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Changing Default Patterns One Step at a Time


We all have those default patterns we fall into. Our “go to” behaviors that we either inherited genetically or have been drilled into us from a young age.  One of my go-to patterns is well illustrated in Brene´Browns 10 Guidepost for Whole Hearted Living and it is Let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth. Cultivate rest and play. 

Whenever I teach the Daring Greatly Course and we come to this particular guidepost there is a collective sigh of knowing.  I have found this Guidepost is a common sticking point for a lot of people. I know I am not alone in my default.

I see this default playing out with my Dad–who is dealing with Parkinson’s with Dementia.  With all his disease brings (chronic pain, limited mobility, loss of mental function)  I think what he struggles with the most is that he can no longer be productive.  And in his mind, if he can no longer be productive…then he just isn’t worthy of being here.  Every time I see him we have a conversation that goes something like this,

Dad: “Well another day and all I did was lay on this damn couch.  I just can’t do anything anymore, might as well be dead.”

Me: “But dad you do so much, even laying from the couch you add to my life and Mom’s life every day. You touch people all the time in 1,000 little ways.”

Dad: “Whatever but I didn’t accomplish anything today…I am such a waste”

And repeat.  I could give him examples of how he touches people simply with his laugh and smile but he doesn’t care.  All he cares about is was he productive.

You could argue that the conversation is due to dementia—but he would have had that conversation 10 years ago if he were sick and tied to the couch.  And the problem doesn’t end there, recently I was chatting with my brother about these conversations I have with dad. I was sharing that because Dad, believes so much that productivity=value we are going to have to watch out for depression. My brother paused and looked at me and said, “Is that why I am such a freak about getting stuff done?? I have bought into that belief system too.” I laughed and nodded and said, “We come by it honestly and we need to chip away at it so we can do it differently than Dad.”

I see it all the time, not just in our family, but in my clients and friends. We believe our productivity is directly related to our value. So what can we do about it?  Here are some ways I have slowly begun to chip away at it.

Take Time to Celebrate More:  This has made the biggest shift for me.  The catch 22 of the belief that productivity=value is that it is a never ending quest. You rarely pause to celebrate what you have accomplished because there is always more to do.  Always more to accomplish.  So I have learned to celebrate the little things.  I always have a bottle of champagne in our fridge and I crack it open frequently to celebrate anything from a good day to a beautiful sunset. These little celebrations have reminded me that there is way more to life than just getting things done.

Surround Yourself with Supportive People. Adding people into my life that who are genuine and supportive of me and who are looking for real connections has helped me to pause and enjoy life.  My nearest and dearest regularly will say to me, “Pause. Enjoy” which is a great reminder to stop, jump off the treadmill, look around and enjoy what is happening right now. I use to play the comparison game a lot more with those around me until I started building friendships with people who didn’t really care about what you had accomplished and were more about who you are as a person.

Gratitude. Every night before I fall asleep I replay the day and look back on what I am thankful for in that day.  The tendency for me is to be constantly looking forward and what is next rather than enjoying what I have now. This exercise has allowed me to enjoy each day and gain some perspective that life isn’t a race it is to be enjoyed and savored.

Play. Taking time to do an activity purely for pleasure.  Engaging in an activity that makes you light up—for no other reason than you enjoy it.  Sounds easy. But this one was a real challenge for me to learn how to just enjoy something with no real purpose other than I enjoy it.  I was constantly looking at the productivity piece of the activity not the enjoyment piece.

I am a work in progress with this Productivity=Value mission—but I have come a LONG way.  It is something I am intentional about every day—I look forward to breaking the cycle in my family.  I hope you can too.

I would love to hear from you in the comments. Can you relate?  Do you have any tips?

You can learn more about this guideposts and more of Brené Brown’s work this Wednesday at the Daring Greatly Intro class at the Loft–or by taking the Daring Greatly Four Week Course coming up in February.

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