Catalyst Health, Wellness and Performance Coaching

Optimizing the Work/Life Balance - Drs. Yael Schonbrun and Elizabeth Corey (Episode #124)

September 02, 2020 Dr. Yael Schonbrun and Dr. Elizabeth Corey Season 3 Episode 60
Catalyst Health, Wellness and Performance Coaching
Optimizing the Work/Life Balance - Drs. Yael Schonbrun and Elizabeth Corey (Episode #124)
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Catalyst Health, Wellness and Performance Coaching
Optimizing the Work/Life Balance - Drs. Yael Schonbrun and Elizabeth Corey (Episode #124)
Sep 02, 2020 Season 3 Episode 60
Dr. Yael Schonbrun and Dr. Elizabeth Corey

The conflict between our work and our personal lives has never been higher. We are so fortunate today to have a pair of distinguished guests join us on the show, Dr. Yael Schonbrun and Dr. Elizabeth Corey. They are the authors of the upcoming book Inside Out, a unique new way to approach this work life struggle, which can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed for all of us. And for working parents, can lead to identity crisis, guilt and more. Our discussion today will take you down an unexpected path of discovering not only practical strategies for addressing these feelings, but also an opportunity to optimize both sides of the work life equation. 

For more information about health & wellness coaching, coaching certification or employee health & wellness, please see https://www.catalystcoachinginstitute.com/

For additional resources for current and future health and wellness coaches, please see YouTube.com/CoachingChannel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK04uLaZyPSAjtsOeTfw1vA?view_as=subscriber)

Show Notes Transcript

The conflict between our work and our personal lives has never been higher. We are so fortunate today to have a pair of distinguished guests join us on the show, Dr. Yael Schonbrun and Dr. Elizabeth Corey. They are the authors of the upcoming book Inside Out, a unique new way to approach this work life struggle, which can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed for all of us. And for working parents, can lead to identity crisis, guilt and more. Our discussion today will take you down an unexpected path of discovering not only practical strategies for addressing these feelings, but also an opportunity to optimize both sides of the work life equation. 

For more information about health & wellness coaching, coaching certification or employee health & wellness, please see https://www.catalystcoachinginstitute.com/

For additional resources for current and future health and wellness coaches, please see YouTube.com/CoachingChannel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK04uLaZyPSAjtsOeTfw1vA?view_as=subscriber)

Dr. Cooper:

Welcome to the latest episode of the Catalyst Health, Wellness, and Performance Coaching podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Bradford Cooper of the Catalyst Coaching Institute. The conflict between our work and our personal lives has never been higher. For that reason, we are very, very fortunate today to have a pair of distinguished guests join us on the show, Dr. Yael Schonbrun and Dr. Elizabeth Corey . They are the coauthors of the upcoming book Inside Out a unique new way to approach this work life struggle, which leads to feelings of being overwhelmed for all of us, but for working parents can actually lead to identity, crisis, guilt, and much more. Our discussion today will take you down an unexpected path of discovering not only practical strategies for addressing these findings, but also an opportunity to optimize both sides of this work life equation. If you're a health and wellness coach looking for a spark, as well as some inexpensive continued education credits, you might wanna check out the September 19th and 20th coaching retreat and symposium. We've completely revamped our typical annual event to provide you with all the benefits of a personal retreat and symposium without any of the concerns around travel or social distancing. We have an incredible lineup of speakers, including Dr. Wendy wood, the author of good habits, bad habits, but this is not simply a series of great speakers. Instead, it is a true at home retreat that will rejuvenate you, put you on the road to expanding your impact in the year ahead. Please feel free to reach out to us anytime [email protected], or you can find all the details on the website at CatalystCoachingInstitute.com. For everyone else, if you enjoy videos, you may want to check out youtube.com/coachingchannel. As we now have over 75 videos covering health, wellness performance, and how to make the most of your coaching business and your coaching career that are freely available to everybody. Now, it's time to join Dr. Yael Schonbrun and Dr. Elizabeth Corey on the latest episode of the Catalyst Health, Wellness, and Performance Coaching podcast. Dr. Schonbrun and Dr. Corey , welcome to the show, appreciate you two joining us today.

Dr. Schonbrun:

Thank you for having us .

Dr. Cooper:

Your upcoming book is titled Inside Out. And this title, I just know people, as soon as they hear it, they're going to be like, Oh my gosh, I've got to get over there and preorder this thing. It's called Inside Out, a working parents guide for the guilty, pissed off, conflicted, and downright overwhelmed. Like that is a, just a wonderful title. What were some of the things that surprised you most as you're researching this book?

Dr. Schonbrun:

Well, the book came out of a , sort of a long journey through my own working parenthood. And I think the thing that is in general, most surprising for most working parents is the idea that work family conflict exists. I think there's no doubt about that, but that there's this complimentary construct called work family enrichment, and they exist side by side. They're not two sides of the same coin, but rather two distinct constructs . So we can both feel conflict between our two roles. And at the same time, we can experience this , opportunity for each role to really benefit the other and for both roles to contribute to a richer, meaningful, more meaningful, happier life. And I think that's the thing that I keep coming back to my research, but also in my personal life, as a working parent that , really, I think expands my view of what it means to be a working parent.

