You’re smart and resourceful. You can afford to waste a little time if you choose to, because when you work, you work ten times faster than an average person in your position.

You think and plan for a wide range of outcomes; you are reliable, and your work is impeccable.

You account for the fact that many people around you don’t operate at the same level and pace as you do, so you pre-emptively pick up the balls that others will inevitably drop. Also, you probably find it surprising that the world still goes around, despite so many people [seemingly] half-*ssing through their commitments, right?

You’ve got everything covered. But then, something major falls through the cracks.

     Your colleague gets another job, leaving you with a double load right before the deadline

     Your partner hits midlife crisis, “10 years too early”.

     Your child isn’t accepted into [insert the name of the program], and moreover, he couldn’t care less about [insert the subject you believe your child must know deeply and work on passionately].

     You don’t get the promised promotion you’ve earned.

     Or even this: uncharacteristically, without realizing it on time, you screw up… (The chances are that if you didn’t see a problem coming, most other people didn’t either, because you’re as good as it gets; this doesn’t make you feel better, though.)

Even if the situation is technically out of your control, you still own the outcome. What’s your plan?

Think of it this way: often, what you are trying to control is much more like a double (or even triple) pendulum, chaotic and unpredictable, then like a single pendulum, which you can proactively control and analyze.

(If you want a small distraction, you can experiment with a double pendulum here as you contemplate how many life factors outside of your control you’re trying to tame: https://www.myphysicslab.com/pendulum/double-pendulum-en.html )

Plan B for high achievers entails changing your perspective to the following: “I know this is not where I planned or wanted to be, but I’m dealing with a chaotic pendulum, so here I am. “Messy” is exactly how things are expected to go. This is normal.”

Life and death, weather, other people’s personalities and agendas, politics, genetics, luck and many other factors contribute to your work/life being a lot more like a triple pendulum than you care to admit.

If you insist, put your mind on figuring out how to make the movement of this chaotic pendulum “controlled and periodic”, as you just may be the genius to figure it out reliably and consistently every time.

In the meantime, allow the sunflower seed to grow into a sunflower, and a marigold seed grow into a marigold, because even if you don’t “allow” it, nature will have its way.

Here are some of the questions to ask yourself when things are not working out despite your best efforts:

     Am I dealing with a single pendulum, or a chaotic pendulum?

     What can I realistically take responsibility for in this situation?

     What authority do I need to get in order to support all the responsibility I’m taking?

     How can I learn to be at peace with the fact that things outside of my control (like the nature of sunflower seeds, or the nature of our children and co-workers) are what they are, not what I think they should be?

My new website project, http://AlinaBas.com , is also a triple pendulum project, surprisingly to me and probably predictably to any experienced designer. So, instead of grand fanfares, here’s a soft launch and an invitation:

The mobile version is still a work in progress, but if you’re at the computer, please, kindly be one of the first friends, colleagues, and clients to visit http://AlinaBas.com and share your thoughts with me. I will read your message closely, your opinion matters to me. Thank you.

May we all have luck and wisdom to handle the chaotic pendulum of plan B in peace.

NEWS AND UPDATES:

Academy-of-ManagementNeed a change of pace? Is it time for a transformation? Learn more here.

THIS SUMMER I’ll be presenting and co-presenting on  intuition development for analytical thinkers at a conference for Psychotherapists at Garrison Institute, and at the Academy of Management conference in Atlanta. Would you like to introduce your organization to research-based programs on intuition development? Let’s set up a call to discuss. (Or send me an email at Alina@AlinaBas.com )

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MentalSpace

In the recent years, there has been much talk among scientists and in the media about cognitive bandwidth. Simply put, cognitive bandwidth (or “mental space”, as we refer to it conversationally with friends) is our capacity to allocate and use our limited cognitive resources effectively.

The larger context for conversations on cognitive bandwidth has generally been poverty. Poverty can be so pervasive in one’s life that solving money-related problems can take a disproportionally large part of one’s “mental space”, leaving too few cognitive resources to attend to things like studying, thinking about the future or sometimes even basic self-care. Poverty literally changes one’s brain and affects a person’s ability to think rationally, creatively, and clearly. (See this great TED talk by Eldar Shafir if you’re interested in more details.)

