Finding Balance and Authenticity in Work and Family


Clint Murphy Yael Schonbrun


Yael Schonbrun, Clint Murphy

Clint Murphy  00:00

Good morning, Yael. Welcome to the show where I’d love to start with you today because it aligns with the success hacks in life. I read on Twitter, largely from people writing them from their mom’s basement is a line from all of our Berkman quote you shared and talking about the problems of working parenthood, the quote you shared was nobody in the history of humanity has ever achieved work life balance, whatever that might be. And you certainly won’t get there by copying the six things successful people do before 7am. So can you take us through the challenges of being a working parent? Before we dive into how to do it? 

Yael Schonbrun  00:43

Well, yeah, well, I love that quote, because I think it captures what we wish were true, which is that there is some hack that can solve this thing that we so many of us are confronted by, which is that we’re pulled in lots of different directions, in roles that we care very deeply about. And so we’re looking for the solutions to be able to do all the things that matter the most to us in ways that we can feel good about. And this is what I call the outside solution. But the problem is that it’s kind of an inside problem, at least in part, there are some things that we can fix from the outside when it comes to lives that are full of multiple demanding roles. But it’s also a psychological challenge, right? That we care so much to participate in lots of different things. And in fact, what we know from research is that happier people are involved in lots of different roles. And so a happier life means inherently that you will be pulled in lots of different directions. And so what my writing and my work is about is really looking more to the inside solutions for the inside part of this problem, which is that we care very deeply to participate in multiple meaning areas of life, and that inherently is going to pull us in different directions and leave us feeling as if we’re not enough in any one role.

Clint Murphy  01:57

And so from an inside out perspective, is the start of that, addressing how we think about these different scenarios or the different areas of our life.

Yael Schonbrun  02:11

Absolutely. So I kind of advocate for a mindset shift in how we think about work, family conflict, or just in general, if you’re not specific about, you know, participating in work and parenthood, it’s really about the conflict between any of whatever number of life roles you inhabit. And we tend to think about conflict between roles from what is more of a scarcity mindset of like, you know, whatever I give to one role really competes for what I give to another. And so inevitably, if I’m in one role, I’m taking away from another in terms of my energy, my time, my attentional resources. And so the mindset shift is to really start thinking from an expansionist role, an expansionist perspective. So rather than thinking about what how we take away when we’re participating in one from the other, to think about an enhancement perspective, so this is sort of like the shift between fixed mindset and growth mindset that the conflict does exist, but there are better and less helpful ways to think about it. And so part of what is very helpful in switching from an outside in kind of solution, strategy 10, Inside Out is thinking about the psychology and the complexity, that it’s not just about competition for finite resources. It’s about how we manage this complex life. And yes, there are competition for resources. But there’s also tremendous opportunity for enrichment between the various facets of life, in other words, that we can think about how our roles help each other out, and that even when there is tension, that we can use that tension to our benefit, if we approach it from this mindset, where we understand that this is an inherent part of life, it’s not something that can be solved, but it is something that can be managed more skillfully, using tools, from psychology, again, at least to address the inside part of the dilemma of how we get pulled between different roles that we care very much about.

Clint Murphy  04:08

A few different directions we can go there. One is you talk in your book about Ruth Bader Ginsburg is someone who exercises this enrichment through her role as a mother. And so recognizing my role as a mother didn’t diminish my ability to be a lawyer, but rather enriched my ability to be both a better lawyer and a better mother. Can you talk about this idea of family enrichment and you share? There’s three different ways we can look at enrichment. We can talk about transfer effect, buffering effect, additive effect, what does that all mean to the listener?

Yael Schonbrun  04:52

Right. So you start with the example of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and it’s an example that I just love because you know, here’s this super powerhouse woman who, you know did amazing things at a time that it wasn’t so easy to be a woman who is so prominent in the professional sphere, particularly in the legal sphere. And what people often think is oh, she, she probably, you know, didn’t care very much about family life. But that wasn’t true, she was actually very engaged in family life. Or she probably felt resentful about the way that her family life took away from her professional life, or the way that her professional life took away from her family life. But actually, that wasn’t the case at all, the way that she saw it. And she talked about this, even during her legal training, that she worked very, very hard in her training. And then she had a daughter while she was still in law school. At the same time, her husband, Marty, who is also a lawyer, and became very sick with an aggressive form of cancer. And so she was under tremendous pressure at the family level, and really ambitious in her intellectual pursuits and getting her legal training, which he said in an article that she wrote for The New York Times is that she saw this opportunity to step away from her professional pursuits, and into family life as what she called the pause that refreshes, it was sort of this opportunity to take a cognitive break from the work to really dive deeply into her parenting role in her partner role. And that offered her an opportunity to really recharge for the kind of work that was so mentally taxing. And each role kind of gave her respite from the other. And so that’s one of the ways that work and parenting or our various roles can help each other out. And it kind of fits into this idea of the transfer effect that when we step away from one role, we get an opportunity to build skills or have a break, that actually positively feeds back into the role that we’ve stepped away from. So as you’re saying, it kind of fits into this broader overarching theme of work, family enrichment. And that’s this idea that our roles can help each other out. So we tend to think about and talk about in our public conversation about work family life, how there’s just real conflict and tension between them. But what the academic literature shows is that there’s this other side, that there’s this concept of work, family enrichment, and we can access that enrichment through as you’re saying these three distinct pathways, and I can sort of outline them in some more detail, because you sort of listed them and I think they’re really important to think about, and in really adopting this mindset shift of how do we start to think about work family balance in this new way. And the three pathways are, as you named the transfer effect. And as I just said, that that’s this idea that we’re building skills are gaining a break when we step away from one role and into another. And so you know, when I go to work, I’m I am as a psychologist, and, you know, practicing perspective taking, and I’m also taking tasks from beginning to end. And it turns out that those kinds of skills helpfully benefit in my parenting role and my parenting role, I’m learning to be patient, I’m learning to really see things from a different perspective. And it turns out, that really helps in my professional world, you don’t have to be. And what was so fun is, you know, I’m a psychologist, so like, it kind of very naturally gives examples. But even in various roles that don’t, as intuitively fit together, people are able to find all sorts of really cool ways. Like I interviewed an exotic dancer who said that when she had a toddler, and she would go to work, she actually learned how to manage her clients, more skillfully, she would say to them, honey, that’s not how we behave in here. So there’s all these really cool ways that you can think about how each of your roles benefits the other because you’re stepping away from one role and into the other to build skills or get a break. The second pathway is the is the stress buffer effect. And that’s the idea that in any role in life, we’re going to hit rough patches, things are going to be hard, you know, whether it’s parenting and your child is going through a real tough developmental phase or at work if you have a boss who’s micromanaging or a client that’s particularly prickly. And what’s nice about having multiple roles is that even though there’s tension between them, it gives you an opportunity to step away from a role that’s difficult, and into a role that might be a little bit easier in that phase. And that can even be in very extreme circumstances, I interviewed a colleague who had a child who was going through cancer fighting for their life. And what he said was, that even though cancer was never very far from his mind that work demands gave him an opportunity to think about something else and other than cancer for a bit to focus his cognitive attention. And that was really important in terms of just getting a brief slight respite from thinking about this terrible, scary thing. The third pathway is, as you mentioned, the additive effect. And that’s this idea that psychologists have really landed on that happier lives are not just ones filled with pleasurable experiences, more importantly, their lives that are full of meaning and purpose. The problem though, is that if we become very narrow in our meaning and purpose, we’re sort of, in essence, putting all of our existential eggs into one basket, and if that basket drops, we’re in trouble. So you know, people who exclusively you know, pursue an ambitious pursue When it doesn’t go well, or you reach the end of retirement, then it can feel like well, what was it all for, or if you’re really invested in parenting, and you’ve been successful, and now your kids are off having their independent lives, there can be a real sense of emptiness. And so this is the idea that by having multiple roles again, even though there’s tension between them, sort of bolster your opportunity to create meaning and purpose by kind of spreading those existential eggs around. So there’s a breadth and depth that you can access by having many roles of meaning that you can’t have if you only invest in one.

