Podcast – Life in Focus Episode 3 What’s up with the Apocalypse

ZombiesThis week we talk about Zombies, pandemics and the Apocalypse.

Beyond our own interest in the Zombie apocalypse and our chances of survival, this episode explores why there seems to be such a fascination with  post-apocalyptic scenarios across literature, movies and in recent pop-culture.

Take Home

  • Chris and Alessandra are nerds + Chris will not survive the Zombie apocalypse. Alessandra will if she can ditch her kids and husband.
  • The fascination with apocalyptic scenarios is actually not a new phenomenon
  • Fantasizing about the end of the world by zombies might be safest way we can process our own fear of death and annihilation.
  • Dreams of the apocalypse represent a wish to escape our 24/7 always plugged in world.

Podcast- Life in Focus Episode 2: Sweet Sleep

Sleeping like a baby
Sleeping like a baby

Do you sleep enough? Do you sleep well?

Sleep is essential to life, deprive someone of sleep long enough and they die. In this episode we discuss how to get better sleep and compare expert advice to real life circumstances

Take home:

  • Sleep or die
  • Best conditions to sleep is are dark, cool, quiet and free of distractions
  • Bedrooms are for sleep and sex
  • For those of us who live in the real world one of the most effective things you can do to get better sleep is cut out screen time a good 30 minutes before you plan on going to bed.
  • Also here is Russel Foster’s Talk about “Why we Sleep” 

Podcast – Life in Focus Episode 1: Stress

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Meet the crew: Psychologist and Life Coach Alessandra Wall and productivity and mindfulness advocate Chris Browning get together and share their thoughts on everything and anything that has been relevant recently. From stress, to health, zombies to parenting no topic is off topic.
This episode we jump right in with stress and explain why it happens and what to do with it.

Take home:

  • Stress is good, it lets you know you need to take action!
  • Deep breathing is the cheapest, most available and effective way to manage your physical stress.
  • To manage stress on a daily basis take the 5 step approach:
    Check in, breathe, assess, address and plan for future problem solving!

Happiness is… a definition in pictures

March 20th has been declared International Day of Happiness by the United Nations Foundation. Silly, possibly, but does it really hurt to take a moment to think about what makes you and others happy? No! So in honor of that day here is a short picture diary of things that make me happy.
I would love to see what makes you happy. So share it with the Life in Focus crew on Facebook or Twitter.
Letting the right people into your life 

 The right drink at the right time:

 A cold cider on a hot day...
A hot coffee any day   IMG_0767

Setting a goal, & reaching it!

Feeling agile 




















Or feeling strong

Life’s little pleasures

​Surprising things in surprising place
This guy!
  This kid

The little things…

A great sunset
​A good hair day

And bigger things too.

Friends who have your back
This attitude...

The things and people who shape us

Family and the proximity of those I love and who love me




3 steps to stay on track with your goals

supermomYou have the most amazing goal and a solid plan to reach it! You’re on your way to success, and following the steps you’ve carefully crafted with determination and consistency. When BAM! life hits you smack in the face and you are thrown off track. Welcome to the real world, where the best laid plans won’t guarantee you success.

It’s about what’s right for you:

Some of you know that I run a coaching program call the Focus Equation. Its mission is to help people establish meaningful goals, and create a working plan of action for those goals. The whole thing is done keeping this one principle in mind:

“It’s not about what’s right, it’s about what’s right for you.”
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What that means is that as we craft these goals and plans there is a lot of work done to determine why the members want certain things, and how they are going to fit them in their lives. We go beyond strategy, to talk about personal barriers, assumptions and thoughts; the stuff no one really addresses that more often than not sabotages our efforts to change. But here’s the thing, every once in a while it’s not emotions or thoughts that create barriers to change, it’s good old life circumstances, the kind you can’t just think your way around, the kind that are real, and really annoying. So what’s a girl or guy to do, when they have an amazing plan, but life get’s in the way?

Work with it!

There is no real secret here, when life gets in your way you have to work with. The problem is that most people don’t do that, most people allow life to distract them from the things they want. A huge deadline is looming at work, you find out your kid has a homework problem (meaning they haven’t done it, in weeks and the school is on your back), you catch a cold, or your car breaks down… the possibilities are as endless as time and they all require you to address them. Addressing them, however, doesn’t mean you need to drop everything else, especially your goals or dreams. It does mean that you have to be flexible, creative and focused.

Flexible

Flexible means you figure out how to fit your goals into your existing life. It means you accept to deviate from your beautifully and carefully crafted plan and make necessary amendments that take into account the “circumstances” life is throwing your way. Flexible means you accept that there isn’t just one right way to do something.

