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Blogs

Unexpected Wisdom to Get Better Results

Small actions, done consistently, pay off huge dividends. It’s an effective way to get better results whether we’re talking about working out, increasing happiness, or fostering healthy relationships.

Getting in shape

My little brother is a beast. He is incredibly in shape, and it’s not genetic luck. He’s put in the years of hard work to figure out his optimal nutrition, and he puts in serious time at the gym. He’s experimented enough that he knows what to eat and how to workout to increase strength or cut to show off definition or bulk up, whatever. He’s a whiz at sculpting his physique.

I, on the other hand, try to be active but, like so many, struggle to be disciplined. In my head, I believe wholeheartedly that strength-training is critical for health and wellbeing. My actions, however, speak the truth – that I’d rather do anything but. Besides, I get overwhelmed sifting through all of the advice out there to figure out what I actually should be doing to get the results I want. Should I do tons of reps with little weights? Fewer reps with heavy weights? Functional training? Isometrics? Kettle bells? I don’t even know where to start! 

My brother is also one of the most inspiring people in my circle. I always leave our conversations feeling ready to take on the world and to be a better version of myself. For these reasons, I was really looking forward to asking his advice when we were together in Fort Worth a couple weeks ago for our nephew’s graduation.

“Hey, kiddo. I want to get buff fast. What should I do?”

His answer blew my mind a bit.

Unexpected wisdom

I was looking for a plan, detailed instructions on what to eat and how to exercise. Instead, what I got was actually beyond useful.

“Honestly, Ash, the best advice I can give you is ‘whatever you can do consistently’.”

His advice was like a light bulb going off. Duh! Of course, consistency is the highest priority. I could have the optimal fitness plan, but if I can’t (or won’t) follow it, for whatever reason, I’m not going to get results. It was freeing to cut through all of the noise and feel good about focusing on one top priority: just be consistent. Walk, yoga, run, dance, regret catching the occasional HIIT class. All of these will move me toward my goal. 

That conversation helped me realize that I was letting the pursuit of the best get in the way of progress. 

It got me thinking about how many other places and in how many other ways this mindset might apply. Where do we tend to seek out the best, the perfect, the right, the big pay off, or the grand gesture to our detriment? Where does focusing on big moves lead us to be ineffective or, worse, take no action at all? 

The Danish secret to happiness

Right around this same time, I stumbled across the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”). Denmark consistently ranks as one of the happiest nations on Earth despite having long, dark winters. I’d venture to say that a culture based on hygge is one of the main reasons. 

Hygge is cozy, warm, connected moments. It’s candlelight instead of harsh overheads. It’s snuggling up with a warm blanket in a welcoming nook to read or board games with your best buds. It’s comfort food and comfortable silence, laughter and intimacy. It’s coffee shops with close friends over bars with strangers. And it’s a priority, built into every day. 

In the U.S. (where I live), I think we often look to big, noticeable outside things to bring us happiness – shopping, vacations, dream dates and jobs, promotions or achievements – and we underestimate the cumulative effect that little moments of cozy pleasure may have on us.

What if we took that same “whatever you can do consistently” mentality and applied it here? What if we made efforts to design our daily experience – our activities and our environments – to promote hygge? I can’t help but think that would pay dividends in terms of happiness. 

The foundation of strong close relationships

Similarly, small things often trumps grand gestures when it comes to relationships. John and Julie Gottman are psychologists and the world’s leading experts in couple relationships, with about 40 years of research under their belts. They can predict with near-perfect precision which couples will stay together happily and which will not simply by observing them talk for a few minutes. Based on all of their research and knowledge, the Gottmans advocate for small things often. 

It’s the little moments that build – or break – your relationships. A grand gesture of rom-com proportions might make for a good story, but it won’t erase the damage of speaking unkind words or ignoring your partner’s bids for attention on a daily basis. When it comes to healthy, happy relationships, it’s the small things, repeated frequently – a habit of relationship-boosting interactions, if you will – that matters most.  

