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Filtering by Tag: Endless

The Art of Resting in Motion (When There's Just Too Much To Do!)

Rae Hering

Photo from Wikipedia.
Photo from Wikipedia.

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/133254573" params="color=00aabb&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

The process of recording an album is different for everyone.  Some musicians complete their album in a week’s time, maybe it takes a couple of months, or if you’re Miles Davis, you can knock out an album in just two days – worked out beautifully for his 1959 album Kind of Blue. I’m not that kind of musician - at least not yet.  Teaching lessons during the week pushes recording time to the weekends.  And the fact that I don’t tour consistently means it takes longer to figure out how the song should sound on the recording. Nonetheless, I’m happy to report that the tracking for “The Shy Gemini Sessions” is now complete!  This marks the end of a six-month period where Jonathan, Bobby Holland (my

Here's Bobby and I working out some parts. Photo credit: Jonathan Morse.
Here's Bobby and I working out some parts. Photo credit: Jonathan Morse.

producer and engineer) and I have spent almost every Saturday and Sunday exploring parts, experimenting with instruments and hammering out details.  We sure have had a lot of fun working our butts off!  Time for a break, right? Silly Rae, recess is for kids!  The moment I start thinking that I have my weekends back for a little R&R, I remind myself that when it comes to being an independent music artist, weekends simply aren’t for relaxing – there’s a LOT more to do.  In fact, I’m frequently saying to myself there’s too much to do.  For those of us that are moving towards bigger visions for our lives, there’s always going to be too much to do.

library.defenderdirect.com.
library.defenderdirect.com.

But I try to keep in mind what Rory Vaden eloquently states it in his book “Take the Stairs.”

Successful people “understand that there’s no real finish line, no magic moment when they will ‘arrive’ and get to rest on their laurels. Discipline is a perpetual process, and the growth is in the journey.  Simple, but here’s the part that you won’t want to hear – you don’t get a day off.  Ever.”

There have been plenty of times where I feel like I’m running the hamster wheel, never getting a chance to just finish something.  But when I have the discipline to stay active with moving my music career forward, I realize that I’m rejuvenated by staying active, NOT from taking a break!  I find that maintaining this state of being wipes away that craving for “zone out” time in front of the TV, luxurious weekend spa treatments, or drinking the weekend away.

juliacameronlive.com
juliacameronlive.com

In her book “The Artist’s Way,”Julia Cameron depicts this idea perfectly when she urges her readers to learn to “rest in motion.”  It’s a counterintuitive truth that I think we all have a good grasp of already.  Think of it this way: exercising our bodies requires energy, but it gives us a whole lot of energy in return.  Exercise gets our blood flowing, which delivers oxygen throughout our bodies – oxygen that’s required for making energy.  In short, we spend a little energy to get a whole of energy back (now that’s my kind of investment!) “Endless” is a song about continuing to move forward even when it feels like there’s no where to go.  (Please keep in mind that this is a SNEAK PEAK unfinished version!)  Now that a milestone has been achieved with recording “The Shy Gemini Sessions” it’s time to tell myself, “good job!” and then quickly tell myself to keep moving. [soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/133254573" params="color=00aabb&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

Attack of the Brain! (and Our Fighting Chance.)

Rae Hering

I live in a country where opportunity is abundant and for this I am thankful.  Along with this opportunity though comes the hectic mad dash to the top as I try to figure out how to be successful alongside my peers.  Inundated with information and responsibilities, I end up stuffing my time with tasks yet end up accomplishing very little.  The result is feeling disparaged as I go nowhere like a hamster in a wheel. (One tiny good part is I get a lot of songs out of this feeling). So, the paradox I’m pondering today is this: I have so much to get done in my life - why is it that when I find time to accomplish these things, I get stuck not knowing where to begin?

I decided to do a little research and found a post on buffer that seemed to describe each aspect of my problem with a well-thought out and enlightened response.  I’m literally going to post these points in my work space at home as a reminder that even though the problem seems gigantic, there’s a simple solution – all it takes is a little change of perspective.

Posted on Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Written by Gregory Ciotti

How our brains stop us achieving our goals and how to fight back

As admittedly wonderful and fascinating as the human brain is, it definitely can feel like our brain is out to get us sometimes.

Summed up perfectly in the many observations of the “Scumbag Brain” meme, our brain does seem to engage in “sabotage” in terms of how it naturally reacts to situations.

