Friday, April 30, 2021

An analytical approach to decision making


First of all: Happy New Month's Eve! Today's post was going to be about celebration and one of the things I wanted to celebrate was that I blogged every day this month! But..  I'll save that post for tomorrow.

Today, I want to talk about decision making!

We make decisions constantly.  Most of those are such easy decisions that we don't even think about it. In fact, habits and mindsets can help us not waste too much energy on decisions.  Instead of deciding if we're going to exercise or not, for example, if we get in the habit of exercising on certain days, we can free our mind of that decision (except for those days we hit the snooze button).

Also, the Agile approach is to experiment and take action, learn from that action and adjust.  You don't stress as much about short-term decisions and you aim to do things that are not permanent and learn as you go.  If something doesn't go as planned, you try a Plan B option.

That's all great in theory, but sometimes we need to make a decision that's more or less permanent and/or very expensive.  That's especially nerve-wracking when it affects our health.

Since this month is Women's Eye Health and Safety Month, I decided to celebrate by stressing out all month about my eyes.

I've really been going back and forth on trying to decide what what kind of lenses I want to get when I get my cataract surgeries.  

I like to make data-driven decisions and gather as much information as possible before making a major health-related decision.  There are almost always unknowns and risks that need to be factored in.

I became quite the "high-maintenance" patient and had a very long email thread with my ophthalmologist.  To his credit, he was very responsive and if he was impatient with me, it wasn't too apparent (though he probably used the phrase, "there's no way of knowing" a few more times than he wanted.)

I also talked to another unbiased very helpful ophthalmologist (my friend, Adam's brother, David) as well as the boyfriend of a friend who had recent standard cataract surgery.

And, of course, I did all the usual searching on the Internet to try and gather information.

I asked my very analytical daughter-in-law, Stella, to help me think through the different factors affecting my decision.  Together we created this spreadsheet. 


We listed the factors that were affecting the decision and then used weighted numbers (0 to 10). The lower numbers indicate more risk or concern, so we are looking for an overall high score as the best alternative.

In the end, I recognized that the LAL's ability to adjust post-surgery was the biggest factor in this decision for me. If I got the standard surgery, I would have better far vision, but worse near vision with no ability to adjust.

I was nervous about getting "mini-mono" (dominant eye far vision / non-dominant eye intermediate vision) because I felt nervous about any kind of "mono" vision being permanent.  However, if I get the LAL, we'll be able to adjust 5-weeks post-surgery (until the lock-in), so it's the least "permanent" option.

It is more expensive and it will mean having to wear UV glasses for those 5 weeks post-surgery, and I know I'll be nervous until the final lock-in, but, in the end, the LAL mini-mono seems to be the best option for me.

There are still risks but I feel like I've really done my homework of understanding the pros and cons and I'm making the best decision I can make under the circumstances.

Decision made! Another thing to celebrate! 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

The Before Breakfast Podcast and My Example of Keeping Small Things Small

Since doing these daily blog posts, I have the opposite of writer's block. I have writer's overflow! (By the way, I made up the phrase "writer's overflow." It's not really a "thing" yet.). It means I have too many things I want to write about!

I've been using little experiences that happen to me each day as "prompts"...  things I can write about and somehow work an Agile lesson into my story.  Many of the "little experiences that happen to me" are articles I read or podcasts I listen to.

I want to respond to almost every podcast, but I'm usually out walking when I'm listening to podcasts, which doesn't make it a very convenient time to respond or comment on something interesting.

Today, I listened to several episodes of The Before Breakfast Podcast by Laura Vanderkam. I discovered her podcast when I was featuring the Joy Makeover on my own podcast and did an episode about Time and Joy.

Since Laura gives quick little tips and stories about Time Management and Productivity (a topic that's front and center in my Agile Coach brain), I want to respond to every one of her podcast episodes! I also want to copy her podcasting format - Her episodes are short and to the point.  (These are both areas that I could stand to improve on my podcast...  and, perhaps, this blog post..)

Her episode about Keeping Small Things Small, is the closest example that relates to the story I had planned to write today.  In it, Laura reminds us that we have several choices of what we can do when little things irritate us.  We often can ignore it, or if we address it, we can choose to do it in a way that hopefully will be positive for everyone.

Laura invites her listeners to share examples with her at, so here's mine:

My story is about my new ophthalmologist's office, Boulder Eye Surgeons. I blogged the other day about the advances in eye surgery and how super excited I am about the possibility of getting Light Adjustable Lenses.  However, before making this big decision, I had quite a few questions.

When I called the office to see how I could get my questions answered, they said I'd have to come in for an appointment.  Happily, there wouldn't be any charge for this appointment, but when I asked if we could do it over the phone, they said no, because "they don't do it that way."

