Why Having High Standards May Be Holding You Back.


It donned on me part way through the day that because this past Wednesday was Canada day, the work week seemed to just slop by before I realized I had yet to write my weekly Good for Me article.

Now of course no one is forcing me to write one post each and every week – and I’m sure those of you who are waiting with baited breath for the moment I push the publish button are few and far between, but I made an unspoken commitment to myself to post one original article per week and it’s important for me to keep that commitment.

Now I could give myself the excuse of “Well, you haven’t really had the time to do a whole lot of research and really think about and reflect on what you’re going to write this week, which means it likely won’t be that great, so you probably shouldn’t even bother.” And then I could just not do it. But would I rather not do it and let myself down? Or do it and just lower my expectation.

No, this article is not going to be anything ultra profound or revolutionary. But who says it needs to be? Many of us often mistakenly tell ourselves we have to Go Big or Go Home. And in its attempt to motivate and inspire this phrase can actually backfire and cause us to be much less effective, productive and successful.

What if it’s better to sometimes just go medium? What if it’s okay to sit down and write, read, or study for only an hour if you don’t have the whole day available to do so? What if it’s okay to just go for a slow 30 minute jog instead letting the overwhelming idea of a full on boot camp power hour prevent you from working out at all? What if it’s okay to bring your partner home a brownie or a croissant every few times you grocery shop instead of a big bouquet of flowers only once a year? What if it’s okay to give a somewhat interesting and informative presentation instead of pressuring yourself with the idea you need to blow your colleagues away? What if it’s okay to invite friends over for take-out instead of not getting together at all because the idea of throwing a world-class dinner party feels to overwhelming? What if it’s okay to sometimes just let things be okay?

If we want to both reach our goals, be more engaged with our lives, and grow as individuals it’s important we allow ourselves to just do okay sometimes, and not think everything we do needs to be amazing or it doesn’t count.

If we expect ourselves to be outstanding and perfect in everything we can literally paralyze ourselves in to inaction with all kinds of excuses about why we shouldn’t even bother.

But it is worth the bother. Doing something is far better than doing nothing. Doing nothing does nothing in your pursuit to build your career, strengthen your relationships, or grow as an individual.

And you might be thinking: if it’s not perfect why make any effort at all? But to that I ask: Will you feel better if you do nothing or if you at least do a little something?

Now it might seem silly – no one is holding my fist to the flame and forcing me to fulfill my commitment to write one article per week, but it is something that is important to me and I don’t want excuses to think they are welcome to just show up and take over whenever they please.

I didn’t say each post had to be ground breaking – and I’m quite sure this one is not, but I’m okay with just being okay… for this week anyway.

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What Are You Weird About?


I’m going to come right out and say it: I’m weird about sleep.

And have been as long as I can remember. I think this is partly because as a child, I’ve been told, for some reason I had difficulties falling asleep and this must have carried on more-or-less in to adulthood.

Now I’m not sure if this issues is a case of the chicken or the egg. I don’t know if I have problems falling asleep because I’m worried about whether or not I’m going to get enough sleep, or if it just takes me longer than average to fall asleep which then gives my brain plenty of time to fret about not being able to fall asleep.

In all fairness, I did used to be a lot more uptight about the whole sleep thing – that was until I had 2 kids, both of whom are currently under 2 and a half. And if you have small children, you know your days of 9 straight hours in bed are looooonnnng gone (I’m secretly excited about the teenage years when they refuse to get out of bed so I can again too!)

But back to the topic at hand. Me and sleep. Or sleep and I. Whatever.

Getting a good amount of sleep is important to me. And not just because it isn’t fun to feel tired all the time – actually I sometimes wish my only consequence for not getting enough sleep would be simple sleepiness – but for me sleep deprivation can have a noticeable impact on my emotional well-being .

When I’m tired I’m more irritable, less patient with my children, and have a harder time feeling like the happy and optimistic person I normally am.  And because of this, I’m quite motivated to try as hard as I might to get the zzzz’s I need in order to be my best self.

Being weird about something usually means it’s pretty important to you. And that’s a good thing. 

Sometimes I’m given a bit of a hard time about the whole need-for-sleep thing from some members of my family who can survive on little sleep, but I don’t want to just survive. I want to thrive.

So I keep sleep sacred.

It’s important we keep the key things that have a significant impact on our mental health and well-being sacred. Even if people criticise you for it. They may not understand why it might be especially meaningful and important for you, but you do. And that’s all that really matters here.

