Monthly Archives: August 2012

Venting keeps you stuck

Venting about your problems, issues and frustrations can be addictive at times. When someone is willing to listen to you complain about your troubles, you might feel relieved and validated.

But if you keep harping on what’s wrong with the world and do nothing to change or improve it, venting becomes old. It’s tiring for others to watch you fly off the handle or listen to you repeat the same stories about how crappy life is.

Although screaming and yelling can be quick ways to release rage, they can harm your health and your relationships. Mind-body research shows that venting your anger increases rather than lowers stress, and ratchets up blood pressure and adrenaline levels.

Because stuffing down your emotions is not healthy either, expressing them in a calm and direct way to your loved one, trusted friend or therapist helps. This type of venting too, however, has its drawbacks if all you do is complain and don’t change what is within your reach.

Venting often keeps you stuck and drags down others around you because:

Venting brings out the negatives.  When you complain about a person or situation, you dwell on the negatives and find it hard to see any redeeming qualities.

Do you have colleagues, roommates, friends or family members who nitpick and grumble about work and rarely or never have anything positive to say about it?  While it’s normal to talk about the downside of work and other aspects of life, venting highlights the negatives and filters out the positives. Too much of it leaves you feeling helpless and hopeless. Negative beliefs can impair your actions and, ultimately, worsen your situation.

Venting encourages you to be a victim.  I once had to terminate a coaching relationship with a client because she was stuck in victim mode and did not want to get out of it. Up front, I explained that coaching is not therapy and that the focus is to solve problems, not rehash them.

At the end of each session, we would agree on what she could do to improve her situation. But at the next session, she always had excuses for not doing her assignments and explanations for why they would not work. Then she would proceed to complain about the same issues, again and again.

Finally, after several sessions, it dawned on me that venting was a crutch for her. She just wanted to complain about the sacrifices she had made and how unfair things were. Venting reinforced her victim mentality and playing the victim was her way to manage her environment. I came to realize she needed a therapist, not a coach, to help her deal with her past.

Because she didn’t really care to make changes – at least not at that time – I felt utterly drained after each session. So, after much reflecting and getting feedback from other coaches, I decided to end the relationship. The termination was ugly, but had to be done.

Venting reinforces anger and aggression.  Feeling anger when you are (or think you are) wronged or mistreated is natural and healthy. The way you express your anger is what makes the difference.

Letting out your anger by shouting at others, breaking objects, slamming doors, stomping, and engaging in aggressive outbursts can add fuel to the fire and build pointless barriers in your relationships.  In that sense, venting not only harms you but also harms those who receive it, observe it or can’t escape it.

Instead of venting, you can:

Reframe the situation. Viewing your predicament from different angles can help you unlock from your whining and complaining mode. Your accepting setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow will help you face your difficulties, recover from your frustrations, and move forward in a wholesome way.

You have the power to change how you think about and interpret a situation. Look for ways to keep your sense of humor and let go of taking yourself too seriously.

Own or drop the issue. Whatever problem you have, own it or drop it. The blame game takes up the energy and time you need to solve, improve or get out of your dilemma. If you need to complain before you own or drop the issue, set a time limit.

Last week, I was sitting next to my sister on our airplane flight when she began venting to me about a recurring issue. I listened to her intently without saying much. When she realized she had been going on for several minutes, she stopped herself cold and said, “If I ever go on about this after two minutes, stop me.”

Setting a time limit prompts you to stop complaining, take ownership, preserve your resources, and focus on what you can do to accept, minimize or change the problem.

Find your center. When you vent, it’s often because there’s so much anger bottled up inside that you have to release it. But if you have an anchor that allows you to embrace reality, be present with what you feel, and take healthy action in the face of frustration, you become less reliant on venting.

Train yourself to stay grounded through meditation, breath work, mental activities or physical exercises that channel your focus and energy. Finding your center in the midst of chaos will help you process your feelings and maneuver through complications without constantly needing to vent about them.

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Photo by: Masayuki Takaku, Another side of yukita

How to deal with judgment

Dealing with judgment is a welcome skill in any creative endeavor that you wish to share with others. Some know how to tune out criticism and do only what works for them. Some know how to tolerate negative feedback and even incorporate it into their work. And some know how to seek out, embrace and thrive from judgment, without losing sight of their own vision or ignoring their personal intuition. (They are usually the most creative, productive and persistent in their efforts.)

If your creative endeavor is just for your personal benefit, you don’t need buy-in from others. But if you’re looking to build a viable livelihood around it, your ability to earn positive responses and learn from negative reactions becomes critical.

Those who don’t know how to deal with criticism might not pursue potentially rewarding projects simply because it carries the risk of failure and thus, judgment from others.

The fact is, not everyone will like you, like what you have to say, or like what you have to offer. If you allow fear of judgment to dictate your actions, you will tend to stick with the tried and true instead of bring your unique, untested ideas into the market. The more skilled you are at welcoming judgment, the more fun you can have with the creative process.

