Zero Inbox: Stop the Yo-Yo diet.

Current email weight: 700+ unread

Goal email weight: Zero

Attack plan:

1. Educate ourselves on how to eat email better – consume all forms of advicetips & tricks on how to better manage out the junk to focus on more quality email.

2. Create a realistic plan with SMART principles to achieve and maintain goal email weight, which we equate to being more effective.

3. Execute plan.

Simple. Right?

Wrong. Something always tends to go horribly wrong in Step 3. We oscillate painfully between our current and goal email weights until the Yo-Yo diet is in full effect. With this comes the volatile emotions of celebration, pride, disappoint, and guilt. Ultimately this exerts a toll on our self-esteem.

So why do we do this?

Because zero feels so sweet – as desirable an idea as fitting back into “that” pair of old jeans.

But, zero is a short lived state. It is a temporary illusion of control. It is not comfortable. The waistline is tight and just one excess email can cause the zipper to strain or even the button to burst. Either way, the fabric is cutting into your skin. But here you are, at ZERO.

Bravo! You’re a Zero 😛

But not for long. You barely have enough time to boast to others about having achieved this elusive goal and presto you are no longer there. And so the Yo-Yo efforts continue.

We need to KILL the idea of THE ZERO INBOX.

emailzeroninja

This unrealistic goal is as toxic as the svelte models on covers of GQ and Vogue. It causes us to invest profound amounts of time and energy towards binge purging, extreme filing and often an overdose on automatic filters and rules. None of which are healthy.

I invite you to stop the Yo-Yo email diet and to set a more realistic email goal for yourself, one that will stop the email anorexia or bulimia we inevitably end up doing to ourselves to attain and maintain Zero. But first ask yourself if that goal is even all that important? Are we saving lives with our emails? I hope not. And if there is a do-or-die situation, I encourage you to call or text me. Immediately. Avoiding the email cemetery altogether.

So here goes take two…

Current email weight: 700+ unread

Goal email weight: <150 unread with all urgent emails processed.

Lastly, I am now going to find that old pair of jeans and donate them. I will also chuck all my Vogue magazines. No use in holding a goal over myself that is no longer relevant, realistic or even mine to begin with. Life is simply too short for this bullshit.

Have a wonderful day.

My Past, Present & Future Selves

For months I have been juggling a staggering multitude of projects, initiatives, and travel – at a level more than my usual hectic rhythm – to my own dismay, a couple weeks ago, I danced dangerously near the edge of my personal limits.

Even though many friends and acquaintances often remark that they have no idea how I do all that I do, I often feel that I am still just not doing enough. That somehow, I must do more, better, faster. It struck me today that my life goal of helping others succeed is merely the replacement of my previous quest for perfection. *Crap* And to think I was so proud to let go of perfection. It now seems I have just have swapped one endless mission for another. So here I am again, at Square damn One, hopelessly chasing down yet another horizon – I am bummed, to say the least.

So what does it look like this time around? My new mission is to help and uplift as many people as I can. Though impossible to attain fully, it is much more altruistic than perfection – which was just about me and my ego. Helping people is much more seductive and harder to delimit due to the possibility of so many positive impacts. It makes letting go of perfection seem easy (and god knows that wasn’t easy). Reducing my efforts to help others is difficult because now there are faces and names to the things I can’t accomplish or fit into my schedule – perfection only impacted me. I must admit that helping and uplifting others gives me and my ego a boost, so it is a win-win scenario… when balanced. However, as someone with an “all or nothing” personality type, I often prioritize others’ needs to the point where I become blind, losing sight of my own voice and needs. This is the dark ugly side of my desire to help others succeed. Can you hear the pendulum literally smack the side wall of the clock? I need to remind myself that “overdoing it is just as ineffective as underdoing it” as said in this HBR article. I am learning. Albeit slowly.

Recently, I confided in a friend that the “present me” has to give the “future me” a break. Mainly because I realized that my “past me” was the culprit responsible for my over-scheduled life. He told me to tell PresentKaty that FutureKaty needs a favour. That way PresentKaty can still follow her tendency to put others first.