Now, normally, even though this seemed unnecessary, I would have just complied without complaint. But I've been avoiding driving anywhere because my eyes are really bad! That's why I'm getting the surgery!  On top of that, there are all these pandemic restrictions and at the last appointment I had there was a long wait. It all seemed very inefficient and unnecessary to me.  I started to think if this office is so inflexible, do I really want to trust them with this surgery?

I documented all my questions so I'd be very prepared for the visit and decided I'd just deal with the commute and wait time.  But on the morning of the visit, the weather was bad, and I decided to send an email with all my questions, asking if there might be a way to work through a portal or through email to avoid the visit.

The doctor responded immediately answering all my questions.  I called the office to let them know that I wouldn't need the appointment and they happily said, "Yup! We already have you cancelled."

I felt much better that the doctor took the time to respond and that the office was able to be flexible about their usual procedures.  I got a couple of hours back to my day and didn't have to stress about driving with poor eyesight.  Even though I'm still kind of nervous about the surgery, I have a much better feeling of trust for the doctor and the practice because they found a way to get my questions answered without requiring me to come into the office.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

A Found Card From My Mother


In my never-ending attempt to declutter, I often find memorabilia.  Throughout my life, I've saved cards and letters (they don't take up too much room after all).  However, even cards and letters can "add up" and I had boxes of them.

Last week, I started sorting through them, wanting to separate out the "special" ones and I found a card my mother had written to me when I was going through my divorce in 2003.

The inside of the card said:

"You are an exceptional person,
and I know that you will survive
and be stronger and wiser
than you ever were before."

My Mom had also written a little essay of sorts titled "Who is She?"

The essay has little sections that said things like: 

Who is she? A newborn, less than 6 pounds, perfect in every way..

Who is she? A small child, learning to read before school age. She makes cookies in her Easy Bake oven...

Who is she? A teenager playing Chopin on the piano,..

and the essay goes on, listing many of the things I'd done over the years.. mostly little things,  different volunteer activities or accomplishments.

It ends with:

I have loved her since the moment of her birth, and am filled with gratitude that she has been part of my life.

Who is she? She is my daughter, Yvette

I remember getting this card during that very difficult time of my life.  It brought tears to my eyes then and I still get teary-eyed when I read it today.

It meant so much to me that my mother expressed pride in my accomplishments and gave me such support and love.  I was feeling like such a failure - I never thought I'd be divorced -- and I was so ashamed of the "stigma" of being divorced.   

My Mom didn't even mention the divorce or my ex-husband in this card. She didn't express pity or any worry.  Her "essay" was only to tell me she was proud of me.  She wrote, "I hope you feel proud whenever you read it."

Now, all these years later, I realize I am stronger and wiser, thanks to the divorce. Overcoming hardships do help us grow.  But we need people who are there for us. 

When I read this letter, I feel more proud of my mother than I do of myself. I'm proud that she knew just the right thing to say during one of the hardest times of my life.  Her confidence in me gave me strength.  

So, following her lead, I will write my own little reply essay:

Who is she? She's a young mother with four little children. She knows how to do everything from kiss away their tears to encourage them in any endeavor.

Who is she? She's a Brownie Leader, remaining unbiased when Janet Medina got to play Cinderella instead of her daughter who had to play the part of the rat. (But letting her daughter know if it were up to her, she would have chosen her to be Cinderella.)

Who is she? She's a breeder, trainer, groomer, and shows many a champion dalmation in the ring. But mostly she is a devoted lover of all animals. (So much so that I'm sure the pets must have felt that they were equals to her biological children.)

Who is she? She's a nurse, caring for the sick and the elderly, along with her family. She is the Director of Nursing at Garden Court and demonstrates leadership, guiding her staff (unknowingly setting an example for her teenage daughter who helps with filing.)

Who is she? She's a seamstress, making clothes for everyone from Barbies to her children to her grandchildren! We see some of the remnants of the beautiful fabrics in the many quilts she's made.

Who is she? She's the family chef, making recipes from tuna casserole to chocolate mint squares to her famous chocolate cake. Oh and all the chocolate chip cookies! Her recipes are passed down to her children and grandchildren.

Who is she? She's a Master Bridge Player who played competitively into her 80's.  (I can't say much more about that since I never had the patience to learn myself, though she did try to teach me!)

Who is she? She's a supporter, who climbed over fences in her 60's in order to see her daughter cross the finish line at her first marathon.

Who is she? She's a Grandma who babysat her grandchildren on many occasions, reveling in their coos, climbing into their beds to read to them, always ready with toys and games for them to play.

Who is she? She's a life-long learner who figures out how to use her computer and join her family for an Easter Zoom call during the pandemic.

Who is she? She's a mother who loves her children unconditionally, even when they make mistakes.