The scary thing is that in some circumstances, these feelings are backed up by actual research!

We’ve already discussed how poorly our brain operates while multitasking (despite tricking us to feel fulfilled while we do it), and today I’d like to expand upon 5 new dangers present in our ‘scumbag brains.’

In this post you’ll learn how to combat your brain’s own brilliance, overcoming it’s instinctual reactions which often have devastating effects on those all-important long term goals that you set for yourself.

Let’s get started!

1.) Your brain can hurt your goals by fantasizing too much

Would you believe that fantasizing is the #1 way your brain can unintentionally ruin your goals?

It seems unlikely, right?

The thing is, the proof is in the pudding (or in this case, the research): psychologists have found that while positive thinking about the future is broadly beneficial, too much fantasy can have disastrous results on achieving goals.

Researchers tracked the progress of how people cope with four different types of challenges.

As an example, in one of those challenges (trying to find a fulfilling job), those who had spent the most time fantasizing performed the worst in a variety of critical data points:

  • they had applied for fewer jobs
  • they had been offered fewer jobs
  • if they were able to find work, they had lower salaries.

Why?

Why could fantasizing about a positive end take a turn for the worse?

Jeremy Dean, a psychological researcher at UCL London and the owner of PsyBlog had this to say about the researcher’s conclusions:

The problem with positive fantasies is that they allow us to anticipate success in the here and now. However, they don’t alert us to the problems we are likely to face along the way and can leave us with less motivation—after all, it feels like we’ve already reached our goal.

It’s one way in which our minds own brilliance lets us down. Because it’s so amazing at simulating our achievement of future events, it can actually undermine our attempts to achieve those goals in reality.

Our poor brain is thus a victim of itself.

Again, this is not to say that visualizing goals is necessarily a haphazard strategy for achieving them, it’s just that we need to be aware of the dangers of excessive fantasy.

Instead of being entranced with what the future may bring, we need to learn to love the work here and now.

Enjoying our day by day progress and realistic ‘checkpoints’ is a much more practical way to create our future; getting lost in grandiose dreams that focus on the ultimate end is not.

As they say, don’t give up on your dreams, but don’t fall under their spell either.

2.) Your brain procrastinates on big projects by visualizing the worst parts

Procrastination, of all of the things on this list, is likely the most recognizable: everybody realizes that they procrastinate from time to time, and it’s something we are forced to battle with every day.

How can we fight this persistent opponent?

Interesting research from Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik (of whom the Zeigarnik Effect is named after) reveals to us an interesting tidbit about the human mind: we are better at remember things that are partially done.

Ms. Zeigarnik came to this conclusion by testing the memory of folks doing simple “brain” tasks like puzzles or crafts.

She then interrupted them and asked them to recall (with specific detail) the tasks that they were doing or had completed.

She found that people were twice as likely to recall more detail about the tasks they had been interrupted in than in the tasks they had completed.

What does this have to do with procrastination?

Before we get to that, know this: in a study by Kenneth McGraw, participants were given a very tricky puzzle to solve with an “unlimited” amount of time.

The thing is, all of the participants were interrupted before they could finish, and then told that the study was over.

Guess what happened next…

Despite being told they were done, nearly 90% of participants continued working on the puzzle anyway.

What both of these studies teach us is that when people finally manage to start something, they are much more inclined to remember the task and finish it.

The Zeigarnik Effect and the subsequent McGraw study assure us that the best way to beat procrastination is to start somewhere… anywhere.

Our brain has the habit of envisioning the impending huge workload of an upcoming task.

It also tends to focus on the most difficult parts or sections, and this is where procrastination begins to set in: as we try to avoid the “hard work”, we find ways to skate around it and trick ourselves into thinking that we’re busy.

Just starting though, triggers our brain in a different way.

It’s the same way that cliffhangers are utilized to keep us coming back to our favorite TV shows; we’re primed to remember the last episode because the story was interrupted, and our brain wants a conclusion.

It’s the same with your tasks: start, and your brain will overcome the first hurdle.

This seemingly small milestone appears to be the most important one to overcome if you wish to defeat procrastination.

After starting a task, your brain will be more enticed to finish it to it’s “conclusion.”

You also tend to see that it’s not as big a mountain as you initially imagined, and that the work involved in completing this task won’t be so terrifying after all.