Judgment, when processed effectively, can help you tweak, improve and revitalize your idea, approach, product or invention to better serve your target audience. When someone delivers judgment, see if there are ways you can use it in your creative process.

Really tune in to what the person is saying and look at your creation from their perspective. Learn to separate yourself from your ideas and your work (at least while you are receiving feedback) and refrain from getting defensive. Set your boundaries. Take a deep breath and allow yourself to cool off instead of lash out at negative feedback.

On the flip side, be aware that not all feedback is valid or useful in your creative process, especially when it comes from tyrants, status quo protectors, and energy vampires:

Tyrants are those who deliver criticism that dilutes your sense of self-worth and discounts the value you bring. They fear competition and are most concerned with their own power, status and achievements.

Their feedback often comes in the form of personal attacks and degrading comments that are meant to downplay your efforts and convince you of their intellectual dominance or creative superiority. You tend to feel unworthy and inferior after receiving feedback from a tyrant.

Status quo protectors are those who deliver criticism that protects the way things have been done. They seek to preserve the status quo because their livelihood, reputation or success depends on it.

Their feedback usually comes in the form of opinions about why the tried-and-true approach is the better way to go. You tend to feel scared and cautious after receiving feedback from a status quo protector.

Energy vampires are those who deliver criticism that encourages you to be overly negative or extra skeptical about your endeavors. Often suffering from insecurity and paranoia, they suck the energy out of you to build up their own reserves.

Their feedback usually comes in the form of worst-case scenarios and doomsday projections about why your approach would never work. You tend to feel drained and depressed after receiving feedback from an energy vampire.

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As the recipient of feedback, you are best served when you can decipher valid comments that add value from destructive comments that offer no value.

Don’t allow tyrants to bully you, status quo protectors to derail you, or energy vampires to suck the life out of you.

As you stay open to criticism, be sure to maintain your center and keep your sense of leadership.  Use feedback to guide you in your creative endeavors, but never let it dominate you, override your own unique vision or stamp out your personal insight.

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Photo by: Jon Jordan

Deadlines & Due Dates: Friend or Foe?

Writers, lawyers, engineers, artists, business executives and anyone else who wants to add value to those they serve must be able to deliver what they offer – whether it’s a product, service, strategy or recommendation. Meeting deadlines and due dates are usually a key part of the delivery process.

Deadlines and due dates are your best friend or your greatest foe, depending on how they affect you and your performance.

THEY ARE YOUR FRIEND WHEN:

They get you out of procrastination mode. Whether it’s thrust upon you or you make it up, a deadline can help you get started and gain momentum.

If I worked on my blog posts only when I felt like it, my entries would be sporadic and perhaps fade away entirely. With a weekly posting schedule, I blog even when I am stumped for ideas. By rising to the challenge of my self-imposed due date, I start writing and keep at it until I’m done.

Deadlines can keep you from slacking off. (Of course, there are times when you deserve to cut yourself some slack, like when you’re ill or on vacation).

They spark focus and decisiveness. When there is no due date, a project can languish or expand with no clear end in sight.

If there is too much flexibility, things don’t get done, deliverables get tabled, and progress is held up. You might also spend way too much time on a project. As Parkinson’s Law states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

Meanwhile, a hard deadline sparks laser focus and astute decisiveness to push the project through to timely completion.

They result in first-rate work. If you have a due date to finish a task or make a decision, you won’t have time to get lost in superficial details or mired in useless discussions.

Healthy pressure from deadlines can amp up your creativity and boost your productivity, which leads to top-notch work.

THEY ARE YOUR FOE WHEN:

They give you an excuse to procrastinate. If you have three months, six months, a year or more to finish something, you might keep putting it off until it becomes urgent.

As an undergraduate in college, I frequently waited until the night before a paper was due to write like crazy until it was time to go to class and turn in the assignment. Back in those days, I got by and even excelled with just-in-time deliverables. As I grew up and my responsibilities became more complex, waiting until the last minute no longer worked.

Chipping away at a project bit by bit, instead of tackling it all at the 11th hour, is the easiest way to get it done. A distant deadline often creates the illusion that you have more time than you truly have to do the task well.

They create painful stress and needless worry. Deadlines can hurt like hell. If they are too tight, they make you want to scream, run away, or take shelter until they pass. If they are too loose, you have extra time to overanalyze your strategy, obsess over pros and cons, and slip into endless angst.

They lead to so-so work. When there’s a tight deadline, your need for expediency sometimes supersedes your desire for quality. Instead of doing a bang up job, you take shortcuts and use cookie-cutter approaches that lead to merely passable work.

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Deadlines and due dates can leave you feeling fried and defeated. This is when they are your worst enemy. But when they help you do great work with super efficiency, they are your trusted supporter and reliable comrade.

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Photo by: Samyra Serin