People believe that overworking or spending an hour on social media are socially acceptable addictions. But these people need to understand the costs of these addictions? Overworking for some people is about using work as a way of distracting yourself from things you don’t want to attend to. But again what are the beliefs and emotions that are driving you in overworking? Because you can get stuck in that abyss between intending to do something and doing it. Join Whitney Lauritsen as she talks to Dr. Sasha Heinz, Ph.D., MAPP about the cost of socially acceptable addictions. Dr. Heinz is a developmental psychologist and mindset coach who helps people get unstuck. People get stuck because of a lot of things. Their fear of taking risks, their fear of other people’s perception, and much more. Dr. Heinz helps her clients get unstuck from that abyss. Listen in if you want to know more about how human behavior works when dealing with addictions. Discover how to creating boundaries and limits. Learn how to be fit mentally and how to be emotionally flexible. Start understanding the cost of your addictions today.
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The Cost Of Socially Acceptable Addictions
Sasha, I am looking forward to diving into something you shared with me, which I believe you phrased as socially acceptable addictions. That’s something I don’t think I’ve ever heard before, but I’m fascinated by the things that people do, the behavior, and the choices that we make out of a desire or belief system because something feels socially acceptable.
In other words, we may not do something because we believe that thing is not socially acceptable, so we’re going to try to hide it or prevent ourselves from doing it. If we do behave in a certain way or make a certain choice that’s not what we believe to be socially acceptable, perhaps we feel shame about it. This is something that I’ve experienced a lot throughout my life. I imagine it’s fairly common. What does that mean for you? Why is that something that you’re interested in and exploring a lot in your own life?
Do we have ten hours to unpack this one? We were talking about what are the things I’ve been thinking about lately. I do this work as a psychologist. It’s no surprise that this is the direction I chose to go in professionally. There were a lot of addictions in my family, from my grandparents’ generation with substances to my own parents’ generation. My parents were not drug and alcohol users at all. They’re very moderate and abstemious in some ways, but they are major over-workers. We’re talking about socially acceptable addictions. In my generation, there was addiction in my family that we’ve had to deal with. It’s a language I’m familiar with at the cost of the whole dynamic of the family.
One of the things that are so interesting is that I have the proclivity to overdo it or go all-in. Some of it is because of the way that I’m wired. I’m ADHD. One of my hallmark characteristics is being hyper-focus or obsessive about things, which can be useful when I’m working on a project. It also can be annoying to the other people in my life. For a long time, I’m not necessarily the addict in the family. However, I am when it comes to things, but the world says these things are okay. I am absolutely an over-worker. I can get obsessed with my professional endeavors. I won’t speak for other cultures, but in the Anglo-Saxon culture that is developed in the United States and specific to the US, we overvalue overworking. It is seen as noble as opposed to a problem.
In 2021, my coping mechanism for COVID wasn’t necessarily baking and eating banana bread. It was work. I dove into work that helped me feel structured in my own world. It helped me feel contained and sane and all these things. None of that stuff is bad, but we always have to be very conscious of the cost. What’s the cost of what I’m doing? What are the beliefs and emotions that are driving this behavior? Does it feel compulsive? Does it feel free? When I have to take a hard look at some of these things, maybe we veered off a little too far off east.
It’s certainly extremely relatable because it feels like so many people are talking about this. We’re in a time right now where it’s socially acceptable to talk about burnout, exhaustion, stress and overdoing it. There seems to be a cultural awareness, especially amongst Millennials, Gen Z, and people that are paying more attention to their mental health. It is exciting but it’s still happening. We still have all different types of addictions. I don’t know if we will ever be free of them.
It feels like, as human beings, we’re drawn to overdoing things. I’m interested in the ADHD side of things because that’s something I’ve been exploring in terms of a diagnosis for myself. I’m deeply fascinated by it because I have so many traits of neurodivergence. I can relate to that hyper–fixation and I can also relate to feeling valued for working hard. I took so much pride in that growing up. I was decent at school, but I didn’t feel good enough at school. I struggled with learning. That’s another common trait of ADHD. I wish I was diagnosed back then.
