Welcome to the anxiety at work podcast. I’m Chester Elton, and this is my co-author and dear friend Adrian Gostick.
Hi everybody, we hope the time you’re going to spend with us is going to remove the stigma of anxiety and mental health in your work and your life. With mental health experts selected from around the globe, we’re going to give you ideas and tools to deal with anxiety at work.
Our guest today is the wonderful and talented Wendy Ulrich. Wendy is a psychologist with over 25 years of experience. She’s a business coach and trainer with the RBL group she and her husband, David Ulrich, founded. Co-authored the Wall Street Journal and #1 business bestseller The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations that Win. We’re delighted to have you on our humble little podcast. Welcome to the podcast. Wendy, hey.
I’m so happy to be here despite the fact that you guys are, you know, really scary people. I’m really happy.
Well, Wendy, I’ll jump in. Adrian here, and we’re so happy to have you on. As a licensed psychologist, you deal with a lot of anxiety, but you talk about that anxiety is not always a bad thing. That some anxiety is good for us- too much maybe is not so good.
Yeah, if we didn’t have any anxiety, we would probably not live very long, and we wouldn’t do a very good job of planning for the future. If we weren’t worried a little bit about it, but yeah, there’s a sort of a bell curve for anxiety, for stress, for a lot of things in our lives that we can have an optimal sort of level somewhere at the top of that bell curve looking thing where we function well with a little bit of stress, a little bit of anxiety going in our lives. Most of us do better, but that bell curve is different for every person, and when we get too much anxiety, our performance starts going down the other side of that curve. If the bell curve is our performance, it starts to decline when we get too stressed, too anxious rather than that anxiety sort of spurring us on to doing a little better than we would do without it, if that makes sense. Yeah, you know what we’re seeing obviously with covid and people isolating a lot of people losing their jobs that that balance that anxiety balance is way out of whack. What are some of the things that you’re seeing that people are doing to deal with that anxiety and a follow-up question because I know you do a lot of work specifically with women. Is that covid-is it impacting women more than men? Is it equally distributed, and what are some things people can do to kind of tamp down that over abundance of anxiety that can sometimes be so paralyzing?
Great questions, and let’s start with the women. Women are more prone to anxiety than men, and to mental health challenges in general, for reasons, I don’t think we fully understand. Some of it’s probably our biology since it seems a pretty pervasive finding in the research that we have about twice as much anxiety and depression as men do. Still, some of it is probably the socialization and the roles that women are taking in the world we live in. One of the things that make us anxious across the board, men or women, is uncertainty. We don’t do well with uncertainty, and if anybody’s noticed lately, we’ve kind of got a lot of uncertainty going here and in all the forms that it takes. We’ve got uncertainty about the future, which is especially hard on people with anxiety, and we’ve got a lot of ambiguity about what all of this means about me and about my life. And all of that uncertainty and ambiguity make it hard for people to feel like they’re in control. Anxiety is, at some level, if we’re thinking about it as a mental health issue, an issue of control. I tend to want to be in control, and when I don’t feel in control, I get anxious. When I get anxious about being anxious, I have an anxiety disorder, and it’s easy to get that going when the world is such an uncertain place. I think of it as the background noise on your computer. You know, every once in a while, my computer will kind of freeze up for no reason that I can see, and I keep asking my IT guy about it, and he says, well, there’s just got to be something running in the background, and every once in a while it just overwhelms the system.
Well, the covid stuff is like that. It’s like this thing running in the background all the time, and if you add anything else, it very quickly can overwhelm us. We feel irritable. We feel grumpy. We feel teary. We feel out of control. So all of those things are compounded by this background noise of uncertainty that’s running in our lives all the time. Do either of you never get irritable? I don’t think so. Everybody else I know never had an anxious moment in my life. It’s remarkable, really.
