Category: Articles

Cantsayno Syndrome

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An excerpt from Start Right Where You Are by Sam Bennett

As the creator of The Organized Artist Company, bestselling author Sam Bennett’s mission in life is clear: to assist people in getting unstuck by helping them focus and move forward on their goals.

That is also the intention of her new book Start Right Where You Are: How Little Changes Can Make a Big Difference for Overwhelmed Procrastinators, Frustrated Overachievers, and Recovering Perfectionists, which is based on the premise that small shifts in the right direction can yield big results in the realization of our creative dreams.   We hope you’ll enjoy this short excerpt from the book.

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Are you the person everyone calls when they need something? Are you asked to be on every committee and every advisory board? Do you often find yourself letting people “pick your brain” or call you “just to vent”? If so, you may be suffering from Cantsayno syndrome.

Cantsayno syndrome causes its victims to agree to things they don’t want to do, be accommodating to those who don’t deserve it, and to fail utterly at putting themselves and their own work first. Symptoms include a stomach in knots, beleaguered sighs, and the deep-seated concern that if you were to say no, people wouldn’t like you anymore.

We’re tribal animals. We are very sensitive to the needs of the group because we know that we cannot survive alone. As much as we might wish everyone would just go away sometimes, our animal brain tells us that we must stay in the good graces of the group, or we will die. So most of the behavior that you might call people pleasing is part of your excellent survival mechanism. You don’t want to be perceived as being greedy or selfish, or taking up too many resources — that might get you kicked out of the group. You want to be well liked. You want to contribute as much as you can to the tribe. That’s just good sense.

It’s not low self-esteem that’s got you trapped, and it’s not that you’re a wimp. You are just letting your survival mechanism run the show when your survival is not actually at stake.

You were raised to be a nice person. You were raised to share your toys, keep your voice down, and not snatch the frosting off your birthday cake and eat it with your bare hands. Guess what? It worked. All that socializing worked. You are a very nice person. So you can stop proving it all the time.

Right now, the way you constantly monitor your behavior is like rereading the driver’s manual every time you get in the car. Not every moment of your life has to be a testament to your niceness. You can afford to be a bit not nice, to keep your toys to yourself, to yell and scream a bit, and to make a mess of that cake. Go for it.

If you stop giving your life over to whatever person or organization is sucking you dry, you’ll find that they won’t actually throw you out, and even if they do throw you out, it will probably feel like a relief. Either way, I’m pretty confident you won’t be put out on an ice floe.

If it feels like too big a stretch to simply decline, you can try this: the next time someone asks you to do something that you don’t want to do, just tell them that I won’t let you. Yep. Just say, “Oh, gosh, Jerry, I would love to help run rehearsals for the talent show, but I’m working with this consultant named Sam, and she just will not let me take on any additional projects. If it were up to me, I would be happy to do it, of course, but I daren’t — Sam would just have my head.”

See? Easy. Make me the heavy.

Little Changes Action Step: Politely decline something today.

Sam Bennett is the author of Start Right Where You Are and Get It Done. She created The Organized Artist Company to help creative people get unstuck and achieve their goals. She is a writer, actor, teacher, and creativity/productivity specialist who has counseled thousands of artists and entrepreneurs on their way to success.  Visit her online at startrightwhereyouare.com.

Excerpted from Start Right Where You Are. Copyright © 2016 by Sam Bennett. Printed with permission from New World Library.

Click here for details on Start Right Where You Are.

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Delegation for Recovering Perfectionists

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An excerpt from Start Right Where You Are by Sam Bennett

As the creator of The Organized Artist Company, bestselling author Sam Bennett’s mission in life is clear: to assist people in getting unstuck by helping them focus and move forward on their goals.

That is also the intention of her new book Start Right Where You Are: How Little Changes Can Make a Big Difference for Overwhelmed Procrastinators, Frustrated Overachievers, and Recovering Perfectionists, which is based on the premise that small shifts in the right direction can yield big results in the realization of our creative dreams.   We hope you’ll enjoy this short excerpt from the book.

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Like many recovering perfectionists, I’ve found learning how to delegate to be a steep and rocky path. I truly believe that self-sufficiency is a virtue. And since my brain is so good at finding what it’s looking for, I notice every single time that idea gets proved right, and so I always have lots of evidence for why it really is better if I just handle everything myself.