Clint Murphy  10:35

And let’s spend a couple minutes on that last one, because it jumps out at me, I often talk with parents, and you’ll hear parents who say they live for their children, right. And there’s a power to that there’s a beauty to it, the challenge I always try to talk about with them is at some point your children are going to be gone. So if you’re living for your children, and you have two or three children, and if you have three and you had a three year gap between them, now you have 22 years where you lived for someone else. And at the end of that 22 years, you may look across the dining table that your partner who was just a partner in raising them, not a partner in life, and you look at your own life. And you say, Well, I don’t know who the person across the table is, because all I was focused on was the kids. And I don’t even know who I am, I’ve lost my identity because the kids are gone. Do you see part of that as a challenge, we talk about this dynamic of the buckets and where we’re putting our energy, and how we’re spreading our talents and ability out, and people getting too narrow on one. 

Yael Schonbrun  11:44

100%. And I am a relationship specialist. And in my private practice, I do I only do couples therapy now. And that’s a really common issue for lots of people that brings people into the office either when their kids are, you know, sort of old enough to kind of go to be more independent, or when kids like actually go off to college. And you all of a sudden realize kind of exactly what you’re saying that I don’t even know this person, I definitely don’t feel connected to them. And that the glue that had held us together, the raising of the children is now not glue that holds us together anymore, because our kids don’t need us as much. And so one of the challenges, I think in the partnership sphere is to make sure that you prioritize your relationship. But it is so tempting, and I think culturally embedded at this point, that good parents prioritize their kids and make their lives about their kids. There’s this culture of intensive parenting where that has become kind of the rule. And the exception to the rule is like, you know, making time for your marriage. And that’s really unfortunate, both for your marriage for you and also for your kids. Because what kind of a model are you presenting them. It’s a model of very narrowly defining what’s meaningful and purposeful, and defining your meaning and purpose, as other people can really have limitations, for example, I mean, say you really enjoyed parenting, but your kids want to do something totally different than you. And it may not fit with your idea of what success might look like. So what then, and I think that’s something that I really think is valuable about lives that have multiple roles of meaning is that the danger of putting too much pressure on your kids to be your successful outlet is one that can ultimately be problematic for you, because they may choose something different. And it can be problematic for your kids, because they have to eat up that pressure and live with it and feel as if they’re not successful, then not only is that a problem for them, but now they’ve disappointed you and make your life less meaningful. And like that’s not a very healthy position to put our children into. And so I think you’re raising this issue that comes up a lot, especially in the culture that we have that is so achievement oriented, that really prioritizes intensive parenting, and in the way that we understand healthy, happy relationships with ourselves with our children with our partners, we can begin to appreciate that that model is not a very effective one, even though it’s this sort of thing that keeps getting sold to us as the right way to be. 

Clint Murphy  14:17

And the more we spend time with our partner and nurture that relationship and build that the more we’re demonstrating to them the benefits of a healthy relationship. And one thing we always think about with our children is it doesn’t really matter necessarily what we say to them. But what they see us consistently doing and how they see us consistently behaving that really seems to be the secret sauce and showing them how to live the life we want them to live. Does that sound accurate? 

Yael Schonbrun  14:50

100%. Right. Kids learn more by what they observe than what they hear because that’s just how the brain is wired. And certainly, you know the words that we say matter as well, but the models that we’re presenting to them, so it’s exactly as you’re saying, if you’re presenting a model where your primary partnership relationship is not one that you prioritize is not one that goes through ups and downs, and that you nurture and take care of, then they’ll begin to sort of adopt the philosophy that those kinds of relationships aren’t important or aren’t worthy of investing. And because what we know from happiness, science, that relationships aren’t the most important thing for happy, fulfilling life and for a successful life, then we’re really setting them up for failure, even as what we really want is to set them up for success. 

Clint Murphy  15:41

And let’s take a step back, because a lot of what we’re talking about, and what we will be talking about in our conversation from a psychology perspective, comes from Act, otherwise known as acceptance, and commitment therapy. And Brad, who introduced us both has talked about act in each of his books, and we’ve had a fun time talking about that. And I’ll often compare it to rain practice in mindfulness, although it adds that it kind of okay, rain, great for taking it all the way to here. But now we have to actually take some action on it. And for our listeners who may not have heard those episodes, can you fill them in on what is act? And what is the process of ACT? And how does that inform so much of what you and I are talking about today? 

Yael Schonbrun  16:30

Yeah, so ACT is an evidence based psychotherapy that’s been studied in hundreds of trials and found to be effective for all sorts of things, including depression, anxiety, chronic pain management, parenting, you know, work effectiveness, and I think you bringing up it’s parallel qualities to rain is very fitting, because it is based both in laboratory science. And in ancient eastern philosophy, this idea of meditation and acceptance is really embedded throughout. And what act really tries to do is to build this core skill of what’s called psychological flexibility. And the definition of psychological flexibility is really being connected and clear on what matters most to you, and being able to move your life in directions that you care about. And that means being able to persist in behaviors when it matters to you to do so or desist in behaviors, if it matters to you to do so. So it’s that flexibility of pushing forward, or stopping depending on what makes sense, given what’s going on around you giving on what’s going on inside of you, and given what matters most to you. And this ability hinges on the six core processes that we teach throughout Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. And a few of them really do align like just perfectly with brain because the first is mindfulness, which is defined as getting in contact with the present moment. The second is acceptance, allowing with equanimity to thoughts, experiences, emotions that you struggle with. So it’s like making space for them allowing for them. The third is self is context. And this is the idea that our brain creates thoughts and stories and feelings. And that is a part of us. But that is not all of us. And that is not the same as the internal experiences that anybody else has. So it’s this recognition that the stuff is happening. And we get really hooked on it, but that it’s just one set of experiences. And so the next core process is called diffusion. And that’s these, this process of unhooking from those thoughts, stories and internal experience, like taking just a little step back and recognizing that we don’t have to be fused with them, we can unfuse from them. The fourth process is values. And this is probably my favorite one because it’s so connected to the sense of meaning and purpose. But it’s getting clear on how you want to show up moment to moment in a given context. And so it could be in the context of work or parenthood, or it could be in the context of transitioning from work to parenthood, it could be the context of your child going through a particular phase or your marriage going through a particular phase. So how do you want to show up moment to moment in that context, and being clear about that, and using that as a compass to get through difficult moments. And then the final process is called committed action. And that’s sort of your values and actions. So what does it look like if for example, my value is to be assertive, but calm when I’m in conflict with somebody? What does that actually look like? What are the words that I say? How is how is my posture? What is my tone? So the committed action is really being clear on setting behavioral goals that reflect your values in your life in sort of the everyday life. So those six processes help you to build that skill of psychological flexibility of persisting when it matters to do so of stopping when it matters to do so, and doing so in a way that reflect how you most want to show up moment to moment.

Clint Murphy  20:03

When you look at ACT and in you describe some of that I also get a flavor of CBT. A little. Yeah, but it’s almost I gotten a little trouble when I did my practicum for mindfulness, because I was my teacher for my cohort mentor, she said, I was almost combining CBT with mindfulness. And when I hear act, it gives me a little bit of that flavor is, yeah, I’m being aware. I’m paying attention. But that little hook you talked about of, but I’m disassociating from those thoughts, whereas mindfulness, just let them happen in the background, and CBT, or act saying, Well, wait a second, sort of recognize that? No, no, those aren’t the thoughts, these are the thoughts we want to have, we get to choose our thoughts. Let’s choose the ones that move us forward in the right direction.

Yael Schonbrun  21:00

100%. So if I could step into a little bit of psychoeducation here, so CBT and act both fall under this broad umbrella of evidence based treatments. But CBT is more a second wave therapy, where it’s focused more on the change strategies where as ACTfalls under this umbrella of what we call the third wave therapies, which combined change strategies with acceptance strategies. So one of the main differences between CBT and act is that CBT is really intentional about helping clients modify their thoughts. So like, we talked about distorted thoughts and restructuring thoughts to be more helpful, useful, workable, whereas an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, the job is not to change our thoughts, but to decide what we pay attention to. And so one of the common refrains in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is that there’s no delete button in the brain. So whereas in CBT, you might say, well, let’s try to change that thought, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, we recognize that if we habitually have thought, particularly thoughts like, you know, if you’re an anxious person, and you worry about people liking you that thought is probably going to just come up, some of us are anxious, wired more anxiously, and we just get into these habits of thinking particular thoughts. It’s hard to delete them, they come up. But in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, we don’t worry too much about that. What we do is try to work on our relationship to those thoughts, like how much are we going to hook up with that thought? How much are we going to pay attention to it? How much are we going to let it drive our behaviors? How much are we going to let it sort of color the way that we feel inside relationships? Versus can we choose to let our values guide even though those thoughts are kind of come up and be a part of, you know, what’s happening in our brain space? And so hopefully, that difference makes sense, where we’re focused, there is a lot more acceptance, and it’s really more about working with our relationship with what exists internally, rather than trying to modify it, if that makes sense. 

