Documenting my life

Month: December 2021 (Page 1 of 2)

Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown book review

In this post, you can find my notes and a personal review of Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown’s new book.

Who is it for?

I would recommend this book to anyone curious about emotions and who wants to learn more. Particularly about when/how they can arise, what they can tell us, and what are the subtle differences between similar ones.

It’s especially interesting for those who spend a lot of time with others, to have a clearer understanding of different experiences and emotions. This will improve their ability to connect more effectively.

Book structure and style

Atlas of the Heart reads like a dictionary or an encyclopedia, so you can jump from one section to another, or skip something entirely.

Each section describes emotions related to a specific scenario, in the form of “Places we go when…”. It’s very practical to skim through and look for what you need.
It is nice to read about many different examples, both from the author’s personal experience and from the years of research she has collated. 

The final chapters discuss cultivating meaningful connection and gratitude.

Brené Brown’s writing style is clearly recognizable, despite this book being similar to a consultation manual. She is often encouraging, especially when describing an unpleasant emotion.

Personal experience

I paused reading the book on multiple occasions, to reflect on my own experience and take notes. This helped me to better take in the messages shared. I will also be able to go back to them and revisit specific paragraphs that resonated.

After reading Atlas of the Heart, I went back to it again, when I was trying to process and uncover what I was feeling. It was useful to dig deeper and it was nice to feel validated and read about others’ experiences.

I will definitely go back to this book multiple times – I am positive it will become a pillar book to reference.

Key takeaways

Brené Brown points out a few things in her new book that stood out to me:

  • The difference between envy and jealousy: “Envy occurs when we want something that another person has. Jealousy is when we fear losing a relationship or a valued part of a relationship that we already have”
  • Expectations: we need to make them explicit within ourselves and other people involved. This is something that feels scary, but will strenghen the connection, help set boundaries and feeling less hurt in the future
  • I discovered the definition of freudenfreude: being happy for someone else’s success. It’s something to look for and treasure any relationship. It can be nice to be more open and celebrate more often, even the small things

Notes and personal thoughts on expectations
Managing and setting expectations is something especially important to remember. It’s easy to assume others “will know” what our expectations are, when in fact they might not be clear at all – sometimes they could be quite different!

It can also help in setting boundaries and having well defined limits as well as key milestones in place.

It’s also key to remember to ask for others’ expectations. Aim to have a clear picture of when they will consider something to be completed or what the final outcome should be. It’s critical in a work environment, but it is useful in other areas as well.

Interestingly, it’s also key to be aware of our own personal expectations for projects or tasks. We want to ensure that they are reasonable and doable. This means we are not setting ourselves up for disappointment or failure, with unrealistic outcomes in mind.

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Word of the year – ideas for 2022 goals and resolutions

A few years ago I was listening to the podcast Happier and I discovered the concept of “Word of the year” and I have been doing it ever since. Having a word of the year has been really helpful in setting my goals and resolutions. It also helps me make decisions throughout the year.
It’s something I look forward to as the new year approaches, definitely one of my favorite traditions!

What is a Word of the Year?

You choose one word that will be the “North Star” for the upcoming year. It can guide your New Year’s resolutions and help you put more thought into what you want to focus on throughout the year.

The word of the year is also known as One Word or One Little Word.

How do you choose your 2022 word?

Maybe you already have one word you immediately thought of as soon as you read the introduction.

And if not? It’s the most common reaction, so don’t worry! Here are the steps I follow:

  • Start by looking back at the year that is ending and examine what was missing or what you want more of
  • Think of what you would like to focus on in the upcoming year, how would you want your days to be like? Relaxed and slow, buzzing of activities and/or friends, focused on a big project?
  • If you are stuck, simply scan through the list of 100 word ideas below and select the 10 or 20 words that are related to the questions above. Then remove synonyms and continue to reduce the list based on what resonates the most until you find the final one

How to use your word for goals and resolutions

  • Think of all the possible meanings and interpretations. For example, “Light” can refer to daylight and sunshine and will prompt you to get outside more; it can be connected to feeling “light” and it might lead you to delete Twitter and pick up a new hobby instead of doom-scrolling; or you might want to “find the light” on gloomy days and start a gratitude list or a journal. Come up with as many interpretations as you can, see what comes up and which ones you want to set as resolution/intentions for the new year
  • Write down the meanings and interpretations that you want to work on and include in the next year and journal about it, remembering to include practical activities
  • Remember your word, think about it often. A simple way to not forget it in two months is to find an image that is related and use that as your phone’s background picture. I’ve heard some people buy a t-shirt with their word printed on it for example. You can even get a custom charm for this specific purpose!
  • Think about it when making decisions Choosing a word for the year can be useful also when you have to make a decision. It might sound a bit extreme, but thinking of your word can offer a different perspective or remind you of what you set out looking for.