That is a real common thread among people that have ADHD. They felt like school was hard. I do find it so funny that although working hard is very highly valued, at the same time it’s like because I had to work hard, I wasn’t smart. It is an interesting belief system.Pay attention to who you are. Stop looking online at what other people are doing and actually pay attention to what you need. Click To Tweet
That came up in an audiobook that I listened to on my road trip. I forget which one, but I listened to so many books. One of them was talking about girls or maybe it was not a gender-specific thing, but people at certain schools like Ivy League schools. You told me that you went to Harvard. I’m curious if this is part of your experience, where you had to pretend that being intelligent and getting good grades was effortless. You couldn’t or it was hard for you to admit to people if you were struggling because it was looked down upon. Maybe you were afraid of being perceived as not intelligent if you had to work hard for something. Was that anywhere within your experience?
Absolutely. That was the general idea of if someone didn’t have to study very hard and they did well, they’re a genius and that is an expression of their brilliance. Two researchers flip that on its head. It began with Carol Dweck about the growth mindset versus the fixed mindset. That’s like, “It’s not hard for me. I’m a natural, therefore, I’m smart.” That’s very fixed mindset oriented. It works until you get into an environment where the other people around you are also naturally gifted at something. All of a sudden, your “natural talent” isn’t going to be enough. You have to put effort, practice and work into it.
That began to be demystified by Carol Dweck’s research, and then Angela Duckworth’s research looking at grit. She called it grit but initially, she was looking at IQ versus persistence or self. I’m trying to think what the original study was. Essentially, she was looking at someone’s willingness to put effort into something like how hard they work at something versus how smart they are. What she found was that IQ wasn’t necessarily the best predictor of later success. It had more to do with how persistent this kid is and how much effort they put into it. Their ability to focus and be gritty. In her grit model, effort factors in twice.
Someone will correct me for this. It’s something to the effect of your natural talent times effort equals skill or it’s the other way around. The point is that effort factors in twice. I’m going to hold on. I’m pausing myself right now because I’m going to go look it up. It will drive me insane if I don’t. I’m the same way. If I was trying to quote something, I have that attachment to getting it right. I even wonder if that in itself is part of this whole challenge like getting things right, not wanting to mess up or not wanting to be disrespectful. I’m also afraid that if I say the wrong thing, people will think that I’m not smart. I have an attachment to being intelligent. Maybe that’s because I felt like I had to work for it.
Given what you shared, I had to be persistent because I did not find school very easy in most subject matters. I was somebody that would struggle to get an A or an A-minus. I wanted that, but I was a B student most of the time. I felt that wasn’t good enough, so I had to be persistent and work harder. I would beat myself up. That carried with me through school and then through my career too. It’s now this unraveling of like, “How is that serving me? Is this for me or is this for somebody else?” The answer generally is it’s for someone else.
By the way, I was corrected. It’s talent times effort equals skill, and then skill times effort equals achievement. With the high achievement, your effort factors in twice. You can’t just be the naturally gifted athlete or musician and be a world-class performer or athlete or whatever. It requires both efforts, and then that creates the skillset, then the skill requires them. Its skill times effort equals achievement. It’s better to be high on effort than it is to be high on talent.
That’s interesting. It shifts things around, but I don’t know if that’s a positive thing. Going back to this socially acceptable addiction, is an effort in itself an addiction?
I love what you’re saying. We could dig and drill down into this thing. It’s specific to any neurodivergent, but ADHD people with learning disabilities feel like they’re not smart enough, that being their cross to bear and having so much to prove. That can be a driving force, but it’s typically fueled by shame, which isn’t all that. It doesn’t feel all that awesome in the long run. That’s a whole other thing we could talk about. What I would say with this effort and overworking is that overworking for me is not about effort.
It’s not about deliberate practice. It’s about busying myself and using work to distract myself from things I don’t want to attend to. I’m not talking about work in the sense of, “I’m working on a book and I’m writing today.” I’m talking about loosely working, work that isn’t really working or work that’s wasting time. It’s frittering time away but it’s a socially acceptable way to do it. Instead of like, “I watch Netflix in the middle of the day,” that’s not socially acceptable. I can spend time surfing the net and looking and researching something, which is equally as useless.
There may not even be an objective. It may be like, “I’m down in a social media rabbit hole. I’m on Instagram and I’m “doing something for work,” but I’m not. I can call that work and then somehow, it becomes socially acceptable and it’s not a problem. It’s not that watching Netflix in the middle of the day is a problem either. The question is, is there a cost? Does it get in the way of other things you want to do? In COVID, the blur between work and home got so murky that it became easier to pretend.