Clint Murphy  22:56

Absolutely. I know, I need to read more on act and study. It’s reinforcing versus Yes, please do, please do.

Yael Schonbrun  23:05

I’m always it’s trying to get more people to drink the ACT Kool Aid. It’s, I mean, I will say it’s something that I do in my private practice, but it’s really a set of guidelines that I use to help move me through life in ways that feel most rewarding. And, you know, that helped me to kind of show up in ways that that really are valuable for me that helped me to really connect to a sense of meaning and purpose.

Clint Murphy  23:28

Yeah, and what I tried to emphasize for people and I think you’ll see this because like you said, you use it in multiple areas of your life has when we learn something. So when I first learned CBT, that was probably the greatest life change for me. And I wrote about it last night, it was the book feeling good. The new mood therapy when I learned first how to audit my thoughts. And that was the first time I ever paused and recognized Hey, what’s happening in your brain? What are you actually what are the stories you’re telling yourself? Yeah, are those the stories you want to tell yourself? And as soon as I realized, Wait, I don’t have to actually listen to any of that I can just shut it off, not shut it off to your point. I can let it play. But I can choose when I’m going to step in and listen. And when I’m not and instead of the quote, the mind is a wonderful servant and a horrible master. I don’t have to listen to it. I can let it go. I can choose what I want to do in life. And to your point, I can choose what are my own values? What is the mission or purpose I want to have in life and then I can go do it, which ties to that committed action from act. So if I hadn’t read act, but it’s sort of how I set up I think my life coming out of CBT to say, Hey, I’m going to decide what I want, figure out how to do it, and then I’m going to take committed action and go do that work. Exactly what on any category that’s the beautiful part about it, financial, professional, Family Health. What do you want? What actions are needed? Tell yourself, you can do it, paint the picture, and go get it. Sorry, I went off on a big tangent. But you really inspired me on that one.

Yael Schonbrun  25:09

 Yeah, I think it’s beautiful. I mean, the example that I often use my therapy room is, so wherever your listeners are, they can sort of just take a moment and kind of notice, like the ambient sounds, usually, if you’re in your home, you can hear the refrigerator humming, or your heater on, if you’re near a window, you can hear the street noises. But you can also hear Clint and my voices, right? If you’re listening to this podcast, either through headphones or on your car radio, like you can hear lots of different sounds, but you get to decide. And using your deliberate attention, you can decide what you can’t decide is you know that there’s going to be noises from your refrigerator or from the street, you don’t have much choice over that you can, you can choose to turn Clinton I office pose, but you won’t, I know you won’t. But you can sort of decide where to send your attention. And if you sort of direct your attention for a moment to the street noises, you’ll notice that they get louder, experientially, they’re not actually getting louder, but experientially, they feel a bit louder. So if you kind of take a moment and just pay attention, like really send your attention to the outside noises or to the refrigerator, you they experientially feel more potent. And now if you send your attention back to Clint and my voices, you’ll notice that they get louder, and that the street or the refrigerator noises sort of fade to the background. And that’s the ability to kind of work with your relationship to the experience, the experience, the actual decibels that are incoming, are not changing, but what how you relate to them and how you send your attention and work with it, which is guided by your values. Like in this moment, you might decide you want to adopt some new information that Clint is sharing. Or you might want to sort of be mindful about what’s going on around you. So based on your values, you get to direct things, and how you direct things, changes your experience and changes. What you do and you know, has ripple effects. So you know, this acceptance piece is important because you don’t have to change what’s going on in order to change how it works for you, and change what you do with it.

Clint Murphy  27:16

And we’ve talked about values a few times in this conversation, and the example you give in the book, it was a very hard one for you. And you were faced with a situation now where you went west, to help your sister with her baby, and at the same time your father was passing. And that accelerated while you were there. But you had three young children at home. So now you had this situation of Well, wait, do I go home to my family? Or do I stay here with my mother with my sister, and with my father? And what you did was you looked to your values, your top working values, I believe you call them saying pause to clarify your working values? Can you take us through how you use your values in a moment like that where either choice is very hard? And how we can use that to take that step we want to take?

Yael Schonbrun  28:21

Yes. So I think this is really why I find clarification of values, the most helpful practice within Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, because so often, when we’re trying to make a decision, we’re looking for the right outcome, right. And it’s because we care, like it’s so well intentioned, you know, in the situation that you’re describing that I went through, there was nothing that I wanted more than to be there for my sister with her new baby or to be by my father’s side as he passed away. Except the only other thing I wanted more was to be there for my children, including my nine year old who, you know, had a birthday and my husband who had a new job and my two year old who, you know, was little and missing his mother, I’d never been away that long. So I was faced with this impossible decision in terms of outcome. Like I could not show up as daughter, as sister as mother as partner at the same time, in the way that I thought was the right way. Like it was simply impossible. My family of origin was in California and my my little family lives in Boston, it was absolutely impossible. And so when we get really hooked on the outcome of like making things right, doing our best, we sometimes feel like we’ll just fail. But what we know from research and I know Brad has talked a lot with you about this and write so beautifully about it that we always are going to do better in life. If we can bring our attention back to the process and hold the outcomes more lightly because we do not have control over the outcomes we simply do not so what it really helps you to do is it gives you this tangible set of strategies to really refocus on the process because I could not control the outcome of being the best possible daughter and mother and partner that I could be that was not under my control. But what I could decide is to really be clear on how I wanted to show up moment to moment in this incredibly difficult choice. And so in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, what we do is we help people to ask questions to guide them towards clarifying that. And for me, what I ask patients to do is to think about difficult patch of life and really reflect on what would they be most proud of having done or having stood for. And even I mean, one of the things that’s quite helpless to do time shift, in other words, to sort of jump forward 10 or 20 years, and imagine yourself back on this face, because it helps you to kind of get that distance from the thoughts and the feelings that you’re having in this moment. By doing that for tripping time. And ask yourself, you know, if you looked back on this phase, what way of being what way of showing up would make you feel glad I showed up in this way. Or you could think about somebody that you really admire and think about how or the ways that they show up in difficult moments that you’d like to most emulate for me in that moment. Because, you know, is this my father has always been my idol, somebody that I’ve looked up to, the thing that was most clarifying, for me was asking myself what I thought he would be most proud, and most glad that I did in that moment. And he was such an adoring fan of my children, and my oldest was having a birthday the next day. And so I decided to go home. And what was so heartbreaking about that choice is that I went home, and he passed away the next day. So if I had just stayed one more day, I would have been by his side. But what’s so helpful about values is that it gives you sort of like a guidepost of like, I stood for that, and I did it for a reason. And I did it with the best of intentions. And I knew that I had tried to do to my, you know, to the best of my ability to try to do what my dad would have wanted me to do, I think he really would have wanted me to do that. If I had known all the things, right, I might have made a different decision. But that’s not how we make choices in life, we can’t know the outcome, before we get there, none of us have a crystal ball. So that set of values and being clear about them being clear about why you stood for what you did, can kind of provide reassurance. And it can also provide and this is what we know from research, it can provide a little bit of like glue to kind of keep you going because you have clarity and like the reason that you’re moving in a particular direction.

Clint Murphy  32:39

And when you talk about those values in you give the example of going ahead and time and looking back, which is something I love reading about. I don’t necessarily think I do it as much as I love reading about it, you know, Jeff Bezos regret minimization model as an example, do you talk about with your clients at all this concept of an avatar, if you will, this is who I want to be when I’m with my children. And I use that example. Because you’ve talked about in the present moment, and being aware and choosing how we want to show up and where the avatar comes up. For me there is, for example, often, if you leave work, and you’ve had a stressful day, and you go home, and you may not let the stress out at work, but you let it out with your family, because they’re not going to leave. But the people who deserve that the least are your family, they deserve you at your best. And I’ve read in the past or listen to the example of have that routine. So that when you’re going home, you can switch from I’m leaving the office stressed to I’m the person who’s showing up, maybe it’s I touch the tree in front of my house, or I have a mantra that I say on the drive home, but something that changes me from the stressed person who’s leaving the office to the present, and loving father, who’s coming through the door.

