Are you purposefully problem-solving?

Life is HARD! It includes many problems to solve, especially when you’re living it fully and deeply and not skating around the rim, floating along on a cloud of privilege, denial or delusion (which many people are).

Everyone who is aware of the natural ups and downs of life needs a good healthy vent now and then. It’s a strategy mental health professionals advocate we all strive to practice to purposefully problem-solve daily frustrations in our lives.

Venting allows us to express the natural ebb and flow of human emotions which indicate an appropriate level of awareness and ability to deal with reality. If you aren’t riding the rocky waves of feeling, you probably aren’t really dealing with reality at all! Even Buddhist masters feel a wide range of feelings, they just have great tools to manage the highs and lows. I’ve been practicing for 20 years and only finally feel like I know what I’m doing most of the time.

So it’s ok to feel lots of feelings, I just gave you permission. But how we deal with those feelings determines how we feel on a day-to-day basis and how we impact the lives of other people.

Because there’s venting and then there’s flat-out complaining. And behavior change experts (like me) will tell you (and myself) that complaining is just disempowerment, plain and simple. Complaining rarely if ever helps us feel better whereas processing helps us purposefully problem-solve which helps us feel more confident and happy!

So how do you know when you’re venting to purposefully process or problem-solve and when you’re complaining in circles?

I’m happy to share my personal experience and perspective on this, because it’s way more relatable and fun since I’m a real person. People who meet me and know I’m a coach often get a little disillusioned by their own projections of what they think a coach is or should be. When they meet me and realize I have struggles and challenges and fears and limitations, and even (GASP!) complain from time to time, they sometimes think I can’t really help them or other people. Even though I’ve helped thousands of people in the ten years I’ve been a coach and for years before I ever became certified.

But the truth is, I’m just a normal human being who happens to know a lot about behavior change and healthy habits, but it certainly doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I don’t need to be perfect to help people. I just need to know tools and encourage and support others in their process. The best way I do that is to walk my own path, make mistakes, learn from them and keep going. And share what I learn!

So here’s how I have learned to know when I am complaining and not doing healthy processing or venting.

Both feel and sound similar. Both include insights about interactions with other people. Both include sharing painful feelings or frustrations about circumstances or realizations. Both (maybe) include some snarky comments.

But complaining sounds more like, “I can’t believe this happened to me. It’s so unfair. Poor me. This is just my situation and there’s nothing I can do.”

Complaining is merely recounting the details of what happened, over and over, without any desire to transform the situation.

Processing or healthy venting for problem-solving sounds more like, “wow! That was really frustrating or disappointing. I really didn’t listen to my gut and probably should have. I didn’t realize this earlier but can see clearly now. It sure doesn’t feel good, but I learned a good lesson from it.”

OR

“I clearly expressed what I wanted and needed but we weren’t on the same page. I tried several times to make it work and finally gave up. I feel sad and disappointed but can see why it happened like that.”

OR

“I keep expecting someone to be different or have a different reaction. I’m really setting myself up to be disappointed over and over. I should probably change my approach.”

Get it? It really involves some important self-awareness and self-reflection to make it purposeful problem-solving and not ranting and complaining about how much people suck.

Complaining usually focuses on the behavior or actions of other people. It indicates where we had unrealistic expectations or projections and failed to express them clearly. Complaining lacks any statement of personal responsibility or attitude that contributed or led to the frustration.

Processing to purposefully problem-solve includes, first and foremost, what we expected or how we could have contributed to something that didn’t work out or was unsatisfying.

It’s important to remember that it’s ok to be annoyed or sad or frustrated, especially when we have worked hard to express ourselves and it falls on deaf ears. Or when people seem unwilling or unable to change to make working or living together feel easier and more fun.

So why bother focusing on healthy venting when we could just complain our guts out?

Well, I remember things really changed for me in my life when I stopped complaining because it just got exhausting. I felt like a broken record and I started hearing how I sounded to other people and started to cringe.

When I started learning new ways to express myself and think about my own behavior, I started processing more and trying to trouble-shoot solutions to change myself or a situation. It doesn’t mean that people HEARD it as processing. In fact, when I talk I often think many people think I’m complaining, because that’s what they’re used to hearing from other people in their lives. It’s hard to know the difference until you really think about it. But when you listen well, you can spot it!