    For instance, you can ask yourself “Which one of the options would bring more __________?”

    Following the example of “Light”, I would probably say yes to a picnic in the park even if I am tired, or it could be a gentle nudge towards speaking up immediately rather than keeping a grudge or overthinking what a friend said.

Help – I can’t pick a single word/I want to change my word of the year

The idea is for this to be a helpful reminder of the main theme you would like to focus on for the upcoming months, but nothing is set in stone!

You can (of course) adapt it or adopt a new word altogether whenever.

Some folks prefer to have multiple words, maybe one per quarter or one per month, to focus on a new area each season!

105 Word of the Year ideas

  1. Abundance
  2. Accept
  3. Action
  4. Adapt
  5. Adventure
  6. Authenticity
  7. Awareness
  8. Balance
  9. Be
  10. Become
  11. Begin
  12. Blossom
  13. Bold
  14. Brave
  15. Build
  16. Calm
  17. Care
  18. Challenge
  19. Change
  20. Commit
  21. Connect
  22. Creativity
  23. Courage
  24. Daring
  25. Decision
  26. Discipline
  27. Dream
  28. Driven
  29. Energy
  30. Enhance
  31. Evolve
  32. Explore
  33. Family
  34. Flow
  35. Focus
  36. Follow
  37. Freedom
  38. Fun
  39. Generous
  40. Gift
  41. Give
  42. Go
  43. Gratitude
  44. Growth
  45. Habit
  46. Happiness
  47. Health
  48. Help
  49. Ideas
  50. Immagine
  51. Improve
  52. Innovate
  53. Intuitiion
  1. Joy
  2. Kindness
  3. Laughter
  4. Learn
  5. Light
  6. Listen
  7. Love
  8. Meaning
  9. Mindfulness
  10. Mission
  11. Movement
  12. Nature
  13. Nourish
  14. Nurture
  15. Opportunity
  16. Organize
  17. Patience
  18. Persistence
  19. Play
  20. Point
  21. Positive
  22. Practice
  23. Present
  24. Progress
  25. Question
  26. Radiate
  27. Reach
  28. Relationships
  29. Relax
  30. Reset
  31. Resilience
  32. Rest
  33. Share
  34. Silence
  35. Simplify
  36. Smile
  37. Start
  38. Stillness
  39. Strength
  40. Support
  41. Teach
  42. Tell
  43. Think
  44. Trust
  45. Try
  46. Unique
  47. Understand
  48. Useful
  49. Vibrant
  50. Why
  51. Work
  52. Yes

I’d love to know your word for the year, please share it in the comments below!

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How to deal with the fear of saying the wrong thing

Months ago I came across a phrase that has really stuck with me. I have been thinking about it a lot and in very different scenarios.

So as simple as it is (as some of the best things are) I had to share it here.

“You can’t say the wrong thing to the right person”

The idea behind the phrase “You can’t say the wrong thing to the right person” is really powerful for two main reasons.

  • It takes the pressure away. If you say something and the other person reacts negatively, THEY were not the right person, since they didn’t fully understand where you are coming from or are in a different place. That is completely fine, of course, but it has nothing to do with what you said.
  • It acts as a red flag detector. If someone rejects you because of something you said, it probably means you don’t share the same values, and it’s best to find this out sooner rather than later.

Real-life examples

Job interview You are applying for a job and you ask about work-life balance in the interview. They might give a generic response, and start to doubt your work ethic. They might not extend you an offer. But, if you think about it, you would not want to be hired by a company that will demand you to put in extra hours and will lead you to be burnt out.

Asking the question might seem like you’re shooting yourself in the foot, but if you’re worried they will get the wrong impression and you will be perceived as “lazy”, the truth is the worry should be “on them”, they should be excited to show you how they are currently implementing good work-life harmony strategies to ensure employers aren’t overwhelmed.

Moving in You are considering moving in with someone and they act surprised when you tell them you want to discuss how you will manage the household and how you will split the chores. That is a sign that something is off, probably their views on how often and who should clean/tidy are very different to yours and you would not be compatible housemates if you can’t agree and work together on this point. The key thing to remember is that the issue rarely is in “saying the wrong thing”, but in the reaction and the response we get. As much as a negative reaction might lead to you not moving in together, it is better to figure this out before signing the lease.

