We sure do get this money stuff tangled up, don’t we? This is the place where I untangle pieces of it. Most of it’s about money while some of it’s about something else that strikes my interest. All of it is about noticing how things get knotted up and how to untangle the knots. Oh, and if you have a topic you’d like me to explore, just let me know. I’ll be happy to give it a good shake and see what untangles.
My last blog was about pivoting. This week’s edition is about how we make decisions, including ones about where and when to pivot. Today, we will take a deeper dive, if you will, into how our brain makes choices and a plan you can use for making all types of decisions more effectively.
Here’s a fact that you may find startling — every single decision you make is determined by emotion! The way your brain actually chooses which one of the choices you have explored you will act on is emotionally based!
Ready for some science? The bottom line is that the part of your brain that flips the switch and makes the choice is located in your prefrontal cortex, the emotional center of your brain.
Sure, you ponder, do research, fret, look things up online, ask friends, find experts, read about and write down your options — and ultimately it’s your emotional center that makes the choice. People who have had brain injuries to their prefrontal cortex can analyze all day long, they just can’t reach a decision, so they spin and spin.
The other piece of science that is crucial here is that humans can only hold about 7 or 8 things ‘front of brain‘ at a time. This limit creates the circling and spinning game we do of looking at the same data over and over. Your brain has stored all the data you put in it, you just can’t pull it all up at once. Trust that your deeper brain has gotten the information and will use it.
The real trick to making effective selections and judgments has a couple of simple steps:
- Gather good ‘neutral’ data without trying to choose as you go. We tend to kick something off our list too soon, just to narrow the possibilities. It’s a problem we have all experienced. Resist the temptation to take options off the table during the gathering process unless, of course, there is a giant deal breaker.
- Narrow to at least three choices. Somehow two choices are just too black/white, on/off to really give you choices. Now is the time to get pickier. The success of this method is based on having gathered accurate information. Remember the adage “garbage in, garbage out”…we don’t want that! Name the alternatives with just a couple of words for each of your choices.
- Grab as many sticky notes as you have choices and write those short names on them. Now place the notes in a row on your desk, night table, wherever. They can be in the same room or not.
- Go to sleep. Try not to think about your choices. Leave the analysis behind. Nod off.
- When you get up stumble groggily to the row of choices. Which one calls you? Just the gut reaction as you scan them will do. That is your true choice!
Your brilliant brain has done all the work for you — you just need to trust it to do what it does best!
If you are noticing that your brain and computers have a bunch in common, you are right. After-all, humans created computers!
I hope this process will help you make choices that really work for you. Recognizing that the choice is based on the data and emotion is the important part – even if you don’t try the sleeping on it thing.
I’m guessing that we all will have some tough decisions to make in the months ahead. I hope this helps make that process easier.
Shell Tain, the Untangler
Seems like I have been doing lots of pivoting lately. I am reacting to the difference between what I expect to happen and what actually shows up. Yesterday morning was a good example. I got up early, which is not my best time of the day, and zoomed over to Costco with the idea of being able to breeze right in as a Senior. Ummm, not happening. I have never seen a longer line, not at an airport, not even at Disneyland. I began to try and find the end of the snaking line of humans and then chose to pivot! I got in my car, went to Freddy’s (a local chain supermarket) and actually found toilet paper, gluten-free bread, and chicken thighs. The majority of my list was handled and I was actually in a good mood for the victory of having saved myself from an unpleasant wait.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into this pivot idea. We, as humans, are mostly creatures of habit and these days it feels like even the most basic of activities are disrupted. We can’t gather together. We can’t get a massage. We can’t give or get hugs. We can’t do a myriad of things we are used to doing in our day and to top it off, the information we receive to stay safe changes constantly. Mostly we can’t really wrap our heads around the idea that there is a global pandemic happening right now! It feels like we have all entered an alternate Universe. Personally I’ve been feeling that way since November of 2016, and yet the last couple of years have only been a warm-up for managing change and expectations beyond my wildest dreams.