Yael Schonbrun 34:19

Yeah, well, so I think you’re sort of doing a couple of things in that example, which is you’re highlighting the clarity of values. So when we know. So it’s easy to say, you know, at my best I’m gonna show up as this loving, compassionate patient person. And in our best moments, it’s not that hard to do. But as you’re saying, like if we’ve had a hard day if we’re feeling really worn out and hungry, and just the idea of like, you know, all the things that we didn’t get done that day, or the client that’s pissed at us, kind of stays in our brain, then it’s hard to show up as our best selves, but it becomes a little bit easier to access that best self if we know what it looks like. So having that clear clarity gives you a behavioral map of how you want to show up moment to moment. But I love one other piece that you’re noting, which is what I call what researchers called micro rituals, which kind of helps you to transition from one role to the next in a more deliberate fashion. It’s kind of cueing your body and your mind. Now, I’m my work self. Now, I my parents self. The other piece, though, that I’ll just point out is that, what so there’s two things one is that we can act in line with our values, even when we don’t feel like it. So I can be tired and grumpy and still act kind, I can be super pissed off and be respectful. I can feel guilty, but still be pretty firm, right? So how we show up doesn’t have to map on to what we feel. And that’s easier to do to act on. When we have clarity, I feel this way. But I’m gonna make a deliberate choice to act that way. But what I do want to note is that, like emotions matter, they’re informative, and we need to take account of it, it’s like, going for a run and feeling pain in your leg. If you ignore it and keep running, you might be able to get your run down. But you might also suffer consequences in the long run in terms of injury that you sustained, because you weren’t paying attention to your body telling you, there’s something a little off here, right. So we want to pay attention to emotions, because they cue us in terms of what’s important to us, or what we might need to attend to. So for example, if you’ve had a hard day at work, and you’re feeling super spent and depleted, and you want to show up for your family, and you disregard the fact that your body feels super spent, that’s kind of a recipe for burnout. So it’s a little bit and I know that in your conversation with Brad, you talked about this both and thinking. So we do want to be clear on our values and show up in line with them. But we also, at the same time, want to pay attention to what our thoughts and our emotions are telling us because it’s good information. For example, if you’ve had a hard day, it might be useful for you to kindly and lovingly tell your family, oh, I really need just half hour to like, go and stare at a wall in the bedroom. If you give me that I’ll try to come back out a little bit more recharged. But I think I need to decompress a little bit. So by allowing in that information of what your emotions, your thoughts, and your internal experiences are telling you, you’re going to be most thoughtfully set up to act in line with your values, because you’ll be able to kind of take into account what’s going on, so that you can be most effective in showing up as you most want to show up. 

Clint Murphy  37:40

And there’s such power to that, speaking it to our loved ones. And yes, it was over the course of probably the last two years. And probably since I had this podcast, reading it in one of my guest books and talking with them about it, the amount of time it takes to allow an emotion to process out of the body, somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 seconds is in my head or 180 seconds. And so it’s the power of that pause and in. So now if I’m, if I’m in a situation where I’m having an argument with my wife or my son, instead of escalating the argument, like I might have in the past and then getting to a spot of irrationality, where I can’t deal with them, I can say, Can I just have three minutes, let’s just let me breathe. Let’s both take a pause. And then let’s approach this again in a few minutes from a from a calmer place, let this flush out of our system and come back. So with our with our family, taking that to the next level to say hey, I’ve had a pretty rough day at work, can I just have you know, 30 minutes to go have a bath or have a steam are just breathe in go through my micro ritual so that I can come back and be the dad or the or the partner that you want me to be?

Yael Schonbrun  39:02

Yes. And may I just point out that you just provided the perfect example of work family enrichment, where you’ve learned these skills through your work as a podcaster and a reader and a writer. And now you’re getting to enact it in your home life which is so powerful. You know, you are naming a couple additional strategies which is you know, effect labeling. So when we label our feelings, our emotions, it does that selfless context thing and that unhooking thing, right it gives us a little bit of distance, but it also gives us a little bit of acceptance and awareness that can be really helpful as you’re saying and like metabolizing the emotion but even if we haven’t fully metabolize it for me my emotions stick around longer than 60 seconds or 220 I’m kind of a moody person but that’s why these skills are so powerful because it is a right for me to feel angry or frustrated or disappointed. So long is a I’m clear on how I want to show up in those moments. And the other thing that I think you’re pointing out the power in sharing that with our family is not only so that they have a sense of what your internal experience is like, and how they’re how you guys are sort of impacting one another. But also, because you’re modeling for them healthier ways to manage those internal experiences, which is not to deny them, it’s not to push them under the rug, but it’s to thoughtfully allow for them, bring them down, and then reconnect to how you most want to show up in the most important relationships of your life. And I think that’s like, there’s no price tag that you could put that would be sufficiently, you know, captured the power of what you’re offering for your kids in terms of teaching them those life skills.

Clint Murphy  40:46

Absolutely. And you hit on something there that I’d love to talk about, because it reminds me of an experience I had yesterday, and how I thought about it after reading your book. So you talked about labels. And in the book, you talk about the challenge with problematic labels, and then we’ll work our way to workable labels. And I’ve never personally been a fan of labels because I don’t like anything that tries to paint us into a box or define us, I believe we’re so much broader than any of us even realize and have so much more potential. And yesterday I was getting a haircut. And I wanted to get my hair shaved people who are watching the YouTube will see that I’ve got a freshly fresh shave. And I had my beard trimmed and barber she was marking where the beard was going to go. And so I’m motioning up to my glasses. And she said right here, and I said yes. And so above that was going to be cleanly shaved, and below that was going to be a trimmed beard, and she accidentally went down instead of up. And so all of a sudden, there was a big piece out of the beard. And she was so upset with herself. She called herself. She’s used the label stupid, repeatedly. And I kept saying, Don’t worry about it, it’s, it’s a beard, it’s gonna grow back, like, let’s just, in fact that just shave it all off. I don’t even need it. Well, it’ll grow back. And she wanted to make it perfect. But she kept using that label on herself. And I kept thinking to myself, this is such a problematic label. Because if you’re saying that five to 10 times, when you made one simple, tiny mistake, are you using that label on yourself outside of work? Are you using that label on yourself? In your childhood, it when you were raising your kids? And I think if we’re using those labels out loud, we’re probably telling ourselves those same things inside our head in how do we move away from these problematic labels? In what is this concept of a workable label? 

Yael Schonbrun 42:54

Yeah. So I think let’s also just kind of pause on getting curious about the function of labels, because I think you’re right, we do use them in ways that are quite constricting. But there’s also a reason that we do that, which is to make sense of a world to understand our experience, and to motivate ourselves. And so, you know, there’s this thesis that is widely accepted that when we’re hard on ourselves, it can kind of motivate us to do better. And so your barber was probably attaching to a label, because what she cared about was to do a really good job. And that’s often where it comes from this idea of like, if I tell myself I stink at whatever the thing is, I’m inadequate, I did a terrible job. It’ll kind of light a fire under me to do a better job. And we also think, well, it’s accurate, right? I messed up. So I should own that I messed up. So we kind of get hooked on the function of the labels and motivating us and in sort of representing accuracy and just kind of enforcing some comprehension of this complicated world that language helps us to make sense of the problem with focusing on each of those things, according to research is that the benefits of doing of attaching to negative labels are much smaller than we think they are. There might be a slight motivation to do better. But when we’re constantly hard on ourselves and feeling really negatively about how we’re doing, it actually ultimately undermines motivation and performance. So like, if you, for example, show up to an interview and you think to yourself, well, I can’t be the same idiot that I was the last time I should prepare a whole lot more. But imagine like, are you loose? Are you able to kind of be receptive to your interviewers questions and to their humanity and, and to sort of think in creative, relaxed ways. You’re not right, like when we’re thinking harsh thoughts about ourselves, we tend to tighten up we tend to get narrower, we tend to be less receptive and we tend to be less creative. This is what the research bears out in very reliable ways. Like this is what we know that when we’re hard on ourselves, we actually don’t perform at our best And in terms of accuracy, we’re only capturing a small piece of the picture, right? Because even though maybe she didn’t do a good job, you know, in this one moment, she probably does a great job in general. And she probably has all sorts of ways that she performs really well in life. So she’s focusing on this one thing. So it might be accurate, but it’s only accurate in a very, very narrow sense. And so what we talk about, and actually, we talk about this in cognitive behavioral therapy, too, but it’s really a dominant theme and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is this question of workability of labels, is how much do they help us show up in life in ways that we care to show up, so that’s kind of getting back to the values. And what we find is that when we attach to really harsh negative labels, they tend to not be very workable, even when they’re accurate. And I’ll give another example that people sometimes get really hooked on, which is like this very, very accurate truth of like, I’m gonna die someday. But if we walk around all day thinking this thought, you know, I’m mortal, like life is finite, I will die. How much does that help you show up in a very rich and fulfilling way in your day to day life, it doesn’t, it makes you feel real, depressed and dark. And so just because something is accurate, doesn’t mean that it’s very helpful. And we don’t need to deny reality, but we can sort of attach to labels that help serve us, help push us in ways that that matter to us. So if I say, you know, life is hard, that kind of causes me to retract. But if I say, life is full of interesting challenges, that kind of opens me up and helps me to engage more. And so I agree with you that labels can be limiting. But that is part of what the mind does. So rather than work against the mind, take what the mind naturally does. But do it in a way that serves you better in terms of helping you to build the life that you most want to build and help you show up in that life in the ways that you most care to show up. And part of this conversation about labels, is really figuring out what kinds of labels are going to be most workable for you, in the spheres of life that matter most to you.