Life design and positive habits

At Peak Mind, we’re big proponents of life design – a process for experimenting your way toward a life aligned to you. A key aspect of life design is iteration – designing an experiment, testing it out, then tweaking. It hinges on a bias toward action. Take the step, have the experience, let that experience be your guide, then take another step. Let’s carry this attitude and my little brother’s wisdom forward to every domain of life. 

  • Consistency matters most if you’re looking to change habits and get better results.
  • Small changes are easier to maintain than big ones.
  • Small things, repeated often, pay off with big results. 

Can you imagine what life might feel like if we did that?

“Success is the product of daily habits – not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.
James Clear
Categories
Podcasts

The Self-Care Pyramid: The Components Most People Miss

Self-care is more than bubble baths and manicures, but unfortunately, most self-care content we see out there is missing important components. Arguably, they’re missing THE MOST IMPORTANT components.  

Today on the podcast, we’re diving into something we call The Self-Care Pyramid. Specifically, it’s the 3 key levels of self-care that you really need to have in order to support yourself as the asset that you are. Sadly, most self-care content only addresses one of these levels, and it’s typically the least important one.  

During this episode, we dive into: 

  • The 3 key levels of self-care and the distinct role each plays in supporting you at your best 
  • The role that life design plays in creating your unique self-care routine.  
  • The impact of basic necessities like sleep…and what happens when we don’t meet our basic needs (here is a link to the book Why We Sleep
  • Tips for creating a self-care routine. (Here is a link to The Self Journal, April’s go-to self-care tool) 
  • If you’re serious about creating a self-care routine that works for you, check out our popular mini-course Self-care [by Design].

If there’s one thing we want you to take away it is this: You are such an asset to the people around you, and as an asset, you need to be protected. Self-care is one of the protective mechanisms you need to have around you to make sure you can show up and perform at the level you want to. Take care of yourself. 

INTRODUCING ASCEND! 

During this episode, we announced the beta release of our signature psych strength building program, Ascend. We couldn’t be more excited to send this baby out into the world! 

As a beta program, we’re releasing it at the lowest price it will ever be. If you’ve ever considered doing something for yourself. To build your own psychological strength and resilience. To dive deep into understanding yourself. To design your life around YOU. This program is for you. 

Learn more at www.peakmindpsychology.com/ascend 

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Videos

The Reason Why People Don’t Want to Return to the Office

COVID caused major disruptions in everyone’s lives. As we adjust to living in a post-pandemic world, many employees are resisting the idea of returning to the office. It’s not the office itself that’s the problem. It’s what it represents.

COVID abruptly and dramatically altered our worlds. As we learned to work from home, among other changes, we also began to re-evaluate our lifestyles. While the pandemic certainly brought about many unbelievably difficult challenges, it also caused us to reflect on our lifestyles, which were stressful and unfulfilling for many. It showed us that we do not necessarily have to live and work the way we were before. 

And that insight was freeing to a lot of people. 

As we adjust to life and work in a post-pandemic world, that means returning to the office for many workers. Employers have been surprised at the resistance that many employees feel about returning to in-person work. Dr. April Seifert, Peak Mind co-founder and social cognitive psychologist, explains why so many people are resistant to the idea of going back to the office full-time.  

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Blogs

Are you feeling stuck at work?

There have been a couple times over the course of my career when I’ve found myself feeling stuck and miserable. After all these years, I don’t remember exactly what it was about that first job that wasn’t quite working for me. I remember that it sounded perfect on paper, that I was beyond excited to land the position, that the organization underwent MAJOR leadership restructuring shortly after I started, and that I was bitter and negative by the end.

A couple colleagues and I would often sneak away for “naughty lunches” (what we called ditching our brought-from-home meals in favor of going off site to a restaurant), and I complained. A lot. Which isn’t really like me. On top of feeling stuck, I felt frustrated and stifled, unsupported by leadership. I had a hard time finding things in my day to look forward to. I didn’t realize until after I was out of that situation just what a toll it was taking on my mindset. I did what people do when people they feel stuck. 

