Beyond the fireworks and barbecues, the Fourth of July provides an opportunity for reflection - what does freedom mean to each of us, and how can we show up and take a stand for the things that matter most - related to freedom in our world, and freedom for other humans?

Below, a few types of freedom to consider.

Freedom From Stuff (and the related impact of stuff):

Freedom From Thoughts and Stories that Don't Serve Us:

  • Try Byron Katie's "The Work." The process? Ask these four questions on any thoughts, stories, or notions that are floating around in your head.

    • Is it True?

    • Can I Absolutely Know that It's True?

    • How do I React When I Think That Thought?

    • Who Would I Be Without That Thought?

Freedom For Human Beings who are being detained in overcrowded facilities at our borders, without access to basic necessities such as soap, and for children who are being separated from their parents:

  • Read the reports. Go to the website of the Office of the Inspector General and see the "Latest Reports" section on the front page. Factual reports on what is currently happening at our borders.

  • Download the Goods Unite Us app to see what causes or politicians you might unintentionally be supporting with your dollars. Search for your grocery stores, your banks, and your services to see where their funds flow.

  • Make a donation to an organization whose work and mission you resonate with. A few possibilities to explore, if you feel called to do so (Note: several of these organizations identify as "center-leaning,” rather than leaning one way or another politically):

  • Contact your elected officials. Get involved locally. Volunteer.

  • Stay informed. Keep turning in even when it feels easier to look away.

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference." - Elie Wiesel

Overcoming Present Bias: Thinking About Tomorrow When Making Decisions Today

future self and decisions

Research suggests that many of us make up to 35,000 decisions each day or 2,000 decisions per hour if we account for sleeping.

We make small micro decisions about things like what to wear and what to eat; we make big decisions about launch dates and budgets and whether or not to accept that job offer. We make decisions that form (or break) habits, decisions that move us toward (or away from) our goals, decisions that build (or sometimes unintentionally harm) connections and relationships with others.

How can we make it easier to make the best decision, especially when there isn’t a clear “best” option? How can we make decisions in the present that move us toward our desired future? And how can we be more intentional about the small, sometimes unconscious, decisions that we make in the moments that have an impact on what will follow?

Research on present bias tells us that we give stronger weight to pay-offs that are closer to the current time. We tend to value immediate gratification over long-term gain.

In other words, we tend to value what our present self wants, over what might be in the best interest of our future self.

We hit snooze because our present self is tired, even though our future self will be stressed out and rushed. We have another glass of wine because our present self wants to, even though our future self will have trouble sleeping. We go to the networking event because our present self feels like we should, even though we know our future self will be looking at the clock, eager to leave.

#YOLO, right?

While #YOLO certainly has a place, the research suggests that if we only value the needs and desires of our present self, we won’t actually form the habits or meet the goals that our future self deeply desires.

One of the tools I use almost daily is a check-in with my future self. I’ve written before about checking in with our future self (5 years, 10 years, 20+ years out) for big decisions related to career or the path of our lives. We can use this tool for small, everyday decisions as well, by checking in with our future self an hour, a few hours, or a day from now.

Here are a few examples of how it’s been helpful for me.

When I was training for Ironman in 2016, I frequently dreaded my swimming workouts. Traipsing to the gym in the middle of the cold, dark, Wisconsin winter to jump into a freezing cold pool, to rinse off in an almost-as-cold shower at one particularly unfortunate local swimming destination, was basically the worst combination of events that I could dream up. Each day, if I had a swim workout on my schedule, I would tell myself, “I’ll do it tonight.” What I quickly learned, though, is that my future self - my evening self who had already showered and gotten ready for the day - never went swimming. My future evening self liked to be home on those cold winter evenings, and my future evening self hated swimming indoors even more than my morning self. If swimming was going to happen, it was going to happen early in the day. (Note: this could also describe why my present self has taken 8 year hiatuses between any triathlon-related activity; she knows how my future self feels about indoor lap swim in the dead of winter).

This week, I stayed up late two nights in a row, eating lingering dinners with girlfriends and talking about life. The second night even involved an impromptu 10:30 walk with the pup - a delightful turn of events for a Wednesday evening, but way past my usual bedtime! When it came time for my optional mastermind meet-up the next morning, I considered skipping it. My current self was tired. But I thought about my future self - and remembered how I felt last time I attended the mastermind. I remembered leaving the meeting, on a beautiful sunny morning, feeling inspired for the rest of the day. I knew that my future self would feel the same this time around - it was even another beautiful sunny morning - and I decided to go. I was so glad that I did.