I have loved her since the moment of my birth, and am filled with gratitude that she has been part of my life.

Who is she? She is my mother, Suzanne

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Working on the Workbook for my Workshop

There's a lot of Work in today's Blog Post Title.  What does "work" mean anyway? Well, I sort of think of it as tasks I don't really want to do.

I've been blogging daily as a way to "prepare" for my upcoming workshop. However, I've been procrastinating about creating the workbook.  In my mind, Blogging = Not Work and Creating a Workbook = Work.

If I try to figure out why I've been procrastinating, I'd say it's because I haven't made a workbook on my own before.  I've taught a lot of classes and hosted a lot of workshops, but typically, someone else has prepared the materials including the workbook.  

In the cases where I have been involved, I may have done the content and someone else makes the fancy graphics or makes sure everything looks appealing and professional.  All the graphic stuff is usually done by someone else.

Not only do I not feel experienced at the artsy part of creating a workbook, but I don't even have access to Microsoft Office or any of the tools I had when I was working at a high-paying corporate job.  There are so many tools out there to make pretty documents, so making a workbook means researching what tool I'll use, learning how to use it, on top of writing the content! 

In Agile, which really promotes "people over technology," the purists push face-to-face interactive discussions over Webinars with Powerpoint Slides.  Agilists are all into colorful sticky notes and whiteboards.

Those are my favorite types of workshops, too, but..  Even if I just use it as a handout, I want to be professional, so I did throw together a workbook on Google Docs.  It looks like I was able to publish it to the Web, so, here goes!  Feel free to check it out and give me feedback!

Monday, April 26, 2021

Spirit Home and Poetry Month

The other day, my post was about finding your "genius," and letting it "flow" through you.  I gave the example of my friend, Cathy, and the poem she wrote to go along with one of her paintings.

My friend, Becky, read the post and requested the full poem, so with Cathy's permission, here it is:

Spirit Home

By Cathy S Kerry ~ 4/15/21

Canyonlands (Needles) is my Spirit Home -
Where all the sticky ego thoughts
Are blown clean from my Soul - 
By the warm and gentle desert breeze,
By the clear cyan-colored summer sky,
Through which my Spirit soars pure and free,
Unfettered by all space and time -
The horizon stretching further than the eye can see.

This is my true home - my Spirit Home,
Where I have always belonged.

Nature was my first love, my true mother,
My first god -
Alone in the desert, I know I have come home.

Billions of shimmering diamond stars
Carpet the dark night sky
And blanket me with love
Whilst I sleep.

The burnt-orange desert rock
Of frozen sandcastles
Whispers to me of eons past -
Of my Anasazi ancestors,
Of ancient sea beds, frozen in time.

Upon the cool desert sandstone,
Under a blazing blue summer sky,
I lay my head to rest
In shadowy crevices
Of time-carved rock -
Caressed by the cool stone surface
Of this resting spot -
I pause in my long 9-mile,
Flip-flop journey - 
From camp to Druid Arch and back again.
It is on this pilgrimage I sense
The spirit world - as near to me as breath.

Trekking through sandy washes, past desert brush,
Crimson paintbrush, and yellow blooming cactus -
With only bright blue desert sky above
And cathedral sandcastles all around -
The air so quiet, still and calm,
I'd hear a bobcat sneeze from miles away.

Here, alone, in this majestic expanse
Of Needles, Canyonlands -
Here, and only here, I've found
My true, beloved, Spirit Home.


Bonus Poem from Cathy:

Flicker, Oh Flicker!
You clownish woodpecker!
On your metal post -
Just for the pure pleasure of the act -
The dopamine rush
Of woodpecker beak tapping metal.
Oh, how you love the sound
Of your new-found power -
Your Morse-code message to the World,
Your self-made drumbeats.           

Now, how about a challenge for you, my loyal reader!  April is National Poetry Month and there are a lot of resources to help your inner poet have a voice!

Though I have my hands full this month with other writing projects,  here are some posts from the past where I've dabbled in poetry myself.  Cathy inspires me to want to do more!

Come share a poem you've written or one that you especially like on the Carpe Diem Connections Facebook Group!



Sunday, April 25, 2021

A Happy and Healthy Brain


Since I left my full-time job at the end of 2018, I've been kind of running an experiment: Creating a life for myself that maximizes happiness and minimizes stress.  

I'd already been subscribed to many publications about happiness, and the more I read and learned, the more I realized how much our brain is involved!

Our thoughts determine our happiness much more than what's actually happening to us.  I've talked about this in a couple of my other recent posts, but one of the biggest examples for me has to do with why I stopped full-time work to begin with: Fears about my back.

