What I'm reading this summer

Traditionally, summer is considered break time, especially for kids. If you think about it, though, many kids are not getting a break in a traditional sense: their lives are still incredibly full with sports, classes, and all sorts of activities. What kids are getting is not a break, but a change of pace.

One of my highly accomplished friends recently shared an anecdote from her childhood. Whenever she would tell her grandmother that she wanted a break, her grandmother would reply: “If you want a break, simply do something different. For example, chess is a break from piano practice; gymnastics is a break from chess, and so on.” We laughed, as we saw a mirror of our own words, now directed toward our children.

Grandmother’s wise words to a child are surprisingly applicable to adults. The idea of changing pace rather than taking a break “to do nothing” is brilliant on many levels. Granted, there are times when our bodies are exhausted, and they simply require sleep or stillness. Beyond physical exhaustion, though, it is often the case that when we say we want a break, what we really need is a change.

Doing something differently is difficult, as we have to create new neural pathways for substituting old habits by new ones. Still, if you’re at a point where you want to scream “I NEED A BREAK!”, a change of pace is a non-negotiable necessity. What you want is to feel differently, or possibly, just to feel something, to have interesting thoughts and ideas, and to have something to look forward to. You need a chance of pace.

When we do the same activity for a prolonged period of time, or do something repetitively, we get in auto-pilot mode, and our senses get dull. We don’t feel what we do anymore, but instead, simply go through the motions, while our minds wonder. Our senses are under-stimulated. If you want an example, think of this:
– Do you recall the way you brushed your teeth or made coffee this particular morning?
– Do you still remember the way your tea tastes, if you use the same brand and flavor cup after cup?
– Do you notice how beautiful your bedspread is, as you make your bed morning after morning, or how comfortable your seat is as you get in the car for your morning commute?

Our brain learns what “normal” feels like, and after a while, stops paying attention to things that feel and look “normal”(i.e. “everything is as usual”). After identifying “normal”, the brain doesn’t need to waste time on “normal”, and can use its bandwidth on things that are new or out of place in order to keep you out of potential danger. What will happen if you add new things to your environment without putting yourself in danger, in order to help stimulate all of your senses?

     Whenever you experience burnout, or you realize that you haven’t felt anything for a while, or you’ve stopped enjoying activities that you used to love, one solution is to create a change of pace.  You don’t need to make drastic permanent moves like quitting, breaking up, or leaving. Instead, find new ways of doing things in order to wake up your senses. Here are some of the things you can try:

– Take a shower in the dark
– Eat your lunch outside
– Take a new route to work
– Create a game for yourself that challenges you to do something new: go to one new museum every month for a year; watch one TED talk per day for a month; try one new dish every week. Get a “partner in crime”, to help you stick with the game and compare notes.
– Read one book outside of your usual circle of interests
– Sleep on the other side of the bed for one week, or move your pillow to the other end of the bed.
– Switch the brand and flavor of your toothpaste, your coffee, or your yogurt
– Visit a place that you’ve never seen before. A nearby town that you’ve heard a lot about, but never visited? A gallery? An arboretum? A fishing spot?
– Make time to observe an activity that you’ve never stopped to observe before. Have you ever watched a rugby practice? Seen a ballet on stage rather than on a screen?  Seen a glass-blower at work? Watched a fisherman catch a large fish?
– Move your body in a way it hasn’t moved before. Try capoeira, sit in a lotus pose, go roller-blading (wear safety gear, stretch, and go with a buddy if it’s your first time!), take a swim class, get a fencing lesson, try playing basketball or ping-pong, or go down a water slide.
– Move your computer to a new spot, or orient your workstation in another direction for a week.
– If you’re always running around, and talking as part of your daily routine, try sitting still and quietly for some time, just for a change of pace. If you’re usually doing things quietly by yourself, make time to start more conversations.

     Creating a change of pace is often easier than getting a break. You can continue to do the things that you need to do, and simply do them in a new way in order to wake up your senses and feel fully alive again. The curious thing is that in the process of changing pace, you’ll find yourself becoming a more interesting person in your own eyes. You’ll start getting fresh ideas about all aspects of your life, you’ll have new things to talk about, new experiences to take in, and a sense that you’re purposefully doing something in your life. We don’t need a break as much as we need a change of pace.

Will you please share with me if you decide to experiment with any of the ideas in this article? Every time I get a feedback email from you, it truly feels like a celebration. Thank you! I can share that my change of pace this summer includes learning to understand authenticity; reading about a boy trapped in his body; processing an interesting angle on story-telling from a sharp, successful entrepreneur; taking pointers on love from a zen master.

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MY BIG NEWS that I can finally share:Keys

I’m SOOOO excited to share with you an amazing news: please, join me for the workshop that I’ll be teaching at the New York Open Center this October! This is a hands-on intuition development program to help you use your senses to get and send out useful information that can improve your life. The program will be rooted in current academic research, and its practical applications. Tuesdays, Oct. 27-Nov. 24th, 5:45-7:45 p.m.. Please, register, and share information with your NYC friends! Taking the Intuition Leap: Solutions for Everyday Living.

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Getting your life in shape often requires help, because if we could do it on our own, we would have done it already.

Let’s be honest: improving your life on your own is a difficult job. When you feel that improvements are simply necessary – for your health, for your sanity, for your progress, let’s do this together. Join me for a very personal, deep 3-month executive coaching collaboration, Transformer VIP Program.

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How do you make the best choice in a situation in which your decision has serious consequences? We’re not talking about ice cream flavors here, so let’s get serious and honest. Ice Cream

There are times when you need to decide whether to continue keeping a loved one on life support, or which job offer to accept when they all look attractive (or when none of them look attractive), whether to stay home with your children or return to work, whether to choose success or happiness when their paths seem to diverge. How do you make that choice?