Dr. Cooper:

Well, and you, you do a really good job of getting into that, and we'll come back to that question a little bit, but I think just that concept, just that perspective, if people get nothing else, if they shift their perspective to that, there's immense value in that. You note the path forward, isn't thinking of it as a problem, the worklife in quote, conflict as a problem to be solved, but rather a conflict between two competing goods. And then you introduce something called the acceptance and commitment therapy or act. I think that'd be a great place to start. Can you briefly introduce us to those six core processes of act that you talk about in your book?

Dr. Schonbrun:

Sure. Yeah. So acceptance and commitment therapy is an evidence based treatment approach that has been tested for all sorts of different conditions. Depression, anxiety , and it, it is effective in a lot of, for a lot of different conditions because it has these core processes that are really, really flexible and can really be applied in all sorts of different circumstances. So what I want to first say is that all the core processes hinge onto this core construct called psychological flexibility, which basically means the ability to be self aware, to be clear on what matters and then to choose behaviors that help you to become the person you'd most like to be in the life that you'd most like to live. And the way that we do that is by practicing and building these six core skills. So the first is getting in contact with the present moment. So that's this kind of idea of mindfulness. The second is acceptance. So being willing to open up to whatever thoughts, emotions, or experiences that you struggle with. The third is being aware of what's going on in your mind space, the thoughts and the stories. And then the second three core processes are more action oriented. So the fourth core process is learning to unhook from thoughts and stories when you get caught up with them. The fifth is gaining clarity on the values that matter most to you. So, you know, what you'd most like to stand for in any given moment, and then finally taking committed action. So this is sort of choosing what to do with your hands, your feet and your mouth in order to move your life in directions that matter most to you. So those are the six core processes. They overlap a lot, and if you're doing one, you're kind of doing all of them, but it can be helpful to distinguish the six processes so that you can, you know , focus on building skill in each area.

Dr. Cooper:

Okay. So huge value, as you were going through those I'm thinking, Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. All of them have a lot of value by themselves. Are there one or two that might be helpful for the person listening to this saying where do I start?

Dr. Schonbrun:

Yeah, well, I, I mean, I, I think again, they really all go together, but when I'm first introducing acceptance and commitment therapy to patients, I often start with values just because I think it's the most , it's sort of very orienting, and in a way, the way that we actually define values is in and of itself, orienting. We sort of talk about values as a compass. So if you're taking a journey, like say that you're going for a hike with a friend and you have a destination in mind, the destination might be goals. So metaphorically speaking in a working parent life, it might be, you know, where you want to get to in your professional life in terms of promotions or salary. In terms of your parenting life goals might be something like, you know, what you hope for ultimately for your kids, but goals are, we often don't have perfect control over our goals, but what we do have control over is how we take our journeys so that it really gets to the value. So values tend to be kind of like adverbs, sort of how you go along, whatever it is that you're doing. So if you're going on a hike, the how might be something like noticing the sunshine on your face, or if you're going with a friend, you know, being really present and connected to somebody as you're talking to them and catching up. And so values and working parent life might be things like, you know, finding balance or extracting joy, or, you know, enjoying the moment or , you know, learning a lot. And, and so again, values really come back, come down to like what you want to stand for as you're moving through your journey.

Dr. Cooper:

I love that. We talked about that a little bit in terms of shifting from what I want to do or what I'm doing to who I am, whom who I'm becoming. And it sounds very similar to what you're describing there.

Dr. Schonbrun:

Yeah. A close colleague of mine, she defines it as becoming the me that I want to be. So that's very similar to what you're describing.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah. I like that, and then that sticks in your head a little bit. You discussed the inherent value of this concept of role detachment, taking terms, detaching from these various focus areas that we have in our lives. Can, can you expand on that concept for our listeners and what it might mean in our lives, whether we're in a parenting role or it's more because a lot of your book is about the parenting situation, but also other things, just the work life conflict in general.

Dr. Schonbrun:

Yeah. So there's this concept called psychological detachment, which I find really fascinating because what we understand from the opportunities to step away, and away from one demanding role and into another is that you actually get a break from whatever role that you're stepping away from. Again, even if you're stepping into something else that's quite demanding. And one of my favorite studies to describe and Elizabeth and I describe it in our, in our recent piece in the wall street journal is , this study that followed army reservist, who were working in a demanding job, and those who were called into active duty away from their traditional workplace actually experienced decreased work burnout. And what's sort of mind blowing about that is that going to war can act as a break from work, but it really just underscores this idea that when we step away from one role, we get a break from it. And I think this, when you apply that to the working parent challenges, we can start thinking about stepping into our parenting role as a break from work, as long as we do it mindfully. I mean, what's really required for the psychological detachment to have its powerful effect is to really fully step away from whatever role you're stepping away from and into whatever role you're stepping into. And that does require a lot of mindfulness, right? Which is what we, a bit of what act is really, acceptance and commitment therapy is really helpful for building. So when you, for example, have a hard day at work, you go home to your family. If you're really thinking about work and kind of caught up in it and not really present with your kids, that's not really effective psychological detachment. But if you can really bring yourself back to the moment, get in touch with how it feels to be around your kids, laughing with them, or, or just, you know, finding out what they did throughout the course of their day. And really again, you know, repeatedly bringing yourself back into the moment that really does allow the power of psychological detachment to take place because you're fully stepping away from work. And the opposite can be true too, right? If your kids are going through difficult developmental stage, and you're really concerned about them, work can really be a place where you get a break from that . And in fact, in some of the interviews that I've conducted, that's really emerged as a very powerful opportunity. One individual that I interviewed who had a child that was going through , that had been diagnosed with cancer, described work as a place where he could really just get a break from thinking about all the terrible things that cancer involved. And it wasn't like it was fully out of his mind entirely. I mean, I think he admitted that, but it was sort of an opportunity to recenter and , and get a little bit of breathing space.