In 2018, I had a lot of back pain.  I have severe scoliosis and osteoporosis, both degenerative conditions that can lead to fractured vertebrae. The first specialist I saw was the worst doctor I've ever had. She really scared me into thinking that my back was a ticking time bomb, that spinal collapse was inevitable and that I needed to prepare myself for a life of pain because there was nothing I'd be able to do about it.  I decided to stop working and travel while I was still able to, relatively pain-free.

I was so scared that I had a serious discussion with my children warning them that I might be debilitated and my daughter strongly suggested getting a second opinion.  The second doctor was much more optimistic and said it was very possible, I could live a long pain-free life. I was ecstatic with relief.

The doctors saw the same X-rays and read the same reports, yet came to two different conclusions...  one very pessimistic and one very optimistic. The bottom line is they didn't really know.

However, my state of mind when I was scared affected my overall health! I couldn't sleeep, I was distracted, and every twinge of pain in my back made me think that maybe this was the beginning of the end.

Since I left my job and have really been focusing on my health and happiness, I've been sleeping better, having less stress, exercising regularly, and feeling more healthy than ever! My back hardly ever hurts at all!

I know this could all change in an instant.  I am a lot more careful about the activities I do and I know when I need to rest, but rather than living in fear, I'm living in gratitude.  I'm learning that even pain can be lessened by our thoughts.  (That being said, I'm gonna get pretty frustrated if I fracture a vertebra and someone tells me all I have to do is use my brain to "think away the pain.")

I know pain, both physical and mental, cannot simply and easily be erased.  But I'm continually learning that our thoughts and our brain are instrumental to our overall health and wellness.

I've been reading a lot about how we keep our brains healthy as we age and according to Dr. Sanjay Gupta's Book, Keep Sharp, there are 5 keys:

  1. Sleep
  2. Exercise
  3. Nutrition
  4. Social Connection
  5. Learning / New Experiences

It's interesting (but not surprising) that all five of these are also listed as important keys to happiness.  Basically, if we take care of our brains, we will be happier and healthier.

Even though I hate how scared I felt when that doctor was so dismal about my future, I do feel glad that it forced me to reprioritize what I was doing in my life.  Sometimes I miss my work (and my income) but I know that I'm healthier and happier now with less stress.  (Actually, Gupta's book recommends NOT retiring because work helps us with item #5 on that list..  keeping our mind active and learning. But I love having more time to learn what I want instead of only learning what's necessary for a job.)

I guess some fear can spur us to action, but it can also hurt us. If we let our minds be overwhelmed with fear, we might spiral downward into depression and have a hard time digging our way out.

The key is to fear is to realize that this is not something that has happened and it might not happen.  If we hope for the best and plan for the worst, we can let our minds relax into enjoying our present lives instead of fearing our future.

Learning to be mindful, practicing gratitude and compassion (as the video says), and taking control of our happiness can help us create a happy and healthy brain and life.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Let go of "sticky ego thoughts" and let in your genius


A coaching colleague of mine uses the word, "genius" to describe skills that we seem particularly talented in- skills that we seemed to have a natural gift for.  Unlike the "growth opportunities" that I described in a recent blog post, our "genius" skills would be those types of things we lose ourselves in. We forget all our worries as we let our minds fully focus on our new creation - the fruits of our genius.

My friend, Cathy, has many "genius" talents - music, art, poetry, language.   She recently had many of her paintings on display at a local coffee shop, and I purchased this scenic painting of Canyonlands for my home.  

I asked Cathy to describe the art medium and she answered:

The painting is chalk pastel, and I use my fingers to blend the colors. The paper has a sandy  surface to it, called the “tooth” of the paper— and the more gritty (more tooth it has) the paper, the more layers you can keep putting in it.  I probably would’ve worked that painting a little bit more, but I ran out of tooth! It was before I knew how to find paper on the Internet that had the thickest tooth on it.

When I told Cathy I'd purchased the painting, I also asked for a favor: a poem to go with the painting. Even though it had been quite awhile since Cathy had written any poetry, she accepted the challenge! 

[By the way, Major brownie points for Cathy for following through! Most people would roll their eyes and think, "Isn't a painting good enough? You need a poem, too?"]

Last night, Cathy and I met for dinner and she passed along the painting and poem to me!

The poem, titled "Spirit Home" begins:

Canyonlands (Needles) is my Spirit Home -
Where all the sticky ego thoughts
Are blown clean from my Soul - 
By the warm and gentle desert breeze,
By the clear cyan-colored summer sky,
Through which my Spirit soars pure and free,
Unfettered by all space and time -
The horizon stretching further than the eye can see.

Cathy's description of how she feels about her Spirit Home is very similar to the way we feel when we allow our inner-genius to create - to paint, to write, to flow.  I love the idea of having 'sticky ego thoughts' being 'blown clean' from our Soul, allowing in a "pure, free, and unfettered Spirit!"

