workplace

Breaking rules is good for you.

I've never been very good at following rules. In fact, I've broken more than I've followed.

It's not surprising that my life has turned out the way it has. 

Before I became an entrepreneur and a health coach, and subsequently saw my health and happiness expand before my very eyes, I tried really, really hard to follow rules. But it never came easy to me, especially when I saw something happening in systems or in relationships where things just didn't work. If someone told me there was one way or a "right way" to do something, I would instantly challenge it.

For many years, I took this as some kind of sign that something was wrong with me. I broke the rules often and, for a while there, I worried that I was a path toward self-destruction or at least a life less ordinary and perhaps unnecessarily difficult. Other people seemed to get along fine, so what was wrong with me? Why wasn't I just "normal" like everyone else?

It turns out, I was doing something very, very right--at least according to the terms of the life I want to live.

It began in grade school when I shot my hand up in the air and asked why so-and-so was doing something. The teacher promptly replied, "it's none of your business". She was probably right, but it tipped me off that I was born to question everything: norms, rules, boundaries--pretty much everything. 

When I became a vegetarian, I was casting off the way I'd been raised to eat and it threw my family into a fine frenzy.

When I quit my teaching career just shy of tenure at the age of 24, people thought I was crazy to walk away from job security.

When I challenged the politics at my former job, I was subsequently asked to leave.

When I changed my gender identity, people thought I was brave. I just wanted to be more "me".

Granted, sometimes my quest for authenticity, transparency and change was/is often misguided and grossly ineffective. My own internal struggle sometimes manifests as trying to change systems or people that don't want to be changed. This continues to be a growing edge for me.

But I still think breaking rules is good for you. It's even better when you know how, why and to what ends you're breaking them. When you break societal rules (the ones that don't harm you or another person, of course) you learn a lot about people. You learn that rules are largely arbitrary and nonsense. When you break rules around food, time, relationships and your own identities, you learn to make your own rules based on the life you want to live.

Recently, I was reminded of this while interacting with administrative personnel. For the most part, the past six years of my business have been free of red tape and drama. I set my terms/rules and clients or customers either agree or don't. Or we negotiate and compromise. It works really well. When I had to work within a system again, with the complex (and often toxic) interpersonal and institutional dynamics that exists in most systems and institutions, it reminded me WHY I'm an excellent entrepreneur: I don't follow rules very well. I am creative and flexible and see everything as a possibility. The sky's the limit and everything is adaptable and relative according to each person. This isn't how many people function, individually or within groups.

WHY SHOULD YOU BREAK RULES?

You'll lose your false sense of security. People may like rules because they can create the illusion of control. When you abandon the idea that things have to be, look or go a certain way, you open yourself up to how things "could" be. 

You'll surrender your need for power. People may like rules if they benefit from power in some way. When you break rules, you surrender your need to dominate or control other people, including yourself. Sometimes rules you have for yourself around time, energy, money, etc. may limit you in some way and limit what you can give/receive from others.

You'll eliminate your ego. People may use rules (around procedures or communication or policies) to leverage control just for the ego-trip or to perpetuate identities, behaviors or patterns, even if they prove grossly ineffective. They consider there is a right way or familiar way to do things instead of many ways. They are sometimes rigid, inflexible and, as a result, often limit their growth, effectiveness and productivity. When you break rules, you basically abandon the need to be right, perfect or static as you have been and more open to what or who you could be.

Contrary to popular belief, some rule-breakers aren't "problems"--they are often problem-solvers. They are people who may see things differently, sometimes from an extremely helpful perspective. They are people who LIKE to rethink how they are doing things. They see something isn't working and they trouble-shoot in innovative ways instead of "the way they've always done things". They take in data or feedback to be more effective and productive. They want to become bigger, better and stronger.

 

BREAKING RULES allows for options

BREAKING RULES allows for diversity.

BREAKING RULES allows for change.

BREAKING RULES allows for growth and expansion.

 

Consider which rules you're currently following, where you learned them, and how they are serving you.

And which one you want to break, starting right now.

 

 

What Happens When You Ask For Help

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  We all know the joke about men not asking for help with directions.

Have you heard the one about the woman who tries to do everything "her way" and then says her husband doesn't help her? The punchline is: "he wasn't doing it right."

Except, it's not a joke. It's what people do.

Men try to figure things out alone rather than ask for and receive help and women...well, they do the same thing. Actually, many human beings do this. 

Why? What happens when we ask for help?

WE MIGHT GET IT

Well, we might just get help, only it might not come in the way we want, expect or anticipate. If we have our sights set on how others can or can't or should help, we miss out on the opportunity to actually receive the help we think we need. Or we do get help and then what happens to our Savior Complex? yikes.

WE MIGHT NOT GET IT

Sometimes we ask and people aren't actually willing to help and that feels like crap. We are stuck in the same situation we were before we asked. Except, there are a few other people we could ask...

WE LOOK STUPID

Or we ask and we think we look stupid for asking. That person thought we had it all together and now they know we don't. That image we stood behind felt so safe and now people know we are a fraud. Freakin' great.

 

These fears or experiences can lead us to think we don't even need or want help.

Somewhere deep down, we may not think we deserve it. Or maybe it is too hard to accept it and it is easier (albeit more difficult and painful) to do it ourselves. If this worked perfectly, it would be awesome. Unfortunately, I know more than a few people who take this stance and then complain. Frequently. That's tricky, right? Nothing bad or wrong there, just...something to see.