Clint Murphy  47:04

And so we’re coming back again to that act of choice, and choosing labels that will serve us and guide us on that mission of being that person we want to be that’s aligned with our values, what labels help snowball that process versus the labels that take us in the wrong direction. And we’re focused on choosing the right labels and learning how to choose.

Yael Schonbrun  47:34

Exactly right, exactly right. And I think that this can be something that we kind of inventory for ourselves, like in those moments of life, where things get really tough. What are the kinds of things that we say about ourselves? What are the kinds of things that we say about the circumstance? And then get curious, like, how workable is that? Does that help to kind of connect me to the person that I most want to be? Does that help me to move in directions that that really matter to me? Or does it cause me to do the opposite. And that is in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, what we call a choice point, because when we recognize that a certain internal experience is walking us away from values, then we have a choice, we can sort of choose to unhook from those unhelpful thoughts or other internal experiences, and connect to something that is more helpful. Or we can allow ourselves to keep going down that road, like, that’s a choice we have. And, and to be honest, I think, you know, it’s okay to make that choice. Sometimes, like, we just are not in a place where we feel like being our best selves, and like, give yourself permission to do that for a period of time. And then, you know, try to do a pivot, right? That’s the psychological flexibility pieces, like, okay, like I spent enough time just being hard on myself, it’s time to move forward. 

Clint Murphy  48:48

And it’s always relevant when we get to this stage, I’m just thinking for the listener, it’s also relevant to recognize that you’re not going to be doing all of these things we’re talking about all of the time, because then it would be impossible, you wouldn’t actually be living your life. It simply when you get into those situations where you need to make that tough choice or that tough call, where you recognize, wait, I’m behaving in a way I don’t want to behave. These are tools that we can come back to help make that decision, or help course correct. So it’s putting tools into the toolkit that you can use at the right time, but we don’t have to paralyze ourselves by trying to use them every second of every day.

Yael Schonbrun  49:29

No, absolutely. And I think that like trying to optimize every second of every day sounds like awful to me. To be honest, I don’t want to be around people who are optimal all the time like that just feels uncomfortable and like they’re goody two shoes so like I am far from optimal, but I think it’s that balance is like healthy and human and more connecting like I am a moody person and I let myself have my moods and then I try to pick myself up and get back to a healthier place. Today I feel more proud of, but I don’t think being around somebody who’s optimizing constantly is even, you know, that’s not for me that kind of person that feels like warm and inviting and authentic. 

Clint Murphy  50:13

No, and I love it because you’re giving me the perfect pivot points. And also tying into some of the things I’m reading about like last night, I wrote about Peter Drucker’s quote about the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. You know, I think people who are trying to optimize every second of every day, it’s the hustle culture, bros who are like, here’s all the hacks to get the most out of every second of every day. And it’s like, well, that doesn’t matter if you’re not being effective if you’re not actually going in the right direction, and working on the right things. And that’s where you talk about the importance of doing the right hard things the right way. And so it could be, you know, give you an example, I know, I have a podcast a week, which means I have to read a book a week, and people probably think, well, that means you read every day. Sometimes I don’t read for two weeks, because I have a backlog of interviews that I’ve recorded, which means sometimes I read two books in a week. But it’s what are those things I know I have to do, and I get those done. And then outside of that, there’s space, there’s free time. So I know I have to do these hard things, that has to happen. But once those hard things are done, I don’t have to have a rigid schedule that says ice bath at 5am and sauna at 7pm. It’s space to just Let life be in. So can you talk about the importance of the right hard things the right way. And then you talk about how grit and resilience come into that.

Yael Schonbrun  51:51

Yeah, so this idea of practical wisdom, which is an Aristotelian idea of doing the right hard things at the right time with the right people in the right way. And, and, you know, there’s like the knowledge. And then there’s the practice that comes with experience. And I think for people that, you know, navigate lives that have a lot of demanding roles, like we’re constantly switching. So the right thing at the right time in the right space, it’s like, there’s a lot of pivoting. And so that’s where the psychological flexibility comes in. It’s like the knowledge and then the ability to kind of move from thing to thing. And, you know, grit is this concept that’s defined by Angela Duckworth through her research as passion plus persistence, which kind of helps you to, you know, push through, like the hard stuff and keep going and keep trying. Whereas resilience is more about bouncing back from adversity, and kind of coming back to a center after you’ve experienced something difficult, and sometimes, you know, growing stronger from that experience. And so all of those kinds of experiences come together to help you sort out what’s the right thing to do at the right time in the right place. And I just want to point out something so powerful about what you said, because when we think about optimizing, it’s a lot about doing but actually, what is the most optimal thing is to carve out pockets of your life where you’re not doing because what we know without question from psychological research from physiological research, is that the body and the brain and the mind and the spirit can get depleted. And so to be optimal, we have to rest we have to do great. And that is something that in the hacker culture in the optimizing culture, we don’t talk nearly enough about. And so I have an entire chapter dedicated to subtracting to sort of carving out taking things out of your life, so that you have that time to just breathe and do. And what’s amazing is you’re a really productive person, right? I’m a very productive person, too. And what we know from science, from research from historical analysis is that the people who are prolific for longer periods of time and you know, throughout their lives are the people who learned how to take breaks and very careful ways, right? That they, they read two books in a week, and then they took a week off and just kind of hung with our family or went for long walks. And it seems crazy to think about being able to do that as somebody who occupies a lot of busy roles. And that’s me, I have three kids, I have multiple jobs. I’m kind of I do a lot. But I am very deliberate, because I’ve experienced the cost of not being deliberate about making sure that I have downtime, that I take things out of my schedule, and that I don’t replace them with other things are just kind of like being time and that it’s so healthy for our spirit and help and is a part of this doing the right thing at the right time in the right place with the right people like the doing can sometimes be just being quiet, having that quiet time to just breathe and sort of reflect and recenter yourself. 

Clint Murphy  54:39

Yeah, I loved the idea of your chapter on rest. And I wrote that book at the back of your book. I wrote a couple books that I wanted to go read after reading yours in rests was one of them. 

Yael Schonbrun  54:50

It’s transformative. I highly recommend it. 

Clint Murphy  54:53

Oh, okay. And you wrote one of the quotes you had was rest is not works, adversary. A rest His works partner, they complement and complete each other. And one of the best examples, you then talked about this idea of subtracting, and I loved your example with the Lego and in the book. And I always come back to one of my favorite quotes in life was I heard Matt Fraser on a on a podcast. And I’ve probably shared this before on the show, but he was he was asked by the host. And in for those who are listening who don’t know who Matt Fraser is, five times CrossFit Games champion in a row prior to doing that he was on the podium, but didn’t win. But while he was on the podium, and not winning, he was also a double major in university in engineering, and business, so qualifies under our list of a pretty busy person. And the host asked him well, like, how do you do all that? And his answer was, it’s simple, it isn’t easy, but it’s really, really simple. I look at everything in life. And if it doesn’t contribute to those goals, I cut it the eff out. And so when people say to you, Well, how do you do the parenting? And how do you do your psychology practice? In this in this and right, and I’m imagining, there’s a lot of subtraction of the things that don’t contribute to those roles that you’ve defined through your values. So here are my values, those values lead to these roles and how I want to show up in these roles. And things that are outside of that I imagine are what are getting subtracted.