Fortunately, I was untethered at that time in my life and had another opportunity. All I needed to do was get the courage to make a leap…to a new position in a new city. And I’m grateful I did.

While I had a lot of psychology knowledge back then (I had just finished earning my PhD), I really didn’t know jack. I didn’t really understand thriving. I’d never heard of life design. I just knew my situation wasn’t working, and completely overhauling my life seemed like the only option. I certainly don’t regret it now, but I also know that leaving everything isn’t always a viable solution.  

Don’t Burn It Down

If you found yourself saying “SAME!” as I described my stuck experience, keep reading. If your job (inside or outside of the home) feels like it’s weighing you down, filling you with dread, and curtailing your growth rather than fostering it, you have options.

Think of your job as your house. If it’s not working for you anymore, or if you truly hate your house, it might be tempting to burn it down, but don’t. That’ll create a bigger mess for everyone involved. Instead, you always have the option to leave. Of course, there are a ton of legitimate reasons why that may not actually be an option for you, which is what can make you feel especially stuck. You’re not, though. You can lean on psychology and life design to help you out. Instead of burning it down or leaving it all behind, try reframing and remodeling instead.

Reframing

The stories our minds tell us are powerful. They color our view of the world, often without us even realizing it. And they become self-sustaining, self-fueling (ever heard of the self-fulfilling prophecy?). If your mind’s story about your job is that “It’s too much” or “I’m under appreciated” or “Leadership doesn’t care about me” or “My clients/customers/patients/coworkers are _______ (fill in the blank with something negative),” what must it be like to live that every day?

But what if that isn’t reality?

Or, more aptly, what if that is just one version of reality but others exist? Here’s what I mean that. What letter is this?

Did you say M or W? It depends on which way you tilt your head, which angle you look at it from. 

What if there isn’t a definitive right? I can’t tell you that it’s absolutely an M or a W. It just depends.

Our stories about work are an awful lot like that. Pay attention to what your mind has to say about your work, especially the stories that seem to pull you down. Is there a way to tilt your perspective and see it from a fresh angle? One that might not hinder you quite as much.

“It’s too much” might become “There’s a lot, but it’s worth it because…”

“I’m under appreciated” might become “My boss isn’t great about handing out praise, so I’ll focus on the end user – my students/clients/customers/etc. I know they value my work.”

“Leadership doesn’t care about me” might become “Leadership sucks, but my coworkers are so supportive.

Notice with all of these, the reframe tries to up the “worth it” factor. When you feel stuck, finding a new why, a new reason for doing what you do, for engaging in what you’re doing rather than dialing it in, can help you.

Remodeling

Remodeling is another strategy for changing your work experience. This means looking at your day-to-day, your role responsibilities, the friction points that are a struggle, and the bright spots that seem to go smoothly. You could make some cosmetic changes by trying to do more of the things you like or experimenting with ways to adjust tasks to make them more enjoyable (e.g., finding ways to increase interaction if that fills your tank or finding ways to block off uninterrupted time to dedicate to important projects while protecting your focus and mental energy).

Sometimes a fresh coat of paint isn’t enough, so you may need to remodel in a deeper way by making structural changes (think knocking down a wall). This translates to talking with your boss about how you might redesign your current role and responsibilities. There may be ways for you to delegate tasks that bog you down, utilize your strengths in a new way, take on new responsibilities, or learn new skills. How might you rewrite your job description in a way that works for both you and your company so you can avoid feeling stuck? Don’t be afraid to suggest a limited trial run. Testing out changes on a short-term basis may be more palatable to everyone.

What’s next?