I was so pleased that Cathy had given me this poem, along with the painting. She even included a bonus poem! [I suggested she might create a painting to go with the bonus poem about a Flicker..  She could start this whole Painting-Poetry Pairing Pastime! OK, OK...  maybe one big challenge is enough!]

I think many of us feel we don't have a "genius."  We don't think our talents are "good enough" to be considered "genius."  We become insecure about sharing our creations, worried they're too amateurish or won't measure up to the expectations of others.  

However, if we let go of those "sticky ego thoughts"..   if we unfetter our minds and simply slip into a liberated flow, we may discover we have more "genius" than we'd ever known.

Where is your Spirit Home? What is your genius? 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Looking forward to better Vision - Cataract Surgery and the Light-Adjustable Lens

"Don't worry," said my optometrist when he diagnosed me with cataracts a few years ago. "It's a normal part of aging."

Now, a few years later, those cataracts have progressed much quicker than expected, and I can barely see through my right eye,  even when wearing prescription glasses.  

My visibility has gotten so bad that I'm a nervous wreck when driving, especially at night.  When I found out that cataract surgery could correct this, I went from being depressed to overjoyed! Not only is the surgery very low-risk and painless, they can even implant special lenses that will correct my vision to near perfect! My eyes will be restored to being able to see as well as when I was in my 20's without glasses! It's miraculous!

I think back about the doctor telling me not to "worry"...  I think instead he could have said, "Lucky you!"

There are a variety of lenses that ophthalmologists use these days that are "upgrades" to standard cataract surgery.  The type of lens that I'm interested in is called  a "Light-Adjustable Lens. (LAL)"  In Colorado, this type of lens is only available through Boulder Eye Surgeons and Dr. Brian Nichols, who just happens to be my doctor!

The week after I'd gotten an appointment with Dr. Nichols, my friend sent me an email letting me know about a cataract lecture that was going to be available to talk about the LAL. The lecture was being given by Dr. Nichols!  

I'd started reading up about the LAL and thought it sounded like exactly what I wanted without even realizing that the only doctor that offered this option was the very one that I'd already gotten an appointment with! 

The fact that this is relatively new technology, is expensive, and isn't offered by many ophthalmologists makes me a little nervous. But I've been doing my homework and I'm feeling confident that this will be the option I go with.  I really like that they can continue to adjust the prescription post-surgery.

There are so many fears and negative stereotypes about aging.  I even remember feeling embarrassed to say I had cataracts because it sounded like such an "old person problem." But now I feel lucky to be alive during a time when there have been so many advances in medicine and surgical procedures!  

Soon, I can imagine using an app to adjust our eyesight! Someone told me the other day that now there are apps that work with hearing aids that help adjust depending on your ambient noise or situation. People who have had hip replacements, knee replacements, and shoulder replacements are stronger than ever!

And medical advancements will keep getting better and better! 

I've been trying to relate my daily blog posts to Agile, so I'll use "Vision" as a prompt today and say that in business we talking about being "visionary" - imagining a future that's better than what we currently have.

I'm grateful that visionary thinking allows the continued growth in technology, in medicine, and even in our own minds!

Though we can't see into the future, this experience has given me a much greater appreciation for medical science and a trust that whatever challenges I face as I age, I'll get through them... maybe even better than ever!

Thursday, April 22, 2021



As I've mentioned before, one of the biggest messages that the Agile mindset teaches us, is that we must embrace change.  We do this by becoming more flexible or adaptable to the changing circumstances.

After all, "Agile" can literally mean flexibility or the ability to move quickly.  The Oxford Dictionary gives these two definitions:

  1. able to move quickly and easily.
  2. relating to or denoting a method of project management, used especially for software development, that is characterized by the division of tasks into short phases of work and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans.
Flexibility, in any sense of the word, hasn't ever been my strong suit.  (By the way, I had fun trying to find a photo of this in my photo library.  When I searched for "yoga" this odd picture of Becky and I doing a foot to hand high-five for a scavenger hunt mission emerged!)

I also had not been "naturally flexible" in my personality.  As Gretchen Rubin noted in her lecture on the 4 Tendencies, Upholders tend to be pretty rigid and inflexible in their thinking.  It is true that when I set a goal, I am very determined to follow-through and it's very disappointing to me if I'm not able to complete the goal as planned.

As it turns out, I'm not able to host the 4-Week Workshop that I've been planning for over the past month.  In fact, that workshop is the very reason that I've been writing these daily blog posts! The daily blog posts have been helping me figure out what material I want to cover and how I'd prepare an accompanying eBook and Workbook.