What are you weird about? Or in other words, what is sacred to you? Your daily exercise? Taking time to pray or meditate (or both) every morning? Having lunch with a good friend a few times a week? Getting to Yoga Class after work? Being out in nature on the weekend? Going for sunset walks on the beach? Taking your dog out to the park to play? Having story time with your children each night? Eating healthy food on a regular basis? Getting to church on Sunday? Taking long drives with your partner? Having some quiet alone-time right when you get home from work? It doesn’t really matter what it is.

And sometimes it might be hard to make this one thing a priority or you may have to go to more extreme measures to keep it sacred, but it will be worth it. Or should I say, YOU are worth it.

When we don’t take care of ourselves and the key things we may need in order to thrive, we are less productive, less creative, less inspired, less motivated, less happy, more lethargic, more irritable, don’t feel as good about ourselves and are also likely far less pleasant to be around.

Lucky for me, my husband totally gets, respects and supports my need for sleep (in part, I think, because it makes both of our lives much happier and more enjoyable when I am rested). He takes our toddler and infant in the morning on the weekends and lets me go back to sleep, and in the morning when he gets up earlier than me he looks after the kids while he gets ready for work and I go back to sleep for an hour until he leaves.

God bless this man. But if he wasn’t so gracious, understanding, and generous in this realm I think I would be tempted to hire a nanny to come in a few mornings a week so mama could sleep. This is how much I value how good I feel when I am rested.

What is the most important thing that makes a big impact on you feeling like your best self? And are you letting anything get in the way of ensuring it’s kept sacred?

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One Simple Habit to Help You Overcome Anger & Frustration.


Do you ever have times when everything can be going great and then one little bad thing will happen it’s ALL you can think about? It’s as if all that was going well up until that point gets completely wiped out because of this one tiny flaw.

But what about the flip side? Does the same ring true? When everything is going terrible and one little good thing happens, do we allow this one small positive occurrence to take over and sweeten the unpleasant situation? Do we let it come in and trump all of the bad?

No. We don’t. Not typically anyway. But why?

Why does the bad get all the credit in every bad or good circumstance?

You can be having a great conversation and then say one slightly weird or awkward thing and then immediately tell yourself the entire conversation was a total bust. But what about the fact that the rest of the conversation went great AND no one (other than you) likely even noticed or cared that you said something uncouth (and if they did, they will have forgotten it by tomorrow).

This unsavoury tendency of ours to highlight the bad and discount the good is explained by a belief out there in the psychology community that our brains are wired with a negative bias. Historically, they say, this had served us well when we actually had to be on high alert for real dangers such as animal predators or greedy neighbours (before the age of AlarmForce).

In the same way, this negative bias also comes into play after one upsetting thing happens and we quickly tell ourselves that “Nothing ever goes right for ME!” It’s in that exact moment we turn into the world’s best debater and in a split second are able to come up with a whole slew of examples to prove our point.

Just the other day I came home to a mess in the kitchen – that I did not leave – and I immediately jumped to “Wayne always leaves messes for me to clean up.” And to hammer home the point: “I always have to pick up his socks and his clothes from the floor, and take his dirty cups to the kitchen to wash. Poor me!!” This might even convince you that I am hard done by because my husband is a slob who leaves disasters everywhere for me to clean up.

And if we argue only this one side and come up with all of these examples to prove our point we’re going to think we’ve arrived at an objective truth, because obviously we have all of this evidence to prove we’re right. Right?

But what if, in that moment of feeling frustrated, discouraged, or angry with someone else, or even ourselves, we argue the opposite. We flip the argument over to the other side. I bet you’d be able to come up with just as many arguments there too. It’s only logical.

What if I’d said to myself in that situation: “Yes, there’s a mess in the kitchen today, but Wayne is usually pretty clean.” And to hammer home THAT point “It’s a rare occasion that I come home to a mess left in the kitchen, he takes the garbage out all the time, he always tidies his desk, generally keeps his used clothes in a neat wear-again pile hidden away in the bedroom, and often if he gets home from work before me, he does the dish or two I’ve left in the sink. And we’re not even talking here about all of the other things he does to contribute to our family.” Huh. Not such an inconsiderate slob after all!

This works when you’re coming down hard on yourself as well. You could say “I didn’t get anything done today. I’m so lazy and useless,” or “I never get invited out for lunch at work. No one likes me, “or “I’m such a bad mother because I did this this, and didn’t do this,” or “That girl turned me down for a second date, so I’m a total reject that no one ever goes for,” or “I cheated on my diet today, so I’m pathetic and can’t stick with anything.” And then each of these would be followed by evidence and examples to promote yourself as a total failure.

