Welcoming 2021

It’s almost here, friends, a New Year!

What lessons and mementos will you hold in front, what light guides you?

Tonight I consider the landscape and path ahead.  What do I look forward to, and how do I want to be?  How will I approach relationships, media, leadership, projects, and health?  How will I challenge myself?  On the last blog post of 2021, what do I want to look back and be able to write about what’s important to me in the year past?

Relationships:  Always work to do here.  Some will require more vulnerability, which is scary.  In others I will work to overcome booth pride and self-doubt—maybe that is the ultimate paradox of imposter syndrome?  At my best I exemplify curiosity, humility, generosity, honesty, and kindness.  In the hardest moments I must cultivate non-judgment, empathy, and patience. I will scrutinize my inner narratives and assumptions, and look always to connect.

Media:  Ask. More. Questions.  What is the writer/reporter/source’s objective?  What is their bias?  What is mine?  Where/how can I access primary data in full context?  How should I be willing, and how willing should I be, to learn, change, and grow from what I take in?  How will this make me better, and to what end?  To practice thoughtful discernment—before, during, and after consumption—that’s the goal.

Leadership:  What do people need from me, individually and as a group?  How can I best also lead those who lead me?  In 2020 I completed a 360 evaluation; the feedback has served me well, and I review it often.  In 2021 I commit to stepping out of my default styles more often.  I will nurture my I, S, T, and J sides and attune better to those who live at these frequencies.  Goal:  To help my people and organizations advance toward our full potential, always aligned with and in service of our deepest core values.

Projects:  Assuming the invitations continue, this could be hard.  Every new presentation, paper, group, conference, and class, in my mind, is another exciting opportunity to learn, synthesize, integrate, and connect!  But I can’t do everything, and I must stop “screwing your future self,” as Ozan puts it, by overcommitting. 

Health:  Walk the talk.  Sleep, Exercise, Nutrition, Stress Management, and Relationships.  After all this time, defining health in terms of these five reciprocal domains continues to bring clarity and direction for both my patients and me.  I’m learning about keystone habits, which I bet will help all of us in the coming year.  Thankfully, not every domain goes to hell at the same time, and all behaviors are subject to change.  Goal for 2021 is to fortify healthy habits in each domain, especially the weak ones, to make them less susceptible to derailers.

Coda – Some last thoughts for the year

Books:  This week I started and finished Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights on Audible in about 36 hours.  I don’t know if his hoots and whistles are written in the book, but they and he are a riot to hear on audio.  What a master storyteller!  And the life lessons are valuable, too, offered with humor and confident humility—highly recommend.

Since I shared my 2020 book list last week, friends have made myriad suggestions that are now in the queue for 2021:

The Naked Now by Richard Rohr

Upstream by Dan Heath

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

Who You Are: The Science of Connectedness by Michael J. Spivey

You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters by Kate Murphy

Thinking In Bets by Annie Duke

Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative by Ken Robinson

The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukainoff and Johathan Haidt

The Long Game by Mitch McConnell

I’ve considered reading that last two for a few years now, and always avoided it.  Didn’t want to be uncomfortable.  In 2021 I commit to training in discomfort, to learn and broaden perspective.

Songs:  A friend solicited a playlist to bridge what has been to what can be.  Here are my contributions.

Do What You Can, Bon Jovi

May We All, Florida Georgia Line

Burn the White Flag, Joseph

Stand By You, Rachel Platten

No I In Beer, Brad Paisley

Days Like This, Van Morrison

The Mountain, Dierks Bentley

From Now On, The Greatest Showman Soundtrack

Dancing Queen, ABBA

What’s on your lists?

COVID Vaccine:  I recommend it.  After reassurance that my colleagues at higher risk than I who wanted it have gotten it, I got my first dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine yesterday.  34 hours out now, I have minimal, focal, and superficial arm soreness at the injection site and no other symptoms.  I did my usual HIIT workout tonight without limitation.  Read this concise and user friendly guide to the mRNA vaccines by Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna, with references to data on safety and efficacy.  To see when you will likely be eligible to receive the vaccine, refer to this slide deck from the CDC, also concise and easy to read.  There are many months yet ahead to stay vigilant and mindful, though.  Cases and deaths will continue to rise before receding, especially with all of the people still traveling for the holidays.  Please continue all of your best COVID exposure precautions, for all our sakes. 

So much lies out of our control, friends.  And yet we all still have all kinds of agency.  We get to shape our future.  Let us all use our personal power for good, shall we?  At the end of each day may we look back and forward on myriad words and acts of kindness, generosity, humility, and connection, rather than judgment, ridicule, derision, and exclusion.  That’s how we can make 2021 infinitely better than 2020.

