We bend reality when we refuse to accept the way things are, like truths about the world, and being human. We convince ourselves how we’re the exception… those silly rules don’t apply to us… we’re going to do it faster/bigger/better than anyone else. Then, we feel surprised, disappointed, and disillusioned when things don’t work out as planned.
When it comes to our goals and human operational capacity, many of us choose to live in a fictional universe. You know the one I mean? That magical world where everything goes smoothly, and we’re unflappable well-oiled machines? Right, it doesn’t exist.
Instead of bending our reality, we need to see it for what it is and adapt our behavior to succeed with the facts.
This week, I’ll tell you 5 truths and 2 dangers to bending reality, because continuing to make-believe brings harmful consequences. Let’s unwarp your view, look at the way things actually are, and straighten it all out.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- Cats & cucumbers
- The 30-hour attention-span threshold
- How adding in buffers saves your schedule
- Watching for clues, & replacing the reward
- Chasing uncatchable goals
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
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- Episode 152: Productivity Makeover with Graham Allcott
- Episode 154: The Perfectionist Recovery Room
- Episode 155: The Procrastination Pirate
- Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
- Facebook Business Page – Sundae Schneider-Bean LLC
- Facebook Group – Expats on Purpose
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Full Episode Transcript:
Hello, it is 7 am in New York, 2 am in Johannesburg and 7 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I’m a solution oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition
“It’s not denial, I am just selective about the reality I accept.”
Do Bill Batterson’s words frighteningly sound familiar? How many times are we in denial about what is?
I know I work with clients all the time who are doing just this and I call this bending reality. Bending reality is refusing to accept the way things are, truths about the world and being human. It sounds so simple when you hear that you’re like “Sundae not me, I’m smarter than that.” But wait a minute, I’ll give you a few signs about bending reality and see which one’s sound familiar to you.
Here are a few signs that you’re bending reality.
- You plan to work after the kids go to bed, but you fall asleep instead.
- You set a goal to meditate every day and then you stopped after you do it three times.
- You set aside time to work on that writing you’ve had your eye on for months, only to stare at the screen when you get there.
- You make a to-do list for the day, but you only get through the first four things and then you’re mad because you didn’t get to the rest of the list.
- Or you’re disappointed with yourself because you said you were going to stop your Netflix and wine addiction but you haven’t.
Any of these ring a bell? You’re saying, “Okay, I’ve done that, but what does that mean about bending reality? I’m just failing on my goals, I need more willpower, I’m not achieving what I set myself out to do.” And it’s really not that, it’s not that something’s broken with you or you’re not doing a good enough job, it’s that you’re not accepting what is.
Marcus Thompson says “Suffering is basically the minds refusal to accept reality as it is.” So bending reality is denial, we need to straighten reality out so we can accept it as it is. And I’m going to give you a few examples of where I see my clients want to bend things and together we got to straighten it out.
So the first one is 24, that is the number of hours that you have, just like anybody else. I mean Taylor Swift and Bill Gates also only have 24 hours in a day. So what do you do about that? What are you gonna do with your 24 hours? If you accept you only have 24 hours in a day, it starts with getting creative about what you do with them.
The next thing you need to think about reality is, you need to accept is that you are organic material not a machine. So here’s what I mean by that, most people, especially people who are top performers, people who are ambitious, perfectionist, they treat themselves like a race car. You wake up in the morning and you want to fuel up and then go, pit stop, fix up your tires and go again, done, win the race. But that’s the thing, we’re not a machine. Machines, if they’re given the right maintenance and fuel can continue to go on and on and on, but not people we are organic, we get tired.
So if you are the reality you’re refusing is that you are organic material, you might have done something like this. One of my clients got up at 5:00 a.m. for a conference call. She worked all day, she did her exercise, she picked up her child, she did dinner time with her partner, tried to connect, did the dishes, bedtime routine story, “I’m thirsty, I’m still hungry” all of that. And then at nine o’clock was exhausted but disappointed that she didn’t do what she committed to.