But let’s try this. Instead of arguing the boo hoo, let’s argue the woo hoo!

How about, “I actually did get a little work done today: I sent those emails, mailed those parcels, responded to a few of those calls AND got a bit of a start on that new project.” Or “I didn’t get invited out for lunch today, but did get invited out last week twice, and had a meeting one day and decided to do personal email through my lunch the other two days.” Or “I’m a great mother! I read to my kids, I snuggle them to bits, I take them out to play and run and learn every day among many other things. My kids are happy, healthy, engaged, active, and affectionate – I’m doing a lot of things really well!” or “There was that girl last week who did seem really interested, but I wasn’t really in to it so didn’t ask for a second date with her“ or “I rarely cheat on my diet and am often quite disciplined with making healthy choices.”

See how it works? Yes, we can choose to argue ourselves into the ground by only seeing the negative (and many of us are really good at that so don’t need any more practice), OR we can choose to argue ourselves into feeling good just by recognizing the positive.

What areas of your life can you apply this to? At work with your colleagues or boss? At home with your partner or kids? In your everyday life with your friends or family? Or more when it comes to making yourself feel badly about yourself?

We do have to be extra careful because we are often most susceptible to this way of thinking when we are stressed and tired and overwhelmed.  And feeling any of these things while simultaneously feeling P.O.’d about something else may make it harder for us to rally ourselves into arguing the good, but that means it’s all the more important we do.

Many of us are sick and tired of both being so hard on ourselves and getting down on others all the time, but making the positive argument really helps to counter balance that pesky negative bias.

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Why Envy Might Actually Be Good For You.


Here’s a question for you: Who do you envy? Now ask yourself: Why do you envy them?

And although this is quite an uncomfortable question to ask, it’s actually quite an important one because it can really help you know yourself better. Envy toward something someone else has tells us about something we wish we had. And when we know what that thing is, we can ask ourselves if there’s a way we can have it too.

Envy can show us something that’s missing from our lives, or make clear to us some kind of goal we’d like to reach.

For me, personally, envy is what led me to become a clinical counsellor.

It all took place back in 2004 – I was at my cousin’s wedding in a church basement in Saskatoon Saskatchewan.

Now, at that point in my life I had been working for a community living organization with adults with developmental disabilities. And although I really enjoyed my job, I continuously found myself thinking about what it would be like to become a counselling psychologist. But after researching what I’d need to do to become a therapist I found  out that I would have to go back to school and get a Master’s Degree in counselling psychology.

Now that in and of itself didn’t sound too too bad – just 2 more years of schooling. But with a little more digging I found out that before I could even start applying to grad schools (which is quite the process in and of itself) I would have to take 6 prerequisite courses and write a 4 hour standardized exam for which people study several months. Oy.

That 2 years just turned in to at least 4, and I didn’t think I had 4 more years of studying and paper writing in me. So I filed that idea way back in to the archives and decided to just stay where I was until another career option with a less intense and lengthy training process presented itself.

It wasn’t too long after that I found myself at the above mentioned wedding. There I was. Sitting across the table from my cousin’s aunt and uncle from his other side of the family. We’d been having a lovely and light conversation about something or other until I asked them what their 3 children who were absent from the wedding were doing at that point in their lives (I hadn’t seen any of them since we were kids).

They told me that their eldest (who was 2 years younger than me) was in school to become a Chiropractor. What the?!?? That Doe eyed, curly haired, bouncy little Sarah Brennan was in school to become a chiropractor?! I immediately became overwhelmed with envy.

For some reason I was so taken with jealousy toward this particular person who had had the guts to do what she really wanted, and it stirred something deep inside me. So much so that right then and there I told myself: If little Sarah Brennan has the courage and strength to take on a really intense and relatively long training process to get to what she wants, well then so do I.

And from that exact point forward, I never looked back. And I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be doing what I love.

The thing is, we don’t randomly envy people. The people we envy have something we want. And it might not always make sense or be an exact link – I, for one,  had no interest in becoming a chiropractor – but we do often envy those who have something that’s within our grasp. And they are usually people who we identify with – who are similar to us some way.

So who do you envy? What do they have that you want? Is it a particular career? Mastery over a specific hobby? A noteworthy understanding of art or music? A great friend group? A sense of adventure that gets them out doing fun outdoor activities on the weekend? It can really be anything.

