playful elements from early childhood education. But learning new skills is best facilitated by social, playful interactions where risks can be taken with little consequence. The emphasis on performance measured by test scores is diminishing opportunities to learn from mistakes, even when failure is often the best teacher.  

Benefits of PLAY

According to a report of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Play is not frivolous: it enhances brain structure and function and promotes executive function (ie, the process of learning, rather than the content), which allow us to pursue goals and ignore distractions. Play is fundamentally important for learning 21st century skills, such as problem solving, collaboration, and creativity, which require the executive functioning skills that are critical for adult success.”

Benefits of play are numerous and well documented. Play with parents and peers is fundamental for the development of safe, trusting relationships. Play regulates stress levels. Studies have shown that the lack of play increases ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Play develops the learning process, incites creativity, problem solving, and risk-taking. Specifically, play develops language and math skills and improves concentration. 

How to Empower Kids through PLAY

1. Lower the Stakes 

As parents, we can empower kids through play by making sure that for every performance-based activity kids are signed-up to do, they have equal opportunity for unstructured, experimental play. An AAP report states:  “Parental guilt has led to competition over who can schedule more enrichment opportunities.” As parents, organized activities like lessons and competitive sports feels good because they have measurable results which validate our investment of time and money. As adults, we like the structure of consistent time, date, location for activities. The unmeasurability of unstructured play can be a barrier. Which lead us to principle #2: 
 

2. Build Trust Through Play

Dr. Hank Smith, Ph.D conducted his doctoral research in developing trust in educational systems. He discovered that play is a powerful way to build trusting relationships. He found that one of the best ways to repair a struggling relationship (particularly a parent/child relationship) is through play. Get on the same level as your child and do something they love. Don’t talk about grades or problems or instrument practice. Playing together helps kids to know that they matter. You love spending time with them for who they are. They are valuable to you outside of their performance on a report card or in a soccer game. 

Play becomes even more essential in times of family crisis. In the midst of divorce, death, serious accident or illness, job loss, or jail sentence, it seems counterintuitive to play. However, play is exactly what will ease stress and remind family members that it’s possible to experience pockets of happiness in the middle of tragedy. Play helps all family members to grow through the struggle and to develop resilience and personal strength. 

3. Embrace the Mess

Play is messy. The toys buckets will be emptied. The legos and blocks and train set will be strewn across the floor. When our children were young, my girlfriend said the best thing to me. She said, “I love when my house is messy because it means my kids are playing.” Those blankets and beach towels that were folded so neatly in the closet are going to be stretched across the furniture to make forts, which means that every heavy book from the shelf is stacked to hold down the blankets.

Play doesn’t necessarily help with housework. On days that I’ve just mopped and vacuumed, I almost prefer my kids to watch TV instead of play in the sand box. In order to promote unstructured play, as parents we need to lower our standards of tidiness and embrace the mess. 

4. Trick Your Kids Into PLAYING

You know as well as I do that if command our kids to play, they protest. This is because play must be self-chosen. As parents, we can apply a bit of reverse psychology. When my kids have been staring at screens too long or are complaining about boredom, I give them a chore to do. This is a “nonessential” chore. Something like cleaning out the junk drawer in their bedroom, weeding the garden, washing the car, or organizing the game closet.

These are chores that I know will quickly devolve into play, and that’s okay because that’s what I wanted all along. Five minutes into sorting his junk drawer, little Johnnie will be exploring his imagination. One or two weeds might get pulled, but more likely the garden hose will get turned on and there will be a dirt castle surrounded by a muddy moat will appear next to the squash plant. Inevitably the bedroom, closet, and yard will end up more disorganized that they were to start. And that’s okay. That’s when I will smile and say, “I’m happy because my kids are playing.” We have plenty of opportunities to teach chore completion and organization at other times. For today, play is the priority.

Channel Your Inner-Child

Children learn best from example. As parents, we can model playful behavior by engaging in hobbies, being spontaneous, and taking time for activities we enjoy that don’t have any external benefits such as earning money or receiving an award. If you have children in your life, you are lucky. Being around children helps to re-prioritize our lives and help us tune in to our inner-child. There are myriad opportunities to volunteer for kids through Big Brother Big Sister programs, the YMCA, school PTA programs, or foster parenting.

