The Job of Your Life with Karen Schaffer

Get out of your rut and find your passion

Posts Tagged ‘emotions’

Starting up a New Year, right

Posted by Karen on January 13, 2010

I always find myself a little rusty and slow to start in January. Maybe it’s the weather – often grey, dark a lot of the time and no Christmas tinsel to distract from the winter blues. Maybe the temperature – the cold makes everyone seem to crave stew and pasta and to lie down whenever/wherever possible. Or maybe it’s that Christmas – however you celebrate it – takes focus and preparation (it takes focus even to avoid it!) and often comes saddled with emotional decisions, family issues, boundary issues, varied expectations, extra household tasks (pine needle sweep anyone?)  and general overload.

So by the time “New Year” rolls around, I’m just as happy to crawl under the covers for another month. And I know I’m not alone.

How do you get started when all you want to do is stop?

Good question. Here are some suggestions of how to get yourself rolling towards your career and life goals despite the call of the sofa and the duvet.

1) Start slow. Don’t expect the world from yourself right away. Accomplish small tasks or make bigger tasks into smaller ones. For instance, I need to complete my end-of-year bookkeeping. Honestly? It really isn’t that hard or that long a task, but at the end of a work day it’s the last thing I want to do (oh bed-in-my-living-room, how tempting you are). So every night instead of doing the whole thing, I tackle and sort a small pile of receipts and papers from various areas in the house. I’m starting to feel motivated to go downstairs and drop them in the correct boxes (I told you it was  pretty easy stuff) which wasn’t true at the beginning of the week.

2) Spend time on your Intentions and Goals. Before taking actions, think about what you want out of the year. Goal-setting is one piece of the puzzle and is definitely motivating, especially when you take the time to imagine and allow in what it would feel like to achieve the goal. The more you can “feel the vibe” so to speak, the more promising it is you’ll reach the goal. I also like to work with a theme for the year – something a little more metaphoric that I can draw on for energy and focus. A couple of years ago I set as The Year of The Rock. I promptly and somewhat ironically broke my ankle two weeks later. But having that intention made me do a lot of digging behind the symbolism of having a broken leg in the Year of the Rock. By the end of the year I’d had some amazing breakthroughs in my life in getting more stable and grounded. The goals can fall naturally out of your intention. Or conversely, look at your goals and see what overall theme they represent and stick “Year of” in front of it.

3) Indulge yourself a little bit. Sometimes when you push yourself too hard, you miss that your body is actually asking for something it needs. Go to bed a little earlier. Take your iron and your Vitamin D. Have a meal of Mac and Cheese with veggies on the side (or not). Have a warm bath instead. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You may actually be recovering from something.

4) Get in conversation and get support. When we feel overwhelmed or unmotivated, the trick is to do the opposite of what you want to do. What you want to do is avoid connecting, and instead retreat and indulge…and then be hard on yourself for not doing anything. Getting in connection is what can shift you into a more energetic and positive state. Pick up the phone. Reach out. Have an “Intention Night” or a “How to Make 2010 Awesome” meeting with friends who are wrestling with the same ideas. Why am I writing this blog post right now? Because there are 4 other amazing career-oriented women out there who have promised to read it. Knowing they will check my blog is inspiring me to write it, so I don’t feel that all my efforts will float out into the ether. So find ways to connect yourself to people who are committed to attaining a similar mindset.

I’m writing this on the 13th of January, so clearly, I’ve been taking time myself to get going. But now that this blog post is almost done, I’m feeling more energized and ready for the month, if not the year, to unfold. And my New Year’s wish for you is that you too find what’s important to you and find safe ways to start acting on it.

Posted in Emotional Life as connected to Career | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

How We Decide

Posted by Karen on February 9, 2009

Saw Jonah Lehrer on The Colbert Report talking about his book “How We Decide“. It stirred up a few things in me about how we make decisions in career exploration.

Lehrer mentioned how we (I think he meant culturally/scientifically) used to talk about reason being the charioteer to the horses of emotion, and how lately the metaphor has changed to this: emotion is the elephant and reason is the small rider perched on top. Which is an image I love because the longer I work with people (and myself for that matter) the more I realize that we are all riding these huge elephants with the illusion of control, but one mouse squeaks underfoot and we’re holding on for dear life while the elephant busts the hell out of there.

And that’s scary right? It’s scary that you could try and come to all these reasonable, practical solutions…or even really thought-out big beautiful dreams and then your emotional elephant decides to take a bath and it all goes out the window faster than you can say “NOOOO TURN THIS WAY YOU BIG-EARED HEFFELUMP!” (which reminds me…I have been on the back of an elephant – bareback actually – and when that thing stood up it was like CRAZY how high and broad and PRICKLY it was. And she just watched me from the back of her eye the whole time, while the neighbourhood gathered to watch the crazy white lady straddling an elephant in a skirt. My honeymoon. Good times.)

Okay so just when you were about to wish the elephant of emotion away though, Lehrer brings up another excellent fact. He and Stephen are talking about the state of objectivity and if someone can use “pure reason” on a decision or if it’s always got some emotional context wrapped up in it. And Lehrer mentions that people who don’t have an emotional context – who can’t feel pleasure or pain – are so impaired that tests have shown they can’t choose between a blue pen and a black pen for an extended period of time. He calls “pure reason” a disease.

Emotions signal to us what we WANT.

They tell us what to choose, where to go, what we like and what we prefer. Without emotions we could analyze the top three directions but we wouldn’t be able to feel the truth of which one would be best for us.

Thus we need emotion in our decision-making process. Too often I see people trying to fight it because they are afraid of what the emotion is going to tell them.

This can often be unconsciously. Sometimes someone will say that they “can’t feel anything”. Unless they are suffering from “pure reason” in my experience these people a) have never done significant inner work to discover what makes them happy or b) they don’t want to know what makes them happy because it will challenge some other long-held and treasured belief. If this is your issue and you can figure out which one is operating, you’re gold…you’ve got a great place to start looking.

But overall, we often think of our emotion as an elephant that needs to be tamed and caged and to know its place because if we listened to it we’d be 100 miles away in the middle of the wilderness with no way home.

So many of us try and make the career exploration one of logic and assessment. A test will only tell you what it catches you reflecting as an interest or value. It can’t tell you how to put those pieces together in a way that feels good to you. It can’t measure your excitement in learning something that you didn’t expect to be interested in or the rising of your energy when you’re doing something you love. It can’t help you truly figure out the people you feel are kindred spirits and who leaves you cold. You have to be there, emotions and all, to sense how you respond.

A test can sometimes even give you “the answer” but if you can’t FEEL it, you’ll actually ignore that part of the result. And look back on the test later and smack your head because you realize it was showing up there all along, but with a different name or spin on the idea.

Embrace the emotional elephant! Harness its power without putting legcuffs on. If it wants to go in a certain direction, let it lead so it can show you why. No need to commit to the path; just explore where the elephant is leaning and

Learning to tune in to yourself and feel things in your body, not just as thoughts in your head…that’s the challenge of career exploration.

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