Learning something new You have started a course and you will have to spend your Sundays working through that. Your friends are always pressuring you to go out, saying the course is useless anyway, and they refuse to make plans at a time that would be more convenient to you. This is a sign they have no flexibility and they don’t value learning and growing your knowledge as much as you do. In this case, the “right person” would support you in this new endeavor and encourage you, and would be happy to say yes to plans that fit all schedules.

Closing thoughts

The obvious caveat for this post is that communication is key, you must always be kind and respectful when talking to others. It’s always important to let the other person have a chance to explain themselves and give them the chance to work on something they want to improve if this is compatible with your needs.

This sentence can be helpful to deal with the fear of rejection since it reframes it as a sign that the match is not ideal, which is something you would want to find out as soon as possible.

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An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield – Book review

I read Chris Hadfield’s book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth recently, after being fascinated by his Masterclass course I saw a few years ago.

Here are my main takeaways and thoughts on the book. The subtitle is “What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything”, so you know it’s going to be fascinating!

Decisions matter

There are so many moments where you make a decision and you don’t even realize it.

Or sometimes you recognize it’s not the best decision, but you justify it to yourself. If it’s an exception or you have thought of it intentionally, by all means.

However, I have personally noticed that sometimes I will do something out of habit or laziness, more than as a treat or because I really think that’s the best thing to do. The risk is that the subpar behavior becomes the default one and you don’t even think of the other options you have.

Would an astronaut eat his vegetables or have potato chips instead? Sleep in late or get up early to read a book? I recognized even as a 9-year-old that I had a lot of choices and my decisions mattered. What I did each day would determine the kind of person I’d become.

Chris hadfield

Sweat the small stuff

This is what Chris Hadfield says about his training in problem-solving.

I learned how to anticipate problems in order to prevent them, and how to respond effectively in critical situations. Astronauts are taught that the best way to reduce stress is to sweat the small stuff.

In my experience, fear comes from not knowing what to expect and not feeling you have any control over what’s about to happen. We felt competent to deal with whatever happened—a sense of confidence that comes directly from solid preparation.

Nothing boosts confidence quite like simulating a disaster, engaging with it fully, both physically and intellectually, and realizing you have the ability to work the problem. Each time you manage to do that your comfort zone expands a little, so if you ever face that particular problem in real life, you’re able to think clearly.

I really like the emphasis on the importance of preparation and the knowledge that you can solve a problem, since you have already gone through the motions. It’s interesting to realize this shift in perspective:

Anticipating problems and figuring out how to solve them is actually the opposite of worrying: it’s productive.

Practice and learn

When training, they would have multiple simulations on each aspect they had to prepare for. The goal was to learn and get everything done correctly, but this will only happen after a few sessions and mistakes, usually. What is really key is the fact that they were encouraged to share about their mistakes, so that others could learn about potential issues and could come up with solutions. To summarize, you need to practice in different scenarios and always highlight what you did wrong. Make it a point to learn as much as possible.

This concept is also used in Medicine, where doctors and surgeons will routinely share “near miss situations“: occasions in which thankfully nothing serious happened to the patient, but they realized there could have easily been an accident and that they need to improve the mechanisms in place in that particular area.

When I was preparing for exams at Uni, I would think to myself that asking a question to the professor during office hours and letting him know that I had not understood something was way better than this coming up in the exam itself.

Not only I could still be perceived as “ignorant”, now I was also “lazy”/unprepared and I had to face the consequences of a bad mark. I would often ask myself difficult questions and try and understand the nitty-gritty details, to be sure I was prepared and, when studying with my classmates, we would test each other on the trickier parts, where someone had made an unexpected mistake.

Create checklists

Chris Hadfield really stresses the importance of a checklist and to not trust your spontaneous judgment, especially under stress, if you had previously thought about the task at hand. Maybe you are in a hurry, maybe you have done the same thing many times, maybe someone asks you something else… You can be tempted to be as fast as possible and skip the checks past-you had decided were useful. Most times it will go well, but just one mistake will make you regret not having followed your own advice. Especially because it is not a new lesson or something you hadn’t prepared for.

In real-time, the temptation to take a chance is always higher.

Astronauts will create Flight Rules to protect themselves against the temptation to take risks. These rules were created when there was no urgency or pressure and they could analyse all angles, possible actions, and their consequences and make a solid judgment without stress.

I create checklists for tasks I have to routinely do, to make sure I don’t skip any steps, especially if it’s repetitive and requires little attention. I also create checklists of potential error causes and make sure to run through them before marking a task as complete.