If you’ve never lived in poverty, you may wonder what this has to do with you.

As it turns out, any kind of scarcity in one’s life can change his brain by:

  • claiming a disproportionately large part of one’s cognitive bandwidth
  • disproportionally magnifying whatever it is that one is lacking
  • perpetuating the person’s obsession with obtaining whatever is missing,
  • making one feel depressed and desperate, and
  • changing the person’s behavior in a way that makes him even more susceptible to scarcity of that one resource.

When someone is always hungry, when someone has to make decisions on daily basis whether to buy food or medicine, it is not surprising that thinking about this can take over the person’s mental space.

Scarcity of love, time, recognition, connection, health may also make people feel like they are trapped in an unescapable loop of having no mental space for anything other than what’s lacking.

Let’s say one of your colleagues doesn’t get much recognition in the company. He’s doing good work, but somehow, his name is never mentioned at big meetings, and a promotion hasn’t been in the works for him. He may spend a great deal of time obsessing over the unfairness of this situation and continuously look for signs of being constantly passed over, which would take his time and attention. As a result of this rumination, he would spend less time doing the actual work he’s expected to do. In anticipation of being overlooked, his behavior at meetings will be passive-aggressive, which would lead to colleagues being less willing to work with him, and him receiving even less recognition… Obsessing over scarcity can thus turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy related to this scarcity.

Anyone’s cognitive bandwidth can become susceptible to the scarcity trap, either due to life’s circumstances or to lack of conscious effort to allocate mental bandwidth efficiently.

So, what can you do to break out of the scarcity trap, to clear out your mental space, and constructively dedicate your cognitive bandwidth to what matters to you?

  1. Focus on what you want rather than on what you don’t want. “These are the kinds of projects that suit me best” rather than “I hate my current job”. “I enjoy being in a loving relationship” rather than “Feeling lonely is horrible”. “How do I get healthy?” rather than “I can’t stand being sick!” This slight shift in focus can become a game-changer, even though it may seem that you’re still talking about the same thing. Whatever you focus on – expands. Mindfully allocate your mental space to what you want more of in your life.
  2. Curate your mental chatter. Have you ever had a heated argument with someone, only to find yourself sitting in the room alone, realizing that you’ve just spent 10 minutes talking in your head with someone who is not a part of this mental “dialogue” in real life? This person is going about his business, completely unaware of the fact that your blood pressure is up, and you’re troubled by your “interaction”. Such mental chatter occupies cognitive bandwidth which you could be using to do something creative, productive, or pleasurable. If you catch yourself having a conversation in your mind with someone you don’t really want to talk to, ask yourself: how would you rather spend your time, attention and energy? Then, mindfully put your attention on what is that you would rather do, or think about someone you’d rather spend time with in your mind.
  3. Consciously put your attention on what is working. Give yourself a gift of investing your time, attention, and other resources into what is already working well in your life. Problems will take up your cognitive bandwidth all on their own. However, it takes a conscious effort to focus on what’s already working, so that you create and attract more of it.
  4. Have a system for prioritizing allocation of your mental space. Every ER has triage plans for days when business is going as usual, as well as for various large-scale disasters. You control your time by deciding what is most valuable to you. Why not do the same with mental space? When it comes to time, instead of feeling time-poor and saying “I don’t have time for this, you can say “This is not a priority” (see this powerful TED talk on time management by Laura Vanderkam ). Similarly, control your cognitive bandwidth by allocating it to what is most valuable to you. Does your work always takes precedent when too many demands are being made on your mental space? Should it? Does your work only takes priority during certain hours/days? Should it? Is keeping in mind your kids’ camp forms, appointments, performances, and playdates always more important than keeping in mind your friends’ milestones? Is this working for you? Make time to think about your priorities, and your system for allocating mental space.
  5. Give your cognitive bandwidth a break. When there are too many demands on your attention and time, taking a “mental break” may seem unthinkable: there’s just too much to do. However, this is precisely when your mind most needs a break in order to prevent “overheating”. Take care of the smallest, absolutely necessary part to address your current challenge, and pause as soon as you can. Shift your attention to soft focus. Go for a run. Go on a short hike, or for a walk in the park. Sit by the water. Take an actual lunch break, away from the phone and the computer. If you’re running on empty, you’re not nearly as effective as you want to believe, and there’s a great deal of research showing that taking a break, playing, and spending time in nature boosts creativity, complex problem-solving skills and productivity (email me if you want to hear more).