Dr. Corey:

Let me jump in here. The one thing that strikes me about, especially what Yael's been talking about with the role detachment is that , this is, this is a kind of unusual way of thinking about the work family conflict or balance. Because what she and I have noticed and written about in the past is that most people see it, see this as a problem to be solved, that you could somehow get to a place where there would not be a conflict between work and family. If only we could get things right, in terms of policy or politics or family relationships or childcare, and all those things are of course, very important. But there's a sense in which we find there, there is no final solution to this, to this problem. And so instead of thinking about this in terms of solution, problem, and solution, I think we're trying to offer a way of saying this is a condition of human life, for those of us who are lucky enough to be both parents and have demanding careers. And so let's think, let's think about it in a way that isn't problem solution, but rather let's, let's learn to live with this in a way that is constructive. A nd I think that's a kind of a fresh approach and people have told us, they're happy to hear this, that, O h, that is a way of navigating this. That is not just looking for the solution that never seems to a ppear.

Dr. Cooper:

Absolutely. I mean, I think you've nailed it with just that statement of saying stop thinking, because expectations drive our lives so much. And when you expect what is wrong with me? Why can't I get this figured out? Why am I not keeping this balance ? Why am I missing out as a parent or not pulling it together? When we step back and say, Oh, it's not a problem to be solved. It's two good things. And I've just got to figure out how to, how to go about that. Love that. So are there certain triggers? I'm listening to this conversation and I'm thinking, okay, we're sitting here in our studios or offices and, and talking this through. And it makes so much sense and nodding our head and thinking, yeah, but then I'm tired. I'm worn out. My kids are going nutso. My work is over the top. Are there certain triggers to get back into this mode when I'm not rested? And I'm not thinking clearly. And those kinds of things.

Dr. Schonbrun:

I think that you're pointing to the reality of work, family conflict, which is real, and it is very depleting and stressful. And that is sort of a day to day experience that many working parents, including Elizabeth and I have. And, you know, as we're sometimes, as we're working on a writing project together, we'll sort of share, Oh, this has been a rough week and I just can't get this project done. And that, that is a reality. And when you practice it, I really recommend for patients and that I engage a lot is the practice of self compassion. So again, this is one of these empirically-based constructs, it's been tested and shown to be very, very helpful for people managing difficult , life circumstances, which working parenthood often is. And self compassion can really reorient you and help you figure out what you need to do to kind of manage a difficult situation. But it has three separate areas with the first is mindfulness. So again we come back to this mindfulness . And that's the idea of just making space, whatever it is that's going on, whether it's, you know , fatigue or stress, or , the fact that you drop the ball and feel embarrassed , just making space for that. And then the second arena is self-kindness so saying to yourself, the kinds of things that you might say to a friend or loved one who's struggling, right ? You wouldn't call them and say, Oh wow, you did a terrible job. You'd say, you know, everybody has rough days, you're doing the best you can, give yourself a break. And then the third area is common humanity. This one I think is particularly helpful for working parents because we can all connect to the idea that most working parents struggle, right? Most working parents have a lot on their plate. And the sense of common humanity helps you to feel less alone. And from that place of self compassion, you can find that sort of self-compassion break. And then in that break, you can ask yourself, what do I need? I mean, sometimes what, what many working parents need is just to stare at a wall for a few minutes. Take a break to, you know , splash some water on your face, and sometimes you might need to reach out to a friend. But from that place of pausing and offering yourself some self-compassionate , you can, you can ask yourself that really useful question of what do I need to kind of get through this day in the best way possible in order to be the me that I want to be, given the constraints that I have, or the pressures that I'm experiencing.

Dr. Corey:

Let me jump in there and just follow up on what you said. It seems that you're absolutely right about that. And the biggest problem for so many working parents is this kind of relentless , self-critical tape that goes on in your head, and it's a kind of perfectionism, you know, that if, if I haven't been fully successful in the way I know I'm capable of being in either realm, then I have failed altogether and self-compassion is a way , I think it's kind of hard to do. I know it is for me. But it's a way of reorienting your, your mind from those perfectionist critical thoughts to , to treating yourself as you would treat someone else. I mean, that's, to sum it up. I think that's really what you're arguing here. Would you go to a friend and say you failed? I mean, you would be compassionate in that same way, but there's also, it's a very hard thing to apply to yourself.

Dr. Schonbrun:

Yeah. There's interesting research about that. That shows that most humans are more likely to treat not only their friends, better than they treat themselves, but like their pets too. And this recommendation is so good. Right, you know, if you could just ask yourself, you know, what would I say to somebody that I really care about? That really does motivate you to offer some, some kindness that you might not otherwise have offered to yourself. And it is, it's powerful sort of, when nothing else is available, you can offer that to yourself. If you can dig deep and try.