This kind of thinking, friends, is the devil in disguise.

My self-reliance came in handy when I was a latchkey kid in the seventies and in adulthood when I was an independent artist. Then, in the first years of running the Organized Artist Company, I found myself learning everything I could about websites, copywriting, graphic design, small business administration, webinars, teleclasses, and contracts and agreements, and then I really geeked out on internet and email marketing. Whenever one of my entrepreneurial friends complained about how her website was being held hostage by her designer, or how an assistant had screwed up the PPC (pay-per-click) ads again, I secretly felt very smug. At least if mistakes were made in my business, they were all mine.

Now this is where my vanity shows up — in not wanting others to know I made mistakes. If I had other people helping me, they would see my errors and misjudgments. Working alone, I could keep up a pretty good facade of shiny excellence.

But as the Organized Artist Company became increasingly successful, I realized I was doing a disservice to the people I was trying to serve by attempting to do everything myself. I was limiting my growth and the depth of my work. After all, the time I spent posting the webinar I’d just recorded was time I was not spending talking to new clients, developing new workshops, or writing books.

I had built a business with my own two hands, and I ended up with a business that I could hold in my own two hands. Cozy, but limited in scope.

Once I was willing to face down my ego and admit that my vision of self-sufficiency was a delusion and a trap, my business took a quantum leap forward, and revenue doubled. Little change, big difference.

I realized that I had been listening too much to the complaints of other business-owner friends of mine about how hard it was to find good people. One friend was going through at least two new assistants a year. Each time she was convinced that the new person was the answer to her prayers, and each time she ended up disappointed. She didn’t want to look at how her own behavior might be contributing to this cycle, so she just kept repeating it.

Once I turned my attention away from other entrepreneurs’ tales of victimization and instead focused on the fact that I genuinely love working with other people, my team started to take shape. After all, I’d spent my entire life in the theater, and that’s what theater, and particularly my subspecialty of improvisational theater, is all about — utter reliance on your fellows. I realized that I could hire people who shared my values, who would laugh at my jokes, and who had skills I couldn’t even dream of. The next time I heard a friend singing the blues about an unreliable team member, I simply thought to myself, “That’s not my story.”

I have also used the thought “That’s not my story” to fill events when everyone says it’s impossible to fill an event these days, and to sell books when everyone says that publishing is dead. That may be their story, but it’s not my story. Try it for yourself. “Change is hard”? That’s not my story. “Teenagers are impossible”? That’s not my story. “You can’t get a well-paying job that’s flexible”? That’s not my story.

Sam Bennett is the author of Start Right Where You Are and Get It Done. She created The Organized Artist Company to help creative people get unstuck and achieve their goals. She is a writer, actor, teacher, and creativity/productivity specialist who has counseled thousands of artists and entrepreneurs on their way to success.  Visit her online at startrightwhereyouare.com.

Excerpted from Start Right Where You Are. Copyright © 2016 by Sam Bennett. Printed with permission from New World Library.

Click here for details on Start Right Where You Are.

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In Search of a Fainting Couch

Decision making

An excerpt from Start Right Where You Are by Sam Bennett

As the creator of The Organized Artist Company, bestselling author Sam Bennett’s mission in life is clear: to assist people in getting unstuck by helping them focus and move forward on their goals.

That is also the intention of her new book Start Right Where You Are: How Little Changes Can Make a Big Difference for Overwhelmed Procrastinators, Frustrated Overachievers, and Recovering Perfectionists, which is based on the premise that small shifts in the right direction can yield big results in the realization of our creative dreams.   We hope you’ll enjoy this short excerpt from the book.

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In addition to figuring out what well-being means for you, it’s important to learn what looks like “not-well-being” for you. How do you know when you are off track? What are your symptoms?

For me, not-well-being shows up as racing thoughts, also known as anxiety. (It’s a little annoying that in the English language we use words like anxiety and depression to describe both a mood and a medical condition. So, just to be clear, I manage both the moods and the medical conditions of anxiety and depression.) And when my anxiety really kicks in — and it rarely does anymore, but when it does, it’s a hurricane — I literally wring my hands. It’s like I’m some eighteenth-century heroine in search of a fainting couch.

