ask-for-what-we-need

Why don’t we ask for what we need?

When a pair of pants didn’t fit the way the rest of that company’s pairs fit, I recalled a recent interview in which the CEO said he personally checks his email.

And so I looked up his company’s email address format and sent him a note: “I live 300 miles from the nearest J. Crew, and I need the right pants — will you please assist me?”

Company head Mickey Drexler responded in 30 minutes, and I had the right pants within 30 hours.

Why don’t we ask for what we need?

To simplify that answer, a note on tribes: a group of us was taught never to ask; another sector of us is scared to ask; and a third pack might be both.

In my experience, the never-askers have a different but very useful skill: to seek. And that skill helps one assert: by reframing assertiveness as a variant of self-sufficiency (I’m doing the asking, not you), I accomplish something while fulfilling my needs.  I thereby challenge what I’ve been taught, and usually I feel better about the result.

The fearful bunch has a different, equally beneficial skill as well: often they know the right tone, cadence, and wording they would use if they were to ask for their needs.  Those elements also help us assert our needs as tone, cadence, and wording suggest that we are strategic, compassionate, and courageous.

So how do we challenge our tendency to say nothing?

Practice.

The other day two men from the gas company stopped by my house — one appeared to be teaching the other. I stepped outside, made small talk, and ultimately requested the supervisor’s card.  Why?  I had been having difficulties with the gas company, and so an ally would be helpful at some point.  A cheerful fellow, he was more than happy to provide his card.

Sure enough, when a gas matter arose weeks later, I called on Joe to help me out.  (I also emailed the chief operations officer, but that’s another story.)  Asserting for his card paid off: Joe fixed the situation that the call center struggled to schedule.

Let’s pause to acknowledge some challenges often associated with assertiveness: There is, of course, a fine line between assertiveness and a demonstration of entitlement, just as there is a line between assertiveness and aggressiveness.  These lines ought to be explored with some guidance from therapists and trusted friends.  And they are topics for another blog.

In the meantime, if you’ve recognized that you are in need of assertiveness practice, start simply.  Remember: seemingly insignificant circumstances can be the best opportunities to try asserting, and it’ll pay off.

That great sweater? The website says it’s sold out, but it’s not.

Just ask Mickey.

– by Jack Britton

Innovation360-Austin

Transitioning Home from Treatment

Leaving a place of structure and security to head home into the great unknown can be quite daunting. Throughout your stay at a residential treatment program, you’ve been guarded from outside stressors and protected from triggers, but now you are transitioning home and familiarity is just waiting for you. Ideally, you are a new person but you are heading home to an old place, so what do you do to effectively adjust to living the full life you set yourself up for while you were away? How do you maintain sobriety once you are back home? How do you continue to cope with the things that used to send your anxiety through the roof? How do you deal with the things that always sent you spiraling into a deep depression?

What you may not realize is that after your extended stay at residential treatment, you are armed with so many tools! Think of it as your personal arsenal, it travels home with you so that as you face the challenges of adjusting to life outside of treatment, you can overcome. But the thing many people don’t realize is that once they leave, they need to continue to build upon the work they’ve already completed. You aren’t done. You aren’t cured. In fact, this is a lifelong journey that will have ups and downs, relapses and trials, and bumps along the way. Truth be told, transitioning home can be the hardest part of it all. At i360, we often come into the equation at this point. We work with people, join them for a time, and help them transition home successfully, keeping that momentum going strong! This is the part of the story when the rubber meets the road – all that work you did while you were away now needs to translate into behavior change in the midst of real, authentic living.

Once you leave a rehab program, there are some things you should focus on doing to carry those healthy behavior changes into your everyday world. You have the tools, now you need to use them. But the last thing you should do is attempt to continue your recovery journey on your own. At i360, as an outpatient mental health treatment program, we work with our clients to give the support they need so they can be successful in their journey. Here are the top five things we suggest doing to implement healthy changes upon transitioning home:

Add structure into your daily routine: We help our clients set up a schedule to follow day to day – when to get up, chores to be done, timeframes for exercise, attending AA, job searching, heading to work, exploring fun and hobbies, time for lights out, etc. Keeping to a normal routine reduces the chance of boredom which could lead to opportunities for relapse. Stay occupied, stay active.