At first, I found his response witty, funny even, but when I started to contemplate the truth behind his simple reframed statement – his reply really hit home. I started to think about how seldom I practice what I preach with regards to putting time aside for oneself to think. To breathe. To reflect.

I often tell those who come to me overwhelmed or exhausted that it is not for naught that the emergency oxygen instructions on an airplane tell you to put your mask on first before helping anyone else. Can you imagine trying to help 3 children and passing out after helping the second one? Not cool. Yet strangely, I do not apply this to my own life. I know intrinsically that I can help more people by taking care of myself but my twisted ego wants to prove that I am unlike others, that I am special and can save not just the 3 children but the whole damn plane without the mask – this belief is a lie and it is hurting me.

It is pushing me past my limits too often. This lie feeds the second lie my ego tells me which is that by continuing to do more, my capacity will increase, that it’ll stretch almost infinitely. This is a sexy lie for someone like me who wants to be better all the time. Together these lies made it so that a couple of weeks ago, I hit a wall. Luckily, not the burn-out wall but it was the closest I had ever been. Like circling the sun, I got too close and singed my eyelashes. That close encounter scared the shit out of me – I have since recoiled and am taking stock.

So in order to start helping my future self live a happier and more balanced life, I have decided to write an instructional letter to my present self (the one in charge of the controls). I hope it will inspire you too to write a letter to your Present Self; one that your Future Self will ultimately be grateful for.

So here goes….

My dearest PresentKaty,

Please learn to say No more often. You need to think more about FutureKaty’s well-being. You know how awful it is when she is exhausted, tired, running on fumes from 7am until midnight and not seeing the people she loves nearly as much as she would like. I know it will be hard to turn down many of the incredible opportunities that will inevitably cross your path in line with your desire to help people succeed; but you need to rebuild your strength, rediscover your own voice, and integrate pleasure and your needs back into the curriculum. Know that it is not selfish to do this, so please go ahead and prioritize yourself more and tell your ego that you are not always going to be stronger, better, faster or more nimble than others. This is a lie that isn’t even worth measuring yourself against. It is ok to not always do everything under the sky for others – they too are strong and will figure shit out. Have faith in them, they will succeed.

You also need to stop putting so much weight and pressure on yourself regarding what you can contribute to the world. You are enough, you DO enough and even if you did a little less for others, it will still be awesome! So please take care when scheduling stuff for FutureKaty, make sure there is pleasure and space for her to relax and enjoy life – it really is too damn short for so much stress, and hell, you did not go through 49 sessions of chemo to be sitting here like this now did you? Let go. It’ll be ok. I promise.

With love and gratitude, 

Soon-to-be-PastKaty

P.s. Stop telling people that you don’t have a life besides Work & TEDx. You do. Please put in place a task selection criteria that asks “Does Katy want to do this for Katy?” and when the answer is yes, say YES!! and do it!

chletterfrompastself

Mental rumble-strips. Using the past and the future to stay in the present.

Since returning from paradise, I am slowly re-plugging myself back into the Matrix of everyday life. Fortunately, the Tico magic still lingers, continuing to gift me with profound reflections this week. Akin to fruit ripening after being picked from a tree, many ideas planted during my time in Costa Rica are slowly taking shape. One such idea is the notion of emotions being guideposts to keep our state of mind on the path of joy and contentment. Let me elaborate.

Most of us know that living in the present moment is a tremendous source of joy. The tricky part has always been how to keep the wandering mind in the present. Therein lies the rub.

Let us start by analyzing the moments when we are not joyful. Often it is when we are worried about the future or looking back into our past.  All the mental energy we spend wishing this or that had happened differently or thinking about the future generates stress. And we all know stress is a joy killer.

Since stress is a joy killer, and being present is a way to counter stress, then finding ways to keep us consciously present will connect us to more joy and happiness. “Wonderful!” you say, but how can I be more present? The answer lies in self-awareness. In our ability to catch ourselves mentally drifting.