The reason I can't host the 4-Week Workshop is that I'm getting eye surgeries on May 13 and May 20, which just happen to be the exact days that I'd scheduled the final two weeks of the Workshop.  The doctor only schedules these surgeries on Thursdays and says not to expect to be able to do anything - even on the computer on those days.

Now there are a lot of solutions to this conflict..   I could reschedule the workshop, I could cancel the workshop, I could reschedule the surgery, or (this was my solution) I could change the 4-week Workshop to a 2-Session free Workshop.

I'm a little disappointed that I won't accomplish one of the primary objectives of even doing the workshop in the first place: To further my business by actually charging money for my workshop.  That's what was really getting me out of my comfort zone and now I won't be doing that (yet.)

I could have still charged money for the 2-Session Workshop, but honestly, it's a big relief to keep it free.  I know I worry that the quality of the materials will not be good enough when I charge, that people will be turned off by me "selling," or that I shouldn't charge money for doing something that I enjoy..   I also really hate the self-promotional aspects of marketing. I'm going to have to work on those self-limiting beliefs, but I will do that another time.

However, with all this blogging, I felt positive about pitching another article to TechBeacon, which was accepted! So I will still be getting income from my expertise (undoubtedly more than I would have made from the workshop).

I also will move a little farther along in learning and gathering feedback from my 2-Week Workshop which will make that 4-Week  Workshop (if and when I decide to do that) even better!

In the end, I feel really good at adapting to this new plan and think in many ways, it's a better plan than the original one!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Gretchen Rubin, The Four Tendencies, and Why I Suggest Becoming a Questioner

Yesterday I attended an Action for Happiness event featuring Gretchen Rubin. She co-hosts with her sister, Elizabeth Craft, a very popular podcast, Happier, that I've been listening to for years.  The podcast is one of my favorites and always has a lot of creative ideas and thoughts about happiness.

Anyway, Gretchen Rubin authored a framework called "The Four Tendencies" which I find quite interesting in which people fall into one of these four categories: Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, or Rebel.

I've written once before about the Four Tendencies and my thoughts about how they relate to Agile practices. My natural tendency absolutely is an "Upholder."  I have no trouble with staying motivated to accomplish goals, whether it's an inner expectation or an outer expectation.  I'm also a big "rule-follower" and have been throughout my life.

That being said, with maturity (and my Agile background), I've learned the value of questioning.  Critical thinking requires us to question the "rules" we follow.  Do we blindly want to follow along with every social norm or expectation without questioning whether or not that is right for us?

Many times "rules" were made for certain reasons that no longer apply, yet we do things because it's the way we were taught... many times without even knowing the reasons why.

An example of this is a story about a child who asks her mother why she always cut the ends off of the ham when she was making Easter dinner.  Her mother told her that's just the way you prepare ham.  "Isn't that right, Mom?" she asked Grandma.

Grandma answered, "I cut them off because my pan wasn't big enough!"

Too often we do things without understanding why. We just follow along with what we think the crowd expects or to fit in. We're afraid to question.

But it's by questioning that we discover better way to do things. We take into account changes that are happening. This is especially true in technology when changes happen so quickly!  It's amazing how many organizations create reports that are obsolete and do work that's no longer needed just because "it's always been done" and they're afraid of what might happen if they stop!

Gretchen was asked whether people's tendencies might vary depending on the situation and she said if you think this might be the case, you're probably a Questioner.  And so maybe I am a Questioner now.

This is Gretchen Rubin's framework and I respect her work. But I do "question" this thought that you are only one type that can't change.  That sounds like a "Fixed" mindset and I think even personality traits can change over time.

What about you? Which tendency most resonates with you?

Here's the information about yesterday's event and links for you to find more about Gretchen Rubin, her podcast, and the Four Tendencies!


The event video is here so you can watch it again or share with others.

You can also see the chat file from the event with lots of helpful comments.



Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Listen with Curiosity - Seek First to Understand


In my upcoming 4-week Workshop we're going to talk in the first week about the importance of Relationships.  As I mentioned in this post, relationships are the key to success.

Even though they don't teach relationship skills in school, I've been lucky enough to have taken a lot of leadership and healthy communication classes throughout my career. One of the most powerful classes that I took many years ago was 7 Habits for Highly Effective People.

In particular, I'll always remember the exercise we did to demonstrate “Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood®”

We split up into pairs and we were asked to role play through a conflict.  We each were given a scenario that explained what our point of view was to be, so it was all hypothetical.  One of us held a stick when it was our turn to speak.  The other person needed to listen to the other person's point of view with the idea of really understanding, even if they didn't agree.  It was only after they convinced the person with the stick that they understood, that they could have the stick themselves.