Identify a support network: Once you return home, plug into outpatient groups like i360’s IOP, workshops, and DBT skills group. When we work with clients, we will often go with them to AA – going with a buddy helps eliminate some of that anxiety. But it’s key to have a support system around you when you have those difficult times, and also when you have good days and want to share that with others. Seek out a counselor, join a church, and stay away from old friends, places, and things that you associate with the past to prevent cravings from resurfacing.

Exercise and eat well: Take care of yourself! Hygiene is important, as is good sleep, eating habits, and exercise. Focusing on wellness is a major component of the work we do with clients. You are a healthy you when you take care of your whole self. And when you get the nutrition and sleep you need, you are armed to overcome triggers and challenges throughout your day.

Explore spirituality: Who are you going to lean on when you face difficult situations? How can you find a way to respect yourself and others? What do you believe is right and wrong? Get in touch with your moral compass, and let that be a guide to how you live from here on out.

Leave room for fun: When you take out a negative (substance abuse, anxiety, depression) you’re left with a void unless you fill it with a positive! With our i360 clients, we explore fun and hobbies, helping them figure out who they are and what they love once that negative is removed from their lives. Don’t sit inside and isolate yourself from the rest of the world, get out there and become who you are intended to be! Sign up for photography class, take cooking lessons, join a small group at Church, learn to pay tennis, do something to get outside yourself – like volunteering…The options are endless.

Remain dedicated to the mission as you integrate back into life – give it everything you’ve got! Just remember that going away to inpatient treatment doesn’t equate to a quick fix. Yes, you will have the tools you need, but that doesn’t count until you can implement them in the midst of life. By staying accountable to a daily schedule, identifying a support network, focusing on wellness, exploring spirituality, and leaving room for fun, you will be setting yourself up to succeed in translating insights into behavior when you come home. Reach out to us at i360 as you plan to transition home so we can support you in that.

Written by Lauren Barnett, i360 Marketing Director

Innovation360-Austin

Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail

A fellow therapist and I spoke to a group of about 50 people at the Adolescent Symposium of Texas this past February on the topic of “Failure to Launch.” It’s a term I’m hesitant to use as a stand alone because usually the first thing that comes to mind is the movie with Matthew McConaughey as a 30+ year old living in his parent’s spare bedroom. There is a kernel of truth in the movie as far as painting the picture of what not launching looks like, but there are deeper common factors that prevent a person from gaining independence and embracing the fullness of adulthood. Unfortunately, the cure isn’t just a dating relationship.

The teacher who writes this article certainly gives a good perspective of what failure to launch looks like from the vantage point of a teacher. She sees the beginnings of what’s happening when the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders aren’t allowed to fail. The article describes overparenting as being “characterized as parents’ misguided attempt to improve their child’s current and future personal and academic success.” The overparented children are simply being set up to lack the emotional resources needed to get through the inevitable failures and setbacks later in life. They are not being allowed to fail and learn from their mistakes or experience the educational benefit that consequences provide.

As clinicians, we don’t expect you to let your child fall on their face repeatedly while you watch, but we also don’t expect you to place a pillow under them every time they might appear to be tripping. Neither of these extremes will lead to what we like to think of as a fully emerged adult. Extreme levels of parental protection can actually be quite counterproductive.  But no parent will ever be perfect, so I’ll go ahead and release you from that burden. I’d encourage you to read the article, reflect upon your parenting style, and see if you are one who justifies doing your child’s school work for them. Are you overly responsive to the perceived needs of your children, or are you giving them a chance to address their own problems? It’s not only math and science that children are learning in this stage of life, but also responsibility, consequences, independence, and foresight.

If you or a loved one have a child that meets the description for “failing to launch,” please contact Innovation360. We’d love to work with them toward establishing a healthy, productive, and structured lifestyle with failures and successes that will boost their confidence in regards to what the future may hold.

Written by Danielle Fermier, LPC

Article reference from The Atlantic, by JESSICA LAHEY 

Innovation360-Austin

What Are Your Blind Spots?

What Are Your Blind Spots?

I had a great response to my last blog, Blind Faith, where I detailed my adventures as a blind woman.  It led me to think about the fact that everyone has their own “blind spots” of one sort or another. There has actually been significant research conducted regarding this topic in the business world.   But in the therapy world, we usually call these blind spots “defenses,” and we believe that identifying them can be the key to helping someone improve their personal relationships.