So take that envy and turn it in to something productive and positive. Transform that envy from making you feel discouraged or jealous into something to motivate and inspire you!

If you really want it, and it’s actually possible, go out and get it. There’s no point in feeling bad about yourself for not having what someone else has. And if you’d rather not do what it takes to get it, you probably don’t want it all that much, so put the envy aside and move on to feeling good.

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The Easy Way to Become Successful.

coins 2There’s an old teaching tale that goes something like this: Two villagers were talking one day about how each of them wanted to become wealthy. Both agreed that in order to consider themselves wealthy they would need to somehow acquire a relatively large pile of coins.

One of the villagers decided he would not change anything about his life, but rather spend his days sitting at home by the fire hoping a pile of coins would suddenly appear on his doorstep, and occasionally complain about why he wasn’t getting what he wanted.

The other villager decided that if he wanted to one day have his pile of coins he would have to start placing a coin or 2 on his front step each day until it turned in to his desired pile.

And with a manageable amount of effort, and in not too much time, this villager got what he wanted.

This is an important tale because it has relevancy in so many areas of our lives.

Every day we have the choice about whether we are going to add to our pile of coins, take away from our pile of coins, or do nothing about it and hope it somehow just magically appears.

What is your pile of coins? Is it actual money? Climbing the corporate ladder? Becoming fit and healthy? Having a few really close friendships? A strong marriage?

You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again. If you want something to happen you actually have to do something to make it happen. And not just once. Often. There’s no magic button. Sorry. But if you put in at least some effort on a regular basis, it’s not very hard to get what and where you want.

Sometimes we mistakenly believe that if we’re not doing something “HUGE” to dump a whole big lot on to our pile of coins on any given day, there’s no point in doing anything. And the trouble is, then, we don’t end up doing anything, and nothing happens.

If you want to get fit and healthy adding a coin or 2 to your pile everyday (i.e. going for a short walk before supper, having fruit for dessert after one of your meals instead of a cookie, taking the stairs instead of the elevator etc.) does really add up over time.

If you have big career goals, waiting for the right time to clear your schedule and put all of your energy and efforts in to working on your goals sounds lovely, but how many of us can actually do that? Especially with all of the other responsibilities we have? BUT, doing a little bit every day actually counts for quite a lot, and will get you there faster than just waiting for the right time when you can push everything else aside. Besides is it ever even possible to do that?

Same thing with close, connected relationships – both romantic ones and friendships. They don’t just magically happen on their own. They take regular and intentional effort and investment. You doesn’t always require a lot, but you can’t do nothing.

And often the little things you do for the important people in your life on a regular basis will build a much bigger pile than just a grand gesture once in a blue moon.

The little things like stopping everything you’re doing and looking at the person while they are talking, sending a text to tell them you’re thinking about them when you’re not together, stopping and picking up a favourite pastry for them on your way home from time to time, or telling them how much you appreciate, respect and admire them. Actually saying it on a regular basis. Thinking it doesn’t count.

In my practice as a therapist, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from clients (both men and women) that they just wish their partners would tell them how great they think they are and how much they appreciate and love them. It’s so simple to do, so why aren’t we doing it more??

So from this point forward if you really want something to happen – if you want that pile of coins– you’re going to need to do something about it. But don’t get freaked out. It doesn’t have to be something huge and it doesn’t need to happen all at once.

Just a coin or 2 a day, and before long you will have your pile.

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9 Destructive Thinking Patterns and How to Change Them.

9 destructive thinking patterns

It can be really hard to feel good when it seems like everything (or even just a few key things) in your life are not going well. And we all have struggles, and we all go through hard times. That’s normal and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But there are also times when we make things a lot harder for ourselves than we need to.

Very rarely is life perfect.  And on the flip side, very rarely is life absolutely awful (even if there are moments when it feels like it is). And if you really think about it there is ALWAYS something we can complain about or a reason for us to feel ripped off in some way shape or form.

But the thing is, we don’t HAVE to feel like our lives are bleak… well at least not nearly as often as we might have made ourselves accustomed to.

The good news is we can actually train our brains to see our seemingly-complaint-worthy circumstances in a different way. No, this isn’t one of those “just think positive” articles, nor am I going to tell you to play the Glad Game.

But what we may not know is that most of us have unconsciously learnt some pretty destructive ways of thinking which can both make a neutral situation seem bad or a not great situation seem absolutely awful.

So here’s a list of the most common culprits: AKA *Destructive Thinking Habits. Notice which of these come up most often for you.

