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I Brushed My Teeth with Tap Water in Mexico Again


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I Brushed My Teeth With Tap Water In Mexico Again…

 

Coming at you today from Tulum Mexico! I want to tell you this story about my husband, Soren, and his tooth brushing adventure.

So, Soren’s standing at the sink, and he KNOWS you don’t use tap water in Mexico to brush your teeth. He’s standing there, with his toothbrush in one hand, puts the toothpaste on it, reaches for the sink, turns it on, then stops because duh Mexico water. So, he turns off the sink, opens the bottled water, pours it over his toothpaste covered toothbrush, and brushes his teeth. Then, 30 seconds later, reaches to turn on the tap to rinse, and stops because duh Mexico water. He pours the bottled water on his toothbrush to wash it off, then reaches for the tap AGAIN to get water to rinse his mouth! He starts to crack up, and then finally uses the bottled water for time #3 because BIG DUH, Mexico water.

This is your mind at work. You are one giant, walking mass of worn-in neural pathways. Unless you’re, say, 6 years old.

Now this is great news if your habits are good! If you get up, go to the gym, don’t really fight yourself on it, then fabulous! If you go to work, know how to knock out a few organized emails or use your complicated software to edit your studio’s TV show—great! Or if you start each day with some creative time, call your aging mom every day while you walk to the train, cook a dinner where everything comes out at the same time, and work through a great list of to do’s without stress —awesome. All these are terrific habits if they serve you in an efficient way, and  accomplish the things you want to get done.

But what about all the conscious or unconscious habits you do every minute of the day? These can screw everything up. Let’s start with an obnoxious example. Let’s say every day you get on a scale, feel terrible about it, and then unconscious sabotage yesterday’s plan to cut back on carbs or whatever. Is that working for you? Do you even know that your habitual thought is undermining you? What if every time you go home to visit family, you prepare yourself for a fight. You see the driveway, your body goes into fight or flight. You walk through the door, smell the familiar smells and you immediately think you’re less than your father wants you to be. You see your sister and have a million habitual thoughts about what she could be doing to get the man of her dreams and within the hour you lay into her with criticism and wreck your weekend together.

Your habitual thoughts can sabotage everything. We have to fight them all the time. Or rather we have to stop our unconscious habitual way of going through our days long enough to even SEE these habits. This is the really hard part. That’s why going to new places vacations, adventures, moving, any change really is so helpful because it allows you to suddenly see how you’ve been thinking and doing things.

One of the things I love the most about teaching my improvisational self-discovery workshop is that most people there are doing something they’ve never done before. And immediately, when people are a little unsure or nervous, they go to their what I think of as lowest common denominator – they cling to their habitual bag of tricks. You’ll hear me say “the way you do anything is the way you do everything” and that’s what happens. If you’re a leader, and you get into a new setting, you’ll LEAD. If you’re a hanger-backer, you’ll hang back. You won’t even know you’re doing this perhaps, because the habit is so ingrained. Your entire being will just DO it. What I do in my workshop, is help you NOTICE this. For example, I’ll see someone who’s a really nice person (not a diva, but just totally over-manage a scene, and say, “Hey, you’re taking over the scene and not letting your partner get a word in. Why do you think that is?” I’ve had this particular one happen with a very famous and self-aware self-help writer and even she was totally startled at her own habit of taking over. She laughed and said, “Oh my god, that’s my family! They were all so dysfunctional I had to take responsibility for everyone!” So voila, she took over for everyone everywhere she went. It was incredibly helpful for her to identify her habit. Only after seeing it come out like that are we able to create a mindfulness practice – which ironically is actually also a habit! But a good one we want to create. And slowly over time you’ll be able to catch yourself more easily.

Now back to my husband’s remarkably good looking teeth, which by the way never had braces and I’m jealous of. One of the reasons that he was able to catch himself whereas lots of people would now have dysentery, is that he’s a practicing Buddhist. The dude is MINDFUL. And it’s an even stronger example of how insidious habits are BECAUSE he’s so mindful. I mean, damn, if the Buddhist mindfulness guy gets caught 3 times in 45 seconds, then are we all doomed???

No. The good news is that no matter how old you are the mind is remarkably flexible in these ways IF YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO IT. Which is an interesting saying. Put your mind to it.

So let’s try this:

First, just let this sink in and start to watch your more obvious habits: morning routines, work routines, communication with others, how you go about your day and get things done.