According to author Claudia M. Shelton,  “blind spots” are patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that we often do unconsciously, potentially negatively influencing our relationships with others. As a counselor, I call these “blind spots” defenses. More simply, unconscious things we do that drive others crazy.  Blind Spots can become possible problems in our working processes and relationships, and if left unchecked, can become serious obstacles to our effectiveness and progress, especially in the way we relate to others.  Adolescents can easily point out the blind spots of both parents. Spouses know their partners’ blind spots intimately. What we may think people don’t notice about ourselves is usually common knowledge to those around us.

Some Truths About blind Spots

  • Every personal strength when overused has the potential of becoming a personal weakness.
  • Every personal weakness when developed has the potential to become a personal strength.
  • The environment we are in may influence seeing a personal characteristic as a strength or weakness.
  • Different people may regard what we believe are our strengths and weaknesses very differently from how we do.

 

How Does Being Unaware Hurt Us?

Being unaware of a blind spot is like carrying a time bomb. Others see our blind spot but back away when we give signals that we don’t want to hear about it. Some try to tell us that we’re doing something that bothers them, but we ignore it or become defensive. Sooner or later though, these blind spot defenses can harm relationships or prevent us from connecting well with friends, family, and co-workers.

 

What Are the Most Common Blind Spots?

  • Misused Strengths – These are strengths used too little or too much, or even used ineffectively. When I took a look at myself, I realized that some of my own core strengths could be interpreted in a negative way if I overuse them. For instance, in the work place, I often resort to humor as it comes natural to me. But if I overuse this gift, I risk colleagues perceiving me as someone who doesn’t take anything seriously. So I’m aware of how frequently I use humor, and when it’s the right setting.  I challenge you to peer into yourself…are you someone who is laid back and doesn’t get ruffled easily? Certainly that’d be a strength, as you are able to “brush it off” and not let little things alter your attitude. But do your friends view you as a doormat? Are you easily taken advantage of? Or maybe you are quite structured and organized? Great! But to the point that it’s hard for you to allow in creativity or incorporate in the ideas of others? Are people to nervous to ask you for help because they know you don’t like to alter from your daily routine and schedule?
  • Old Habits – This entails relying on behaviors that made you successful in the past that would no longer be effective. These are the most difficult to uncover because they are ways of thinking and acting that have become fixed and routine for you. Maybe you showed your love to your ex via acts of service – running their errands, taking out the trash, and ironing their clothes. But the new object of your affection just wants quality time with you and couldn’t care less about whether or not you did their laundry. Step back and evaluate what some of the engrained habits of yours might be. Maybe that route worked in the past for some time period; now you must reevaluate and alter the way you express your love, respond to your colleagues, treat your friends…whatever it might be.
  • Stress Expressed – How do we negatively express the stress we feel? How is our behavior under stress affecting others? Do you lack patience and thus snap at others quickly? If things are perfect, do we lash out? Maybe you notice that you start to speaker louder and faster when you are having a stressful day – does this make those around you anxious and not want to be in your presence? Possibly you become demanding and short tempered – and all of a sudden those around us seem more stressed. Do you act as if it’s a major interruption to your day if someone sparks up a conversation with you while you are trying to get work done? Do you tap your foot when waiting in line at the grocery store? I encourage you to reflect on how some of the things you do to manage stress may negatively affect others.
  • Unturned Radar – How do we misread other people, ignoring the non-verbal cues given and received? Are you a “close talker” – never noticing people slowly backing up as you talk to them? We’ve all had that phone conversation – the one we try and try politely to get hang up. The person on the other end just doesn’t take a hint. When you evaluate yourself, do you find there are areas in which it is more difficult for you to pick up on social cues? This can be a major turn off when relating to others. Try to be extra aware this week, what are some of the cues you might be missing?
  • Disconnection – How do we fail to communicate? Or communicate in ways that we don’t intend? What is your nonverbal language saying about your current mood? Is your sarcasm received well or are do people get offended? Do you think people can tell easily if you are not engaged or feel bored with the conversation? Are you slouched over and yawning? Try to be unbiased about the way you relate to others – for instance – when you are busy and rushed. What about the way you act towards strangers? Be conscious about how your mannerisms and nonverbal. Do you often imply ideas rather than just state them? Are you blunt or do you find it hard to express yourself? How do you think others perceive you and your energy?