Friendsourcing Motivation

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Sunrise, Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, Loveland, Colorado. Photo courtesy of Dr. Anne Dixon

Greetings, friends!  How goes it, halfway through January of the New Year?  How are you doing with those resolutions?  I always feel conflicted about announcing such commitments, preferring to call them ‘intentions’ (see here, here, here, and here!).  I’ve read too many articles dismissing resolutions as mindless, unhelpful, and ultimately a waste of energy.  And yet, the start of a new year naturally prompts reflection and renewed motivation for self-improvement, which are good things.

Once again, taking a more nuanced view helps here.  It’s not that resolutions are bad.  It’s that we need to be thoughtful and realistic about them, as the linked article above suggests.  Whatever we call them, commitments to behavior change can lead us to transformation.  But it’s anything but simple or easy!

My post on experimental questions got a boost in views this past week.  I wonder what prompted that?  I wish I knew who was reading it and why, what they think, and what it means to them?  Since that post was published, I have continued to ask my 4 newest questions, of both patients and myself.  The recent traffic on that post parallels the evolution in my own reflections and answers:

In the coming year, what do you see as the biggest threat to your health?

My hedonist impulses, no question:  Ice cream and office sweets, mostly, but also online washi tape sales and paper, clothing, and shoe stores.

What is the biggest asset?

My friends, also no question, my pit crew.  They encourage me, keep me honest, and lend perspective.  They teach me and inspire me.  They hold me up.

One year from now, what do you want to look back and be able to say about what’s important to you?

In January 2021, I want to look back and say that I got fit again, that I regained the exercise discipline I lost in 2019.  I got control of my eating, decreased my sugar intake by at least half.  I put my phone down and was more present with my kids.  I was more intentional and executed better on how I spend my time and energy overall.  I exercised agency over my life better than ever before.

What support (external to yourself) do you already have and/or may still need to recruit, in order to make that vision a reality?

On November 10 when I posted these questions, I honestly had not answered this one yet.  It was harder than I had anticipated.  Since then, as I continue to ask patients, I see that I’m not the only one stymied.  My first response resembled my patients’, something akin to, “Well, I just have to do it.”  We type-A, independent peeps often rely first and foremost on ourselves.  We don’t ask for help.  And even though I have written and spoken ad nauseum about the importance of support, I found it difficult to identify my own need for it.  This is why I have added the ‘external to yourself’ clarification to the question.  Support comes from somewhere or someone else.  And we all do better when we have it.

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Friendsourcing Motivation

The whole time, the answer was right there in front of me.  The biggest asset to my health is my friends.  We know that social support (sometimes in the form of peer pressure) can be the key to success in behavior change.  Why else would people attend Weight Watchers meetings, or to go AA?  I need a workout buddy and a healthy eating buddy, I realized—I can tap my assets!  Eureka!

Easier said than done, however.  Who should I ask?  What should it look like?  Over a month or so, I worked out my specifications:

  • I need support from friends, not strangers (thus fitness classes will probably not be my jam)
  • I don’t want to be constrained by schedules with my buddies—flexibility is key
  • I need a two-way arrangement—someone who also has a goal that I can support them in
  • The arrangement must be concrete and accountable, but not feel oppressive

Tadaaaaah—Habit Share*!

On our sunrise walks in Loveland last weekend, two friends from LOH and I agreed to be one another’s buddies.  It was perfect—we all wanted the same things; we just needed an easy way to connect.  One of us, the youngest, most tech-savvy one, found the Habit Share app.  It’s free and perfect.  We each define our own goals, and simply share them with each other online.  We receive notifications when our friends check in, and we send messages of encouragement and solidarity.  It’s perfect!  I have already shared the app with patients and other friends, and am now connected to two more friends.  Our habits range from exercise to reading, to flossing.

Holy COW, what a difference!  Just knowing that I’m tracking my goals, and that my friends are seeing and supporting me, it’s been exponentially easier to motivate and execute these seven days than the entire past year.  It’s easy, aesthetically pleasing, costs no money, and connects me with people I love.  It is–wait for it–PERFECT!

I know, I know, it’s only been a week.  Who knows what all of our app screens will look like in another week, a month, or three months from now?  Will we all still be connected and holding each other up in a year?  Who can say?  But what’s the utility of thinking that far ahead?  Yesterday I set the new goal of getting up early once a week to write.  Today I can check it off.  I still have a chance to say no to ice cream, work out, turn off my phone apps by 10pm, and floss!  My friends will know when I do it, and they won’t judge me if I don’t.  It’s all good, and we can all take it one day at a time.

So, what support (external to yourself) do you have, or may still need to recruit, to make your best-self vision a reality?

