Tag: 2020willbetheyearofchanges

Not quite the “learning zone”, not quite the “comfort zone” and a book review to top it off

So I’ve been doing quite a bit of self-assessment over the past couple of weeks. This has basically been looking back over all the notes that I’ve taken over the past year or so—and I can say that my NSV (non-scale victory) is admitting that I’ve been stuck in the “fear zone” for basically the past five years or so (maybe less depending on the aspect of life).

So where does this “fear zone” come from? I decided to look into “ideas” on how to get from the “comfort zone” into the “learning zone” and saw an image that showed there is actually an addition zone between those two—and that additional zone is the “fear zone”.

So the Comfort Zone is basically where everyone feels safe, content, and in control of their situations. Everyone says that you need to get out of your comfort zone in order to learn and live your best life—which is great, but what no one ever mentions is that between the comfort zone and the learning zone is the fear zone.

I recently realized that I’ve been stuck in this “fear zone” for quite a while. The “fear zone” is where you’re worried about what others will think of what you’re doing, you have a feeling low self confidence (since you’re stepping out of your comfort zone), and you’re more than willing to find excuses to get out of things.  So looking back at things—I have to be totally honest in that I’ve been in the middle of the fear zone in several different areas of my life:

            Health and fitness—I had managed to lose quite a bit of weight in 2013 (and early 2014), only to have life throw numerous different curveballs at me. Instead of hitting (or punting) or catching the balls—I used everything that came at me as an “excuse” or roadblock that I just sat and stared at for years. Now, that I’ve acknowledged that I’ve allowed myself to be stuck in the fear zone—I’m going to move into the learning zone. It will be slow, and I may slide back every so often—but I need to keep moving forward. It has taken me basically five years to pack on the pounds—it will take me months, if not a couple of years to get rid of the weight (and to keep it off) the healthy way.

            Career—I’ve given my time in academia (it has been almost ten years since I graduated with my PhD), but have realized that I am not willing to put something first (the job) over my health (especially my mental health). To make it in academia these days, you basically have to put in twelve to sixteen hour days six to seven days a week. To be considered for an entry-level professor position, you almost have to have the resume of someone who has been in the field for twenty to thirty years longer than you’ve been alive.

                        This has been a hard mindset to get out of—I’ve been raised in an academia household (my father is a professor at my alma mater), so I’ve been around the whole academic professor job field my entire life. I remember when I was younger, I wanted to have my own lab and be doing marine biology research—well, obviously that didn’t happen. Being honest with myself, the main reasons for my stagnant job transition is a lack of self-confidence in being able to compete with others for the jobs (I also know that this is really just imposter syndrome talking), and the opinions of others (basically them wondering/inquiring why it took me so long to either a) decide to leave academia and b) to finally manage to leave academia).

I can also then tie in my anxiety and depression somewhat into the fear zone as well. Though to be honest, the depression isn’t totally tied in with the fear zone—2018 was a horrid year (we lost three dogs, two within a span of four days) over all and I spent most of 2019 slowly working my way out of the deep depression dip I found myself in. I’m not totally out of it—but I’m further than I was three or four months ago.

So I want to now move into the “learning zone”—which is the zone where you are acquiring new skills, extending your comfort zone (while hopefully shrinking the fear zone), and being able to deal with challenges and problems that come up day to day. How am I going to do that? Simple—small, baby steps until them become routine and become bigger and bigger steps into the learning zone.

Starting with small things, and at times possibly silly things for me is the best way to show myself that I can deal with various different things. It has been shown that having a disorganized, clutter environment can have a negative effect on your mood and health. So I’m going to be slowly working on organizing and decluttering various parts of the house—I’ve actually started this over the weekend, I’m working on my bathroom. Once I have that room cleaned and organized I’ll move on to another (while slowly working on my bedroom at the same time). I’m actually trying to embrace the idea of less is more—i.e. semi-minimalism.

