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Entries in health (62)

Monday
Sep012014

What Fear Should You Face?

When preparing to record the next FrogDog Marketing Minute, I recalled to a colleague my father’s program of filming my book reports each morning throughout elementary school. As a litigator who had gotten recorded and critiqued for closing arguments during his legal training, Dad thought the exercise would help me get over my fear of public speaking.

Aside: Before my mother moved out of my childhood home, the remaining, mostly unlabeled VHS tapes stayed stowed in a drawer in the game room. In the last one I remember watching during a trip home, I wore pink pajamas as I talked through an autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt and leapt off the fireplace hearth between takes.

I suffered from crippling shyness until I forced myself to shed it in young adulthood—so I started well behind outgoing kids in the speaking regard. Thanks to Dad’s videos, my starting point had to place higher than it would have otherwise, once I put my shoulder into gaining confidence about speaking.

And, without video book reports, who knows how much longer it would have taken for me to gain a foothold in business, where I’ve had to regularly give sales presentations and speak at conferences and before groups. When you start a company, you must speak up.

No options. Sink or swim.

Today, though I’ve had colleagues and friends balk at standing in front of cameras and audiences, I walk right off the pier. Though I don’t like seeing myself on screen or hearing my voice (do I really sound like that?), I’ve gotten over myself.

Because, let’s be honest:

Obsessing about your appearance on camera or in front of an audience presumes that people pay the same amount of attention to you that they do to themselves—and that you pay to yourself.

And they don’t. As I’ve outlined before on this site, people worry so much about themselves so much of the time that they don’t have enough bandwidth to pay too much attention to someone else.

Further, with the remaining bandwidth people have to notice anything other than themselves, they notice your attitude more than what you say—whether for good or ill. Sound confident, speak with authority, and carry yourself well. Done.

Yet I wouldn’t know any of this if I hadn’t had public-speaking practice starting in elementary school, which I continued in college and graduate school and then forced on myself through my choice of career. Most people never practice what they hate—even though the more you do something, the better you get.

Without question, looking away feels easier than facing a fear—even if conquering it could transform your life. I know overcoming my fear of speaking up gave me the only way toward success in business.

And so I wonder: What else should I face that I avoid out of dislike or fear?

What skills do you need to practice? And how can you get the practice you need?

Thursday
Aug142014

Telling People How You Feel

I saw a post somewhere on social media stating—in type on a colored square, of course, to make the words look like a picture—that you should never feel sorry for telling someone how you feel.

The “image” had a lot of “likes.” (Sigh.)

At first, my eyes skipped over the entry as one of the silly empowerment-esque things people say on social media. And then I paused.

Really?

Frankly, I think the statement crosses over the silly line over into the realm of thoughtlessness in the vein of “everything happens for a reason,” which I complained about in a previous post.

People cannot possibly believe that they can, without penalty, tell anyone what they feel at any time. Perhaps a person shouldn’t self-flagellate for having an emotion, but that doesn’t mean he should inflict his emotions on others without heed or consequence.

Yes, sometimes you should feel sorry for telling someone else what you feel.

Examples?

We’ve all felt angry and said things we wouldn’t have said if we’d stopped a moment, considered the situation, and realized that the person in question had no fault. Frustration with a coworker should subside into a level at which constructive conversation can occur before you express anything whatsoever. The subject of your unrequited love or jealousy or neediness holds no responsibility for your emotions and shouldn’t share their stress. Further, if you suffer massive insecurity, you should not expect your friends, family, and associates to bear its burden or put up with its side effects.

Sometimes, no, you should not tell people how you feel. Feel it, by all means. Express it to someone whom it could hurt or concern or burden unnecessarily? No.

What do you think?

Should you tell just anyone at any time what you feel, if so compelled? And should you ever feel sorry for expressing your emotions?

Wednesday
Aug062014

Vacation Guidance—Pretty Please

My Smithsonian World Atlas, Sixth Edition, open for contemplation. August 6. 2014.

When I take The Great Trip of 2014, I’ll have gone two years without a proper vacation and I have no idea how long I went without one before that. As a big believer in the value of time away from the everyday, I’d better actually take some.

Great news, right? Excitement reigns, right?

Alas, no.

Taking a vacation just feels like one more overwhelming to-do—and one with nebulous definition. The world needs travel agents, after all. Can’t someone else just plan this for me? If I had even the broad outlines of a plan, I’d feel better. An image in my head evoking fun ahead would help me feel excited in the here and now.

So desperate have I grown for leads, I’ve veered from the norm for this post. Instead of musing on a topic and inviting dialogue, today’s entry provides parameters and requests ideas.

I need your help, dear readers.

Collaborate with me on defining The Great Trip of 2014. Given my broad guidelines for the vacation, I invite you to share your travel adventures, best destinations, and great ideas:

  • The destination and activities should rate as safe for single women traveling alone. Also, road trips don’t typically translate into fun for solo travelers, so I’ll pass on one this time—although I do love them.
  • I like a mix of adventure, activity, culture, and relaxation. Some pampering sounds nice, too.
  • Drink and culinary adventures don’t entice me.
  • I don’t “rough it” without a significant experience payoff. For example, you won’t entice me to camp or stay in a hostel unless I can find no other way to see or do something I really want to see or do. (And if I’m lukewarm on the sight or action, I’ll pass.) I need at least a decent hotel.
  • As I will need to check in with the office at least once a day on weekdays, I need a spot with fairly decent and widespread Internet connectivity.
  • I’ve lived and traveled widely in Europe and Britain, so I’d like to see other parts of the world.
  • I have about a week to ten days, so I need to identify a destination that won’t consume too much time in travel or jet lag. In my thinking, that indicates spots in Central and South America, but I welcome other notions.
  • Given current commitments, the trip needs to take place in first two weeks in December or the first couple in November.

