In Star Trek, Scotty would use the transporter to beam up the Starship Enterprise crew. For the Back to the Future franchise, it was a souped-up DeLorean. As for Bill and Ted, well, they just had a piddly phone booth to zip them around for their excellent adventures.
The time-traveling teleporter is an enduring and endearing staple of science-fiction. However, at least for now, it’s just a fun fantasy. A magic machine that leaps us at lightspeed from “before” to “after” doesn’t exist. So, we’ll have to take the scenic route.
It’s mid-February, and right about the time the pangs of yet unrealized New Year’s goals kick in; Spring is in sight, and many of us had expected to be further ahead. Perhaps that’s because we underestimate (and dislike) that getting to where we want will require taking tiny steps across a big field. So, let’s keep walking, headed in the right direction.
This week, I’m asking the tough questions to help you take an authentic inventory of your priorities. Then, I’ll show you how to appraise your answers and determine if they pass the Scratch Test or the Pillow Test.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- My brush with death
- A new appreciation for penguins
- Dr. Martha Beck’s Owl View vs. Mouse View
- Being at peace when your time is up
- Enjoying the scenic route
Listen to the Full Episode
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Full Episode Transcript:
Hello. It is 8:00 am in New York, 2:00 pm in Johannesburg, and 8:00 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-orientated coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations. I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.
I almost died in Cape Town. Now, I don’t know why I felt compelled to tell you this story today, but I know that there’s someone who needs to hear it.
It was a couple years ago and we were staying with friends at an Airbnb. People would come from all the way from Europe to visit us and we spent just a gorgeous week together. At the end of a wonderful day we were having a glass of wine and talking and exchanging stories. And in that moment as I was listening, I took a sip of my wine right when my friend made me laugh and my airways were closed. I couldn’t breathe and I did one of those things where it was like *gasping* where you try to get your breath, but you absolutely cannot.
So I stand up and they’re looking at me and they’re like, “Are you okay,” and I’m shaking my head left and right like, “No, I’m not okay.” And I go into the kitchen and I stand over the sink and I do *gasping*. And in that moment I thought, “This is it.” In that moment I thought, “This is how it ends. I’m going to die right here over the sink in Cape Town.”
And the oddest thing happened next. I did this quick inventory in my head. Like, “How am I with my boys? How am I in my relationship? How am I with my family?” How am I, how am I, how am I, how am I and I felt peace.
This weird thing happened where I’m like, “No, I’m good.” Things are good. I can go. It was the weirdest thing because I’m one of those people who hates the thought of death and definitely have that natural instinct trying to avoid it. So, I don’t know why I was filled with peace in that moment.
And just in that moment my husband was coming in to check on me again and to probably whack me on the back and I started to regain my ability to breathe. I nodded to him that I was going to be okay and I sat down because I just needed a minute in silence to sort of recover from what just happened. The next morning we were joking and I was the one actually who was joking saying, you know things like, “Yeah. Well, how did your wife die? Oh, yeah, she died laughing,” and I don’t know, I thought it was funny. I don’t think they thought it was funny as I did but it really struck me.
The whole next day, as I was moving through my day, we saw penguins on the coast and I thought, “I’m so glad I didn’t die last night.” Right? This experience, I know it sounds innocent, but if you’ve ever not had the ability to breathe or you’ve ever swallowed something where it cut off your airway, you know what I’m talking about. And I ask myself, “Why do I feel compelled to tell you this story today?”
I think it’s because a near-death experience is a huge reality check and I know this wasn’t in actuality, a near-death experience, it just felt like it. But really? Do we have to wait for a near-death experience to get clarity on what matters most? That is why I’m telling you this story today and it’s connected to the training that I did with Dr. Martha Beck where she talks about the Owl View and the Mouse View. So the Owl View is the big picture, when you are flying up there above the field you have vision, you see the bigger picture, you know where you’re going. You can understand the landscape and you know why.