3.) Your brain will “abandon ship” at the first sign of distress

Anyone who’s fought the good fight with dieting will likely recognize this phenomenon.

Envision this:

You’re on a diet, and have been doing well for about 2 1/2 weeks, but you know your defenses are at risk.

To make matters work, you’re having dinner with friends tonight.

Instead of the healthy meal you could have made at home, you’re forced to use a restaurant menu.

The problem is this: At the bar before dinner, you had a little “cheat” moment by ordering snacks and drinks, after all, you’re with your pals tonight, right?

You know that those drinks and snacks, combined with the bread you had before dinner, leave you with one option to stay a bit over your caloric intake goals: you must eat a salad.

The thing is, your brain is yelling out “BURGER!”.

Instead of finishing the day a tad over your 2000 calorie goal, you order the burger with fries and don’t look back.

The crazy thing about this scenario?

It’s much more than a momentary act of weakness: psychologists have observed that this is much more likely to happen as a result of you missing a previously set goal.

Specifically, in research by Janet Polivy and her colleagues, people who were actually on diets were tested with pizza and cookies.

In the study, two groups of participants (those on diets and those not dieting) were told not to eat beforehand and then served exactly the same slice of pizza when they arrived to the lab.

Afterwards, they were then asked to taste and rate some cookies (I’m getting hungry already : )).

The thing was, the experimenters didn’t really care about the cookie’s rating, they just wanted to see how many people ate.

This is because they tricked some of the participants into thinking that they had recieved a larger slice than the others (using framing and false information). This was to make them believe that they had most certainly “ruined” their diet goals for the day.

The result?

When the cookies were weighed, it turned out that those who were on a diet and thought they’d blown their limit ate more of the cookies than those who weren’t on a diet.

This doesn’t paint the true picture though: they ate over 50% more!

On the flipside, the dieters that did think that they were in their caloric limit ate the same amount of cookies as those who weren’t on a diet at all.

Truly, our brain is geared towards a call of “Abandon ship!”, whenever we come short of our goals.

Don’t let this happen to you!

The best way to combat your brain from signaling ‘Mission Abort!’ after you’ve missed a short-term goal is to re-frame what just happened.

Yes, you did fall short or maybe mess up this time, but remember the progress that you’ve made.

With the diet example, you could look at all of the “good days” you’ve accumulated thus far: even if you fell after only a few days of starting your new diet, it’s still an accomplishment to have started one and to have set long-term goals for yourself.

Short-term lapses in your end-goal is not like a bad apple spoiling the bunch: you have gotten things accomplished so far and you need to stay focused on the long term, not become distraught by a singule mishap.

Research tells us that this is the best mindset to take for misfortune and failure in general: your progress and achievements go so much farther than that slip-up; don’t let your brain convince you that all is lost!

4.) Your brain loves mindless busywork disguised as progress

How fitting that this should be posted on a site that relates to social media!

One of the ways in which your brain continues it’s trickery is through busywork: work that gets “something” done, but not something that produces any measurable results.

In fact, research by John Bargh and colleagues reveals that our brain just loves to become robotic and to even mimic people out of habit.

I shouldn’t have to tell you that this is disastrous to achieving long term goals!

In fact, this is one of the main reasons that I love Buffer for social media use: it keeps me from logging into Twitter 8 times a day and instead allows me to focus on my writing and on my business.

This busy work is often a mechanism our brain uses in cohesion with avoiding big projects (mentioned above): instead of diving into the difficult tasks we KNOW we should get done, we’ll instead float around doing semi-related (read: barely related) menial tasks to make ourselves feelproductive without actually getting anything done.

Here’s the thing: you’re not going to build a thriving business or a successful blog with that kind of busywork.

It takes doing the hard work and it takes deliberate practice, there’s no way around it.

The thing is, your brain knows this, that’s why you have to remind itremind yourself that the challenging stuff is often the stuff that produces the results you desire.

Also remember that you can fight that procrastination by just getting started.

When you look back at what you’ve gotten done by the end of the day, make sure you’re proud of what you got accomplished, don’t let your brain ruin your goals by diverting you from what needs to be done!

5.) Your brain is not good at “winging it” when it comes to planning… ever!

Every night before I go to sleep, I like to write a simple “to-do” list that I group into two categories.

I put some in category ‘A’ (must be done tomorrow) and some in category ‘B’ (must be worked on or done in 2-3 days).