That’s interesting too because now a lot of the younger generational people, Millenials and Gen Z, are feeling resistant to going back to the office because they become so comfortable working from home. I’m fascinated by that because, to your point, that comfort can be great now that it’s more socially acceptable to work from home. I remember when I had a traditional job and was not working for myself and learning about different work structures. I was reading The Four–Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss and thinking, “That sounds amazing. I would love to do that,” but I didn’t have the comfort level or the dynamic with my employers to ask for that.
Who’s going to say, “You can cut back from 40 hours a week to 4 hours a week?” That’s sufficient, but now it’s becoming more commonplace for people to be putting in fewer hours, working from home, and creating situations that allow them to thrive. The neurodivergent side of me is thinking, “I wish I had that in school. Maybe I would’ve done better if I could have done it my way.”The letdown is necessary to recalibrate. Click To Tweet
To your point, you also have to battle the temptations and you have to have a lot of self-awareness to know, “If I do decide to watch Netflix, it’s not about being right or wrong. It’s about the cost of it.” How do you balance this for yourself, your children and your clients? Does this come up with the work-life balance, examining the cost of things, and making these choices for ourselves?
First of all, giving a person who has ADHD completely unstructured time is a disaster. Don’t do it. I don’t recommend it. People with ADHD thrive in a structured environment. It’s the way it is. It’s not good or bad. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the way you set yourself. In the same way, there are so many lessons in the way we talk to kids that we could apply to adults that we don’t, like setting your child up for success, thinking about what your child’s strengths and weaknesses are, what they need help with, and what structures they need in place so that when you’re asking them to do something, they’re more likely to do it. It’s reducing friction.
The same thing applies to adults. Pay attention to who you are. Stop looking online at what other people are doing, and pay attention to what you need. I need structure, period. End of story. Me without structure is a gong show. This is not helping anybody. By the way, that unstructured time, sometimes my work life is totally bleeding into my personal life. Let’s be honest. If I’m working from home and I hear my kids bickering with each other, I won’t be like, “Good. Time is up. Work is over.” Let me spend a little bit more time on my email because of the energy costs for me dealing with my children’s bickering, whether that’s stepping into that environment versus I’ll get a few more emails to respond to, one is easier than the other. One is more interpersonally demanding than the other, but I’m not saying it’s better.
If you do like I do, pursuing work stimulates dopamine. It certainly does for me because I’m a curiosity machine. I’m interested in everything. I want to learn something. It’s one of the ways that I express this. If work is dopamine stimulating for you, which it is for me, when I shut down work, my brain is like, “We want more.” It’s the same way for someone who is having a hard time putting down a drink. Their brain is saying, “More, have another drink.” We want that dopamine stimulated again. That dopamine equilibrium is trying to self-regulate and your dopamine levels are coming back down again. Your brain is like, “We want that again. We want to stimulate that feeling again.” It’s the same thing. It works for every single addiction. It’s the same mechanism.
For me, work is dopamine stimulating. At the end of the day, I don’t necessarily want to shut it down. If I’m taking a step back and looking at what’s best for me in terms of the life I actually want, the mom I want to be, the friend I want to be, the wife I want to be, and the relationships I want to cultivate, I must enforce boundaries and limits to myself. It’s the same way that I have to enforce limits in other areas of my life. It’s the same. Even though it’s a socially acceptable thing like, “I’m working,” it’s a good thing. It’s easier.
If you are someone who’s like, “The more my brain is asking for is heroin,” you are going to be met with a lot of like, “It’s a good thing for you to set limits.” Maybe full abstinence like “no heroin” would be a good call. That’s probably going to be the party line. I hope it will be. If your dopamine stimulation is from working, it first started maybe with a little bit of organizing work on Sunday night, and then it’s, “I needed to schedule a meeting. I could do it on Saturday morning,” or “I’ve got this project overflowed. I’m going to be spending my weekend working on it.”
I’m not saying there aren’t times when you’re in a sprint and you got to do what you got to do. If this is a persistent pattern, you begin to see the bleed and it’s a slow burn. It’s not going to be met with as much. You’re not going to get the necessary feedback from the people in your life. You have to be more self-regulated. You have to be more self-aware. It’s going to require you to be on top of yourself, ask yourself hard questions, and be radically honest with yourself. None of which comes easily because your brain is like, “No, it feels good. I like this thing. I want more of it.”
The topic of dopamine addiction is super fascinating to me.
