It’s 2017, and you’ve decided it is time to tell some folks the truth about you: you’re gay, you’ve BEEN gay, and you’re tired of hiding it in both big and small ways. If you’ve been agonizing about exactly how to tell people you’re gay let me say this first: the most important part of this exchange is YOU. Your needs, your feelings, your future, and your lifestyle. This conversation can be short and sweet.
Convey your message in simple language so no one gets it twisted:
“Hello? It’s me. I was wondering if you knew that I’m gay. Yes? You suspected already? Ok great just checking, I thought I’d officially confirm it. M’kay bye!” (Hang up phone and start belting out lyrics to your favorite power workout song.)
“Hello? It’s me. I was wondering if you knew that I’m gay. No? Ok well glad I checked because I am. Hella gay. Happy to share with you some ways you could support me, if you’re interested. If not, we can talk about something else now.”
This is an exercise in getting something off your chest for you, about you. Maybe the person you’ve told has questions about ‘how sure you are’, ‘if this could be a phase’, or feels compelled to wonder out loud if ‘maybe you just haven’t met the right person yet.’ If the person you’ve just told you’re gay responds with doubtful comments and questions you can respond like this:
2. Convey you do not have doubts about your sexuality. If they have difficulty believing you are in fact, gay, they should work through those feelings on their own. Maybe they need some professional support and/or expertise to become better informed about how sexuality works.
“It seems like you’re having a hard time believing that I understand my own feelings and my own sexuality. What if I were asking you these same questions about your sexuality? I don’t want to debate my sexuality, just like I’m sure you don’t want to debate yours.”
“It sounds like you could use some time to think about what I’ve just told you, based on your comments and questions. I’ve already thought A LOT about it, and I’m done now. I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m gay. There’s nothing else to think about- I’m gay, the end. When you’ve reached that place too, you’ll feel at peace with it, just like I do.”
3. Convey you have choices about how you live your life, and the people in it. Make it clear that while you’d like your personal and professional relationships to remain unaffected by your sexuality, the fact is some people will have a hard time accepting this. The best thing you can do is surround yourself with people who respect and support your goals and are willing to treat you fairly regardless of your sexuality. This will be a lifelong endeavor, but worth the effort so that you can live your best, happiest, most fulfilled life.
“I understand there will be people who won’t like me because I’m gay. That’s not really any different than people who might not like you (or anyone for that matter) because of things they can’t change about themselves. If someone doesn’t like me because I’m gay that’s their problem not mine.”
“Maybe it’s not obvious, but I’d rather not have to deal with people treating me unfairly or excluding me from opportunities or even basic rights because I’m gay. The best thing I can do is pursue personal relationships and professional opportunities that allow me to be myself, grow, and pursue fulfilling goals. It would be great if you could support me. If not, I understand that’s your choice. You should understand it’s my choice to build a support group of people who accept me.”
The health toll of having these conversations should not be underestimated. Many people feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the prospects of sharing news about yourself that may not be well-received. This is a good time to invest in regular self care activities and connect with people who accept and support you as you are.
Telling people you’re gay need not be a long, complicated, agonizing conversation. You do not have to allow anyone to make you feel like you’re wrong, unhealthy, or unlovable. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is your life, and no matter what your sexuality is you can find a way to pursue happiness, love, fulfillment and success. We can’t control how people feel about sexual diversity, but we can take strides to protect ourselves from feeling negatively judged by limiting the air time we give them, and focus our attention on building a life of positive self acceptance.
So you recently landed a job that lines up well with your career goals. You’re feeling confident. Maybe you already have a great track record of achievement- top SAT scores, a stellar graduating GPA, glowing letters of recommendations from past employers. Your time to shine has finally arrived! But after settling into your new role, you realize this new work climate is no easy read. Communication with your boss or co-workers leaves you feeling unsupported, and you start to worry that taking this job was a mistake. What should you do? You’d like to avoid moving on prematurely so your resume stays on track. The following tips will help you kill it at your new job with some proven coaching strategies, even in a cutthroat culture.
Working with an executive coach is a great way to skillfully steer this situation back in your favor. One of the first things I ask my clients to do is to describe their personal career vision to me. Outlining one’s career goals helps to pinpoint the various skills and experiences that are necessary to achieve this vision. Does this job afford you an opportunity to make these gains? (In all likelihood yes,which is why you sought out and/or accepted the position in the first place.) Some jobs require you to change more than others- a process which is often unpredictable and frustrating as you figure out how to succeed there. An executive coach can help you prepare mentally and strategically for this. Together you will generate lasting and effective solutions to keep you on your personalized track to success.
Reframe how you’re thinking about the ‘problems’ you’re experiencing at work. Learn to embrace this job as a purposeful choice you are making for the sake of experience and skill building rather than an oppressive situation that is happening to you. Remember no one is holding you hostage there. Ask yourself “Am I ready to adapt to a different way of thinking and operating?” No one said changing perspectives would feel easy, or that you wouldn’t face major obstacles along the way. Either stay in the game and take ownership of the experience, or prepare to move on.
Rise to the occasion: successful leaders search for ways to improve and strengthen themselves in difficult situations, inspiring others to do the same. They are often unflappable and well respected, even in hostile work climates. That’s what makes them so effective in senior positions and invaluable to a company or organization.
What personal strengths do you have that helped you overcome past obstacles? What did you do to persevere? Some of my younger, especially gifted and fortunate clients have moved through life with relative ease, so dealing with an uncontrollable work environment can feel especially demoralizing. Others have come through relative adversity, but realize past coping strategies are no longer sufficient. If the cultural climate of your new job seems unwelcoming, petty or even combative, you may find yourself avoiding interactions altogether. I encourage my clients to see this as a chance to learn how to read, respond to and handle a variety of people. The more versatile and challenging, the more prepared and effective you will be in handling future challenges.
Anticipate people’s behavior so you can prepare to respond with efficiency rather than let negative emotions take over. For example, instead of allowing others’ tardiness to be a constant source of frustration, learn to use this extra time to your advantage by completing simple tasks while you wait, organize your schedule or review to-do lists. Does your boss constantly place blame on others or set unrealistic goals? Learn to respond with positivity and an eagerness to improve and support.