I engage in healthy venting and processing because my life isn’t easy. No one has it easy, really, but some certainly have it easier than others. The more challenges I’ve taken on and chosen, the harder my life becomes. But it’s up to me to speak to how those challenges feel and how to solve them, which includes healthy processing of what feels painful, frustrating or hard. Merely complaining about something doesn’t change it, in fact it only makes what felt hard feel more horrible because it doesn’t transform or go anywhere.

Take politics. We see lots of people complaining about a person, or people, but not really processing how they keep expecting someone to change (who shows no sign of changing anytime soon). See how complaining just goes in circles whereas processing, which would include changing one’s personal perspective, actually trouble-shoots the same problem? Even if the situation doesn’t change, YOUR FEELINGS about it do change!

Or think about your own life and a problematic situation. Why are you complaining about it? What’s the story you keep telling yourself or another person over and over? Can you see where you could transform it by adding in details about your own part of what happened?

Sit on this. Think about it. Consider what you’re doing each day and if it qualifies as processing or complaining. And if I can help you sort through this or shift it, let me know.

Go Your Own Way

Are you a Fleetwood Mac fan? My mom is. I’m not. But I do appreciate their music.

You might know they have this great song “Go Your Own Way”. I think it’s about not committing to a relationship.

If I could
Maybe I'd give you my world
How can I
When you won't take it from me

You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it
Another lonely day
You can go your own way
Go your own way

Tell me why
Everything turned around
Packing up
Shacking up is all you want to do

Want to know what I hear? A love song to society. It’s pretty much how I feel about human beings sometimes. Well, most times.

It seems to me sometimes that people would rather keep picking habits that don’t serve them over ones that do. It seems they want the most for the least amount of work and effort involved.

They want it cheap, fast and easy.

But a life well-lived is none of those things. In fact, it takes incredible amounts of work and tenacity. It’s so much easier to swim with the stream and stay alongside the status quo. So that’s what most people do. That’s what we see all over social media. And most people seem to be ok with a life like that. But I HATE IT. And I think my people (you) do, too. We crave being different and unique and breaking out of molds and boxes.

It takes a lot of work to do that.

But YOU CAN do it. I know. I do it all the time and have been doing it my whole life, really.

When Dave Matthews was the band to follow back in the day, I intentionally didn’t buy a CD. Just one example of many.

And there have been many days, especially in the past six years or so, when I doubted why I lived my life like that and when or if it would ever pay off. I began to get really worried that living outside the lines was catching up to me and I was getting left behind. I was losing the game. I wouldn’t ever be successful. It seemed like the way to be successful and happy, no matter fake and weird it seemed, was to do what everyone else was doing. To just be “normal”.

But I trusted myself. I kept going my own way and doing things differently, in ways that felt right for me. The more I did this, the harder my life got. And if you’ve been following along with me this whole time, you’ve seen the process unfold because I’ve shared it.

And maybe now you’re seeing that…is has totally been the right path all along. Because my life is going the way I want it to, even if it’s nothing like what mainstream society does. And that’s my whole message to you: go your own way. Even if it’s hard. Even when it’s scary. Even when you totally doubt yourself (like I often do).

Because being yourself CAN and DOES pay off. Maybe not the way it does for people who follow the silly societal rules and trends, but do you even really want that for yourself? Maybe you do. In which case, you should probably stop reading.

But if you’re trying to be yourself and have always felt like that was weird or wrong, I’m here to tell you that it’s perfect the way it is. You just have to really believe in yourself and keep sticking to it, especially in the darkest deepest moments when you feel alone and hopeless. Because then you get to have the big breakthroughs that make it all worthwhile.

Like me and what I got invited to do next week, for example. On Wednesday, I’ll be in NYC interviewing author and entrepreneur, Randi Zuckerberg, who wrote “Pick Three: You can have it all (just not every day)”. Pretty cool opportunity, right?!

Totally. And I was invited to do this in my role as a Global Mentor for WeWork Labs. Also another very cool opportunity! And I got that opportunity from other cool things that have happened to me for the past ten years of being a coach and speaker and writer.

