Courtney’s Blog

How to Feel Motivated By Doing ANYTHING

What do you do when you don’t feel motivated to do something?

 

It’s election day, and some people feel like their vote doesn’t matter. That reminds me of the story of the psychologists who did an experiment with three sets of dogs, and learned a lot about “learned helplessness.”

 

If you’re having trouble with your mindset and not feeling motivated, here’s why doing something, ANYTHING, is good for your mental health.

You Don’t Have to be Hopeless. Here’s What Helps When the World Feels Horrible.

In the wake of another mass shooting, I’ve been finding myself struggling with writing a blog post. Events like this don’t make it very easy to feel resilient, positive, or hopeful. I want to say the perfect thing, but there is no perfect thing.

 

So without any perfect words, I realized that what I could share is what I know about the science of coping during difficult times, in the hopes that perhaps it’ll make you think of something you can do to feel less vulnerable, frustrated, or angry about things going on in the world or in your own little corner of it.

 

There are two types of coping strategies. Most of us only rely on one, whichever one comes more naturally to us. And heck – one is better than none! But that gets us only about half as far as we need to go. I learned about these strategies when researching my second book, The Successful Struggle, and now I’m better about reminding myself to use both.

 

The two types of strategies are Problem-Focused Coping and Emotion-Focused Coping.

 

Problem-Focused Coping

 

This week, feeling like there was a whole lot of intolerance in the world, I set out to take some action. The first thing I did was early vote in the midterm elections. That’s a very concrete action that obviously isn’t usually available to us, but it just so happened to be good timing. I’m also working on a volunteer project called KICS through the Junior League of Austin, where we’re delivering athletic sneakers to children in need. Studies show that well-fitting, seasonally appropriate shoes help kids stay not only healthy and active, but also improve self-esteem and even school attendance.

 

When we went to deliver the shoes to the first KICS school, the kids were saying things like “this is so awesome! I’ve never had a new pair of shoes before!” and “my last shoes broke and I had to hold them together with tape. How did you know I really needed these?” When you watch a child jump up and down and yell with joy over something as simple as their first brand-new pair of sneakers, those feelings of powerlessness over the world’s problems start to seem smaller.

 

Emotion-Focused Coping

 

The other kind of coping deals with addressing your emotions. When I looked at the research, some psychologists expected that Problem-Focused Coping would be more successful at helping people feel better because it addressed the root cause. But Emotion-Focused Coping turned out to be equally important. We need more than just action items to accomplish in our lives – we need hope. For me, a perfect example is a baby announcement that I just got that’s sitting on my kitchen island. I met this baby boy’s parents almost 10 years ago, when they came to volunteer at the little nonprofit that I had started. Thinking about these single young adults, giving generously of their time all those years ago, and now they’re a family, makes me proud and happy.

 

And that’s not the only family making me happy this week… I also helped some friends find a puppy to adopt! (If you’re even thinking about adopting a pet, don’t mention it to me because I will find you a new family member – it’s like my super power.) In fact, my friend Terri is doing amazing things in this world supporting the leaders of movements (check out her website!), so helping her bring a little joy into her life, when she brings joy to so many other people, is extra-fulfilling. Time spent with friends and loved ones in your life is a great Emotion-Focused Coping strategy.

 

Using strong coping strategies – even when you use them in tandem – won’t make the stressors of the world go away. But when you arm yourself with smart strategies, you’ll be better able to push forward without feeling defeated by how small you feel in the face of the things that challenge you.

 

The REAL Reason You Should Volunteer Before the Year is Over (Hint: It Helps YOU!)

If Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays have you thinking about doing some end-of-the-year volunteering, here’s something you might want to know: Giving back is good for your mental well-being, but NOT necessarily for the reasons you might expect!

Here’s what to know before you get out there and start helping other people…

“I Want a Divorce.” Here’s What He Said That Made Me Realize It Was Over

It turned out to be our last session with the marriage counselor.

 

He said, “There are lots of things I love about Courtney. She’s smart, she’s pretty, she’s kind. I like that she has goals for her career. I find her interesting.”

 

The therapist responded, “I understand that you love a lot of things about Courtney. But I sense there might be a disconnect. The things you’re mentioning aren’t the things Courtney has said are important about herself. Strip all of those things away, and at her core, Courtney is a person with a deep need for connection. The other things about Courtney aren’t really who she is, deep down. Deep down, who she is is a person with a deep need for connection.”

 

My husband looked at her and said, “Yes. I know. And I love her in spite of that.”

 

In spite of that.

 

He loved me in spite of who I was, deep down.

 

That was the moment I knew what to do. And even then, it that painful moment, I knew he wasn’t a villain in this story. This was the guy who admitted to downing a soda in his car on the way home, in order to have a few minutes of energy to try to talk to me after a long day of work. We were both trying, but we were still miles away from middle ground.

 

Since that day, I’ve heard a lot of people say “never change who you are for someone else.” It makes me wonder. I’m now in a fulfilling, equally-matched marriage of many years. But between that day in the therapist’s office with my ex, and my happy life now, I’ve learned a lot about change.