Yael Schonbrun  56:32

Yes. And I think as Matt Fraser says, it’s simple, but really not easy. Because the things that get subtracted aren’t necessarily unimportant. They’re just less important. That’s right, right. So, for example, I would probably love to, I don’t know, decorate my house, my house is like poorly decorated, I would like to cook more interesting meals, like I do make dinners but they are exceedingly boring and repetitious. Like it’s the same rotation each week, I would like to do more volunteer activities with my kids. But that’s actually something that I really would like to do more, but it sort of hasn’t risen to the level. So I’ve subtracted a lot of things that matter very much to me, but they don’t matter as much as you know, having dinner with my kids each night, like, you know, sitting down with them is really important. So even if the meal is boring, the time that we spend together is exceedingly important that rises to the top every time. On Saturdays, I am very deliberate about not doing work like not being on screens. And I rarely engage with people outside of my family on Saturdays, it’s a little bit religiously inspired, even though I’m not religious. And it’s because I used to burn out like on a monthly basis, I would just hit the wall and feel so depleted. So I really have dedicated myself to Saturday’s our downtime, and it means that I don’t see friends. And sometimes I miss out on opportunities, and I decline a lot of birthday parties for my kids, because it’s family time. So we say no to a lot of things, we take a lot of things off our plates so that we can rest and reconnect and just be together. And it is a huge reason why I’ve been able to be as productive as I am in all the roles and places that I care to really, you know, show up with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and attentional resources. And it is so important to be clear on your values. But again, to make sure that you’re also clear that just because you subtract something doesn’t mean that it’s not important. It’s more like the relative importance, and that there might be a time in life where those things get to return because there’s more space for other things to take the backburner.

Clint Murphy  58:37

And did you find it all for you? Yeah, well, that COVID actually, to some extent, helped in that process. By in what I mean, there is for a lot of us who never took the time to consciously make those choices. All of a sudden, depending on where you lived. That choice was made for you. Kids activities, canceled, ability to visit friends canceled the visit, in for a lot of people it was well I can’t wait to get back to how life was prior to COVID. Me for example, I was, well wait a second, this has showed me an entirely different way to live. And when things reopen, I don’t want to just go straight back to where I was. I want to make a conscious choice to be somewhere between where I am right now, which is kind of like just going to my backyard recording podcasts and reading books, and living a life with my family and friends and making a conscious choice on how I want to interact on that spectrum.

Yael Schonbrun  59:45

Yeah, for sure. I think COVID was such like a, an opportunity to really take inventory of life because so many things that we took for granted were gone and some of those things we really missed, like opportunities to see friends in person and you get some of that tivities that we really love, and some of the things were just such a gift, right that we were home with our family and spending a lot of time together. But I will say, as a working parent with a more flexible job COVID One of the things that COVID forced me to do was to more deliberately discuss with my husband, who does what and how we do it, because at the time that it started, I had a three year old, six year old and a 10 year old. And, you know, we were homeschooling I was writing a book, I was seeing patients, I was, you know, figuring out telehealth with my patients, I was doing my podcast, which I no longer do anymore, it was so overwhelming and taxing. And my husband has a very rigid nine to five schedule, which didn’t have breaks. And so I was sort of waking up early to write teaching the kids, you know, keeping them entertained and not, you know, going crazy, and then he would be done at five, and then I would try to get some more work done. It was overwhelming. And so, you know, I think I missed a lot of things. But I also felt like that it was much harder than regular life because I couldn’t get a lot of the caregiving supports that most working parents really need. And so that’s maybe not exactly where your question was going. But I do talk a lot in my book about the value of this what anthropologists call like allow parental support non biological caregivers, that kind of act like parents, which working parents really need. And that’s a good thing for working parents. And it’s a good thing for our kids. And we didn’t have that during the pandemic. So that’s often where my mind goes, when I think about the pandemic. 

Clint Murphy  1:01:30

Yeah, we’ve managed to still have that, to a lesser extent during the pandemic than prior to it. But your point and I often say it for young parents, when you you’re lucky enough to or blessed enough to have family close by when you when you have children, and interestingly, family who want to be involved, because some people have family close by and they’re like, Hey, yo, I did my job, I raised you or I raised your partner, I’m done. sayonara like, sign me up once a month on a Saturday morning. But other than that, leave me alone. But my wife comes from a culture where that grandparent grandchild interaction is very, very high. And so my mother in law has been, you know, for their first four to five years for each of them very heavily involved in their daycare, and for almost all of elementary school, picking them up after school and bringing them over to her place and, and then my wife can just go over, pick them up, see her mom, and even now ones older ones still in elementary school, she’ll go over to her mother’s house two nights a week for dinner like it. But right now, her mom’s away for three months in Hong Kong, and so she really feels like Oh, it’s so much harder when Mom is is not here. So totally, totally, totally identify with that. Sorry, I got on a tangent there.

Yael Schonbrun  1:03:03

I will say that, like I used to go green with envy for people in your situation, who had family to lean on because I don’t have family nearby. And you know, we were transplants here when we first became parents. And so I really didn’t have the even the community support. But what I will say is that I think working parenthood offers this silver lining where you’re really pressed to, you know, get a daycare and involve other people in helping to make sure your children are safe and accounted for while you do your job. And it ends up being sort of this like artificial way to create that village around you where you know, other as you have, you know, family that is just naturally genetically invested. But working parents might have to get professionals involved, but they become like family. And that’s really good for your kids too. And what the research shows is that having your kids in high quality childcare is actually really, really good for them. And it’s good for you because it gives you a break from the parenting, which is, you know, the most taxing thing that we do during throughout our lives. And so I think you don’t need to have family nearby to get some of those benefits. But it does take a little bit more effort to build it, but it’s so worth it to do it. And I used to you know, really wish that I had family nearby. I still do. But there are ways to access a lot of the benefits that you’re describing through other means.

Clint Murphy  1:04:24

He wants to stay on subtraction for one minute because we wouldn’t be doing our best if we didn’t get the tiger parents a little angry on this one. So you probably know where I’m going is this idea of benign neglect, subtracting enough of our attention to let our children make choices and learn while still providing ample love care and resources for their well being. So what is benign neglect in why is it good for our children and us as working parents? 

