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700: How to Make Your Anxiety Work For You with Wendy Suzuki

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Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki talks about how you can leverage your anxiety to solve problems and boost your well-being.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The six superpowers of anxiety 
  2. How to trick your brain into relaxing
  3. How a 30-second meditation can make all the difference 

 

About Wendy

Dr. Wendy Suzuki is a Professor of Neural Science and Psychology in the Center for Neural Science at New York University and a celebrated international authority on neuroplasticity. She was recently named one of the ten women changing the way we see the world by Good Housekeeping and regularly serves as a sought-after expert for publications including The Wall Street Journal, Shape, and Health. 

Her TED talk has received more than 31 million views on Facebook and was the 2nd most viewed TED talk of 2018. 

Resources Mentioned

Dr. Wendy Suzuki Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Wendy, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Wendy Suzuki
So happy to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom. Now, you are a professor of neuroscience, but you also spent some time observing baboons in Botswana.

Wendy Suzuki
Yes, I did.

Pete Mockaitis
Tell us the story here. How did that come to be? And any insights or hilarity from that experience?

Wendy Suzuki
Well, it was just awe from that experience. Well, I call it my Jane Goodall experience. It was my very first sabbatical of studying behavior, and decided to apply it to baboon behavior, and got associated with an amazing lab out of University of Pennsylvania, Cheney and Seyfarth, who had a baboon cognition research station in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana.

And so, I went there for about two or three weeks. I worked with their postdocs and I was the most highly educated research assistant ever. My job was to collect poop, so I was a baboon poop collector. And I proudly did my job and it’s actually much more difficult than you might imagine because you have to be able to tell the difference between the different baboons so that you collect the correct poop, and that was challenging.

Did you know that baboons in the wild are identified by their ear markings. Their ears get beat up in fights and things, and so what you get is not like a little picture of the face of every baboon with their name, “Here’s Elvis, here’s Loki,” but you get the name Elvis and you get a little drawing of his right and left ear.

So, you are walking around kind of trying to look at the ears of all of these baboons, which that was actually really funny to watch me do, but it was so fascinating. It was like a little soap opera out there. You would not believe the intrigue and the sex and the dastardly deeds that get done in these baboon colonies.

Pete Mockaitis
Intrigue and sex and dastardly deeds. We’re off to a great start, Wendy.

Pete Mockaitis
So, that’s baboons. We’ve got dastardly deeds. Let’s hear a little bit about anxiety. That can cause us to do some dastardly things or feel not so great. You have come to some insights associated with anxiety. Can you share what’s one of your most surprising and fascinating discoveries you’ve made along these lines?

Wendy Suzuki
So, the whole book Good Anxiety is really about how if you are able to embrace all aspects of your anxiety, both those negative, uncomfortable feelings, but also all the information your particular form of anxiety teaches you about yourself, then your anxiety transforms into something that could bring you to a more fulfilling life, a more creative life, and, ultimately, a less stressful life. So, that is the take-home message of Good Anxiety that is the culmination of all the research and the science and just the observations that I’ve done around the area of anxiety.

Pete Mockaitis
So, you’re saying the benefit of anxiety is the teaching that it gives us primarily. Is that right or are there more things there too?

Wendy Suzuki
There’s lots of things. So, one of the superpowers that one gets with anxiety, in fact, we talked about six different superpowers that come from good anxiety, they include resilience, compassion, flow, mindset, focus, and creativity. Now, I’m not saying that somebody that’s in the throes of what I call bad anxiety, when anxiety starts to block you, and you can’t go out and you can’t speak fluidly because you have lots of anxiety. That is not when you start to get these superpowers.

What the book takes you through is, first, exercises and activities to help you flip that bad anxiety into good manageable anxiety. And it’s when anxiety is in this manageable state is when you can take advantage of all of these positive aspects of anxiety, including all those superpowers that I talked about. And that is what the book describes, how these powers of resilience come from the fact that if you are experiencing lots of little bouts of anxiety, every single little bout is contributing to your little piggybank of resilience.

Now, if these bouts are very debilitating, that’s hard to appreciate. But, in fact, scientific experiments have shown that if people go through large numbers of more controllable bouts of stress or anxiety, they develop what’s called stress resilience. They are more resilient than other controls that get either uncontrollable stress or no experience of stress, either controlled or uncontrolled. So, there are definitely positive aspects that come to it. You have to know how to leverage all of the information and superpowers that do come with anxiety.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’d love to have those superpowers, so can you walk us through an example here? So, you’re feeling anxious about something, and then what do you do to make it work for you?

Wendy Suzuki
So, most people, the most common question that I get is, “I get bouts of anxiety. I don’t know how to make it go away, make it feel better.” And so, I always start with the two most direct ways that you can counteract anxiety. You don’t need to practice, you don’t need to do anything, and here they are.

First one is deep breathing. So, you don’t practice it, just deep breathing. Because what you’re doing with deep breathing is you’re activating one of our amazing nervous systems that we all have in our body called the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s also called the rest and digest nervous system. This is a nervous system that kicks in when you have a little more time on the weekends. You can digest. You’re not doing ten things that your boss just asked you to do. And that causes a whole bunch of physiological responses – slowing of the heart rate; deeper, fuller breathing; blood flow into your digestive system and away from your muscles.

Whereas, the stress system, or parasympathetic nervous system, the stress nervous system, does the opposite. I live in New York so taxi cabs come too close to you, clips you, almost clips you on the street, and you jump back. You don’t have to think about it. You don’t have to analyze it. Your stress system and danger-alerting system has you jump back. Your heart rate goes up, your blood flow is going to your muscles because you have to get away from the danger.

And so, I want less of that stress activation systems in my normal life, and I want more of that rest and digest system. So, it’s hard for me to slow my heart rate consciously, but the best way into that system is deep breathing. By deep breathing, you start to activate other elements of that rest and digest relaxation system. So, that’s a wonderful way to do it. Again, you want to catch it before it gets into really deep anxiety. So, as you start to feel anxiety coming on, get those deep breaths going. That’s number one.

Number two is another very effective way to quell bad anxiety is simply moving your body. Go for a walk outside, do some jumping jacks, whatever is most natural for you to do. Why? Because even moving your body a little bit can stimulate the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline. I like to say that every time you move your body, you give your brain a bubble bath of positive neurochemicals, including dopamine and serotonin that are going to activate your feelings of reward and happiness.

So, those are two immediate things that you can do because, as I said, you can’t get to the superpowers when you’re in a state of bad anxiety. So, you’ve quelled your anxiety. You haven’t gotten rid of it. You have lots of things. We all have our own personal anxiety stories. And so, now, you’ve quelled your bad anxiety and it’s a little bit more manageable. It still comes with those negative feelings, but it’s not as debilitating as it was before.

Now, you’re able to start to tap into some of those superpowers. And one of the superpowers that I love to talk about is the superpower of compassion, that is I think it’s very easy to understand. So, let me give an example from my own life. When I was in middle school, high school, I was a very, very shy young person, scared to talk, scared to raise my hand in class. I knew the answers but too scared to actually interact and say the answers out loud. And that caused a lot of my early anxiety in my life.

So, I’ve developed ways not to be shy in that way. But what I realized is that deep understanding of that feeling of fear has given me the superpower of compassion. And I’m able to use that particular superpower in my own teaching because I happen to become a teacher. And so, I use it altruistically by making sure that all the students in my class have many different ways to talk to me, interact with me, tell me what they know, because that is very satisfying to a student. I know from my own student days.

But I’m very, very aware of all those students out there. They know the answer but they have an anxiety of speaking out in class. And I do this also not just in the student kind of classroom situation but in a meeting situation. Sometimes there are people that easily speak out and others have a harder time. So, if I’m directing the meeting, I always make sure that everybody gets a say. And if somebody hasn’t said anything, I made sure, without putting them on the spot, that they had their say taken.

And that level of compassion comes from my particular anxiety story. And you can kind of apply compassion from your own deep understanding of whatever anxiety you have. Money anxiety, aging anxiety, grade anxiety. What can you do to kind of help others because you understand so deeply what that anxiety is?

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s lovely. So, when it comes to the deep breathing and the moving your body in order to get you to a more useful place, I’m curious, is there…do you suggest a particular amount of breaths, or a pace, or a cadence, or an amount of exercise? Is there a sweet spot where you start to get diminishing returns?

Wendy Suzuki
Yeah, that’s a great question. So, I like to start off with just the quick and dirty activity. Just breathe more deeply. Know that is helpful. Walk outside is the easiest thing to do. However, if you have time and you want to kind of really dig deeper here and find your own sweet spot, here is what I recommend. There are literally thousands of kinds of breath meditation, and you can learn about them simply by using YouTube, and going to three breath meditation. Find one that you like. There are so many. You can judge them by how many views, how many millions of views that they have, and practice that in a non-anxiety provoking situation just to find out which kind that you like.

There’s a kind that you do in yoga class that you might be familiar with. Alternate nostril breathing, there’s counting breathing where you count four breaths, four counts in, hold if for four counts, and then slowly breathe out for four counts. That’s another very common easy one. But some might be more relaxing or less relaxing to you. So, that is the easiest kind of free way to do that.

Similarly, for exercise, we know from experimental studies, and one of my expertise is the effects of physical activity on the brain. We know that walking alone can decrease anxiety levels, decrease depression levels, and improve positive affect, simply walking outside for a minimum of 10 minutes. So, do that.

Some people might like doing something like the 7-Minute Workout from the New York Times. That’s another good way. Again, you can explore, see what you like to do, see what’s more natural. Some people might want to stay indoors to do their physical activity. The other one that I like to recommend is dance. Dancing is a wonderful form of physical activity. Turn your favorite toe-tapping music on from whatever period, and just dance for the three minutes of the song. That is guaranteed to improve your mood as well.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. I dig it. Thank you. That’s a nice lineup and quick and fun, and makes an impact. So, you mentioned a number of superpowers. I’m most intrigued by flow. How can I use anxiety to get more flow?

Wendy Suzuki
Yeah, that’s a great one. So, flow, as it was originally defined, is kind of depressingly unattainable. You have to have 10,000 hours of practice. You have to be so high-level performance. I think of Yo-Yo Ma because I love the cello. And so, Yo-Yo Ma playing the Bach Unaccompanied Cello Suites can achieve flow, but I will never be able to do flow because I can’t do anything that beautiful with my hands. So, it’s depressing and also anxiety is a really big flow supper. So, not only is it really hard to get flow but anxiety kind of digs a hole deeper that makes it harder to get.

And so, I’ve come up with something that I use all the time, which is the concept of microflow. So, microflow is not dependent on how many hours you practice or how high a level. Microflow is dependent on how much you enjoy the process. So, for example, I experience microflow after every yoga class in Shavasana because I’m really good at laying still on my back. And I categorize that as a moment of microflow, and it’s really important. This superpower is one that’s both a tool to help people out of bad anxiety, but it becomes a superpower as you practice it more and more. And it’s really a practice and a strategy of noticing all the things that you do enjoy in a given day no matter how fleeting they are.

So, Shavasana always seems so short, but I categorize that as a moment of microflow. My green smoothie that I make in the morning that took me months to finalize the recipe that I love. That is a daily moment of microflow for me. Of course, everybody can cultivate this. But people with anxiety, it’s even more important that they do this so that they can feel this flow and really appreciate the positive lovely moments in their life, and put that in the piggy bank.

Pete Mockaitis
So, it’s about the savoring, the appreciating, the pausing. So, I guess I’m wondering, in terms of like the recipe there, I guess first you noticed, “Hey, I like this,” and then I guess it’s not just sort of multitasking in your brain and rushing and trying to get it done and go to the next thing. Any other particular mental practices that you’re doing there in order to arrive in that place?

Wendy Suzuki
Yeah, it’s really, I think, it’s an art of savoring good moments in your life because, I can tell you, from my own personal experience, when I was experiencing much higher levels of anxiety, that we all do at certain points in our lives. Any good moment like that, my first thought would be, “It’s going to be over. It’s soon going to be over and I’m going to go back into anxiety.” And so, I was anti-savoring the moment.

And the thing that really, really helped me was a practice that will be very familiar to many people and it’s in the focus superpower, which is the practice of meditation. So, the practice of meditation is really an exercise for your prefrontal cortex. Your prefrontal cortex is what is giving you that unending what-if list, “What if this happens? What if that happens?” For me, that always happens right before I’m trying to fall asleep. How do I quell that? Well, you practice, you get yourself in a quiet state, and, very important, you start very, very short, with a very short meditation, 30 seconds.