I just finished reading the book “The 12 week year: get more done in 12 weeks than others do in 12 months” by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington. One of the things that I’m going to be doing is trying to implement the idea of the 12-week year starting in March (I decided that I probably will need about two weeks to work through the exercises and plan things out)—but having a written plan will help more than just my usual winging and hoping that things fall into place.

So the 12-week year is the idea that instead of trying to set annual goals—and having no way of knowing if the processes will work four or five months down the road, you have your larger “why” or vision. You then break the goals down to ones that you focus on for 12 weeks at a time—not every goal, but one or two. At the end of the 12 weeks, you gauge where you are at in terms of how you performed over the past 12 weeks, and how much closer you are to the larger goals. Then during the next 12 weeks, you focus on the next task or two that will continue to move you towards your larger goal.

One of my problems has always been setting future goals, but at the same time not always breaking them down monthly or weekly. The only one that I think I’ve broken down that way is the step goal (and currently I will be having to rework that one, since I’ve been sedentary more than I would like to admit for the past six weeks or so).

This way I will be able to focus on different aspects of life (career/job transition, health/fitness, personal/professional development and crafts) at the same time—knowing that I’m going to be going after the little steps that will merge several of the paths into one. The next few weeks will be trying to figure out the best metrics for measuring the success of moving forward in the job transition (I already have ideas for how to measure the other areas), and then writing out the first 12-week year and my first weekly tracker(s).

Hopefully by implementing the idea of a 12-week year, I will be able to move out of the “fear zone” and into the “learning zone”.  I know that I will probably have a week or two where I slid backwards—but with the tracking, I will know and then be able to readjust and continue moving forward. Because one of the quotes for the year is “progress not perfection”.

No Comments Book ReviewsBooksPersonal Developmentprofessional developmentReflections

Admitting that I’m a procrastinator and how I’m going to deal with it in 2020

So, I’m a little over a month into my reboot break. I’ve done a little soul searching, some reading, adopted a puppy from the local animal shelter, a few walks around Boomer Lake, tried to get back into a fitness routine, and so far have put off trying to draft a master plan/outline for the year.

One thing I will admit to is that I’m a procrastinator—if I don’t want to do something I will either find something else to do, or I will keep saying that I’ll do the task tomorrow (and depending on the task—keep saying tomorrow).  I’ve realized that the procrastination wasn’t that bad while growing up—there were deadlines for homework and things like that (and as a child—at least I couldn’t get away that much with the procrastination), but it started to develop once I hit college, and has gotten slightly out of hand since.

When it was time to think about going to college, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to major it (I enjoyed numerous subjects in school), and I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. I had an average grade point and had an okay score on the ACT—neither of which were going to get me very far if I wanted to go to school out of state. I already had the mindset that I wasn’t going to take out a loan for school (even if I was eligible for any that were halfway decent), therefore that meant going to the state college in town.

I had decided to go the science route (as at that time everyone was saying something along the lines of “major in what will pay the bills, and minor in what you enjoy”). I could have gone into business—but the thought of sitting behind a desk all day bored me, so I went the science route. I started off thinking wildlife ecology & management, but once I found out that the lab exams for one of the courses was out in the field looking at plants (that wasn’t so bad)—but you had to identify them by their scientific name (my spelling is bad at the best of times—I’m glad that there is spell check), I decided to switch to biochemistry and molecular biology.

I still took classes that I found interesting, and this resulted in me taking seven years to finish my undergrad—but I got two bachelors’ degrees (biochemistry & molecular biology, and biology), plus a minor in history (I was two classes shy of a sociology minor by the time I graduated). Throughout these seven years, I learned several things about myself—first and foremost the testing anxiety was still front and center. I did well in the humanity and social science classes, but the other sciences (where my majors were)—those were a struggle at times when it came time for the tests.

I’d found that certain areas of both degrees were more interesting than others—for example I enjoyed learning cell and molecular biology more than I did organic chemistry and physics. I also found that I could pull historical facts forward faster than I could pull the method and byproducts for an organic chemical reaction.