 

I’m worried about the expression “never change who you are for someone else,” because I think it’s been misunderstood. I think lots of people interpret “never change who you are” to mean “don’t change, don’t compromise, just keep doing exactly what you’ve always been doing and if your partner doesn’t like you the way you are, they’re a jerk.”

 

That’s a mistake.

 

Instead, I’ve come to realize there’s a fine line between not changing your BEING, but being willing to change your habits and behaviors.

 

I encourage couples in conflict to try to identify whether or not they have a clash of habits and behaviors, or a clash of personalities. If you have truly incompatible character traits, you may not be able to have a marriage that feels healthy and fulfilling. But habits and behaviors can (and often should!) be changed for people to be compatible partners. You just have to know the difference.

 

Compromise in an a relationship is necessary. For a healthy marriage, be willing and happy to compromise about habits and behaviors. But know that you shouldn’t, and probably can’t, compromise who you are deep down.

 

How to Fix a Conflict Between Your Coworkers

If your coworkers are fighting, it’s hard to get much work done.

But it turns out that most workplace conflict is actually the HEALTHY kind of conflict!

And there are some things you can do, even as a colleague, to help the conflict resolve faster and get your office back on an even keel. Here’s something important you need to know about workplace conflict so you can make it work in your favor!

How to Handle Getting Fired

It’s a moment that can shake your self-esteem. It can ruin your finance. It can change your life plans in an instant. You just got fired.

 

Getting fired or let go is a major ego blow, because – if you’re like many of us – your jobs is tied in with your identity. Your career is a major part of who you are. Your success gives you worth. So when you lose your job, it can destroy more than just your sense of comfort and security, but also your sense of self.

 

Getting Fired Does These Three Things In Your Brain

 

When negative things happen, like being let go from a job, our brains naturally look for explanations. Your brain may be more prone to a positive explanatory style, or a negative explanatory style (and when you’ve just been dealt a major blow, it’s no surprise that your brain may start to veer more toward the negative!)

 

There are three elements to a negative explanatory style:

  1. Personal
  2. Permanent
  3. Pervasive

 

When you’re trapped in a negative explanatory style, you believe the things that happen to you are your fault (permanent), are going to negatively affect you forever (permanent), and are going to bleed over into all areas of your life (pervasive). On the flip side, people who are using a positive explanatory style are able to remind themselves that the situation they find themselves in is just unlucky (not personal), temporary (not permanent), and only a small blip compared to other opportunities in life (not pervasive). Even Sheryl Sandberg used the “Three Ps” after losing her husband!

 

Here’s Your Script After Getting Fired

 

So if you get fired, how do you trick your brain into adopting a positive explanatory style, even in the face of bad news?

 

The key is to start an internal conversation with yourself to remind yourself of the truth: that being let go is not personal, permanent, or pervasive. Some people start with the “not personal” part, but I’ve found that to be a tough one to accomplish right off the bat (yup, I’ve been fired). In this case, I find the easiest element to start with is reminding yourself that the situation isn’t permanent. There’s another job out there for you, and it may even be a better job, that’s a better fit! Back up your internal conversation by going to job seekers groups (which is where I found a job and a new career path after my first layoff at age 22).

 

Once you’ve reminded yourself that the situation isn’t permanent, take responsibility for keeping it from becoming pervasive. You may be tempted to crawl in bed with a blanket and a Netflix subscription for the next two weeks, but don’t. Keep up with all of your regularly scheduled activities. Go to your volunteer work. Hang out with friends. If you allow your unhappiness to start edging out all the happy elements of your life, that’s when negativity becomes pervasive. And finally, keep reminding yourself that being let go isn’t personal. That’s a tempting trap to fall into, especially when you know they’re going to hire someone else into that spot, because it feels like you must have done something wrong. But sometimes a job is just a mismatch for your skill set. And moving on is better for the company and for you.

 

When you get fired, it isn’t personal, it isn’t permanent, and it isn’t pervasive. Even if it feels that way. If you can remind yourself to shift to a positive explanatory style, and keep up that internal script, you’ll be ready to be a rockstar on the job hunt in no time!

How to Find Really Great Friends

Meeting people is easy.

 

But making true, lasting friendships? That’s hard.

 

Developing an inner circle of your nearest and dearest requires some work, but it’s SO worth it. Here’s what you can do to identify and cultivate a group of friends you can trust and rely on!

How to Deal with a Pessimist at Work

Have you ever had to share an office with a total Negative Nellie pessimist? Someone who always sees the worst in any situation?

 

A coworker with a constantly negative attitude can lead to a toxic culture and a lack of productivity. When one person at work is always complaining about something, that negative mindset can spread through the whole office. Rolling in the door at work on Monday morning can be tough enough! But it’s even tougher when you know you’ll be greeted by a colleague with a poor attitude.

 

Here’s what to say to protect yourself from your pessimistic colleague, and keep their bad attitude from ruining your workplace

 

Complaint #1: “Woe is Me. Everything in My Life Is Horrible.”