It’s not that we’re addicted to dopamine. We’re addicted to the substance. We’re addicted to the thing or whatever is stimulating us. The point being is that dopamine is a motivation neurochemical. It’s motivating us to continue to do the thing that we were doing or to pursue the thing that we were doing. That’s what it is. Our biochemistry is recalibrating. Have you ever had the experience where you have a fun weekend with friends, family or someone, and then they leave? You feel forlorn. It’s like a piece of your heart was ripped out. It feels terrible. It physically feels bad.
You’ve been stimulating that dopamine so much. You’ve been pursuing pleasure and fun. It feels good. Your body is recalibrating and that recalibration hits the reward and pain circuitry. I’m certainly no expert on this at all, but the more recent science on this is showing that the pain and reward circuitry is in the same part of the brain. You get the reward, reward, reward. In the end, you have an amazing time. It’s a fun night out or amazing dinner, and then it’s over. There is that letdown. The letdown is necessary to recalibrate. If we’re living our life where we never want to feel the letdown, then we get ourselves into trouble.
That’s fascinating. I would imagine a lot of people operate that way because they’re jumping from one thing to another. I’m curious about your thoughts on screen time usage and digital devices. That’s such a huge topic for a parent like yourself, but I’m sure we’re all using them.
Whether it’s mild or extreme addiction, to some extent, we are all addicted to our phones.The work of adulting is setting boundaries. Click To Tweet
How do you balance that for yourself and your children? It’s a similar question as earlier. Is that something that you spend a lot of time thinking about? Do you create boundaries around that for yourself and your children? Do you encourage them to do that? What is your family’s relationship to devices?
I have such a hard time self-regulating. I have to create external things to regulate it for me. I use all sorts of barrier apps on my phone that makes it harder for me to get it or at least made me aware of my usage. It’s not just the phone screen time because I will click through that like, “Who cares?” There’s an app called Freedom. It will not even allow me to get on it. You can’t turn it off once it’s clicked in. If you have it on the schedule like I would have it on from 8:00 PM to 10:00 AM, I can’t even get on social media. Once it started rolling, I can’t change it. I will forget it, then 8:15 rolls around and I’m like, “I can’t get on it.” That’s great. That’s precisely what it’s there for.
Clear Space is another one that I find to be useful. It enforces a little bit of a breathing exercise before you can get into whatever app you’ve programmed it. It could be a browser, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, or whatever things you spend your time on. It will say, “You’ve opened it this many times. You’ve clicked through this many times. You’ve used it this many times.” It gives you that little bit of a buffer so that you’re going from your automatic brain to your deliberate mind or your thinking mind. You’re using your forebrain, your prefrontal cortex, or your executive function to make the decision.
I find that to be also helpful because in that 30-second little pause that it gives, that can be enough time for me to have a moment of like, “I love you. You’re doing this because you don’t really want to do that. You’re bored. Do you want to go on right now?” No. It gives me enough time to have a moment with myself. This is a knee-jerk automatic response. You don’t need this right now. I have to create these external barriers. Otherwise, I am completely left to my own devices. “Lord, have mercy. She is not ready.” Seriously, I know that as adults, we’re supposed to be all self-regulated, but there are things that I find challenging.
My self-regulation is in creating external boundaries for myself. My husband has a wonderful phrase. He’s like, “I have a point of sale discipline.” At the grocery store, he’s like, “I have the discipline to not buy something at the grocery store, but if you bring it into the house, I’m going to eat that snack.” Pay attention to who you are and what are the limits that you need to set for yourself that make your life easier. They make managing yourself easier. In my mind, this is self-care. It’s not getting a darn manicure. Are you paying attention to the limits you need to set for yourself to make managing your mind easier and less stressful?
I love that. That’s such a fantastic point. It ties into something else you had mentioned that I wanted to talk about, which is the willingness to say no. No is a boundary. I’m curious about your relationship to the word no.
I think about the work of adulting as helping to set limits for yourself. There’s a lot of buzz around boundaries, but essentially that’s what a boundary is. People struggle with external boundaries, but the thing that people struggle with even more is internal boundaries. It’s not from a place of being punitive or shaming but from a place of true love, like the way that we set boundaries with the child.
