4 Steps to Maximize Your Summer & Well-Being

Kyoto, Japan - April 2017

Kyoto, Japan - April 2017

Meet our new rescue pup, Keeper!

Meet our new rescue pup, Keeper!

Happy Spring! 
Wherever you may live, I hope you are enjoying the return of warm weather as much as I am in Chicago!  Much has happened since my last newsletter…. In April, I spent 2 blissful weeks vacationing in Japan during the cherry blossom festival, a week after returning I adopted a dog, Keeper, (whom you have definitely met if you follow Point of Arrival on Facebook), and last week I traveled to the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business for the annual Positive Business Conference


All of this excitement has me thinking about how magical this time of year is. As Mother Nature emerges and blooms to life, there is a real sense that each of us is coming back to life, re-energizing, and enjoying a fresh start.  What I’ve also experienced is that this season is fleeting if you’re not mindful.  This brings me to the focus of this month…

4 Steps to Maximize Your Summer & Well-Being

Step 1: Spend Your Money on Experiences, Not Things
Friends often comment to me that I’m always up to something and never let the moss grow under my feet!  The reason for this is that I value adventure and experiences, and there’s good reasons that you should, too.  Research shows that we get more happiness and enjoyment from experiences than we do material possessions.  You’re able to prolong and savor experiences in 3 ways – planning and anticipating, experiencing the event itself, and reminiscing about the memories.  Also, many experiences include others, adding a relationship-enriching connection that no new clothes you buy will provide. And, people like to talk about each others’ experiences, adding another layer of social bonding. We ask people about their weekends, hobbies and trips, not their possessions.  Experiences make us more interesting, and our commonalities build bridges between us.
 
Step 2: Get Outside
Nature and the outdoors are good for your mind, body and soul.  No time is better than summer to enjoy it!  There’s a veritable mountain of studies that reveal how time spent in nature lowers stress, increases cognitive functioning, and how even your proximity to green spaces in urban environments may alleviate anxiety, depression, and a long list of other ailments.  I regularly hear stories from others about how nature encourages deep self-reflection and spiritual connection.  At a minimum – we’re up from our chairs and moving our bodies, something most of us need more of.
 
Step 3: Be Mindful and Present
When you’re in the midst of your summer experiences, check-in with yourself frequently by asking, ‘Where is my mind right now?’  The mind has 2 preferred time zones – past and future – while the body only has 1 – the present moment.  It takes practice to join the mind and the body in the present moment.  The more you practice this, the more you will dissolve stress and worry and allow yourself to appreciate the only experiences you actually have access to – the ones happening RIGHT NOW! Not to mention, the people you’re with will be grateful for your undivided attention and presence.
 
Step 4: Be Planful and Intentional
This is my client’s #1 complaint – ‘I’m too busy!’  The Washington Post and Huffington Post have both run articles recently about the risks of wearing busyness as a badge of honor and status symbol.  My friends, this is a slippery slope to burnout, unproductive social comparison, unhealthy measurements of self-worth, and an inability to cut through and prioritize what is most important in your life!  To some degree, busyness is a choice.  Let’s all SLOW DOWN and increase our time spent ‘human being’ rather than only ‘human doing’.  If you’re not planful and intentional, these next few months of summer will go by in the blink of an eye.  Maximize your summer by pausing and thinking about what you want to experience and get out of this special season.  Do you want to get out of town, host dinner parties in the backyard, go on retreat, spend time with family?  Whatever it is, make a list, get out your calendar, and start planning!


May your energy, experiences, joy and well-being bloom as abundantly as the season! 
Here's to sunny days lived to the fullest, Katrina

Sakura Festival - Tokyo, Japan - April 2017

Sakura Festival - Tokyo, Japan - April 2017

Habits Take Hold

Photo by stanciuc/iStock / Getty Images

In January, we learned the difference between tactical and transformational change, and why the latter makes change so hard. You can read the article here.  This month, we’ll examine the physiology of habits, how their powerful automation takes hold in the body, and what you can do to reshape and create new habits for positive change.
 