And the Mouse View is down there in the grass in the details on the ground, tiny step by tiny step. And I think it’s really easy to get caught up in the Mouse View. And this podcast is coming out in February and I think January, people were trying to do the Owl View like the big picture. We were doing things in the episodes around our values, around goals, and we’re big ourselves that big picture Owl View. But then in February, we’ve been trying to implement these goals for a few weeks now and it’s so easy to get caught up with your mouse perspective and it’s so easy to feel like a mouse, right? That every step is tiny and you don’t know how far you’re really getting because a field is so big and what we want to really feel like is flying up high like that owl, right?
So I don’t want you to feel like that mouse in the field working to get traction, but not feeling like you’re getting anywhere. So let’s just take a check in. Okay.
So say you were me you were standing at that sink and you had that moment of, “This is it,” what if that happened, right? What inventory would you take of your life? Don’t worry. We know it’s all going to turn out all right, but for the purpose of this exercise just humor me. You’re standing by that sink and you’re thinking, “This is it.”
Ask yourself: What feels left undone? What feels unsettled? What feels unsaid?
I know if you’re like most of my clients or people in my community, you’ve got things in there like that book that you’ve always dreamed about writing or you want to start that business. Or maybe you want to set better boundaries in your marriage or stand up more for what you believe in. Or finally taking care of your health. Those are important things to keep in view.
We’re grateful for the owl perspective to hold that close because that’s how we live abroad without regret, by keeping that close and taking action. Those are the things that feel like you’ve got work to do. You’ve got purpose ahead. You don’t want to go down yet because you got stuff to do, right?
But hold on a second, like that moment that I had at the sink, there were also things that I acknowledged that went right. So for you right now, what feels right? What feels in alignment? What are you proud of for having created it?
Is it the way your children challenge gender stereotypes that they see in the media? Is it how you finally integrated exercise into your week? Is it the impact your volunteer work has had on the community? Those are important to celebrate, to notice. That is Owl Vision. Taking a look at the bigger picture of what’s going on.
And I know how easy it can be to lose sight of that when you’re in the day-to-day. And I know how easy it is because you’ve done all this visioning in January. And now in February, just wanted to hunker down and do the work, right? And there’s a place for that.
So what does that look like from the Mouse View? Where’s the value there again? Let’s go back to some of the episodes. I’ve been doing around values, around your word for the year, and around your goals. We will put those in the show notes in case you’ve missed them. But the word for the year that you pick is like how you do this year. And your values are the guide like, “Which direction are you going?”
And your goals when they’re set in the right direction and you know how you’re doing it, all you gotta do is break those into chunks right, those baby steps just like the mouse takes one step after the next.
Right. So what popped up? What have you lost sight of down there in the tall grass? What are your top priorities? What’s the next step this week? And what do you need to stay motivated to take action? And if you’re like most people I know, if you do this exercise you’re going to have fresh motivation and have new energy and be excited. You’ll have a long list of things that you want to do. It’s going to be great to have that recalibration. And it’s going to feel refreshing because it’s going to be the alignment with what matters most for you and now you’ve held both the owl vision, and the mouse vision at the same time. You haven’t lost sight of either.
But. How can you be sure that you’re going to take action and you’re not going to get swallowed up in the everyday? So I have a tip, a strategy that I use with my clients that I’ve spoken about briefly in a few other podcasts, but it’s a really important perspective that I think will help you guide your day today. So get ready. This is going to change things and how you approach your day, your week and your to-do list.
Okay. I want you to stop the scratch test and start the pillow test. Let me explain what that is. The Scratch Test is what you do, and I know you do this! Where you make your long list of to dos and then you scratch them out throughout the day. And your goal is to scratch out as many things as possible so that you feel gratified. The list of to dos and the scratch test, but you know, this as well is that there’s no end to the to-do list. That the scratch test is actually a very gratifying game because if you don’t scratch everything out, it feels like failure. We know that scratch test honestly in our bodies. We know that they aren’t motivating.