Have you ever done a 30-second meditation? That could be just a breath meditation, going back to our how you quiet a bad anxiety in the first place. But I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to meditate for too long, and thinking that they have to have all thoughts go out of their mind, that their mind has to be a blank slate. That never happens. You can quiet your mind. You can focus. That’s why focusing on the breath, on loving kindness and compassion meditation focusing on that feeling of loving kindness and compassion, which one can’t get. The trick of the trade that I learned from some expert meditators is think about puppies and babies, things that make you go, “Aww,” will make you want to have immediate love for them.

And it’s a lovely meditation to do. It focuses your attention, it focuses your emotional state on cuteness and love and protection of this lovely creature, but it also trains your prefrontal cortex to go in this calm state. And that is very, very powerful for building focus, which often flies out the window with anxiety. And so, by practicing that, that is one of the ways that you can create a superpower of focus.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Lovely. Any other pro tips on the focus?

Wendy Suzuki
So, throughout the book I interview a number of people, just real people, different ages, different backgrounds, to tell their story, their anxiety story, and how these approaches helped them. This person actually gave us a wonderful kind of tool for the focus superpower. And that is an immediate turning your what-if list, that often kind of derails your focus, into a to-do list. So, this happened to be an entrepreneur that had terrible anxiety about raising money and couldn’t kind of get over a no answer and second-guess himself for all the things that he could’ve done differently to get that money back or get that investment.

And the tip that he got from a colleague of his, that he shared with us, is that all of those second-guessing that you do, all that creates your what-if list, you turn that into an action list. So, use that as, “This is great. That what-if, that’s going on the list. I’m going to change that. I’m going to do it differently for next time.” So, you turn it into an action item. And it’s kind of turning the negative activation of anxiety that creates this what-if list that puts you into deeper anxiety, and turns it into an immediate action list.

And he was able to implement this and kind of changed his view on his anxiety kind of in one conversation. And he was a very driven person but it is powerful to think, “What if I just turned all those what-ifs into my exploration list?” And that is part of the superpower of these things that come up in anxiety, these thoughts that come up in anxiety.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, Wendy, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention?

Wendy Suzuki
Yeah, one of my favorite superpowers, I think we’ve covered most all of them, is a superpower that comes from good anxiety is creativity. So, creativity is a natural byproduct of anxiety because anxiety often pushes us to find workarounds, “I can’t do that. I can’t go in that direction because that’s difficult but I’m going to do it a different way.”

And, also, the difficulties that come with anxiety, anxiety caused by difficult family members, very difficult upbringings, we know from history, often lead to some of the most creative kind of outlets for that – writing, song. You don’t have to be a number one on the hits list but they are inspiration for lots of creative outlets.

And so, instead of, again, just focusing on the negative feelings, can you get inspiration from all of these people that have used their negative anxiety-ridden experiences to create something beautiful and new? And, in fact, many of them say that their creativity came from their pain and their anxiety, so it’s inspiring to think about anxiety that way, that your anxiety story can become a creativity story.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Wendy Suzuki
The first quote that comes to mind that always inspires me is from Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see.” And that is an underlined quote that I used to write this book. I don’t just write about good anxiety and the superpowers. I lived all these superpowers, I use them in my life, and they change my life in profound ways, which is part of the story of Good Anxiety.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Wendy Suzuki
Yeah, so my favorite bit of research was a preliminary study that I did in a classroom at NYU in August of 2020. It was the first semester where everybody was going to be remote, and I was invited to speak to a freshmen cohort. I was going to share my research on the effects of exercise on the brain, and I had 30 minutes.

And I decided to truncate the lecture so it was only going to be 10 minutes long, and I decided to do an experiment on them. So, I sent them all off to do, a clinical anxiety survey, this was after I told them about the positive effects of exercise, including that wonderful neurochemical bubble bath that happens when you move your body.

So, after they did the anxiety survey, we all came back, this was all on Zoom, and I happen to be a certified exercise instructor. So, we all did 10 minutes of a workout that I teach called intenSati that pairs physical movements from kickbox and dance and martial arts and yoga with positive spoken affirmation. So, as you punch, front punches, you say things like, “I am strong now.” And every move has different affirmations.

And so, there was 10 minutes of it. It was surprising. They did not know they were going to do this. And then, at the end of that, I had them all go back and retake that anxiety survey. And the next day, I sent everybody that was in that, there were 30 freshmen in that session, I sent them the results.

What I found was before the exercise, those 30 students, on average, were just shy of clinically anxious, very high levels of anxiety. Again, this was right before their first remote session of their freshmen year at NYU, so not so surprising there was high levels of anxiety. But my favorite part is that just 10 minutes of working out over Zoom with me decreased their anxiety scores by 15 points on average, which brought them all to the normal anxiety levels.

So, that is just a quick experiment on the power of moving your body on affecting anxiety.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Wendy Suzuki
I’ve been obsessed with memoirs, and I’ve been reading memoirs of comedians because I admired their writing and I’ve always wanted to be a funny person so I’m curious about how comedians tell their life story. So, one of my favorite books that I’ve read recently is called A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost from Saturday Night Live.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Wendy Suzuki
I feel like my superpower tool of being awesome at my job is staying connected with a whole bunch of creative friends who are really, really inspiring in lots of different ways. So, I find myself time and time again inspired, thinking about how to bring elements of performance, or, I don’t know, musical theater into my teaching and into my talk world. So, my superpower is my creative cohort of friends.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit, something you do that helps you be awesome at your job?

Wendy Suzuki
My morning tea meditation. So, every morning, I wake up and I do about 45 minutes of meditation over the brewing and drinking of tea. It’s a particular form of meditation that I learned from a monk, a tea monk, and I set up my day beautifully with that tool.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Wendy Suzuki
Yes, the quote that I get most often is, “I love your image of a bubble bath for the brain every time you move your body.” It’s an image that’s novel and it sticks with people, and that’s the one that gets quoted back to me the most often.

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Wendy Suzuki
Yes, best way to learn more about me and get in touch is my website www.WendySuzuki.com. Everything is there from classes, to books, to lectures, to TED Talks. So, you’ll find everything there.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Wendy Suzuki
My call to action is to and I’ve done this myself, great to focus on your major strengths. But what if you could use your anxiety to be even better at your job? It’s hard to think about that. It’s a Jiu Jitsu move that I try to show everybody how to do, but that is my best tip for a new way to improve yourself using your own anxiety story.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Wendy, thank you. This has been a treat. And I wish you much luck and good anxiety in the days to come.

Wendy Suzuki
Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.

668: Making Work More Meaningful and Fulfilling through Mindfulness and Compassion with Scott Shute

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LinkedIn’s Head of Mindfulness and Compassion Scott Shute discusses how to improve yourself and your work by practicing more mindfulness and compassion.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why mindfulness matters at work 
  2. How to keep your inner critic from hijacking your day 
  3. The four steps to cultivating compassion 

About Scott

Scott was previously the Vice President of LinkedIn’s Customer Operations organization. In his current role as Head of Mindfulness and Compassion at LinkedIn, Scott blends his lifelong practice and passion with his practical leadership and operations experience.  His mission is to change work from the inside out by “mainstreaming mindfulness” and “operationalizing compassion.” He is the author of the book The Full Body Yes, available in May 2021. 

Resources mentioned in the show:

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Scott Shute Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Scott, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Scott Shute
Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so excited to dig into your wisdom here but, first, I want to hear about your love of motorcycles.

Scott Shute
Well, I grew up on a farm in Kansas and just in the wide-open spaces, so I grew up riding dirt bikes since I was six. And one of my big adventures was a couple of buddies and I, when we graduated from college, we rode from Kansas to the East Coast and up into Canada and back over 5,000 miles in like three weeks camping. And then we didn’t talk to each other for a very long time after that.

Pete Mockaitis
But, eventually, you returned to conversation.

Scott Shute
For sure.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s great. Well, let’s hear about your latest book here, The Full Body Yes: Change Your Work and Your World from the Inside Out. Tell us what’s the most maybe surprising or counterintuitive discovery you’ve made along the way as you’ve put this together.

Scott Shute
Wow, interesting. So, these are a lot of stories from my own life but I think they’re the stories about each one of us, and I think it’d be relevant for everybody. And it’s really about, it kind of follows this Rumi quote, I love to quote Rumi, he’s a 13th century master and poet. He says, “Yesterday, I was clever and I tried to change the world, but today I’m wise, and I’m working on changing myself.”

And, for me, that’s kind of what this is. You can open any newspaper, any news app, and think, “Oh, my God, what a mess that we live in.” But, ultimately, for me, it’s about the work that I can change on myself that allows me to then be strong with whatever life brings me and change the world and work as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Okay. Well, so then that sounds wise and sensible. And is that kind of the core thesis or big idea of the book here?

Scott Shute
Yeah. Look, I wanted to write a book about compassion. In my day job, and now we can get into it, but I’m the head of mindfulness and compassion at LinkedIn, and so I wanted to write a book about compassion, and I realized that 99% about being compassionate, or learning how to be compassionate to other people, is getting out of our own way, it’s dealing with our own mess, it’s our own development. And so, I kind of go through this arch in my life of how I’ve learned, how I’ve messed it up, and also how I’ve learned, and how I’ve sometimes gotten it right.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, boy, there’s so much I want to dig into. So, as the head of mindfulness and compassion, do you feel a lot of pressure to be super mindful and compassionate every day?

Scott Shute
Well, what I could tell you is sometimes, sometimes, my wife and I are arguing, and probably usually she’s right, but she’ll throw around, “Hey, aren’t you the head of mindfulness?” Like, that doesn’t sound very ”Aargh!” Look, I never pretend to be perfect. That’s just my title.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I hear you. Well, okay, so that’s a really cool title at a world-leading organization. And so, I think some people might say, “Mindfulness, compassion, are those even things that are really important to be at work? It’s called work for a reason, and that’s your job?” What’s the business case associated with these things?

Scott Shute
Sure. Well, I always start with the question, if I’m talking to leaders, like, “Do you care about your employees or not?” Because, let’s face it, work has changed over the years. If we go way back, like think about building the pyramids, we had kings and slaves, and then that evolved into indentured servants, or land owners and not land owners. In the industrial revolution, you had people in factories, and probably, largely, workers were viewed as interchangeable or replaceable.

But, now, in the information age, a company like LinkedIn and many others, we don’t have hard assets. All we have is our people. And so, our number one asset should also be our number one investment. If our people are operating at their best, if they’re happy, if they’re mentally well, they’re going to produce great results.

Now, what we know about mindfulness and practices like that, you can think of it like mental exercise, like physical exercise. So, we know that, look, there are 6,000 peer-reviewed papers that show that mindfulness reduces stress, reduces anxiety, increases creativity, and increases the quality of leadership and connection. Now, what leader doesn’t want that in their organization? So, that’s what we’re up to.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Super. Well, then, in practice, how do you go about integrating mainstream mindfulness, operationalizing compassion? These are some terms that come up here. How do you do that?

Scott Shute
Yeah, let’s talk about it in two ways. Let’s talk about mindfulness first. And so, we’re turning it to mainstream, meaning make it just as normal as physical exercise. So, if somebody asked you, “Hey, what are you going to do after work?” “Oh, I’m going to go to the TRX class and then go for a run.” Everybody thinks, “Oh, yeah, cool. That’s totally normal.” But if we said, “Oh, I’m going to go check out the latest meditation class at 4:30 or 5:00,” like, “Ahh, okay.”

And so, here’s how we’re mainstreaming it. We’re trying to make it just as normal as physical exercise. So, every place, we have a gym. LinkedIn is a company that has 15,000 or 16,000 people, so we have offices all over the world. Where we have gyms and where we have classes like yoga or TRX, we also have classes on meditation where people like me are leading them on a regular basis. So, 30, 40, 50 meditation sessions per week.

We give everybody an app. They have access to the Wise@Work app, which is a really cool meditation app, which is designed for people who are working. And then once a year, we do a 30-day challenge where we encourage people, “Hey, if you use the app 20 times within the 30 days, we’ll give you a free T-shirt.” Or, this year, we did a free hoodie. And, look, never underestimate the power of a free hoodie on people’s behavior. And what we find is that, over time, each year that we do this, people are doing it and they’re adopting it and they’re developing a practice, and we’re just making it more and more and more commonplace.

On the compassion side, so I think mindfulness is great. This is how we develop ourselves. But the real juice is in compassion because we don’t work, or live, in isolation. So, compassion is, you know, I have a definition for it but it’s essentially when we’re moving from just thinking about me to thinking about the we. And this shows up in our values, and it can be really simple.

So, as an example, our head of sales will stand on stage in front of 5,000 people at sales kickoff, and say, “Look, don’t just sell something at the end of our quarter that our customers don’t need just so you can hit quota. Like, we are in this for a long-term value.” Now, at the root of that, that is compassion because we move from just selfish needs to the needs of the whole.