Now Wendy, one of our focuses is anxiety at work. Now, as you’ve talked about these, you know this uncertainty, these inputs that we bring to work, and yet it’s a place where people feel rather powerless. How can we help ourselves, or if we’re leaders, how can we help others in our care?
Great question, Adrian. One of the ways I think about leadership is that leaders have the opportunity to try to help people find meaning in what they’re doing. And that meaning is often the difference between just going through the motions at work and really being invested. Meaning starts to go by the wayside when the normal routines, the normal relationships that bring meaning into our lives, the values that we hold, that we’re trying to live, that bring meaning into our lives are threatened by the work that we’re trying to do being so different from what we’re used to doing. I was doing something the other night, talking to a group of leaders, and they were complaining that we can’t do things to the standard we’re used to. It feels like everything’s, you know, compromised, and we’re going crazy. We get to the point where we don’t want to even do anything because we can’t do it the way we’re used to doing it. And I realized that is really a pervasive issue for a lot of us. We have to constantly do things that we’re not used to doing at standards we’re not used to being okay with. You know, if I’m on a zoom call instead of standing up in front of a group where I can hear the audience and interact with them, it feels hollow and kind of shallow at some level, and the technical difficulties get in the way. And that’s just my job right now. I’m not used to being able to do things at the standard I’m used to.
Everybody’s facing that. We’re either not doing things at the standard we’re used to because we don’t know how to do what we have to do right now. It’s a whole new ball game because we know what we’re doing, but we can’t get the people we need to do it. We’re overwhelmed with too much to do in some businesses, demands have gone way up, but the resources haven’t necessarily kept up to meet the demands. And that one of the jobs of leaders is to help bring the resources into play.
In people’s lives, meaning is a huge resource. If I can connect with the stories of how we’re doing this in a way that makes me feel like, yeah, we’re better than we think. You know, it doesn’t feel great, but we’re being resilient. We’re creating. We’re doing new things. We’re finding new approaches. We’re helping real people solve real problems. That sense of meaning brings a lot of hope and purpose to help us deal with the anxieties and stresses. You said something there that was important, and we did a lot of research on our new book, Anxiety at Work, and we’re doing this podcast to help people take that stigma away at work. But this idea we can’t do it as good as we used to do-it’s so different.
You know, one of our experiences is we love to present on stage. You and your husband, Dave, have presented on stage and do such brilliant work, and it’s so funny when you’re presenting virtually and tell a joke – no one laughs. Like, they may be laughing, but you can’t hear them. And it’s kind of like, hey, is this thing on, you know? And so that change is so interesting now. So what are some of the tools – what are some of the helps you’ve, as a psychologist? I mean, I know “take care of yourself first, and then you can take care of others,” but what are some of the things you tell executives as a coach – look, here’s some things you can do that it doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be too – that it can be good enough, and some of those ideas that help them get through that anxiety. Did that make any sense? I rambled there for a bit.
Absolutely! Yeah, you don’t get to hear us laughing. Still, Adrian over here…
Yeah, some of the work that Carol Dweck has done over the years on resilience and growth mindset is helpful here because we all have to be resilient like crazy right now. One of the things she discovered while trying to figure out the mindset behind resilience is that the kids she was giving hard problems to, who were suddenly overwhelmed by the difficulty of the task, and who felt like they were failing, began to withdraw into a place of shame and hiding. And I don’t want people to know I’m not doing this well, so who can I blame? And this isn’t important anyway or finding excuses, or you know leaning back from the task looking out the window – all kinds of ways that we deal with feeling a little bit overwhelmed. And she found that the most resilient kids were those who didn’t. She was looking for what helps people be resilient in the face of failure. She said these kids didn’t think they were failing. They didn’t even start out thinking that way about it. They didn’t think they were failing because they thought they were learning. And so that’s a great mindset for me to try to keep in my head.