Recently, I found myself falling into despair over the human race having failed the experiment of figuring out how to get along and be kind to one another. Then, it struck me. We are all in a cauldron of grief and loss! Which means that DABDA is running wild. No, my spell check hasn’t failed me, DABDA is the acronym created by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to help understand and unravel grief:
- Depression, Anger, Bargaining, Denial, Acceptance — Not necessarily in that order, and often bouncing around all over the place.
I bring this up because once you figure out you are in one, or more of those places, you can then choose to pivot… and do something else.
Can you see how these stages are playing out? The Denial one is pretty evident with people who aren’t keeping social distance. It seems to me the idea that younger people wouldn’t be effected was a good way to grab onto some Bargaining. I myself have been pretty Angry that I can’t exercise the way I did a few weeks ago— Just so you know I found a great pivot for that one. For me, it’s, dancing and singing wildly to songs of my teenage days, thanks to Pandora Radio. I think the mindset of Acceptance is subtle yet consistent, we need to stay home, keep our distance and find new ways to connect.
The big daddy of all of them all is, Depression, and with it comes another acronym, HALT. This one is where all the components line up together to create Depression:
- Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired — When those symptoms pile up, we fall over the edge. It’s one of the reasons I ‘ate’ my own feelings for at least the first week of this!
Checking in with you all to see if perhaps you too have some DABDA or HALT stuff going on? Observing these symptoms can give you the information and tools you need to pivot, then shift and move on to something different. The recognition of these feelings can really pave the road for a good transition out of the tangle of emotions. It will help fortify you for the opportunities to pivot in the weeks still to come.
Take care, stay safe, and be kind to yourself!
Shell Tain, the Untangler
We are all facing the restrictions and social distancing around the Covid -19 challenge. As a reminder for myself, I decided to grab onto the “Keep Calm and Carry On” British slogan. After feeling like this was the mantra for me, I discovered some fascinating information about “Keep Calm and Carry On” as I researched the history of the famous phrase.
As we are diligently trying to Keep Calm and Carry On let’s take a trip in the ‘Way Back Machine’ ala Mr. Peabody and his boy, Sherman (from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon hit) to England just as WWII is looming in the summer of 1939. The Ministry of Information has been given the task of raising morale and inspiring public support for the war. There were three posters designed:
- Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory
- Freedom Is in Peril / Defend It With All Your Might
- Keep Calm and Carry On
Between August 23rd and September 3rd of 1939 2.45 million of the Keep Calm and Carry On posters were printed. Only a handful was ever used. The bulk of the posters were destroyed at the end of the war in 1945.
Today, we only know of 16 of the original posters still “Carryin’ On.” One was found 60 years later by Stuart and Mary Manley, co-owners of Barter Books, Ltd. in Northumberland. The other 15 showed up on the BBC version of Antiques Roadshow in February of 2012.
So what happened? Why weren’t they used? These two links have all the details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keep_Calm_and_Carry_On
Suffice it to say that there were too many opinions presented at once. There were complaints about the costs. There were arguments about the content. Too many politicians in the mix — We can all relate to that, can’t we?
Winston Churchill managed to send out 14 million leaflets in June of 1941. He used the phrases Stand Firm and Carry On but not together or even in the same sentence. This leaflet started with the phrase: “If invasion comes…” and included 14 questions and answers around ‘practical matters’ of the invasion. By then he had enough pull to avoid the flurry of opinions from a committee.
As we know, Britain made it through the war. There was an immense amount of cooperation, collaboration, and courage expressed by their citizens — everything from the Black Outs to rationing, to sending your children to live with strangers for their safety, and too many other challenges to mention.
I agree with France’s current President Macron: “We are at war — in a health war” and we have a choice as to how we react to the hardships and restrictions. Let’s all do our best to Keep Calm and Carry On
Shell Tain, the Untangler
We all struggle to communicate with others from time to time, don’t we? In general, our ‘go-to’ process is pretty much the assumption that folks around us think and will process information the same way we do. We, in turn, want to be understood and appreciated. So what do we do?