Many books have been written on the subject of decision-making. (Here are some of my favorites: How We Decide, Drunk Pink Tank, On Being Certain, The Power of Habit, Decisive, Predictably Irrational, and Your Survival Instinct is Killing You.) I even wrote my own book chapter on the subject, Making Choices Without Regrets, for a book I co-authored with several coaches. (If you’d like a copy of my chapter, just email me and let me know, and I’ll send you a free pdf).

The thing is that when you have to make a big decision, especially when you have to make it under pressure and fairly quickly, you may not want to sit down and read all of these great decision-making books. Of course, a methodical approach that entails a thorough analysis and even incorporates your gut feeling is great. Still, when you need a quick decision, you need a rule of thumb for making choices that you can live with.

I’d like to share with you a quick and useful tool for making choices. It may not work in some situations, but Tylenol may not work in some situations either, and it’s still worth having in your emergency kit.

Here’s one thing you need to know: we make choices based on our beliefs.

We root for the team that we believe is going to win, often despite the stats.

We vote based on what we believe the ruling party will or won’t do.

We act based on what we believe is the right thing to do, or based on what we believe is in our best interest.

Our beliefs may or may not be accurately reflecting reality, as beliefs are not necessarily rooted in facts, and yet we often act based on what we believe rather than on what we know.

So, when  you have a difficult choice to make, do this one thing: make a list of 1-5 things that you generally believe about the issue at hand.

For example, when choosing between job offers, think: what do you generally believe about work? Do you believe that the amount of money that you’re getting should compensate for the stress of a cut-throat environment? Do you believe that supportive work environment has value that trumps a higher salary in a cut-throat environment? Do you believe that money is the primary reason you go to work, and therefore you should maximize the amount? Do you believe that your work has to have purpose and meaning, above all? What do you generally believe about work?

When choosing between two locations for your new house, consider your general beliefs about places to live. Do you believe that living within 15 minutes of close family members is important? Is living 30 minutes away, 2 hours away sufficient? Do you believe that proximity to family is not an important factor in choosing a location of a home? Do you believe that  choosing the best school for your children is worth any sacrifice? Do you believe in your heart of hearts that you’re a city dweller? Do you believe that living close to an ocean is vital to your health?

When choosing between summer activities for your kids, ask yourself what you believe kids need. Do you believe that kids need more sleep and fresh air? Do you believe that summer is a great time to make friends and play, or to catch up on school work and move ahead? If you were pressed for an opinion, what do you really believe when it comes to your children’s needs?

Don’t ask yourself what you should do. Instead, ask yourself what you believe.

Generally, are you pro-choice or pro-life?

Generally, do you believe in tough love or in showering with love?

Generally, do you believe in self-reliance at all costs or in building extensive support networks?

Your general beliefs will give you a sense of direction for your choice.

Here’s the interesting part: your choice needs to be consistent with your belief, even if your belief is not rooted in facts. Otherwise, you will experience the internal tension of “It sounds right, but it doesn’t feel right”. Eventually, either your belief will have to bend, or your choice will have to adjust in order to match  each other, and release the tension between your belief and your physical reality.

Use this strategy, and let me know how it works for you! Email me at Alina@MindTerrainCoaching.com . Thanks!

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How to Stop Feeling Like a Failure: 3 Practical Strategies

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* * * * *     The latest from Mind Terrain Coaching:  Making a major life transformation on your own is ridiculously hard. If you’re ready to work, though, and ready for help, let’s do this together. Join me for a very personal, deep 3-month executive coaching collaboration project, “The Journey” VIP Program (see more at the end of […]

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    Do you by chance see days of the week in color? What about seeing numbers or letters in color? How about getting a distinct smell associated with a specific note? This cross-wiring of perceptions is a harmless neurological condition known as synesthesia (by the way, synesthesia has a genetic component, so if you have it, there’s […]

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Love in the Time of Neuroscience

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    One of our sons asked me recently how we can know for sure whether our love for someone is real. I thought about it for a while. I heard a great quote about love in a movie the name of which I don’t recall: “Love is not what you feel inside. Love is the […]

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Best Strategy for Improving Your Personal “State of the Union”

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Listening to President Obama’s State of the Union Address made me think of this: what are our rituals for evaluating our successes on regular basis, and setting inspiring agendas for the year? Think of yourself as the commander-in-chief of your life. Instead of the dreaded New Year resolution, write your own annual State of the Union Address, to reflect […]

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My Best Resources from 2014

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I’d like to share with you some of my favorite resources from 2014, as well as my work that you said made a difference for you. Let’s keep sharing our best resources! Thank you, and have a peaceful, insightful, and healthy 2015! (Image: my best 2014 accomplishment in the kitchen is this Napoleon, made from scratch). My […]

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Best Thing You Can Wish For

December 23, 2014 Decision-making

           Between all the memories, obligations, presents, family gatherings, hopes, expectations, responsibilities and promises, this time of the year can feel hectic and stressful. Still, this time of the year that calls for dreaming and wishing good things to each other. As I sat down to write this holiday newsletter, I wondered what would be the […]

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What You’ve Never Done Before

November 26, 2014 Decision-making

     I’m about to do something I’ve never done before.     I’m inviting you to join me on an unusual, restorative, and magical journey, where you’ll learn something “off the beaten path”, yet essential. Would you please join me?     I’m leading a 3-day retreat for curious and analytical thinkers who want to develop their […]

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When to Choose the Easy Path

October 31, 2014 Career Change

Let’s do a 30-second experiment. Ready? Grab a piece of paper and a pen, divide the paper into two columns, and label them “Easy Path” and “Hard Path”. Now, put each of the following adjectives in the column where it fits best (don’t overthink it, just follow your initial gut response):  Boring – Joyful + […]

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