Aim to view other people’s behavior as a reflection of the setting and their ability to cope with it rather than taking it personally. Criticism is often a relative opinion. It doesn’t matter that you were your boss’s favorite employee at your past job. Learn to view criticism as an opportunity to better understand what others expect instead of getting defensive.
Learn to predict and manage your emotional style so that you are not just reacting, but thoughtfully responding to difficult people and situations with strategy. You’ve heard some people described as ‘running hot and cold, moody, or unpredictable.’ That’s rarely a good thing in work settings. Anyone who’s served in a leadership role will tell you that managing difficult people or emotionally charged situations is a necessary part of the job.
You’ll find that working with others is much easier if you are well liked – which means you will be more successful during your time there. I encourage my clients to step outside their comfort zone and find ways to show interest and demonstrate kindness towards others they might avoid in their personal life. Almost without exception there will be people we don’t like that we need to work alongside. Whether or not they are truly reprehensible is irrelevant: not ‘liking someone’ can quickly erode your working relationships and productivity, and get in the way of your professional goals. People we don’t even like are not worth that sacrifice!
Identify your emotional and social style, and zero in on what tends to trigger you during times of stress. How can you build upon this style so that you remain better balanced under pressure? It’s not uncommon for people to become rigid and/or less effective in their emotional style when distressed. Rational-leaning people who are valued for their even-keel disposition and logical problem solving may become hyper-rational and avoid attending to emotional information even when necessary for resolving conflict. Emotionally sensitive people who are skilled at reading others and interpreting social climates can become overtly emotional and lose track of logical solutions when overwhelmed.
Appreciate your natural interpersonal style and how it affects others, and challenge yourself to practice more versatility in your social interactions. Soon others will experience you as highly perceptive and effective in your role. As a general rule of thumb, be patient and observe social patterns before jumping to conclusions, avoid gossip, and express gratitude and appreciation for others whenever possible.
Respect other people’s seniority regardless of how effective you deem them to be in their role. You can always ‘be right’ silently in your own head (but beware of resting bitch face!) Take care to demonstrate flexibility and supportiveness and pay attention to how problems are resolved among others.
Maintain a safe distance between your work identity and YOU. You are a multi-faceted person who exists with needs outside of your career. Take a break, catch your breath. The learning curve of new jobs can be draining, so self-care is crucial to your long term functioning.
Taking care of yourself is easier if you adopt a consistent pattern of paying attention to your needs, even if it’s with small gestures. Doing so will have a cumulative effect which will allow you to get back in the game with endurance and motivation. As time passes, you will develop increased resiliency, perseverance, emotional self control, and things will seem more manageable.
Remember this job is a finite experience, it’s not forever. These days it is very respectable to stay in any given position for a year or more before moving on to garner other experiences.
Track and summarize what you are learning and how you are growing as a person, not just for the sake of your career. No one is going to do this for you. Check in and swap stories with people outside your place of employment. Commiserating with others is a good reminder you are not isolated nor the only one going through mine fields. Only the strong survive!!!
The Bay Area is home to a large number of people who relocate here for improved work or educational opportunities. After settling in, most find themselves wanting to establish new local friendships, set up a social community, and increase their sense of group inclusiveness. Many could benefit from developing their social crew with confidence, a.k.a. #squadgoals for grownups. For some, building new friendships in an area brimming with overachievers in tech can feel intimidating, and lead to a sense of social isolation and loneliness. Others who feel more comfortable in high achieving social contexts may find networking for professional purposes easier, but feel uncertain about how to read social cues outside of structured work settings.
One of the first things people can do is aim to understand the role they typically take on in group settings. Most people can look back to childhood and notice re-occurring patterns in their social lives. What influential experiences or people shaped your beliefs about friendship growth? How did you come to understand yourself in comparison to others in a group dynamic? Taking historical inventory can help people better understand and reflect upon their unique social development. Why did some groups feel enjoyable and easy, whereas others felt uninteresting or even toxic? Here are a few examples of young millennials working through social challenges:
29 year old Jason “I’m bummed that some friends who said they’d do a 10k with me a few months ago ended up flaking- it felt pretty rude. One person basically said they’d go if another mutual friend was going, but not if it was just me. I feel like my social value in the group is lower than I thought, and now if I don’t go, it just proves I don’t have much influence.”
25 year old Sunako “I feel nervous in group settings, even when everyone in the group is a friend of mine. I get worried that I don’t have anything interesting to contribute to the conversation, and I feel like everyone is smarter and funnier than me.”
28 year old Kiaan “I haven’t found a group of friends like the ones I had in NYC- I used to have a group of friends I could just hit up for random stuff, you know, grab a drink or a bite, shoot some hoops, whatever. I can do that with work people here, but it’s just not the same, you know? I don’t really connect with people here in the same way.”
Around the same time I decided to pen this article on #squadgoals for grownups, my daughter (who’s in the 3rd grade) hosted a sleepover for ten of her friends. There’s nothing like watching a group of kids resolve social predicaments over and over as a way to examine the social nuances of group functioning. As someone who’s well liked by her peers, makes new friends easily, and has successfully welcomed newcomers into her friend group, I wanted her to weigh in on what can help people feel confident in social situations. I was hoping she’d give me a few basic points of reference to build upon how and why friendships grow stronger, and how to best enjoy social groups. (The secret is out- multi-tasking parents are not opposed to having our kids do our work for us whenever possible!)She offered the following tips in plain language, pointing out the most important tenets of developing friendships and navigating social groups. These universal concepts are timeless, and I truly believe apply to all ages and social strata. As we get older, we can overcomplicate things, take things too personally, and assign unnecessary value to social roles that undermine our confidence and ability to enjoy others.
If you’re feeling shy but would like to make new friends, it helps to remember: no one wants to play alone. Everyone likes the feeling of being included. By being part of a social group you can enjoy things differently than when you’re alone. A group is only fun if people in it are getting along well. How you can help this happen? There are different ways you can be included in a social group.
If you want to build a leadership role within a group, you have to gain other people’s trust that a suggestion you have is going to go well and be fun. Some people really like coming up with new ideas for the group, and other people like to add their opinions to a new idea. A good leader pays attention to other people’s opinions and preferences when they’re coming up with suggestions for the group.