These days there are all sorts of online assessments available for understanding who the person you are talking to “is” — and many of these tests require that they have completed some version of an in-depth questionnaire related to personality. But what about the day to day stuff? You can’t actually ask your new friend what their type is before you start talking, can you?
My solution is to go a bit old school with this. At least back to the last century! I frankly don’t know where I got it, or who gave it to me — but I have this magenta mimeographed piece of paper with a four-part Matrix of personality types on it.
I have used it for years to understand co-workers, bosses, friends, lovers…you name it! And it still works today. It’s not super science. It’s pretty simple. There are four basic styles listed: Promoter, Controller, Supporter, and Analyzer.
It doesn’t mean we can’t hang around in the other spots, it’s really about the one that is our natural go-to place. Back in the day, I even used this Matrix as the basis for a workshop with a youth group. I changed the categories to birds to help the kids with connecting to the model and to just make it more fun:
- Promoter =Peacock
- Controller = Eagle
- Supporter = Lovebird
- Analyzer = Owl
The kids all sorted into their groups minus one young woman who everyone said was a Peacock. She didn’t like that idea. She strutted up to me and my co-leader — stuck her hand on her hip and announced is a very loud voice: “I am NOT a Peacock!” and we in unison said: “Oh, yes you are!”
The groups then had to create a skit about their “bird” and find a song to sing about it. Pretty fun stuff! I bring up the youth group event because in that process they also noticed that even though they were all the same type, they needed all four energies to get anything done. If memory serves it was the Owls who sure figgered that part out first — just showing their Analyzer talent.
So when you need to be really effective in your conversation with someone see if you can’t sort out their basic “type”. Here are some clues to look for:
- Promoters: are charming, creative, enthusiastic. The Promoter’s most common question is: Who? On the downside, they can be pushy, insincere and lack follow-through. If cornered they tend to throw a tantrum. Often found working in sales. The secret with Promoters is that they really don’t know why they are successful! They are just busy spreading their beautiful Peacock tails and strutting!
- Controllers: are efficient, driven and results-oriented. The Controller’s most common question is: What? On the downside, they can be brassy, insensitive and overbearing. If corned they tend to become tyrannical. CEO’s often fit into this category. A Controller’s secret is that they want to get things done, quickly and efficiently. The Eagle has landed with speed and agility.
- Supporters: are cooperative, friendly and accepting. The Supporter’s most common question is: Why? On the downside, they can be passive/aggressive, indecisive and smothering. If cornered they comply. Often they perform well in an assistant role. The Supporter’s secret isn’t really a secret, they want everyone to get along. These Lovebirds are cooing in the corner, just waiting for you to join them.
- Analyzers: are thorough, exacting and persistent. The Analyzer’s most common question is: How? On the downside, they can be apathetic, picky and stubborn. If cornered they avoid and clam up. Often the Engineer or Bookkeeper. An Analyzer’s secret is that they absolutely do not want to ever make a mistake, so they keep analyzing. Behind the Owl’s serious demeanor is a desire to not be embarrassed.
What type are you? How about your best friend? Can you see that just understanding how the other person relates can make your communication more effective?
Give this matrix a chance, and if you’d like more detail I can send you a copy of the original mimeographed page that started this whole thing!
Shell Tain, the Untangler
Curious and strange behaviors often happen around money. Somehow our ethics and demeanor can change when money enters the equation. Recently a friend who is a Massage Therapist shared a fascinating story with me. As part of the process of renewing his certification, he is required to attend an Ethics Class every four years. Two of the topics the instructor covered were ‘Hugging’ and ‘Tipping’. The way they were approached during this class was very intriguing to me. Let’s start with ‘Hugging’.
According to the curriculum, the ethical standard is to discourage a client from hugging their masseur. This logic seems bizarre to me personally, however, my friend explained they spent a great deal of time on the avoidance of hugging. Including coming up with solutions, like telling the client “I just don’t feel like a hug today” as a way to dissuade hugging after the massage. My friend has the perspective that if a client wants to hug him as a warm friendly thank you for a job well done, he’s all for it.