Now I go through my day, and it gets kind of out of my control, and that’s a big challenge for women, I think, more than men. We go to perfectionism and control, not risk-taking and creativity, when things get stressful, at least more readily. And so some of it is just reminding myself at the start of the day and reminding clients when they come in – okay, what changes for you? If you are not failing, you’re learning, and the way you learn is you take risks and you try hard things. And as leaders, we want to support that risk-taking. We want to remind other people that are working with us and for us that we’re not failing here. As long as we’re learning, we’re not failing. So let’s keep focusing on that. Let’s not worry about getting it perfect. Let’s worry about getting it right in terms of really helping people that we’re trying to help and doing the things we’re trying to do. But if it’s not perfect, great, let’s learn and move forward. That’s been a big one that, I think, has been helpful for a lot of people. It’s certainly been helpful for me. I have some words written down on my desk that started be acute, being accumulated on my little notebook on my desk here when covid started. And the very first one was slow down. And that’s still the hardest one for me to hang on to um it came from a beautiful song by that title that uh someone sent to me um that that i just was so helpful for me to remember okay stop think take a minute breathe what’s the priority you know let me reconnect with why i’m doing this let me reconnect with who i am and what matters most to me right now because we get i get interrupted a thousand times more right now than i have before for some reason that i haven’t quite figured out um thoroughly but those interruptions really break up our efficiency we as as you pointed out in our in your book uh we’re we’re more likely to lose efficiency when we are constantly being interrupted and yet that’s kind of the nature of life for a lot of people right now so just slowing down and um and being willing to do it badly my mother your you can fill in this blank your mother taught you if a thing is worth doing it’s worth doing well you got it and I’ve had to learn over the years that my mother was wrong if a thing is worth doing it’s worth doing badly while we learn to do it better and rather than not doing it at all. And in fact, the things that are most worth doing fall into that category. They’re hard. If we could do them easily, they probably aren’t worth doing. So slowing down enough to say, okay, take the risk. What’s worth doing even if I can’t do it well right now so that I can learn to do it better? Let’s jump into the mess and not be afraid of the rawness and the messiness that we’re all in right now.
One of the things you sort of hinted around about it in there is what we look for perhaps in others around us, whether they’re teammates or again; if I’m a leader, I’m looking for signs of anxiety in my people. In many cases, they’re remote right now, and that’s made things doubly difficult. I may not see the little twitch. I may not see somebody withdrawing as much. How do we find those around us who may need help?
Very good question, and the simplest answer I can think of is how do I find that out as a therapist? I ask people, so how’s the anxiety for you right now? How are you coping? You know, what’s stressful for you? Just simply slowing down, taking that minute to just check in with people. Because you’re right, we don’t have the visual cues, and we’re missing them. We also have to take responsibility, of course, on the side of the person who’s feeling the anxiety to say okay, I’m a little overwhelmed today. I’m feeling pretty irritable, or I’m feeling like I just want to quit but noticing in ourselves when we’re feeling overloaded and being willing to communicate that. If you don’t like the word anxiety, just say okay; I’ve got too many things on my plate right now. Could you help me prioritize what matters most to you? Or, I feel like I got to take a break here for an hour and get my head back in the game. You know, just whatever it takes to communicate that. It’s not just; I’m the leader to find that, although it certainly helps when they’re asking to make it easier, to say yeah, I’m really struggling here.
You know there are so many takeaways in every question you’re asking. I’m making copious notes to share at the end. I’m curious. So as a therapist, I know you’ve got some great success stories. Can you share one of those stories with us where somebody was really struggling, really anxious in their personal life, in business, and they were able to pull themselves out of it? Do you have any of those kinds of stories you might share with us?
