The mind traps, the 'uglies' and what to do about them
Today I wanted to explore with you how women operate compared to men. But not only that. There is a whole hidden world underneath it, as you will see!
I was eating my lunch this morning, and whilst doing that, I was watching my husband working at his desk. His workspace is in the darkest corner of our living room and incidentally, it’s a space where we end up drying our washed clothes as well. So there I am, watching him as he is working, completely focused on his computer screen and unaware of my attention on him. I was amazed.
‘I wouldn’t be able to work like that,’ I said, half fascinated, half concerned.
‘What? Why?’ he asked whilst still looking at his screen.
‘You are sitting there without a light on, and you are surrounded by all the washing.’ He was basically crammed in and surrounded by a couple of airers with washed clothes on. It didn’t seem to bother him at all.
‘Now I understand why men never see any of the mess or the things that need doing around the house!’ This was said in a fascinated tone rather than in reproach. I was just surprised I haven't thought about it before.
‘It’s like a tunnel vision,’ I continued my musings whilst his focus was still on his work and his screen.
How women think and operate
And that's when it hit me! If men have a tunnel vision, could it be that women have the opposite of that? What if we focus on everything and anything around us and miss what’s right there in front of us, and right under our noses? Could this explain why we get so easily distracted and overwhelmed?
Now come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever seen a harassed looking, frazzled and overwhelmed man. Certainly not my husband, in any case. He gets stressed and annoyed, but it doesn’t happen very often, and if it does, it’s usually because of a single problem or a single event. If you asked him, he would say something like: ‘Oh, I just got this email and I have to deal with this right now!’ See that? Focused on one thing, one problem, and off he goes and deals with it. And once he has done that, he will focus his full attention on another problem.
If you ask any stressed and overwhelmed woman what’s the problem, she won’t give you one, she gets out a scroll and unravels it in its entire length and you are watching, with growing unease, as the end of it rolls out of the room. Where to start, she thinks. Kids are poorly, I need to finish this task at work, I need to cook dinner but the fridge is empty, we ran out of Calpol... And as she lists all the problems, she gets more and more overwhelmed to the point where she throws the scroll on the floor and crumples in a heap of tears on the sofa. I am being very dramatic here, I know, but this isn’t as unlikely scenario as you would think. I have done this myself many times in the past, where I got so worked up that I couldn’t take it any longer and so I took myself to bed, all tasks and lists forgotten. Very often, this coincides with spikes and dips in my hormones as well.
Mind traps and the 'uglies'
I believe that when men are faced with problems, they laser focus on one of them, and solve it. They switch on their tunnel vision and don’t let anything distract them, not even their wives talking at them! As women, on the other hand, we focus on the whole list and want to do it all in one day, and then we become overwhelmed because, of course, there isn’t enough time to do it all in one day or the tasks take longer than we have anticipated. And guess what? Even if we do eight tasks out of ten, we still feel like we failed, because we should have done it all! It’s not good enough to do just eight. It’s all or nothing, otherwise why even bother?
And it’s this mindset that makes us feel unsuccessful at the end of each day. It’s this mindset that makes us feel like failures and like we are not in control of our lives. Like we never get anything done. We disregard the eight completed tasks and focus on those two we haven’t done. Therefore, we failed. This is a mind trap in all its sparkle and shine. It blinds us and we can't see past it.
Behind our mindset are usually things such as our opinions and our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. These drive our behaviour, whether we are aware of them or not. Problems arise when the 'uglies' (negative thoughts and beliefs) are in control of our behaviour. If you feel like a failure even after completing eight tasks out of ten, your uglies could be thoughts and beliefs such as:
I am not good enough
I am a failure
I am a lost cause
I am a bad mum and wife
I am incompetent
I am a loser
I am lazy
This is harsh. I know. I can offer you few strategies that worked for me and I invite you to try them out and see whether they work for you too.
My 4 strategies:
1, Start your day every morning with a short planning session.