The ethics class then made a rather odd turn to the discussion of how to encourage tipping. Clever things like a tip jar, and even saying “I appreciate it when you tip me.” My friend was pretty shocked by this. He considers what he does as a massage therapist to be a healing art. We don’t tip doctors, dentists, chiropractors or acupuncturists – so why should we tip our massage person? My sense is that we tip the people who are not getting fully compensated for their work, like ones who live on tips. My friend chalks it up to greed on the side of his colleagues.
Either way, it seems pretty odd that hugging is bad yet, tipping is good, doesn’t it? But then tipping is about money, and things tend to get pretty wonky there, don’t they?
Personally, I get a kick out of watching a few of the ‘Judge’ TV shows. Every single case brought forward is about money and how wacky people get with it! Common threads include ideas like “I shouldn’t have to pay back the loan, because I got fired, I don’t make enough, I want to buy a house…” on and on it goes. One of the most frequent causes of these suits that end up on television is that people’s emotions overrun their original reason for getting money into the mix via a gift or loan.
We all know what can happen in families when money is involved, right? The same sibling or parent who would probably jump in front of a bus to save your life is likely the same person who will never pay you back for that no-interest loan you gave them. Similarly, if you don’t spend the money a family member gave you in a way they approve of, they might possibly sue you in court to get it back.
If it’s a stranger that someone hired to do something for them somehow people feel entitled to not pay them if the vendor calls you, or shows up at your door and asks for money. They consider it harassment to be asked to pay for the services.
I think the reason these practices are such a mess, from the tipping to the lending, to the gifting is that people are still so confused about money. To my thinking, Money is a tool to tell us what we are up to. Money says in clear terms that we made this much and spent that much. Money doesn’t have an opinion about whether that decision to spend or save was smart, good, or even ethical. That’s not its job. But we use money as if it was its job. We have judgments about money all the time, or more precisely what those around us did or didn’t do with it!
So for my part, I hug my massage person, not my doctor, and tip the food server. Oh, and I try not to let money get in the middle of my relationships, be they routed in the personal or professional. How about you? What’s your take on this tale of money and ethics?
Shell Tain, the Untangler
At the beginning of this century, I lived for a couple of years in Columbia, South Carolina. It was quite a culture shock for me, having lived in the West all my life. I thought I could live anywhere – I was wrong, so wrong! One of the more frustrating cultural phenomena in Columbia was what I called ‘Everybody Knows’. At that time ‘Everybody Knows’ was not just a Southern thing, it was also an East Coast thing.
More often than not, the people that live in South Carolina and even the East Coast in general, come from a long line of generations living in the same place. They were entrenched in their surroundings and way of life. Once, while having my hair done at the ‘Cut and Curl‘ near me, my stylist and I were talking about food. I mentioned an ingredient that was rare in that part of the city. I can’t quite remember what it was, perhaps Tarragon Mustard? She seemed quite interested in the mustard, and I told her she could get it at a shop in Five Points, a shopping area about 6 miles away in downtown Colombia. Her comment was “Oh! I never go that far!”
Things in the South and even small towns across this country continue as they have always been. Thus there is no need to give people information… because ‘Everybody Knows’! The local newspaper declared ‘Fireworks at the Fort on the 4th’ and yet there was no further information listed. Important information, like when? Which entrance? Is there a cost? Where do you park? Pets allowed? All sorts of things that I, being a newcomer, wanted to know! Specifics were not printed anywhere in the paper because ‘Everybody Knows’. There was an array of things that everybody there knows today, and has known forever.
My concern which you may see as a ‘rant’ is that this mindset is spreading!
Certainly, in this age of the internet, the world feels smaller. I’ve had clients as far away as Bulgaria! It feels like technology is taking over our lives. It has taken over so much so that I have a new rule for myself: Only one technological challenge a day!
Much has changed since I first started using computers in the early 90’s. In our rush to get the newest, fastest, wizziest tool possible the ‘Everybody Knows‘ syndrome has taken over. Back when computers were just becoming mainstream there were actually printed instruction manuals. I know, because I wrote some of them! There wasn’t this standing assumption that ‘Everybody Knows’.