The bottom line is to change our mindset that play is a waste of time. In truth, play can often be more productive than work. So give yourself permission to bring back the Power of PLAY.

Ep. 8 The Power of PLAY to Beat Winter Blues

Play to Beat Winter Blues

The Power of PLAY to Beat Winter Blues

How do you beat winter blues? Does anyone else get sort of bluesy during the winter? After moving from year-round sunny Arizona to four-season Utah, it took me a few years to realize that the sluggish, gloomy, “can’t seem to get my motor going” struggle wasn’t me. Phew, it isn’t a character flaw— or maybe it is, but at least it’s a temporary character flaw. Snow and freezing wind in December is fine. I love a white Christmas. I’m even game for some snow-man building and downhill sledding in January, but as February d-r-a-g-s into March and the sky is still gray and gloomy, I become convinced that I will never see the sun or green grass again. I want to stay hidden under my bed covers and it seems to take a Herculean effort to get me out of bed and moving in the morning. 

Learning that my wintertide melancholy was a real thing (seasonal affective disorder) and was common (I’m joined by 10 million Americans), I felt empowered to take back my February & March and rediscover my winter wonderland.  Here are three ways I’ve given myself permission to play away the winter blues. 

Finding a PLAYFUL Way to MOVE My Body

Exercise in snowy winter was a challenge for me since my go-to routine was out-door walks. But I dislike slipping on icy sidewalks. I’m a wimp in cold weather. So after a series of immobile winters I knew I had to figure out a way to keep moving from January until the sun came out again. If not for my own mental health, then at least for my family’s.  I tried the treadmill at the local rec center, but running in place like a hamster—not super exciting. I needed a fun, playful way to move. Something I could look forward to. Something I would actually want to leave my warm, cozy bed covers to do. 

A minitrampoline!

Perfect.

I’d read about the multiple benefits of kinetic jumping, from clearing the lymph nodes and boosting your immune system to stimulating a sluggish thyroid and increasing Serotin levels. I needed all of those benefits to help beat winter blues.

And jumping on a trampoline felt a lot more like play than like exercise

Santa’s elves brought me a minitrampoline for Christmas and I spent the rest of January, February and March jumping my way right out of winter blues.

PLAYING Outside Again

While waking up and jumping to 80s cardio tunes got me out of bed in the morning, I still struggled with feeling cooped up indoors. It was time to make a decision.  I decided that winter was cold and that I could still go outside. Mind-blowing, I know. But it was for me. I just decided that I could still go for walks outside. I could put on gloves and earmuffs. My nose would turn pink and drip and I would live. I changed my mind that walks had to happen first thing in the morning and I started going for walks at lunchtime.

Miracles happen when I make a decision, when I set an intention: a friend starting inviting me for spontaneous afternoon walks. This winter I have spent more time outdoors and the cold hasn’t bothered me. I feel more energized. I don’t feel like I’m dragging through winter. In fact, I can hardly believe it’s already March.

Planning a PLAYFUL Winter Getaway

The third way I’ve made winter more playful is to give myself permission to take advantage of opportunities to getaway. If my husband has a business trip, I give myself permission to ask for help with the kids and tag along. A change of scenery (especially if the weather is warm!) is effective medicine for winter blues. I’ve also found that winter is a great time to go on a writer’s retreat. The kids have fewer sports activities, I’m not as occupied working in the yard & garden, and I can usually find great rates on an airbnb. Holing away with a mug of hot chocolate and a manuscript feels like medicinal hibernation. And I get a lot of work done, too.

For moms with young kids, an overnight getaway may not be in the cards, but you don’t have to travel far or spend money to have a change of scenery. One of the most healing things I discovered when my kids were young was to getaway one night a week to the local library where I could curl up in a couch with a stack of the most recent periodicals and read short articles (nothing too brainy) or even just flip through the pictures. If you’re an introvert like me, any time alone is extremely recharging. If you’re an extrovert, you probably want to plan a night out with friends. In either case, looking forward to some adventures on your calendar will help winter feel more exciting than tedious. 

