Creating a Goals Binder

In 2000 when I started my librarian job I bought a black binder with clear sleeves. On the front cover I inserted an index card that I typed my life goals on. On the back cover I inserted the Theodore Roosevelt quote about daring greatly.

I used each tabbed section of the binder to insert different worksheets. One section houses pages that list my goals for each decade of my life. Another section is where I placed the Accomplishments lists. A different section contains sheets of life guidelines I typed up.

Every so often I re-read the binder. When I showed the binder to a woman who was an LCSW she was astonished that I wrote down my goals in vivid detail.

I recommend creating a goals binder. Skimming through it might give you comfort in this time of the pandemic where everything has been halted.

At first you might read the contents every week. I read my own binder every two months.

In tandem with this approach I recommend keeping a goals journal. I’ll talk about this in the coming blog entry.

Combating Self-Doubt

Confidence and self-doubt go hand-in-hand. The point is you can thrive even when the doubt comes on Persisting in the face of self-doubt is possible.

Years ago I did this very thing by creating a list of everything I accomplished in my life by the time I was 50. I was 51 when I typed up this list.

The arrow point is that everything counts whether a big goal or a tiny action either way.

The times when you think something can’t be done are when you can refer to your list of achievements.

In lieu of accomplishments you can write a list of things you like about yourself that you’re proud of.

The goal with either of these lists is to free-write and number each item as it comes to you.

The list doesn’t have to be long.

My list featured 33 items. They were as simple as joining the St. George Library teen writing group to obtaining a driver’s license and as big as traveling to Italy.

Try to keep going until your writing hand can’t go anymore.

Re-read the list when you need a shot in the arm of confidence.

In keeping with this exercise I’ll talk in the next blog entry about novel ideas I have for getting confidence to tackle goals.

Using Traits and Strengths on a Job

I’ve been told that I’m the exception. This doesn’t make me feel better. And it’s simply not true.

I interpret that shopworn comment as a barb that discounts the role of a person’s personality–who they are and their traits and strengths–in enabling them to recover.

In the April 2015 issue of Current Psychiatry an article stated the people diagnosed with schizophrenia can hold jobs.

Who are you going to trust–a medical journal or some outsider on the street whose opinion is conjecture and not rooted in fact?

Recovery appears to each of us in different guises. Our recovery is as individual as our thumbprint.

Celebrating differentness is the first order of the day.

Those people who view peers in terms of our illness and symptoms are setting us up to believe that recovery is a dim star.

Aside from other people not being able to see beyond color or gender to the person inside:

Peers living with mental health issues are often not seen as our true selves apart from our diagnosis.

The premise of my memoir Left of the Dial was that I healed when I was able to use the creative process on my job and outside of my job.

The point wasn’t and isn’t that everyone living in recovery should be able to have an M.S. or L.C.S.W. or J.D.

The exclamation point [!] was that I recovered because I found the job I loved that enabled me to use my traits and strengths.

I recovered when I stopped buying into the myth that I had to do what everyone else did–have a corporate office job and a normal life [average or ordinary; conforming to a standard or type].

In daring to go down a path that differed from the norm I was able to recover. This was my road. Your road again will be different.

!!!

In the next blog entry I will talk about a written exercise I created to heal from self-stigma when a bout of doubt had come on.

The point is you should take pride in who you are. You should figure out the kind of job that will best use your traits and strengths.

Decorating Your Workspace

Your desktop serves a function. Too I think decorating your workspace with flair can give you the emotional energy to tackle the day’s tasks. I’ve learned that a desk devoid of personality can make a person ill.

In the time of social distancing I’ve been set up with a computer at a temporary table in a meeting room. It is debilitating to be surrounded by white walls. After being relegated to this set-up I started to think of interior design. How it affects a person’s mood performance and creativity on the job.

In a corporate cubicle it might be harder to decorate with “cutesy” items on your desktop. Having a plant on your desk could improve your health. I’m going to buy a plant to place on my new table.