Everyone feels good when their idea is used for a group activity, so it’s good to take turns and let other people suggest ideas. Be enthusiastic about their idea, and pay attention to how they’d it to go. They’ll probably invite you back to do stuff with them again.
Move on from an activity that isn’t working well and don’t take it personally. Focus on paying attention to what people find fun, and accept that some times an idea doesn’t go as planned. Just let it go, and do something else.
It’s ok if you don’t enjoy coming up with ideas for the group- other people will still really like including you because you make a point to enjoy their suggestions. They’ll keep including you because by participating you add to the fun of the group, and you’ll become closer friends with others that way.
Sometimes you might want to do an activity that other people in your group don’t want to do. You have to decide what’s more important to you in that moment – doing the activity you had in mind, or doing something with the group. If other people aren’t interested in joining you for this activity, you should focus on the reasons unrelated to you to that have probably influenced their decision. You should not take it personally. Just move on and stay focused on having fun, what ever you decide to do with your time.
If you decide to do something different than the group, you can always meet up with them later, you don’t have to feel like you’re not part of the group anymore. By getting together with the group another time, you get a chance to do different things, and other people can do the same. If people in a group get mad anytime someone wants to do something different for a change, it’s probably not going to feel as much fun in the long run. The best groups should still be able to have fun when people come and go at different times.
Most new friendships are established and reinforced because people enjoy doing the same types of things- even doing them alone these activities are fun, but by sharing the experience with other people, it adds to the fun. In the beginning maybe you don’t feel that close to someone new, but as you do an activity with them, you end up feeling more comfortable and closer to them. Before you know it you’re very close friends.
Millennials coming of age experience in the United States has been uniquely influenced by their access to the free, unlimited sexual content widely available on the internet. This access has served not only as a resource for their sexual curiosity and consumption, but as a primary resource for easily connecting to people who share their sexual preferences on the dating sites of the moment. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University analyzed data from a survey of more than 33,000 adults in the U.S. to measure the country’s shifting sexual landscape. The data revealed that Millennials were the most likely generation to acknowledge having casual sex; 45 percent of them said they had slept with someone other than a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse during their late teens or 20s. Overall, adult acceptance of premarital sex increased from 42 percent in 2000 to 58 percent in 2012, an all-time high. “Americans are spending more of their lifetime unmarried, so they have more opportunities to engage in sex with more partners, and less reason to disapprove of non-marital sex” reports Twenge. She opines that increasingly permissive attitudes toward sex are a sign of the rise of individualism in America. She explains “when a culture places more emphasis on the needs of the self and less on social rules, more relaxed attitudes toward sexuality are the almost inevitable result.”
More and more young adults are supporting the current trend in sexual decision-making, where commitment and emotional connection are seen as unnecessary precursors to first time sexual encounters with others. In theory, this allows people to get their sexual needs met, while minimizing the emotional risks and responsibilities associated with interpersonal intimacy. In my practice as a coach in the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s relatively common practice for both men and women to report having sex with someone they’ve just met. Based on this first sexual encounter, they may choose not to see them again, may establish a ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement, or opt to get to know them on a deeper, emotional level through dating if a romantic relationship is something they’re seeking. In most cases there’s a trial and error period, as people who are still very new to each other attempt to communicate their sexual preferences and get their needs met. Millennials’ prolific use of texting as a primary form of communication, habit of avoiding vulnerability, awkward interpersonal exchanges, and peer conflict can all contribute to frequent misunderstandings and rapid start/stops within their sexual encounters, regardless of what the end goal may be. In some cases, getting stuck in a pattern of ineffective/unsatisfying sexual encounters can lead to poor health functioning or an over-reliance on recreational substances.
As a health educator I help people build the necessary skills to find, establish and maintain healthy sexual relationships. This article aims to provide some practical guidelines for optimizing the outcomes of your casual sex encounters while dating, and insightful tips for decoding the opposite sex along the way.
Men seeking sexual encounters with women:
Adopt an early communication style that encourages a positive response from women. What does that mean? Skip the crude humor in online and text exchanges- chances are, you’re likely only entertaining yourself (or infamously landing yourself in one those Buzzfeed Tinder Fail lists) and that’s not the point is it? Humor is fine, and can be a good initial approach online, but seriously, a little goes a long way. Increase your odds of getting a genuine response from women by taking yourself out of the dregs of online dating wasteland- try telling an original, funny story about yourself, relate to something personal on a woman’s profile, or at minimum, send a quick hello with your array of pics to see if what you have going on is of interest to her. Have a friend (preferably female) screen your online pics. It may seem trivial, but poorly chosen pics can make or break your online dating success.
Once you’re corresponding consistently with someone, be proactive and suggest a specific plan toget together. While this seems like a no-brainer, a lot of guys fail to get the ball rolling while they have a woman’s attention. Comedian Aziz Ansari conducted focus groups with hundreds of people for his new book Modern Romance, getting intimate details on why people have problems with dating. He shares “The lack of clarity over whether the meet-up is even an actual date frustrates both sexes to no end, but since it’s usually the guys initiating, this is a clear area where men can step it up.” So guys, to optimize your chances of establishing a sexual encounter, strike while the iron is hot. While you’re keeping someone around as a text buddy, someone else is closing the deal as her new sex partner by making specific plans. It might be entertaining and easy to have an assortment of women to text and exchange photos with, but these women will eventually fade you out of the picture for someone they know in real life.
Be sincere and honest about what your ideal arrangement is right now. Just because you’re wanting to keep things casual doesn’t mean you’re decreasing your chances for sexual opportunities with women. There are plenty of women who are open to keeping things casual too! Plenty. It doesn’t make sense to allude to wanting a more committed relationship if you actually don’t- doing so only increases the odds of introducing drama I’m sure you’d rather avoid. Women can absolutely relate to wanting to experience an array of people before settling into a committed relationship, and understand you may be in a stage of your life where you’re prioritizing other life goals above romantic relationships. In short, aim for integrity when you engage with someone in pursuit of sex. Establishing this mutual understanding up front will create a space where both of you can focus on what you’re actually there for- sexual pleasure.
