Change the Narrative

Merriam-Webster refers to resilience as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. An ability to roll with the punches, according to Mayo Clinic. My understanding of resilience prior to this week was that it was something that people were just gifted with, like good eyesight or height. You either had it or you didn’t. Yet, in researching resilience I have learned that isn’t the case. Sure, some people tend to be more resilient because they are naturally optimistic. But what I have found is that resilience is a skill, something that can be honed.

Resilience is not some magical quality; it takes real mental work to transcend hardship. There’s growing evidence that the elements of resilience can be cultivated.

A perfect example of resilience is Kendrick Norton, a former Miami Dolphins defensive tackle. July 4th of this year Kendrick was driving his Ford F250 when it hit a concrete barrier and landed on its roof, his left arm pinned by the truck had to be amputated above the elbow. In a recently released video Kendrick said, “You’re still alive, don’t be angry. You’ll get better,” he continued. “I’m trying to handle it the best I can. Don’t be down about it ’cause that’s not gonna fix anything.”

And here’s the key phrase that he says, that perfectly sums up resilience: “Though the injury was far from ideal, especially as a professional football player, Norton said he was never in denial about it and instead, changed his outlook on the situation.” Kendrick changed his outlook, he reframed his thinking. “How we view adversity and stress strongly affects how we succeed, and this is one of the most important reasons that having a resilient mindset is so important. (1)” The Greater Good Science Center has collected many resilience practices on their website, they have identified 12 resilience practices combined into five categories. The number one practice is change the narrative. Kendrick changed the narrative. His NFL career over at 22 before even playing a game was most likely a devastating experience. But this is what Kendrick has said, “But I realize that I will not be able to play for anyone. We are working past that, you know. That reality is sinking in. I am alive and I am grateful. Now I want to organize a blood drive.”

He changed his thinking to one of gratitude, grateful to be alive. He is actively practicing the skill of resilience. And so can you, you have it within you. I’ll leave you with this last thought.

Resilience isn’t a single skill. It’s a variety of skills and coping mechanisms. To bounce back from bumps in the road as well as failures, you should focus on emphasizing the positive.” Jean Chatzky

“Control tower your life” – by Lauren Allen

As I’ve grown older I have realized that I carry far more control over my life than I once thought. There will be and have been lots of situations and experiences that “happened” to me, but how I responded and choose to respond are all 100% within my control. Gretchen Rubin wrote “Better than Before” in 2015, it centers on making and breaking habits in order to live a happier life. Herein lies the real roots of my “brain hacking quest.”

I am highlighting just two quotes from the book that resonated with me and have driven me to actively work on my habits and rework them and create new habits and rid myself of unnecessary habits.

“Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life. We repeat 40% of our behavior almost daily, so our habits shape our existence, and our future. If we change our habits, we change our lives.”

The idea of habits being the architecture of my daily life really struck me…more specifically the fact that I was giving habits control of my life did not sit well with me. Especially since so many of my habits were social media driven, which in turn means that I was giving Apple, Google, and Facebook the ability to control my days. I know that may seem like a reach, but essentially if my habits controlled me to log into social media at more than 4 hours a day-was that not what I was allowing?

 “Habits eliminate the need for self-control. With habits we conserve our self-control.

This I love, I am 500% for efficiency. So, the idea that I can use my brain even more efficiently than it already is, is definitely my thing. To tag onto this, Gretchen also says: “Stress doesn’t necessarily make us likely to indulge in bad habits; when we’re anxious or tired, we fall back on our habits, whether bad or good.” Habits therefore, help with my self-control in all situations.

So, a habit that I have gotten into over the last week is playing solitaire on my phone right before I go to sleep. One way that I was attempting to “hack” my brain was to put limitations on my phone by entering a passcode for when I go over my time allowed. Unfortunately, I…failed to write down the passcode. So, I have no way of accessing certain items on my phone when I need to after a certain point. The only way to resolve this is to wipe my entire phone, which I refuse to do…at this point anyway. So, I’ve found a work-around…by staying up until midnight I can tell my phone to give me access for the whole day, so that way I have no limitations. But that requires me to stay up until midnight in order to trick my phone and I am no longer 17 and capable of functioning well the next day if I stay up that late. And when it’s late and I’m tired and annoyed with the phone situation that is 100% my fault, I fall back onto the habit of playing solitaire. To “wind down,” which is code for stay up long enough to trick my phone into allowing me to snapchat with my sister during the day.

Circling all of this back to the first quote….we repeat 40% of our behavior almost daily and that in turn shapes our lives. I guess it’s time for me to implement some new habits.

Brain Hacking – by Lauren Allen

Back in 2017 I read Gretchen Rubin’s book, “The Four Tendencies” and discovered that I was a “rebel.” So much of my life, especially when I was a child, came into focus. “The Four Tendencies,” holds that how we respond to expectations gives us a framework within how to shape our behavior and responses and in turn make our lives better which will in turn again, make the lives of those around us better.

A rebel, according to Gretchen’s definition resists both inner and outer expectations. Essentially, you can’t make me do something and neither can I. As a result, I have been on a  quest to, as I like to call it “hack my brain” in order to be the person that I would like to be and get done what I need to get done.

Recently I removed the internet browser app from my phone, I am an information junkie and for the life of me I could not stop googling every whim or thought that came into my head. Now, maybe the “adult” thing to have done would have been to limit when I would go into the app and to keep the phone out of my bedroom like all the good articles online say. But, knowing my tendency, that wouldn’t work, so removing the app completely off of my phone is the only way for me to hack my brain into getting rid of that dopamine hit of information always at the ready.