You know, you’re making me think of a quote from Carl Jung, a great psychologist, in the early days of his field. Somebody came to him and said, “so how many people that you’ve treated have gotten over their problems?” and he thought about it for a second, and he said, “none of them, but some of them have managed to transcend them.” Wow. And I think that’s a really valuable thing for us to think about. If you’ve got anxiety and you’ve had anxiety for, you know, 20 years probably, you’re not going to get over it right now. You’re going to learn to work with it. You’re going to learn to cope with it better. You’re going to learn to tolerate it so that you don’t get anxious about being anxious, which is what makes it worse and start to spiral out of control. But we don’t really overcome anxiety, and we don’t really overcome most of the problems that we’re dealing with. I love some research by a great marital researcher John Gottman who started looking at how many of the people who came into his office, you know, five years later, 15 years later [whatever] had gotten over the problem that they came in with. And only 30 of them said that yeah, we’re pretty much done with that. Now 70 of the people he had treated, he’s one of the best there is, were saying, “yeah yeah, we’re still dealing with that. [It’s] still going on, and that’s really, at some level, really reassuring, and at some level really scary. It’s scary because we’re like, but I can’t stand this, you know, I hate this. I don’t want this problem anymore, so don’t tell me I’m never going to get over it. It’s reassuring to realize these people were all still married, you know? I mean, they were still happily married, but there are intractable problems in everybody’s life that we probably will never just get rid of. We figure out ways to find the strength that’s on the other side of that weakness. We find ways to let it become less predominant in our lives. We find ways to work with it. My daughters just finished a book with a co-author called “The Power of Stillness.” She’s a psychologist as well, works a lot with mindfulness and meditation, and this has been a very different approach for psychology to get involved with, in just recent years, that says no, it’s not about you’re going to tackle this problem to the ground and get rid of it. It’s about you’re going to calm yourself down. You’re going to receive what is. You’re going to lean into it. You’re going to commit to feeling this disturbance on and off again for the rest of your life. And you’re going to release the fantasy, as one person put it, that you can get to a place of never feeling this again. You’re going to open yourself up to it, put a name on it, and you’re going to treat it with compassion and with kindness and with inviting it in rather than, you know, pushing it away and feeling ashamed about it and trying to wrestle it down. I love the work by Brene Brown, who lets us know that shame is not our friend, and we are very inclined to try to use shame to make us better, and she finds that that doesn’t work. You know, we think if we feel bad about something, we’ll change it, and the opposite is actually true. The more we just sort of receive it and say yeah, this is frustrating. Yeah, no wonder I’m feeling this way right now. Okay, it makes sense that I’m feeling tense. Let’s just sit with this for a minute. What do I know to do when I’m feeling tense. That it just says to me, yeah you know yeah, it’s okay, it’s all right. Let’s just take this in. Let’s just take some breaths. Let’s just name this. I’m scared, and it’s okay that I’m scared, and you know, just it’s not something that nobody else feels. And if I feel that I’m a bad person, this is just the way I built this is the way life is, and let it in find a way to diffuse it a little bit, but we’re not going to just eliminate it.
I wanted to come back, to a minute, to the why of work. Because, you know, as you write, you and Dave wrote in that book, a lot of it was for leaders to create a why within their workplace, and you’ve talked about meaning. How does somebody who’s listening create that meaning? Perhaps if they’re not feeling it right now or a leader within their team, what can we do to bring a little of that wisdom from your book into our lives in this covid world?