If you’re at the grocery store and it’s 30 minutes before dinner time, and your child wants to get a donut, we’re not yelling at our child saying, “What is wrong with you? Why do you want to have a donut at night?” It’s like, “I understand why you want to have donuts. Donuts are delicious. We can get one tomorrow at a different time. Right now, we’re about to have dinner in 30 minutes and the answer is no, we’re not having a donut. I know it’s a bummer. I understand but it’s not a good idea.” That is not shaming or judgmental. It makes sense that a kid wants a donut, and it makes sense that we’re saying, “Not right now. Not a great idea,” if we want them to eat their dinner. Arguably, that limit is important. It’s important that a kid is given a more nutritionally dense meal than a donut.
As an adult, we get into all this nonsense around how we limit ourselves. Are we setting very shaming and restrictive limits? We’re either not setting limits or we do so. The whole language around this is so murky, messy, and hard for people to talk about. Adults need to set limits in the same way that kids have to set limits. We do it for our kids from a place of love like, “Kiddo, it’s bedtime.”
Imagine if we said, “Kiddo, it’s bedtime,” to ourselves. I might think about that for myself.
It’s our ability to be able to set loving limits with ourselves because setting limits is loving. It is an enormously important skillset. It can be challenging and sometimes, they’re annoying. You don’t want to do it. Sometimes you want more, more, more, but recognize the trade-off. Recognize what’s the cost of something and be honest about it.
I’m curious about how this ties into getting unstuck because, in a way, you could think that setting limits would keep you stuck like, “I don’t want to feel limited. I want to feel free.” Freedom feels almost like the opposite of being stuck. You have a deep interest in helping people get unstuck. What does that mean in your work?At the root of your stuckness is often something a child would say. Click To Tweet
In the work that I do, there is the science aspect. We’re always looking at what the general laws are that apply here about human behavior and the way that the human brain operates. It’s the heuristics or rules of the human organism. That’s the science piece. We’re looking at, on average, how does this work? There’s this other aspect of it, which is the art. It is one person’s experience, one person’s own specific story, the way things are for them, what happened to them, and how they’ve internalized things. That’s specific and unique to a person.
My work with clients is always in that intersection of, “These are the general laws that regulate or guide human behavior that we have to contend with perhaps. What about you, your story, and your own experience? How do those two things interact together?” In my mind, the art of coaching is there at that intersection. Some people are stuck in their limits and restriction in some way. Whether that’s professional risks they won’t take or fear of other people’s perception or thoughts about them. It keeps them locked in.
For another person, their struggle may be on the other side. They’re like, “My life is a total free for all. I don’t know how to say no to myself or other people.” It’s total chaos. For one person, there was a rigidity to their limits and for another person, it’s completely boundaryless. It’s different for each person. It’s part of why we get into trouble a little bit on social media. People will read a post and say, “Does this mean that I’m like this?” No. Maybe it’s something in general or I’ve noticed this or something. You’re the expert on you. Everyone knows. You know if you’re struggling with something that’s too rigid, and you know if you’re struggling with something too loosey-goosey.
What are some other ways that people tend to get stuck? Is it mainly those two sides of feeling stuck because they’re doing too much and wanting too much? Abundance might be their issue versus somebody who’s stuck because they don’t feel like they’re enough. They don’t feel they have enough. That enoughness comes up a lot for me in my head, but what are some other ways that people get stuck?
When we get stuck, we have a particular lens that hasn’t evolved in the way we’ve grown. Our beliefs haven’t grown up with us. We may be in our 40s and still saying things to ourselves like, “If this person is disappointed with me, I can’t handle it.” I have a lot of empathy for that, but if we look at it for what it is, it’s not a very sophisticated belief system. That’s something that one could hear an eight-year-old saying, “I don’t want to disappoint my mom,” or “I’ll do that because I don’t want my friend to be upset with me,” or whatever it is.
This makes sense developmentally for those younger years. There’s a lot of goodness in there. There’s a kid who’s paying attention to other people’s feelings and that’s good. Having an awareness that their behavior impacts other people is good. These are all very positive things. When we evolve and we grow up but this belief doesn’t grow with us or we still believe something that hasn’t evolved along with us, then we can get stuck in it.
“Maybe if I say no or if I don’t do X, Y, Z, someone will be disappointed. If I tell the truth, someone will be disappointed in me.” That might be true, but then we may also learn like, “I could handle it. I was able to handle it.” There was a payoff on the other side of it which is, “I felt more in integrity and that felt awesome. I was willing to tolerate someone’s disappointment because I felt more in alignment with myself.” That’s way more nuanced and sophisticated, but we have to be willing to continue to grow and test out these belief systems. At the root of our stuckness is often sentences. They sound like something a 7-year-old or a 10-year-old might say, and we all have them.