But here’s a different type of test. What if instead you focused on the Pillow Test. So the pillow test is asking this to yourself in the morning: What has to happen today for me to invest my time, my energy and attention so that when I go to bed tonight and put my head on the pillow, I am going to feel like I invested the right energy, effort and attention? That’s your Pillow Test.
And I tell you what, I’ve done both and there are days when I really live by the pillow test, where I do the thing that makes the most impact that’s most in alignment with Owl Vision right, with the big picture. It feels different when I go to bed. I literally feel a sense of reward when I put my head back down on the pillow.
So it’s a pragmatic tool for you to keep spending your time and energy without regret, right? Not that mouse frantically chewing away but not taking steps forward. Do you ever end your day where you think, “God, I’ve been so busy today, but I don’t feel a sense of reward. I don’t feel gratified with how I spent my time.” Like, “What did I spend my time on? I was busy all day, but I didn’t feel like I made progress.” Because what you’ve been doing is operating on the Scratch Test and not the Pillow Test. And I have a hunch, it’s a whole other podcast topic, but I have a hunch what’s on your Scratch Test is all kinds of other people’s priorities. But the Pillow Test makes sure that it is in alignment with what you want on the things that are most important to you.
So check it out. I’d love for you to do that for a week. Just set your intention of, “When I write down how I’m going to spend my time and energy today. I’m going to focus on the Pillow Test.” Which means, “What has to happen today for me to feel a great sense of reward when I put my head on the pillow rather than just the numeration of the Scratch Test?” Check it out. Try it out and then let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
Okay, there you have it. We’ve had kind of a reality check where I shared that story about where I had a check where I had to look inside and say, “What if this were my last day. How am I doing?” In that moment everything felt in alignment. That doesn’t mean that in another moment, I would always give the same answer. It depends on what’s going on in your life, how you’ve been showing up in your life, what challenges you’ve had from the outside. It’s not to say that because it happened to me once it would happen to me every time.
So kind of a stark reality check for you to think about are you lost in Mouse Vision? Have you forgotten the Owl Vision or do you need to get both of them better aligned? And then we have a really simple tool: the Scratch Test versus the Pillow Test.
All right, that should get you going this week. But if you are still feeling stuck like this mouse frozen in the field or you want to make sure that you can take the right steps in the right direction. Or you feel like you’re that owl that’s soaring above with vision but never takes action to hunt after what it really wants, then you know I’ve got your back. So I’ve been talking about Expats on Fire for several weeks now, it is now live and the community is already blowing me away. These are an amazing group of women. So heartfelt, so purpose-driven, so loving, so amazing. I’m just, I feel honored to be part of it.
We have just started but you can join any time, you can join us right now. It is really a bulletproof accountability and community. So if you want to go a little bit deeper take your inspiration and actually take different action, then this is a great way to make a shift. So if you haven’t heard about Expats on Fire, go ahead and check it out in the show notes. It includes access to a private community and myself for six-months, live monthly training from me. A progress guide that will keep you accountable every single week. Daily challenges inside the private group, and also have some prizes! You get access to hundreds and hundreds of hours of resources in the Resource Vault which includes past blogs, podcasts, trainings, worksheets, you name it. Plus some drop in mini coaching and video drops from me. And if you’re interested just in the premium version you also get 12 live group coaching calls.
So check it out. If you are interested in surging your self-confidence, making you a priority, establishing and enforcing your boundaries, clearing out that negative mindset, or breaking bad habits, really investing in more health and wellbeing. Or amplifying your impact, building and maintaining relationships, or really celebrating your values and using your voice, this and more is what you’re going to get inside Expats on Fire.
Remember you deserve to give yourself the same support you give others and now you’ll have people in your corner who get you within this inclusive community. So check it out in the show notes. I’d love to welcome you on board.
You’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Schneider-Bean, thank you for listening. I will leave you with an anonymous quote: “In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take, relationships we were afraid to have and the decisions we waited too long to make.”