These days I can and have spent hours trying to figure out how to use software that I’m supposed to just magically understand. Software that has no Help Function which covers my question. Icons and sequences that don’t make sense to me.
Some examples that I’ve run into include:
- The Triangle, Circle, and Square on my Fire Tablet – I at least grok* 2 out of 3 of these now. (* For those of you who aren’t Heinlein fans, grok is Martian for understanding profoundly and intuitively.)
- How to answer my cell phone. Who knew you had to put your finger on the flashing button and drag across to the receiver icon to answer that puppy? Certainly not me. I kept having to call people back.
- Don’t even get me started on the lack of explanation for how to use mandatory websites for filing payroll taxes.
To my thinking, it all falls into the ‘Everybody Knows’ category. See what keeps happening is that we make assumptions that everyone knows what we know…right? As we do that, we exclude people who don’t know what we know. That is a very dangerous thing to do.
And it’s not just the software that is at fault, it’s how we use it. I keep having this thing happen where I send an email to someone with two or three questions in it. Somehow I only get a response back for the first question. It may not be the exact ‘Everybody Knows‘ relationship, but it’s a close cousin! I’m guessing it has to do with the amount of technology overload we often experience. We don’t take the time to really read the email in its entirety. We read the first part of it and we just zoom it back. I’ve noticed that when I do that I often miss something.
We all need to slow down. If you can’t actually focus on the response now, why not wait until you feel less rushed? Unless it’s a dire emergency people will accept waiting a bit. I notice some people set expectations for when they will respond with tags on their emails like: “You can expect a response from within one business day.” Or you could send a response that says: “I’ve got your email, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Up to my tuckus in alligators at the moment.” Sometimes, especially if I’m tired, I will read a ‘tone’ into an email that isn’t there when I re-read it later. Based on that revelation I have taken to purposely waiting awhile before I come back and answer it. Preferably even overnight.
One thing I think everybody knows is that this lack of patience, courtesy, and respect in our communication hurts everyone. It isolates all of us. It takes away our humanity.
Let’s see if one by one we can’t try and help each other out, understanding this ‘intuitive’ technology, and communicating with each other. Maybe we can finally get to the idea that it’s never simply about us and them — It’s really just Everybody!
Shell Tain, the Untangler
What’s your take on this? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.
Do you find yourself brooding about money? Perhaps you spend hours analyzing how much you have, trying to find the magic key to the numbers? Or maybe you check your accounts multiple times a day? If you do, I’m guessing there might be a surprisingly different impetus hidden in all that fretting that isn’t tied to money.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I really want you to have a great interactive relationship with money. After all, money has so much to tell you. Money lets you know when you are achieving your goals, or when you need to reevaluate and focus more. It tells you if your mood is up or down. Lots of good internal data is available by looking at money.
Like many things, there is a place where it stops being informative or engaging and becomes obsessive and compulsive — kind of like tequila, chocolate or ice cream.
Frequently my clients share with me that they are so tied up in brooding over money that they can’t sleep. They spend hours in the dark fretting and worrying. Their minds are sent zooming over all sorts of bad scenarios. Thoughts tossing and turning around extreme situations like going broke. Losing everything. Starving. YIPES! Very scary stuff.
This worrying is NOT effective. It’s just spinning and brooding. It’s not planning. It’s not motivational. It is a pain in the ass!
What’s behind it? I think it’s your Inner Critic. Now, I know you may hear that from me a lot. That ‘should, must, have to’ voice is your Critic. Your Inner Critic is very vigilant at keeping you right where you are!
There are plenty of blogs here on my website that talk about this ‘piss ant’, omnipresent, irritating voice in our heads, so I will just give you a bit of the top notes here.
Your Inner Critic is there to keep you safe. The problem is that its perspective of safe is very narrow. Your Inner Critic thinks that as long as you are not in imminent danger of losing your life in the next 30 seconds you are fine, and should stay right where you are. It believes that doing something new will lead to death and disaster. So it’s ultimate job is to keep you right where you are! It does not care that ‘where you are‘ may be struggling, or unhappy, or even broke. You are alive, so don’t rock the boat.