Don’t just jump straight into action because if you do that, you will be jumping from one task onto another, without being intentional or having a real sense of what’s a priority and what can be done later. If you do this, you will feel like you have been busy all day, and the day just whizzed by, but you won’t feel like you accomplished much.
Look at your to-do list and your diary for today, and write one top priority task on a sticky note. This is your must-do task for today. And then do it. If you have any time left, write a list of further three things to do – these are your bonus tasks. Be realistic about how much time you have and how long each of the tasks is going to take. But don’t beat yourself up if you don’t complete them all. After all, they were bonus tasks. You have done the important one already.
2, Plan for the week ahead
If you want to be really effective with your time, set aside some time on Saturday or Sunday and plan for the whole week ahead. Weekly planning is definitely more effective than daily planning because knowing what’s happening in the coming week gives you a sense of control and security. We don’t like when we don’t know what’s happening, what’s around the corner. You can still adjust your plan on a daily basis if things change. Perhaps your kids are home sick one of the days, so just go and adjust your plan for that day. Again, be realistic.
3, Have a break. Have a nap. Rest. Recharge. Go for a walk.
Don’t just rush from one thing onto another. You will run out of steam really quickly. You will be annoyed and frustrated as a result. You might accomplish a lot but you won’t feel any satisfaction or enjoyment because everything you have done was done in a rush or on autopilot.
A client of mine recently told me that she now started to go out more and meets friends for a coffee. And paradoxically, on those days when she goes out and does something fun, it might take an hour or two out of her day, but when she comes back home, she is more productive and enjoys doing all the chores and enjoys playing with her baby.
If you want another example to really get my point: I bought one of those fun singing Christmas tree toys for my son the other day. It sings ‘Rocking around the Christmas tree’ for about a minute. But now the batteries are running out because my son has been playing with it a lot, and it just sounds weird, it's out of tune and the words are slow. It’s not funny or entertaining anymore. That’s what we are like when we just keep going and going without taking a break to recharge our batteries. We are not fun to be around anymore. We are irritable and tired, and don’t feel like doing anything, not even playing with our kids. We just want to lay down in bed and die. Well, perhaps not die, but be left alone and forget about the world. And then we feel bad about it, label ourselves as horrible mothers and the whole cycle continues.
4, Find a coach who will help you break free from your mindset traps and your 'uglies'
All of the tips above are helpful and work, but they only deal with the symptom, not the cause of the problem. The cause of the problem is your thinking, your mindset and the mind set traps you are stuck in. Working with a coach can address the causes of these problems. The symptoms will then either disappear or diminish, and it will be easier for you to deal with them going forward.
I am biased here, of course! I am a coach myself. But do you know why I became a coach? Because I experienced what it’s like to work with a coach and it was so profound and powerful that I too wanted to be the person who helps people change their lives in such a profound way! Better than years of therapy! (I am not dismissing the importance of therapy here, mind you, because I know therapy often needs to come first to get deeper issues out of the way before coaching can be effective).
Find a coach who will help you unpick the limiting mindset, who will help you see the things for what they truly are, in all their ugliness. Coach will help you see your blind spots. Coach will believe in you and cheer you on. Coach will be there with you when things get too difficult or too painful or too emotional. My husband says that I should advertise myself as someone who talks to people on zoom and makes them cry. And to be honest, that is what I do. When my clients cry, when they feel safe and comfortable enough in my company, when they trust that I am there to hold them, that’s when they open up and shine the light on all those lies and 'uglies' they have been telling themselves.
The 'uglies' are always there and you might not even realise they are there, but they influence how we live our lives. Even with relatively superficial things such as wanting to do all the things on our to do list and feeling like a failure when we don’t do them all, there is likely at least one 'uglie' that’s driving this kind of thinking and behaviour. So my question is: do you want to change this? Do you want to be in control of life? Do you want to enjoy your life more? If the answer is yes, get a coach! Book a session with me here, or find a different coach, if that’s what you want. Go get a coach! And I promise you, it’s an investment you won’t regret! It will change your life!