I had a coaching session and we were talking about productivity. I said, “Productivity is fill in the blank.” It was an interesting thing that came up. Basically, they’re saying that productivity is the permission to then relax later. There were a lot of beliefs around if I’m productive, then I’m allowed to relax and enjoy myself later. One is productivity is checking all those things off my to-do list. We were having a conversation about this and I was like, “Guys, we need to recognize that our beliefs around productivity are not particularly sophisticated. Why is checking boxes off a to-do list productive and to what end? Do we know what the end goal is? Are we actually going somewhere or are we just being busy as being busy? Is being busy the point?
It was an interesting conversation and recognizing that part of our job as adults is to grow ourselves up in these ways, and to think about things with a little bit more sophistication because in changing our beliefs around it, we change our behavior. If someone is running around busy all the time, we need to examine the beliefs around why being busy is good. What’s the payoff? That behavior is goal-directed.
If the belief is I have to be productive to be able to have downtime, then we’re going to be someone who creates stuff to do all the time because the vehicle to feel better is to be busy. We might want to drill down into how we are defining productivity. What does it mean? Do you have a filter for what goes on the to-do list?” I don’t know. This is the relationship that we want to develop with ourselves as adults if we want to continue to grow and develop, and I continue with the same behaviors over and over again.
You use that phrase running around, and it reminded me of something you’re very passionate about right now, which is mental fitness. That’s the term you use for this. You have the Mind Your Mind mental fitness club. What does mental fitness mean as compared to physical fitness running around? You’re describing it almost as if it is mental fitness. That’s one definition of mental fitness, how your brain can go round in circles and feel all busy. I imagine that there’s a different definition for the work that you’re doing.
I define mental fitness in three ways. One, are you able to distance yourself from your thinking and look at it more objectively and question it? Secondly, are you able to be more emotionally flexible and tolerate challenging emotions? Things that don’t feel awesome. Instead of using different substances or behaviors to escape those feelings, sitting with them, looking at them, and leaning into them, so having more of that emotional flexibility.If you want to know where being stuck lies, it's being stuck in that abyss between intending to do something and doing it. Click To Tweet
Thirdly, the ability to take brave and committed action and close that intention action gap. I want to do something, and then I’m actually doing it as opposed to what a lot of us, myself included, struggle with. It’s I have this intention but I’m not following it up with action. There’s this chasm between what I intend and what I actually do. Living in that chasm feels awful. There you are stuck. If you want to know where stuck lies, you’re stuck in that abyss between intending to do something and doing it.
That rings so true to me because it seems like so many people have clarity for what they want, but then that stuckness or as you’re describing, that abyss of not knowing how to get to that. It’s not always the steps. I’m curious if you’re the same way, Sasha. It sounds like our brains work similarly, whereas I love figuring things out. I love solving problems. If I want something, I’ll figure out how to do it and I’ll go do it.
I have that motivation that you described earlier. I’ve always been intrigued by people who don’t have that. For a while, I’ve thought that everybody must have that ability, but for some people, it seems like they may want something, but they don’t know how to get it, and then they get stuck in that abyss. What does it take for somebody who feels that stuckness? How do you guide them through? Is this what you do in the club you’ve created?
It’s a space to do this kind of self-examination and this work, closing that gap, taking that action, and having that. First of all, learning basic things about how your brain operates, and tools as to how to manage your mind. Your mind is a wily little thing. It takes some skill, and we have to put some effort into it to be able to manage our minds. Learning those tools and skills, and then having the social support around taking action and this being an ethos of the community that we’re in, which is so amazing. It’s an amazing thing to be able to know that you have a soft landing or a support place to do all that work.
When people are in that place of stuck, the question is, is that friction enough? Do they feel enough tension or friction where they’re willing to do something about it?” There are a lot of things in our life where we kicked the can down the road. We’re like, “It feels hard.” Tolerating the low-grade frustration and ickiness of it or irritant feels like it would be better than the cost of addressing it. For most people, that has to do with examining their thinking. What are they thinking that makes it seem like tolerating that is better than changing it?