In addition to experiencing emotions mentally and physically, they can be used as powerful indicators, showing us the state of our mind. When we can ‘step out’ of the emotion itself, we come into meta awareness, which is the difference between being angry and realizing that we are feeling angry. With this awareness, certain emotions can be used as the ‘painted lane lines’ on our happiness highway, helping us to drive within the lane of joy more easily.

On the lane’s left shoulder lies feelings of anger, resentment, inequity, guilt, remorse and regret – these are all emotions generated when the mind thinks about the past. When we mull over the would-have, should-have, could-haves, our minds have veered off the lane of the present onto the shoulder of the past. On the right shoulder are feelings of worry, anxiety, apprehension and fear – these emotions are signs that we are thinking about the future. We contemplate scenarios of which 99.9% will never occur, we roam the land of what-ifs, exploring all possible outcomes – successes and failures – with failures getting the lion’s share of our attention. Whenever we feel uncertain or nervous, this is a sign that we have drifted off the lane of the present, onto the shoulder of the future. And unless you have installed rumble-strips to warn you that you’ve drifted to the left or the right – the past or the future – you will have no awareness cues to get you back on track.

So with this knowledge, let’s install some mental rumble-strips. Let’s use emotions as cues to help us realize that we have veered off the lane of joy. The next time you feel the emotional suites of the past (anger, regret, remorse) or the future (anxiety, fear, worry), take action, grab your steering wheel and bring your mind back into the present, back into the center of the happiness lane.

Using these emotions as guideposts means we understand that the Present lives delicately between the Past and the Future. So don’t sit idly by letting time turn your tomorrows into yesterdays. Make sure you spend quality time on the smooth road of today because life has enough twists and turns in and of itself, that you don’t need to be driving on the bumpy shoulders of the past or the future until the end of days. You deserve to drive in the happiness lane for as much of the journey as possible. And hopefully installing these emotional rumble-strips will increase the amount of joy during the ride!

PastPresentFuture

 

Snap. Click. Capturing the moment.

Point, shoot. Snap, click.

I love pictures. I take hundreds if not thousands of them. I even pay for cloud storage so they can automatically upload themselves from my devices. Yet, in my desire to capture the moment, I have come to realize how often I unconsciously cut short the magic of the moment itself in order to snap a picture, or two or five…

While in Costa Rica, the irony of pictures really struck me. In wanting to create a memory for my future self to look back on, I actually step out of glory of the present moment. Funny, yet true.

This habit is even more apparent when I travel. I see tourists exert incredible effort or expense to arrive at a prime spot, pose for the perfect shot, to then leave immediately afterwards. It’s as if obtaining picture proof became the primary goal over the enjoyment of the experience itself.

Could it be that in our hyper-connected culture, the quest for likes has distracted us from living fully in every moment? Is instant gratification now all about achieving the ultimate great pic for others to acknowledge? Luckily no, we can all consciously take actions to keep this tendency at bay and strive for balance.

So the next time you are at an awesome place, I invite you to kick it old school and take some mental pictures. Savour the moment through your five senses. Taste the air, feel the sensation of the sun on your skin, hold your loved one tight. All without being in front of or behind a lens.

And then leave with the memory of it all captured in your mind.

…but if this sounds a little extreme, here are some baby steps for a happy medium.

First, savour the moment wholeheartedly, then create your digital memories after. Since most of our favourite memories are driven by emotions, taking the time to cherish the greatness of the experience will increase the quality of your pictures when you look back at them in the future.

So cheers to us living fully in each moment. And cheers to us capturing it on camera after experiencing the glorious emotions generated by being fully present.

And with this awareness, cheers to us snapping to our heart’s content.

Roxilla - Playa Hermosa - April 2016

Roxilla and I enjoyed a beautiful sunset walk at Playa Hermosa in Costa Rica. After the ride, she jumped wholeheartedly into our selfie session, pushing her way into the camera 😛 , I loved it. Then we walked into the ocean together. It was magical and hilarious.