 

Strategies for Identifying Blind Spots

  • Analyze yourself as if you were another person so you can depersonalize the process and be more objective.
  • Always start by analyzing your strengths; this gives you a positive outlook.
  • See your blind spots not as weaknesses but as behaviors that get in the way of fully using your strengths.
  • Gather information from others (close friends you can trust) about what they see as your strengths and blind spots.
  • Do not hesitate to ask people for information; the most confident people always ask for balanced feedback and constructive criticism.
  • Make it comfortable for people to share negative feedback with you.  Be grateful for their help.

 

Questions to Ponder

How do you define your greatest personal strength in your current work?  How might you overuse that strength in a way that it creates a blind spot that could limit your success? How do you typically act out your stress in the workplace or at home? If you identify blind spots that are creating challenges for you, consider reaching out to a therapist to help you sort through them and improve your personal and/or work relationships.

If you would like to explore your Blind Spots, go to http://www.whatsmyblindspot.com. You will be able to complete a survey and find out your Blind Spot Profile. I completed the survey and it was incredibly accurate.

Blog written by Pam Newton, LCDC

Innovation360-Austin

Overcoming Procrastination: The Art of Conquering Your To-Do List

Federal tax returns must be postmarked every year by April 15th.  Although Kathryn is acutely aware of this deadline, if she wasn’t, the Statue of Liberty mascots and inflatable advertising balloons various tax preparation services place on virtually every corner would, no doubt, alert her to the impending deadline.  It’s not that she doesn’t know when her taxes are due each year; it’s just that she detests doing them!  She has a full 365 days to gather her receipts, documents, and papers, and organize, itemize, and deliver them to the accountant in time to meet the 11:59 PM deadline on April 15th.  Nevertheless, every year Kathryn—and the rest of the people making the late-night run to the post office—waits until the absolute last minute to file her federal tax return.  What’s worse, she makes herself miserable in the process!  She stresses about doing her taxes for weeks preceding the deadline as she transfers the word “taxes” to each new day’s To Do list.  Kathryn feels guilty each weekend that passes without making any progress on her taxes.  But it doesn’t have to be that way!  Given that procrastination is a problem that effects so many of us, here are a few concrete strategies to help us tackle those issues we dread, just in time for tax season.