It was like after that kind of day she was surprised she was tired. And in our session together I’m like, “Listen, you’re bending reality. As if you can go from 5 a.m. To 9 p.m. without a break and then have the energy to focus on a presentation? No, that’s bending reality.”
So think for yourself how many times do you bend reality? How many times do you plan like you’re a race car and then are surprised that you’re actually organic material?
If that’s you, you’re bending reality.
The next one you might notice is this writer who blocked off four hours to do something and then just stared at the computer. The reality that’s being bent here is that, guess what, attention fades. Just because we have eight hours blocked in our calendar for a project doesn’t mean our attention is going to be there the whole time. Our attention and energy fades, we know that, but are you denying that?
You might remember from Episode 152 Productivity Makeover with Graham Allcott, he says how knowledge workers, people like maybe you and me, who work with information and content, we max out at about 30 hours a week, after that our brains go wonk wonk wonk, we’re tired.
So the reality is that attention and energy fades so plan for it, stop bending reality as if it doesn’t. You might want to check out the book from Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit, he’s got this great cycle, ‘The Habit Loop,’ where he looks at the routines that you have and how you can change them so you can really do more of what you want.
And I came across this because I was bending reality, I remember sitting in my desk and I caught myself watching those YouTube videos of cats who get scared by cucumbers, don’t tell me you haven’t seen them? They’re really funny. So I was like, “For real Sundae, it’s 10:30 in the morning, I have all this to do and I’m watching cats on YouTube get scared by the sight of a cucumber.” For those of you haven’t thought it through all the way, they look like snakes so cats have this natural reaction to jump but like they seriously jump super high in the air when they see a cucumber. It is hysterical.
My point is, do you really think as an entrepreneur what I need to be doing with my time is watching YouTube videos of cats? No! No! What I was doing was denying the reality that my attention is going to fade, my energy is going to fade in my day, so I shifted it up. Going with Duhigg’s habit Loop, we’ve got the cue which is fading attention, fading energy. My cue was like, “Let’s go to YouTube and watch cats get scared of cucumbers.” That was the new routine and the reward was “Yay, I took a break from work.” Probably not the best habit long-term.
What I have done instead for the last two years is I replaced the cue like, “I’m feeling tired, my energy is fading, my attention is fading.” Instead at 10:30 I went for a run, and then the routine was the run, the reward was massive. The reward was one; way more energy and focus afterwards, my health has dramatically improved in terms of fitness and strength and I feel so much more ready to give my energy to my clients in the afternoon and I’m happier, I’m less grumpy in the evening. The list is long because I finally accepted my attention fades, my energy fades.
Do you see how this also connects to the podcast that we did about The Perfectionist Recovery Room? If you go back and look at perfectionism, you can see how much these things tie together if we are so focused on our goals and want to complete our to-do list, but we actually bend reality and keep ignoring the signals our body gives us then we get into that trap. So if you’re interested, if that sounds like you, go back to Episode 154 The Perfectionist Recovery Room.
So are you bending reality? Are you ignoring the fact that human attention and energy fades?
You know, if you look at Graham Allcott’s book in Productivity Ninja, he talks about three different types of attention and we only have active attention for a few hours a day, so plan your day accordingly.
Okay, the fourth thing we need to get really clear at when we’re looking at unbending and streaming reality, is really important. Things will not go as planned, things will not go as planned. I see it all the time, we work so hard at getting more organized and we do all this planning and then we’re really thrown off when things don’t go as planned. And then you’re like, “Whew that was a waste of time, why did I plan on that when it didn’t go as planned.” And then you feel like you did a bad job. But the thing is, things will not go as planned. Especially if you work in a different cultural context, because there are things that happen in that culture that you cannot predict or are not in your default ways of thinking and will come up. Or maybe you have a family, you’ve got small kids, well, they get sick suddenly and obviously you need to pick them up from school. Or maybe you’ve got older kids, teenagers with brand new problems that you’ve never anticipated.