So what does all this Inner Critic stuff have to do with brooding about money? The Inner Critic’s most effective tactic for keeping you where you are is to distract you! When you are fretting, obsessing and panicked you aren’t really present. You miss things. You don’t hear anything else. You don’t notice what is going on. You stay stuck.
Money is the perfect topic for the Critic. Money is still very much a taboo topic, so we are likely to not talk to anyone else about our money worries and concerns. Most people don’t feel at ease or comfortable around money, so it’s easy to stir up angst about it. Oh, and money is tied to our feeling of self-worth and value. A perfect place for the Critic to stir up distraction!
The next time you find yourself brooding and nattering about money, press the pause button. Spend a moment or two seeing just how distracted you are. Are you actually coming up with solutions? Or are you spinning weird scenarios?
And if you determine that it’s your Inner Critic creating chaos in your brain…TELL IT TO SHUT UP! Stop giving it ‘air time.’ Change the channel in your head. Do not engage with it!
You’ll sleep better, and be much more present in your life without the constant distractions.
PS: Critics do not go away — instead you can choose not to pay any attention to them!
Shell Tain, the Untangler
Really shutting up your critic can be a challenge. I’m happy to help. Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.
When I first learned about Dr. John Gottman’s work around the ‘Four Horsemen’ I was so impressed. By doing extensive research he had discovered four behaviors that are crucial for us all to both understand and to learn from. He based it on the ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ and his message was clear — We need to mind these horses!
Dr. Gottman, after spending countless hours with couples, applies his work surrounding the story of the “Four Horsemen” to the marriage relationship. My take on the matter is that these principles can be applied to ALL of our relationships, including the one with money — Yes, you do actually have a relationship with money! And the horses can give you insight on how that relationship is going.
As long as there have been horses, people have been tasked to mind their horse, meaning to pay attention to what it’s doing. I think understanding and minding these particular horses is essential to all our relationships and interactions. Dr. Gottman has given us four of them to be attentive to:
- Blaming or Criticism: We know this one, right? It’s all about judgment and more snarky than a complaint. We may complain about something, but when we add a bit of character assassination, it turns into blaming.
- Defending: This one really got my attention when I read what Dr. Gottman said about it. You see, defending is really veiled blaming. “The dog ate my homework” shifts the responsibility away from you and to the dog. It just tends to add more blaming, instead of calming things down.
- Contempt: This one is more about tone and intent than the actual words. It includes things like sarcasm, mockery, eye-rolling, and name-calling. The best example is Dan Aykroyd’s classic opening Point/Counter-Point line on Saturday Night Live with Jane Curtin: “Jane, you ignorant slut…” Literally anything can be said in a contemptuous manner.
- Stonewalling: This one is all about distancing and disengaging. It’s the ultimate cold-shoulder. It increases the frustration of the person who is talking to you if you don’t respond or even look at the person. The word really says it. Originally it was a noun, meaning “an act of obstruction.”
It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that these ‘horses’ tend to travel in pairs. Blaming and Defending trot along together, as do Contempt and Stonewalling. And they both stir up a bunch of dust. I liken this to the Wild Horse Race at the Rodeo. If there an issue worth paying attention to in the center of the arena — Like an important topic to be discussed — it will be invisible and ignored, shrouded in all the dust and fury of the horses galloping around.
Okay, so there they are — four horses. And what do we do about them? It’s really a three-step process:
- First, when you find yourself facing a ‘horse’ you repeat this mantra as many times as needed: ‘It’s not about me, it’s not about me, it’s NOT about me….’
- Second, you avoid getting on a ‘horse’. Stop, don’t ride at all. Dismount.
- Third, in order to help the other person dismount their ‘horse’ try this:
- Instead of joining them on a ‘horse’, try acknowledging the ‘feeling’ underneath the uneasiness by saying something like: “Wow, I get when that happens it really bothers you.” Notice that you aren’t agreeing, or surrendering, or apologizing — you are acknowledging and affirming that they are in a tough spot. It just might slow the ‘horse’.