Make Winter Fun

The bottom line is that while winter is cold and gray, it is also  magical. Giving yourself permission to play through winter helps you maximize the benefits of winter and diminish the gloom. Find fun ways to stay active. Find a local state park with inexpensive ski rental options. In Utah, the Wasatch State Park offers a $12 cross country package that includes all the equipment rental. This makes a great Saturday afternoon getaway adventure. 

Have some fun discovering your winter adventurous self. Making a decision to be more adventurous and giving yourself permission to be more playful can really help to beat those winter blues. 

Ep. 6 Permission to be Happy

Happiness is not a Destination

Permission to BE HAPPY

I learned this past week of two more young adult suicides. This is an epidemic. We are losing too many beautiful people to unnecessary deaths from treatable diseases. I remember being stuck in darkness that felt so real, heavy and impossible to fix. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t know how to continue existing that way. There were many factors that helped me to heal from depression and chronic illness, but the number one thing was learning how to recognize and change toxic thoughts.

Thoughts are real. Thoughts are powerful. Thoughts are electricity and ask anyone who has been struck by lightning or a loose wire how strong electricity is.

Thoughts can convince you that life is so bad that you can’t be happy. Thoughts are so strong they can create emotions of fear, worthlessness, and feelings of impending doom, panic attacks, and the desperate need to to escape. 

In my healing process, I discovered six LIES that my brain told me about why I couldn’t or shouldn’t be happy. I learned to counter those LIES with the powerful ANTIDOTE of TRUTH. 

False Belief #1: I Can't Be Happy Because Life is Supposed to Be Hard

On the drive to music lessons this morning, my husband and son saw a beautiful bald eagle perched in a tree off the side of the road. Seeing an eagle in town is a rare and magnificent siting. They stopped the car to watch its grandeur and expected other drivers would do the same. Instead they were chastised by shouts and blaring horn. And this was on a leisurely country road on a Saturday morning. Other drivers pulled around them in frustration, so busy glaring and making angry gestures that they failed to notice the beautiful eagle. 

Why do we believe that life is so serious? so busy? so burdensome? It is a false belief that life has to be hard. Episode 2: The Power of Want explains that if all we think about are problems, the Universe will give us more problems.

The antidote to this false belief is explained in Episode 4: Permission to Make Life Easier. Give yourself permission to enjoy life, to be happy now, stop and see the eagles! 

False Belief #2: I Can't Be Happy While Others Suffer

My son is living in South Africa. He emailed pictures of a house he was helping to build build. This woman had acquired some land and some supplies and was building her own home. They dug a trench and stood some rough pieces of lumber in the trench to create a one-room, wooden shack. When I see pictures like this, my brain fires a string of thoughts about how unfair it is that I have an airconditioned/ heated home with  a microwave and automatic dishwasher and that I shouldn’t be so comfortable and happy when so many people around the world are suffering. 

This is a version of Survivor’s Guilt, the false belief that I shouldn’t be happy, healthy, and have a good life when others around me didn’t get that chance. Survivor’s Guilt causes people to self-sabotage through addiction or failure or just finding misery.

Truth: There will always be tragedy and suffering happening somewhere in the world, so if we all wait for no suffering, then no one would ever be happy. What’s more, we are powerless to help ease suffering if we are also miserable and depressed.

Truth: People don’t have to have identical lives and circumstances in order to be happy. This South African woman was ecstatic with her house because it was her own, she had worked for it, planned it, and built it. Likewise, I don’t need to have what other peopl have in order to be happy in my own life.

Truth: The Ego feeds on comparison, on being “more than” or “less than” others. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Antidote: Give yourself permission to be happy in your life the way it is and be happy for others the way they are.

False Belief #3: I Don't Deserve to Be Happy because I'm Too Imperfect.

I wonder about these young college students whose lives ended far too early. Did they believe they weren’t good enough? Did they believe they were too flawed, too imperfect to be worthy of life and happiness. Instead of happiness did they feel guilt, worthlessness, and despair?

I caught my brain telling me lies like: “You can’t enjoy this because you don’t deserve it.” “You shouldn’t be happy because you didn’t do enough to earn happiness.” or “You have messed up you own life too much to deserve happiness.”

