Category Archives: Life

How to Be an Expert

At this stage in my training and career, I still have the “impostor syndrome” at times; in certain situations, I definitely feel like I’m an impostor, that I don’t know as much as I really do, and that I’m incompetent. Some days I wonder, will I ever be considered an “expert” in a particular area, whatever being an expert means. These insecurities aside, I know that there are some secrets to excelling at whatever it is that you do in life.

The first is practice, or more specifically, deliberate practice. Studies (e.g., Ericsson, et al., 1993) have shown that it is not necessarily the length of time one spends engaged in the work/activity/sport/etc, but the intentional efforts to get better (e.g., asking for feedback, reviewing tapes, repeatedly doing the same or similar task, etc). No wonder my high school coach constantly yelled at us, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” Asking for feedback and trying to learn what you can do better isn’t easy, as often times criticisms doesn’t do a lot for our self-esteems. I have definitely learned over the years, however, that asking what I could do differently or better has made me a better writer, clinician, and overall person in general.

This leads to my second point: having a growth-mindset, a concept that was developed by Carol Dweck and her colleagues. First, lets talk about the opposite: fixed-mindset. Individuals who have a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence is changeable (i.e., fixed) and as such, may value looking intelligent over trying to learn. Those who have a fixed mindset may give up on difficult tasks or opportunities because they fear looking stupid or inept (or insert any other perceived negative characteristic). This mindset leaves people stuck because they never take any risks or put themselves in situations in which they can learn more.

On the other hand, having a growth-mindset means that a person believes that they can learn and get better over time. Individuals who take this approach are more likely to take risks because they don’t fear failure or have negative thoughts about what failure means. This means that people with a growth-mindset are more likely to engage in deliberate practice and intentional efforts to get better (i.e, identifying areas of growth and working hard to improve).

So bottom line: to be an expert, you have to be willing to work hard, be willing to learn, be willing to receive feedback, and practice, practice, practice. 

Any ideas on how we can foster a growth-mindset in ourselves and in others? What are some things that get in the way of getting into a growth-mindset?


Fun Fridays

Why “Fun Fridays?” I believe that balance is key to a healthy, happy life…and balance includes fun! Since many of the posts during the week tend to be more on the serious side, I want to make sure I balance things out with funny articles, movies, recipes, and other things to see or do.

1) As a HUGE Friends fan (don’t judge me, you know you loved it too!), this was hilarious to me.

2) On my list to watch: Fruitvale, Red 2, and R.I.P.D.

3) I need a clay pot ASAP to make this!

What are you doing this weekend?

Too Many Gone Too Soon

I’ll admit, I’m a huge Glee fan- from the very beginning, the show, it took me back to some of my very favorite days of competing in choir in high school (oh so long ago!). And so, the news of Cory Monteith’s passing this week was devastating to me. Not just because a beloved character, great actor, and amazing singer is now gone before his time, but because his death highlights the very human struggle millions of others also battle: substance abuse/dependence. The news of his accidental overdose brought back memories of my work with a previous client/patient…and how, despite how well the client/patient’s life was going post treatment, he, too, overdosed on drugs.

A driving force for my work and passion in working with substance abuse and addictions is that the substances completely devastates people’s lives and too often, end their life too soon. I’ve seen how addictions can tear apart families, lead to feelings of anger, shame, sadness, and anxiety. The struggle to cope with “life on life’s terms” often lead to further destructive behaviors and isolation. Celebrity stories only give a glimpse into the profound experiences of many others who battle with their mental health and substance abuse. I wonder with each death, are we (community, family, substance abuse treatment, etc) doing enough?

While I have witnessed the depths of suffering, despair, and hopelessness associated with addictions and mental health disorders, I’ve also seen individuals with incredible resilience. They have inspired me with their abilities to persevere through adversity, surviving traumatic experiences that would cripple anyone: sexual abuse, neglect, prostitution, or combat. Their willingness to push through feelings of fear, hopelessness, and inadequacy and in their recovery, begin to take risks to address their issues, integrate and strengthen their sense of self, and achieve their goals to start living full and meaningful lives moves me. I have been honored to work with those who allow me to accompany them on the journey out of the darkness. I continue to hope that my work (both clinically and through this blog) will inspire others to seek help needed: you are not alone.

If not happiness, then what?

In my last post, I wrote about the elusive chase of happiness and the cost of staying stuck in the chase. So if happiness is not the (only) end goal, what is? One end goal that I propose is compassion (including self-compassion).

What is compassion? The word compassion literally means “to suffer with.” According to Dr. Kristin Neff, a self-compassion researcher and expert, compassion is comprised of mindfulness (i.e., noticing that others are suffering), feeling “warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way,” offering kindness and nonjudgmental attitudes, and understanding that suffering is a ubiquitous human experience. Self-compassion is comprised of the same elements, but directed towards the self: noticing that you’re experiencing something difficult, saying or doing kind things for yourself, and knowing that you’re not alone in your struggles.

It’s not easy to be compassionate towards ourselves, for a variety of reasons. Maybe you’ve been told all your life that you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not X enough. Maybe you’ve made mistakes in the past and can’t or won’t forgive yourself. Whatever the reason, non-compassion can lead to, at the very worst case scenario, self-destruction (e.g., not taking care of your body, letting others take advantage of you, substance abuse, etc).

So how do you start treating yourself with compassion? One way is to start practicing mindfulness, as mindfulness is one of the elements to compassion. What exactly is mindfulness? It is a nonjudgmental awareness of what is happening in the here and now- so focusing on your present moment experiences, without judgment. Start by spending a few minutes each day being mindful, then build up to longer periods of time, if you wish. You can do a mindfulness meditation practice or you can simply notice what’s happening in your experience. For example, as you’re eating, notice the taste, textures, and smells of the food. As you’re walking, notice how your feet feel as you hit the ground, how the wind or sun feels on your face, describe the scenery. And if your attention goes elsewhere, acknowledge that your thoughts went elsewhere, tell yourself, “it’s ok, I caught it,” and just go back to what you were noticing. The key to mindfulness is that you approach your experiences with compassion, rather than judgment. The more that you get used to being compassionate with yourself, the more integrated self-compassion will be in your life.

You can also start practicing deliberate acts of kindness towards yourself, even if you feel like you don’t deserve it, don’t have time, or whatever reasons your mind gives you. In fact, if you’re having a difficult time with self-care and self-nurture, schedule some time in your calendar for yourself and treat that appointment as you would any other. Make a list of activities that bring you pleasure and joy and do them. Allow yourself to take mini-escape. You deserve to take care of yourself and treat yourself with compassion!

What gets in the way of treating yourself with compassion? What are some ways you show yourself compassion? 

Here are some links to compassion/loving-kindness mindfulness audio:

Dr. Kristin Neff’s website

Series on loving-kindness

Fun Fridays

A few fun and yummy things for the weekend:

1. Hilarious and unfortunately, so true.
2. Comedy weekend:

  •      Grown Ups 2
  •      Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain

3. After coming from NYC, I was craving kimchee fried rice for the longest time…this was a pretty good recipe.

What are you doing this weekend? 

Fun Fridays

1. Get your summer on. 
2. Just because 4th of July is over doesn’t mean that sweet treats have to end. Healthy, no-bake recipes here.
3. Movies to check out this weekend:

4. Too much cuteness with this kiddo.