Real talk: If you aren’t asking what you can do to help a woman achieve orgasm and/or paying close attention to figuring out what she enjoys (and spending more than a little time doing this) it’s safe to guess you’re coming up short in bed. Which of course, is your choice. Just consider that when a woman finally does come along that you actually care about pleasing (even if it’s years and countless women from now), you likely still won’t have much of a clue about how to get her off (especially if you’re a fan of male produced porn). There’s a good chance you’ll pale in comparison to other guys she’s been with, which is not a good look if you want to become that person’s significant other/favorite sexual partner. If that’s not enough motivation, consider this: when a woman reaches full sexual attraction to a sex partner she is going to be much more agreeable and feel more confident about trying new things for the sake of her partner’s pleasure. That sexual fantasy you’ve had since the 8th grade? That could go down if you play your cards right. #Thankmelater
Women seeking sexual encounters with men:
Speak Up Clearly and Consistently To Avoid Confusion. Taking a meek approach in communicating your sexual preferences is going to seriously set back your sexual pleasure (and possibly compromise your sexual safety). Remind yourself: Men cannot read your mind (and your subtle non-verbals can go unnoticed) because men and women are culturally socialized to communicate in different styles. Be direct with your words and your actions about what you like and what you don’t like. Think about it: when men engage sexually, most do a pretty good job of getting their sexual needs met. Porn and sex in movies perpetuate the myth that men do exactly what women love during sex (and women are supposed love it, regardless of how ridiculous it is!)
Set The Pace: Literally and Figuratively. Figuring out a sexual pace that feels good between two people comes from familiarity and predictability, neither of which have been established when you’ve only recently met someone. So in addition to communicating openly, take the time to find a pace that works for both of you. Try not to approach sex like it’s fast food eaten at 2 am after staying out all night- which is usually on a whim, followed by almost instant regret. Take your time and do it right– these SOS Band song lyrics were a hit for a reason!
STOP FAKING IT IN BED.Really. Pretending that you enjoy things during sex that you don’t is synonymous with digging your own sexual grave. Take one for the team, and stop sending guys the wrong message that what they are doing sexually is awesome when you know that it’s not. Funny but true story: A 25 year-old attractive Asian woman I’m coaching tells me “So I met this guy randomly, and after we talked and hung out for a while, we eventually decide to go back to his place where we end up having sex. Right away he starts fingering me with way too much force, to the point where it’s actually hurting me and I’m going numb from it! So I stop him and say ‘hey when you touch me like that it hurts’and he looks at me and says a little defensively “ok well… some women like it like that.” She deadpans, “Christina I had to break it to him… “Um NO. NO ONE likes it like that!” We both had a good laugh at her candor in the moment.I could not have been more proud of her for speaking up for herself!
Stop filtering and dismissing guys so quickly- be optimistic about seeing if you can develop good sexual chemistry with guys who don’t fit your bill. These days, you can swipe right to meet guys using more filters than your favorite photo editing app offers- you can specify height, body type, education level, location, age, etc. One of the most common complaints I get from women is that they rarely feel attracted enough to guys to even see them a first or second time. But who you think will be attracted to sexually may not be a good match in real life. Scientists working with Match.com found that we are horrible at knowing what we want; the kind of partner people said they wanted often didn’t match up with what they were actually interested in long term. What works well for predicting good first dates doesn’t tell us much about the long-term success of a couple let alone their sexual chemistry. Social psychologist and researcher Robert B. Zajonc explains, “while we are initially attracted to people by their physical appearance and traits we can quickly recognize, the things that make us more attracted to someone are their deeper, more personal qualities, which come out only during sustained interactions” – the “mere exposure effect” is repeated exposure to a stimulus which tends to enhance one’s feelings toward it.
This last point applies to anyone and everyone seeking sexual or romantic connections of any and all kinds:
Do Not Let FOMO Take Over. You’ve read about, you’ve experienced it, you’re sick of hearing about how Millennials are responsible for amplifying this toxic trend in a digital era. That said, I’ve seen far too many people spend endless amounts of time spinning their wheels, agonizing over not meeting/dating enough people they find interest in. A billion and one first dates later, still…nothing. Begin to rethink what this could mean…maybe this isn’t the strategy that is going unearth the person who gets you excited and holds your attention. Switch it up, peel your eyes away from your phone, pull your earbuds out and take a look around you. Make eye contact and smile, maybe even say hi to the person next to you- this could be your first moment together of many better ones to come.
I work with some of the most ambitious, driven people in The Bay Area’s tech community. High achieving individuals who operate on the model: attain success first and foremost. Their minds are used to operating at the speed of light- always problem-solving, always anticipating and avoiding pitfalls- essential skills for surviving the minefield of Silicon Valley and San Francisco’s booming young professional scene. A 2003 study led by Pennsylvania College of Technology examined the relationship between entrepreneurs’ personalities to long-term venture survival, finding the only “significant personality predictor” was conscientiousness, or the propensity to plan, organize, and take care of responsibilities. According to Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, it takes a special breed to take on the risk of entrepreneurship. “A lot of progress in the world is driven by the delusional optimism of some people,” he told Inc. “The people who open small businesses don’t think, ‘I’m facing these odds, but I’ll take them anyway.’ They think their business will certainly succeed.”
Many executives struggle with turning their brains away from constantly mentally building and managing their business or profession. When the mind focuses constantly on problem-solving it never gets a chance to reboot. When your thoughts remain hyper-focused on managing negative outcomes, it leaves no space for positive imagination- an essential part of overall health management and happiness. The end result is mental burn out, which can lead to chronic physical manifestations of stress. Functionality becomes seriously compromised.
“Always being ON will eventually turn your brain power OFF, limiting your potential for success.”
The cure? Train your brain in the practice of ‘smart daydreaming‘, a strategy that helps people to better engage with the pursuits that are most personally meaningful to them. Kaufmans’s Theory of Personal Intelligence has revealed this practice as a powerful way to tap into spontaneous forms of cognition, including insight, intuition and the triggering of memories and stored information — types of intelligence often accessed through active daydreaming. The outcome? Improved mood and increased productivity. This is not your run-of-the-mill “Let my mind wander aimlessly until I go back to my usual mental diet of constant worry.” This is strategic, purposeful daydreaming, with the goal of rebooting your brain and getting your mood back on track so you can operate at your best when it counts. How does it work?