Second, (and this is harder), watch your thoughts and projections on other people. What are you assuming about them? Try verifying. Hey, I’m thinking you’re not enjoying this project or Hey, hon I’m thinking you are stressed and worried about work, is that true? You may be surprised to find your habitual assumptions about other people are wrong.

Third, (even harder maybe), is watching your own thoughts. Why are you pushing some particular boulders uphill? Like say at work, you always go and do email first because you want to “get it out of the way” and yet it always distracts you from looking at the big picture and planning your day well. You get side tracked. You get annoyed and upset by so many things pulling you in different directions. After an hour you’re worn out and have created more work and more problems and haven’t really gotten done the things you need. What was the thought that made this happen? “Oh I’ll get email out of the way so my mind and day is freed up to be creative or to work on the projects I never get to.” Okay, did THAT work for you? Not at all. So, NOTICE THAT! And next time, try a new habitual thought which will lead to a new habitual action. Tomorrow I do creative work first. Tomorrow I tackle that project before I even open email. Do it for a week. Look back on the week and see if it changed things. Of course it may take more than a week for a new habit to really take hold, but see what you need.

Some of my life changing habits just took a day (like starting yoga everyday for a year when I started my Kripalu certification program – but that’s because I agreed to doing that very consciously). And some took a year to really get into my life, like putting every single thing I’m working on into my calendar and getting it out of my head. Some things just take a decision and some take hard work to incorporate.

I’m going to leave you with this story. My uncle was at the hospital with his wife who was having a mastectomy and he was in the waiting room with my father. My uncle was around 50 years old and a life long smoker. My dad turned to him and very simply and not harshly said, You know, your wife is in there having both her breasts removed so she can live a long life with you, and you’re out here smoking.” My uncle looked at his brother, took his cigarette, put it out in the ashtray and literally never picked up another cigarette again in his life. Now that is a remarkable story, but it tells you who’s in charge of the habitual brain: your conscious self.

And here’s my final story. After sitting down and thinking about writing this blog, knowing I wanted to write about the Mexican tooth brushing experience, I went back inside, went to go brush my teeth, and yes, I turned on the tap. So there’s that. That’s what we’re up against! Take your time and be easy on yourself. Changing habits can be hard and let’s not make this an opportunity for self-hate, as my mother used to say when we’d go bathing suit shopping together. Okay? Just know it’s how your brain was designed to work to make you efficient and to protect you and help you quickly run away from dinosaurs if you happen to be one of the Flintstones. If you had to think about every single thing you did all day long it would be a disaster. So the goal is to learn to create habits and use them to our advantage. But we have to be mindful of what they are first. So, start a new mindfulness habit today – being habitually mindful of your habits! Start there.

 

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Promoting Myself Into Oblivion


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I’m a comedian. You’d think I spend my days writing jokes, funny songs, doing photo shoots like lying in a massive pile of banana peels. You know, the usge. Because that seems like what a comedian should do. But nope. Nopety nope nope. I am a professional Self-Promoter. Ugh. Garglefalookymuuuuugh. (That’s a comedy barfing sound.)

You know how sometimes people talk about weight-creep? Gaining pounds after having a baby or menopause? It’s like that. I have self-promotion-creep. You start out making all this comedy — or back when I did theatre and felt less embarrassed to promote it because we called it “art” –and you make this art stuff and in the days before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram you would go to a theatre festival and DO this art and maybe hang around on the street out front handing out fliers to real live human beings and strike up an actual human conversation about what your show was about, and you’re moving your body in real time as you speak and often in the sun (!) —or in the case of Edinburgh, the wet cloudy soggification— and often with a nice break for a ham and cheese crepe sold by another live human who after 20 days of serving you (because clearly you don’t know how to cook) takes pity on you and invites you into their crepe truck to show you how to make the damn things yourself (true story), and you go home two weeks later and buy a crepe pan and now when your friends come over they sheepishly ask if you’ll be making your awesome famous banana and Nutella crepes for dessert. And then life’s a happy freakin’ song.

And I vaguely remember all that. But here’s this past year:

First: Wake up, check socials, read craptastic news, post about a few outrageous civil rights violations and then have the sense to know deep down that posting does absolutely nothing to help the world and probably makes me feel off the hook from having to actually genuinely help in some way, which of course is worse.

Next: feel depressed a bit.