Or, product review. A product manager will come to the product execs, pitching their new innovations, and the meeting might start by saying, “Oh, hey, in this latest rev of our product, we’re going to get 12% more clicks by doing, X, Y, and Z.” And the first question, if they don’t answer it themselves, is always, “Yeah, but what about the member experience?” And if they answer, “Well, hey, look, did I mention it was 12% more clicks?” like the meeting just stops and then it becomes an abject lesson on our number one value, which is members first. So, those are some of the ways that we’re trying to integrate it into what we do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so let’s hit mindfulness a little bit in detail. There’s a lot of ways one can go about being mindful. So, when you are working it and working out the brain, like we work out the body, what are some of the top recommended practices or pro tips to do that well?

Scott Shute
Sure. Well, what we’re looking for is to reduce kind of our fight or flight system in our brain, and a lot of people experience this naturally when they go for a walk out at nature, when they spend time with loved ones, or listen to music, talk with a friend, all those things can be helpful. But some of those are not available to us in the workplace or on demand.

And so, mindfulness or breathing or meditating is another way to do that that’s free and always portable. And so, as an example, if I’m headed into a stressful meeting, I have a big presentation or whatever it’s going to be, I can just spend 90 seconds. I can take some deep breaths, activate the rest and digest part of my nervous system, and just kind of let both my mind and my body settle. That’s kind of a micro practice.

I mean, people, of course, go on to have 10-minute, 15-minute, 20-minute a day or even more practices but they can be done in little micro doses. It just starts with awareness of when I’m kind of getting a little “Zzzzsst” in my head and need to calm things down a bit.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Okay. And so, then I’ve done some stuff in the mindfullness world.

Scott Shute
You’ve done some stuff?

Pete Mockaitis
I’ve done things, Scott, in the mindfulness world in terms of like apps and returning to my breath and such. And what’s interesting is, I guess maybe I didn’t have a free hoodie to motivate me, is that I find that I get in the groove and I fall out of the groove, and then I get back in the groove, and I fall out of the groove. What have you discovered are some of the best practices to help people do that with some consistency to really enjoy the benefits that these 6,000 papers are pointing to?

Scott Shute
Sure. I really love the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, and there’s so much goodness in there. One of my favorite quotes from him is, “Our lives do not rise to the level of our intentions. They fall to the level of our systems.” So, in other words, we have these big goals we want to practice but we just fall back into our habits.

And so, thinking about an atomic habit, you start with the smallest thing that I can commit to. So, maybe it’s I set an alarm every day. For some time, that works for me, and when that alarm goes, I’m just going to do a little bit, the least I can commit to. Maybe it’s one breath, maybe it’s three breaths, maybe over time it turns into five minutes or 10 minutes or 20 minutes. That’s one thing is just regularity.

Another one is having an accountability buddy. So, if we were to start a practice, maybe every day we’re going to text each other, “Hey, did you do your minutes today? Did you do your practice?” There’s something really powerful about having an accountability buddy and knowing that there’s someone there on the other end.

Other people use, I like a tick-list. So, I have a little piece of paper that has, right now, I’m trying to learn how to do pushups, three days a week. And so, I have a little Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I have five boxes on a piece of paper, and I know that every week I need to check off those five boxes three times a week.

And so, use a system that fits your life, that fits stuff you already do for work in ways you’ve already built habits doing other things, and use it for mindfulness. That’s one. And then, two, is have a clear goal of why. If we’re going to the gym and we’re going to do pushups or workout or do whatever, if you don’t know why you’re there, it’s really hard to get motivated to go the next time.

So, the same thing with mindfulness, if you have a clear goal, like, “Wow, I know,” like me, personally, I know that when I don’t do it, I can start to get grumpy, or I can start to get a little short, or I can start to get a little irritated. And when I do do it, all those things are much better. And so, I have a clear picture. So, each of us needs a clear intention to go along with our system.

Pete Mockaitis
I think that’s so dead-on, and we’re talking about the why. I just recently finished listening to Chris Bailey’s How to Train Your Mind which is excellent, by the way. And he shared a case that revealed that for a knowledge worker, you can expect to earn back about nine minutes of good productive time for each one minute you spend in meditation.

And I found that so compelling in terms of like, “Oh, I’m too busy. I don’t feel like it.” It’s like, “Well, no, known fact, you are losing time by not doing this.” And so, that was a powerful why for me. And you’ve observed in your own life some benefits for who you want to be, so that’s huge. Any other huge whys pop up for people as they engage in these practices that really connects?

Scott Shute
The rest of us need you to do it. I get anecdotal emails from people in our program all the time. One young woman during COVID times sent an email, she’s like, “Thank you so much for offering what you offer.” She’s like, “Look, I’m a mom, I have two kids under four. And what I can tell you is I’m screaming at them a lot less.” And that wasn’t it, she went on to say how she was able to be present for them, how she was able to be calm. Look, when we take care of ourselves, we’re better for everybody else around us, including our coworkers and our customers, etc.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, then let’s talk a little bit more about the compassion side of things and being for others. When it comes to mindfulness, there’s some particular practices that we’ve heard before, like, “Oh, sit still, focus on your breath, return your thought to your breath when it wanders.” How does one get more compassionate?

Scott Shute
Great question. So, let’s start with self-compassion because a lot of people really struggle with this one. But a good self-compassion exercise, and this goes almost to black belt level so we’ll go there. You and your listeners are ready, right? So, essentially, when you’re getting ready in the morning, when you’re brushing your teeth or shaving or doing makeup, you put your hand on your heart, you look at yourself in the mirror, and you say your name followed by, “I love you.” That’s hard in the beginning because we have all these judgments, we have all these stories.

Like, Arianna Huffington calls it the obnoxious roommate, the inner critic that tells us all the bad things we have wrong. And it’s a lot to get over that. And so, just this constant practice of recognizing that our brains tend towards the negative. This is how we evolved, this is how we stayed alive, but our brains are keeping us alive, not happy. And so, for happiness or contentment or compassion, we actually have to do a little extra work.

So, that hand on your heart “I love you” is one. Another one for self-compassion is to ask myself, “What else is true?” If that obnoxious roommate, that inner critic is really going crazy, it’s like, “Okay, stop. What else is true?” meaning that there’s a lot of good things in my life as well in addition to the things my inner critic is complaining about. And if I list those things off, then I can see things in a balanced way and it makes me more stable. So, that’s for self.

Now, if I want to have compassion for others, it’s first recognizing what’s going on. What’s going on just like we evolved to have a negativity bias in our bodies, we evolve to feel compassion for those who are like us. Now, like us meaning the way we think, the people we identify with. And so, when we see someone as different, we then can only focus on those differences. And it’s kind of fascinating because humans are about 98% the same. But if you look at the news, the polarity we have going, we only see the 2% of the differences between us.

So, the antidote to that is to look someone else and realize, “Look, this person just wants to be happy. They just want to be healthy. They just want to have their plans work out. They’re just trying to get by. They experience pain and joy just like I do. In so many ways, this person is just like me.” There’s a quote that gets attributed to Abraham Lincoln, who was in the middle of polarity during the Civil War, and so all of this kind of same stuff that’s happening. He says, I’ll paraphrase a little bit, he says, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, yeah.

Scott Shute
That’s where it starts.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. That is good. Boy, the hand on the heart, looking in the mirror, “I love you,” I think I’ve done that just a couple times ever. And it is, in the first couple times, I guess I’ve done it a couple of times, it’s kind of weird feeling and, yet, it’s good. And I checked this from the book When Sorry Isn’t Enough, it’s about apologies, and they also recommended doing a similar exercise to say, “I forgive you,” to your own self, and that’s powerful as well. So, any pro tips for those who are like, “Yeah, I don’t know about that, Scott. Not my style”?

Scott Shute
You just got to try it. Get over yourself. So, if you can’t say, “I love you” to yourself, then you probably can’t say, “I love you” to anybody else, and that’s a shame. That’s a shame. So, this is something that the rest of us need from you. This is part of the community that we live in. We need you to be at your best, or moving away from kind of those bad days that we all have, towards some of the good days that we all have, so try it for the rest of us. You’ll be a better person.

Pete Mockaitis
And for those who, this is a little deeper here, intrinsically feel, at times or maybe most of the time, unworthy of love, or unlovable, how do we do there?

Scott Shute
It’s the same technique. It’s just harder. This technique, it works on a number of levels, because here’s what going on. When we put our hand on our heart, it has a similar effect as when we give someone a hug. When we give someone a hug, our bodies release oxytocin and we feel soothing, like literally, in our nervous system. We feel a soothing and a calming down.

So, you might imagine a time when you were a child and you were being soothed by your grandmother or mother or aunty or whoever was soothing for you, and go to that place even just with your hand on your heart. And then when you say, when you can look in yourself in the eyes, and say, “I love you,” what you’re doing is you’re letting go of all the stuff. Of course, we have all failed. We all have things that we have judgments about. But at the root of it, we are all are lovable. There’s that part of us which is deeper beyond the body, beyond the mind and emotions, and look at it from that part, that part where we are all equal. That part is, for sure, lovable, and that’s where love comes from.

So, it’s making that connection from that pure part of yourself to yourself and to others in their pure part of themselves. And, look, this is what we’re all looking for. I think that one of the most deeply held needs that each of us has is the need to be seen and heard and acknowledged and gotten, which is really saying loved. And so, it starts with ourselves.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. This is powerful stuff. I understand you also have a four-step action plan. What is this fourth?

Scott Shute
Well, this is in the book. So, my COVID project was to write a book, it’s called The Full Body Yes and I kind of go through these four steps. And this was, again, trying to get at the “What’s the recipe to be compassionate?”

So, it starts with knowing ourselves. Each one of us has a story that only we can tell, and every one of us has pain and joy and whatever, but each one of us have a unique story. So, it’s first understanding that story, understanding why we do the things we do, understanding the systems, the internal systems that control our bodies and our minds, but also the external systems, like, “Who are we making these decisions for? What is it, family? Is it society? Is it our friends?” And once we have a clear understanding of that, then we have choices. So, that’s the first step is, knowing ourselves.

The second step is to love ourselves. Now, this is literally to love ourselves, like this thing we were just talking about with our hand on our heart, seeing the goodness in ourselves, but it’s also recognizing that we’re more than just our mind and our body and our emotions, and seeing ourselves at our highest, so love ourselves. Oh, also, in the love of ourselves, is learning to listen to that deeper voice within us. The voice that really just knows, and that’s where The Full Body Yes comes from.

And then the third part, this is the hard part, this is the mastery of ourselves, the mastery of me. When we realize that we are in charge, that life is not happening to us but maybe happening for us, then it’s all on us, then we have to make those choices, we have to do the hard work of whatever it is, the daily practice, or making the right choices with our sleep or our bodies or the way we conduct ourselves in life, and those things are hard.

And when we can do those three things, then we have a better idea then of the fourth thing, which is doing the same three things for another person, having awareness of the other person, loving the other person, and then the courage to take action on their behalf. And that’s how I define compassion – awareness of others, the capacity to have the mindset of wishing the best for them, and then the courage to take action. So, those are the four steps.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Scott, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention about mindfulness or compassion before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Scott Shute
Well, I think that we’re at place where every company, every organization can benefit from these. And it’s kind of on an evolution just like physical exercise has been on evolution. What I didn’t know before kind of this role is that 50 years ago, nobody exercised. Like, our grandparents, our great grandparents, they didn’t exercise; they worked hard. But, over that time, we all learned the benefits of physical exercise. It doesn’t mean we all do it but more people are aware of it, and more people are taking it up, and more companies are offering programs around physical exercise.

In the same way, we already know the science is great for mental exercise, like meditation, and we’re on the same journey. And maybe it won’t take 50 years this time until we mainstreamed mindfulness but I think we’re a lot closer. And so, there are some playbooks that I have. You can always reach out to me if you want a playbook on how to bring mindfulness to your organization.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so we’ve got the book itself The Full Body Yes: Change Your Work and Your World from the Inside Out. What are some of the key components of the playbook?

Scott Shute
Ahh, so for the playbook, I’d say if you are a leader, these things don’t have to be expensive. It’s, find your volunteers. So, I volunteered before this became my full-time gig. There are lots of people already in your organization, I’m sure, that are excited about this stuff in a broad category. Find out who they are. They would love to volunteer 5%, or 10%, or 20% of their time to help get a program off the ground. So, find your volunteers.