Yael Schonbrun  1:04:58

Yeah. So benign neglect is a term that was built, generated by a child anthropologist by the name of David Lancy, who actually just recently came out with this article that was making all the rounds. That is basically a collaboration between him and Peter Gray and another academic, that really talks about how this over involvement of parents is a real huge contributor in ways that we barely are able to comprehend the rising rates of mental health disorders in children. And the reason is that when we’re so over involved. It doesn’t give our children a chance to develop a lot of the skills that otherwise would be developed because we’re sort of helping them too much. They don’t have to encounter some of the difficulty that helps them to build skills. So for example, say you have a kindergartener, and they forgot their jacket, and you know, you immediately bring them their jacket, they don’t have a chance to learn, like, oh, I need to start to really practice remembering things. Or if they’re on the playground, and they’re having a fight with another child, and you intervene, and you sort of help mediate the thing, you don’t give them a chance to build the social skills of negotiation or recovery or, you know, learning that they can’t say certain things, because there’s social consequences to it, then you’re interfering with a social development, their ability to kind of understand the impact of their words and their actions on other people. And so in all of these ways, were very well intended as parents by jumping in and being helpful and preventing their discomfort and preventing their embarrassment and preventing their academic failure. We’re hampering their learning their creative problem solving, their resilience, their ability to bounce back, their ability to know that they can handle a situation that is difficult or uncomfortable or not what they prefer. And so, you know, part of this idea of benign neglect is, this balance of making sure that their fundamental needs are cared for, right, we don’t want to neglect our children in this way that is going to lead to long term problematic consequences. But we do want to neglect them a little bit in these very thoughtful ways. And it doesn’t actually have to be terribly thoughtful, but you know, let them do their thing. Let them make a mistake, let them be bored. Like this is actually one of my huge soapbox issues. I think that we as parents live in a culture that doesn’t give our kids a chance enough to be in ourselves, to be honest, right? Because every time we’re an have an incident of boredom, what do we do we reach for our phones. And what researchers have discovered is that boredom is a place where creativity and self reflection and self knowledge and ability to tolerate a little bit of discomfort, all of those skills get built when we’re bored. And if we never give our kids a chance to be bored, because they come to us and we sit, they say we’re bored, and we play a game with them. Because you know, we have this belief. That’s what good parents do. You know, that’s another way that we’re really interfering with their development into healthy adults. And so again, coming back to the original question of what has been neglected, and why should we do it, benign neglect is, is sort of removing ourselves, neglecting our kids, letting them figure things out socially, emotionally, academically, cognitively, and have allowed them to have uncomfortable experiences on all of those levels. You know, have them know that at the end of the day, you’re there for them, but also that you trust them to navigate through and to figure it out when they don’t know, and that you’re there as a guide or as a coach or as a support. But you’re not going to do the work for them, you’re going to neglect them enough that they need to sort of figure some of those things out in an age appropriate ways for themselves. And what again, what we know from research and this is talked about beautifully in books like Jess Leahy’s Gift of Failure in Judy Lescott Hames how to how to raise an adult in Bill six, read his book, The self driven child. So if you’re interested in this concept of benign neglect, this is something that we know very clearly from research that parents aren’t doing enough of these days. And that there are ways to do it in ways that keep your kids safe, but also help them to experience a little bit of that, okay, my mom’s my mom, or my dad isn’t around, and my caregiver isn’t around and, and I’m uncomfortable, but I can figure this out. And if I don’t, it’s also okay, like, you know, I’ll survive. 

Clint Murphy  1:09:19

Yeah, I love that not holding their hand every minute of every day. And it is definitely I find, maybe it’s us as parents, maybe it’s social media, maybe it’s the system, but it feels all so much more programmatic, then our generation and I’m sure our generation felt even more programmatic than our parents before us. And if your kids not in this pre daycare, they’re not going to get into this daycare, which means they won’t get into this preschool. So they won’t get into this school so they can’t go to Harvard. It’s like well, who cares? Like I went to community college I turned out all right, like, why don’t we need to really like inner You for a pre preschool?

Yael Schonbrun  1:10:02

Yeah, there’s so much anxiety. I’ll just mention one more book, which is Parenthood in the age of anxiety that’s written by Kim Brooks. It’s terrific. Yeah, I think we’re so nervous. We’re so anxious and worried about our kids launching and feeling happy. And, you know, being on equal footing is their peers, that we lose sight of what really matters, which is like, you know, being comfortable in our own skin and being okay, when things aren’t okay, if that makes sense. Because, you know, you might not get into the best college and you probably won’t, because college is really competitive to get into, like, I wouldn’t have gotten into the college that I did get into if I had to put if I had to fight. And that would have been okay, it would have been disappointing. And I probably still would have figured out a path forward, I think we get so hooked on like the right path and worried that if our children are we aren’t on the right path, that everything will fall apart, and tragedy will happen. And there are so many paths to a happy and fulfilling life. And I think we get so narrowly focused that we sort of fall into that anxiety. And when we’re anxious, our vision gets very narrow, it’s a part of what we need to do is to recognize that that anxiety is sort of a hangover from early pre modern days where like survival depended on you for having that negative bias of like, if things go badly, it could all end. And that is simply not true. Today, if things go badly, you won’t be eaten by a saber toothed Tiger, you’ll figure out a different path. And the same is true for your children. So that anxiety is misleading. It’s sort of cueing us in ways that are just not helpful when it comes to parenting, or when it comes to our professional life, too.

Clint Murphy  1:11:46

Yeah, the endless anxiety and I definitely feel more for mothers in this situation with Do we still call it Pinterest momming, where it’s like, I’ve got to make lollipops for school. And they’ve got to look like Mickey Mouse. Why? Why? Just buy a bag of chocolate bars and like who cares.

Yael Schonbrun  1:12:10

I will share that actually. My middle son is in fifth grade. And they had a bake sale fundraiser last week. And I was so proud of myself because I signed up both to bake brownies. And to volunteer for an hour I had it I was like, I’ll do it this time. I often don’t. I showed up with my brownies. And I was like, I had this moment of shame because everything in this beautiful packaging and these labels. Mom’s you know bake shop and like with decorations and sprinkles and like, these Cookie Monster lollipops. And I was like, Oh my gosh, like, you know, what are they going to think? And then, you know, I have the benefit of all this wisdom where I was like, You know what, it doesn’t matter if they’re gonna judge me like and they probably will because that is what the human mind does. So be it. I will still be okay. I will live to see another day. The brownies will likely get eaten, right? Oh, for as much money as the Cookie Monster pop. And it’s all right. Like it’s uncomfortable. And that’s okay. My son even laughed at me. Like, your brownies were the last ones bought. Because they weren’t as beautiful. The best tasting. I thought they were delicious.

Clint Murphy  1:13:23

Like a brownie? Yeah, we don’t need all that icing and food coloring that goes into that Cookie Monster. It never tastes as good as it looks.

Yael Schonbrun  1:13:32

Yeah. And like, I don’t know, there’s those moms should have been proud. And also it was fine that I didn’t. Yeah.

Clint Murphy  1:13:40

So funny that I use that example. And it’s what happened to you this week. To wrap up the conversation on the book before throwing some rapid fire questions at you is can you talk about the battle between meaning in pleasure in how is working parents we find that right balance?

Yael Schonbrun  1:14:03

Yes. So psychologists have a few ways that they operationalize happiness and exactly as you’re saying, one of them is pleasure. So that’s this idea that, you know, when you eat that brownie, it just tastes real good. And it feels really good as it you know, goes into your tummy. And that is important, right? Life should have moments of pleasure. Pleasure is a good thing. And like I think it’s easy in sort of our optimizing culture to say, you know, it’s not about pleasure. It’s about you know, getting to the achievement and getting to best, but I think brownies are a great way to enjoy a moment. But the other way that psychologists operationalize happiness is this idea of meaning. And that’s the idea that we don’t necessarily feel good while we’re doing something that has a lot of meaning or purpose, parenting being one of them, work being another, but you can also think about, you know, training for a marathon that it could be a really meaningful aspiration and you could work really hard and certainly when you’re going For your long run, it doesn’t necessarily feel good on your body in terms of like the internal experience of it. But there’s this connection with like, I’m doing this. And this is like a way that I contribute or a way that I show up that I really, really care about. So may not feel good in this more experiential way. But there’s a sense of purpose, and that in and of itself can feel very satisfying. And what we know from psychological research is that, you know, full lives have a lot of meaning, but they also have pockets of pleasure. And one of the things that is important to recognize is that each of these definitions of happiness have some drawbacks. When it comes to pleasure, pleasures fleeting, right, and like we, we have that brownie and then we have the sugar crash after. There’s also this idea that research has really confirmed again and again that we habituate to pleasant experiences. So like that first bite of brownie is like, amazing, but if you ate the whole tray by the final bite, it wouldn’t taste as good, you feel probably pretty sick by it. And the same thing is true. Like if you are watching, you know, an indulgent show, like you love reality, Real Housewives of Orange County, and like, you know, the first episode is great, and but if you watch 20 episodes in a row, you just kind of feel crummy by the end of it. So there’s this habituation, where the good feelings don’t feel as good as they did the beginning, the longer that we participate in it, also, our expectations tend to rise. So for example, if we got a promotion, it feels really good. And then all of a sudden, we’re like, okay, but what about the next one, or you buy a new car, and you’re like, that’s really nice, but like, then the next model comes out. So we tend to when good things happen, and they feel really good, our expectations for more good things tend to rise. So if we only put our emphasis on experiences of pleasure, and really count that as like, what makes for a good life, we’re going to ultimately feel disappointed. But if we only put our emphasis on meaning, then it just, it can be like this slog, right, if you’re only doing things that are meaningful, and you never have pleasurable experiences, it just feels like life is kind of dark and difficult. And so what I really recommend is that people seek a balance of pleasure meeting and do so in a particular way. And I a life with lots of demanding roles actually offers you a really nice chance to do that. Because showing up for those moments of pleasure when they come up is really helpful. But then when they when things are hard, you can really connect to the meaning and the purpose, right. And we talked about that meaning and purpose right in the beginning of our conversation of like, you know, when we parent and we sort of connect to the value of raising children and being connected in these really profound ways to them that’s so meaningful. Same thing goes when we work in ways that help us feel like you know, we’re contributing to society are contributing to our family’s bottom line in meaningful ways that can really help us to connect to a sense of purpose, that’s really helpful. And so having lots of roles where you can connect into whatever’s available, the moments of pleasure, the sense of purpose, can help you because in any given role, you might have more pleasure or less meaning or, or vice versa. And so being able to sort of pick and choose like, which role is going to give me pleasure, which role is going to give me a sense of meaning and purpose can help you to access a little bit of both. And the balance is really what we’re looking for. So you know, in difficult moments, you know, connect to the meaning and in really pleasant moments, connect to the pleasure, and try to really find that combination, using the fact that you participate in multiple roles to really access that on a daily or weekly or monthly basis.