I know that my future self is always happiest when I bike commute instead of drive, meaning that my present self needs to plan accordingly - both in wardrobe and timing. (Hilariously, this week, my present self totally neglected to check the weather before heading out via bike for a meeting, resulting in my future self stuck in a downpour at the exact time that the meeting ended. #oops. I never said that this framework is flawless!)

My future self is often cold at restaurants - which means that my present self always needs to pack a sweater, even if it’s 90 degrees.

My future self often spends too much money at Whole Foods when running across the street for a snack between client meetings, so my present self tries to keep granola bars stashed at the office.

The list goes on.

The basic idea is this: when making a decision in the present, fast forward to consider the needs, desires, and goals of your future self. This helps us to make better decisions in the present that we can look back on with contentment at the end of the day, the week, the month - and hopefully, at the end of our lives.

A few additional resources to support the cause:

Observations from May's Social Media Pause

social media pause

During the month of May,  I decided to take a little pause from Social Media.

There was no dramatic fanfare, no big announcement, and no “goodbye for now” post. There was just a quiet step back from the beginning of May until the end.

The reason for my social media pause was the desire to create more white space in my days. While I wasn’t necessarily spending a ton of time on social media, it was typically a regular part of my daily and weekly rhythms. I post regularly about things I’m thinking about in my work and my life, and between posts often check in on friends or other accounts that I follow.

I was curious if its absence could create just a bit more breathing room - a bit more slowness - and a bit more space where other things could reside.

I was quite delighted by what I observed during this time and by the things that did, indeed, fit into these new little spaces of life, created by this month-long pause.

Here are a few of the things I have been reflecting on along the way.

If I want someone to know something, I need to tell them.

Going off social media for a month, I found myself saying “no” several times when asked, “did you see ABC on Instagram?” This exchange made me realize that on occasion in the past, I had assumed that others in my life might know something in my life or my business, simply because I had posted about it on social media. This is an erroneous assumption on a number of levels, and my month-long pause helped to underline my ownership when it comes to communicating important things to others.

If I want to know what’s happening with others in my life, I need to ask.

Going off social media for a month meant that this exchange applied in reverse, as well. No longer could I catch up on others with a quick scroll through Instagram. If I wanted to know how a friend’s race went, I needed to ask her. There was no race recap for me to read during my month-long pause. I found myself appreciating text message check-ins, one on one conversations, and ongoing conversations with close girlfriends on Marco Polo to stay tuned into the everyday happenings of their life.

I read more.

During this time, I read over a book a week. Now, granted, some of these books were short, easy reads. But still. This was more reading than I’d been doing in the months leading up to this pause. I developed what felt like a very luxurious habit of reading a good old fashioned book each night before bed. While I did this on and off regularly prior to the social media pause, the “30 days to form a habit” concept worked really well for me in this case, adding a wonderfully consistent wind-down rhythm to my evenings, which I am excited to continue.

I walked more.

I’m not sure if this benefit was directly correlated, or simply a conveniently timed coincidence given the shifting weather here in the midwest, but in these new little pockets of white space, I found myself on many slow, delightful walks with the dog. Walks around the neighborhood, walks along the bike path, walks in the morning, and walks in the evening before bed. In addition to more reading, this was my favorite unintended and unexpected outcome of the social media pause.

I was less annoyed.

Despite my attempts at a highly curated feed, there’s still plenty of annoying stuff that I find myself accidentally stumbling upon when I log onto Instagram. In a few cases, I noticed that this content was causing my heart to beat a bit faster, and my breath to become a bit shorter. The absence of these little tidbits of annoyance was quite lovely.

I did miss one important thing.

To my knowledge, I didn’t miss too many earth-shattering updates during my social media pause. I talked regularly with girlfriends - catching up on day-to-day, ordinary life events, as well as massive life changes like the arrival of a new baby. I read the blogs and newsletters of people I love to follow. I continued writing on my own blog, and sending out my newsletter to the incredible Zing Collaborative community. I did, however, discover that I missed one very important (to me) thing: the announcement of a Farewell Flow by my all-time favorite yoga instructor, leading me to sign up five days after it was announced, putting me 12th on the waitlist. This was a class that I attended almost every Sunday morning that I was in town for the last year and a half - a class that I called my church. And despite stalking the yoga schedule every week for the possibility of my favorite teacher’s return, I missed the announcement of this class - shared only via Instagram. Since signing up yesterday, I’ve bumped up to 11th on the waitlist, so I’m going to keep my fingers crossed for 11 more cancelations, which might just mean that I can say that there were no negative impacts of my month-long pause.

