Where did September go?

I can hardly believe that it is already October 13 and that in 6 short weeks I will turning 50 years old.  I am not concerned about the number, only that I thought I would have made more progress in my redesign.  Instead it is two steps backward, one step forward. I've been watching Project Runway (reality tv show about fashion) and rooting for Melissa, the only female of four finalists and a real stress case. She is very transparent about her insecurities and worries.  She cries a lot and is full of self-doubt.  Even though she is clearly qualified to be showing her designs at Fashion Week in New York (I really like her clothes and she has a unique Point of View), she is often paralyzed by her self-doubt.  I want to swoop into the studio and give her a crash course in dealing with her saboteurs.

I am more sympathetic because I have realized that I have once again become enthralled to my own saboteurs--those are the voices in our heads that sound like they are protecting us but are not.  My first mistake was thinking I had licked 'em during Leadership.  My second mistake was thinking I could do fine on my own without any supportive coaching when things were clearly not fine.

Fortunately, my friend from the Panther tribe, Mara reached out one night while I was looking at my Gmail and began a IM chat.  She could tell something was off.  Then she asked if I had read the book she had recommended, Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine. I did not answer her directly, but I did grab my iPad and open the book on my Kindle.  I thought, "Oh, it is all about saboteurs and here is something new--a whole strategy for activating one's sage." The sage is the part of the brain that is open, curious, inventive and wise.

Mara had to sign off, and I kept reading.  It has been like turning on a light switch. The book has helped me remember things I thought I would never forget and did.  And it has given me concrete steps for building up my Positive Intelligence Quotient (or sage). You can take a couple of free tests and learn more at the website www.positiveintelligence.com.

It came at just the right time too: after reading three books that I thought should provide some answers but proved disappointing.  Not that these books were "bad"-- just short of delivering practical ways to make change happen.  The first two books were by Timothy D. Wilson, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia.  It was an overview of the latest research and thinking in psychology on how change happens.  I did get one helpful exercise from Wilson's book, Redirect (see excerpt below).

I also read a very interesting book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  It provides a breakdown of our current understanding of habits and offers a few ideas on how to establish or change habits.  Mostly though, it tells stories of individuals, organizations and movements and how habits played a role.  I am fortunate in one sense:  I have few bad habits. On the other hand, I seem to be habit-averse.  I do not like getting up at the same time everyday, getting ready in the same order, or establishing any other routines.

Another event that cheered me up was my Skype conversation with UK Sarah when we began planning my next visit to New Zealand.  I am going to leave Thanksgiving evening and spend 10 days in New Zealand.  I will celebrate my actual birthday there and witness UK Sarah getting priested in the Anglican Cathedral.  Plus enjoy being in New Zealand again.  I am going to job hunt while I am there.

At the same time, Metropolitan wants to renew my contract and there are some attractive options for staying in the Sacramento area. So there are big decisions ahead. And as several friends have pointed out: none of the options are bad.

Writing Into Your Brightest Future

 Summary:  Think about your life in the future and write for twenty minutes, on four consecutive days, about how “everything has gone as well as it possibly could” and your life dreams have come true.

Results:  College students who completed this “best possible self” writing exercise, compared to students who were randomly assigned to write about a neutral topic, reported greater optimism on the questionnaire (on p 65) and greater satisfaction with their lives—not just right away but three weeks later.  And, in the five months following the study, the students who had written about their best possible selves visited the health center significantly less often than did students who wrote about the neutral topic.

From Timothy D. Wilson, Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change

The Best Possible Selves Exercise:  Find a quiet, private place and follow these instructions on four consecutive nights:  “Think about your life in the future.  Imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly could.  You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life dreams.  Now, write about what you imagined.

Don’t just think about what you have achieved (e.g., getting your dream job), but be sure to write about how you got there (e.g., doing an internship, going to graduate school, etc.) By so doing you might become more optimistic about your future and cope better with any obstacles you encounter.