*I have no financial or other interests in this business.  In fact, I want to contact them to give them feedback about how to make it better, but I cannot find a ‘contact’ page on their website…

Onward from 2019: Learnings and Intentions

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Friends!  WHAT a year, no?  How are you feeling here at the end?

In this post:  3 key learnings, 3 high intentions, and my 6 recommended life readings.

What resonates with you?

What would you add?

For a thoughtful and inspiring look on the coming year, check out Donna Cameron’s post from yesterday.

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3 Key Learnings of 2019

Complexity

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”  –John Muir

“All that you touch, you change.  All that you change, changes you.” –Octavia Butler

We all live in inextricable connection, like it or not, know it or not, want it or not.  Every interaction has potential for benefit and harm, and the scale is exponential.  Some may find this idea daunting, overwhelming, or untenable.  I find it reassuring.  The idea that some cosmic life thread connects us all, that we are made of the same stuff today as that which existed at the dawn of the universe—this gives me peace.  It encourages me that everything I do in good faith could make a difference.  You really never know how far a small gesture or sharing will reach for good.

The 3 Tenets of Relationship-Centered Leadership

Not so much learnings as a synthesis from LOH training, these are the current foundation statements of my personal and aspirational leadership tenets (iterations likely to evolve over time):

  1. Founded on curiosity, connection, and fidelity to a people-centered mission
  2. Attendant to the relational impacts of all decisions, local and global
  3. Respectful of norms and also agile and adaptive to the changing needs of the system

Having defined these ideals for myself, I am now fully accountable to them.  And I hold them as a standard for those who lead me.

Being >> Saying or Doing

Saying and doing compassionate, empathic, and kind things are necessary and noble.  And they are not enough.  These actions ring hollow without honest sincerity behind them.  People feel us before they hear our words.  Our authentic presence, positive or negative, originates from within.  It manifests in posture, facial expression (overt and subtle, intentional and subconscious), movement, and tone and cadence of voice.  Fake it ‘til you make it—saying and doing things because we know we ‘should’—only gets us so far.  We humans possess a keen sense of genuineness—it’s a survival instinct.  If we accept that a meaningful, productive life and effective leadership in particular, require strong, trusting relationships, then we must cultivate true compassion, empathy, and kindness.  That means suspending judgment, managing assumptions, and holding openness to having our perspective changed by all that we encounter (see first key learning above), among other things.  This may be life’s penultimate challenge—our role models include Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama.

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3 High Intentions for 2020

  1. Continue to ask more and listen better for people’s personal and unique meaning making—not just patients but all people—attend to souls
  2. Let go perfection
    1. All relationships are not great, and it’s not all my fault
    2. Some people/relationships and circumstances challenge my best self and skills more than others
    3. It’s the honest, sincere, good faith effort, and the learning from imperfection and failed attempts that matter
    4. Some relationships are better ended
  3. Guard against judgment, arrogance, and cynicism

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6 Recommended Life Readings—the 6 most personally impactful books I have read in the last decade:

The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.  Scarcity thinking, competition, and looking out for number one hold us all back.  Stepping fully into our central selves, claiming our full collective agency for creativity and collaboration, and manifesting all the good we are capable of—that is the discovery of this book for me.

Start With Why by Simon Sinek.  In my opinion, the most eloquent and resonant writing on the purpose-driven life.  The freedom and creativity that flows forth therefrom—it all just gives me goosebumps.  Sinek’s The Infinite Game may eventually make this list too, once I have integrated its content and learnings more fully.

Rising Strong by Brené Brown.  Strength and vulnerability, confidence and shame, individuality and belonging—these are the essential human paradoxes that Sister Brené reconciles with gritty aplomb through real life stories as well as grounded theory research.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Be you, all you, all in.  Love thyself—flaws, failures, and falls all included.  Make things.  Because that is what we are put here to do, for ourselves and for one another.

Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute.  Perhaps no book explains the profound importance of being better in order to do better, better than this.  And it took me almost all year to really comprehend, and then begin to apprehend, the concept.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, MD.  I started and finished this one on vacation this past week.  Dr. Gawande is my favorite physician writer.  I consider this book required reading for all physicians for sure, but really for all people .  “The death rate from life is 100%,” a wise patient once told me.  In modern western society and culture, multiple intertwined and complex forces hamstring our ability to live and die well and at peace.  This book is a brilliant compilation of heartrending personal and professional stories, neatly folded with history, research, and practical information for improving this sad state of things.  It is also a guide to the hard conversations that we all should really have—now.  It has both validated what I already do in my practice, and profoundly changed how I will do things hereafter.  Thank you, Dr. Gawande.

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Best wishes for Peace, Joy, Love, and Connection to all.

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