Concluding Thoughts

I did this social media pause as an experiment - to see if it might help me to create more of the white space I’ve been craving. It definitely did, along with delivering a few other unexpected surprises such as more reading and more walks with the pup. As I ease back in over the upcoming weeks, I’m looking forward to observing what I notice along the way.

For More

I recommend checking out Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. I discovered this book after doing my social media pause, but after digging into his research, I found it to be incredibly timely coming off my own social media hiatus. What struck me most were his findings related to our addictive patterns with technology. He found that it was not the introduction of the iPhone that made us addicted to our phones, but rather the “like” button on social media - something that triggers a basic human instinct to want to know that we are valued, or that someone is thinking about us. Hear more on the book via this brief podcast from Outside Online, or the Blinkist Summary for a great overview.

Getting Off the Drama Triangle

drama triangle

Where is your favorite place to go during times of conflict? According to Stephan Karpman, most of us like to go to one of three corners of what he calls the Drama Triangle: the persecutor, the victim, and the rescuer.

The Victim’s stance is “poor me!” You might know a victim at work who is constantly complaining about something - whether their pay, their manager, or the food in the cafeteria. They might say things like “it’s just not fair,” or “there’s nothing I can do.” You might know a victim in your personal life who is continuously getting herself into one toxic relationship after another - needing constant help and console from those around her; or a loved one who seems to actively create toxic and destructive situations for himself, keeping him stuck in victim mentality.

The Rescuer is the favorite section of the triangle in my circles. I work with high performing, high achieving people - and sometimes, in our quest to help others be high performing and high achieving, we go a bit too far, into the land of rescuing. While healthy support looks like empowerment, rescuing can look like enabling those who are stuck in victim mode. Rescuers stance is “let me help you.” Rescuers often feel obligated to expend unhealthy amounts of time and energy to help the victims around them, and guilty if they don’t. In families, this often looks like one family member trying to “save” another family member - whether from destructive behavior, or from debt. In organizations, this might mean working so hard to try to improve your organizational culture that you take on issues that aren’t actually yours to own, ultimately burning out or leaving in a flame of frustration. Oftentimes rescuers take on the role of martyr and focus their energy and attention externally, as a way to avoid looking inward at their own feelings, emotions, and anxieties.

Finally, The Persecutor (aka The Villain) has a mindset that “it’s all your fault.” They are controlling, blaming, critical, oppressive, angry, authoritative, rigid, and superior. I find that in especially toxic situations, a person might alternate between the persecutor (blaming others and avoiding ownership and accountability) and the victim (especially if others suggest the possibility of ownership or accountability). In the eyes of the victim, the persecutor can also take the form of events or situations (a company or organization, a health condition, or even the weather).

Oftentimes, a relationship of enabling and codependency arises between a victim and a rescuer who, through their default behaviors, keep each other stuck in this destructive pattern.

Ideally, we are not spending our time in any of these three corners of the triangle and can get off of the triangle altogether. Our opportunity, as we are exploring how to be more skillful in navigating conflict, is to recognize when we might be playing a part in the drama triangle. From there, we can consciously work to get off the triangle and then create something different.

Here are a few ways that we can do that.

  • Notice when we find ourselves on the Drama Triangle. Ask ourselves: what role am I currently playing?

  • Zoom up from our individual corner (victim, persecutor, or rescuer) to observe: what’s happening in this situation overall? What is needed?

  • Look at things from a systems perspective. Outside of the individual people or situations involved, what does the system need? For example, in a family where each member often defaults into certain roles to perpetuate a toxic situation, what is truly needed in the family system? Is it more honest dialogue? Healthier boundaries? More tough love?

  • Notice your patterns. Which corner is your default? And what is the root of your tendency to go there? For example, if you have rescuer tendencies, what might be leading you to that corner? Is it a need to feel validated? A longing to feel appreciated? Or the avoidance of feelings within yourself?

Oftentimes turning the mirror toward ourselves can be uncomfortable, but it’s what allows us to uncover the root of our behaviors so that we can change them and create something different.

Photo Credit: Stephan Valentin

Reviving the #StopBy


When I was in high school, I would often observe, with a smile, the mother of one of my friends and the rhythms of her everyday life. My favorite thing to observe was the way she gathered with her girlfriends - casually, joyfully, and ad hoc - often with a bottle of wine and some crackers on the back deck. Together, they would talk, laugh, and catch up on the happenings of their days. Their gatherings radiated joy and love - the perfect picture of women coming together, of female friendship, of connection.