Given that an average person will spend 80 – 100 THOUSAND hours working over their lifetime, it seems beyond important to me to take steps to ensure that those hours are engaging and meaningful. These strategies are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to curating your work experience. If you want to learn even more about why work can feel draining and what you can do to create a better experience WITHOUT changing anything about your actual job, join us Tuesday for our next live Quarterly Psych Strength workshop. We’ll be talking about completely different things, like role engulfment and the hedonic treadmill (aren’t you intrigued?), and designing ways to ensure your work needs are being met. It’ll be an impactful session! Don’t worry, though, if you can’t make it to the live workshop. Your ticket gets you 30 day access to the Peak Mind Platform where you’ll find the replay, the digital workbook, and some other bonus resources.

“How you spend your days is how you spend your life. You’re never stuck.”
– Bill Burnett & Dave Evans
Categories
Blogs

Peak Mind Pro: Combat Burnout at Work

A recent report by Medscape shows the staggering statistics of physician burnout in the United States. While it’s easy to point to the pandemic as the root cause, 79% of the physicians surveyed in this study report that their burnout began before the pandemic.

Research from Deloitte shows that burnout isn’t just a problem for our frontline healthcare workers. 91% of the respondents to a recent report say they have “unmanageable amounts of stress” that negatively impacts their work. 

The bottom line is that burnout is something that impacts us all. The cure for it is not to work harder and take on more. Read on to learn how building psychological strength can help combat burnout and promote work life balance to improve your mental health

 

Psychological Strength Can Help

Psychological strength consists of teachable skills in 6 different areas. 

Elements of Psychological Strength

When we think about burnout, a few key areas are important to consider:

  • Emotions
  • Thoughts
  • Habits & Behavior

Leading Indicators of Burnout

Burnout is a state of exhaustion – mental, emotional, and physical – caused by prolonged, unchecked stress. The sooner you recognize the early warning symptoms of burnout, the better chance you’ll have of combatting it. Emotions and thoughts are powerful leading indicators.

  • Emotions – Burnout is characterized by a number of difficult emotions such as overwhelm, dread, and anxiety. One of the foundational steps to combat burnout is to recognize your own emotional profile. The more you become aware of your own emotions and work hard to label them (not just “good” or “bad,” but to name them very specifically), the sooner you can recognize the indicators of burnout and make changes to support yourself. 
  • Thoughts – Your thought patterns can also be a key indicator of burnout. Thoughts like, “I’ll never get all of this done,” or “This is impossible!” indicate overwhelm, which can easily balloon into burnout if left unchecked.

Combating Burnout

Once you’ve recognized signs of burnout, or recognize that you’re experiencing burnout, you can take steps to combat it. Your Habits & Behaviors as well as a related field called Life Design can help you do that.

  • Habits & Behavior – There is a strong connection between the way we treat our bodies and how our minds operate. During times of stress, overwhelm, or burnout, it becomes exponentially more important to do the basics: eat well, sleep, move, drink water, and relax. These basic health habits form the foundation of a stronger YOU who is equipped to lower stress hormones and in turn help your mental health. 
  • Life Design – Life design can help you identify the root cause of your overwhelm and burnout and generate sets of solutions to test out. Check out this month’s actionable tip to learn more!

Tool to Try

This month, we challenge you to use key questions from Life Design to help address an aspect of burnout. Grab a pen and paper and get ready to do some problem-solving!

1. Laddering

Think about the factors contributing to stress or burnout for you. Identity a problem area or a change that you would like to make. Then, ask yourself a series of questions.

Start with “What will that change do for me?” Be sure to write your responses down.

Then, ask yourself “Why is that important?”

Continue to ask “Why is that important?” until you get to your root desire. You’ll know you’ve gotten there when you can’t go any deeper or you find your answers circling back to ones you’ve already written down. 

2. How might I…

Now that you know what you’re really trying to target, it’s time to come up with some creative solutions. You’ll notice that your root desire can likely be fulfilled in multiple different ways – even in ways that didn’t occur to you before you did the laddering exercise.