Dr. Cooper:

Nice. Very nice. All right . Let's say someone's listening to you today and the idea of accepting the conflict between these two things make sense, they're nodding their head. They're like, yeah, yeah, yeah. But then what? The acceptance is inherently valuable, but then there's still the daily realities they have to address. Suggestions in that realm?

Dr. Schonbrun:

Well, I always like to point out, Elizabeth and I are working on a piece related to this concept of acceptance. And it , I think it is just on the face of it, hard to think about acceptance of things that we don't like. Because it feels like resignation, there is a difference between acceptance and resignation. We're not resigning ourselves to being miserable in working parenthood by accepting that it is a natural conflict. Rather we're accepting that this is a natural part of life. And then that acceptance allows us to open up, to figure out the most strategic and successful and happy in this life that has a lot of demands. Elizabeth, do you want to add anything to that? Cause I know that this is an area that you feel.

Dr. Corey:

Yeah. I mean, that's the acceptance part is hard, I think because , especially, we're working on a piece right now that Yael has just alluded to and it has to do with anger. You know, when we feel anger about the situation that we find ourselves in, what's the natural response to anger? Well, it's to want justice, to want a remedy, to make things right. And anger is a powerful emotion. And so everyone knows that, of course, but it's very hard in the face of something like anger to say, yes, I accept the causes of my anger and I'm going to , to live with them and work past them. I think the one way I have found to, to get at the acceptance part is to say, well, what can I actually make a difference at? And what can I really not change? And , you know, you can imagine that with , with a child. Imagine that you're having difficulty with a child, what is the most important thing for me to do with this child? Am I going to make the child perfect in the way that I think the child could be perfect? No, but let me, let me focus on things that I can affect . Let me maybe lower my expectations. And I think coming to terms with, with, again, I come back to this question of perfectionism that so many working parents have, that we're going to do everything to the best of our abilities all the time. And I think part of the acceptance is saying, no, we're not going to do everything to the best of our abilities all the time. We do the best we can. And so, so focusing on the things we can change rather than , wishing for a kind of imagined perfection that is unattainable.

Dr. Schonbrun:

Right. And I'll just add to that. I think that once we sort of open up to reality, once we stop fighting for what can't be, we are able to open up to what can be. And what I, what the book that I'm working on really tries to do is to use science and data, to explore what options are available for working parenthood and increasing both effectiveness in each of our roles and happiness in our overall lives. And there's lots and lots of different ways that we can do that. I mean, psychological detachment is one powerful avenue. Mindfulness is another, I talk a little bit about how , the two roles actually enhance creativity for each. And then I also talk a lot about the science of happiness that really shows that there are opportunities to build greater meaning and to have different kinds of pleasurable activities and to even sustain pleasure over time, because we're doing these different role transitions throughout our day. And so once we stop again fighting what we might see as like too difficult and , you know, too painful and sort of make space for, for that, we actually can really explore different ways to really enhance, exactly, enhance our success and our happiness in really important ways.

Dr. Corey:

Let me give a quick example of, I think what we're talking about here. I wrote a piece , many years ago that , actually got me in touch with Yael and that's how we became friends. But I had argued that the spheres of motherhood and , professional life were absolutely different and could never be brought together. And I had people who would criticize me and say, well, that isn't true. You can use the skills you have cultivated as a mother in the workplace as well. And I, at that time wanted to emphasize the differences between the kinds of endeavors. But as I go forward, I find that there are things from both realms that can be brought to bear on the other. So for example, I'm in an administrative role at my university. I find myself acting in many ways like a parent, not realizing that people are coming to me, not just as workers, but as people with full emotional lives, all kinds of problems and they want to talk about them. They want to be brought into the workplace, not just as workers, but as human beings . So I'm able to bring some of the, I would call them maybe mothering or parenting skills to work in a way that I didn't see five or six, 10 years ago. And I think people do that all the time without even being conscious of it. And the same goes for kids. You know, you can set up a schedule at home that will help your kids to, to thrive and to flourish. That is maybe similar to the kind of thing you might do at work.

Dr. Cooper:

Yeah. Great points, great points. All right . The title and core concept of your book to me, it's the idea of inside out goes far beyond this whole idea of work life conflict. It emphasizes that we usually try to fix the internal issues through external solutions instead of the, what we should be doing addressing internal first. We could literally talk about this for, especially with our backgrounds, we could talk about this for hours. But could you touch on this enough to give our listeners something to chew on regarding other things they may have going on in their lives right now with that inside out piece?