I remember that I was probably a year or so away from graduation and wasn’t sure if this was the direction I wanted to go—but was also unsure of which direction to go in. I therefore push onward, took the GRE (got an okay score—not great—remember I have huge test anxiety issues, especially if the test is all computerized—which the GRE was at that point), and applied for different graduate programs.

I decided that I should try to stretch my wings and I applied for several different programs that were out of state (plus at the last minute, decided that I would also apply to my alma mater as well—as the ultimate fall back). So I applied to four different programs out of state, and while I managed to get an on campus interview for one of the programs—none of them panned out. Either my grades weren’t high enough, or they didn’t think I could handle the PhD program and suggested that I should apply for the masters program instead (PhD programs pay you to learn, masters programs for the most part don’t)—so I was lucky in that I was able to get into my alma mater for grad school.

This wasn’t my first choice, but I was going to make it work. I spent a year in a structural biology lab, before I realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I then switched to a plant molecular biology lab, where I was actually being challenged in learning. I hadn’t worked with plants that much before joining the lab hadn’t done any RNA work, and I found things enjoyable for the first time in a few months in grad school. Also it was nice to be told that within four years I should have learned as much as possible and it would be time to move on. The only drawbacks for those years in grad school—there was no real mentoring in how to “properly” write a scientific paper or proposal, and there was no real career mentoring.

After graduation I managed to land a post-doctoral position at one of the many universities in the Greater Boston area. While I enjoyed the time out in the area, I had ignored some red flags that I shouldn’t have and struggling since to figure out exactly what I want to do with my life and career. I’ve realized that one should never really take a position in a newly started lab unless they are willing to put in fifteen or sixteen hour days six days a week. I only learned a few new things, and started to slowly realize that I probably wasn’t cut out for academic life.

Coming back home, and bouncing around at my alma mater (first a postdoctoral position, and then two staff positions), has only highlighted the fact—I still haven’t found that position/job/title/occupation that is my “calling”. There have been things that I’ve enjoyed over the past seven years, but there have also been things that I really disliked over the past seven years as well.

So how does all this tie into my admitting that I’m procrastinator?

Going to sidetrack a little and give a little background on procrastination (see how I’m procrastinating?).  For years, it has been said that procrastination is a time management issue—and that definition is easy enough to see—we do something else to avoid doing what we originally needed to do. Now it is being toted as an emotion management problem (https://www.fastcompany.com/90357248/procrastination-is-an-emotional-problem). Basically, we procrastinate or put things off that we may (or may not) have attached negative emotions to.

So, I’ve admitted that I’m a procrastinator—which means that I’m admitting to having negative emotions attached to certain ideas or tasks. So which tasks/ideas/goals have I either consciously or subconsciously attached negative emotions to?

            Getting back into shape—I’ve been out of shape majority of my life (never was really big on sports growing up nor being all girly and dressing up/wearing makeup). I had managed to lose a good amount of weight twice in my life—first time was out in Boston (I was walking my dog at least twice a day, and cooking for one—though most of the time weekday dinners were a peanut butter sandwich), and then again about six months or so after moving home. At that point I joined an accountability group on Facebook that was being run by a old high school classmate—I lost probably about twenty pounds or so, but then after a bike accident (where I royally bruised my lower left leg) and job issues—I’ve put the weight back on (with added interest—I’m probably at my heaviest since college). Why do I have negative emotion attached to getting into shape? In part—I was picked on throughout school (or at least up to going to college) about my appearance and weight. So there are still those issues that I need to work through—basically I need to remind myself on a daily basis that I’m losing weight to live my best possible life—not someone else, and I’m not losing the weight to make anyone else happy either.

            Transitioning into an industry position—this is more tied into my anxiety, and the worry that I’m going to make another wrong turn (like I did with my first postdoctoral position). For the most part, I like to have a good idea of how things are suppose to go—I knew that with the postdoctoral positions, I had to work hard (though I did limit the hours to more or less “normal forty hour weeks”) and I would have to read a lot to brush up on the subject matter (as both were new to me areas). Going into industry—there are numerous different directions that one can go in, the job may or may not be totally steady (depending on if the company is bought out, merged with another, or if it somehow goes bankrupt), and about a hundred different other issues. Also it comes down to whom you know, and who is willing to put in a good word for you—and this is totally tied in with my anxiety.