Be in flow

The last point is related to the concept of flow, in my interpretation. I first found out about this idea in Cal Newport’s book Deep Work and I have discussed more about it in this blog post.

Chris Hadfield explains that especially since his dream job was, literally, one of the most common dream jobs, he could not and did not define himself as being or wanting to be an astronaut. It is important to have a goal in mind, but what is key is that it must not be the end all be all – you have to enjoy the ride.

He gives a simple example: “For me, the appeal was similar to that of a New York Times crossword puzzle: training is hard and fun and stretches my mind, so I feel good when I persevere and finish—and I also feel ready to do it all over again”

This can be summed up in the following quote:

You should try and find meaning and enjoyment in the day to day activities, embracing everything as a challenge, and making sure you have a goal in mind and you can track your progress, however small, and enjoy the results that come from the process.

chris hadfield

Final thoughts and recommendation advice

As you can tell by the number of quotes and takeaways from the book, I really enjoyed reading this autobiography, since it was very captivating and filled with nuggets of wisdom and funny anecdotes. I would recommend it to anyone who is fascinated by Space and is curious about the life of an Astronaut

5 key things to do at your first job

There are many things I learned the importance of during the first years of my first full-time job. I have found myself repeating some of these points to multiple people recently. I sometimes need to remind myself too! So here is a list of the key ones.

Take notes and send meeting minutes

During meetings, calls, when people explain things, etc. Make sure to write down any action items and who is supposed to do each thing. You can then send the minutes after the meeting. It doesn’t usually matter if they are just bullet points, it’s a great way to check your understanding and make sure there is a written record. This allows everyone to be on the same page and correct any misunderstandings before you start working on something. It will also come in handy when you want to get an update on something that was discussed. Or when you are not sure of when you are supposed to share your results. Lastly, it shows you are organized and helps you earn trust, and shows your coworkers you value their time

Be curious

Ask questions. Ask why things are done in a certain way and not another. Learn from everyone.

Especially at the beginning, you feel like your questions are pretty simple and basic. You might be afraid of making a bad impression. What I’ve found is that people actually appreciate questions. It’s a chance for them to explain themselves better and improve their answers for the next time they get asked about the topic. They are happy to know you are curious about what they have been working on. Another benefit is they will see you as someone who is curious and eager to improve. I doubt this will be the case, but if a manager or team member discourages questions, you should think about this: “You can’t say the wrong thing to the right person”

Communicate effectively

It is critical to communicate clearly both in written or verbal form. You can do this by adding data and presenting your points in a structured way, so that the story you are conveying is clear. It’s very important to clarify the goal or the main point at the beginning, no matter if it’s an email, documentation, a paper, or a presentation.

Make sure there is a clear thread throughout, like a narrative that allows the reader/listener to follow along easily.

Try to give specific data points. Rather than saying “a lot of people”, you should say “85%”: it’s more precise and gives the reader a clearer picture. If you think about it, “a lot of people” could mean half or all of the community. If you are presenting the sales’ growth versus last month, for example, saying “sales of x increased by y% from March to April” is very different than saying “sales increased significantly”: In the second case, the reader will not know how much the sales increased, what product or service you are referring to specifically and when the sales increased.

Manage expectations

When asked to perform a task, estimate the time it will take, and inform the other person, even if they don’t mention timelines at all. If you have higher priority tasks at hand, let them know when you will be able to help; this will allow them to decide if they prefer to ask someone else.

If you think there might be any issues that could come up during the task/project, call it out as soon as possible. You will show domain expertise and help you earn trust. If everything goes smoothly, you deliver earlier than expected, which will be a win-win.

This is related to another idea connected to expectations: the concept of “underpromise and overdeliver”. You might want to add a buffer to your timeline, in order to ensure you have the time to tackle unforeseen issues if something comes up.

On the other side, when you discuss a new project or task with your manager, it’s good to make sure that you are fully aware of the expectations from their end and what the completed task ideally would look like.

Keep track

Set up 5 minutes to do a weekly review. I usually do this at the end of the week, on Friday afternoon, just before turning off my laptop.

I have set up a file to track the following things: what I worked on, what tasks/projects I finished, what issues I had and what I learned, any feedback I got (positive and negative), and what I am proud of. The last point sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s good to reflect back on your week; sometimes what you’re proud of is not in any of the other sections and it’s nice to be able to think about this kind of accomplishment too. Lastly, I will write down the main thing I will work on the following week. I have follow-up posts on my weekly review as well as my project review coming up. They will have examples and a Notion and Excel template to download.

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