If someone is like, “Being productive is everything because if I’m not productive, I can’t relax,” and if that belief system goes unexamined, then you’re going to be a machine running around the grass on fire because that’s what you’ve set yourself up for. If I said to that person to do less, they’re like, “You’re out of your mind because I’ll feel crappy,” and they will feel crappy. The real work here is understanding that I have this belief that I’ve made up. By the way, it is culturally supported that the more I do, the better I am. I’m allowed and I was given permission to take a break or to relax.
If we pull back from this belief system, most people are living their life where they’re like, “I need to get this thing done, then I can relax.” That may be something in the short-term, but then it may be a project. It may be a career. Their whole mentality is like, “When this is over, then I’ll have fun.” They’re shoving their entire life to some future fantasy land of retirement or a future fantasy land of something being done for them to be able to enjoy their life. When you take a step back, it is like, “That’s not a good proposition.”
This is so deeply fascinating to me. As you said at the very beginning, we could easily talk about this for ten hours because understanding where people’s beliefs come from, how they change, and how they change their behavior, I love it. I’m fascinated. It sounds like you are too. I’m so grateful that you spent the short amount of time we had here to start exploring. For somebody who wants more from you, what is the next step for them? I have your social media. That will be listed at Wellevatr.com for anyone who wants to go find Sasha online. Beyond that, I can also link to this mental fitness club that you’ve developed. I would love to know a little bit more about that. For somebody who wants to join that, what are the next steps for them?
It started because I had a Mind Your Mind course that I ran with women and a deep dive, intense experience with a cohort of women. There was a learning component and a curriculum. I want to teach people the science behind this, the foundation, and then also some practical tools. Once the course was over, a lot of my clients were saying, “We don’t want this to end. This has been a game-changer.” We ended up switching gears and we ended up having an alumni membership. Many of our alumni are currently in Mental Fitness Club For Women in Mind Your Mind on a monthly basis.
My idea here, which is what I love as a developmental psychologist, I have to own that this isn’t something that you just one and done. Our growth and development are continual, and you’re always a fun life. An adventure of life is one where you’re bumping up your growth edge. There may be times when you’re like, “This has been an intense time. I need a little bit of a break. I don’t feel like doing any growth and development right now.” No problem. If you need a summer vacation, you got it.
Mind Your Mind was set up in this way. It’s not cost-prohibitive as a way of doing something that you can do on an ongoing basis. There may be times when you may have three months where you’re like, “I am so dialed into this,” and then a few months later, “I want to watch replays and keep in the mix, but not be fully deeply engaged. I need a little bit of a respite from this,” which makes a lot of sense. That was designed in that way. This is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. Your growth and development are going to happen from cradle to grave, as they say. It doesn’t end.
If we’re living a life where we are committed to that growth and development, which has so many benefits, it makes life so much more enjoyable. The tasks that you’re struggling with at age 45 is not the same task you’re going to be struggling with at 65. It shouldn’t be. It’s like suggesting that the tasks that a two-and-a-half-year-old should be the same as what the twelve-year-old is dealing with. No. They’re dealing with totally different developmental stages, tasks, and challenges. The same is true in adulthood.Your growth and development is a marathon, not a sprint. Click To Tweet
It’s being in a growth community where you’re outside the context of pathology. It’s not about, “Something is wrong with you. You need to be fixed.” No. We’re here acknowledging that we want to be in a growth community because we want to continue on this. We want to be on our growth curve as adults. I think that we lose sight of that. That’s what my clients will say. They’re working on one thing and then they have a total breakthrough in that area. It opens the aperture and they’re able to see more. They’re like, “This is something that if I could clean this area of my life, things would be more smooth and better. My life would be better and it’s true.” Being a part of this growth curve and helping women beyond their growth curve is so exciting for me.
Sasha, I’m excited about so much that you’ve discussed. This is so important and needed. It feels nourishing to explore these things and to have a communal space to do that. To have guidance from someone like yourself is fantastic. I love your belief systems. There’s so much more to absorb from you. I’m very grateful at this time.
I should have said this earlier, but one thing so important to say out loud is that so many of the challenges that women, and I’m speaking directly to women, and men struggle with this stuff too. I’m not leaving you out. It’s just that I happened to work more with women, but so many of the struggles that my clients face like people pleasing, setting boundaries, making decisions, analysis paralysis, feeling totally paralyzed, perfectionism, and procrastination, these things that people struggle with, you can see them from a developmental lens. It’s not that something is wrong with you. These are developmental tasks and challenges that we need to work through. They’re uncomfortable and it sucks.