            At times I have problems with trying to do small talk, and networking—it isn’t that I don’t want to meet new people and expand my network—I do, but I have this underlying fear from childhood that people are going to be interrupting me and correcting my speech. This comes from the fact that when we moved to OK from MA, I ended up in speech therapy for years because of the fact that I learned how to talk in MA. In case you didn’t know people in MA have a tendency to drop the “r” in words—so since I learned how to talk in MA, I had a northern accent. The teachers and school officials decided that I needed speech therapy to learn how to pronounce my “r”—I spent five years in speech therapy, plus had teachers correcting my speech in class. I then got into the habit of not really talking in public settings—and this is something that I’m trying to work on. I know it is a slightly irrational fear, but it is still there lurking in the back of my mind.

            Choices—there are so many different choices for what one can do in industry, it is almost like being a kid in a candy store. While I have several different options listed out about what I’m curious about—I have a fear that the one I may chose could be the wrong path. Though as I’m told—I won’t know if I like, unless I try it. This is also tied into the networking problem—I don’t want to feel like I’m wasting people’s time if I decide that their path isn’t the same one that I actually decide to go down.

            Needing to have everything planned out. I will admit that I do like to have an idea of all the steps, and any and all possible results and endings before starting something. I mean instead of picking just one area of Indian art for my paper for art history in high school, I wrote basically a thirty-page paper covering everything that could fall under the umbrella of Indian art.

            This is also coming from again my first postdoctoral position—I thought I had everything planned out, but then the rug was metaphorically pulled out from underneath me. It isn’t fun realizing that one needs to move back in with one’s parents in order to get out from the mountain of debt that one finds themselves in. So now I’m trying to figure out how to plan out every single step of everything and finding myself in motion paralysis.

So now that I’ve admitted to being a procrastinator and the two main areas (health/fitness and career) that I’m procrastinating in, how will I go about getting past the procrastination and making progress on each area?

As I was reading some different pages on procrastination and emotions I found the following three sentences to be profound:

            “Viewing the whole task (e.g. project or paper) all at once will only frustrate you if you have unrealistic expectations. Realize you must break the task into smaller pieces and you cannot do them all at once. The next key is just start whether you feel like it or not.” (https://socialanxietyinstitute.org/procrastination-wasting-our-time-and-increasing-our-anxiety).

Then I found the following ideas that had to deal with procrastination along with social anxiety:

            Make a list of tasks and prioritize what needs to be done

            Reward yourself for completing difficult tasks

            Use relaxation strategies to deal with anxiety about completing tasks

                        Some of the techniques include: deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training, and guided imagery.

(https://www.verywellmind.com/procrastination-and-social-anxiety-disorder-3973931).

So now I’m going to name the two big tasks (relating to fitness/health and job transition). Then I’m going to brainstorm how to break those two big tasks into easier to handle tasks. In addition I’m going to brainstorm an award system for each big task. Finally I’m going to break down the tasks into monthly/weekly/daily goals—with the rewards being based on hitting the larger (weekly or monthly) goals. In other words—I’m going to be working on my long term plan (other wise known as five year (or ten, twenty year) plan.

Sites with their links have been included that I found interesting and used in the post.

No Comments careerfitnessHealthjob searchingPersonal Developmentprofessional developmentReflections

2019: A Year in Review

So 2019 has come to a close, and now it’s time to reflect back on the year (with its ups and downs, hills and valleys).

This was the year that I decided that I needed to do some type of major shakeup career wise—this wasn’t to say that I was totally unhappy with my job—something needed to change though. I had decided that I would hopefully either transition into an industry position, or I would resign my position, take some time off to re-center myself and then refocus on my job search. I ended up going with option number two—my “reboot break” started shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday.