And you know what’s the coolest thing about all these experiences? I got chosen for the work I do as a coach. And I emerged from the profound societal stigma of my identity as a trans* person and have persevered to be successful in a career of my own choosing. I also overcame my own personal limitations and mindset to persevere no matter what. Because is it possible I’m being given opportunities simply because I’m trans*? Like being tokenized to make a person or organization look better because they’ve included me? Sure. It’s totally possible and maybe even likely.

But I’m over it. As long as I’m being given opportunities to be visible and inspire (Dillanspire) people, then I’ll take as many as possible for whatever reasons.

If you haven’t experienced stigmatization like this, maybe you don’t get the gravity of what I mean. But I bet you can relate to being or feeling limited by someone or something in your life and told what you should do or be. You may have even been rejected by people you love, like I have, for being yourself. Or you feel that rejection on a daily basis.

And I bet you can relate to how horrible it feels.

And how tempting it is to give up in moments like that.

But if you’ve felt that, then you know how awesome it feels to not give up and how it’s feels SO GOOD when you’ve stuck to your values and principles when you were tested.

And how great the victory feels when you’ve gone your own way and have proven to yourself that it can and does work. Having that experience is TRUE success, in my opinion.

I know Randi feels similarly because I’ve read her book. And while we’ll be talking about work/life balance, we’ll also discuss how hard she worked to achieve her own personal version of success on her own terms.

Which is something we share in common, despite how different our lives are. We’ve both gone our own way and we’re better, stronger people because of it.

I hope this inspired you today,

Dillan

Three Good Habits To Get More Grounded

I drove myself all over the state of New Jersey and way up to Boston in a flurry of five days last week, so you can bet I was feeling a little disoriented come Monday.

I love being in constant motion. It makes me feel alive and vibrant, the opposite of stuck and stagnant, and I thrive on it. But it also creates some chaos to my habits and patterns that help me feel more focused and grounded.

So once I got back home, I started doing three things that always help me get my feet under me. And maybe they’ll help you, too, if you’re not already doing them or needed a reminder.

  1. Prioritize sleep. From all the driving around and late nights and different sleeping arrangements, my rhythms got thrown off. And sleep deprivation or disruption is a recipe for decreased immune system which can lead to getting sick. Since I already got sick three times this winter (!), I am not having more of that. So as soon as I could, I reestablished my sleep schedule and put myself to bed on time. I also changed my sheets which ALWAYS guarantees a great night’s sleep for me.

    Sleep is the best medicine: it’s cheap, free and extremely effective to help our bodies heal themselves.

  2. Eat greens. When I’m on the road like I was last week, it was hard to find enough greens to meet my daily goals. Greens include kale, spinach, broccoli, etc. and I’ve gotten pretty good at getting at least two servings of them in each day. But last week I got all thrown off from the choices available to me, so I immediately bought myself two big containers of greens and have been gobbling them up the past few days. Greens cleanse the blood, increase our alkalinity and are just generally great for good gut health.

  3. Practice breathing. The frenzy of running from one thing to the next is fun! I love it! I was so impressed how I pulled off such incredible feats of time management to squeeze so much in! I made everything work perfectly time-wise, including a full coaching schedule and lunch meetings and meals with friends. I did screw up one time and overbooked dinner plans with coaching sessions and had to disappoint myself and my friends. But we pivoted and will reschedule for another time. Can’t do it all perfectly, of course. But I noticed when the frenzy tipped the scales a bit and I started forgetting things because my brain was just fried. So I immediately forgave myself and started to practice breathing. The breathing brings in more oxygen and actually helps my brain calm down so I’m not in flight/fight/freeze mode (even in GOOD conditions, the brain just reacts the same) and can think more clearly and consciously. Just breathing helps me practice mindfulness to make the next best move.

Those three habits always help me get more grounded, even if I haven’t been running all over the place like I was last week. Life demands pull us out of alignment constantly and it’s up to us to practice good habits to find balance from one moment to the next.

See if these habits help you do this in your life. Which one can you practice starting right now? Taking action is always the best way to get grounded ASAP.