It sucks to be a kid and to be dealing with separation anxiety. It does not feel good. If kids are crying, they’re unhappy. They’re not enjoying separating from their caregiver. That’s not pleasant to a child. It’s in the same way in adulthood when a person is having to work through. It’s like, “I am going to make a decision that this person I deeply value isn’t going to agree with.” Cue the tears, nausea, self-doubt, angst, and all of it. This is totally normal. I worry sometimes that we’ve pathologized everything like, “I’ve got an issue with this.” No. It’s part of the normal growth and development as an adult.
My vision with Mind Your Mind and what we’ve created in this community is saying, “These are the normal challenges of adulthood, and we’re all here to work through this together.” Nothing is wrong with you that you have a problem making a decision. It would be like, “I spent six hours deciding what sheets to get.” People were like, “I’m secretly embarrassed.” It is not embarrassing. From a developmental perspective, it makes all the sense in the world. You want to get it right. Other people are going to have opinions. It was worse when it was a guest bedroom. People are going to be staying here. They’re going to have opinions about what bloody sheets they’ve got.
People are all up in their heads about it. They’re like, “Isn’t that embarrassing? What’s wrong with me?” Nothing is wrong with you. This is a developmental task. This is you growing into yourself of your self-authorship. This is you growing into an adult who has an internalized self-concept. It’s a big developmental leap. I wanted to take all of these things out of this language of disease, disorder and dysfunction pathology. We’re talking about growth and development in the same way kids grow and develop, adults do too.
That’s all so important. I feel like there are very few things more comforting than being told that you’re okay. This is normal. There’s nothing wrong with you because it’s true. Many of us struggle with that. Another reason to feel appreciative for your time here is for the work that you’re doing and to have that messaging and that support that you offer is so absolutely wonderful. I’m deeply grateful for it.
What you do is so important. It’s giving people a comfortable space to be honest about what’s going on. For most people, it’s normalizing like, “Everybody seems to have it all together.” They’ve got lots of struggles too, not because something is wrong with them but because they’re human beings.
The more that we can open up about that, it creates so much depth and room space for us. You’re absolutely right. I’m glad we have similar missions here and are not afraid to get uncomfortable because the name of the show is that growth as a human being is uncomfortable. Sometimes physically, emotionally and mentally. That reminder from someone like you who has been studying this on a professional level that it’s developmentally okay is so reassuring. Thank you again.
We could talk about this forever. This is me on my dopamine curving like, “More. I don’t want it to end.” You can see it and you can hear it in my voice.
I feel the same way, but as a boundary, time boundaries are something that I’ve always worked on and being respectful of people’s time. It’s a super hard boundary to create.
The reason that I have to go is because my dog is not well, so I need to make sure that she’s okay. Also, I’ve committed to getting back into exercise and that has been something that has been hard for me to make consistent. I have to create real external boundaries around making it happen. Otherwise, it’s the first thing that I blow off. I have to be honest about how beneficial it is and how good it makes me feel and how there’s so much positive payoff for that one hour of working out. It is easy for me to say, “I got other important things to do.” I have to set limits for myself. This is me telling you, I have to make myself go.
I’m going to hold you to that and create that container and that much-needed structure. As much as I don’t want this to end either, we’re going to work on that and practice it in real-time in front of the audience. Thanks again, Sasha, for being here. Thanks to the audience for tuning into this wonderful conversation that we don’t want to end.
I love it, Whitney. Thank you so much. It’s so much fun.
- The Four-Hour Workweek
- Clear Space
About Dr. Sasha Heinz
Dr. Sasha Heinz, Ph.D., MAPP, is an academic who went mainstream, using her background as a developmental psychologist to become a mindset coach who teaches people the science of getting unstuck. An expert in positive psychology and adult development, Dr. Heinz has based her entire career on helping clients make real transformations, giving them the tools to develop their mental fitness by facing challenges and breaking our mind’s default modes for stress, self-criticism, and anxiety.
Dr. Heinz received her BA from Harvard, her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Columbia, and her Master’s in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, where she also served as a faculty member. She was one of the first 33 people in history to receive a degree in Positive Psychology.
Dr. Heinz has appeared in a variety of media outlets including the New York Times, Forbes, Goop, Inc., Town and Country, InStyle Magazine, and more. Dr. Heinz has an engaged audience of over 14K followers on Instagram, 3K+ loyal email subscribers.
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