Next: remember that caffeine is an upper! The upper for those attempting not to become alcoholics since the election. Have small amount of caffeine but not so much that I feel anxious. Worry about this. Feel shame that this is occupying my mind while people have REAL problems.

NEXT: Citibike to my Brooklyn co-working office. Love every second of that ride. It’s only 6 blocks, so it’s actually just a bunch of seconds. Dock my bike outside my office and marvel in the convenience AND the joy. Whisk helmet off head smiling to everyone else who just docked their bikes. We understand each other. Small secret society. Actually very large profitable corporate-sponsored society. Fine, whatever.

NEXT: –oops, excuse me. 4 squirrels just ran frolicking down the path next to my park bench where I’m writing. They stopped and are staring at me, like, “Lady, we’re SQUIRRELS. Bottom of the food chain and even we have are less stressed than you. Get a grip, woman,” they say. Now I’m hearing wild animals speak to me in my head. Awesome.

Okay, NEXT: and here’s where it gets sad and maddening. Email, email, email. I know: zero sympathy. You do it too, no matter what job, but let’s all agree shall we that it has totally RUINED EVERYTHING. And then it’s all about pitching pitching pitching.

There was a paragraph I just deleted because it was about as obnoxious and whiney as I’ve come lately. Inner monologue rebuttal: “But Jeeezus, girl, you are a paid writer and performer, how spoiled are you??” Of course you have to promote! Of course you have to hustle! Don’t be such a baby. You want a job you hate instead??

But that’s the problem. The shows and even packing those 6 suitcases filled with costumes and mics and getting on planes and rehearsing and everything to do with the show, is absolute gold. I love the prep, I love the other actors, the audiences, the performances, the social satire message. No doubt. And no doubt that every creative, cool job has parts people hate. But the hustle and self-promotion has become 95% of my time. Not. Exaggering.

And here’s the biggest question I have for all of us. Does it even work? I don’t mean does it make me money, does it make us famous, does it make us “successful” whatever the hell that means. I mean if the “goal” is a happy fulfilling life, and you’re doing something that makes you feel yucky and narcissistic for 95% of your day, is that successful? Clearly not.

This past summer I paused my comedy career to be the Director of my summer theatre camp out in Montana. I would wake up, make about 4 liters of iced tea for myself for the day (it’s Montana… it’s DRY), try to decide which camp songs would be best for morning meeting (The Cat Came Back? Wagon Wheel? Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder?), talk through the plot with my staff for our morning meeting skit –pretend scientists who are using our recyclables for world domination and when things are in the wrong bins something terrible happens like one of our interns who’s their assistant turns into a hedgehog for the day! — then off to workshops where we teach kids how to be good humans through art and collaboration which we hope turns them into great adults one day who will, like, oh say, not lie to the nation or call impoverished countries sh*tholes, or take away health care for poor kids or assault women, just as a few examples… And during this time, I didn’t say one self-promoting word for 8 weeks. And I was never happier. I missed performing for those two months, but I got back to it. But this juxtaposition with what I had been doing all year was really startling.

And feeling connected? Why yes! Real human interactions! Creativity! Imagine that!

You know how 80 year olds who know some stuff always say things like, “I wish I’d known when I was your age what to worry about and what not to give a crap about.” But I want to know the difference now. Not wait until I’ve wasted all this time hustling for some level of achievement that is so unbelievably arbitrary anyway. I mean we all know this: if you gain some achievement you just want more. So… does this endless struggle really make any sense???

Is anyone feeling me on this?

I just want to make stuff. If people see it, great. I’ve had millions and millions of views of my comedy videos. At what point is that enough? What number of hits means I’m okay and doing enough? 5 million and one??

I think it’s sinking in though. Make stuff. Okay. Got it. I make social satire. Promote only maybe 20% of the time if that’s all I can take before it starts taking the joy out of life. Be totally fine with how many people see or don’t see it. There isn’t a magic number of views or Facebook likes that means you’re a good person who’s made enough of a difference in the world. Why is that so hard to believe and remember?

So. Okay, basically this is all just a promo piece for my next book about ditching self-promotion and how to have a genuinely creative life… Ha! Kidding!

Oh dang, wait. Maybe I’m not kidding. That’s not a bad idea…

Join Katie for an online LIVE course on creating a worklife you love, driven by purpose. Yes, we get that this promo is ironic, but still… You’ll love the course! CLICK HERE: https://katiegoodmanspeaking.com/online-course/