Smart Recipes for Daydreaming.
Begin with ‘The Miracle Question‘- Begin with a clean slate and let go of whatever is on your mind. Take the time to imagine total freedom, and that any miracle you wish to come true is now possible. Step out of your usual ‘problem story’ and into an all new story where problems do not exist.
Stop and pay attention to what specifically about your story makes you feels good, what makes you say “YES! THAT WOULD BE AMAZING!” Continue along this vein, flush it out, give it legs. Where would you be, what types of people would be in your life, what would you do, for how long would you do this, etc. How would your average day look in this miracle context?
Each time you mind wants to problem-solve for “How would THAT ever happen? Why aren’t I working on making this happen right now? Am I failing at life for not achieving this?” Stop. This is supposed to be an implausible daydream, where solutions don’t matter, obstacles don’t exist, and there is no shortage of optimal resources, supreme experiences, awesome people, and boundless opportunity.
After you have thought through a full on version of the ultimate experience, notice your mood. Instead of being driven by angst, you’ve given yourself a highly personalized mental vacation, possibly revealing new insights about what you care about most.
Aim to practice smart daydreaming for 10-15 minutes each day. Track themes. Let these themes serve as a guide for what you’d like to ultimately have more of in your life. See if you can build some of those themes into your short term and long term vision of your life.
By actively engaging in positive daydreaming you are not only giving your mind and energy level a chance to reboot, you are freeing your mind to construct a concrete, idealized vision of your preferred future.
Ask a 7 year old what they want to be when they grow up, and they nail it, every single time.
Kids are natural dreamers. They’re too young to realize that being “a famous inventor, a marine biologist, a pop star like Katy Perry, own sushi restaurants all over the world…and become The President of The United States” is a stretch, to say the least (this is my child’s vision of her future right now, and who knows, she may pull it off!) They might not be able to tell you HOW this future could ever happen, but they’ll definitely enjoy telling you WHY having this grown up future would be ‘the best thing ever’. Their eyes light up, they smile and have a great time telling you all about it. That’s the point.
“We should make sure our ideas of success are our own. We should focus in on our ideas and make sure that we own them, that we are truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it’s bad enough, not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want, and find out at the end of a journey, that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.” Alain de Botton, from his TED Talk, ‘A kinder, gentler philosophy of success’
What if you could literally slow down the passing of time, would you do it? In today’s day and age, our most valued commodity is TIME. We want things available faster, completed sooner. Time is money. Aside from monetary efficiency, why are we so pressed for time? Because the sooner the mundane tasks of the day are completed, the more time we have for enjoyable things. Time flies when you’re having fun. Technological innovations aside, is there a way to slow down our sense of time? YES. Read on.
New research from Stanford GSB suggests there is a way: elicit a sense of awe. Experiencing something awe-inspiring — whether it’s the Grand Canyon, a blazing sunset over your favorite cityscape, or a Puccini aria — can expand perceptions of time, enhancing quality of life. The key, says Jennifer Aaker, Stanford GSB’s General Atlantic Professor of Marketing and an author of a new paper on the subject, is that awe makes us feel small, not larger than life, the way happiness can. “When you feel small, there’s a reapportioning of what’s out there,” she says. “Time is reapportioned also.”
The study, to be published in the journal Psychological Science, defines awe as something that is both vast (in size, scope, number, ability, or importance) and capable of altering one’s view of the world. UC Berkeley psychology professor Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt, a former University of Virginia psychology professor now at New York University’s Stern School of Business, described awe as “fleeting and rare.” They examined the history of awe, tracing its role in ancient religious texts, including the Hindu Bhagavad Gita and the Christian Bible, and in influential and charismatic political leaders such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Philosophers opine that awe is most easily felt in solitude, while spending time in nature, viewing art or immersed in emotionally inspiring music. Edmund Burke wrote that awe, which he referred to as “the sublime”, is also more likely to arise from something obscure and surprising, rather than something clear and expected. Commonly recognized physical responses that distinguish awe from other emotions is the presence of goose bumps or chills.
“[Awe] is more of a mindset than we think,” says Aaker. “This research suggests you can cultivate it in similar ways, as you do gratefulness or happiness. Yet, when it is present, awe can transform people and reorient their lives, goals, and values.”
How can we bring a sense of awe into our daily lives? Be in the moment.
Practice focusing your attention on the elements around you that bring you moments of joy. These are different for everyone. Some people’s gazes will naturally be drawn to elements in nature, others to the expression of human individuality around them, others will find pleasure in noticing unique order, rhythm or sound. Rather than expecting moments of awe, encourage feelings of awe by awakening your senses to the world around you.
Aim to take breaks from multi-tasking, especially while doing things for pleasure. When I make time to enjoy dessert (or any recklessly indulgent experience for that matter), what ever it may be, it literally becomes my favorite thing ever. In that moment. I am a firm believer that life is better, richer, more expansive when we have ‘multiple favorites’ to celebrate. I will happily elaborate upon this practice, just ask me.
Do your favorite things slowly and deliberately. It can be a habit to rush rush rush through everything. Understandable when dealing with the mundane, but like Keith Sweat says “make it last forever.“
The method of SMARTgoals (an acronym for the 5 steps of specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based goals) is one of the most effective and powerful tools used by high achievers to reach their goals — realistically and consistently. Whether you’re leading a 300-person organization, a trailblazing startup entrepreneur, or an individual who wants to gain traction towards a personal goal, learning how to set and utilize SMART goals can make the difference between failure and achievement. 1. Make your goal focused and well-defined. A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal.
When setting your goal, make sure you can answer the 6 “W” questions: Who, What, When, Where, Which, and Why. The more specific a goal is, the more you can find ways of reaching your target. Ask questions such as:
Who is involved?
What do I want to accomplish?
Where will this happen? Identify a location.
When will this happen? Establish a time frame.
Which requirements and obstacles will be part of the process? Identify them.
Why am I setting this goal? Nail down the specific reasons and benefits of accomplishing this goal.