Life isn’t going to stop to let you move forward with it. Life doesn’t care about you or your goal, it just is.
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Creative

Creative means you take a different approach to your goal. It means, you look at the plan you have laid out and you craft variants on a theme. Sometimes it means you learn how to extract the smallest possible value out of your plan so that you can fit some part of it into your inconvenient life.

Focused

At the end of the day this goal you’re working on is something you want. Life isn’t going to stop to let you move forward with it. Life doesn’t care about you or your goal, it just is. So if you know you have circumstances that are standing in your way, and you realize those circumstances are holding your back you don’t give up the plan. You don’t put your goals off until things get easier. You hold the course and maintain the direction you had, but you allow for flexibility and creative engineering of your steps to make your goal realistic and right for you given that you have a life, and that life gets in the way.

Real world, real problems, real person

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Mom, business owner, woman, wife

Meet Krista Depeyrot! Krista is a mom of three, a business owner (Salon Bijoux), a colorist, wife, trainer and a human being who would love to have a life. Like most people, and especially like most parents Krista doesn’t focus on herself; everyone else’s needs come before Krista’s. Who is everyone else? Her three sons, her husband, her friends, family, customers, the au pair, the dogs and the business. When all of these fine folk are taken care of Krista can go to bed, because really there’s no time left in a day after all that. Being a mom is tough work!

Krista signed on to the Focus Equation with a specific focus, she wanted to start taking care of herself. She wanted to find a way to eek her name somewhere in that list of people she tends to. She worked on a plan, a good one if I might say so, and got right to work. The first week she started to focus on herself she did great. She had goals, took some immediate steps, set limits with others. Then life decided to happen, and she found out two of her kids were struggling with school work [cue the sound of screeching tires coming to a halt]. Krista’s limits about getting enough sleep went out the window as she stayed up late helping her boys with their homework. She was tired, less efficient therefore taking more time to get things done, which meant that suddenly she couldn’t find the time for her twice daily 20-minute meditation practice or her time outside. Thing could have snowballed, and in most cases, within a few weeks Krista would be back where she started. Luckily for her, she was in the middle of a coaching program, so we worked on it.

Flexible: We allowed for the fact that in the short term she’s not getting to bed by 10PM most nights. We’ve looked at her meditation practice and acknowledged that once a day is better than never and any time at all is better that none. On a cognitive level Krista certainly had to work on the assumption that if her plan was not executed as written it was a failure. She had to accept that there are many versions of good.

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Krista and her husband -trying to get some quality time together

Creative: Hey, day dreaming is relaxing right? So is 5 minutes of deep breathing or a good old fashioned stretching session. These became alternatives to the 20 minute meditative process. Getting out with the dogs for a walk would be great, but just finding the time to stand outside or walk through the yard also count as outside time…

Focused: Krista did not allow herself to shelve her self-care goals just because life got stressful, this is the time she needs them the most. So 10PM may not be a daily reality, but she tries for it whenever she can, she also tries to rest when possible. She’s not giving up on her mediation goal, she is making it work for her, and including small meditative practices throughout her day. She continues to revisit her plan and finds ways to build it in given her current circumstances. This works because the plan was built to be not just right, but specifically right for her.

So if, well, when life gets in your way don’t give up, don’t think you have to put your goals on hold. Try the three steps outlined in this article. And if you need help, you can always touch base with me.

Modern Parenting and the 4 most dangerous words…

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions!”
I have serious concerns to bring up with you about the effect of modern parenting on the future of our society. Armed with the best intentions, and the most noble of aspirations, modern parents are chipping away at the future dreams and goals of their children.
Two things came across my computer screen last week that have prompted this post: One was a video post by The Atlantic (yes, I love them!) and the other was a news feed regarding a couple in Maryland.
Both items addressed my biggest pet peeve with modern society: the implicit assumption that children are not capable. Why should you care if you are not a parent? Because you risk living in a world where the adults of tomorrow are unreliable, and incapable of handling challenges and stress effectively. Let me explain…