The instructor told us that in order to convince the other person we understood, how we spoke -- the tone of voice we used, the body language we used, would be necessary to convince the other person of understanding.  If we just repeated their words back to them in a sarcastic tone, or we rolled our eyes as we said, "You think blah, blah, blah" they will not believe that we really can see their point of view.

Our natural tendency is to want to argue OUR point of view... to tell the other person why they are wrong and we are right.  (This had been definitely true of me in my youth, as I'm sure my siblings would tell you.)  When we do this, we both usually dig in our heels more to our point of view driving us further apart.  

The video I shared in today's post is one I saw this morning on my Happify Feed: How to have Productive Conversations Instead of Arguments.  The speaker, Julia Dahr, makes some great points including "Choose curiosity over clash" and "Finding a common purpose."

There are a lot of frameworks and systems out there that would help us communicate more effectively.  The problem is, in real life, we both usually haven't taken a class.  In the heat of an argument, we don't usually say..   "Hey... let's get that talking stick!"  (And, from personal experience, I can tell you that even when you have explained the "talking stick" concept, the person you are arguing with may not be in the "mood" to hear about Habit 5.) 

However, if we can get in the habit of listening with curiosity all the time, we may not get in the conflict in the first place!  

Monday, April 19, 2021

The Importance of Sleep


Sea Lion Slumber

One of the fun parts of doing these daily blog posts is picking out the photo using Google Photos.  I think it's such a cool feature that I can type a word in the Search box (in this case "sleep") and see what comes up!  I thought this sea lion slumber was a fun find!

Sleep is related to mental health and productivity and it's on my mind right now. I've struggled with insomnia throughout my life.  Any type of stress seems to result in lack of sleep for me.  

As I've become a "self-help junkie," I've read a lot about how much sleep affects our mental health!  It seems the topic of sleep has become very trendy!

Just yesterday I read this article about how to fall asleep in under a minute using a simple breathing technique.  I thought, Cool! I'll give that a chance next time I can't fall asleep!

That chance came last night and guess what happened?

It didn't work at all (for me!) 

How does this relate to Agile? We need to recognize that we are all different! There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to problems! Agile is all about experimentation and changing your habits or strategy: doing more of what works well and less of what doesn't work well.

My sleep has improved immensely since I stopped working a traditional job.  Besides the stress that work brings, just knowing that even if I got to sleep, an alarm clock would jar me out of sleep was enough to keep me awake.  In other words, I was losing more sleep because I was worrying about lack of sleep.  It becomes a vicious cycle.  I'm sure anyone who's had insomnia can attest to how much sleep matters to our health!

These days, when I have a bad night, I take comfort in knowing that usually I don't need to get anywhere early.  Even though I genuinely like to wake up early, I usually don't set an alarm clock. Having the flexibility to know I can sleep late or take a nap the next day helps me relax and often, once I do get to sleep, I make up for my lost hours by sleeping later than usual.

As I said, the topic of sleep is so trendy in self-help that just yesterday I listened to a podcast about how couples should feel OK if they don't want to sleep in the same bed. They don't have to worry that that's a reflection of having a bad relationship.  (Since I'm not in a relationship now, this doesn't really pertain to me except for in the podcast the speaker said that it's been shown over and over again that people who are coupled are happier than those who are single.  Another little study where I don't think I fit the norm..)

I'll put the links to some of the articles with things to try.  For other insomniacs out there, experiment and see what works best for you!  (You may also discover a new newsletter or podcast that you want to subscribe to yourself for lots of other self-help goodies!). I didn't get the CALM App myself, but wanted to include for those who might like apps...

Sleep well!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Live Intentionally


What does it mean to you to be "intentional"?  To me, it means: Having a plan and staying focused on executing that plan.  But can our plan also include unscheduled time? Absolutely!  

My morning routine usually includes reading through the various newsletters that I subscribe to as I laze in bed.  On Sundays, in particular, I give myself "permission" to spend as much time as I want doing this! Eventually, I want to get up and have breakfast or I want to get out into the sunshine, but the idea is that I try not to let myself feel "guilty" for being "lazy."

This is hard for me, because I love being "productive."  I love checking off my Todo list-items feeling so on top of my life! That gives me a feeling of accomplishment and purpose.  If I'm spending hours doing something that's only for my own pure enjoyment, it feels "lazy."  That's why I say, "I give myself permission" to stay in bed and read.  

Obviously, as an adult, I don't need to literally give myself "permission" for anything! I can do whatever I want! Take that you overbearing, bossy alter-ego! I'll stay in bed all day, every day if I want to!

OK... back to you, readers.  Forgive my momentary lapse into Sybil-banter.

My point is that if you are a productivity-nut like me, to get around those feelings of guilt at not being ultra-productive, you might think about being intentional about down-time.  Even put it on your "todo" list if that helps.