Know the difference between a specific goal and a vague goal. For example, there is a difference between saying, “I work too much, and feel drained and bored with my life” and “I miss having fun in my life, and want to invest time each week to seek out fun/recreational opportunities that will allow me to feel restored and happy.” When you set a goal to invest in reshaping your work/life balance, track your performance at work and other important areas of your life as a way of measuring your progress as you build pleasurable experiences back into your schedule. This will help you see the direct benefit of the changes you’ve made, allowing you to see the payoff of shifting your behavior. Other examples of specific and vague goals:
Vague: Get in shape for the summer.
Specific: Join a crossfit studio and attend 3-4 times a week over the next 3 months.
Vague: Own a home.
Specific: Put 30% of income into savings account for the next 12 months and talk to a realtor.
2. Have identified metrics for measuring your progress and outcomes. A goal without a measurable outcome is like a sports competition without a scoreboard. Identify specific markers of success to measure your progress and build momentum towards your goals.
Ask questions such as:
How much/how many?
How will I know when my goal is accomplished?
What is at the finish line?
Set a daily reminder to track and measure your progress:
Keep a journal, put up a whiteboard at the office, use your smartphone to download a tracking app — these are all tangible ways to track your development.
Make the goal Attainable
Draft realistic goals. Based on the present restrictions such as your schedule, workload, and knowledge, do you believe you can attain the objective you set? If not, then set a different goal, one that is attainable for you in the present.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Are you prepared to make the commitment to reach your target?
Are you willing to dramatically alter or at least tweak aspects your life?
Is there a more achievable target you are willing to to work for?
3. Choose goals that are attainable. Is your goal a challenge but still possible to achieve? Goals should be achievable. The best goals require you to stretch a bit to achieve them but they are not impossible to achieve. Goals that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them. When you list your goals you build your self-image. You see yourself as worthy of these goals, and seek out experiences that allow you to develop the skills and work ethic that allow you to possess them.
4. Make the goal relevant to your life’s reality. For instance, if joining a certain social organization seems like a good idea, but most of the organization’s activities center around consuming alcohol which is inconsistent with your goal of cutting back your drinking, choose a different organization. Lack of options/choices is rarely a problem in today’s culture of endless options. Carefully consider how well your choices are fitting into the big picture of how you want your life to look.
Set goals that are realistic. If you are 30 pounds overweight and haven’t trained for a challenging athletic endeavor in 5 years, it’s unrealistic not to mention physically risky to sign up for a triathlon with 6 weeks of training. So set a goal you have a realistic chance of achieving. Even if someone is motivated and capable of change, their expectation of immediate progress/payoff may be unrealistic, and can lead to a sense of inadequacy and undermine their confidence when moving forward.
5. Ground the goal within a time frame. SMART goals should be time-bound, meaning they should have a deadline or there should be a date for completion. Setting a deadline reinforces the seriousness of the goal in your mind. It motivates you to take action. When you don’t set a timeline, there is no internal pressure to accomplish the goal, so it gets put in the back burner. Have a sense of urgency. If you want to raise your credit score to 720, when do you want to raise it by? “Someday” won’t work. But if you anchor it within a timeframe (example: Raise credit from 700 to 720 in 12-18 months), then you’ve set your mind into motion to begin working on the goal. Within your established time frame, ask yourself:
Remember, there will be days when you become discouraged and ‘not in the mood’ to work towards your goal(s). This is normal, and does NOT mean you are failing yourself, or your plan. Getting offtrack does not equal failure, and is not a reason to give up or relent to feelings of hopelessness. Hit the pause button and take a breather. High achieving, hard working people still need a break sometimes. But then get your mind and body back on track, and reconnect with the true purpose behind setting your goal in the first place. Why is it important to you? What will accomplishing it afford you in the long run? Then get back in the game.
Don’t forget to enlist people, opportunities and a range of resources that can help you achieve your goal. Most people feel good about tapping into their strengths, skill sets, and networks to help others grow and achieve. Help them feel good about helping you by not only expressing your gratitude, but by showing them the positive evidence of their support.
Use the power of visualization. Make sure to imagine yourself not JUST at the finish line of your goal(s), but visualize yourself achieving the small steps it takes to get there. Don’t let there be a huge abyss between where you are now and where you want to be in your fantasies. Yes it can be indulgent and fun to fantasize about ‘the ultimate fantasy’ coming true, but you’ll benefit more from fantasizing about hitting your goal for the week if it’s actually achievable in the here and now.
The Oxford English Dictionary definition of FOMO [Foe-Moe] is: “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”
As an executive coach to some of San Francisco’s most successful young tech entrepreneurs, I help them fight back their FOMO on an hourly basis.FOMO was first identified in the mid-1990s by marketing analysts as an acronym to explain how new media commerce was undermining traditional brand loyalties. Twenty years later, the FOMO phenomenon has infiltrated American culture with ‘choice overload’, impacting how we make decisions in both our personal and professional lives. Particularly in the Francisco Bay Area, where millions of investors come to place their bets on innovative young high achievers, it can be feel like life changing decisions are being made at every turn. Attractive, successful single people are everywhere. The whole world is open to them. Armed with an ample array of talents, access to top social networks for professional and dating opportunities, they just have to choose. But they struggle to do so with any permanency. The FOMO struggle is real.
In Barry Schwartz‘s eloquent Tedx talk “The Paradox of Choice“, he describes how western industrial societies have come to over value choice: “If we are interested in maximizing the welfare of our citizens, the way to do that is to maximize individual freedom. The reason for this is both that freedom is in and of itself good, valuable, worthwhile, essential to being human. And because if people have freedom, then each of us can act on our own to do the things that will maximize our welfare, and no one has to decide on our behalf. The way to maximize freedom is to maximize choice. He goes on to argue that instead of increasing our sense of well-being, an abundance of choice is increasing our levels of anxiety, depression, and wasted time. It leads us to set unreasonably high expectations, question our choices before we even make them, and blame our failures entirely on ourselves.
I help people explore choice overload, the sense of regret from making decisions that lead to less-than-satisfactory outcomes, the cost of having relentlessly high expectations, chronic feelings of disconnection from their current circumstances, and the stagnation that comes from making social comparisons.