Staying focused on what matters most to us is the simple answer, I think, to that question, and there are some ways that we can define what it is that matters most to us. But for the big majority of us, relationships are really key to finding meaning in life. We find that the people who live the longest are the people who have the best relationships and the most quality of relationships. It’s not necessarily a numbers game; how many friends do you have, but what’s the quality, as well, of those relationships? So when people, we know from the Gallup research from a long time ago, when people have a best friend at work, all kinds of good things happen-even under stress. They are more satisfied with their work. They’re less likely to quit. They’re more creative. They get fewer complaints. They get in fewer accidents when they just have a friend at work. So creating the moments of connection, helping people make and respond to those little bids for connection, you know, being willing just to stop by and say hello. I think Google right now is calling it moments that matter. You know, just creating these tiny little moments in the course of a day where somebody connects with me in a real way that feels like they’re really present-they really care. I can be real with them, and they’re being real with me. Those relationships make a big difference, but no matter what’s going on in our lives, when we tune into relationships, when we tune into gratitude-taking a moment to look at the beauty of the mountain or being grateful that the water’s cold. I can drink cold water out of a tap. I don’t have to go haul it in from a river two miles away. You know, just those moments of gratitude and connection that remind me of the goodness in my life go a long way as well. I love a quote about hope which is in short supply. I think these days, we’re wondering if we dare to hope. From Vaclav Haval, who was a playwright, a Czechoslovakian playwright and the first president of the Czech Republic, which was an interesting and sort of auspicious beginning for a political state to be run by a playwright. But he said hope is not a prognostication. That it’s not a prognosis about how things are going to go. He said that’s not what it is; that’s what we think it is. Hope means, oh well, it’s going to be okay. He said, no, hope is not a prognostication. It’s an orientation. That no matter how things turn out, they can have meaning. I love that. That is a deep statement to me that says no matter how bad it gets, no matter how disappointed I am, no matter how much of a struggle there may be for me, I can find the meaning in it that is my unique capacity as a human-animal as opposed to another kind of an animal is my ability to find meaning. And I find meaning in connection, gratitude, and living the values that matter to me, regardless of my circumstances. So I’ll often ask people, So, as you look back on this difficult time in your life, what would I, and I never can figure out how to ask this question very well. I always have to say about three times to get it communicated. But if you look back on this time, what would you have been doing that would allow you, now looking back on it later, to feel like I did what mattered most to me. I lived the values that mattered most to me, and when I can stay grounded in that, oh my gosh, I know what to do in the moment when I know what matters most to me. In that moment, somebody’s mad at me, and if I forget my values, I react, and I get angry back, and I go to the least common denominator of my values. But if I can stay in tune with what matters most to me right now, and what matters most is that this person knows that I’m listening and that I’m respectful. That I’m on their side that I want to understand. That I’m curious. That I’m compassionate with their feelings if I’m clear with that, no problem knowing what to say or what to do. I know how to listen. I know what to speak, but when I lose track of that, when I miss that, when I forget that, then I’m just reacting. Then I’m regretting it later and stewing about it for months and reworking that conversation in my head about the time, trying to figure out how I could have said it in a way that would let them know, you know, who they are really talking to here or what they should have done differently or whatever. And I get way off base and way off track with who I want to be and what my life is. Yeah, I mean, we’ve all done that. Right? We’ve all done that and what’s dangerous is when you have that conversation, when you’re driving a car through a school zone, you know, it’s not helpful, you know.
Your advice and whatnot is just so on point, and I think especially for covid. You know, Adrian and I have talked a lot about personal rituals. Triggers that you can go to, to kind of put yourself in that good state of mind. You’ve mentioned a couple of them, you know, expressing gratitude and coming back to your values. Is it important to start your day in a way that can tamp down that anxiety and put you in the right? Are there certain rituals that maybe you’ve used or that you’ve counseled people that you coach to use that can get the day off to a good start? Maybe end the day, or if you’re in a bad place during the day, some go-to rituals?