Perhaps, find a partner. Again, this stuff doesn’t have to be expensive. We like the partner WisdmLabs. They have some great stuff that we use. And then find a champion, whoever highest up in the organization that can talk about it, and create an umbrella of safety for everyone else. In our case, I “came out” because our CEO was talking about his own practice at company all-hands, and then I was a VP at the company so, for me, I was the champion, and so it made it a lot easier at LinkedIn. Those are three steps.

If you are an individual and you’re thinking, “Yeah, but I’m not in charge of HR, I’m not in charge of big budget, but I’m excited about meditation,” just start. I started by leading one meditation six years ago. And that first time, there was one person there and the program grew from there. So, just start and your friends will follow you, other people who are interested will come.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, now, could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Scott Shute
Well, I shared my Rumi quote already. I’ll share one from my dad so then we’ll have the clouds and the practicality. One of my dad’s favorite things, and I was so annoyed to hear this when I was 15, but he would say, “Basically, all of your problems can be solved if you have a good attitude,” which is mostly true.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Scott Shute
Oh, when I was a kid, I used to light all kinds of things on fire to see what would happen but that’s probably not so productive these days. I love the research that Richard Davidson and team are doing at the University of Wisconsin on meditation. They’ve basically taken the world’s “professional-level meditators,” like these monks from Tibet and other places who have meditated 30,000-40,000 hours to see how it changes their brains, to see if there’s anything that we can learn, for the rest of us who are not going to do all of that. And I think that’s pretty fascinating. There’s lots to learn there. And there’s a book that followed, called Altered Traits by Richard Davidson and Dan Goleman which is really good.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Scott Shute
I mentioned James Clear’s Atomic Habits, so beyond that I’m going to go with the other end of the spectrum which is Hafiz, so Hafiz’ The Gift. Hafiz is another one of those masters from the, I don’t know, 600 or 800 years ago, and he’s a Persian poet. Like Rumi, he finds a way to bring the sublime into this world in a way that is still relevant 700 years later.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Scott Shute
I love my phone. I’m trying not to be addicted to my phone but, oh, my goodness, those things are so powerful. My kids are a little older, but every time we have the conversation about what life was like as I grew up in the ‘80s, they cannot believe that I did not have a cellphone, and so it’s hard to imagine what life would be like without my smartphone.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular app that really does it for you?

Scott Shute
I’m probably addicted to email but that’s not that much fun. Bleacher Report, I keep track of the San Francisco Giants and my Kansas state football and basketball teams.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Scott Shute
I got to go with meditation. This whole COVID quarantine thing has actually been really good for my practice because what has happened is I’ve traded commuting time in the morning for meditating time, so it’s the most regular, the most solid my practice has ever been.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so since we’re talking meditation and mindfulness, and that’s your favorite habit, if I can zoom into your practice, how exactly does it go down for Scott?

Scott Shute
Ah, so that’s a great question. Thank you for asking. I usually do a little bit of settling and a little breathing, but I actually…my primary practice is I use a mantra in my own practice. It’s not something I usually do at work but in my own practice at home, I sing the word Hu, H-U, long and drawn out. And, for me, it acts like a tuning fork to that deepest part of me. I love it. It’s cool.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, when you say tuning fork, is there a particular pitch that you’re going for? Or how is it…?

Scott Shute
No, not necessarily a pitch. It’s just like…I mean, this sounds a little weird but it’s like vibration. So, there’s something about the resonance which acts like a tuning fork to soul, to that deepest part of me.

Pete Mockaitis
So, you’re trying to zoom in on when you’re vibrating.

Scott Shute
I’m trying to get in touch with that deepest part of me. I would call it soul, and letting go of the mind, letting go of emotions, but not letting go of the mind all the way. Like, my goal is not to have no thoughts. My goal is to, I guess, raise myself in consciousness so that the thoughts that I do have are coming from a place that is a little bit deeper and truer.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; you hear them quote it back to you often?

Scott Shute
Yeah, I think I spent 25 years as an operations guy, and so I’m trying to connect these wisdom traditions and really practical, like, how to live. And so, when I connect using this James Clear quote of “Our lives do not rise to the level of our goals. They fall to the level of our systems,” and then give them some really specific things, that seems to resonate with people. Yeah, and also asking the question, “What else is true?” because we tend to be so negative. So, just stopping when you’re feeling in downward spiral. Ask yourself, “What else is true?” In other words, what else is good? Those are some really simple ways to kind of move from where we have been to where we’d like to go.

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Scott Shute
Yeah, you can go to ScottShute.com or TheFullBodyYes.com, they go to the same place, or follow me on LinkedIn. That’s where all my kind of daily updates are happening.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Scott Shute
Oh, to be awesome at your job, first be awesome at your life. And to be awesome at your life, start by loving yourself and the ones around you. So, hand on heart, eyes on yourself in the mirror, and say, “I love you.” And then go do that for someone else that you love as well.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Scott, this has been a treat. I wish you much love and mindfulness and compassion in your days to come.

Scott Shute
Thanks, Pete. I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

627: Breaking Through Your Mental Limitations to Grow Faster with Matt Norman

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Matt Norman discusses how to break the mental patterns that hinder our growth—and encourage healthier patterns.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The thinking pattern that saps our energy 
  2. Two questions to keep your thoughts from overwhelming you 
  3. How to keep criticism from fazing you 

 

About Matt

Matt Norman is President & CEO of Norman & Associates, which offers Dale Carnegie programs in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Through Norman & Associates, he helps people think and work together more effectively. Matt’s mentorship has helped Fortune 100 corporations, non-profits, and entrepreneurs change the way they engage with their employees and clients. 

Matt has been named to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal 40 Under Forty list and the Minnesota Business (Real) Power 50. 

 

Resources mentioned in the show:

Thank you, sponsors!

  • Rise.com. Build your team’s learning library–the fast and fun way–with Rise.com/awesome.
  • Find Your Dream Job. Learn Ramit Sethi’s pro-tips at  IWT.com/podcastDJ

Matt Norman Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Matt, thanks for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Matt Norman
Thanks, Pete. Really excited to be here with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to dig into your wisdom. And, first, I want to hear about your fondness for Latin dancing. Now, people who can’t see you, you don’t look Latin to my eye, but you never know actually. What’s the backstory here?

Matt Norman
Thanks for asking me, Pete. When I was in college, I spent a year in Ecuador and I had to choose from elective courses, including Latin American dance, and at the time I had no dancing background. Being of Nordic Minnesotan background, I thought that that might be a helpful cultural experience, so I ended up taking the class and loving it, and actually spent a lot of my time down there doing as much dancing as I could. And few people know that one of my email addresses is Bailando Norman which is Dancing Norman. I’m not that great at it but I love it.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, is that for the VIPs who know that one and others don’t? Or how does that work?

Matt Norman
It’s actually for the spam emails.

Pete Mockaitis
You know, I’ve got that too. Mine is PeteMJunk@gmail.com. Now everybody knows but I probably won’t see the message if you email it. But then when I give it to people, I don’t want them to know I’m giving them a junk email address so I try to space it out like, “Oh, yeah, it’s P-E-T-E-M-J-U-N-K@gmail.com.”

Matt Norman
That’s right. Yeah, talking about having those long ones you have to spell out. I know, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s fun. Well, so that sounds like a healthy habit right there, is keeping your inbox clean. But you’ve got some broader speaking patterns you’ve identified of healthy people, four in particular, in your book the Four Patterns of Healthy People: How to Grow Past Your Rooted Behaviors, Discover a Deeper Connection with Others, and Reach Your Full Potential in Life and Business. We like all of those things. So, lay it on us, what do you mean by healthy person and how did we determine that there are four patterns of them?

Matt Norman
Yeah, thanks, Pete. By the way, when you say that “We love those things,” I can say, as a frequent listener of your podcast, I really appreciate the ways in which you and your guests helped me and others develop healthier patterns. And when we say healthier patterns, we mean not just physically healthier but mentally and emotionally healthier.

And through my coaching and life experiences, I’ve realized that at some point in life we develop ways of thinking and behaving, usually as an adaption to our circumstances and it typically works well for a while, therefore we repeat those ways of thinking and behaving. And at some point, many of us realize that those ways of thinking and behaving don’t work anymore because of a relationship that we’re in, a job that we’re in, or realize that we’re overusing some of those ways of thinking and behaving, and so we get stuck.

And so, because of that, we have a choice. We can either remain stuck and surround ourselves with people that don’t challenge us and don’t cause us to self-confront and grow, or we can grow. And because of that, I wrote the books to help individuals and organizations go to live with more joy and impact.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, yeah, all that sounds swell – joy, impact. So, let’s talk about these ways of thinking and being just to make that really clear. Can you give us an example of a very common pattern that, let’s say, wait, let’s do a contrast…So, let’s hear a common pattern of thinking and operating that is found in healthy people but not so often in…well, I don’t know what we want to call it. Do we call them unhealthy people or pre-healthy people? What’s the term we’re using?

Matt Norman
Less functional, less optimal. Yeah, absolutely. And so, before I give that example, I can just put into context of there are four pattern areas, as you alluded to, how we think, how we relate to others, how we view ourselves, and how we operate, or make choices of our lives. And so, to use a common example, in terms of how we think, many of us ruminate on things that drain us of energy rather than releasing things that drain us of energy.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Matt Norman
And in the book, that’s one example where we talk about the value of metacognition or thinking about our thinking so that we realize that when there are thoughts, in the book we use the metaphor of leaves falling in a river, and to think of our thoughts as a stream or river of everything that’s going through our mind. And the green leaves that are falling in the river are thoughts that energize us and red leaves are thoughts that drain us, and many of us will fixate on red leaves because they worry us, we think that by fixating on them we’re going to change them, we’re going to improve the situation.

But we find is that the healthiest people, top performers, will allows those red leaves, they won’t ignore them, they’ll acknowledge the red leaf is there, but then they’ll let it float down the river, and they’ll choose to fixate on the green leaves, those leaves that are energizing us. And so, it’s a very common pattern to ruminate rather than release.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, that’s huge right there in terms of, boy, just the energy that can liberate in terms of you think about being awesome at your job, that could very well make the difference between, “Do you have two good energized hours to do great work or do you have six in the course of a day based upon just how much of this you’re doing?” And I’ve lived both of those. So, yeah, let’s go right there right now.

So, the best approach if there’s an energy-draining situation, and maybe let’s make this all the more real in terms of maybe someone said something you found offensive at work, like you felt unappreciated by what they said, like, “Hey, Matt, how about we just do one more pass at this and I think we’ll be ready to go,” and you’re like, “Excuse me? We’ve already done six passes, that’s just pretty darn good and I’m tired of this, and I thought it was excellent and your critiques aren’t very useful and they’re frankly annoying.”

I’m not talking about anyone in particular. If you’re listening to this and I’m collaborating with you on something, this is purely fiction, for the record, but these things do come up. And so, let’s just say that’s the situation. You’re ruminating on it, and so you say the healthy approach is to not push it away or ignore it or run from it but rather to allow it to pass through. What are we doing in practice when that happens?

Matt Norman
That’s right, yeah. So, we’re acknowledging that it’s there, we may interrogate that thought briefly, not ruminate, but we may interrogate and be curious about that thought rather than defensive. We’re starting to get into the relationship pattern in the book which has to do with how we respond to criticism and also how much we internalize what people think of us or whether people approve of us. And so, there may be a moment where we want to be curious and interrogate, “Well, why did that bother me so much?” or, “What truth is there that’s there?”

But then we would let it go. We would let it pass. And metacognition and neuroscience would suggest that sometimes it’s actually valuable to physically release it, you know, write it down in a journal or a piece of paper and crumple it up and throw it in the trash. Or sometimes, literally, what I’ll do is kind of toss my hands up in the air, it’s like I’m releasing them or like I’m dropping the mic, you know, to physically send a message to my mind that, “I’m now releasing you.” And sometimes it may just be as simple as just saying, “I choose in my mind, I choose to release that thought,” and then perhaps focus on thoughts that are also true and perhaps more fulfilling than that draining thought.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, I like that. So, I guess the answer is probably it varies, but lay it on us. I mean, just how much time do we care to be curious, to interrogate, to investigate versus…? Because at some point I guess we might fall into the ruminating zone there. So, how do you think about that in terms of how much time is not enough time and how much time is too much time?

Matt Norman
Yeah. I think two litmus tests, one would be, “Am I repeating the same thing over and over again?” “Am I sawing sawdust?” As Dale Carnegie says in his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, I don’t saw sawdust. And the other thought is, “Is this bringing me consolation or desolation?”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, so Ignatian of you, Matt.