In his terrific book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, author Charles Duhigg explains the neurological loop of habits as beginning with a cue, which leads to a routine, and ends with a reward.  The cue - routine - reward loop, when repeated, becomes automatic in the brain and body.  It concretizes when the body begins to crave your participation in the habit.  Each time you complete the habit loop, your brain releases feel-good chemical neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin, to the body.  Next time the cue arises, your body anticipates and craves the feel-good reward, and that biology is a tough contender against willpower.

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This happens for good evolutionary reason. The vast majority of what we do is automated; only a small percentage is effortful and intentional.  In the morning, do you think about how to tie your shoes or brush your teeth?  No, you just do it.  Habits and automation regulate and preserve brain power and body energy – glucose – so it is available when we need it.  And it’s a good thing, as the executive functions of our brain that are used for effortful thinking – like decision making, focus, prioritization and judgment - require high levels of glucose to function.  When you find yourself in a new and challenging situation, you often feel tired and more quickly depleted, right?  That’s because the effort required is using more energy – you’re not on autopilot.
 
What habits aren’t serving you?  Do you reach for a sugary treat in the afternoon, gossip to colleagues, or watch too much TV on the couch instead of going to the gym?  Many of my clients are actively managing work-life balance issues and tell me they feel like Pavlov’s dog at home every time their smartphones ding, indicating new messages.  Sound familiar?  Do you feel the strong craving to check and respond to that email?  In this case, the cue is the phone’s notification, the routine is the checking and responding, and the reward is something you need to identify for yourself – maybe you feel a sense of accomplishment or connectedness, or maybe you’re just bored and want a quick distraction?  Here's my advice: turn off all notifications!
 
Duhigg suggests the following steps for redesigning habits:

  • Identify the routine
  • Experiment with reward
  • Isolate the cue
  • Have a plan and change the routine

The routine is the behavior you want to change.  Let’s use a relatable example – every late afternoon at the office you walk up a floor to the vending machine and buy an unhealthy snack.  What reward are you getting from this routine? Are you satiating hunger, relieving boredom, giving yourself a quick break?  Experiment with different rewards by changing the routine – instead, go for a walk around the block, keep a healthy snack at your desk, or put on some uplifting music.  Were you able to subdue or overcome your cravings with any of these alternative actions?  How did they make you feel (reward)?  If a brisk walk did the trick, then this habit is not actually about hunger.
 
Isolating cues is often the hardest step because many triggers may be at play – time of day, location, emotional state, who’s around, what you were doing right before, etc.  Targeting rewards and isolating cues requires some experimentation.  In our example, maybe the cue is a particular time in the afternoon, or maybe your officemate opens a crinkly bag of chips every afternoon, and the sound is your cue.  Pay attention to the possible factors.
 
Have a plan.  Now that you’ve got all the pieces of this puzzle, create a plan to assure you’ll change your routine - behaviors and actions - in the future.  Set an alarm for 3pm and take a 10-minute brisk walk around the block for the next week instead of ascending the stairs to the vending machine.  It may feel effortful at first, because it’s not yet a habit, but after some consistent practice, you’ll automate the activity and hopefully your trips to the vending machine will be a distant memory.  Even better, where your former habit made you feel satisfied in the moment but guilty later, your redesigned habit will leave you feeling healthier and energized.
 
Wishing you habit makeovers that lead to healthier, happier and more productive times ahead!
~Katrina

Why is Some Change so Hard?

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Happy 2017!  I love the New Year.  It’s a natural time to take stock of the past and look hopefully into the future.  And, in addition to the cold temperatures and over-packed fitness classes, the New Year also brings those dreaded resolutions!  I say dreaded not because I don’t believe in making commitments and declarations, I do (!), but because for so many of us resolutions create intentions that we fail to follow through on.  And that leaves many of us feeling stuck, disappointed, unhappy, and unkind to ourselves.