I know, I know, easier said than done. We all experience ‘riding horses’ in our lives. They are in our heads and in our relationships. Dr. Gottamn’s work can show us something deeper about your relationships. Try this small experiment if you will. Think of a horrible relationship from your past…we all have at least one of those to ponder. Got one in mind? Okay, now which specific ‘horses’ were present in your interactions with each other? Which ‘horses’ did you ride and which ones did the other person gallop into the arena? Now let’s ponder a different relationship. One where you and the other person got along really well. A ‘good’ one. Any ‘horses’ there? How does that positive interaction compare with the first one? Finally, just for grins think about how you are with money — any ‘horses’ trotting around there?
Intriguing, isn’t it? You can see why the concept of the ‘horses’ is something I cover early on with my clients!
What’s really going on with these ‘horses’? What’s underneath all this? And why do I say it’s “not actually about you” when the other person is on a ‘horse’? The answer is the most important thing for you to know about ‘horses’!
We get on a horse to quite literally, get a leg up. We trot out a horse when we feel diminished — when our sense of self-worth is low or is challenged, especially when we feel powerless. ‘Horses’ are a distracting way to pull ourselves up by laying the responsibility elsewhere. We see it constantly. A prime example today is road rage. Even children can be seen getting on ‘horses’ to navigate their emotions— but they usually do it more cleanly. It’s not hard to see when children are on a ‘horse’ because they have hurt feelings. It’s harder as an adult to be vulnerable and admit that we feel diminished or put down — so instead we mount up and charge in!
Understanding and taming ‘horses’ matters now more than ever. They are no longer just running around in our personal lives but are stampeding all over! It’s time to learn to mind our own ‘horses’ with care and diligence.
Shell Tain, the Untangler
Want some help getting off a ‘horse’, or avoiding each other’s horses’? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.
It seems like it’s everywhere these days: People seem to expect to just magically be perfect at something without practice or study. I don’t really know what’s behind it—or even if I’m just noticing it because I have several clients who expect themselves to be perfect right ‘out of the chute’.
What I do know is that it’s not only a futile endeavor but a trap. It’s one of those handy tools that our Inner Critic voice uses. You have heard me speak of that, and I will continue to do so. Frankly, I think helping people to stop giving their Inner Critics ‘air time‘ is one of the most important things I do… whether it’s about money or not. This perfection thing is just another diversion in the Critic’s Toolkit.
Somehow many of us feel like we are supposed to be able to be perfect without practice or effort. I beg to differ with that. Even the things that we are ‘good‘ at, or have some innate talent for, require practice, enhancement, care—or we either lose them or they get stale.
This desire to be instantly successful and perfect at something is everywhere in our lives. We should just know how to write a blog, cook a great meal, play an instrument, or manage our money, right? Um, no. All those things and many more take practice—lots of practice.
It’s not even just a matter of patience. It seems to be more about expectations. We expect that we will magically be able to do something without struggle or effort.
One side of my family was full of artists, and I do some art myself. Art is a particularly good example of a skill where you have to give yourself the time and patience to fail, experiment, and just mess up.
Long ago I was taking a beginning drawing class at a local college. A young guy in his twenties had the easel next to me. We were doing some kind of sketching, I don’t remember the actual objects. What I do remember is that he kept drawing a bit and then wadding the paper up and throwing it on the floor. There were grunts, gnashing, and colorful language that accompanied this endeavor. The instructor noticed the pile and came over to talk to him. I both love and agree wholeheartedly with what she told him. She explained that every art piece goes through a very ugly stage where you just want to rip it up and start over. I was delighted to hear that because I thought I was the only person who had that problem! She also said that you just have to keep working at it and get past it. It’s part of the process.