I’ve realized over the past few months that I’ve more or less been in a “coasting” mode for the past couple of years—never really thinking of where I want to be in five or ten years, just focusing on trying to get through the day and the week to the weekend. It’s hard to figure out the next direction to go in, when you’re stuck in the weeds with nothing but a slightly broken oar to propel yourself—you don’t get very far.

I’ve also realized that I’ve been trying to focus on too many different areas at once (health/fitness, finances, moving my career forward, and trying to find time to do crafts to balance things out), that I’m going to try to focus on just two to four areas (health/fitness and moving my career forward are tied for number one, and then it will probably be personal/professional development (tied for number two, and tied into both areas at number one), and then some time for crafts.

This was I can probably set up an monthly calendar easier with just those “three” areas instead of considering them four to five different areas. This should also mean that I have more ideas for blog topics throughout 2020 as well (which is one area that I felt that I didn’t push forward enough throughout the year).

In terms of health and fitness—I’m slowly making my way back to a routine that works for me. I will probably stick with the workouts provided by Beachbody, but figure out the best nutrition plan on my own. I know that I have a major sweet tooth, and instead of depriving myself (and ending up binge eating sweets), I allow myself some sweets and try to balance it out with more fruits and vegetables throughout the day. I’m pretty sure that there will be more posts on nutrition and fitness throughout 2020 as well, as I work to get into the best shape of my life (I’m thinking of some trip later in the year that would require me to be in better physical condition than I am currently).

We also adopted a puppy back in May shortly after mother’s day. My mom decided that it had been long enough since losing her dog, that she was willing to get a puppy. So we adopted a boxer mix, renamed her Rolex and it’s been a crazy ride ever since. Then basically a week before Christmas, I decided that I really wanted a puppy (I know that I will never be able to replace Chewi), so I went with my brother to the animal shelter and adopted a blue heeler/collie/shepherd mix. Now we have a period of adjustment—Rolex is a little jealous of the puppy (mainly the amount of attention that I’m giving him)—but I chose the right name for him—Chaos (since I was getting him right before the holidays—I knew that I was going to be bring chaos into the house). Now, as I start looking forward again on my job search—the position/location will also need to be puppy friendly (nearby parks and so forth).

In terms of personal development I managed to read nineteen different books (though several of them were challenge books—where you pick a topic and try to work on it for a month or so). Several of the books related to finances (mine are okay—which is why I’m able to do the reboot break right now), decluttering (something that I really need to do—both for myself and ease my parents into it as well), and then just some good old fashion self-care (reboot break, and being reminded that I shouldn’t be waiting for others to give me a ‘permission slip’ to live my life). I’m hoping that in 2020, I double the number of books that read in terms of both personal and professional development.

I had gotten back into doing oracle/tarot card readings for a good portion of the year (quit doing them the last few months), and realized yet again my pulling back was due in part to me trying to fit in to molds that I don’t belong (worry about what prospective employers might think if they come across my instagram account). But I was reminded with reading a couple of books last month that I shouldn’t be waiting on a ‘permission slip’ from others—it’s my life and I doubt that I would be wanting to work for any company that doesn’t value everyone’s spirituality.

I had wanted to travel a little during 2019, but those plans never came to fruition—either due to not having enough vacation time earned, the weather (one major “fear” earlier this year was being stranded somewhere due to the weather and losing money since I wouldn’t be working & would have used up all my vacation time), or just not being able to decide where I wanted to go.

Hopefully in 2020 there will be more travel—both for mental health (since I’ve realized it has been over a year since I’ve taken a vacation) and networking/job search/hopeful job interviews, or a combination of the two types.

So while there was some change in 2019—there wasn’t as much as I’d hoped for—but I did manage to plant the seeds for change (namely in quitting my job) to occur in 2020. As we head into a new year and decade I need to remember that for 2020 I’m going to focus on “grow (th)”, “change”, “achievement(s)”, and “success”.

And remember: Progress over perfection. I’m also going to remember to “evaluate the people in [my] life; then promote, demote, or terminate. [I’m] the CEO of my life”.

No Comments careerHealthjob searchingLifestyle ChallengesPersonal DevelopmentPetsprofessional developmentYear in Review