Why is some change so hard?  What is that one BIG thing that you have been declaring to change forever, and yet you’ve made no progress?  Maybe you want to get healthier, become a better listener, take more risks, or better manage your piling commitments?  Regardless of what IT is, any goal we have comes with a set of tips, steps, best practices and associated actions.  Want to lose weight? Eat less, exercise more!  Simple, right? But it isn’t… 
 
There are 2 important ways we process change:

Way 1: The Tactical Change – In this case, creating a change is as simple for you as learning and applying some new information, skill or competency, and putting it into action.  This change is something you don’t have any baggage or hang ups about.  There’s no underlying resistance to trying and adopting the change.  When my tennis forehand needed improvement, I followed my coach’s instructions – “Stay sideways, Katrina.  Watch the ball hit the strings!  Follow all the way through!”  I did, and the forehand got better.

Way 2: The Transformational Change – This is the category for those failed intentions.  It’s the case when you know what goals you have, but even after you learn the skills and steps, you don’t do them or stick with them.  Why?  More than likely, you are resisting the change because of underlying, competing commitments and assumptions you hold dear, of which you may not even be aware. 

Through our experiences and evolution as people, we develop organizing principles to understand the world around us.  Think of it as your internal operating system or worldview.  Through your unique lens, you use your way of knowing your experiences to make decisions, judgments and sense of the world around you.  Where you’ve had traumas or negative experiences, you create shields of protection to ensure safety in the future.  Know this – we all have a field of vision, and we all have blind spots.  And, outside that field of vision is a new world of possibilities and ways of being and doing. 
 
Here’s a 5-step discovery process to support transformational change – set aside some time to consider and write down:

  1. Identify your most important 2017 goal or commitment that you have been stuck on or unsuccessful achieving for some time.
  2. List what you do and don’t do that doesn’t support your goal.
  3. What are your hidden competing commitments and worries that stand in the way of you achieving your goal?
  4. Go deeper now – what are your underlying personal assessments and assumptions that stand in the way of you achieving your goal?
  5. Dispute your assumptions through real-life experiments.  Create a plan to test a new way of being, doing and thinking that opposes your assumptions and supports your goals.  Take note of the data you receive, and use it to broaden your field of vision.

Here’s an example to bring this to life:

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In the above example, a Step 5 disputation experiment could be to commit to proactively sharing an expert opinion in a situation where the contribution is different than what is being offered by the group.  Through at-bats like this, it may be realized that diverse contributions are valued, and that bringing alternative points of view does not lead to dissention – breaking the connection between sharing as a pathway to disapproval, conflict and likeability.  Eventually, a stronger leader will emerge, who steps up to add more value, and is seen as an advisor in the organization. 

Often, we don’t change because we haven’t uncovered and faced the column 4 forces – the underlying assessments and assumptions – that are keeping us stuck.  Surfacing them can feel scary, risky and vulnerable.  What do you have to gain by facing those fears?  You have the possibility to free yourself from their hold, achieve new heights, and continue to learn and grow.  Transformational change requires courage and commitment, and it leads you to becoming a more fully realized version of your best self. 

Test it for yourself, and send me a note to share your experiences! Don’t go it alone!  Tell the people close to you what you’re working on, and ask them for support.  Involving others gives you buoyancy, help and accountability in the process. 

My coaching practice is designed to support and accelerate transformational change.      Please contact me to set up a complimentary coaching session to begin your discovery.

Here’s to your journey in 2017!  May you let nothing hold you back! 
Happy New Year, Katrina

Reference: This article was inspired by and adapted from Immunity to Change, by Kegan & Lahey.

Are You Still Fun?

        A few years ago, my husband and I went to a destination wedding of a college friend.  The maid-of-honor was larger than life in a way that was absolutely and ridiculously playful, hilarious and downright silly.  Her charm gravitationally pulled everyone in through the wedding weekend – she brought out in each of us our hidden self that dances like no one is watching, laughs until our belly hurts, and plays with reckless abandon.  That wedding weekend was so inordinately fun, that it gave me pause. I turned to my husband on the drive home and said, “Am I still fun?”  It wasn’t that I didn’t fully enjoy my life; it was that the weekend had been so standout fun and playful, it made me wonder if I had become too serious in my adult life?  Had I forgotten what it was like to channel my inner child?