A much too dangerous world…

The Maryland couple I referred to earlier are Danielle and Alexander Meitiv who are currently being investigate because a “good samaritan” alerted the authorities that their children were seen walking to school alone!!!! I want you to understand how ridiculous and scary this should be to you, these parents are being investigated for neglectful parenting because their children (10 and 6 year olds) were allowed to walk to school together without parental supervision. The Meitivs did not lose track of their children, they did not let them wander off, they assessed them and determined that both children were capable of walking to their neighborhood school. I don’t know what your experience was like growing-up, but at 7 I walked to school alone, by 11 I took a train and walked to school alone, by 15 I took a train and a bus alone to get to school. Many modern parents will talk about the dangers of predators, traffic and a world of potential threats out there. To that I say: 1) by all measurable indices, the world is safer now than it was two decades ago, and 2) how are your children ever going to be able to negotiate all these threats if you hold their hands and shield them from the world until they are in their 20s?
When did we stop believing our children were capable of negotiating the world? When is it that parents started telling their kids that climbing on trees, jumping off structures, playing with small toys, bugs or dirt, or crossing a street was beyond their ability? Parents and society as a whole have become so protective of children that they are handicapping them. The message that these well meaning entities are sending kids is that they are not capable of negotiating the world. That simple things like walking a few blocks alone, playing without supervison, climbing a wall or a tree or creatively using anything else than an age-appropriate toy to play are now perceived as too dangerous for our kids to handle is crazy to me, but even more terrifying is the implication for these children as they grow up.

A generation of wimps:

As we grow up and negotiate the world we internalize certain lessons, values and beliefs. Those lessons then determine how we view ourselves and our world, which in turn influences our actions. What happens to a child who is constantly shielded from the world? What is the impact of never letting our kids take risks and succeed or fail? The answer is that they become fearful, anxious and uncertain of their own capacity to withstand stress, or solve a problem without the help or guidance of someone else. They internalize the message: “I am not capable. I can’t do it!”
As this child grows up, maybe they are confronted with a few more choices, increasing risks, but their parents don’t suddenly change overnight, nor does society, and so even these risks and choices are far more benign than what they are capable of handling. Further compounding the issues is that, having not developed the sense of competency and self-efficacy that comes with trial and failure, with risk and success, these children now adolescents and young adults continue to rely on guidance from their parents and other authority figures to determine what to do and how to problem solve. This, is the future as we are currently creating it; a nation of adults who have internalized the belief that they are not competent to handle the world on their own. A nation of adults who anxiously avoid risk, struggle or challenged unless their hand is held or they get an okay from someone else. You may think this is alarmist, but there are a number of studies  (1, 2, 3, 4…) already showing the association between over-parenting and anxiety, depression and academic performance (we are a few years out from adult studies on this cohort).

The four words to kill a dream:

The four most dangerous words someone can say and believe are “I can’t do it.” I cannot tell you the number of times that simple phrase, internalized as a truth about one’s self, has single handedly destroyed a dream. Why? Self efficacy, which is the belief that we are capable of successfully negotiating a challenge, is a requirement for action; If I believe I can, then I will try. If I try and fail, but still believe I can I might try another way. With most things in life, this will yield a positive outcome resulting in future action and success. Every now then, no matter how hard or often someone tries, they cannot, but as long as their fundamental belief about themselves is that they can (they are capable) a failure will not set them back too much.

“I can’t do it” is the biggest threat that over-parenting and limiting our children’s risks can have on their well-being and our society.”

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“I can’t do it,” however, means that anything that is hard is avoided. Face a challenge… “I can’t do it”. Try to overcome something that causes distress… “I can’t do it.” “I can’t do it”, or the belief that one is not competent/capable has been one of the top three barriers to success that I have encountered in my lifetime as a psychologist and coach. “I can’t do it” doesn’t try, doesn’t problem solve, doesn’t take risks. “I can’t do it” feels small, and helpless and anxious. “I can’t do it” might over time get depressed by how limited their world seems. “I can’t do it” is the biggest threat that over-parenting and limiting our children’s risks can have on their well-being and our society.

Yes, you can!

We practiced some more after this, and lo and behold he could. Also notice his little brother at then end runs to the other post to try it out. I got nasty looks for this one, because it was “dangerous” “not the proper use of the swing structure” “he’s barefoot andt it was chilly” , and who knows what else.

There is hope:

There’s still hope, the other day I went to newest community playground in San Diego and there was a real, functioning and brand new seesaw (these have been deemed much too dangerous for children for years and are hard to find in your average neighborhood park)! There are parents, like the Meitiv, Ben and Jess Greenfield and I, who believe whole heartedly that our children are capable beings, who can learn how to negotiate the world, handle failure and get hurt without being destroyed by the experience (even though it means we get dirty looks when we allow our kids to climb trees without harnesses, or jump off of high structures or walk to school alone). My oldest just turned six, we will be spending the next year working on his street safety, because I expect him to be able to walk the 11 blocks to school on his own by the time he is 7, and when his little brother joins him, I’ll expect both of them to make it there together…call CPS now, I guess.
Alessandra Wall, Ph.D.