Matt Norman
Yes, exactly. Good pickup. I was just going to make that reference, yeah. So, this idea that, as Ignatius of Loyola says, many of the thoughts that we may have, or experiences, bring a sense of…it consoles our spirit even though it may be hard or difficult or problematic, there’s still the sense that it’s constructive, it’s connecting to where I should be at this moment. Whereas, there are desolate feelings, that’s where we literally feel empty, we feel we’re losing our self, or that we’re losing our spirit or our energy around this particular topic. It sounds like you have experienced or thought about that reference also.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I have a book about the discernment of spirits that’s taking me a long time to finish because it’s dense. I gnaw upon it and think about it. So, that is some handy litmus test distinctions there. So, then in this example we’ve used, it might sound like…well, you tell me, I’m going to take a crack at the acknowledging and interrogating and being curious and letting it pass.

I might say, “Boy, I feel frustrated that we’ve already been through many revisions on this document and yet this guy wants to do even more. I kind of feel like I am stupid or a loser or inadequate, at least in his eyes, and relative to what I’m producing here. And that feels disappointing to me because I thought I had created something awesome that I had spent a lot of time and effort already in doing. And the subsequent set of recommendations, I think, frankly, could make it worse, and I don’t feel like doing that.”

Okay, so that’s me acknowledging. That’s exactly how I feel about the situation. So, then interrogating and being curious might sound like, “Why do you suppose he feels he needs to go through so many revisions?” or, “Why would I feel like a loser based upon the input of one person who’s not that important to me?” And then maybe follow those threads, like, “Oh, maybe he’s new and he’s raw. He’s worried about making a good impression with his boss. Maybe it’s because I really like things to be optimal, at their peak-performing levels, and it just sort of demotivates me when I think we’re moving away from that, and that’s kind of what’s up.”

So, well, you tell me. I’ve tried to acknowledge and to interrogate and be curious. Would you recommend I do that any differently or in more depth, less depth?

Matt Norman
Pete, that was really powerful. I thought that you did two things there that were really strong, and then one thing that you didn’t do. So, I think one thing that you did that was really strong was that you weren’t blaming in that thought pattern.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, like, “That jerk face. Where does he get off doing…?” Okay.

Matt Norman
Yeah, exactly. “I get so much disrespect in this culture. I’d say he’s always after me. Why does he have to make me…?” All of that is pointing at the other person as opposed to looking at your own thoughts, which is the second thing I think that you did really well there is that you were processing your authentic feelings. You were saying, “I feel disappointed. I feel…” and even thinking about some of the identity translations of those feelings, like, “I feel stupid. I feel like I’m missing the mark on this.” And so, that seems really authentic to be saying those things, so processing those ideas.

So, not blaming and then having authentic expression of your emotion is really powerful. And then the thing that you didn’t on that was you weren’t repeating yourself. Once you process the thought, you move to a level of deeper interrogation, or you moved onto a subsequent thought, but you weren’t circling back to say, “Yeah, you know, I am stupid. I must be…Who else thinks…? What other evidences there that I’m doing stupid things around here? Why would he say that? Why would he say that?”

And so, those are kind of the repetitive thoughts that we’ll often have that are less helpful. So, the fact that you were making forward progress and that you were not blaming, that you’re authentically expressing your emotions, I think, was all the way powerful there.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool. Well, thank you. Well, hey, it doesn’t always work out that healthily in my brain. And so, let’s go there next. So, let’s say you do find yourself circling, you do find yourself blaming, you did the acknowledging, the interrogating, the being curious, and then it’s looping on back, what do we do?

Matt Norman
So, one consideration is, “What might I be attached to from an identity standpoint?” And this gets into some of the psychology around the false self versus the true self. Typically, we have this false self that psychologists will say is the self, the image that we want projected to the world, the image of what we want other people to see us, “I want people to see me as highly competent here. I want people to see me as not making mistakes, etc.” And we say it’s false because no one’s perfect.

And so, to cast this kind of image of perfection out to the world or that we think the world expects of us has a degree of falseness to it versus authenticity. And so, for us to think about, “What are the parts of my false self that I’m holding onto too tightly? What are the parts of my identity? In other words, do I think that I need to be accepted in order to be okay? Do I think that I need to be viewed as competent in order to be okay? Do I think that I need the approval of this particular group? Or do I think do I need there to be harmony in the environment for me to be okay?”

So, there’s a number of questions as we interrogate that we can start to realize about how we’ve maybe overidentified with this particular situation. Therefore, we may need to consider if we’re holding onto too tightly to parts of my false self that I’m trying so hard to project to the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Boy, there’s a lot of good stuff there. So, the pattern, I heard you say, is, “Do I need blank to be okay?” associated with what you’re attached to and your identity. And so, I guess, ideally, I would like for there to be nothing in that zone, like, “I don’t need anything to be okay. I’m okay just by being alive.” And you can draw – we’re getting deep here – you can draw, like your fundamental worth or value whether it’s the United Nations’ Declaration on Human Rights or like a faith or wisdom tradition, like, “I’m made in the image and likeness of God,” or something, like you believe, “I have intrinsic value, worth, dignity just because I am or I am a human.” That seems like the ideal place to be but often we’re not there. And there are some other things attached to it such as, “I do need to be perceived as,” whatever, or, “I need to look like a winner or make $125,000 annually,” or fill the blank.

So, if we’ve identified some of those attachments, what do we do with that?

Matt Norman
Yeah. Well, it may be a process of revisiting where our true value comes from. To your point, revisiting what tradition or source we look to for our true value. The Harvard School of Negotiation says that, often, when we’re really thrown off balance, they call it an identity quake.

Pete Mockaitis
Quick?

Matt Norman
A quake.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, like an earthquake. Okay.

Matt Norman
Like, the ground under us is shaking. Often, we can feel this most when we just are really upset about something, or maybe we are triggered in a way that other people might not be triggered by. We just get more upset or more reactive than someone else might get. It may be a sign that we have to look at, “What is it about this that may be questioning something that I think is central to my identity? And does it really need to be central to my identity?”

So, I had this earlier in my career, I was in an operational role where I was responsible for getting deliverables out on certain timelines, and because of a number of factors, we were behind schedule, and we had customers calling and complaining. And I remember that our head of sales came to me, and not just me, to our executive team, and said that our team was not performing and, frankly, the message was that I had to be fired.

Pete Mockaitis
Right there in front of everyone. Okay.

Matt Norman
Yeah. Basically, he was going through channels of communication that came around back to me or I knew that this was the message that he was communicating. And at that time, I remember being so upset at him and at the situation, far more upset than I think many people might be when they were missing deadlines. I was so upset. And the reason is because I’ve developed a strong desire throughout my life for approval from other people, particularly people that I viewed as key stakeholders for my work. And I viewed this vice president of sales as a key stakeholder of mine.

And so, it literally was an identity quake for me, for me to get this feedback that I ought to be fired, that our group ought to be reorganized because of our inability to make these deliverables. And so, as opposed to having a productive reaction at that time in my career, I remember sitting in meetings and just constantly wondering whether I was saying the right thing, whether I was doing the right thing. And as a result, in one meeting in particular, I had a panic attack where I couldn’t continue speaking and I had to leave the meeting because I became so physically taken down by this identity quake that I’d turned into a series of unhealthy rumination.

So, all that goes back to, again, not just the realization of those red leaves or those draining leaves that are falling in the river but the source of those leaves often has to do with the way I view          relationships and the need for me to project this idealized image onto those relationships.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And that’s a huge insight in terms of understanding that. And I suppose, can we dig into some detail in terms of, “How does one divest one’s self of these attachments and return to the source and…?” Because it’s tricky, like, I think once we can get to a place where it’s sort of like, “Okay, I know I feel the need to…” fill in the blank, you know, “…look productive, be competent, be rich…”

Matt Norman
Get a promotion, yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
“And I don’t like that. It’s true but it is.” What’s my step-by-step to freedom there?

Matt Norman
Yeah. So, the book really goes through a number of exercises that we can do to make progress in that area. And, again, one of them would be this thought process of realizing that, “Okay, when I have identity quakes on that, or when that need triggers me, rather than ruminating I can release those thoughts,” that’s number one. And then number two is, “I can decide in this relationship that I’m going to differentiate myself.” In other words, this is another, your concept in psychology that, “Rather than absorbing the anxiety around me, that I would separate my emotions from how other people may be feeling, I would decide that I’m going to own my emotions and not let other people control my emotions.”

And so, we may need to, in our relationships, decide that, “I’m going to create some emotional separation here with my boss, or with this VP of sales who’s really anxious and really challenging me. I may need to decide, just take a deep breath and decide, say to myself I’m not going to let him control my emotions. I’m not going to let him control how I feel about myself. And then, finally, start to reestablish where my value comes from and operate in patterns that will affirm my worth or affirm my source of value.”

And we can get into a little bit more of what those operating patterns might be, but I think there are exercises that we can do. We’ve probably experienced it. Spending time with people that reaffirm that, that whisper verdicts in our ear about who we really are and why we really matter, or doing, reading certain types of books, or whatever we do that these practices around us can really affirm for us where our value comes from and who we really are.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yes, let’s talk about some of those patterns here. I’d also love to zero in on, say, “Hey, I’m not going to let him control or dictate my emotions.” So, I think that’s a good bit of awareness and conviction to hold. Nonetheless, I think it’s quite possible that, sure enough, that VP of sales comes a-huffing and puffing again. You may feel some stuff again. So, what do you do kind of in the heat of battle?

Matt Norman
Yeah. Well, so it may require a few things. One is naming what we’re feeling. I thought, Pete, you did a great job earlier in the conversation of naming, “Okay, I’m feeling this way right now. Because of this conversation, I’m feeling disappointed which is causing me to feel stupid. Are those true thoughts?” So, part of it is that naming of the emotion, of the thoughts that we’re experiencing, I’d say point number one.

Then, point number two, we may need to create some space, just separate from the situation somehow and breathe through that situation, and just, frankly, calm our amygdala, you know, that part of our brain that’s often wanting to hijack our thought process. And once we can sort of move to a more prefrontal cortex kind of thoughtful intentional thought process away from that, kind of emotional reactive state, we can start to think more clearly about, “What else is true here? What is true about my identity? What are other verdicts I’m getting? What are other data points?”

You see, we have these cognitive biases, economists tell us that we have heuristics, these mental shortcuts that cause us to draw conclusions about things that may or may not be true about our environment. And I’m sure many of your podcast guests have, in various ways, talked about many of those cognitive biases and mental shortcuts that we have, and we need to challenge those and say, “What are other data points that we have, that I have, that I can look at? Who else is appreciative of the work that I’m doing? What is good about the work that I’m doing? Is the only datapoint this VP of sales?”

So, there’s a number of steps that we can do from, as I said, naming the thought of the emotion, to separating and breathing through to try to move from the amygdala to a more thoughtful response, and then challenging those cognitive biases to try to look at, “What else is true? What else can I pay attention to here?”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s a great phrase, “What else is true?” My realtor used to use that a lot in conversation. I wonder where he got that. I thought, “That’s an interesting turn of a phrase you keep using.” But it is handy in that it really…I think often our brains are kind of like question-answering machines at times, and so that’s a powerful question when you’re in it, and that could seem to be all there is to really point your brain elsewhere in a really helpful correct way.

And then when you talk about the releasing and the shifting away from the amygdala, we had another guest talk about like writing something down on paper and lighting on fire or throwing in the trash. And I think, for me, it’s I guess I often think about releasing something as in, “That thing is going to stay in one geography and I’m moving to another.” So, it’s sort of like, “I’m going to go into the bathroom, I‘m going to deal with that thing, and then I’m going to leave that thing in the bathroom.” Or, “I want to go for a run and I’m going to leave it on the treadmill or on the trail.” Or, “In the shower, I’m going to have a deep refreshing shower, and then it’s like I’m a new man from pre-shower to post-shower.”

And so, that’s kind of how I think about releasing and shifting, and it’s quite handy. Any other pro tips on the releasing? You said you just sort of mic drop or throw it in the air?

Matt Norman
Well, I love the ideas that you just gave. And the other piece that I think is important to bring into the conversation is community, healthy community that surrounds us, where we’re with other people we can release. And I think there’s something very powerful about meeting with a therapist, a counselor, or a dear friend, who’s willing to let us share authentically and share perhaps a deeper level of the emotions that we’re experiencing and even some of these more challenging thoughts around how that confronts our identity attachments.

And as we share those things, for someone else to say, “I hear you,” and not try to fix us, not try to rescue us, not try to minimize the situation, but someone who’s willing to just say, “I hear you. That’s really hard.” Somehow, I think there’s this therapeutic process that occurs where we’re able to more easily release those thoughts.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you for talking about the community and the people side of things. You’ve also got some perspective on managing our own schedules and energy patterns. How do we do that?