I love that question, Chester. That is a really valuable thing in people’s lives for depression or for anxiety. Those little rituals, those little structures that we put on things that give us something to look forward to that sort of ground us in who we are, are really, really valuable. And on the days when I get up, I am hitting the ground running because I stayed up till two o’clock in the morning. Now it’s six o’clock in the morning, and I’m tired, and the alarm goes off, and I’ve pushed the button once, and I’ve already lost it, and so I’m running, and I have not stopped to do the things that I know ground me those days don’t tend to go very well. So yeah, there are some rituals that I think are really valuable for people—checking in with the people we love. Checking in with God, if God is an important aspect of our identity or in the meaning that we have in life. Spending some time prioritizing what’s most important to me today. What’s on my mind. I personally spend time in prayer every single morning, you know, that I don’t have one of those days where I hit the ground running because I’m late. You know, I’ve missed it, but I’m weird. I pray with a paper and pencil because I’m not just reciting something. I am talking to somebody I believe is real, and I’m writing down the ideas that come into my mind. But even if prayer is not the way to do that for you, just taking a few minutes and thinking through the day – okay, what’s most important to me. Where am I gonna go with this? What ideas come to mind about that. What are the questions I want to be asking myself about how I proceed through that half-hour that we spend just getting ourselves oriented to the day and thinking in a quiet place. Making some notes about the ideas that come to mind can be extremely valuable, and at the end of the day, my typical approach is to spend just a few minutes simply in gratitude.
One of my children likes the question, “what was a happy surprise today?” She said when I asked myself that question; there’s almost always a happy surprise when I stop and look at it. But other people will say what, what am I grateful for? Who helped me today, and what allowed that help to come into my life today? Was it because they were kind, or because I was open, or because I said I needed something. What made that positive thing happen that I can learn from. Those moments of just stopping and reflecting on the positive in our lives help retrain our brain that’s getting so trained right now to look for what’s wrong and scary and difficult. If we begin to retrain that impulse to say no, let’s start looking for what’s right, what’s good, what feels loving and connecting, what I have to be grateful for, what can i stop and remember for a moment. Oh my gosh, I remember when I was on that trip to India that I swore I would never go another day of my life without being grateful for, fill in the blank, and here I am, I haven’t thought about it in months. Let me just regroup, remember how the goodness, not just the problems, you know? Wendy, a quick follow-up to that. I love your analogies that I went to India, and I realized how blessed I was and then how easy it is to forget that, you know? I remember I went on a river trip with my older brother John and here we were going down, you know, the Grand Canyon, and we had everything we needed in one backpack, and I remember thinking, gosh, could life be this simple? Is this really all I need? And I thought yes, yes it is. And then I came back, and my car needed to be serviced. I had a nice car at the time, and they gave me a crappy car as a loner, and immediately I forgot all about my life in a backpack. I mean, it happened that fast, you know, and so I love your advice on reflect, remember those moments and realize that, gosh, you know, 99 percent of the world would trade places with you and me in a heartbeat. Right? We really have a lot to be grateful for.
Yeah, when my daughter was in a really stressful time in her life, and she runs a little anxious, she had a sentence that she really found helpful to her, which was “All I have to do right now is ______ and fill in the blank. And she would break it down, which is a really big help for us. “All I have to do right now is find the right bus. All I have to do right now is get the right money out of my purse for the bus. All I have to do right now is sit here and enjoy the countryside until it’s time to get off the bus, you know? And she would get her way through the day that way, and that’s been really helpful to a lot of people, to just break it down like that. But I found in doing that that sometimes I can start to feel like okay, okay, all I have to do right now is, I have to do right now, you know, and I get that place, and so I’ve tried to add to that very helpful tool. Another one, which for me is what I get to do right now, is go to the dentist. I hate the dentist, but I get to go to the dentist, which means my teeth will still be in my mouth by the end of my life. I have someone who has spent years preparing to do that work for me. I have the money to go to the dentist, you know, and instead of thinking about it as the dreaded thing to think, I get to get in my car and drive; it’s a crappy car, but it runs, and someone is fixing my car today, and I can afford that, and you know so both of those questions can be helpful. The first one kind of breaking things down a little bit, okay I don’t have to think about it all at once, but the second one lets me just focus on what’s good about this thing, even this thing that I don’t like, even this thing that’s hard. But I’m, you know what, I get to do right now is I get to go for a walk all by myself in the mountains, isn’t this lovely? Even if it’s only 10 minutes, it’s, you know, I get that little moment. I’m so grateful.