Clint Murphy  1:18:34

Love it. And do you have time for four rapid fire questions? Sure. Okay, what’s one book that had an oversized impact on your life?

Yael Schonbrun  1:18:43

This is not an original answer. But I if any of your listeners have not yet read it, I cannot recommend Man’s Search for Meaning highly enough. It’s one of those books that I reread every year and get something new from it. 

Clint Murphy  1:18:56

Yeah, I’ve spent the last 12 plus years working on the pause, the pause between stimulus and response. That’s where the magic happens. And so everything you and I talked about today, it’s so much of it is that quote, building that pause and then making the choice. And that’s where we create the magic. So beautiful, beautiful choice. I love it. The second one, what are you reading right now? What are some of the books that are on your shelf? 

Yael Schonbrun  1:19:24

Yeah, so I always have a number of books going like probably most of your guests do. So I always have one fiction book going I actually have two right now one with my kids. The one with my kids is called Echo. The one that I’m reading on my own is called the beekeeper of Aleppo. It’s about the Syrian civil war. It’s pretty dark. Actually, I think after this, I’m going to need something that’s more and then I have a couple of nonfiction books going that are related to the book project that I’m currently working on. One of them is a book that’s written by an FBI hostage negotiator called stalling for time. Fascinating. So he was one of the I had negotiators who was like on the Branch Davidian case in, gosh, the early 2000s. I think it was, you know, with David Koresh. And like just, that was one example. So it’s, I’m really interested in it because of what’s happening in the Middle East. And I’m so fascinated by how people get stuck in conflict, certain people in certain situations are really stuck. Whereas some people in some situations are able to move through. And I think some of it is situational. And some of it is the approach that we take. And books that are written by hostage negotiators offered like this set of skills, I think that we all need to be more aware of, because they help us not get stuck in intractable conflict where our mind wants to go when we experience conflict. So that’s kind of like one of the topics that I’m really interested in. And then the other one is a book about it’s called The Illusionist brain. So I’m really interested in how magicians take advantage of the way that our brains create reality to create magic. And this is, again, related to a project that I’m working on.

Clint Murphy  1:21:02

I’m looking forward to reading this book and hopefully having a conversation with you on it in for people who didn’t watch the Netflix documentary on the David Koresh Branch Davidian. And a situation had a whole different respect and flavor for what went down or prospective, if you will, for what went down after watching that it was incredible. I left thinking oh, like, this actually, wasn’t this scenario that I thought it was going in. So I don’t know if you’ve seen that yet.

Yael Schonbrun  1:21:34

I haven’t seen it. But reading this account from Gary no snare who wrote this book is it was fascinating. I mean, it ended badly. But what was interesting, and I don’t know if he if his perspective was included in the documentary, but he talked about how he was like on the case, for a it was a very, very long standoff. And then once they moved off the FBI negotiators that were on, got a lot more aggressive. But it like had these moments where they thought that it was going to sort of end better than it did. It was so complicated. But yeah, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. 

Clint Murphy  1:22:06

Yeah. seemed like it was going well. And then all of a sudden, the tactics in watching the documentary, you actually were, I think, if I’m correct, my wife and I both left it feeling like the people in what maybe we’ll call that religion or cult, if you will, we actually felt for their side. Yeah, yeah. This all of a sudden went the wrong way. Like this didn’t feel right, and the approach and like, why was it getting so harsh? They seemed totally calm and rational and logical. And we’re dealing with things the right way.

Yael Schonbrun  1:22:46

Tony, you would probably like this book, because he talks about why spun and that he actually thought it spun the wrong way because of the tactics that the negotiators adopted. 

Clint Murphy  1:22:58

Oh, wow. You can’t create friends when you write that book, but then it means it’s a book that probably should be written.

Yael Schonbrun  1:23:04

He wrote it after he retired. 

Clint Murphy  1:23:07

Exactly. For you, what is one thing that Yael has bought over the last, let’s say two years that you’ve thought to yourself afterwards, under $1,000 that you’ve thought to yourself, Wow, I can’t live without that. Or I should have bought it sooner.

Yael Schonbrun  1:23:25

Good running shoes.

Clint Murphy  1:23:27

What are you rocking?

Yael Schonbrun  1:23:29

 Right now I’m just finishing the life of my books. And I am going back to Saucony’s because I really love Saucony’s. I just bought a new pair of Saucony’s. So a good pair of running shoes is always worth the investment because I’m no longer a spring chicken and my knees, my knees don’t really love running shoes after a year or two. But running is my like I had mentioned before I’m a moody person running is my mental self. I need it and it helps to balance me but my knees need to sort of stay on board for that. 

Clint Murphy  1:23:56

Do you ever buy multiple pairs because they have this habit of like switching the model and all of a sudden it’s not the same shoe? 

Yael Schonbrun  1:24:03

No, I’m flexible. And I sort of Yeah, so far. I mean, my knees are flexible enough that they have been willing to try but there will probably become a point where I really dedicated Do you have a pair that you recommend?

Clint Murphy  1:24:17

For knees? Definitely if you haven’t tried to hook us I would try to hook us it’s like, I mean it goes the opposite of the minimalism movement and running but it’s like running on a cloud. So it’s you know, Achilles issues knees they all disappeared when I threw on the hook as in the longer I ran the more those became the ones I think I have 10 pairs in my garage. Okay, trail road everything all right, I don’t run I don’t run anymore, so they’re not serving me as the last one. What’s one habit mindset shift or behavior change you’ve made in your life that had the greatest impact on you? 

Yael Schonbrun  1:24:57

Well, this is gonna sound so self serving, but I really do think switching from a work family conflict mindset to a work, family enrichment mindset has changed everything. And I would say that, you know, it’s not just about working parenthood, it’s really about seeing all of the roles that I inhabit as having the potential to enrich each other and to being really curious about how I can approach life in a way that allows them to do that. And that’s really the mindset shift that I hope readers who read the book are left with is that idea of our roles can enrich each other, and that these tools and tips from social science can really help us to magnify the ways that our roles can help each other out. 

Clint Murphy  1:25:36

Absolutely. And we went pretty wide and deep in certain areas of the book, is there anything we didn’t hit that you want to make sure you leave with the listeners? 

Yael Schonbrun  1:25:45

Self Compassion, right? That’s a strategy in psychology that I think is super valuable that we don’t talk enough about that at the end of the day, you know, making space to allow for whatever experiences come up to be kind to ourselves as they come up, and to connect to a sense of common humanity that when we’re having a hard time, that we’re just human, and that that is such a human experience to struggle, and that we don’t need to beat ourselves up for it. In fact, the more useful thing to do is to be kind to ourselves, because it allows those experiences to be a little bit less sticky, and gives us the space to learn and grow as we move out of it, but also the opportunity to kind of just be okay, like, if we’re having a hard time, it’s okay to have a hard time. And that’s, I think, something that we don’t talk enough about in our culture.

Clint Murphy  1:26:33

I love that and where can people find you? 

Yael Schonbrun  1:26:36

So you can I have a newsletter called Relational Riffs that’s available on substack and the place that I’m most active on the internet is probably Instagram so you can find me there.

Clint Murphy  1:26:48

Perfect. Thank you for joining me on the show today. That was really fun.

Yael Schonbrun  1:26:51

Thank you so much for having me. It was such a delight and honor to speak with you

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