Three Thoughts for Thursday – May 2021

            On my wedding day, we had planned to say our vows outdoors in the autumn beauty of Southwestern Colorado.  I’d grown up there and the fall was always my favorite time of year with warm, sunny days and beautiful aspens turning gold among the evergreens.  We woke up to rain, not just a drizzle, but torrential downpour, complete with thunder and lightning. No problem, we had a backup plan to move the ceremony indoors.  Then the power went out so we hunted up every candle we could find. No problem, surely the power would be restored by dinnertime. We took photos, dashing out from the covered patio when the rain would take a break to capture the shot.  The overcast skies made the colors pop!  The power did not come back on in time for dinner.  No problem, the stoves were gas stoves and a few friends had brought their guitars – dinner by candlelight and music played by friends, what a gift! 

            This year, we made it to the Tulip Festival in Skagit Valley just north of where we live.  It was a bit rainy as we set out.  No problem, there were no crowds to navigate, and wow did the colors pop!  As we stood in the colorful fields of tulips and daffodils, storm clouds overhead, a light drizzle around us, I couldn’t help but think of my wedding day, and in a broader sense, of how the storms of life can make joy really stand out.  I also couldn’t help but see the joy of my boys as they bought me a bouquet of flowers.  The clouds and drizzle couldn’t dampen the beauty they saw. As I looked through their eyes, I, too, felt joy in the beauty I saw before me in the meeting of the storm clouds and the fields of blooming tulips as far as the eye could see. The beauty of the bloom was dependent on the rain from these clouds.

The contrast of the dark and threatening skies and the fearless beauty of the flower seems important, essential even.  The focus of our vision determines what we see and what we make of the situation, of the picture before us. Do you typically see the storm clouds and fear the rain? Do raindrops make you want to go inside and wait for sunny weather? Do you see how the overcast skies serve to make the colors even brighter in contrast? Do you focus on the clouds or the flowers? What about in your life?  Do you focus on the fear, uncertainty, and suffering or do you savor and appreciate the contrasting joy and beauty? Do the dark days make the good days even more valuable and precious?  Where does your focus lie? How can you begin to reframe the storm clouds that may allow your view to change and the colors, the joy in your life, to “pop”?

Do you see wilting flowers or the beauty of the bouquet my boys bought for me a week past its harvest?

Quote(s) I am sitting with, pondering, and find inspiring:

Don’t let the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing stop you from doing anything.

We start everything from a place of not knowing – walking, reading, dating, working. And through the doing, we learn.

We may not get it right the first time, but eventually, we know what we’re doing.

~ Neil Strauss, @neilstrass ~

Podcast I’m Listening to:

Quit Overthinking Things – HBR IdeaCast

Ethan Kross, Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan, has spent years studying how people talk to themselves and the effect that this “chatter” has on our performance. From professional athletes to top students and senior business executives, even the most talented among us sometimes struggle to quiet the voices in our heads. And Kross says that, while some self-talk can help us, it’s often unproductive. He offers tips and tricks to break out of negative thinking and get back on track, especially at work.  He is the author of the book, Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why it Matters, and How to Harness It.

My notes:

I appreciated this podcast as I thought about the clouds and the flowers, and how our perspectives and lenses can become habits. Kross highlights negative thought loops, the inner voice, struggling with chatter, frequency, and intensity which can vary, and calls out the impacts of this chatter specifically on these areas of life:

  1. Thinking and performing at work
  2. Social Relationships
  3. Physical Health

Uncertainty propels chatter, and we can get stuck – this seems especially relevant in the uncertainty in which we’ve been living. I often refer to getting stuck as “the hamster wheel.” Kross also notes that chatter factors into depression and anxiety.  We have a lot of time alone with our thoughts.

Tips from Kross to tame the chatter:

  • Distant self-talk – giving advice to yourself that you’d give to someone else. Leverages language to switch our perspective and how we relate to ourselves.
  • Self-coaching
  • Temporal distancing or mental time travel – how will I feel 6 months from now? Broadens perspective and gives hope
  • Use environment to calm chatter – create focus

Book I am Reading:

I have been working to question and get curious about my own lens and habits, and on understanding and taking control of changing habits, such as I mentioned above for instance, the voice in my head that often allows negative self-talk to take the stage first.  As a part of this curiosity, I have been trying to cultivate a gratitude practice and space for a more positive, optimistic self-talk.  Working to cultivate new ways of being and new patterns has set me on a path to understand habits, and how I might break old habits and ways of seeing that may lead me astray or cause me to stumble.  Likewise, I want to understanding how I might replace these old habits with new habits that better serve me on my path.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessNEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • This instant classic explores how we can change our lives by changing our habits.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Wall Street Journal • Financial Times

In The Power of Habit, award-winning business reporterCharles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

With a new Afterword by the author

“Sharp, provocative, and useful.”—Jim Collins

“Few [books] become essential manuals for business and living. The Power of Habit is an exception. Charles Duhigg not only explains how habits are formed but how to kick bad ones and hang on to the good.”Financial Times

“A flat-out great read.”—David Allen, bestselling author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
“You’ll never look at yourself, your organization, or your world quite the same way.”—Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author of Drive and A Whole New Mind
“Entertaining . . . enjoyable . . . fascinating . . . a serious look at the science of habit formation and change.”The New York Times Book Review

Please check out my latest blog post, Are we Losing Our Humanity?  You can also find recent posts Lessons from the Run, Part 1: Mile 18 – Endurance, and Lessons from the Run, Part 2: Resilience, Lessons of the Run, Part 3: Rest, andBe and See the Light which are all still relevant to our current circumstances. If you missed my April edition of Three Thoughts for Thursday, you can find it here, on my blog as well. On April 27th, Kathy Hadizadeh and I kicked off the Emotional Intelligence Special Interest Group for ICFLA.  Our next session will take place on Tuesday, June 22nd at 11 am PST and will focus on Self-Awareness. If you are interested in joining and co-creating this learning community, please use the link above to find out more and to come along for the journey!

I’m always looking for new inspiration, new books to read, new podcasts to listen to, so please send your suggestions my way or comment on this post to offer some new recommendations!

As always, thank you for your continued support and readership! Stay strong, stay brave, stay true to you!