I do this because when I sit down at the computer to do work without a plan, I tend to fall flat on my face.

My so called “work time” turns into the not-so-productive “check email time” or “browse Reddit” time; nothing of any importance gets done.

It seems that I’m not alone!

In research by Gollwitzer and colleagues, the subject of “if-then” plans was discussed in relation to how we set and stay consistent with out goals, and the results are not surprising but reveal a lot of insight into how our brain reacts to planning (and even some great tips).

The thing is, researchers found that not only do well laid plans seem to get accomplished more often, but planning for failures along the way (“In case of emergency…”) helps people stay on task under duress.

Let’s continue our diet example from above.

Say you did have that lapse and go over your calories for the day.

Instead of “winging it” and letting your brain crumble to it’s likely response (discussed above), you should have a backup plan ready to know what to do when failure strikes.

This could be something like: “If I go over 2000 calories in a day, I’ll finish the day as close to 2000 as I can, and then the next morning, I’ll go for a 15 minute run as a ‘penance’, make sure I eat an extra healthy breakfast, and then continue the rest of my day as normal.”

You are likely no stranger to feeling ashamed about getting off track, we’ve all been there.

Having those “In case of emergency…” plans help us to have a gameplan in case we do falter, and including a small ‘penance’ like I discussed above can help us get over it quicker.

If you failed on your diet for a day and then ‘punish’ (again, just with a quick run) yourself by running in the morning, you can go about your day knowing that you got what you deserved, instead of sliding down the slippery slope of guilt through the rest of the day.

So remember to include an “If-Then” plan for your next big goal, you’ll be able to beat back your brain’s guilt over slipping up now and then and you won’t have to ever “wing it” in case something goes wrong!

Endless - The Torture of "Tick Tock, Tick Tock"

Rae Hering

[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/110911238" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /] I’m angry with my 22 year-old self.  She was aimless and flippantly said things like “it will all work out somehow.”  I bitterly ask her what the HOW part of ‘somehow’ was.  She would daydream in her music business classes and ignore songwriting for other petty projects that sidetracked her.  I want to scream at her, “what were you thinking!?”  I’ve imagined an unhealthy amount of times how it could have been if she hadn’t wasted so many precious years.

“Youth is wasted on the young” – George Bernard Shaw

The 22 year old Me.
The 22 year old Me.

I haven’t been able to forgive that lost 22-year old girl yet.  This game of mental torment is a poor placeholder for forgiveness, but I keep coming back to it.  I bang my head against the fact that I can’t go back and do things differently.  It’s a familiar story – I’m sure many of you can relate.

I spent my younger years being clueless in my music career endeavors.  I regret this tremendously.  I stayed in relationships that were not conducive to pursuing making a living with my music.  I maintained the belief that it would all fall into my lap.  I chose to pointlessly drink with friends at the bar more nights than I stayed home to work on songwriting.

If you ever argue with yourself to no avail, if you’ve found yourself defending your regrets and obsessing over your loses, if you can’t stop seeing life as a series of mazes and dead ends, then this song, “Endless,” is for you.

I wrote “Endless” as a sort of letter to myself.  Through the writing process, I acknowledge my hurt, even though it is self-inflicted.  I assure myself in full conviction that my Spirit extends much further than the narrow field I draw myself into.  I tell myself that I am Endless, so I shouldn’t stop here, much less wallow in a pity party.

As of right now, the pity parties still happen once in awhile.  Last Friday I found myself stifling tears in the corner of the bathroom stall at Jed’s Sports Bar and Grille in Nashville.

Jonathan and I at Jed's in Nashville, TN.
Jonathan and I at Jed's in Nashville, TN.

I’ve been going there every week to play and get my music out there, but still, my negative thoughts were on repeat (…I’ve wasted so much time, so much TIME, all gone, wasted, wasted, WASTED! )

I went back to my seat to find my fiancé, Jonathan, who knows I struggle with this regret.  I am thankful for having someone like Jonathan in my life to remind me that my thoughts are hurtful to myself.  To remind me that I lead a good life, and that everything is as it should be.  It takes a lot of reminding, but I do believe this.  When I sing “Endless,” not only am I singing it for the audience but for myself.

(FYI: The recording of "Endless" included in this blog post is an un-finalized version I'm making for my new EP entitled "The Shy Gemini Sessions."  I'm shooting to be finished with the project early 2014).

[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/110911238" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]