  1. Discover why you procrastinate – While there are many explanations for why we procrastinate, the three most common reasons are: fear of the task, dislike of the task, or lack of knowledge about how to perform the task.  Figuring out the reasoning behind our procrastination enables us to break the cycle and tackle the task head on.
  2. Figure out how to do the task, how to make it more enjoyable, or why you fear it. – For tasks you don’t know how to do, conduct a bit of research.  Do a web search, check out Youtube for a tutorial, or enlist the help of a friend, relative, neighbor, or professional with knowledge or expertise of the task.  For a task you know how to do but just don’t want to do, think of creative ways to make it more enjoyable, challenging, or interesting.  For example, create a feel-good environment by lighting candles, preparing a snack, and turning on music or your favorite TV program before sitting down to organize and file your receipts.  Challenge yourself by making a game of it or by setting a timer and seeing how fast you can get it done.  Estimate the amount of time you think something will take you and see if you can beat your own estimate.  For those tasks you avoid out of fear, make a list of what you fear about the task, what the worst possible outcome could be, and develop a plan of attack for those outcomes.  Then, make a note of the potential consequences for avoiding the task and not doing it.  Finally, anticipate how you will feel after completing the task and compare the lists.  Often, the result of not doing the task is much worse than whatever you fear about doing the task.
  3. Timing is everything – Break the project down into manageable sections and schedule a date and time for each step.  Sometimes, the first step will be to gather all the materials or tools required for the task.  Often, just getting organized and creating a clear vision of the steps for the task is enough to get you going.  If not, write out the steps in sequence and enter the deadlines for each step of the task in your agenda or your mobile phone’s calendar, and post reminders on sticky notes in prominent areas where you will constantly be reminded of the impending deadline.  If the task is one that requires focus and concentration, schedule it at the time of day when you are most alert and energetic.
  4. Be good to yourself – Make a list of things and activities you enjoy, places you want to visit, and friends with whom you enjoy spending time.  Assign one of these rewards to each step in the process of your task.  After gathering your receipts, for example, treat yourself to a coffee break, game of tennis, movie, relaxing bath, or phone call to a friend.  Reinforcing the desired behavior in this way will make it more likely you will tackle the next step in the process.
  5. Recruit an accountability partner – Enlist the help of a trusted friend, colleague, or family member.  Explain the task you have been putting off, the steps required to complete the task, your self-imposed deadlines, and the rewards you have outlined for each step completed.  Ask your accountability partner to either join you for a work session (sometimes, just the mere presence of someone—even if that person is working on something completely different—can generate productivity) or to call, text, or email you for progress updates.  Most of us would rather let ourselves down than another person, which makes this an incredibly powerful motivator!
  6. Develop routines and habits – Putting things off doesn’t make them go away, but getting things done does!  There are immediate benefits from tackling a task and completing it:  completion generates energy, makes us feel competent, and improves our mood.  Learning to implement habits by associating new behaviors with those that are part of our regular, daily routines is extremely beneficial and can prevent tasks from snowballing and getting out of hand.  For example, most of us remember to get our mail every day.  Therefore, if we link the activity of filing the day’s receipts to the activity of opening our mail, and do it every day immediately after opening the mail, we can very effectively make receipt filing a habit.  Taking 3 minutes every day to file a handful of receipts after opening the mail is far easier, less time consuming, and infinitely less daunting than waiting until a year’s worth of receipts has accumulated into a pile the size of Mt. Everest.
  7. We all procrastinate to some extent every now and then – For Kathryn, taxes are her nemesis, but what is it for you?  Take a few minutes to write out a plan for dealing with the task you are most prone to put off as long as possible.  Identify why you procrastinate, strategies for figuring out how to accomplish the task or how to make it more interesting, what steps are involved in the task and when you will complete each of the steps, how to reward yourself when you follow through with your plan, and who can help hold you accountable for sticking to the plan you’ve created.  Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!  So stop putting off until tomorrow what can be done today.  Tackle that To Do list and reward yourself along the way!
Innovation360-Austin

Accepting and Experiencing Freedom

If you are anything like me, you are probably juggling what feels like a million things between a full time job, school, family, and of course the to-do lists – – the ones that just grow longer each time you cross something else off. With all of the busyness in a day, it is easy to get put off by others who are having a bad day or making choices that affect you or to simply get overwhelmed with all that your day entails. At the end of the day don’t we wish that we could simply be free of negativity and the stress of a crazy schedule?  What I have truly learned in the last couple of years is that acceptance is the key to freedom.

On a daily basis we each have the opportunity to choose how the day will play out. Now don’t get me wrong, we all have bad days where things seem impossibly unfair; but in those same moments, we still have the choice to enjoy an outlook that allows us to have a good day despite the uncontrollable situations in life.

I know it’s much easier said than done. I am one who struggles with this every day. But I choose to refuse to let actions of others, (driver who cut me off, or the rude checkout lady at the store) take away the peace and joy that I otherwise get to experience during the day.  I promise, it gets easier each time that I choose to not get frustrated with the things that I cannot control. I can accept those things as “life” – sometimes life doesn’t play out the way we plan or as smoothly as we’d like it to – but the more I accept life as it presents itself to me each day, the more free I can be to experience peace and appreciation…and freedom from pessimism.

I dug deeper within myself while teaching my six year old this very lesson.

I challenged her to choose to have a good day even though she was not going to spend the night with her cousin. She was mad that the answer was no, so she refused to get out of the car to play on the playground as we had planned. I simply gave her two choices: stay in the car and choose to be mad, or get out and enjoy your day! She actually chose to stay in the car; she is very strong-minded, but it reminded me that I need to be sure I can exhibit the same behavior that I am asking of my six year old!

I enjoy knowing that I can still experience freedom and peace despite all the things that can rub you the wrong way during the day! You can too. Don’t let external forces dictate your feelings of happiness. Welcome things that push you out of your comfort zone and try to have a positive outlook despite how you feel or how others around you are acting. I promise it is rewarding in the end!

Written by Kayla Proffitt, Life Development Team at i360.