I think any architect planning the interior design of any workplace–be it an office or not–should be innovative in their use of lighting furniture and paint color.

On the fabric wall above my regular desk I hung two 5″x7″ pieces of artwork. On the desk cabinet below I stuck refrigerator magnets. One has the quote: Leap and the Net Will Appear. Another is a David Bowie Heroes magnet.

I will be happy to return to my desk where I can talk with coworkers every day. I’ll end here by saying that sprucing up your workspace goes a long way in improving your mood performance and creativity on the job.

Yes–I wish someone had thought to paint the meeting room walls sky blue. While I labor at this table I’ll bring in the plant to improve the air quality. I’ll clear space on the table for the plant.

My Strong Belief

My strong belief is that a person can only talk about their experience taking or not taking medication as a factor in their recovery.

A Peer Specialist should not tell their patient to stop taking medication. They should not give advice on how to wean yourself step-by-step off medication.

Any Peer Specialist who is telling their clients to discontinue medication is in effect practicing medicine without a license.

In most states in the U.S. only an M.D. can regulate the use of a patient’s medication or determine that a patient doesn’t need medication.

I’ve been in remission from schizophrenia for over 28 years precisely because I take medication. I credit this as the number-one factor that enabled me to go to graduate school obtain an M.S. and find a career I love.

For others they might not have to take medication. Everyone is different and what their body needs or doesn’t need is going to be different.

To recap: a Peer Specialist should not be practicing medicine without a license.

Creating Workday Rituals

More on creating workday rituals:

Right now, I prefer to talk about creating rituals. Using the word self-care has become trite. Too often the need for self-care is impossible to live up to. This is because a person could feel poorly when they’re not engaging in self-care to the degree they think they’re “supposed to.”

Twyla Tharpe the American dancer wrote a book about the creative habit—about learning it and using it throughout your life.

The number-one takeaway I always remembered and practiced out of all the tactics she listed in the book was this one:

Engage in a warm-up habit before doing your task. In her book Tharp talked about the routine she engaged in before going to the gym to work out every day:

Take a shower. Get dressed in her gear. Hail the taxi to take her there. Get in car. Tip the driver before getting out. Walk into gym. Exercise.

In this regard having a workday ritual could help.

In the morning when you wake up you could engage in a habit as a warm-up to get you ready to go to your job.

This could be doing 5 sun salutations of yoga.

This could be scrambling eggs and cutting up an orange.

(I don’t recommend having boxed cereal for breakfast. Nor do I recommend having orange juice. I prefer to scramble eggs with veggies and have an orange.)

This could be taking a shower.

The creative habit you choose to use in the morning—and in winding down at night—is up to you to try out and decide if it works. My ideas above are suggestions. You might find other rituals to engage in that suit you better.

Sometimes it can be jotting 5 things down in a journal that you’re grateful for. Or lying in bed and resting and doing breathing exercises.

A British M.D. in his book How to Make Disease Disappear listed this breathing technique:

Breathe in for a count of 3. Hold your breath for a count of 4. Breathe out for a count of 5.

I use this breathing technique silently wherever I am to cope with stress.

Peer Specialist Ideas

Last week I was asked for ideas about how to succeed in a paid Peer Specialist job. These tactics could work well at any job.

  1. Set boundaries between you and your clients / coworkers.
  2. Create workday rituals—more on this in the next blog entry.
  3. Focus on having conversations with your clients.
  4. View the relationship as an equal partnership.
  5. “Practice what you preach” to clients.
  6. Expect to have setbacks.
  7. Act resilient after a setback—see my blog entry on using FORCE.
  8. Set career goals you want to achieve.
  9. Take walks with your clients should you be able to.

In the words of Pat Deegan Peer Advocate pioneer:

Recovery involves having “the dignity of risk” and “the right to fail.”