Ask yourself, “How might I achieve my root desire?”

This powerful little question packs a big punch! “How” cues your brain to start problem-solving. It’s a clever way to bypass unhelpful thoughts like “I can’t do that,” which shuts down active problem-solving.

“Might” is a permission slip to think creatively. You’re not saying that you will or have to test out any of the possible solutions you come up with, just that you might.

By asking yourself “How might I…?” you are upping your brainstorming potential, and you’re more likely to stumble on a viable solution. 

Set a timer for 5 minutes and write down as many potential solutions or ways to get to your root desire as you can come up with. Don’t evaluate any of them! Go for volume.

Then, select the most doable option, and move forward with it to test it out. See if this is a long term fix for your burnout. Just taking an easy 5 minutes a day can help reduce your levels of stress, and combat burnout. 

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes….including you.”
– Anne Lamott
Categories
Podcasts

Living Life by Design After COVID

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Stop. Stop right now. Consider for a moment the opportunity that stands before each and every one of us. We have a chance to change our futures and engage in life design after COVID and this great public health crisis.

Life is about to go back to “normal” after COVID. We’re about to go back to our jobs, and begin shopping, interacting, and living in a way that is closer to the way we lived before COVID. Imagine a world in which we no longer think day-to-day about the department of health warnings about masks, or checking the latest advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.)

However, we’ve been through a formative experience, and if you’re like me, you’ve learned a few things over the past few months. 

There are things you want to change. 

Alignments to be made. 

You’re ready to live the next chapter of your life by DESIGN, and not by DEFAULT. 

Friends, the time is NOW to do just that, and this episode will help you do it. 

This episode is the audio from a recent workshop we hosted for the members of our Starter Pack. Specifically, we walked through a 60-minute, hands on exercise to align the next chapter of your life with your unique values system. 

Now this exercise is just scratching the surface of what Life Design can actually do, but it’ll get you a heck of a lot closer to an aligned life than if you leave it up to chance…which is what most people will do. 

Don’t live this next chapter of your life by default. Dig in. Do the work. And live this next chapter by DESIGN. 

Join the Peak Mind Starter Pack by visiting this link & you’ll find the module containing the download for this week’s episode. Follow along with us, and let us know what you’re going to do going forward! 

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Uncategorized

What Does Your Best Self Look Like? 

If we’re all being honest we’ve all had days where we showed up as our BEST! …and then there were those days where we feel like we fell short.

Here’s something really cool: There’s INSIGHT in that.

Hear me out! Think about what you’re like when you’re at your best. What are you doing? Thinking? Feeling? 

Take 5 minutes to jot down some thoughts about the characteristics that would describe you when you’re really firing on all cylinders.

If you’ve done that, you should now have a picture in your mind of the type of person you’re hoping to be on most days.

Now, let’s go a little further. If you really sit down to think about it, there are probably other tangible, circumstantial differences between the days when you were at your best and the days when you weren’t. It might be:

  • How much you had on your plate
  • How well you had been taking care of yourself
  • How organized you were
  • Whether anything unexpected came up

There’s likely a whole slew of characteristics you can name. 

Take 5 minutes and jot a few of them down. 

Now let’s evaluate!

Based on what you wrote down, there is a certain set of circumstances that had at least a partial influence on how you felt and experienced your day. Some of those circumstances are inside of your control, and some aren’t.

Take a critical look at those factors that you can control, and think about how you might put some structure in place to support you, going forward. Answer this question: How well did you pay attention to how you felt achieving your goals?

I’ll give you a tangible example.

When I’m at my best, I feel organized and in control. One of the circumstances that helps me feel that way is when all of my upcoming tasks and responsibilities are written down and accounted for on my schedule.

When this happens, I can let my mind relax because I know I’m not going to drop a ball. 

So, one thing I’ve started to do on a daily and weekly basis is look ahead and pencil everything in on my calendar. I mean everything. If it’s on my calendar, it’s not in my head.