Dr. Schonbrun:

Yeah. So this is not an idea that I came up with. This is actually an idea that's core to acceptance and commitment therapy. It's this idea that we tend to want to solve human inside problems with these kind of outside in solutions . So kind of like if your dishwasher breaks and you call somebody to fix it, you expect it to just be fixed. We want things like sadness or anger or anxiety to be solved in the same way, we want a solution. And the outside in solutions don't work for human problems. And in fact they worsen it. It's a bit like trying to get , trying to exit like a Chinese finger trap. And the harder you pull, the tighter that finger trap gets. And so you can sort of think about it, like if you try never to be sad or never to be anxious, let's stick with anxiety for a moment. So if you try never to worry about anything and you, you know , are crossing the street and you think, okay, it would be very dangerous if I worried. Cause that would indicate that something's wrong. But then you saw a car coming towards you, then you would panic and then you'd worry that you were panicking and that something was wrong with you that you were panicking. And then you would start to worry that maybe there was something wrong with your physiology or something wrong with the choices that you're making. And so you have this layering effect of anxiety. You see this all the time in anxiety disorders where it's not the initial anxiety, that's the problem. It's sort of the layering of the anxiety on top of itself. And then the judgment and then the , you know, guilt about not being as effective as you could be because you're so wracked with worry , and so on and so forth. And so what acceptance and commitment therapy really guides individuals in doing is to sort of make space for things that are natural, like uncomfortable emotions, even, you know , physiological discomfort. So for example, there's a study, there's a number of studies of acceptance and commitment therapy for patients with chronic pain disorders. And what we find is that when individuals who have chronic pain can make space for it, right, because it's a complicated and in some ways unsolvable problem. That they're experiencing that physical pain, that they can redefine normal and still act in ways that really enhance their life and expand their life rather than restrict because they don't want to feel discomfort. And so these inside out solutions really require us to open up to the fact that , many human problems can't be fixed, as Elizabeth was describing so beautifully. There's not a way to sort of undo a desire to, for example, participate in multiple demanding roles, there is something inherently challenging about that. But if we stop trying to undo, what's challenging and instead learn to live with what can sometimes be uncomfortable. It gives us more of an opportunity to go live more fully and happily, but that does require us to sort of accept that there isn't a sort of a full and complete fix.

Dr. Cooper:

Elizabeth, anything you want to add to that?

Dr. Corey:

No , I'm just taking that in. That's beautifully put it's very hard to do, isn't it? I mean, that's what Yael is asking is that we let's say, let's use the anxiety example again, that we cannot rid ourselves of anxiety. It is part of the human condition, for some people it's worse than others, but we must learn to notice or see that it will come to us. Watch it happen and, and deal with it in a way that isn't paralyzing and that's not , that's not easy to do. And it certainly with anger, you know, anger takes hold of us in a really visceral way , anxiety in a different visceral way. And the thing she's talking about is, is challenging. I guess I don't have anything to add that would be helpful, but only to say yes, I feel exactly what she is describing. And I bet a lot of your listeners do too.

Dr. Cooper:

Absolutely. Alright . A lot of the folks in our audience are current or potentially future health and wellness coaches and they tend to focus on what matters most to the client, clarifying values. You've touched on values. In what ways have you found this idea of clarifying values to be important as you're working with individuals?

Dr. Schonbrun:

Yeah, I think it's a great question. You know, again, like there , there are six core processes, but I often come back to values because it is so orienting. And I think asking people, what is most important to them is what helps people to motivate, to make change, right? Because if something is hard and it doesn't matter to you, it's pretty difficult to find the energy and the interest to do something different. You asked, I actually listened to one of your terrific episodes with the Porchaska's and you asked this question, I mean, their work is just , you know, ground shifting. But you'd asked this great question of what do you do when you get a client who just isn't willing, like they're just not interested and that's where we would do the values clarification. And there's a number of different ways that I get at that. There's, there's a couple of traditional exercises that act practitioners do. One of my favorites is the eulogy exercise, which sounds a little bit morbid, but it's this idea that at the end of your life, when you're thinking about somebody, you love eulogizing you, what is it that you want them to remember you for? Another way to get at it is to ask yourself, you know, in the past week, what have been the sweetest moments where you've just really felt a sense of vitality and connection to something that really matters to you. What were you doing in that moment? And then I also like for working parents to ask this question of, you know, when you look back, when your children look back on their childhood and think about what kind of a parent, a working parent you were, what do you want them to remember about you? And so I think in those ways, by sort of getting the individual to clarify for themselves, what is the most important? Even if it's hard, it helps them to sort of really connect to something that can be motivational, even when challenges arise, like they're too tired or they're really stressed out and to kind of narrow in on what really matters at the end of the day. What is really essential to you in terms of what you want to stand for.

Dr. Corey:

That's extremely interesting and well put. And you, your use of the eulogy image , reminds me of the David Brooks book that was written a few years ago, where he contrasts the eulogy and the resume values. And of course, that's exactly what we're getting at here, that the eulogy values are the , the ones we tend to draw on in parenting and that we want to be nurturing, we want to be kind, we want to be other oriented. And the resume values are often, unfortunately not those, though they can be. They tend to be things like , focus on achievement, excellence, these values that are also extremely good in themselves. But if taken to an extreme can crowd out the more other oriented values. The one thing I would like to emphasize that I think is absolutely right about, is the notion of thinking about values as adverbs. In other words, how do we want other people to think of us? What kind of people do we want to be? Well, the word, the words that come to mind for me are oriented toward others, kind, thoughtful. These sorts of things that are perhaps part of a professional career certainly are, but are really valued in human relationships, and especially in families.

Dr. Cooper:

I'm picturing everyone listening, nodding their heads, and then saying, yes, but. So I've got these values. I'm committed to them. I know what's important to me, but I've got to get this done for this project. Or my bosses needed me to do this or whatever it might be. How do you help people walk down that path of the yes, but. The, I know my values, I just, I don't have time to focus on that or whatever, excuse you might hear .