Well, we’re coming up on our time Wendy. I have a feeling people are just going to re-listen to this over and over again because your wisdom is so profound. One of the things you mentioned earlier that I thought was so, so great was, you know, don’t be so hard on yourself. So I have one last question, I think, maybe about this idea, and you did tie it into the spiritual idea as well, and maybe the idea is around forgiveness. How do you think that plays into this idea of anxiety? Maybe forgiving ourselves, forgiving others. If you could just give us a thought, a few thoughts on that.
Yeah, I could probably do that. I wrote a book on forgiving ourselves, actually, once upon a time, and one of the things that I realized is forgiveness is hard, and a lot of it is really tied to this principle we were talking about earlier of shame. It’s often because I’m feeling some lingering shame that I struggle to forgive myself or someone else. I’m feeling shame about my own behavior as I look back on the past, but I’m feeling shame in the moment because I’m suddenly feeling like, wow, you know, if people knew about this thing I did three decades ago, they wouldn’t like me. And that shame gets triggered. Instead of remembering the whole of who I am, and the whole of my identity, I am suddenly in that moment. Just this one bad thing that I did. So when people are struggling with self-forgiveness, I think it’s often because we’ve gotten looped back into forgetting; no, I’m not failing if I’m learning. What did I learn from this? It’s not a failure if I’m learning. Have I done what I can to make it right? Yes, I have. Check. Have I apologized to the people and tried to be empathic with the harm I’ve caused? Yes, I have. Check. Am I living my values differently now? Yes, I have. Check. And if none of those are checked, those give us places to go. But if they’re kind of checked off, all I’m really worried about is what I think other people would think if they knew this about me; I’m not worried about has God forgiven me, I think he has or has my spouse forgiven me, or my has my child forgiven me? Hopefully, we’ve repaired those relationships. I’m just worried about what other people would think; that’s often from, for a lot of people, the thing that kind of gets us stuck in not forgiving ourselves. And I think by the same token, when we’re ready to forgive someone else – have I really been willing to let them be weak and human just like I’m asking to be weak and human; or am I still in a place of defensiveness where I’m saying no if they’re okay. Then it makes it like it’s my fault now. Or if I forgive them, it means that what they did wasn’t bad, and neither one of those is acceptable to me. Well, maybe we need to figure out another way to look at it. Say, yeah, that hurt me. That was painful. I hated it. I hated everything about it, and it’s messed up my life, but you know I’ve done things that have probably messed up other people’s lives. I am not willing to say it was okay, but I am willing to say, even if you’re not at a place in your life yet where you can’t even fully apologize to me because you’re still stuck in shame, I don’t need to make it either your fault or my fault. I can just say yeah, we’re all in this human mess together, and I can live my values here, and one of my values is I get to let people off the hook.
Such great advice. You know, you had so many great quotes, and I know this is a quote that you know, and I thought it would be a great way to wrap up the show from Russell M Nelson, who recently said counting our blessings is far better than recounting our problems. You know, we dwell on those problems and those mistakes, and it always takes us to a bad place. Well, as we wrap up, we love to ask our guests if there are three things you want people to remember from this conversation that we’re having today- about anxiety at work and your life? Three things. What might those three things be?
I would go back to my list on my desk. Slow down. Slow down. Give yourself time to reconnect with your truest values as you begin your day, as you are in the middle of your day, or as you are facing a difficult obstacle, a challenge, or a relationship challenge in your day. Slow down. Treat yourself and others with curiosity and compassion. If we can get curious about others rather than assuming we’ve got all the answers or understand exactly where they’re coming from. They are wrong in where they’re coming from, but if we can get curious about the things that aren’t making sense to us and be compassionate with ourselves and others, I think that’s a huge one. And, realizing, you know, we’re not going to get rid of the uncertainty in our lives. It’s being amplified right now, but we’re not going to get rid of it. If the goal is to get rid of it, you’re going to fail and fail and fail. If the goal is to get more tolerant of the uncertainty and the ambiguity in our lives and learn to work with it more gracefully, that’s a better place to focus our attention. We are more resilient than we think, and often our anxiety goes back to someplace in our childhood where something horrible happened, and nobody was there to help us. We’ll never be that vulnerable again. We have skills. We have survived. We know more than we think we do, and we can put our trust in our own capacity for resilience, not in our ability to prevent anything bad from ever happening again.