And so I beg your guidance, my friends:

Tell me about your best vacation.

Monday
Aug042014

Valuing Females

Other people have thought and expressed this concern before me. And other folks have taken action to change their behavior about it, as have I.

Yet it persists:

The troublesome way we teach female children to calculate their value.

With boys, we talk about their intelligence, charm, cleverness, and strength. We rarely address their looks, unless talking about the messes they’ve made or their need to wash their faces and hands. “Boys will be boys,” we say, with exasperated affection.

With females, from infancy forward, we comment on cuteness, prettiness, and beauty, whether regarding their physical features or their clothes and accessories.

When appearance becomes the most valuable currency for females, positioned more highly than intelligence, education, and critical thinking, the resulting women can experience insecurity that cripples their chances at happiness, fulfillment, and healthful relationships. Further, when we put weight on how a young female looks rather than what she does and how she thinks, we direct her away from learning and achieving toward beauty products, fad diets, and plastic surgery.

No one could truly consider that a life fulfilled.

I read with horror an article in The New York Times, “Tell Me What You See, Even if It Hurts Me,” about a phenomenon of girls predominantly aged thirteen to fifteen posting videos on-line asking viewers to rate their prettiness. This action implies that strangers’ estimations of their beauty matters more to their self-esteem than anything else possibly could.

And if you’ve ever read YouTube comments, no matter how mundane the video, you can imagine the potential for psychological damage in asking the site's users for candid opinions—especially on something as personal as your looks. As a fully-fledged adult fairly secure in her self-estimation, I’d never jump into that lion’s den. The World Wide Web provides a fantastic outlet for cruelty.

I’d thought the subjects of an article I’d read in the same publication, “’No Body Talk’ Summer Camps,” a bit over the top until I read the “prettiness video” article. Perhaps the camps the article describes make more sense than I’d realized. Maybe more places—other camps, workplaces, schools, homes—should forbid anyone to comment in any way about how he, she, or anyone else looks.

Sadly, our culture has trained us to talk appearance with females.

Though I have no children of my own and rarely spend time with girls as a result, even I find myself starting to say something about a girl’s dress, hairdo, or pretty smile when I encounter one. I have to consciously change tack before the words exit my mouth.

So, to help us all change our ways, I’ve listed a few topics of conversation for adults to have with young females that just might help these budding women realize that their value stems from far more than how they look:

  • What are you reading? Tell me about it.
  • What movie did you see last? What did you like about it?
  • What did you think about [the meal just eaten, the activity just undertaken, the event just experienced, the party underway]?
  • Acknowledge something—anything—smart, interesting, or kind that she said or did.

Through these questions and your thoughtful attention to their answers, you teach young females that what they think and do matter and have value. Appearance? That should come dead last—if at all.

How else can we change the conversation with girls?

Monday
Jul212014

The Lure of the Break

I’d posted a new item on this site every other day for a year and seven months. Before then, I’d taken only two days from posting on schedule. Even an objective observer would consider this level of regular activity a habit.

Recently, a combination of unexpected franticness at work combined with a nasty head cold and scratchy throat threw me off the schedule. I cried “uncle.” I took a break.

The break didn’t even last a week. I skipped two scheduled posts. Yet when it came time to get back on track, the little devil on my shoulder poked its pitchfork into my ear and whispered,

“What does it matter, this blog and this posting schedule? Few people read what you write. And for the amount of effort? This can’t seem worthwhile to you. The time off sure felt nice, didn’t it? Wouldn’t a longer break feel even more fantastic?”

I won’t lie: I listened to the little devil.

And I realized that if I didn’t get back on schedule, I’d never return.

Tragic, the death of this blog? Hardly. However, the expiration of an impetus to create, think through topics I wouldn’t otherwise, improve my craft, start dialogue—the aspects of this blog that make it worthwhile—would prove unfortunate. Not for the world at large, but for me.

I pushed myself back to the keyboard. And I felt better. Energized. Analytic and curious about my world anew. I remembered why I love writing.

Good stuff.

Yet what does my experience say about all the “power of habit” rigmarole?

We’ve heard that the difficulty of breaking habits means cultivating routines around good activities will stitch them permanently into our lives—that positive-habit formation can provide routes to health and happiness and wellbeing.

Hmm.

Sure, I struggled before taking a few days away from writing. Yet once I broke the routine, the lure of the hiatus threatened to turn into a new habit all too easily.

So how valuable can we consider habits if they so easily fall away? Or do only certain habits so easily get shuttled? Do positive habits—with long-term payouts in terms of health, achievement, happiness—more easily break than habits with immediate physiological rewards?

After all, writing can seem like a chore in the moment—and a break feels good straightaway. Staying healthful in eating and exercise can feel like a trial when faced with a cupcake and a 5 a.m. alarm—and food indulgences and sleeping in feel amazing immediately.

If so, this doesn’t bode well for habits—at least the positive ones—proving all that valuable in changing our lives. Instead, it seems that the fragility of good habits requires constant vigilance. (One more thing for us to monitor.) A positive habit provides the benefits of a routine—you experience less of a willpower struggle when you regularly do something—yet you must stay top-of-mind aware that once you pop the routine’s bubble, you’ll nearly need to start anew.

What do you think?