At the time, I knew that was how I wanted to gather with my girlfriends when I was older…when I had a house, a back deck, and a neighborhood of my own. I loved the impromptu nature of their gatherings. I loved the laughter and conversation that floated from the deck, through the screen door, and into the house. I loved the way that when they gathered, it seemed as though they didn’t have a care in the world or anywhere else to be.

Now that I’m older, I realize that they had plenty of cares in the world and many other places that they could have been. But they chose to be there - on that back deck, together, with wine and crackers and conversation and laughter.

Since then, our lives have only gotten busier. At that time, there weren’t cell phones or Slack channels or Instagram Stories. There were landlines. There was slow dial-up internet and AIM Instant Messenger for the tech savvy. My parents called me home for dinner via a bell on the back deck that I could hear from the neighbor’s house.

I hear many people say that this impromptu way of gathering is no longer possible today. We are simply too busy. Schedules are simply too hard. There are the kids’ sports schedules and the baby’s bedtime. There’s the work trip next week and the conference the week after that. There are schedules and meal plans and agendas and chores. There are the shared calendars and the shared reminders and the agility classes with the dog, and it just doesn’t look like there’s going to be any free space until next quarter.

But what if, even amidst the schedules and the shared calendars and the text messages and the demands of everyday life, we can still create time to come together - to gather, in friendship, with the people who are most dear to us?

What if it doesn’t have to be so hard?

What if, instead of a dinner scheduled out six months on the calendar, it can be a random stop-by for 20 minutes - between the baby’s nap and the kiddo’s soccer game and the pup’s agility class?

What if, instead of a five course dinner, it can be some pizzas on the back deck?

And what if, instead of the get-together that’s been rescheduled six times now due to unexpected conflicts, it can be a random visit with a bottle of wine and a box of crackers - to be shared together, alongside laughter and connection and love on the back deck?

These are some questions I’ve been pondering lately.

With a few friends, we have, in the spirit of this pondering, been piloting what we’re calling the #stopby. In short, the definition of the #stopby is: stop by at friends’ houses when a) in the neighborhood or when b) one could be in the neighborhood with just a bit of creativity. This might mean while running an errand, while out on a dog walk (in our case), or while walking with the baby (in theirs).

The overall #stopby success could be summarized as “mixed.” Oftentimes, the folks at the destination are out and about and therefore not available for the visit. Sometimes, I have just gotten out of the shower at the exact time of our friends’ #stopby and am in a towel or bathrobe - arguably not the best #stopby attire. But success metrics aside, the intention behind the #stopby has sparked creativity and fun, in addition to seeing friends more. It has led to music videos and pranks taking place on our front stoop; staged photo shoots on theirs; and plenty of smiles while finding a baby stroller (baby inside) parked on randomly on our front sidewalk (don’t worry - her parents were right around the corner).

The #stopby has been a fun and easy way to see friends more frequently in a manner that doesn’t need to be scheduled on the calendar or planned six months in advance. The #stopbys create a sense of community, a feeling of joy and lightness. And, one could argue that the #stopbys might even lead to the house being a tiny bit cleaner, since subconsciously you might never know who might drop by in any given moment…

What do you think? Does the #stopby sound delightful, or terrifying to you? Do you love, or loathe, the idea of unannounced visitors?

For those who are interested in increasing the #stopby activity at your house, here are a few possibilities to explore.

  • Add a Little Free Library. There is nothing better than seeing our little “frequent patrons” of the Little Free Library walk, skip, bike, or scooter up to check out the latest selection. Adding a Little Free Library has helped us get to know far more neighbors, more dogs, and more kiddos in the neighborhood.

  • Move to the front yard. While we spend most of our time out back, I’m always delighted by the impromptu conversations with neighbors and friends that occur while spending time in the front yard.

  • Throw out the invitation, “stop by anytime!” (and mean it).

If random #stopbys are the things that your nightmares are made of, I recommend doing the opposite of everything written above, while turning off the lights and drawing the blinds. I write this last section with a loving and slightly mischievous smile aimed at my most wonderfully introverted friends, who have likely been cringing throughout this entire post.

Here’s to #stopbys and simplicity.

Photo Credit: Christopher Harris. This is neither my front door nor my bike, but aren’t they both charming?