And what do you know, two days ago I received The Think Clearly newsletter that is essentially on the very brain hack that I just implemented. Mathias Jakobsen, a Danish internet entrepreneur regularly releases these great visuals that illustrate simple yet profound truths. I have included the visual that he released in the newsletter: how to break an undesired habit – introduce an obstacle that curbs the reward.

My trigger was boredom or a random thought which would turn into the action of “I should check my phone.” I admit that I didn’t create a 35-digit passcode, that would have driven me insane and not been helpful in the long run but I removed the app entirely thereby creating a new obstacle-NO access.

My question for you is, how do you hack your brain? Do you have hacks that you would be willing to share? I am always up for learning new ones! Do you have steps in place to assist you in accomplishing your goals whether they be personal goals or career goals or the like?

When Strengths Become Weaknesses

I have long been fascinated with the application of strengths in a person’s life. So often in our lives, especially in regards to work, we are told what is “wrong” with us and we are made to focus solely on improving our weaknesses disregarding our strengths.

Math is a subject that I have struggled with my entire life. It took me an exceptionally long time to learn the multiplication tables. Mostly, my brain doesn’t function in a “math” sort of way, I cannot seem to grasp the logic of it. And to a much lesser extent as a child I had several teachers that did very little to help me understand the subject. In second grade though my teacher, parents, and I worked extremely hard for me to learn multiplication. And my gosh, I am really good at multiplication now. I still remember how I learned the process and I can multiply with little thought and better even than I can add and subtract. Yet, even so, as a whole Math is not a subject that I grasp easily.

In Adam Grant’s most recent TED podcast, he spoke about “When Strength Becomes Weakness.” A concept that I found captivating and even today a week later I am sifting through it in my mind.

In the podcast Adam speaks with Marcus Buckingham, author of most recently “Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World” and perhaps best known for co-writing “Now, Discover Your Strengths”. According to Marcus we are living in a remedial world (hopefully the song is now stuck in your head as well), it’s the idea that we can examine our weaknesses, and take concrete steps to fix them. Concrete steps would be the constant focus that I put on multiplication as a second grader. But according to Marcus, remediation is really just a way to help people go from bad to average at a particular activity. I went from not knowing how to multiply at all, to being able to rattle off the tables pretty quickly. Now, mind you, I can’t go past 11 very well, so I would say that I am probably average-at the very best.

“Marcus started to recognize that any job done in excellence wasn’t because people spent all their time trying to repair their weaknesses. It was usually because someone was working from a natural or developed strength.”

Marcus Buckingham & Ashley Goodall in “Nine Lies About Work”

“A strength is a broader aptitude you have (or build) for solving problems, getting things done, influencing people, or building relationships.” Adam’s belief is that any strength overplayed becomes a weakness, yet Marcus’s premise is that we can use our strengths unintelligently-not use them too much. According to Marcus a strength isn’t good or bad, it’s morally neutral. You can use it for ill or for good. You can never have too much of a strength; you can only use it poorly. Which honestly, blew my mind. I personally lean more towards focusing on my strengths and to a degree ignoring my weaknesses.

Logically, I will never be adept at Math. I have a basic understanding so that I am able to pay my bills and know how much money I have. Yet, I use TurboTax to file my taxes and I use my phone to calculate tips at restaurants. I don’t think that I would ever be great at Math, even if that’s the only thing I focused on. In this instance I would agree with Marcus, that you don’t remediate your way to excellence. “Strengths aren’t just qualities you have. They’re things you do well at key times-actions you take in certain circumstances.” “A strength isn’t just a thing you’re good at, but an activity that makes you feel strong.”

According to StrengthsFinder, one of my top five strengths is intellection, intellection is essentially to enjoy thinking. I love to think, specifically I love to think about concepts and solutions. For instance, the American states of California, Texas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma could feed all of China’s 1.3 billion people and still have crops left over (1). So how would a country go about providing in that way, is it even necessary for one nation to help another-especially if said country is so diametrically opposed to the former. How advantageous is it for the US to sell crops to China? China must feed 22% of the world’s population with just 10% of the world’s cultivatable land (1); is that why China is investing so heavily in Africa- since Africa has 60% of the world’s land capable of growing crops? (2) Refining that thinking over time can lead to solutions (please know that I don’t think that I can solve the issue of food shortages across the world, even though it’s a worthy aim) and refining the thinking helps to guide future actions. Often though, my thinking can become all consuming and obsessive, lacking direction and purpose. In this way my strength has become a weakness, a hindrance – when it is being used in an unintelligent way. Also, I have found a work-around to combat my weaknesses….other people. There is always someone around you, whether it be a friend, a family member, or a coworker whose strength is your weakness. When we pull together people that are willing to work and grow together and leverage our strengths we are able to accomplish so much more.

Back to the money situation, I have a number of friends that are very skilled with finances. Since I am not, I ask as many questions that I can think of. I ask how they budget, how do they save their money, how do they use their credit card, how would they invest…in that way I have gathered lots of practical advice from people that I trust, people that I know have good finances as one of their strengths and I use it to pad my weaknesses. Obviously that doesn’t equate with implementing those pieces of advice but I have also found that the more time I spend with friends (and any other people) who have different strengths, it spurs me on to focus on practical ways that I can work on my weaknesses. 

So what about you? Do you prefer to focus on your weaknesses by making them less weak? How about focusing on your strengths and using them intelligently like Marcus suggests? Or do you prefer a mixture of the two, where you spend some time strengthening your weaknesses and more time on your strengths?

I am curious to hear what you think about when strengths become a weakness.