Matt Norman
Well, I think this is the foundational pattern for all the other ones because when we’re drained or tired, it’s much harder for us to think productively. It’s more tempting to ruminate, it’s more tempting to, as you said earlier, make our identity about, “Not just about my intrinsic value but my intrinsic value plus whether I get approved from my boss,” or whatever else it might be.

So, we find it’s particularly important through the coaching that I’m doing and the research, that we manage, first of all, our sleep and our nutrition, and there’s been a lot of research on this. Recently, and I’m sure a lot of listeners have read or listened to some of this research from, for example, the Stanford School of Sleep where they talk about the fact that 99% of human beings need between seven and nine hours of quality sleep. And quality, suggesting that we need to manage screen time, chemicals, you know, caffeine, alcohol, and find ways to put ourselves in a position to optimize our sleep. As we’re going to bed to make things like routine, like stretching and things like that.

So, starting with just the consideration of, “How much quality sleep am I getting? And then how am I managing my energy throughout the day?” Realizing, Daniel Pink, in his book When talks about the science of perfect timing, that there are certain times of the day, too, when we need to do things, where we’re more vigilant. And, actually, while we’re mentioning books, I would also suggest to listeners that, if they’re interesting in this, I think David Rock’s book Your Brain at Work is perhaps my favorite book when it comes to these topics because David Rock talks about what’s going on in our brain when our energy is down and how much less vigilant we’re able to be about managing our thoughts, managing our responses and relationships, etc.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I’m a big believer in this energy stuff, and I remember the first couple of years of the podcast, my two longest interviews were both with sleep doctors, so it’s like, “Oh, I guess that tells you something.” I was like, “I’ve got one more question, and one more question, and one more question.”

Matt Norman
I think I listened to one of them.

Pete Mockaitis
So, sleep is huge and I’m a big believer. Any other particular best practices in bringing more good energy to work and life?

Matt Norman
Well, we talked earlier about reinforcing and reminding the true verdicts about your worth and, frankly, what’s true about the data that’s coming at us. In other words, we get all this data and we’re getting feedback from our boss, and we’re getting feedback from our coworkers, and from our partner, and all these different people are giving us feedback in various ways in which they’re responding to us. And, as we mentioned earlier, we can have all these cognitive biases about what’s true, and, “Do I ruminate or focus on some of those, some of that feedback?”

And so, to reinforce through a podcast we’re listening to, what we’re reading, the journaling that we’re doing. And part of that, as a best practice, I think, is blocking time to make that happen. I think right now, in particular, it can be challenging in the environment in which we’re operating where a lot of us are working from home and everything sort of blending in. All the parts of our lives sometimes feel like they’re blending into one another. But to be able to compartmentalize the parts of our lives to say, “Now, I need to go into 30 minutes of reading,” or, “I need to go into 30 minutes of listening to this podcast that’s going to reinforce what’s true. It’s going to cause me to be more curious in a helpful way. It’s also going to reinforce who I am and why I matter.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, you know, I like that a lot and I think I’ve gotten better with that lately in terms of just like in the middle of a workday I’m just going to do some not-work, and my work is actually better for it in terms of quality and quantity. It took me a while, I think, to break through the barrier of, “No, I need to be a good productive worker and not sleeping on the job, like napping or whatever.”

And so, now I say this a little bit tongue in cheek but it really is true. I call goofing around, whether it’s playing a game or whatever, while at work, “Part of my creative process.” And I try to say it in an artistic way like I’m wearing a beret. And that helps me sort of push through past my resistance of, “No, I need to be a diligent worker now. It’s work time, therefore, it is time for work.”

So, lay it on us, if folks feel either, “I got too much to do, Matt. That’s crazy. I couldn’t possibly do not-work during work hours,” or they say, “No, no, I just need to be a productive high-output person,” how do you help push past those bits of resistance?

Matt Norman
Yeah. You know, I came home recently and my wife said, “How was your day?” and I said, “Oh, it’s a great day.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because I got a ton done.” And she said, “Is that how you measure your day?” It just stopped me in my tracks, I felt, “Oh, my gosh.” You know, I think part of it is that, going back to what we value when we get into the whirlwind of our work as we think that checking boxes or like the game of Whack-A-Mole, where it’s like knocking the moles down, or responding to emails, we think that that’s what’s most important. And several great thinkers have illuminated, like Clay Christensen in his book.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m listening to that right now, How Will You Measure Your Life?

Matt Norman
Are you? How Will You Measure Your Life? Yeah. It’s just this realization that perhaps I need to distinguish between what I want now and what I want most. And the realization that sometimes what I want now is the immediate gratification of responding to an email, or the gratification of shipping something, or finishing a project.

Now that may require a discussion with our leader, it may require a discussion with other stakeholders in our lives to say, “You know, what I often want now is the immediate gratification of responding to an email or whatever the case may be. But what I want most is to create this value for the organization, and what I want most is for this to happen in our relationship, or what I want most is for me to become this in my career. Can we, together, agree that that’s not just what I want most but that you’re willing to endorse that or come alongside me in that? So, at times, I may need to appropriately say no. I may need to turn off email. I may need to…”

In fact, a couple of years ago, I took email off my phone because I realized that often what I wanted now is to respond to that email, whereas what I wanted most was to spend time with people that were most important to me or have quality time for myself. So, I think it’s the question of, “What do I want now, which is often that immediate gratification, versus what do I really want the most and getting other people around me to support me in that?”

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a great distinction. Thank you. Ooh, boy, there’s lot to chew on here. But, Matt, tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Matt Norman
Well, I think the only thing I’ll add is that all of this requires a growth mindset. And I know, Pete, that you’re all about growth mindset. And when we talk about growth mindset, we’re thinking of Carol Dweck’s research at Stanford published in the book Mindset, where she talks about the continuum from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. And it really, for us to change the way that we’re thinking and behaving, unless there’s a complete crisis and we absolutely cannot move forward, it usually requires some level of self-confrontation.

And that’s incredibly difficult because we’re all wired to self-protect, we’re all wired to survive. And in many cases, these patterns are so ingrained in us. So, I think we have to each ask ourselves the question, “How willing am I to self-confront and grow? And what’s a vision I might have of myself if I were willing and able to self-confront and grow?” And that’s the starting point.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, excellent. Thank you. Well, now, can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Matt Norman
Well, this concept of growth is, really, resonates with me, and so, yeah, a quote that I’ve often repeated around this book is that, “Patterns are inevitable. Growth is optional.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Matt Norman
Certainly, the research around growth mindset, I think, is probably have been my favorite study over the last several years. As with you, Pete, I also am really into studies and research around the brain, in particular, how the brain operates under pressure and fatigue. And in David Rock’s book, Your Brain At Work, I really appreciate that the study really talked about the ability to say no or inhibit our response. It’s sort of like the ability to say, “No, I’m not going to check email,” or, “No, I’m not going to eat that cookie.” And they talk about the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex which sits right above our temple or our ear and it’s responsible for breaking, you know, like the breaks on a car.

And the study suggested that the more we use the break, the more it reduces its effectiveness. And so, that’s why kids will often realize with adults that if they ask five or six times for something, by the five or sixth time, the adult will relent and say, “Okay, fine.” Or if we keep asking ourselves, “Should I eat that cookie? Should I eat that cookie? Oh, it looks really good. Should I eat it?” by the fifth or sixth time, we’ll relent. And what the study showed was that we really have to veto quickly and immediately when we’re trying to be vigilant about something, like not checking email or saying no to a request that someone has, because the more we ruminate on it and question it, the more we’re going to tire that ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and the harder it’s going to be to say no.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, thank you. That’s big. So, I’m just imagining if it’s like, “Oh, maybe I should check Facebook or the news.” It sounds like the right answer there is to say, “No!”

Matt Norman
“Darn it. Stop.”

Pete Mockaitis
“Just cut off. The boat is burnt.” Okay.

Matt Norman
I’m taking out my phone.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool?

Matt Norman
You know, I really like this tool blocking time, like we talked about earlier. Now that’s not an actual tangible tool. The other tool, Pete, that I really appreciate is I just really appreciate the Notes apps on my phone. David Allen, in the art of Getting Things Done talks about having your mind like water, and just whenever we have a thought, getting the thought out of our brain so that we’re not thinking of it. And that goes back to what we talked about in today’s podcast.

So, a tool that I love to use is a simple tool that pretty much all of us have handy, and that’s the Notes app on our phone. And that’s every time we have a thought, “Well, I wonder if I should do this?” that we would just put it in a category of notes, or Evernote or whatever note tool someone might use, and just get it out of our head, get it onto a note so that our mind can remain like water.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, thank you. And a favorite habit?

Matt Norman
Getting up early. Now I know this differs based on physiology, and Daniel Pink talks about this in his book When, and not everyone is an early riser. But, increasingly, throughout my life and when I analyze the most successful people who have the most successful habits, I find that they get up early, and as a leading indicator of that, they manage their bedtime. And they manage their bedtime well, a we talked about earlier so that they’re managing screens and alcohol or caffeine or whatever else is going on in their mind so that they can go to bed on time, get enough sleep to wake up early because for most people, the earlier parts of the day is when we’re most vigilant and most productive.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, well, lay it on us, what is your bedtime, your wakeup time, and your bedtime process?

Matt Norman
Yeah. So, I wake up at 4:40 a.m. every morning, and to back that up, I just have to get seven hours of sleep, on an average. So, I really work hard on going to bed between 9:30 and 10:00, typically the 9:40 is the seven-hour mark so I’m really fixated on that 9:40. So, that means backing up further. I take about 20 minutes to stretch and read something that’s calming before bed. So, I’ll sit on the floor next to me, and I’ll stretch for 10 minutes. I have a phone ruler that I’ll use and I also make sure that I’m reading something that’s going to be productive but calming.

And then I’ll also make sure that there’s no screens within 30 minutes of going to bed, that I’m avoiding it at all costs, basically these screens, except the alarm on my phone. And then I try to stop eating by 8:00 p.m. and try to do as much digestion as possible earlier in the evening. And then I’m an intermittent fasting person so then I’ll continue to fast until noon which is kind of a whole another topic, but I just like to not put anything in my body in the morning so that I can be totally vigilant and focused when I wake up.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Matt Norman
This idea around growth and being willing and able to self-confront, I think, is the most common idea in conversations around. And then, second to that is having authentic conversations, as we talked about earlier. It’s the ability to really share honestly about how we’re feeling. So, to grow, confront, and share honestly about how we’re feeling.

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Matt Norman
MattNorman.com is a great place to go or you can learn more about the book at FourPatterns.com, that’s the word four, FourPatterns.com. And people can also connect with me on LinkedIn.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Matt Norman
My challenge for all of us is that we would self-reflect on a regular basis, really look at our patterns, the ways in which we’re thinking, relating to others, viewing ourselves, and operating our lives, and not just resign ourselves to a fixed mindset to say, “Well, this is just the way I am. Well, Matt, you don’t know my job, or you don’t know my family, or you don’t know my personality,” but rather to really continue to challenge ourselves to say, “Yeah, I do have some patterns that are pretty ingrained in me but maybe I could change.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Matt, this has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck and health with your people and your patterns.

Matt Norman
Thank you so much, Pete. It’s an absolute honor to be with you.

622: Taking Control of Stress Before It Takes Control of You with Kirsty Bortoft

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Kirsty Bortoft shares easy ways to keep stress and negativity at bay.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to un-hijack your brain in 12 seconds 
  2. How to effectively deal with stress in five steps 
  3. The number one reason why most people struggle with stress 

 

About Kirsty

Kirsty Bortoft is an award-winning mindset coach to entrepreneurs and professionals. She helps them to dissolve stress and anxiety without having to resort to medication and traditional therapy. Kirsty developed the unique ‘Freedom Alignment Method’, a three-stage process that crushes the obstacles so many high achievers frequently face during their lifetime. Obstacles that inevitably leave them feeling trapped by their current circumstance and pulled from the inner peace and happiness they deserve, despite working so very hard for it.

Resources mentioned in the show:

 

Thank you, sponsors!

Kirsty Bortoft Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Kirsty, thanks for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Kirsty Bortoft
Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so excited to learn your wisdom and it sounds like you’ve got a lot of it. And I understand you’re a monk. What’s the story here?

Kirsty Bortoft
Yeah, I know, it always makes people laugh when I say this. I am what’s called an Ishaya Monk of The Bright Path. So, yeah, it was a journey that started 2005 when I started getting really into kind of self-development and wanted to know more about, I guess, how to live my best version of my life, and I went on a bit of a soul-searching journey.

And in 2010, I bumped into a friend, and they’d been on this meditation retreat, and I was like, “You know what, I think I need a bit of Zen in my life.” So, he says, “Well, here’s the link, go and have a look.” So, I did. But, to be honest, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had an image of meditation being pretty boring because I can’t sit around with my eyes shut, and I’m the kind of person that’s got quite a lot of energy, I like doing things, so I thought, “Oh, I don’t know if it’s going to be for me.”