I used to try to make myself stop, but now I don’t, because it’s such an important signal to me. If I’m wringing my hands, I can notice that and think, “Oh, wow. I am super off-kilter. Something’s really wrong. This is a really strong signal that I am not in my right mind.” And it’s a signal to the people who love me. My sister knows and Luke knows that if they see me wringing my hands, they should say, “Okay, she’s a goner. Let’s get her some water. Let’s get her out of this situation.”

Sometimes a symptom of not-well-being is not a physical behavior but rather a thought pattern. When depression creeps in, my first symptom is not being able to feel joy. So, for example, I might be out with friends, and I’ll think to myself, “I can tell this is supposed to be fun, because I see other people laughing and smiling. I wonder why I am not experiencing the feeling of fun.” That sensation is known as anhedonia: the inability to take pleasure in anything.

Since we’re on what I feel to be an underdiscussed subject, let me also name another symptom of a depressive episode, which is the certainty that the feeling is permanent. The depressed mind thinks, “Life is miserable, and I’m always going to be unhappy. I’ve always been unhappy, and I will always be unhappy. I can’t even call to mind any time of happiness. Any happy memories feel false to me. I maybe thought I was happy, but I wasn’t. Not really. And I can’t imagine being happy in the future.”

One of the horrible tricks that depression plays on you is to make you believe that it will never go away. Because when you’re in it, you think, “This is never going to change. There is no hope for me.” It’s not so much that the pain is so bad as the conviction that it will never end. That’s why depression can be a fatal disease.

Most of us have conditions that need to be managed: a tendency to overwork, to overdrink, to worry too much. Maybe you go on shopping sprees or get into a cycle of binging and purging. Maybe you hyperventilate or get vertigo or migraines. Maybe your back hurts. (Almost certainly your back hurts. Data from the National Institutes of Health indicate that eight out of ten people suffer back pain at some point in their lives — see “Back Pain,” MedlinePlus, National Institutes of Health, www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/backpain.html, accessed June 21, 2016. Maybe you don’t feel anxiety because your back is feeling it for you.)

Stay alert to the thoughts, behaviors, and aches and pains that let you know when you’re off-kilter, and try to preprogram your response as you would if you were having a kind of allergic reaction. “Oh. There’s my sign that I can’t tolerate XYZ. I’m noticing that something is happening, my body is reacting, and I need to treat this reaction. I need to treat this episode.”

Whatever your not-well-being symptom is, please don’t criticize yourself for it. You’ve been doing the best you can. And now that you’re going to be taking better care of yourself, perhaps that condition will lessen or even disappear.

But I want to be real here: life is a long road. My depression does occasionally come back, and when it does, I am reminded how my one-eyed therapist (I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried: I had a one-eyed therapist) told me, “When you have depression, you live in a house built on a cliff.” At the time I got all sarcastic and said, “Well, thanks. That’s inspiring.” And she replied, “No. It’s a neutral fact. Depression might always be with you. That yawning chasm might always be there, and it might always be a little dangerous for you.” Now, years later, I find that her image reminds me to not get complacent.

These days, when depression does strike, I try to find the gift in it. I consider it an invitation to slow down. Since depression causes me to ruminate, I’ll take the opportunity to examine my business, both its trajectory and its systems. After all, I’m in a pondering mood, so often I’ll notice something that I wouldn’t have been able to see if I were moving at my usual breakneck pace. I write more poetry. I make mordant jokes. I sleep more. I reread old books. And every day I push and poke at it a bit to see if I 
can get it to lift, even for a few hours. Because it has come...to pass.

But the best medicine is prevention. If you can acquaint yourself with your own early warning signs, you may be able to head off those destabilizing moments and lessen their impact on your day.

Little Changes Action Step: Write down three behaviors or thought patterns that are symptoms of your not-well-being and share the list with someone you trust.

Sam Bennett is the author of Start Right Where You Are and Get It Done. She created The Organized Artist Company to help creative people get unstuck and achieve their goals. She is a writer, actor, teacher, and creativity/productivity specialist who has counseled thousands of artists and entrepreneurs on their way to success.  Visit her online at startrightwhereyouare.com.

Excerpted from Start Right Where You Are. Copyright © 2016 by Sam Bennett. Printed with permission from New World Library.

Click here for details on Start Right Where You Are.

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