*sorry. I'm back. was just looking at that for myself*

Here's what I have learned from asking for help or from working with people who ask me for help: it puts us in a totally vulnerable state of receiving. We all like to look like we are juggling 10 balls perfectly, right? YEAH! What a feeling of power and control. Holy crap, the seduction of that facade is so tempting.

Until we actually come up against our limits as humans. See, we have a limited field of vision based on the experiences we have had. While we might be smarter than the average bear (or person), we still can't possibly know it all. The opinions and perspectives of other people are tremendously helpful, particularly if they have a viewpoint or life experience that relates to ours.

Take my clients, for example. Their life experiences range from many different vocations, races, ethnicities, religions, genders and sexual orientations. What do they share in common? Choosing change. Every single one of them comes up against the fear of change and their own personal limitations. They want to shift something in their lives and that requires a perspective that will be different from the one they have known.

This is something I know really well, having changed my job, religion, my state and neighborhood of residence, gender presentation, sexual orientation, gender identity AND heck, my own damn name and my body! Anything that can be changed, I've changed. And I haven't done this by myself. I've done it by constantly asking for help when I come up against my own limitations or my own ability to see clearly what I could change.

My client who felt stuck in his job? He just needed help changing his definition of what job he "should" have. He was held back by this one idea that required credentials he didn't have. Once we redefined it as something to earn money while he found something ideal, he made the shift.

Someone asked me for help with something intimate the other day. She read me as a guy and it was probably hard for her to ask me, since it involved her body. She overcame the perception of my maleness as a barrier and instead saw me as a person who could help her. And help her, I did. She felt weird, she overcame the fear and she got exactly what she needed.

We all need help with something in our lives. Something we want to change or something that hurts.

We like to think we can do everything ourselves, especially if we are particularly good at DIY-ing other things in life or if we've tried to ask for help before and have been hurt in some way. Shit happens when we ask for help, it's totally true. I tried to ask for help from someone who is this big social media expert and he completely flaked on me. Whatever. Maybe the Universe was helping me dodge a bullet. Maybe this guy had nothing to tell me that I don't already know and that was the lesson I needed.

Whatever the result, pleasant or not, we learn something by asking for help. We learn how to ask, who to ask and when to ask.

Finding the ability to ask for help and seek it from people or places who are ready, willing and able to provide it are essential skills to living healthy, happy lives. It's an art, a practice, not an exact science.

 

What would happen if you asked for help with something in your life today?

 

 

image courtesy another great article on LinkedIn.

Is overworking really worth it?

A signpost directing work life balance

  I found an article online that quoted some health tips from me. While reading, I learned a new word: karoshi. (And there should be an accent above the "o" in that word, but Wordpress didn't have the right symbol)

According to Wikipedia, it can be translated to mean, "death by overwork" and the Japanese use it when referring to "sudden occupational death. The major medical causes of karōshi deaths are heart attack and stroke due to stress and a starvation diet."

 

Stress and diet.

These are two things you can definitely manage.

 

I don't know about you, but I can think of a few people who are on my watch-list, people I know who work a lot, to the point that I'd call it overworking. How do I know what I'm looking for?

Because it used to be me.

For most of my working life, I was overtired, chronically sick, underslept and overwhelmed. I missed appointments and deadlines and had colds that became sinus infections and led to countless trips to the doctor or days working sick on my feet. I shudder to remember. I just stopped and counted--I've been sick less than 10 days in the past four years.

I know that OVERWORK CULTURE is real.

Before I became a self-employed integrative health coach, I ran on fumes. I began my professional career as a teacher at the age of 22 and, within a month of accepting my first job, came down with mono that grounded me for two months. Unbelievable. Anyone who knows or is married or partnered to a teacher knows the hours are well beyond 40+/week.  Summers are rarely free since many teachers spend those months earning supplemental income.

I was almost burned-out by the time I quit teaching at the age of 25 when I moved into working for local businesses and then multiple non-profits. The years I spent in those environments taught me very little about healthy boundaries and I perpetuated unhealthy habits around nutrition, time management and work/life balance like many of my colleagues.

For the past five years, I've coached clients from all job sectors: from startups to local companies to corporations to ministers to doulas.

I've learned that overwork is a potential threat in any environment and what makes a difference is how people approach the tasks before them and the tools they use to practice work/life balance.

When we feel especially passionate about our job or our role in our workplace, it's tempting to think that investing significant amounts of time into the work will pay off. We will get ahead. Just one more email or phone call or whatever and we will knock it all out and be able to relax "when things calm down." But this is a dangerous dangling carrot, particularly if your job or workplace is successful. Chances are things will not get to a place of stability--there are always multiple balls in the air, things to solve, cats to herd, etc.

And that's how we get to a place of overwork and unmanageable stress that reveals itself in symptoms like fatigue, chronic pain, headaches, recurrent illness and possibly worse at some point. It's something so common, Japan has a word for it. Is it really less common here or have we just not named it, yet?

It begs the question: is overworking really worth it?

Consider that your health is your best asset: for your personal AND professional life.

When you're out sick, your company suffers. When you're sick, your life suffers.

No matter how much there is to be done, you always have a choice how much you'll do.

If you're thinking this is unrealistic or impractical, all I can say is I've done this for myself and have coached hundreds of people in achieving and experiencing the same results. I can only provide the tools and cross my fingers that they practice them to the point of experiencing real change in their lives. And then, when they see that they can feel happy, healthy AND get tons of work accomplished, they really get that overworking never really necessary or worth it.

 

Can you relate to this? What could you do today to scale back on your workload?

What are you getting from overworking? Is it worth it?

 

image courtesy of this site.