Things will not go as planned.
And that is reality, people get sick, people pass away, accidents happen. So all we can do is accept reality that “This is my plan and I’ve thought some things through but I need to be flexible.”
So if you want to stop bending reality then plan in buffers, don’t pack your schedule so full that there’s no room for negotiation, plan in buffers. And one of the things that I’ve done with my day, when I do take this run at 10:30, is I plan an hour and a half for a run, a shower and lunch; an hour and a half. I don’t need that but I put it in my schedule, because last week guess who gave me a call from the school nurse? “Hello Ms. Bean it’s time to come pick up your son because he’s coughing.” So that gave me time to go to the school, pick him up, drive back, etc. etc. Without those buffers it’s not this domino effect where everything else gets thrown off.
So ask yourself right now, how many buffers do you have in your day? How many buffers in your monthly plan? So that when things don’t go as planned you’re ready for it.
And I just had a day last week where I planned out ahead buffers and it felt so good to know that what I had planned that day was realistic and my buffers were generous enough so that I felt in control of my day.
So we talked about 24, you have the same 24 hours in a day as everyone else, stop asking me for more, my clients do it all the time, but you’ve got them. So what do you do with them? Taylor Swift and Bill Gates, same thing, they do some pretty cool things with those 24 hours.
Two; Accept that you are organic material not a machine.
Three; Accept attention and energy fades, so plan accordingly.
Four; Accept that things will not go as planned, so put in buffers.
And the fifth one, perhaps the most important one; is that you are not alone, but if you’re bending reality, you’ve got everything on your shoulders right trying to do it all yourself.
People who don’t bend reality know they’re not alone and they reach out for help, they get sparring partners, they hire coaches, they’ve got business friends they can bounce ideas off of. And they say “Yes!” when someone offers them help or they look at what all of the responsibilities they have and they look at “Where can I outsource? Who can help me do this faster or better so that you’ve got more time for what matters most?”
You are not alone, really simple, one of my clients had a project that she was working on and she was preparing a document for the people that she serves. She got it ready, she sat there in front of it, first time she’d ever done it and she hemmed and hawed, looked left and right, up and down, “Is it good? Is it not good enough?” And finally I got an audio message from her and she’s like, “Hey, I’ve been looking at this for an hour. Would you just take a look quick and let me know if it’s okay?” So I wrote her back and I’m like, “Sure, no problem.” In three minutes she got feedback from me to different tweaks and she felt better.
You’re not alone, she’s like “Hey, that’s my coach. Why can’t she look at this?” What she got from that by knowing she’s not alone, by asking for help, is she saved another hour of hemming and hawing, she saved an hour of depleted energy from feeling insecure and asking herself whether it was good enough. She tweaked and sent, finished, move on.
So number five, when we’re looking at the reality and when we bend it is we forget that we’re not alone.
These five things are so important. When you’re bending reality you forget them and here is what it leads to if you don’t start paying attention.
The first one is burn out, what I see in my community, what I see with clients that have had old patterns and come to me to finally change them, is that the old patterns led to burn out because they were setting goals that were not matching reality. They attached a plan to that non-reality and then they went for it, they chased them hard.
So if you have goals and a plan that is disconnected from reality and you chase it hard, you are going to be depleted because you ignore your need for sleep, you ignore your need to connect with people that you care about or if you don’t give yourself a brain break. And as you know for my other episodes that that endurance mindset leads to depletion, it is the opposite of a resilience mindset where you actually pause to rejuvenate.
So maybe it’s something simple like you’ve been a parent for 12/13 years and you got your routine, but now your kids are teenagers and your plan is not attached to this new reality, so you keep chasing after the family structure that you think works based on the past, but you haven’t upgraded the plan to the new reality.