Dr. Corey:

Somebody asked me a question similar to this, about a completely different on a complete topic. Sort of like, how do you, how do you make time to be with those who are important to you? And I gave an answer which was, you know, get up a half hour earlier, make time for yourself first. I mean, people say this all the time. It's very hard to do, but I've started to do it. And it's actually really grounding. For example, this morning, I woke up at 5:45, not my , not my normal time, but I've suddenly kind of had three straight hours to myself before anyone was awake because no one is doing their normal things during COVID. And I realized, boy, this was tremendously grounding. So sometimes it is just to , to reorient your, your actual time and, and make yourself do things that will have rewards, that will pay off throughout the day.

Dr. Schonbrun:

Yeah. I think that some of those smaller sort of on the grind, day to day strategies really are, what would I look for to help patients? And it really is about creating tiny habits. And we actually, on our podcast, I interviewed Greg McKeown on his book Essentialism. Oh, it's such a great book. And I love that he breaks it down into three simple steps, right? So first explore, explore for you what is essential. And maybe more importantly, what's not essential. Because most of us get really caught up in the, what we should do and what other people are pressuring us to do, or what looks right to do that. And we tend to lose sight of what really matters to us, what we want our life to stand for. But if you really get reflective about it, it can become more evident what really matters to you and what really doesn't and where are you spending your time? And then the second step is to evaluate. So, you know, that really comes down to like exploring, like where are you spending your time? And then the third step is execute, right? Create a schedule or plan some behaviors or carve out time, you know , just on the weekend or whatever kind of makes sense, given your constraints and make it happen. And when I see patients in my therapy practice, I mean, what we know from studies on therapy effectiveness is that individuals who do homework have better therapy outcomes. And it really think that is about creating habits. So I'll have individuals commit to some kind of action of something that's important to them. And sometimes it's very, very small. It's sort of, you know, five minutes, one week to do something that is important, but it's really about building, it's setting the bar low enough that you can have some success and building from there.

Dr. Cooper:

Love it. Alright . Another concept you introduced in your book is this idea of unhook from unhelpful labels. Now, as I think about this in the health, wellness, performance context, I mean, that could be huge for people in all of those areas, health, wellness, and performance. Tell us more, can you walk us down this path of this idea of unhooking from the unhelpful labels?

Dr. Schonbrun:

Yeah . So if you think about, you know , any given behavior , there's always a choice point, are you going to do it or are you not? And if you ask yourself what causes me to choose away from things that are important to me, one of the big things is the thoughts that we get fused with or hooked on. So the example that I like to give, which is really fitting for wellness coaches is, you know, if you have a plan to start a running routine and in the morning you set your alarm for 6:00 AM, the alarm goes off and what do most of us think when the alarm goes off,

Dr. Cooper:

Sweet, it's time to run!

Dr. Schonbrun:

And maybe you, but the rest of us, not mortals. The rest of us mortals hit snooze and would like to go back to bed. And the thought that usually goes along with it is I can't, I'm too tired. And the thought I can't is one that many of us get fused with. And I, for me, whenever I hear somebody say that it's always a red flag to me, like, okay, I think you might be fused with that thought because most of the things that our mind says, I can't, that's not actually accurate. Right? Most of the time we can, we just don't want to, or it's very difficult. But by noticing that thought and noticing that we're fused with it and taking a step back, unhooking from it, and we can talk about a couple of exercises that help us to do that. We create a little bit of a pause, a little bit of a mindful pause, where we can actually more intentionally approach that choice point from an unhooked place and decide from a more value oriented perspective. Am I going to follow through with this behavior? Or am I not? Now, you still might not. And I actually think that's okay, but to do it from an unhooked place where the values are, are the guide as opposed to being hooked on thoughts that are either inaccurate or more importantly, unhelpful is really empowering. So in that morning routine, you know , when that alarm goes off, you can develop a practice of when that thought I can't, I'm too tired comes up, you can really simply insert the sort of , antecedent of I'm having the thought that I can't, I'm having this thought that I'm too tired. Okay. That's just a thought, what's my value here. My value is to get healthier. Well, okay. Is it going to be healthier for me to sleep in a little bit today because then I'll be, you know , better equipped to make healthy food choices with some more sleep under my belt or do I want to make the choice to sort of give it a go and get out of bed and try to see what my body's up for? And that opportunity to unhook from the thought really empowers that choice point to be a little bit more connected to your values as opposed to the thoughts.

Dr. Cooper:

And then is it also, great example by the way, is it also tied somewhat to our self narrative? More broadly, our unhelpful labels of ourself. I'm lazy, I'm stupid, I'm whatever, is it , or is that a completely different concept?

