Today’s kids can be overscheduled, underslept, and overstressed. Yes, kids get stressed out just like adults when they’ve got too much on their plates. Not surprisingly, my daughter showed obvious warning signs, which I minimized for a while. She would cry when she was hungry and couldn’t find time to eat; she became irritable when bedtime was pushed out because she was trying to get everything done; and she rebelled and simply refused when she was feeling too overscheduled.
If only I got that promotion. If only I got into business school. If only my house were bigger. If only he loved me. Have you ever found yourself thinking this way? I call it the “if-only” mindset. It’s normal to have these thoughts, but believing deeply that something needs to happen before we can enjoy our lives can create tension and despair, and prevent us from truly being with what’s going on in the present.
Are we getting self-care wrong? Lately, I’ve started to wonder if self-care itself needs self-care. A few years ago, I was telling a friend about a work situation. My supervisor informed me that everyone in the office needed to try harder. He complained that my colleagues and I were doing C-level work. I felt a mix of anxiety and annoyance since I knew how hard we were all working. And now my to-do list just got longer: I had to add the task of upgrading my performance from his idea of a C to an A+.
It turns out being mindful is hard. The moment I find myself just noticing what’s happening in the present is exactly when I’m whisked away into mental reverie...If I were to make a pie chart of the time I spend focusing on the present versus swimming in my thoughts, the “present” slice would be comically slim, probably somewhere in the 5-10% range. That’s what I mean when I say I can’t do it either.
In blackjack, when you have 16 and the dealer is showing 10, you have a tough choice. You can either “hit” or “stand,” but regardless of what you choose, you’re more likely to lose than win. In a situation like this, it’s helpful to have a decision-making framework based on the science of probability. When you think in terms of probability, the decision to hit or stand is less likely to be influenced by how you’re feeling.
In Silicon Valley, the pressure to succeed can be overwhelming. Many tech professionals are accustomed to achieving at high levels and being recognized for it. But every success creates an expectation of further success. That’s when fear of failure can show up. Sometimes it’s a good motivator, but it can also lead to a vicious cycle of feeling insecure, being angry about that insecurity, and then becoming depressed at “failing” to overcome it. But what if fear of failure is not something to overcome?
Everyone has an inner voice that talks to them - the part of their mind that constantly judges them and tells us what to do. This inner voice can be your best friend our worst enemy. It can encourage you to take risks and innovate as your biggest fan, or it can be out of control as your worst critic, berating you every time you make a mistake, sapping your motivation to get up and try again.
When is the last time you hiked through a mountain meadow filled with wildflowers and said, “Oh, what a mess!” Wildflowers are beautiful precisely because they are imperfect, irregular, and unexpected. Just as we accept what we see in nature, we can also practice accepting things as they are – without trying to make them perfect – in other parts of our lives. We can make room for imperfections and make the choice that things are “good enough” for the moment.