Too often peers can buy into the myth of self-stigma and its corollary feeling that we’re not good enough. This is an impossible standard that peers are held to that people who don’t have a mental health issue aren’t held to.

This thinking can be reinforced by outsiders or by ourselves.

I would say the two top tactics for any career are to set boundaries and to set job and career goals. The third tactic is creating daily rituals.

Your Boss Isn’t a Therapist

In the coming blog entries I’m going to write a blog carnival about tactics that might help a person succeed on a job.

The person who solicited my ideas was set to start a job as a paid Peer Specialist.

The social service field has a high degree of what is called compassion fatigue–a kind of burnout people with humanitarian careers experience.

Before I move onto that focus I want to end here with more of my experience having spoken out on a job.

This happened in the 1990s in a corporate insurance office job. I was 27 years old. What I said came back to haunt me in a performance review.

I had either written in correspondence or told my boss directly that I didn’t like how management belittled employees. I used the word belittled.

Ever since then I haven’t been a fan of using any boss as a therapist to talk about perceived workplace injustices with.

Over 20 years later I did attempt to right a wrong on my job–and this backfired too.

Especially when you’re just starting out in recovery and might be less emotionally stable or still have residual symptoms this is where it can get dice-y to call out management on your job.

It might be the symptoms talking and not you. As your mental health improves it could be easier to interact with your coworkers.

This is what I will start to talk about in the coming blog entries carnival: how to cope well with challenges on the job.

Whether you’re a paid Peer Specialist or have a different job I think what I’m going to write could help anyone.

Disarming Dastardly Dan

Now a female coworker can be rude and hostile too.

The person I’ve interacted with on the job was a Dastardly Dan because they have been men.

At one job I simply walked out of the room when the coworker was in the room at the same time.

Luckily I was able to do this.

Sometimes I left the building and walked to a nearby coffee shop to meet an unemployed friend for a hot chocolate.

In most situations at work involving a rude and hostile coworker you won’t be able to bolt at will.

This is where I think beating them at their own game is critical.

Flatter them have conversations with them and try to disarm them.

Whether intentionally or not they’re trying to get a rise out of you to exert control.

When they see you’re not taking their bait this will frustrate them. They might discover it’s not worth their while to continue their behavior.

In the 1990s I worked for a jerk. Leaving that job I went from the frying pan into the fire of another job where I was laid off only three weeks later.

This is why I make the case for investigating non-corporate office jobs and careers that attract people who want to make a difference.

The bottom line is: get an office job should your personality be suited to working in an office. Should you want to work in an office that’s your right.

I work in a library and that’s where I encountered Dastardly Dan.

Rude and hostile coworkers exist everywhere.

Yet you have tactics for managing them. See if anything I’ve written here makes sense.

Taking a Stand At Your Job

I wanted to talk about taking a stand at your job.

When it comes to the aforementioned topic of racism and other unethical injustice in the workplace like stealing, embezzlement, or any kind of harassment:

Being a whistle-blower might be called for.

My experience going to bat against a person who was rude and hostile to customers and coworkers alike cost me a promotion.

Garden-variety hostility–as despicable as it is when directed towards you or a customer–is no cause for going over your boss’s head to complain to a director.

It’s a sad reality of the workforce that’s been going on for decades that you and I are going to have to interact with sour lemon-heads at some of our jobs.

It’s been my experience that your supervisor just doesn’t care about this when it’s going on.

Everyone’s an adult in age and physical stature where you work.

Yet some coworkers will act like bullies in the schoolyard.

Tattling on them won’t change the situation to your benefit.

In fact your boss might know what’s going on and cover up for the coworker.

Early on in this blog I wrote three blog entries about questions you’ll be asked on a job interview.

Understand the intent the hiring manager has in asking these questions.

You should try to be able to figure out the company culture before you accept a job offer.

It’s not always possible to predict how your coworkers will act. Even when you’re introduced to a few of them on a second interview.

In the next blog entry I’ll talk about tactics I use to cope with a rude and hostile coworker.