Brilliant advice, and we are more resilient than we think. I love that, Wendy. Where can we learn more about your work? Where would you have people go to learn more about you?
The why of work is a good one. I run some little seminars from time to time directed primarily for people of faith, but if people who are not of faith are willing to put up with the people of faith together, a little group called 16 Stones got a book out on forgiving ourselves. Another one, on habits of happiness, that would may be of interest to some people.
Well, listen, thanks so much for being on the show. You know, we just love that your work is impacting so many people in a positive way. Whether, you know, it’s just finding happiness or meaning in their lives and improving the workplace. So listen, thanks again. I’ve got all kinds of notes. I know Adrian does too. Call us anytime if there’s anything we can do to help you amplify your message. We’re even bigger fans now that we’ve been able to spend an hour.
You are so kind. I love what you guys are doing, and I’m excited for this book to have the impact that I know it’s going to have.
So wow. Adrian, what a guest! I felt like I was sitting at the feet of Buddha there. And everything she said was so impactful, you know, I love when she talked about uncertainty isn’t going away and that we’ve got to learn how to deal with uncertainty. That was a big takeaway for me. How about you?
You know, on that same note, I loved her message of slow down. You know, know what your values are. Make sure you’re not, sort of, doing something that’s maybe in violation of your values in an effort just to get everything done in this pandemic. Yeah, I like that one too. Take a deep breath. Just slow down. Another one that I wrote down is that we’re not failing; we’re learning. Isn’t that a great way to look at things? You know that kids weren’t falling; they were learning. They didn’t think of it as failing; they thought of learning. That was a great takeaway for me, and I took the same one down. And what she said on top of that was that no matter how bad it gets, there’s meaning in what’s going on, and like you said, you know, it’s not a failure if I’m learning something. Yeah, we could go on for another hour—the rituals. I love check in with people you love. I love that in her prayers, she prays with a paper and pencil. Isn’t that interesting? And then when things come to mind, she writes them down because how often have we been meditating or praying or whatever – oh, I’ll remember that, and we never do, right? We never remember. Hey, and another one, because I’d asked her, you know, how do you spot anxiety in those around you? Maybe your employees, teammates, and she said, you know, ask them, how are you coping? How’s your anxiety level? How are you coping, though? I think it is a better one because somebody’s anxiety might ratchet up when you say how’s your anxiety, but very simple is, how are you coping? And if they’re not opening up, well, open up a little yourself and say, well, this is what’s bugging me right now. Yeah, and then the last one for me, and I love this, and she wrapped up with, we’re more resilient than we think. Like we’ll get through this. We’ll figure it out, and I thought, you know, what a great message to end with. On that, we are more resilient than we think. This too shall pass. Slow down. Take it easy. Well, as always, everybody, I just love spending time with you and talking about these things. You’re in Utah, I’m in New Jersey, and through the miracle of all this great stuff we’re doing, it works out just great. And, as always, I’d love to give a shout-out to Brent Klein, our amazing producer that pulls us all together and makes us look and sound good; and to Christy Lawrence, who finds our amazing guests and acts as our booking manager, and of course to all of you who have listened in. If you like the podcast, sure, right? Yes, yes, absolutely recommend it and share it with your friends. This one in particular. You know, I know we’ll all have favorite podcasts, but this one, I just thought there was so much to digest every time she opened her mouth. I thought, Chester, be quiet. Don’t interrupt. This is going to be awesome. So if you like the podcast, share it with a friend. Thanks so much for tuning in. Take care, and don’t be anxious about your anxiety.