But, anyway, I went to this weekend and I had this lightbulb moment, and the only way I can describe it is, imagine a jigsaw, and there’s one piece it just can’t find its way home. And on this Saturday morning, the lady shared something and it kind of went ca-chunk, and I just saw this vision of realizing that I’d been spending my whole entire life trying to fix myself on the outside. And I realized at that moment that no wonder I find life stressful and really difficult because there was always another problem.

And so, what they taught me was to shift my attention from the outside and go inside. So, I thought, “Oh, I think I need a bit of this.” So, after doing that weekend cause, I bundled my children into a car, we drove to Spain, and we lived on top of a Spanish mountain, and I studied with some Ishaya monks on the workings of the mind and how the mind-body connection works, and how to go inwards. And after about six years I graduated as a monk myself.

Pete Mockaitis
Six years? No kidding.

Kirsty Bortoft
Yeah, that was quite a journey.

Pete Mockaitis
So, you moved to another country and hung out for six years.

Kirsty Bortoft
No, I came back and forth but, yeah, yeah, yeah. Came back and forth but, yeah, on and off for six years. And then in 2015, I graduated as an Ishaya monk, which is hilarious because you can see me, I don’t really look like a monk coming out of that stereotypical…

Pete Mockaitis
You’re wearing an XBOX headset on your collar at the moment which you see on brands for monks.

Kirsty Bortoft
My son’s. Very trendy. Yeah, so it’s cool. So, yeah, one of the things I do now is I teach The Bright Path meditation ascension, which means to rise above the mind.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, let’s talk about the mind. So, I want to dig into stress and mindset and just learn all of your good stuff. So, let’s think about, in your experience working with professionals, what do you see over and over again are kind of the biggest sources of stress?

Kirsty Bortoft
So, stress, really, is triggered by four different areas and you’ll relate to all of this when I tell you. You’ve got chemical stress, so you get stressed out because you’ve got a hangover.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that will do it.

Kirsty Bortoft
They’ll say that you would relate to that but that’ll do it. And a virus, which is obviously a big topic right now, bacteria, medications, for example, so that’s chemical stress. Everyday source of stress. But you’ve also got emotional stress and everyone knows when we’ve had that stressful day at work with perhaps a colleague, or maybe you’re just not going on quite well with your partner, or there’s been a fallout with a neighbor, so that kind of emotional stress. And then you’ve got that good old physical stress, so that’s when you’re injured or maybe you’ve just had a really long week at work and you haven’t stopped, and physically you’re exhausted.

But then there’s a fourth one, and I think this is the most important path that when I learned this it completely changed my relationships the way I saw stress. And that’s this, that we are the only organism, which I think there’s about something like 8.7 million other organisms on this planet, but we’re the only one that can trigger the stress hormone, which is cortisol, with thought alone.

So, what I mean by that is you could be sat on your sofa at home potentially thinking about, I don’t know, a business meeting, or perhaps you’ve had an argument with somebody yesterday, or maybe you’ve got to go and have a difficult conversation at work tomorrow, and your mind thinks that’s actually happening now. So, your subconscious mind has no ability to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not. So, it just thinks, “Oh, my goodness, little Johnny is having some sort of stress. We need to protect him.” So, it does its job and it triggers off the stress hormone.

Meanwhile, you’re actually sat on your sofa watching an episode of Game of Thrones, something like that, but your mind does not know that it’s not happening now. And I think it’s such an important fact for people to know that actually their thoughts have a lot to do with the mental, emotional, physical state in which we get into.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, that resonates and I think, for me, it’s so funny how I can just kind of imagine that, let’s say, I’m going to submit some work to a client somewhere, and then I think that they might critique something. And then I would start thinking about, it’s like, “Well, they do that.” And I want to be like, “Well, look, you can’t change the deadline on me.” It’s like I’m already having a fight that’s not a real fight but with that imaginary person about something, which they probably won’t even bring up. And then I’m worked up truly as though they are ripping into me right now. And so, that happens all the time.

Kirsty Bortoft
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, that’s good to know that, one, the body will just naturally react to that and produce those kinds of things as though I’m really there. I guess, two, immediate thoughts there are, one, if I don’t care to go there and have those thoughts and the emotions that come from those thoughts, how do I develop a sense of mastery of my thoughts so that I can just choose, “Hmm, yeah, I’m not going to think about that right now, and that’s okay”?

Kirsty Bortoft
Well, without having a lobotomy, the best way is… It is mastery. You are right in the terminology that you used there because one of the things I say in my signature program The Freedom Alignment Method is that, number one, awareness precedes all change. So, the first thing that we have to do is we have to become aware that we are actually going off into this addictive thinking actually because even if it is us having like an imaginary argument with our work colleague who’s really annoyed us because he never made us a cup of tea and made everyone else one, even if that’s what we’re doing in our mind, that is still, as I said before, triggering the stress hormone.

And so, the first part of it actually is becoming aware that you’ve gone off into that thinking pattern because, quite often, we go into imaginary states in the future or in the past and it takes us a while to even realize that we’re doing that. But, meanwhile, what happens is your mind and body are completely connected. So, you know this is true because if you’ve ever been really hungry and you’ve like walked into someone’s home who’s baking some fresh bread or you’ve walked into a restaurant and you can smell some beautiful food and you’re starving hungry, you see the food, it’s nowhere near your mouth but your mouth starts to salivate, and that’s purely because your mind and body are connected.

So, in the same sense, what happens is you attach yourself to a thought but then you go off into thinking. So, you start thinking about this work colleague or this deadline that you said, and then what happens is the thoughts are the language of the mind, but the body then kicks in with emotions, and all emotions and all thoughts are in the same vibrational level.

So, I, for example, have never had a client who is utterly peaced out, who is having an anxiety attack. The same way around, I’ve never met anybody who’s thinking really negative thoughts, who feels like they’ve got loads of energy. The mind and body are completely the same at all times. So, if you are feeling stressed, the stress hormone, some of the effects are it makes your heart go faster, it makes you feel quite clammy and sweaty, and it also makes you feel quite exhausted.

And, in the same breath, when you’re feeling elated and you’re feeling excited about life, you feel like you’re energized. Suddenly, you’ve got this like energy from nowhere and anything is possible. And so, that’s purely because your mind and body are completely connected, so one triggers the other. They always are the same.

So, how do you stop that? As soon as you become aware that you are actually starting to downward spiral, so you’ve gone off into that addictive thought, you simply go, “Stop, Kirsty. Stop right now.” Now, depending on where you are, I don’t suggest you say it out loud because people might think you’re going a bit bananas. But wherever you are, in your car driving to work, whether you’re working on your laptop or you’re with people, you can, literally in your head, just tell yourself to stop. And in that moment, you then take your attention and you put it on something different.

So, the chemical reaction of an emotion is 12 seconds. That’s it. So, if you take your attention and put it onto something different, very quickly you start to change the chemical reactions within your body, which then starts to change your thought patterns and vice versa. So, the big part of this is really going, “You know what, I actually have control over where I put my attention but the first part is I need to become aware, and become aware of where I am and put my attention.”

And, recently, because there is so much stress going on in our planet with the virus and then we’ve also got what’s going on in America right now, it’s very easy to get sucked into the TV and all the negativity, and it’s very easy to be caught up in conversations about that, and sometimes you have to ask yourself, “You know, how much of this do I need to put myself in front?” Like, “Okay, I need to know what’s going on in the world. But do I need to be like putting myself around that negativity 24/7 when it’s actually making me feel horrendous?” And the answer to that is no.

No, you have a choice. You have total choice. And I would say to people, you know, that we’ve got no control over what happens in our planet. So, it could start snowing, for example, and we’ve got no control over that. It’s fact. But we have total control over the meaning we give something. So, it might be that you have got a really sort of big event at work you’re about to embark on it, it may be pushing you out of your comfort zone, it may be quite challenging. But instead of getting caught up in the what-ifs and, “This could go wrong, and that could go wrong, and people might judge me. And, oh, my goodness, my career could be over,” instead of doing that, you can just stop and say, “You know, it hasn’t happened yet, and right now I have the ability to give it a different meaning. And the meaning I’m going to give it is, ‘God, this is so exciting, it’s new. Who cares if it doesn’t go 100% right? I’ll learn from it and I’ll still be living at the end of it, hopefully.’”

It’s all about you giving your power back to yourself and saying what meaning you might give in this stuff, and is it actually real. And by choosing the right meaning will change your state and change the way you feel about something.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, there’s a lot of great stuff there. Well, 12 seconds is, I think, that’s huge right there and I think that’s about true in terms of I think of talking about you’re taking three deep breaths, for example, it might be 12-ish or a little bit more seconds, and then that is sufficient to move from one place to another. And then choosing the meaning that you’re giving there, that’s cool. Well, thank you.

So, then let’s talk about choosing meanings in a big way when it comes to mindsets kind of across a whole lot of stuff as opposed to one given moment or experience. So, you are an award-winning mindset coach in your bio.

Kirsty Bortoft
I am.

Pete Mockaitis
Which I find exciting because I’ve been listening recently to Kelly McGonigal’s The Upside of Stress, and I hope to have her on the show soon.

Kirsty Bortoft
Oh, exciting.

Pete Mockaitis
And I was so intrigued how there were a number of mindset interventions which don’t take a whole lot of effort but really do kind of yield to, or yield great results whether whatever you’re measuring in terms of like it’s not dropping out of college or whatever years later, and so I thought that was awesome, whenever there’s just a little bit of effort produces a lot of bit of results. Very cool. So, can you lay it on us now, what’s a mindset? And what are some of the most high-leverage things we can do to adjust our mindsets to make good things happen for us?

Kirsty Bortoft
Yeah, that’s a brilliant question. So, I think I want to start off first of all to say that our brains, for the last 50,000 years, have not changed very much at all, and our minds, which I think the brain is the house in which the mind works from. The mind has many different functions but one of the functions that it has is the stress response system, which has not evolved at all since the cavemen times.

So, we may have something going wrong with a colleague at work and we may feel stressed about it, but we can’t go into the office and start fighting for our lives when we get annoyed by somebody, or just run. Our fight or flight system, however, still kicks in, and it’s literally kicking in like a false alarm almost. And so, what happens is every time this happens, it releases a stress hormone into the body, into the system.

Now, any organism can deal with short terms of stress. We’ve been made to deal with it. It’s fine. The problem comes when it’s on repeat and it’s happening day in, day out. Now, unfortunately, most people, every single day of their lives, whether they’re aware of it or not, are triggering their stress hormone maybe not just once, twice, three times. And so, this is what happens when the stress hormone gets turned on.

You have two paths of your body that are happening all the time. So, you’ve got your immune system which is fantastic. It’s protecting you from viruses, it’s protecting you from bacteria, it’s doing a great job. And you’ve also got maintenance because your body is continually rejuvenating. I mean, in the last five days, you’ve had brand new taste buds on your tongue, which is phenomenal. So, you’ve got these two aspects at work.

But as soon as you start getting stressed, and you start having acute stress, the first thing that happens is your immune system gets switched off. Now, again, if it was just switched off for a short time, not a problem. But you can see where the problem kind of kicks in when it gets switched off for long term.

So, how do we deal with this? How do we ensure that our immune system, especially now, is firing on all cylinders? So, The Freedom Alignment Method is my signature program that I’ve created over the last 10-15 years and it addresses this exact problem. So, you might want to grab a paper and pen because I am going to literally give you the five most simplest steps that if you implement these, it works.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, when you say it works, let’s get really clear. Now, what is the goal, result, the outcome that we achieve by doing this?

Kirsty Bortoft
So I always imagine cortisol being like little taps in your brain that releases into the body. So, if you imagine what it does, it allows the little taps to be switched back off so that your stress hormones stop releasing into the body and you start to return back into homeostasis.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we stop stress just like that. Okay, intriguing. Let’s proceed.

Kirsty Bortoft
So, the first step is, you probably know this first step because it’s quite commonly known that when we get stressed, we don’t breathe very well. We really go shallow in our breathing so it cuts off oxygen to the brain which makes us feel weird. So, the first most simplest step is let’s get some oxygen into your brain and take three really big breaths. And that is so simple, I know, but, honestly, I can’t tell you that our first little step, how it sets you up for the rest of this process. So, once you’ve done the first part and you’ve got some oxygen in the brain, you start to feel less weird.