Dr. Schonbrun:

I actually have two chapters in the book. One is about , sort of the larger narratives that we , ascribe to. And one is about sort of the specific thoughts, and they're both critically important. And they , I think, you know, similar strategies work for both in terms of just taking a step and noticing what are the common narratives that you have about yourself or about your life or , or even about what's possible. I mean, one thing that I think often happens in terms of the public narrative about working parenthood is that we say to ourselves, you know, working arenthood is untenable, working parenthood is too hard , working parenthood is unjust and there's this broader narrative that we adopt that really limits our enjoyment certainly, but also some of the individual choices that we might make. And I think taking a step back and saying, but , you know, is that helpful? And what does that do when I'm facing a choice about, you know, how I'm gonna take my day on it really kind of opens you up to make choices that again are more value directed. So, absolutely. I think those broader narratives that we have about ourselves, you know, in terms of I'm lazy or, I'm not good enough or , I'm failing my children or I'm, you know, embarrassing myself at work. Those broader narratives are certainly ones that we can become fused with in quite unhelpful ways.

Dr. Cooper:

Good. Good. All right . This next question's long, cause I want to set up a partial definition here. So stick with me on this. You mentioned the concept of psychological flexibility, which is for our audience, the ability to be self aware, to have clarity in what matters most to you and to choose behaviors that help you become the person you'd most like to be as you move your life in directions you find meaningful. Okay. So we've set the tone here being psychologically flexible means pivoting and making different behavioral choices when that makes sense for who you want to be and the life you'd like to lead. So here's the question, as coaches are coming alongside their clients, what are some specific ways that would encourage this idea of psychological flexibility? Can you expand a little more on how you see this as a key issue?

Dr. Schonbrun:

Yeah. So again, psychological flexibility is this core construct that underlies all the processes. So in acceptance and commitment therapy, what we're always trying to do is build flexibility, build the psychological flexibility. And I think the definition that you read off is a great one, but just, in even briefer terms,

Dr. Cooper:

Oh we like brief , that's good.

Dr. Schonbrun:

Yeah. It's sort of like the ability to keep going or to stop doing whatever it is that you're doing in a way that makes sense for you. So when we're making behavioral choices, again, that choice point being psychologically flexible means being able to, to choose behaviors moment to moment that make the most sense. And so, you know, again, if you sort of returned to that running example, being psychologically flexible and having a commitment to work out doesn't mean that you need to do it every day. In fact, if you notice that your knee is hurting, or if you really didn't sleep well that night, and you have a big meeting coming up later that day, or if you , um, you know, are training for a marathon and you really recognize that your body needs those days of rest, you make psychologically flexible choices that really take those factors into account. So the rigidity is what we want to avoid, sort of doing something because we should, or because we're afraid not to, or because we're too uncomfortable to make other choices. That's where things get dangerous and unhealthy. Instead, what we want to do is to be flexible, to sort of be flexible, to stick with our values, but also to be flexible within our values . So, you know, from an interpersonal standpoint, one might say, well, my value is to always be kind. But what if somebody is being really brutal towards you, do you continue to be kind or do you set up a boundary and walk away? And that would be being flexible with your values and sort of elevating assertion or boundary setting over kindness. And that's a really healthy, psychologically flexible thing to do. And so for coaches, I think what you want to always be thinking about is that building a flexibility, rather than encouraging your clients to set a lot of rigid expectations or plans. To have them clarify their values, set goals, but to do so in a way that provides enough flexibility, that those goals can be sustained over time in a healthy way.

Dr. Cooper:

Okay. So coaches and probably most of their clients are pretty high performers . So they have these posters in their head about commitment and discipline and champions do it when they don't feel like it. How do you, the way you describe it makes perfect sense, but I know someone's out there saying, Oh, that's the lazy way out or that, you know, you just got to gun it out and it's rise and grind time people. How do you approach that conversation to say yes and...

Dr. Schonbrun:

Yeah, well, I mean, I think it really is about mindfulness and noticing. And I have this example in the book where, and it again a running example. But you know, if you're running and you're training hard and you notice pain, pain is information and we don't want to ignore information, but we also don't want to over-interpret it. So a useful thing to do from a psychologically flexible orientation would be to open up to the pain and, and be willing to kind of take a look at it. So if the pain is in your leg , and you notice that it feels more muscular and you have some training goals, then you might push through and you might sort of use that information to do some extra stretching at the end, or to take maybe an extra day of break between today and your next run. Sure . But if the pain seems like it's in the joint, then you might get it checked out, right. Because your commitment to running, right, that value of not giving up means that you don't want to sustain serious injury. And that's an important value, but it requires you to be able to take in the pain and engage in a psychological flexibility that you make a wise choice to be able to commit to that value over time and not just for the day. And so I think it is a great question of like, how do you say stay strong, commit to value and still take in the information. Um, but I don't think they're mutually exclusive. I think that taking in that information, not over interpreting it, but being willing to explore what the meaning of the pain or, you know , whatever other kind of data is coming in, either from inside of your body or outside of it. It allows you to follow your values, to be oriented by your values in a more sustainable way.

Dr. Cooper:

That's good. Really good. All right . Last question. I'll let each of you hit on this one, your book is loaded. Congratulations. Great contribution. Really appreciate all of your work that you put into it. Any final words of wisdom each of you would like to provide for our audience in terms of these conflicts that we face in our lives? Something we haven't talked about up to this point.