Most people have a wide range of professional passions, and are attracted to different types of people with various physical attributes, personal strengths and qualities. The fact remains, there aren’t enough hours in a day to pursue all of them at once. Further, if lasting intimacy is on the goal list, it’s impossible to achieve that type of connection if one never gets beyond the ‘first 5 dates’ lifecycle. In an effort to not miss out, people pursue everything and everyone, and are left wondering why nothing ever evolves. By the time they come to me, they are overwhelmed, frustrated and unfulfilled; they want to pursue success professionally and/or in their dating pursuits, but with less stress and more direction. If you’re reading this, perhaps you can relate.
How can I redirect my thinking to banish FOMO?
Remember: by saying “NO” to some things, you are saying “YES” to other high quality and equally important experiences.
Slow down your dating process. By taking the time to get to know one person at a time, you are being thorough in determining if there is genuine potential for a high quality romantic connection, and less likely to ‘let the right one slip by’. Be careful not to rule someone out if a potential red flag crops up. Anyone who’s been happily partnered for years will tell you, unsolvable differences exist between even the very best matched couples.
Balance your recreational activities and social plans with proactive self care. By taking care of your body and mind by engaging in pleasurable, restful and restorative activities, you are shoring up your energy so that when you do engage in an outing that requires elevated energy, you are more likely to have it in store so that you actually enjoy it as it was meant to be enjoyed. Can you really expect to get the most enjoyment out of seeing your favorite musical artist perform live if you’re exhausted, irritable and physically uncomfortable?
Pay attention to what you enjoy doing most, and focus your career planning accordingly. Getting in on ‘the next big thing’ and making a lot of money while doing it are cool, I’ll admit. But don’t forget, even if you’re really good at doing something doesn’t mean you’re going to enjoy doing it for the long haul. By choosing to develop your skills and opportunities in a concentrated professional direction that you know you enjoy, you are more likely to reap the benefit of succeeding in that particular vein. If your career journey seems to be evolving more slowly than you’d like, remember, career success is rarely, if ever linear and constant. Genuine growth and success are never free of setbacks. Professional setbacks are opportunities to hone your attention to what is necessary for continued and elevated success.
When a choice results in an unexpected and/or poor outcome, don’t automatically think of it as a failure. Thinking “What a waste of time and energy!” keeps you from utilizing that experience in an advantageous way. Without valuing what you learned and integrating this information into your future decisions and endeavors, you miss out on the chance to execute with better aim and more fruitful outcomes. With dating, you may not see patterns in why your relationships end. Consider getting some information from past partners (if still on relatively good speaking terms). Ask them “What was it like to date me? What worked well? What did I do that made it difficult?” Admittedly, this is tough homework. Be sure to clarify you don’t want to rekindle things, you’re there to get information about what role you played in what when wrong, like an aviation black box. There’s a good chance there are some themes in how you behave in relationships that you are not aware of that could help you move forward in creating a healthy and long-lasting romantic relationship.
Learn to relish in the choices you DO make, and stop agonizing over the choices you DON’T make. It’s easy to go through life with ‘entree envy’, there are a lot of amazing choices out there! Life however, has a funny way of changing directions for us, outside of our control, and when you least expect it. So enjoy what you can, while you have it.
What keeps you up at night? All of us have something in our life we’d like to see come to fruition. Sometimes we want this thing badly. It can weigh heavily upon us, especially when we feel it’s just outside of our reach. Resentment can set in when other people manage to pull it off, seemingly without a hitch. A startup idea that takes off, a well-timed promotion, a romance that seems like the perfect match. ‘Why not me?’ you wonder. ‘What am I missing?’ A common habit stands out among people who struggle to make lasting progress towards their life goals.
They avoid feeling things.
‘Feeling things’ seems kind of like a simple and obvious part of life (doesn’t it?) But it isn’t.
I know you resist feeling things, we all do. It’s an unavoidable habit of modern culture. Any emotion that causes us the slightest displeasure can easily be evaded by numbing our emotions with media, caffeine, booze, retail therapy, recreational drugs like marijuana, Chipotle, to name just a few. If you spend your life constantly avoiding uncomfortable feelings you will remain exactly where you are, but older and likely more bitter (choke back sob) as you see others achieve the things you want all around you.
Opening yourself up to feeling things you most hope to avoid (a.k.a. vulnerability) will afford you the opportunity to make gains in the direction you want most. When Dr. Brené Brown spoke atTEDx about the power of vulnerability in 2010, her viral talk garnered more than 7 million views on TED.com. Dr. Brown says that losing our vulnerability isn’t something to take lightly; vulnerability is power. “Vulnerability is not about fear and grief and disappointment. It’s the birthplace of everything we’re hungry for: joy, creativity, faith, love, spirituality,” she says. “And the whole thing is, there is no innovation and creativity without failure.” The bottom line?
You must be willing to tolerate some emotional discomfort to win big(ger) in life.
Allow yourself to face the prospects of rejection if you want love, mental/physical exhaustion if you want to achieve, disappointment if you want to ‘win’ positive growth and change in your life. Emotional discomfort will not kill you. In fact, without it you’re likely not challenging yourself to reach your full potential. I promise, you will survive feeling emotionally vulnerable. Some tactics for tolerating this discomfort on the path to becoming more awesome:
Create incentives for yourself to take emotional risks. Rewards work just as effectively for adults as they do for kids, only you have to enlist yourself with the responsibility of doling them out in an effective manner. Choose wisely, and even if you cheat a little, it feels much better to ‘earn’ something indulgent while making progress towards your goals.
Selectively participate in activities that shore up your confidence- put a plan in place to do these things routinely as a coping strategy for surviving disappointments along the way.
Enlist others for support! A client of mine shares “weekly wins” with a good friend- they text each other micro successes that occur while making strides towards their goals. This tactic is a win-win because it not only drawing your attention towards the positive, it connects you with someone who’s in your corner, strengthening your courage to keep going.
If we’re going to find the way to our own personal version of success, vulnerability is going to be on that path. As much as we want to remain impervious to failure, growth and positive change don’t happen that way. Even if it were possible to be ‘perfect’ that’s not what draws people to respect and love you. People are most often pulled in to care and invest in you when they can see your courage and willingness to take risks; share that process, and connect with them through common disappointments.