These are ALL lies!

Truth: Happiness is not based on a merit system. Happiness is an emotion that can only come from inside ourselves and never from any of our actions or accomplishments.

Antidote: Give yourself permission to be Imperfect and Happy. They can coexist. 

False Belief #4: I Can't Be Happy if Other People Don't Approve of Me

While working to heal through depression, my counselor explained that I was Codependent. What? That was a surprise because I thought I was one of the most independent women I knew. But I relied on the approval of others in order to approve of myself. If someone else wasn’t happy with my work, then I couldn’t be happy either.

I had a False Belief that  unless someone else noticed and validate me and my work, then I couldn’t be happy with me.

As a result, I learned to search for happiness inside of me.

Truth: I can be happy even if others don’t notice, validate or approve of me.

Truth: I can be happy even if someone isn’t happy with me.

Antidote: Give myself permission to choose my own happiness.

We need to change how we talk about happiness. “He makes me so happy.” or “I want to find a partner who makes me happy.” Because the truth is that you have chosen to be happy with that person.

False Belief #5: I Can't Be Happy Until . . .

The above image of a highway sign reading “Happiness Next Exit” represents a False Belief that Happiness is a destination and we spend a lot of time wondering how to get there. 

This is the False Belief that we can’t be happy until we arrive at the completion of a certain event or circumstance.

I’ll be happy when:

  • I finish my degree,
  • the baby sleeps through the night,
  • when the toddler is potty trained,
  • the house is clean,
  • the debt is paid off,
  • my spouse changes,
  • my boss recognizes my work, 
  • when my book is published,
  • etc.  

Truth: Happiness does not exist outside. Happiness happens inside. Happiness is here, now.

Truth:  If I’m not happy now, then I won’t be happy when my book is published either. Why? Because happiness is a feeling and feelings are a result of my thoughts, not a result of my circumstances. I can choose to feel happy right now, sitting in the middle of a messy kitchen. The best evidence for this comes from WWII and the stories of Holocaust survivors like Victor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning who learned to find meaning, beauty, and even bits of happiness in the most extreme circumstance of human brutality. And if Victor Frankl can do it, then I know I can be happy now.

Antidote: Give yourself permission to be happy NOW. 

Antidote: Understand that events don’t make you happy. YOU CHOOSE to feel happy and you can choose happy RIGHT NOW. 

False Belief #6: I Have to Be Happy 100% of the Time

Do you ever feel like you have to fake happy? Maybe people expect you to be happy. Maybe they think you should be happy and can’t understand if you aren’t happy. Maybe you think people rely on you to be happy so they can be happy to. It’s a False Belief that we have to be happy 100% of the time.

Truth: I am not responsible for other people’s emotions.

Truth: I don’t have to be happy and chipper all the time. That is a big burden.

Truth: I am meant to experience the range of human emotions. And it is important (and healthy) for me to acknowledge and feel all of my feelings from sadness to disappointment to grief.

Antidote: Give yourself permission to be real, to feel all your feelings and to not fake happy. 

Antidote: Give other people permission to be sad. Allow people to feel what they need to feel and avoid the instinct to want to cheer them up or fix their emotions.

Conclusion

Learning that my thoughts and emotions were making me physically sick was the key turning point in my healing process. Thoughts and Beliefs are powerful and they can be changed. Giving myself permission to let go of false beliefs and choose happiness has helped me find a more rich, more authentic, and more meaningful life. I’m not happy 100% of the time (and that’s a good thing). I am happy more often than I am  depressed, discouraged, or despairing. I have learned how to choose happiness and I give myself Permission to Be Happy. 

Ep. 5 Permission to Make Decisions

Permission to MAKE DECISIONS

Have you given yourself PERMISSION to MAKE DECISIONS?

Humans make an average of 35,000 remotely conscious decisions a day. If that statistic makes your feel more panicked than empowered, then you are in the right place. Making decisions can be confusing, overwhelming, and even paralyzing. And there are good reasons. This episode discusses six barriers that block us from making decisions and four ways to power through those barriers in order to learn to make decisions like a boss. 