        It turns out the majority of us have done just that.  Children laugh an average of 400 times a day – adults, just 17 times.  Integrating play into their activities is effortless and natural, as is curiosity and questioning.  The volume of questions adults ask steeply declines as we approach adulthood, and with it, our creativity.  Organizations that rely on innovation are tuning into this and intentionally creating cultures that hone creativity and design thinking to solve difficult problems by welcoming curiosity and questioning. 

        Since play is linked to creativity, happiness and productivity, gone are the days we should work in order to play.  Instead, we should look for ways to infuse play into our work.  What type of work day do you enjoy more – one that is all-business or one that allows you to enjoy a laugh with your colleagues and have some fun in the process?

        What I found to be good news was that there’s more than one way to play, so if your kind of play is not the Maid-of-Honor, life-of-the-party-type, there’s hope for you!  Yes, you can still have fun and be fun.  In his book Play, Dr. Stuart Brown explains that play comes in a variety of formats - it can be social, imaginative, involve objects or rough-housing (think sports!), or be experienced as a spectator. 

        The bottom line is that regardless of how you experience play, we all need more of it.  While research on play and the brain in humans is burgeoning but still limited, we know from research on mammals that those who play more live longer, have better survival instincts, and develop more complex brains.  Signals from others of playfulness - from body language, voice or facial expression - communicate that we are safe in our company and help to establish trust.  And when our brains do not detect threat, we decrease our stressors and are free to enjoy the feel-good stuff in life and express ourselves more authentically.

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        Let’s help each other to play more, laugh more, to not take ourselves too seriously, to be unencumbered, and to reconnect with what brings us joy!

Here’s to more LMAO, dancing-like-no-one-is-watching moments!
Katrina

Rio in Flow

Photo by CelsoDiniz/iStock / Getty Images

            The Olympics are a big deal in the Calihan house.  During the past 2 weeks, we were glued to the games.  Watching the best athletes in the world come together – the energy, the passion, the sheer joy – to do what they’ve worked their entire lives for on a global stage, is nothing short of mesmerizing.  Watching athletes like Phelps, Ledecky, Biles, and Bolt make history in their events, I couldn’t help but draw questions and connections about what these performances teach us about creating joy and satisfaction in our own work.

           Research informs us that engagement, or flow, in our lives is a significant factor of our overall well-being.  These are the activities that fully absorb your focus – when time stops for you.  When the challenge at hand matches and slightly pushes the edge of our skills and strengths, we have optimal conditions to experience flow.  To watch Simone Biles on the balance beam is to witness flow.  She is not thinking about her homework or distracted by the floor routine music in the background – she is totally and completely focused and immersed in the flow of her routine.  Flow is the ultimate form of living in the present moment and enjoying it.  It is a perfect balance of concentration and ease.  When you’re in flow, you’re often doing and creating in ways that enhance your skills and mastery while making valued contributions to your organization.

Challenge: Create Flow in Your Work This Week

           You can create more flow experiences in your work by intentionally planning and participating in your flow activities.  Consider: in your job, what are you doing when time stops for you?  What are the activities that absorb your attention – in which you’re challenged, able and interested?  What are you doing when you’re fully present?  What conditions enable this for you - do you need silence or music or an inspired atmosphere? Does it involve being alone or collaborating with others? 

           Identify your flow activities, create the conditions that foster it, and carve out time for them.  In the coming week, intentionally schedule a work block into your calendar for this activity.  Notice how the experience makes you feel both during and after.  Relaxed, centered, energized?  What did you accomplish?  How might regular time spent in flow at work enhance your experience, job satisfaction and contributions?

           I love hearing from you!  Please send me a line to share your experience with creating more flow this week at katrina@point-of-arrival.com.

Flow on!

Katrina