This simple task helps me show up closer to my best every single day.

This approach is a great fit for me. Perhaps your needs are different, though. After all, we all have different skills and experiences. 

Take just a few minutes today to identify what you look like at your best and the circumstances you can create to make it more likely that you’ll get to show up as that person. Set an intention to practice and experiment with those things for the next couple of weeks.

If you really want to dive more into a set of practices and routines that will support you in consistently showing up as your best, you’ll appreciate our Self-care [by Design] mini-course. 

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”
– Steve Mariboli
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Podcasts

Your Life, Lived Well

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When we talk about intentional living, that means simple living with a clear purpose. An intentional life is a life that fulfills, it’s a lifestyle that makes healthy habits a part of your life.

This week on the podcast we’re speaking with Dr. Kevin Payne. He is a scientist, entrepreneur and author. 
 
His upcoming book, “Your Life, Well Lived” presents a new understanding of what it’s like to live with a chronic health condition and shows both diagnosed and caregivers how to improve quality of life. Beyond that, it’s an actionable, understandable text on how everyone, chronic condition or not, can live better lives. 

We talk about so many impactful concepts in this episode, but most notably, we talk about something Kevin calls “the edge.” This is the edge of our comfort zone.  

He does a beautiful job of highlighting how personal and individualized the definition of the edge is. It’s different for each of us. He describes that a set of cognitive, emotional, behavioral, physical, and social gates help determine whether something is approaching our “edge,” and he gives us a clear way to identify when we’re approaching our own edge. 

Most importantly, he talks about the importance of constantly bumping into that edge. It’s where true joy, happiness, and excitement live. It’s also where growth lives.   

Kevin shares with us the 6 things his extensive research has shown contributes to quality of life, and we talk about it all in the context of how we each can individually figure out what will improve our own life experience. 

We’re so thrilled to partner with Dr. Kevin Payne on this episode! 

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Podcasts

Moving Toward a Better Vision for Your Life

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This is a really neat week on the podcast. We’re essentially clearing up some misconceptions this week.

As yoga and meditation have become more mainstream, we’ve lost a bit of the impact that these practices can have. We all know that yoga can make you more flexible, but what about the impact it can have as a mind-clearing tool to set you up for a more successful meditation practice? 

There are many forms of meditation, but each of them can reduce stress, and help keep us grounded in the present moment.

We’re diving deep into these topics today, as well as the topics of visioning and life design. I couldn’t be more excited!

Today you’ll meet Megan Betterman. Megan is a digital marketing leader within the Web & Mobile team at a large healthcare company. She is also a wellness consultant, yoga instructor and certified Gyrotonic trainer.

She combines movement, meditation and visioning into impactful programs and experiences to encourage deep reflection and self-discovery.

Megan earned a Master of Business Administration from St. Catherine University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of St. Thomas. She spends her free time on her own health and wellness adventure, traveling the world and playing in nature.

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Podcasts

What is life design? with April Seifert Ph.D.

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NOTE: This is a legacy episode from the Women Inspired podcast, before it transitioned to be the Building Psychological Strength podcast. While you will hear some mention of the Women Inspired brand during this episode, the content is highly relevant to the goals of Peak Mind, which is why we have included it here. Enjoy!

Living your best life is a difficult goal for many of us to chase. So many different career paths and parts of your life can change at a moment’s notice.

Over the past few weeks, you’ve likely heard me talk about the notion of life design and how powerful these tools and techniques are in helping people create the life they want to live, aligned around who they truly are.

The fact of the matter is that you’re only getting one shot at life. It is your responsibility to make your life experience as vibrant and aligned as possible.

Today I’m going to take you through what life design actually is. You’ll learn:

  • What life design is
  • How it was developed
  • How you can apply it to your own life to create powerful shifts in your life experience
  • The additional impact that the field of Psychology adds to the process
  • How you can get a hands-on taste of the life design approach!