Your Action Plan:

This type of complaint usually comes from someone craving connection and compassion. They want a listening ear, and often get mad when you recommend actions they can take to change their situation. What’s extra-frustrating is that many of their complaints aren’t even work-related, and they waste your time wanting to gripe about their miseries without wanting any solutions.

 

In this situation, make it clear that you care (which hopefully will head off a major meltdown), but don’t engage any more than that, or you may find yourself trapped in a conversation loop. Try saying: “I understand you are frustrated, but I’m out of ideas to help you make the situation better. I can’t help you solve this problem, and I have to focus on my work right now.”

 

 

Complaint #2: “Why Do We Need To Change? This is How We’ve Always Done It.”

Your Action Plan:

Employees, especially those who have been there awhile, can be reluctant to face change. One of the most effective ways to make change less uncomfortable is to connect people to the purpose of the change. Start by pointing out to your colleague how the change is going to have a direct payoff for them.

 

If the pessimist employee is a long-timer, you could appeal to their pride by saying  “you probably know better than anyone…” about the issue at hand. Try saying “the changes being proposed are going to help us reach the vision we’ve always had for this organization. You probably know better than anyone that we were founded with a goal of accomplishing X, Y, and Z. This leap is going to feel big, but it’s going to allow us the long-term stability we’ve been wanting, which I know is important to you.”

 

Complaint #3: “That Won’t Work. This is All Wrong.”

Your Action Plan:

Some colleagues just have a complaint about everything. Constant criticism can derail a staff meeting and demoralize the team. But if handled correctly, your pessimistic colleague’s complaints may just be an asset.

 

Research shows that workplace conflict can actually lead to better solutions. If you have a regular complainer on your team, try to channel their complaining into something helpful by giving them the job of foreseeing future complications on projects and ideas. If they feel like their complaints are being heard and taken seriously, they may be more likely to keep their critiques for the times when they’re asked. But if not, try saying “I hear your concerns about solution X. It’s time to move on from brainstorming possible hurdles, and start talking about how we implement solutions to those problems. What are your suggestions for working through the potential problems?”

 


 

You may not be able to change your pessimist coworker’s attitude. But you can minimize the impact it has on you and everyone else. With a few strategic comments, you can minimize the negative impact of the office pessimist, and create a more positive atmosphere for everyone.

 

 

 

 

Stop Saying “I’m Too Busy” and Say THIS Instead…

I catch myself saying “I’m too busy to…”

… and then I realize that’s a lie.

When you say “I’m too busy to do that,” you’re really making a subjective call. And people might not respond the way you want.

By rephrasing this common saying about being stressed out, you’ll be reframing what you REALLY mean, you’ll be better understood, and you may never catch yourself saying “I’m too busy” ever again.

How to Handle Back-to-School Scheduling Without Losing Your Cool

After a long (maybe too long?) summer break, it’s time to get your kids back to school. Hallelujah! But the first month of school is prime time for stress around your house, as everyone tries to shake their lazy summer habits and jump right back into the busy-ness of the school year.

 

If your family is stressed and high-strung the first several weeks of school, here are some chaos-management techniques to help your family actually ENJOY the transition of the new school year:

 

 

Use the Plus-20 Rule

Everything takes longer than you think it does. And when you’re talking about getting back to your rigid schoolyear schedule, that goes double. Build an extra 20 minutes into every single commute, mealtime, and bedtime. I’ve found that when I’m getting into a new routine, 15 minutes isn’t *quite* enough of a buffer, but 30 is too long. Try making room for 20 extra minutes per activity in your schedule, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you get there on time. (You can also adapt this rule for projects and test studying, too! Give yourself an extra day per major assignment. Everything takes longer than you expect when you’re getting back into the swing of it.)

 

Hire the Professionals (0r the Semi-Pros)

When I was teaching my son to drive, I had a realization. I should NOT be teaching my son to drive. Somebody else should! If you have high-stress, conflict-inducing activities in your household, like math homework, parents shouldn’t be the ones to oversee that activity. Hire a professional math tutor, get a college kid to come oversee homework two nights a week, or maybe staff the job out to a math-whiz friend who owes you a favor. If you and your kids get into the habit of arguing now, this early in the school year, that’s a tough habit to break as the months wear on. Your kids are bound to be more respectful to anyone who isn’t you. So hire someone else to help with whatever the worst stuff is at your house, and enjoy the peace that follows.

 

Institute Work Hours

When I was growing up, we had “homework time” – it reached up to 2-3 hours a night once I was in high school. Depending on the age of your child, designate Work Hours time that’s just for work. If they say “I don’t have homework tonight,” great! They don’t have to do school homework, but they have to work on something. It can be a book, a project, or just a general interest. Anything but TV, phone, or video games. Adjust the age upwards as they grow. And EVERYONE in the family participates in Work Hours, not just kids. This way, you’re modeling the diligent behavior you want to see, and you’re giving your kids less of an excuse to zip through their homework and grab the remote control.