Or maybe you work in a new culture and you’ve been a leader for years and you’re successful, but you’re working in this new cultural context and the reality you have not incorporated, is that things take way longer or people are very hierarchy oriented and they keep asking you what you should do. So your leadership style is coming crashing against reality and you’re exhausted and it’s going to lead to burnout.
So pay attention to those five things that I mentioned because if you don’t it could lead to burnout.
The other danger really breaks my heart. Burnout is bad, I mean that’s physical, that’s nothing you can coach someone out of, that is physical, you need to go to the doctor, you need to give yourself bodily time to rejuvenate and then you need new strategies to build yourself up. But there’s a little bit more subtle one, and that one is if you ignore these 5 realities what could happen is that you actually give up on what you want. And this is how I see it happen, you ignore the fact that your focus fades and that you actually have help at your fingertips. And you pretend like you’re a machine and not organic material all of the things. And then you chase your goals hard while you ignore your need for sleep, while you really go after the things but never meet the goals that you wanted.
So here’s the second danger when you ignore the reality, is that you could give up on what you really want. And what happens is you are ignoring all of these things that are true, and then because you have ignored the fact that attention fades or that things come up, you missed the mark on your goals. But what happens next is what you make it mean. You make it mean that you can’t achieve your goals, that you’re not good enough to make it happen. So maybe you lower the bar instead of re-looking at your reality, or maybe you stop going after what you really want.
I mean, I see this all the time, I meet people who agree with their partner that their new business should replace their corporate income in one year. And I’m like “That doesn’t match reality.” So when they don’t hit the year mark, they give up on their new business. I see people online who are starting their new business and they’re comparing themselves to others who are making $10,000 a month and they’re saying “I’m not good enough because I’m not getting the same success as this other person.” Or maybe you want to start a blog and you share your first blog post, but you only get a few shares. It’s really only your friends and family that are reading it and you say, “No one’s really interested anyway, so I’ll stop.”
Because the reality is that things take longer than you plan, you need to use your time and energy in a focused way. Things will come up, instead of giving up on what you really want. And the reason why bending reality is so important to recognize in your own life is because when you stop you start taking back control of your own life. And I mean truly it feels so good when you are able to approach your life with all of these truths about your energy, about time, about creating new routines and around the help that you can ask for.
Remember in Episode 155 The Procrastination Pirate, check out the scratch test versus the pillow test. Are you looking at your life just trying to take off to-dos? Or are you going to look at your list and say “When I put my head on the pillow tonight what are the one or two things that if I get them done today are going to make me feel like it was really worth my time?”
So stop bending reality and start getting support. And that is what I’m here for. So take a quick look at the ways in which we try to bend reality and look in the mirror and see which ones apply to you. Look at the dangers that it leads to you when you do this and get honest with yourself. Are you headed to burn out? Or you headed straight to giving up on what you really want?
I want you to show up for yourself in ways that are meaningful. And as I said, I’m here to support you for that. So today is the first day of the Up Level Challenge, if you haven’t checked it out already online, it starts today the day of recording that it goes live, which is the 20th of January 2020.
So if you are around this timeframe, check it out because we are going to come together and stop bending reality. Instead you are going to learn how to stop relying on your willpower to achieve your goals, take baby steps to make a significant impact on what’s really important to you, set better boundaries that serve you not just others, ditch old habits and create space for more purpose and maintain momentum even when things get tough.
So all of this takes place in the Facebook group Expats On Purpose. If you’re not part of it join us, if you haven’t signed up for the challenge do so because you get all of the goodies through that newsletter.
You can also go to the show notes if you’re thinking “Sundae, I want to skip the challenge. I want to go straight to doing work one-to-one so I can keep myself accountable.” Get on my waiting list on how you can work with me in 2020.
And don’t miss the next week’s episode where we celebrate Expat Happy Hour’s Third Birthday! There will be loads of new surprises coming your way.
So thank you for being part of this journey.
You’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Bean, thank you for listening. I will leave you with the words from Carl Jung, “We cannot change anything unless we accept it.”
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