Along the same line, I recently read an article in Artist’s Magazine about starting a drawing practice. The article, by Danny Gregory, had a box in the corner titled: NOTE TO SELF which included these points:
- Never compare yourself to other artists… Let their progress inspire, but not intimidate, you…
- You’re making more progress than you think you are. You may not see it, but it’s happening…
- Everyone struggles at the beginning… the struggle is normal, inevitable… and a positive sign that you are working through things.
I have several clients who feel like when they take a class to learn something new they have to do things well from the very beginning. Maybe that comes from competition in school or the need to get good grades to meet family or cultural expectations, but it is not an effective method of learning something new as an adult. What that idea is really good at is keeping you from even trying to learn something new or improve how you do things. It distracts you from engaging, and that is a shame. It’s a Perfection Trap, and none of us want to end up in a trap.
The real question is: How would your life be different if you allowed yourself to be messy, awkward, and nowhere near perfect? And even more radical, what if you could think of doing that as the ‘perfect’ way to be? Give it a try!
Shell Tain, the Untangler
Want some help getting out of the Perfection Trap? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.
Remember your teenage years? It seems to me that Junior High, which is today’s Middle School, was where it really became clear. There were the cool kids, the in-crowd, and there were the rest of us. Most of us weren’t in the in-crowd. That’s part of the value of a clique: exclusivity. There were different forms of cliques. Some were for the athletic types, some for the nerds. Tough kids, surfers, hippies — all had their own groups with specific rules around dress, language, and behavior. They worked hard to stay in their group and to exclude others. Without excluding others there isn’t anything to feel special about.
Many of us didn’t meet the criteria. We weren’t good enough for whatever reason. We weren’t pretty, or thin enough. We weren’t smart enough—or were too smart. We didn’t have the right clothes. It hurt and made us feel ‘less than’.
This is not new for humans. We have been doing it forever. And the solution is in a very old fairy tale: ‘The Ugly Duckling’ written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1843. You all know the story, and the point was and remains to be — stop hanging out with ducks! Go where you are appreciated.
Now there is a particular reason I’m bringing this up. I’ve noticed over the years that many of my clients get Money tangled up in this ‘do I belong’ conundrum. It goes something like this:
- If I was rich I could fit in with the ‘in-crowd’
- I’m jealous and envious of those who have more than I do
- It’s not fair that I don’t have more money
- I messed up because I didn’t save when I was young, or get a degree, or…
- I feel like I’m always being judged as ‘less than’ others
Somehow we make up that it’s all about money. Money is the problem. It caused it. I don’t have it. On and on it goes. And here’s the rub. Yes, money may be a factor in this tangle, but not in the way people think. You may be tired of hearing it, and here it is again: “Money is reflective, not causative!” You made choices, some good, some not so good. And sad to say, you may still be stuck in those choices. Going over them and over them. Letting them consume you.
This idea of making it all about money is a giant distraction! It keeps you from living your life now. It has you trying to fit into places you likely won’t like when you get there. It’s the Duck/Swan thing again. I remember once putting an offer down on a house in a particular neighborhood. I had this weird thought in my head. It went like this: “If I lived in this neighborhood I’d have to put on make-up to get the mail!” I liked the house, the price was fine, yet it didn’t feel right. I was not going to be with my peeps if I lived there. Luckily there turned out to be a siding issue that had us not buy the house.
The thing that has you not be in with the ‘cool kids’ is not money—really! And if you keep thinking it is, and fussing with it around money, you will just keep spinning in circles.
The problem is that the real issue is harder to deal with. It’s what’s under the money stuff, and it’s likely about your own feelings of ‘worth’. It takes courage and fortitude to dig in there, but it’s well worth it.
I’ve recently been on my own journey around this tangle about ‘where do I fit’ and realized that I was hanging around with people who were not nice to me, and I was trying hard to get them to like me. Finally, I figured out that they just weren’t my peeps! I set some new boundaries and am hanging with swans instead! And there is a huge weight off my heart and soul. See, hanging around with other swans is easy. They laugh at your jokes, they like you, they respect you… you can be yourself.
Please give yourself the gift of hanging with your own particular in-crowd!
Shell Tain, the Untangler
Want some help getting out of this tangle? Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or leave a comment.