The New York Times recently published an article titled ‘Line Up, Children, Single File‘, discussing the growing number of families across the United States in which all of the adult children are single. According to a survey released by the Pew Research Center in September, 25 percent of Americans are expected to be single into their mid-40s and mid-50s, and are unlikely to have ever been married. As of 2013, there were over 100 million single people in the country. Of that number, 53 percent were women, and 47 percent were men. Today’s newsfeed on all fronts has no shortage of opinion articles comparing the lifestyles, functionality and happiness of single people versus partnered. The topic remains unavoidable, with various countries taking different stances on their citizens’ marital status and proliferation.
The San Francisco Bay Area is home to men and women of varying ages and cultural backgrounds seeking professional help to figure out “why they’re still single.” Even typing that phrase induces an instant urge in me to clarify: there is no reason to believe something is wrong with you, or your life if you remain single or unmarried until the end of your days. Okay carry on.
Some people remain single as a way to focus on personal goals, explore life’s choices with freedom, and experience a range of romantic undertakings. Undoubtedly, today’s generation of American youth benefit from a longer period of socially acceptable time in which to delay settling down romantically. Even with this cultural shift in marital expectations, many still feel pressured to figure out their romantic future. One young woman’s social media success has spawned from capitalizing on her ‘crazy Jewish mom’s‘ comical text rants about her dating life and overzealous attempts to find her daughter an ideal match. Some of #crazyjewishmom‘s texts to her daughter:
“Happy birthday spawn. Welcome to the wrong side of 25. The expiration date on your eggs is officially in sight. Tick Tock.”
“NO RING ON THE FINGER YOU MUST NOT LINGER”
“Exactly how long have you two been dating? I don’t want you to become the girl who stayed too long and then ‘OMG, I’m 40 and I forgot to get married and have babies.’ YOU WILL GIVE ME GRANDCHILDREN.”
This type of societal pressure can fall especially hard upon women. Many consider freezing their eggs, panicked about their single status and how this may impact the future of their fertility. They speculate: “What if I never find someone I’m attracted to enough to want to marry? I don’t want to end up alone. I have friends who’ve spent years with someone, gotten engaged and then it goes south before they even make it to the alter. Having to start over like that, what a nightmare!”
Men may be concerned that the woman they’re seriously dating or living with “might not be the one.” Guys may not dissect their relationships with their friends the way women do, but they still worry. “There’s this expectation that we get engaged; get married. Her friends, our parents, all expect me to pop the question, but I just don’t know if it’s the right thing for me. Especially right now. Maybe things will change in the future, I don’t know. The pressure to be financially ready feels overwhelming, and I’m I’m not sure if our connection is strong enough to make a marriage work well, or last for that matter. I feel guilty because I care a lot about her, and I don’t want to waste her time. She wants a marital commitment now, and I’m just not there yet.”
Strategies that can help people skillfully maneuver their relationship status, regardless of what direction it takes.
Stop overthinking everything. Constantly freaking out about the future or ‘worst case scenario’ will ironically contribute to that scenario unfolding. Whether you’re scared you’ll be #foreversingle or you can’t figure out if you’re with the ‘right person’, focusing your time and attention on that negativity will prevent you from gaining the perspective you’ll need to move forward skillfully and insightfully. Take pause and ask yourself “Am I working myself into tailspin over something that hasn’t even happened yet?” Make a concerted effort to focus on the here and now so you can reflect that reality, instead of a poor outcome that hasn’t even arrived.
The first and foremost task of dating someone new (if the goal is developing a committed relationship) is identifying if you can consistently have fun with each other (especially outside of sex) without constant conflict. I cannot underscore the importance of this. It makes zero difference how this person ‘looks on paper’, ‘looks in a bathing suit’ or ‘looks like to your family’ if you cannot get along genuinely and consistently. Does your relationship stand up to what I call the DMV test? Can you see yourself still wanting to spend time with this person, even if it means you’re just waiting with them to take care of their business at the DMV? Would they do this with you; keep you company? Because real life relationships are not constantly filled with a string of fun, well-planned dates. Long-term relationships are filled with real life, which is often a lot of monotonous, draining tasks. Find someone that can make the tasks of real life still fun and enjoyable because the two of you have fun doing them together. If you primarily only enjoy spending time with someone while being sexual, and/or you don’t have many mutual interests outside of the sexual chemistry, accept this relationship for what it is: a great hook up partner. They will likely not fulfill your needs beyond that, and you will drive each other crazy trying to force this relationship into being something that it’s clearly not.
If the idea of seeking out couples counseling has come up between you and your partner before you’ve even managed to fully commit, consider this. Is your relationship mutually satisfying at a near 10 (on the relationship scale, with 10 being total bliss)? This is a good goal when you decide to fully commit to someone as a life partner. If you can’t get there without enlisting a professional relationship referee, the two of you are likely not a good long term match. Because life will wear the relationship down. (Watch any of Chris Rock’s bits on relationships; his point is, ‘LIFE IS LONG‘. There are no ‘soulmates,’ there are just mates- basically, choose someone you get along with well.) When you decide to settle down with someone, you both should feel like the relationship is strong and solid. Like “we can conquer anything together!” Because over time, difficult and sometimes tragic things can happen. Parenting demands, job loss, health problems, extended family problems, financial strain, poor choices, and mistakes that hurt each other can happen. Eventually, that relationship that was once a 9 or 10 will settle into a pretty decent 7 or 8 on your best to average days. Even if it drops considerably on the worse days, it’s still strong enough to be a tremendous source of support, love, and consistency to weather the long journey of life. If you start out committing to a relationship that at it’s best is a 6 or 7, life can lead that relationship to gravitate consistently into the lower third on the relationship scale. These relationships that dwindle into the 2’s and 3’s during harder times make for a pretty dysfunctional family life.
Aim to communicate your feelings with the person you’re dating honestly, even if those feelings are uncertainty about the future, or your ability to further commit. You do nothave to know how you’ll feel in thefuture to be ‘fair’ to your partner. But you should communicate how you’re feeling right now, and give yourself and this person a fair chance to make a decision about how to proceed based on the current climate of the relationship.
Lastly, remember that no one’s relationship, regardless of length or marital status is easy all the time. All relationships face challenges and difficult periods. There will be unsolvable differences between you. If you can figure out how to manage these differences respectfully and with the understanding that no one is perfect, you will reap the benefits of all that a loving and long lasting relationship has to offer.