All-or-Nothing thinking: This one is about anything less than total perfection being seen as a total failure. In any given situation, if you’re not a complete success you are a complete failure. If you didn’t knock the socks off the group when giving a presentation, you may as well pack your bags and find a new career because you suck.

Over-Generalization: Something unfortunate happens once and all of a sudden you think something totally awful has happened and will continue to happen. Say a friend forgets to invite you to a social event – Well then no one cares about you and you’ll be alone forever. Or, because something didn’t work out one time, it will NEVER work out again.

Mental Filter: aka only seeing the negative. So basically someone says one moderately negative thing about you once and that’s all you can think about and focus on. You conveniently (or perhaps not so conveniently at all) forget about any and all of the positive things others have said about you and are likely to say about you again.

Mind Reading: This is the “everyone thinks I’m a loser” distortion. Or “That person looked at me funny so it means they hate me.” We assume people are thinking poorly about us even though there is no actual evidence to suggest they are thinking anything about us at all – let alone thinking anything unflattering.

Fortune Telling: this one is about thinking things will turn out badly for you even if there’s no good reason that they actually will. “I know I’m never going to find a partner who will love me,” or “There’s no way I’m going to ever get a job I really enjoy.” Or “no matter how hard I try, I will never be happy or successful.” Really? You know this for sure? You have a crystal ball?

Magnification and Minimization: You either blow a small blunder WAY out of proportion and beat yourself up and blame yourself with no reprieve, or you Minimize and disregard the really great things about you or that you have done.

Emotional Reasoning (this one is one of my favourites –because it’s the one that seems to get me the most): You deduce a logical conclusion from the heat of an emotion in the moment. “I feel totally overwhelmed and stressed right now therefore I am a complete emotional wreck, I must be crazy, and am a failure as a human being.”

SHOULD-ing on Yourself: You try to get yourself to do something by telling yourself you “should.” I should be in better shape. I should volunteer somewhere. I should eat more healthy. I should be easier going. I should stand up for myself more… And not only is the over-used should totally useless because it’s actually de-motivating rather than motiving, but as a double whammy, it also makes you feel guilty for not doing what you think you should.

Personalization & Blame: You either see yourself as totally to blame for something that happened that was not totally your fault. Or you make a habit of shirking off all responsibility and solely blaming others for something you likely had at least some part in.

Okay, great. Now that we’re aware, what do we do about it?

So the good news is, awareness is the first step and now you’ve got that one down so we can move on to the next.

Start noticing when you use these destructive thinking patterns. In which situations? In which relationships? They can be subtle, so you’re really going to have to pay attention. Once you’re able to notice these ways of thinking when they come up you can start working on changing them.

And in order to change one of these little buggers, when you catch one you have to challenge it. Give it a little bit of a run for its money.

Let’s try a few:

The nasty thought: “Oh man, that presentation at work didn’t go as well as I wanted it to… so I suck and I’m a failure.”

And the challenge: “Okay, but who says I’m a failure? Just because I didn’t knock that one out of the park does that mean I can do no good? No, it just means I’m not a naturally amazing presenter (which by the way, VERY few are), and I’m going to work on that skill more ”

And a few more challenges…

“Just because that guy didn’t ask me out on a second date it doesn’t mean I’m a total looser and no one will ever want to be with me. It likely just means I wasn’t his type. That’s fine. I’m not going to be every ones type, and not everyone will be mine.”

Or “Yes, some of my friends are a lot further ahead in their careers than me, and as much as I think I too should have had it all figured out way sooner, there were a lot of good reasons why I didn’t. I’m grateful things are now starting to move forward, and I’m not just starting to gain momentum 10 years from now.”

Or “Yes, she forgot to invite me to that get-together, but that doesn’t mean my friends all hate me and don’t want me around, it just means she may have forgotten or just wanted to have a small get together with just one or two other people.”

Do you see how this works? It’s about challenging that a*hole voice in your thoughts that tries to come in and make you feel like sh*t in some way about yourself or your life.

Once you start challenging that bugger more and making an intentional effort to kick that no-good inner voice to the curb, you will notice yourself starting to feel a lot better about yourself and your life.

No, all of your problems won’t magically go away over night. And learning to challenge, re-think and change your thoughts will be hard work at first – kind of like starting to go to the gym after being a couch potato for 20 years – the first little while is no cake walk, but after time, after you start to build up your more-reasonable-ways-of-thinking muscles you’ll find they will start to be strong enough to just take over and work well on their own without nearly as much effort.

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