Personal Growth Tip of the Day

Overdone and Processing Heavily
I’m hearing a lot of people telling me that they are overdone.  They have tons of good things happening and they are running like mad, trying to say “yes” to everything while it’s still there.  This is all well and fine for most times, you have to strike while the iron is hot after all.  But this time around, I’m also seeing people doing a LOT of personal growth work on a core level at the same time as they are running themselves ragged.

Rote Memory Dump
Did you know that when you are processing really core-level stuff (usually stuff from your childhood), that it can delete your short-term memory and mess with your routines?  Those things that you do so much by rote that you could do them in your sleep are suddenly disrupted for no apparent reason.  It’s like you get lost on where you are in the process.  And don’t even think that you’re going to remember the time you settled on with your client for lunch or the location unless you write it down.  And make sure when you write it down, it’s not on a random piece of paper or you’ll forget where you put that too.

A Day In My Life
For example, after spending a week with my mother after her hip surgery, I’ve had some revelations about my upbringing and it’s putting my life into a whole different perspective.  I’m questioning how I deal with some of life’s most basic issues.  As a result, I’m finding that some of my basic habits are being disrupted.  I have done my shower routine exactly the same way for 30 years and yet, for the last two days straight, I’ve completely forgotten the conditioner until I try to rinse it out of my hair and realize it’s not there.  Basic stuff, right?  But this is how it is.

Why Does This Happen?
I don’t know the scientific theory on this, but I will tell you from years of personal experience and as a coach working with countless clients, what I have found is it seems that the brain only has so much RAM (Random Access Memory – like a computer).  This is the stuff that we can hold in active contemplation – both consciously and subconsciously.  Usually, our conscious RAM is taken up by what we’re doing for the day, keeping lists of who we’ve talked to and appointments we have.  Our subconscious RAM is used by our rote systems for things like our shower routine, or how to get to work everyday, or how to make coffee in the morning.  I’ve seen people stare at a computer screen trying to spell the word “what” and having typed “wat” and not being able to figure out why it looked wrong.  Their subconscious mind was busy processing the latest revelations and had no room left to engage their basic spelling routines.

What Happens When We Really Change
Many people will tell you that they’re going to change something in their lives, but few actually follow through.  When you do actually make a change in your life, something inside you shifts too.  Some changes, like giving up soda or giving up your car in favor pf public transport will have superficial effects and will cause some distress in the conscious mind as you have to constantly shift your thinking when dealing with these issues.  Temporary change comes when you change your choices.  True change isn’t achieved until the new choices become thought habits.

Deeper, Core Level Change
Some changes are faily benign, others run deeper.  Changing your entire perspective on your life or yourself can mean a fundamental shift.  In these cases, it’s as though your brain needs to go through a rebooting process.  For some people it’s a hard-core reboot where the system has to shut down entirely and rest before being brought back up.  (This is what happens when people have breakdowns.)  Many others, however, can find relief in periodic disc defragmentations.

Defragging Your Brain
For those not fabmiliar with basic PC maintenance, a disk defragmentation is when the computer takes all of the fragmented files and moves them to a larger space on the disc and puts them back together again.  It then compresses all of the used space into the same area so that the free space is continuous so that new files don’t get fragmented.  The end result is that the system works faster and more efficiently.  The more disc memory you have, the longer the process takes and the rest of the computer really shouldn’t be used while it’s happening.  What I mean by a disc defrag in the case of your brain is that the brain shuts down certain functions to allow space for the maintentance cycle to do its work.

What Happens When It Happens
For example, let’s say that you’ve suddenly realized that events in your life that you had allowed others to categorize as failures for you were, in fact, just things that you had never actually commited to doing – you had just humored others in doing them.  You had succeeded in everything you had ever wanted to do, but others had minimized those successes because the items weren’t on their agenda for you.  If this were true, you would have spent your entire life believing that you were an abject failure at anything important.  But if someone came along when you were open to the idea of reassessing your past and pointed out that you had been extremely successful at the things you wanted to do and not at the things you didn’t and that you seemed to be a complete and utter success to them, that might cause a brain defrag moment.  In that moment of revelation, you would sit back and nothing else would exist as your brain went back in time and reindexed all of the events of your life to put them into the new context.  Now imagine how different your life would look once this reorganization of your memories took place.  Do you think life looks different for someone who believes themselves to be a failure than it does to someone who believes themselves to be an unparalleled success?  You bet it does.  (For the record, this experience happened to a friend of mine at the dinner table one night.  He checked out entirely for the remainder of the main course and we sat in silence through dessert as his brain reindexed his entire life.  He would start to speak and get a word or two out and then stop as the next memory came up to be reindexed.)

Awareness Is Key
This is fun to think about in theory, but in practice it can be quite disorienting.  Imagine, for example, that your brain is rebooting on a core level and instead of not getting your shower routine right, you forget how to drive by rote.  Suddenly, you have to pay incredible attention to the road, like you did when you were just learning to drive.  (Ideally in this scenario, you’d let someone else drive until your brain was done with the reboot.)  But these are things that we do unconsciously – how do we notice when they are off-kilter?  Trust me, you’ll notice.  I mean, it’s disconcerting to find yourself trying to rinse out conditioner that isn’t there.  The challenge is in whether you pay attention enough to realize that the change in your rote patterns is a symptom of a deeper issue.  That’s where the awareness becomes more important.  After all, it’s easy to just say “oh, I was distracted”‘ and move on.  But you’re distracted all the time while doing rote functions – that’s the definition of what makes them rote – you can do them without having to pay attention to them.  It’s important to notice when they go awry.

How To Know If It Is Happening To You

  • Are you getting forgetful?
  • Are you feeling overdone?
  • Are you more tired than usual?
  • Are you finding that rote tasks aren’t getting accomplished in the right order or at all?
  • Is your brain turning into fuzzy mush?
  • Are you looking at your life differently as the result of a change in perspective, a revelation about your present/past, or a choice to treat yourself and/or your world differently?

Any one of these symptoms can be attributed to any number of issues.  But the last one combined with any of the others is likely to indicate a defrag/reboot period in your life.

What To Do If It Is Happening To You

  • Clear your plate as much as possible.
  • Put things off that can be put off.
  • Say “no” to other things.
  • Sleep more – a lot more – than usual.  Sleep is the best time for the brain to defrag – it’s not trying to do anything else at the same time.
  • Be kind to yourself and don’t plan to get too much accomplished on the outside – you’re already doing a TON on the inside.
  • Say “yes” to people who want to take care of you or do things for you.
  • Give yourself quiet time, without the TV, the radio or the internet – time for your brain to not have to process new input.

Most of all, don’t judge yourself – there is nothing else you should be doing.  This is temporary.  It will pass.  In the meantime, enjoy the cycle and the downtime.  And remember, if you’re rebooting, you’re growing.  And that, according to my definition, is the true level of success.


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