And what drove me to deciding to write about intentional living today, you ask? An article titled "Dying in Style," about a woman who was intentional about the way she wanted to die.

I found the article very interesting.  There were a lot of points the author made about controlling our minds and not playing the victim, even in the midst of dying.  Her points about seeing the positive were quite similar to those I made a couple of days ago..  only she's facing death and I was only facing snowy weather.  Quite a difference.

The article ended with this note:

Note from Kim King, friend of Audrey Parker:

On November 1, 2018, Audrey Parker died peacefully in her own bed, holding hands with her mother and surrounded by close friends. She was serenaded by her favorite singer-songwriter strumming a guitar. She was an inspiration to thousands who followed her story, and she started a powerful conversation about living your best life and dying well. She makes me think: If Audrey could live intentionally while in pain and dying, how much more can the rest of us? Rest in peace, Audrey.

Exactly. This intentionality to live well in the midst of dying, is exactly how my friend, Craig Dunham, inspired me to start all my Carpe Diem efforts.

Let's live intentionally every day. It doesn't mean we need to "be productive" every moment. It doesn't mean we can't allow for spontaneity or changes to our plans. Be intentional about allowing for down-time, spontaneity, and the unexpected!

Saturday, April 17, 2021

A Growth Mindset


A few months ago, I was talking to my wise friend, Becky, about talents and skills.  I don't remember exactly how the conversation went, but I think I was saying something like, "I'm really bad at ...... " (there are quite a lot of things that we could end that sentence with... directions, driving, drawing, digressing... Oh no, I'm good at digressing.)

Anyway, we agreed that we could call these types of skills, "Growth Opportunities."  It even has a catchy acronym: GO!   And Growth Opportunities sound much more motivating than Stuff I Suck At. (And I think we'd all agree GO is a more motivating acronym than SISA.)

I've been talking a lot about "Mindsets" in these past few posts and what a difference they can make in our moods.  In particular, I've been talking about "The Agile Mindset" in preparation for my upcoming 4-week workshop.

The Agile Mindset encourages certain other mindsets including having a "Growth Mindset."  Carol Dweck coined the term Growth Mindset which means we feel confident that we can learn new skills -- even those that it seemed we had no "natural" talent. A Fixed Mindset was one in which we feel our DNA determines the skills and talents that we're able to develop.

Personally, I think DNA does play some role in what we think of as our "natural" talents.  But I also think that we can improve in any skill.

The problem is, the way we perceive if we're "good" or "bad" at skills is by comparing ourselves to other people.  If we happen to be comparing ourselves to people who are much better than us, we'll think we have no talent. We may become embarrassed or self-conscious and just label ourselves as lacking in that ability.

When we're young and in school, we get "labeled" in certain ways...  smart, athletic, dumb, lazy, pretty, nerdy, and the list goes on.  We think we're good in Math and bad in PE. (Yes, getting picked last for sports teams hurts, Ms. Fuller!) We believe those labels and they can stay with us our entire lives, keeping us from living up to our full potential.

The thing to realize is that we can always get better at the skills we want to get better at! In fact, the worse you are at a skill, the more GO there is! (Reminder in case you weren't paying attention before: GO is Growth Opportunity.)

Remember that sad little girl who was bad at PE? She went on in her 40's to run 3 marathons! (OK, I'll stop talking in the 3rd person since I'm sure you figured out that insecure little girl was me.)

My marathon finish times ranged from 4hr 29min to 4hr 55min. Even though that's "slow" compared to world-class athletes, it wasn't bad for a middle-age woman. Finishing a marathon at all was something I never thought I'd be able to do.  

I kept learning different techniques for running and even won a local race in my division.  There were only 10 people in the division, but still, it felt so exciting to win a race! I wanted to go back to that PE class and say, "You were wrong about me! I AM athletic!"

But the truth is, the person who really needed to believe that I was athletic was me. I needed to stop being so insecure about my athletic abilities.

Once I started running and having more confidence, I became more fit and willing to try other athletic activities.  I learned to improve my areas of natural weakness and now, at 61, I feel so much healthier than that shy, insecure little girl. 

All those years when I was young, I stayed away from playing sports because I was too insecure and embarrassed at my lack of athletic ability.

Even though I'm not naturally athletic, I know I can get better at anything I put my mind to.

Whether it's athletics, a new academic subject, a new hobby, a new language, an instrument. ANYTHING!  With the proper support and training, we can learn and improve ourselves with any skill we're interested in. I firmly believe that!  Don't let your insecurities hold you back from trying!

Luckily, I'm at an age where I have complete freedom in choosing what skills I want to improve.  I don't have to worry about being better or worse than anyone else. I only focus on improving my own skills.

Oh, one of the "growth opportunities" that I'm currently working on?  Gardening!!  A true Grow GO!