 

Six Barriers to Decision Making

How do you feel about making decisions?  Determined or indecisive? Confident or hesitant? Resolute or wishy-washy?

No matter your past experience with making decisions, you have the ability, starting today, you have the ability to learn how and to practice becoming an effective decision-maker.

The first step is to increase your personal awareness about your decision-making process. Awareness is the first step to change. And don’t criticize yourself. You don’t get positive results in life by thinking negatively.

Here are six barriers that trip you up in the decision-making process: 

  1. LABELING:

    Too often, we make a decision, then wait for the result to decide whether it was a good or bad decision.  If the results turn out well, then we say it was the right decision, but if the results go sour, we say we made the wrong decision. It is harmful and paralyzing to measure our decision based on outcome. It is called OUTcome, because it is OUTside of our control. The truth is that we have to make the best decision we can based on the information we have at the time. We aren’t fortune tellers, so it isn’t fair to judge our present decision based on unpredictable future results.

  2. I DON’T KNOW: Saying “I don’t know” drains our power. We have access to incredible information. It’s better to say, “I am in the process of figuring it out,” or “I am exploring my options,” or even, “I am open to possibilities.”
  3. FEAR: Fear of the future outcome can block us from making a decision in the present. Maybe we’re afraid of failing, or maybe we’re afraid of being wildly successful. More than anything, our brains are afraid of the unknown. Our subconscious loves its comfort zone; it likes to stay right here where everything is familiar, so our subconscious often sabotages us from making a decision that would take us outside our comfort zone. 
  4. OBSTACLES: Our brain wants to avoid obstacles and challenges. In fact, sometimes if we run into a challenge, then our brain tries to tell us that we made the wrong choice. This is not true. Obstacles don’t mean that path is wrong. It means you’re going to have to summon your courage, get a running leap and get through the hurdles.   
  5. UNCHOOSING: Okay. Technically unchoosing is not a word, but it is a real barrier to decision making. This is the challenge that choosing one menu item at a restaurant means “unchoosing” all the other delicious possibilities. The reality of being burdened by options can render making a decision painful or next to impossible.
  6. OVERTHINKING:  Research shows that the prime age for overthinking is between 25 to 37. Overthinking is trying to hard to find the “RIGHT” decision. It’s a paralysis of “I can’t choose this one because maybe a different one is better.” Overthinking is more harmful than beneficial, but there are ways to stop overthinking.

How to Become an Effective Decision-Maker

You can learn to become an effective decision-maker. Here are four simple and effective TOOLS for becoming more confident, self-trusting, and speedy in making decisions.

1.  PERMISSION TO GET OUT OF “I DON’T KNOW”     

    So you don’t know what you want to study in college or do for your career, but sitting in the “I Don’t Know” chair is NOT going to help you figure it out. You don’t discover your favorite flavor of ice cream by never tasting ice cream. An important part of decision-making is exploration and discovery. You may have to get our there and try a lot of things before you DO know what you want. Give yourself permission to get out of “I Don’t Know” and enter “I am exploring options.”

2.  PERMISSION TO LET GO OF THE MYTH OF RIGHT OR WRONG DECISIONS

Life is not a quiz with right or wrong answers. The truth is that you don’t “know” your life path, rather, you “create” your life path, so there are not right or wrong decisions. Certainly there are consequences for every decision, but maybe those consequences will be what you need in order to learn, grow, and become a better person. The process of making decisions create opportunities to progress. Not making decisions makes your life stagnant and stifles growth. So practice making decisions whether it’s painting a wall or re-arranging the furniture. 

3.   PERMISSION FOR UNLIMITED DECISIONS

Unless you choose the poisoned drink or the tunnel with the fire-breathing dragon (which might be the final decision you ever make)  few decisions are ever final. Very few decision are life or death. This is good news. Make the best decision you can today, and you can make a new decision later. Trust that you have the intelligence and ability to manage the consequences of your decisions.

4.  PERMISSION to OWN YOUR DECISIONS 

It’s tempting to choose your spot of grass, then stare longingly at the green grass in the other field. The truth is that every field has spots of lush green and spots of wilted, dead, sour grass. You notice your own wilted patches more because you are closer, but the other field has dead spots, too.