Dr. Corey:

You know, I, again, there's nothing that I think we haven't touched on that I want to say that's totally fresh except to really emphasize what Yael has just been talking about here, which is this, this deep predisposition of so many people. And I imagine this is true for your listeners and for your coaches and for all the people who are listening to this podcast, that achievement is a primary goal and excellence and persistence. All of these are primary goals for us. I mean, I know I have these values in myself and what Yael is asking for us to do is to say, you can still have those goals, but somehow you've got to cultivate in yourself the kind of flexibility that that will allow you to perhaps ultimately get there. But in the moment, be able to pivot, be able to not feel like you're rigidly confined in , in the way that maybe you are inclined to think you ought to be. I mean think about weight loss along these lines, I'm sure this is a very common example, but it is a good one. Are you likely to stay on the 500 calorie a day diet for the longterm, which would, which would yield results very quickly. Or would it be wiser to say, yes, I want results, but there's a way of doing that in a way that will account for the way life actually goes. You know that some days you're really hungry, some days you need a treat, some days you feel very disciplined, but in order to get to that longterm goal, there's gotta be, there's gotta be this kind of psychological and behavioral flexibility. And we've got to, and then give ourselves the latitude to, to act differently on different days. And that's very hard for , for high achievers, I think, especially to come to terms with.

Dr. Cooper:

That's a great example. Great example. Thank you, Elizabeth. Yael?

Dr. Schonbrun:

Yeah. And I'm so glad Elizabeth, that you underscored the importance of psychological flexibility. And then I'll just sort of add on and this kind of comes back to where I started , in this episode recording, which is to recognize that both work family conflict exists and that work family enrichment exists and that by making space for what's uncomfortable, we also give ourselves more access to the gifts of what happens when things are difficult. And there's this terrific, beautiful book by a Buddhist monk, called no mud, no Lotus. And it's this idea that from the stickiest grossest material , substance, grows the most beautiful flourishing flower. And I think from a psychological perspective, that's really true. I mean, when you think about constructs like resilience and grit, it's when we encounter challenges , that we grow and that we act that we're able to access things like, you know, greater connectedness, more skill , bigger empathy , more wisdom. So some of the challenges that we encounter when we have a lot of demanding roles actually empower us, not only to be more successful in life, but also to enjoy life more. And I think by changing our relationship to this idea of, you know, that things that are difficult or painful are bad, and by sort of opening up and saying, you know, they're not bad, they're uncomfortable. But if I make space for that discomfort, I also increase my opportunities to access, you know, some really beautiful, awesome , inspiring, enjoyable experiences in life. And I think that that's a pretty empowering attitude to be taking in, you know, whether you're a working parent or just somebody who has a lot on their plate.

Dr. Cooper:

Right, right. Yeah. Beautiful, beautiful Yael and Elizabeth, super appreciate you. What's the best way for folks to follow you. I know a lot of people are saying, I need more. How can they track you down? How can they keep track of you in terms of social media, or other places that might be a value?

Dr. Schonbrun:

You can find me at my podcast OffTheClockPsych .com . And then I also have a Twitter feed. Dr . YaelSchonbrun. If you're interested in hearing more about acceptance and commitment therapy, as well as working parenthood or other psychological ideas, different ways that psychological science can help you improve living in lots of different ways, the podcast is a great resource.

Dr. Cooper:

Perfect. And tell us the name of the podcast one more time. Just so people grab that.

Dr. Schonbrun:

The it's, the website is OffTheClockPsych.com, but the podcast title is psychologists off the clock.

Dr. Cooper:

Perfect, and Elizabeth, what's the best way for folks to keep track of what you're up to?

Dr. Corey:

Well, I am old school and I am not on Twitter , but I teach at Baylor University in Waco. And if anybody is interested, and would like to write, please go to my website , Baylor honors program, Elizabeth Corey , and I will write you back. I would love, love to talk to you.

Dr. Cooper:

You two, thank you so much. This is such valuable information. I really appreciate taking the time with us today.

Dr. Schonbrun:

Oh , thank you so much for having us, what an honor.

Dr. Cooper:

Did that help how you're feeling with your own work life balance? So many great insights. Thank you again to Dr. Elizabeth Corey and Dr. Yael Schonbrun for making the time for us. By the way, Dr. Schonbrun is also the cohost on the psychologist's off the clock podcast. So if you enjoyed her insights here, you'll definitely want to check that one out. Thank you for tuning into the number one podcast for health and wellness coaching. Thanks for sharing this podcast with others. We were just informed that we were also moving up toward the top of the broader health and wellness category in addition to the coaching aspect for podcasts, and we appreciate that, that's you. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You are going to love next week's interview with Bruce Fieler, the author of six consecutive bestselling books, including his latest, and I just digested this one, Life is in the Transitions, fascinating discussion. Don't miss it. Speaking of transitions, we recently put together, I think an interesting series of videos for you over on the YouTube coaching channel. It's youtube.com/coachingchannel. And what we did there is we discussed some of the things that I'm learning as I go through my own life transition. And as we mentioned before, 75 videos there, but you can find that particular series under the life journey playlist that is there on the channel. Now it's our turn, the world needs a spark of hope, some light in the darkness. We can help provide that hope, that light to all of those around us right here right now together. This is Dr. Bradford Cooper of the Catalyst Coaching Institute signing up, make it a great rest of your week. And I'll speak with you soon on the next episode of the catalyst, health, wellness, and performance coaching podcast, or maybe over on the new YouTube coaching channel.