Do what you love

Is it realistic to tell people to “do what you love”? Or is it simply an elitist mantra. The passing of my grand-mother gave me the answer. fcade2_701255a7d5124b6488b9cf2a79dccebe.jpg_srb_p_353_470_75_22_0.50_1.20_0

This week my grandmother, Angela Di Gioia, passed away at the wonderful age of 97 and a half. Don’t be sad for me, nor her, I believe neither one of us was sad about this event. My grandmother lived a long and amazing life and by the time of her passing she was ready to move on. I have no regrets when it comes to her passing; I said all that I wanted to say, conveyed all the love and respect I meant to, I have learned and will pass on what I valued the most and I believe she was able to do the same with me.

“If you are lucky enough to have the freedom to do so,

do what you love.” click to tweet

The passing of my grandmother lead me back to thinking about an article I read several months ago regarding the mantra “Do what you love”. The gist of the article was that this concept was a myth, a vision of possibility available only to the elite; but is it? I don’t think so, as long as you can expand your definition of “do.”

Possibly an elitist myth

I am totally guilty of encouraging people to follow their dreams and do what they love. In America especially, such a large portion of our lives is spent in the work space that it seems a waste to stick with a profession that makes you miserable, or isn’t fulfilling in some way. However, one has to be pragmatic, you can’t just up and change your job without any consideration for your financial needs or responsibilities. So the statement is amended to: “If you are lucky enough to have the freedom to do so, do what you love.”

I find the elitist perspective is to assume that only professions that are liberal or creative or extremely lucrative provide true fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment. I was very fulfilled as a waitress, when I worked 50 hours or so per week post college; I did my job well, I proved to myself that I was able to earn my keep quite legitimately, and I thrived on the positive interactions I could get. It is not something that I could derive fulfillment from for years, but at the time it was the right place for me.  A job or activity is not fulfilling because of what it is, or how much it pays, what defines fulfillment is your own set of values and needs.

A universal possibility:

So let’s say, however, that one is in the position of disliking their job, but being unable to leave for financial reason. I believe the “do what you love” mantra can and should be expanded to other areas of life. Is it possible to be very satisfied in all areas of life? Sure it is? Is it common? Nope… So when there is nothing you can easily do about one area of your life, the idea would be to build fulfillment and joy in other areas. With regards to work, it might mean that your job is just a job, something you grind away at and do because you have to, but outside of work you create a life that is rich with value and meaning and fulfillment. I believe that is universally attainable.

What does this have to do with my grandmother?

fcade2_7b78bc5917f54892a9bdee31206083b8.jpg_srb_p_507_340_75_22_0.50_1.20_0 My grand-mother grew up in a small town in southern Italy and had a 5th grade education, because girl’s were expected to help at home, not expand their minds. She was sent to marry a man she hardly knew and had to give up the man she loved, because at that time in her life arranged marriages still occurred, and she was a dutiful daughter and did what she was told. She was plucked from her home town in southern Italy and sent off the Paris, without any knowledge of French. She entered a family where she was expected by her mother-in-law to be a servant wife, and was lucky enough to have a husband who just wanted her to be a contributing wife and mother. He treated her with respect and kindness and eventually they developed mutual care and maybe even love. She lived through two world wars, one depression, breast cancer and a double mastectomy when it was a risky procedure and the death of her husband over 15 years ago.

fcade2_0320821686884516a45a049fd092eccd.jpg_srb_p_328_490_75_22_0.50_1.20_0 She was a simple woman with simple pleasures, but she found a way to derive satisfaction from the things she did. If we were able to ask her if she lived well, and whether or not she did what she loved I think she would give two replies: 1) “It never occurred to me to consider either, I just did what I needed to do and made do with what I was given.” If pressed further on the issue, however, I believe she would say this: “Yes, I guess so, I figured out how to find pleasure and derive satisfaction from the things and the life I had.” Do what you love would have had another meaning for her, but I think it still could have stood as a mantra – the “tweak” the adjustment in her version would have been “find what you love in what you do and what you have.”

In honor or my grand-mother: What is one way in which you could derive more fulfillment from your life as it stands today? It may be through a perspective shift, or through a shift in your actual focus. Please share.

Mine: will be to make a concerted effort to get 30 minutes more sleep, more sleep means more patience, which means more joy in my daily interactions.

Alessandra Wall, Ph.D.