Now, step two, I mentioned earlier, awareness precedes all change. So, you, first of all, ask yourself, “What have I been putting my attention on?” So, it might be in your mind or it might be actually something in front of you, okay? So, it could be actually happening or it might be just that you’re thinking about it. So, what have you been putting your attention on?

Once you’ve established what you put your attention on, the next thing is you need to start taking personal responsibility for the next step. Now, what does that mean? You’re probably going, “Well, I do.” Well, it means is that, probably, what you’ve been doing over and over again hasn’t been working so we need to do something different.

Now, I just love what Einstein said, which is like, “The definition of insanity repeating the same behavior and expecting something different.” Oh, my goodness, how many times have we all done that and then got really crossed because we haven’t either felt better or things haven’t turned out right for us, and we do this all the time. And so, this part of the process is going, “I’m prepared to do something completely different and trust that, by doing something different, I will get a different result.” So, this is where the paper and pen comes in.

So, this process is called the feel, deal, and dump process which is what I named it, and it’s for our fundamental part which underpins The Freedom Alignment Method, and it’s the most simplest thing, so listen because you might miss it.

The first part of this is you need to ask yourself what was that thing that I asked you to do in step two, which was, “What are you putting your attention on?” So, I’ll give an example. Let’s say you’re at work and you’ve been putting your attention on a deadline and actually you’re winding yourself up, getting worried, thinking you won’t get it done, then this is going to be the title that you put on your paper. So, you put that at the top of your paper, “Stress or worried about a deadline.” Now, this is the part that is fundamental to this process.

Now, before I share this part, I always say this process is really not difficult, and it isn’t, but it is different. And because it is different, the mind will try and jump in and say, “This is too simple. It’s not going to work.” I’m going to invite you now to ignore that running commentary and just do something different anyway and just see the result.

So, you’ve written down at the top of the paper, you’ve written down that, “I’m worried about a deadline.” Now, this is what you need to do next. You take your paper to pen, pen to paper even, and without thinking, which is quite difficult, which is why I get you to write because when you’re writing, it takes your mind off actually trying to think about something. I want you to just directly go to that title and ask yourself, “How does this, honestly, make me feel?” And I just then want you to start writing and allow your pen to flow like a stream of consciousness.

Now, what might happen is your mind might try and kick it. If it does, just take off your pen off your paper, take a deep breath, go back to it and just keep on writing. This exercise can sometimes take a minute, or 10 minutes, or 20 minutes. It really doesn’t matter but you’ll know when your brain dumped enough because there’ll be nothing left to write.

And what you’re actually doing at this point is you’re actually going straight into your subconscious and you’re releasing any suppressed emotions directly onto the paper, so you’re letting things go and you’re doing something different. So, you keep writing. Sometimes when I do this exercise, I can’t even read my writing. It’s like a mess. It doesn’t matter. The intention is how this process works. So, you keep writing until there’s nothing left to write. And as soon as you have finished, you ask yourself a simple question, “Have I written about my feelings or have I written about what went on?”

Now, if you’ve written about what went on, I want you to stop and go back because it’s really important that you write about the emotion and not the act, the actual thing that’s going on. Once you finish this, you take your piece of paper, you just crumple it up, and you go outside and set it on fire, and give it back to the universe. And what we’re doing there is we’re just doing a cycle, so we’ve taken the emotion out of the body, onto the paper, and then given it back to the universe.

It is so simple that people sometimes get it wrong. And I know that’s ridiculous because I’m saying it like this right now but it’s because the mind, the egoic mind is a control freak, and it likes to keep you in your comfort zone. So, when you do something different, it will have a running commentary, and its commentary is always pessimistic because its job is to look for problems. It’s not the enemy actually. It’s doing its job but your job in this moment is to override that and not listen, and just go back to the emotion.

Now, once you set it on fire, you’ve given it back to the universe, you then need to take your attention, so this is step five, and put it onto something upward spiraling. And to be honest, the best upward spiraling thing that you can ever put your attention on is simply gratitude because gratitude naturally expands your experience upwards. So, just by one thing, it doesn’t matter what it is, and just write down why you are grateful for that thing or you can even say it loud, it’s fine.

But what you’re doing then is you’re now choosing to put your attention on something that’s expansive rather than downward spiraling. And when you do that, it allows you to be more grounded and centered in the present moment and stops you from going back off into that kind of mindless chitter-chatter that’s going to cause the stress and trigger the hormone again. There you go in a nutshell.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, we start with the three breaths, we say what’s our attention on, “I’m worried because of a meeting,” or whatever, and then we journal on, “How does that honestly make me feel?” just sort of the emotions, not the thoughts, not the thing, just the feelings. Then you set the page on fire, and then you put your attention on something like gratitude, and that’s your five steps.

Well, let me talk about the fire just for a second. Like, if some people are in office buildings…

Kirsty Bortoft
Yeah, you can’t do that.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you rip it up or is that okay?

Kirsty Bortoft
Yeah, that’s okay. Yeah, please don’t be like, “Our fires have gone up.” Yeah, absolutely. If you’re inside, don’t obviously do that or maybe save it to later. Yeah, don’t do it and set the fire alarm off.

Pete Mockaitis
And what’s intriguing here is, I think, in step three, that distinction in terms of the feelings. Like, can you give us some examples, like, “How does this make me feel?” Because I think that you can just say, “Sad,” “Angry.” Well, yeah, but I have a feeling there’s going to be a little bit more to it than that.

Kirsty Bortoft
Yeah, so let us just take the title that we’re stressed because we’ve got a deadline. So, it might be, this is hypothetical, “I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’m feeling scared. I’m feeling like judged, feeling not good enough. I’m feeling hopeless.” I’m just making that up. It’s that simple and it’s literally whatever is there in the moment for the person, they write down. And the power of this exercise is the energetics, really, of what you’re doing, because the person is doing something completely different to what they’ve been doing.

So, mostly, what happens when we experience something that’s uncomfortable is our kneejerk reaction is to push that thing away whatever it might be, even if it’s not actually happening in real life; it’s happening within our mind. Our kneejerk reaction is to push it away. And the reason for that is because we’ve been programmed to move from pain to pleasure at all costs, which is why when we decide to go on a diet and lose weight, unless we have actually dealt with the unconscious programming in our minds, what will happen is we will sabotage ourselves every single time because the desire to move from pain to pleasure will be so great that we’ll then go back in the fridge, eating that piece of chocolate cake, saying, “I’ll start one day.”

Before, when we felt stressed, we’ve suppressed the emotion back down into our subconscious usually by distraction techniques like drinking, maybe spending money we haven’t got on our credit cards potentially, staying up too late, playing video games, all these types of things, our distractions are really from the real feelings that are actually going on in that experience.

And so, what this process does is it takes us from what I call resisting the experience into feeling. And when we do that, we go into a state of allowing. When we go into a state of allowing, that is the only place where healing and letting go can happen. So, when we’re in resistance, it’s not possible because we are literally pushing something and resisting something, and we haven’t got the space for something to move. But when we shift that into a state of allowing, it allows it to go, it allows it go move on and be set free.

And so, this simple, simple exercise, the power in it is because the person, for the first time, is taking out resistance into a state of allowing. And when they do that, they’re allowed to freely let go of the suppressed emotion, the anger, the guilt, the fear, whatever it may be. They’re allowed to honor it, feel it, and let it go.

We’ve been taught, most of us, from childhood that negative emotions are not good. I was told when I was younger, you know, “Come on, Kirsty, please stop. You’ll be fine,” if I was upset about something. And it wasn’t that my parents were being awful. It was that they thought they were doing the right thing, but the truth was that I immediately learned from a very young child that it wasn’t good to show being upset because I felt like I hadn’t done something right or it wasn’t good to feel angry.

And so, what I learned was to push these emotions down. And we’ve all done it. And the reason for that is because the way that the brain has been designed is that between about the age of two and the age of seven is our brainwaves are in this like Theta state, which is the imaginary state.

It’s also the time called the hypnotic stage as well. And the hypnotic stage of the brain is when we download programs. So, we download how to survive, we download how to be in the world, we download how to interact with each other, we download our parents’ belief systems, we download at school what’s right and what’s wrong. And the majority of it is really good stuff, and it teaches us how to be adults. The problem is that there are certain things that are slightly dodgy and don’t serve us.

So, for example, well, the one that money doesn’t grow on trees. And so, what happens, we download these pros and cons, and suddenly, at the age of seven, our brainwaves change, and we go into Beta state which is what you and I are in now. The fundamental shift with that is that now we only can learn through repetition, right? So, what happens is when we have a stressful experience, the brain, being designed to keep you alive, so what it does is it takes that experience, and if it could speak, it would say something like, “Can little Johnny, right now, deal with this stress? No, he can’t,” so it takes that emotion and it would push it into your subconscious mind.

And I always described it a little bit like before like we’ve all got this rucksack on our back, which is invisible, but we carry in our life, and every time we go through something really stressful, we chuck a bit of it into this bag. Now, as I said too early, your mind and body are completely connected, and so this bag is large but it’s not infinite. And so, at some point, it gets so full it starts to overflow. And when it starts to overflow, it offloads from the mind into the body and starts manifesting as stress and anxiety and depression and migraines. And so, all we’re doing when we’re doing this exercise is we’re not just dealing with the actual stress at the moment. We’re actually starting to release some of that out of our bag.

So, when we start feel, deal, and dumping, we’re letting go of some of this unnecessary stuff that we have just dragged through our whole entire life. And so, what I love about this technique, the feel, deal, and the dump, is that it is so simple, and it’s probably likely you’re going to have to do it more than once because you’ve got a lifetime of stuff, but that’s okay. And what I suggest to people is if you are feeling really stressed, you are feeling really anxious, then just keep doing this exercise over and over again, and you will get some relief, I promise you. And if you’re struggling, then reach out. Reach out and have a chat because I’d love to help you.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Thank you. All right. Well, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Kirsty Bortoft
Shall I tell you about my book that’s coming out in two weeks?

Pete Mockaitis
Sure thing.

Kirsty Bortoft
So, Break Free from Pain, it’s my first book, so I’m really excited. It’s more like a guide to help people with physical, emotional, and mental pain. And it’s a step-by-step handhold process to be able to really support you and ensuring that you can live an empowered life rather than a stressful life.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, now can you share with us a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Kirsty Bortoft
I’m a massive, massive fan of a number of different scientists but especially newer scientists. My favorites are Joe Dispenza, I love him, he’s amazing and his publications on the mind. And, also, I just love Biology of Beliefs, which is another book. I also love David Hawkins, and his work is incredible. And, unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago, but his work, he’s got a fantastic book called Letting Go which I would say is my go-to book. And he’s also done lots and lots of studies on consciousness and the mind, and I just think he’s phenomenal. So, his work and publications, I would recommend over and over again.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Kirsty Bortoft
Meditation, I guess, is the first thing that came into my head. But I would also say that it’s not just meditation. I’m a massive fan of daily rituals. So, every morning, I feel like the first hour or two has got to be about inputting back into the soul. So, for me, I get up and I do meditate, but I also move my body a little bit. I also ensure that I have some good nutrition. And I also make sure that I set a really positive intention for not just the day but just for my life. And I think that that makes a massive impact on how I feel for the rest of the day.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks?

Kirsty Bortoft
Yeah. All my clients know what I’m like. And one of the things I would say is I just think that the first couple of hours of your day really set up the rest of your day. So, if you get up and you are consciously inputting positive expansive things into your experience, what happens is I feel like I go out into the day and so, obviously, real life still happens, but I feel like I can deal with it. It doesn’t get to me. It’s, again, about making a conscious decision about the meaning I’m giving things. And how I do that is by these daily rituals. And I guess another thing I throw in there is back to the old gratitude as well because it’s such a superpower, and I think so underused.

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Kirsty Bortoft
So, come and get in touch definitely at www.Kirsty-Bortoft.com and you can email me at hello@kirsty-bortoft.com. I’m on YouTube which is the Mindset Coach at Kirsty Bortoft, or you can find under the same name on Facebook or Twitter, Kirsty Bortoft. And if you want the spelling of that, I don’t know whether I need to spell that really slowly, or whether it will be somewhere on here.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, sure, it will be on the show notes but B-O-R-T-O-F-T, and Kirsty not Kristy for the…with a K. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Kirsty Bortoft
Yeah, I just think that it’s got to come back to that we, as human beings, are so powerful and we give away our powers way too easily, and I think that the action here is tomorrow when you wake up, is just remind yourself that you have the choice of where you put your attention firstly and the meaning you give things. So, don’t give that power away because anything is possible. And, honestly, you sincerely are in control of your destiny when you do that. So, just make sure that you live your best version by putting that first.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Kirsty, it’s been fun. I wish you lots of luck in all your adventures.

Kirsty Bortoft
Thank you so much.