I would love to hear what is occupying your mental space these days, and I am happy to allocate my mental space to your stories. What’s been on my mind is developing tools and strategies for helping analytical thinkers understand and use intuition. I’ll be presenting and co-presenting on this topic at two conferences this summer. Let me know if you’d like to hear more!

NEWS AND UPDATES:

Academy-of-ManagementNeed a change of pace? Is it time for a transformation? Learn more here.

THIS SUMMER I’ll be presenting and co-presenting on  intuition development for analytical thinkers at a conference for Psychotherapists at Garrison Institute, and at the Academy of Management conference in Atlanta. Would you like to introduce your organization to research-based programs on intuition development? Let’s set up a call to discuss. (Or send me an email at Alina@AlinaBas.com )

logo_Alina Bas_vert_white_no wordsTHE NEW WEBSITE is finally coming! The “under construction” sign will give way to the new website by the time you receive the May newsletter! Thank you for being so supportive and patient as I was re-branding and re-defining my work.  I look forward to showing the results to you!

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“BBC Dad”: Big Career, Little Children

March 29, 2017 Am I Good Enough?

“You can have everything, just not at the same time”. I first heard this quote years ago at the Women on Wall Street conference, stated by a successful, beautiful business woman, a mom, who was a panelist at the conference. I was somewhere in my early-mid 20’s, when kids were still not a factor for […]

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What’s Not Broken

February 12, 2017 Gut Feeling

Wisdom comes at the expense of having broken much – friendships, habits, glasses, heels, codes, hearts, dishes, connections… So, it’s logical that by our 30’s, we have a good grip on dealing with what’s broken: we trouble-shoot effectively, decide when to cut our losses, and how to invest energy into fixing whatever we want to […]

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Unmistakably Attractive Quality: Do You Have It?

January 13, 2017 Am I Good Enough?

When you meet someone charismatic, knowledgeable, attentive, interesting, generous, it’s always a pleasure to be in the company of this person, isn’t it? It is true in professional settings, at parties, and even during random interactions. The draw is unmistakable: you want to look up, to listen up, and to stand closer. You feel energized […]

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Shaping Up: Career, Relationships, Self

December 23, 2016 Am I Good Enough?

You don’t need any more pressure during this holiday season – your plate is full, I know. Still, no matter how full your life is at the moment, I know you make time for self-reflection this week. Because it’s who you are. Ok, I’ll put my cards on the table: “because it’s who I am”, […]

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Full or Empty? Manage Your Personal Energy

December 5, 2016 Gut Feeling

  You’re at the top of your game. You act with authority and get results. You have an outstanding track record of resolving issues, and a long list of clients who are thankful to you. Yet, instead of enjoying your success, you feel drained, exhausted and completely lacking energy by the end of the day. […]

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When Options Look Disappointing

October 31, 2016 Decision-making

Turbulent September gave way to contemplative October: deciding when to say “yes”, and where to take distance. October has been about choosing options that luckily work, and minimizing disappointment of letting go of good alternatives. What if all your options seem disappointing rather than inspiring, though? I know that with the Presidential Elections coming up, […]

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Grace Under Fire: Handling Life Changes

September 28, 2016 Career Change

I’ve always loved fall. It is colorful, fresh, unpredictable, and usually brings about all sorts of new promising beginnings.  This September came as a mixed bag, though. It has delivered new work projects and soulful celebrations with friends. It has also brought a cosmic reboot (read: “a series of small, but epic failures”). My phone […]

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When Your Expertise Fails You

September 13, 2016 Am I Good Enough?

What do you answer when someone asks you “What do you do?”?  I’m guessing you can easily reach for one or two explanations about what you get paid to do, or what you spend most of your time doing. If you’ve been practicing something deeply and mindfully for years, it is likely that you’re very […]

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