Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Are You A Driven Perfectionist In A Slacker World?

photo courtesy of Andrew Branch, Unsplash

Angela is driven. At her job as a graphic designer and communications coordinator, she works 10-12 hour days, and some weekends. Her standards for her work are well beyond those of her colleagues, including the CEO of the organization. Coworkers depend on her to keep the company functioning but also resent her high expectations, her critiques of their writing and her evaluation of their less than adequate customer service.

Angela didn’t attend college. She was raised in a seriously dysfunctional family. It’s hard to understand how she knows what she knows, unless you realize that she has a rainforest mind: A mind that learns quickly and deeply whatever it finds appealing, fascinating or complicated. A heart that feels extreme empathy for humans, animals and plants.

Coworkers take advantage of Angela. Because her work is always of the highest quality and completed in less than half the time, she’s one person doing a two-three person job. Not only that: Workmates ask her to create invitations to their kids’ birthday parties and to design the programs for their Aunt Matilda’s half-sister’s memorial. In her spare time. For free. She does it because she can and because she can’t say ‘no.’

Angela is a driven perfectionist in a slacker world.

I tell her: “Just because you’re able to do it, doesn’t mean you have to do it. You have a right to set boundaries. To say ‘no.’ To have a life outside of your job.” But her extraordinary abilities, her empathy and her early trauma all tell her ‘no’ is not an option.

I tell her: “Feel your satisfaction-sometimes-joy in finding the perfect phrase and the most striking images. Understand that others may not notice or care. Feel your satisfaction-sometimes-joy anyway.” This is the healthy perfectionism that comes with a rainforest mind. Regular people may not understand it.

I tell her: “If you feel resentment, anger or extra stressed at your job, consider allowing some of your work to be less than extraordinary. Settle for excellent. Notice if you need to excel because it gives you joy or because you have to prove your worth. Or both.” If it’s unworthiness, it’s unhealthy perfectionism. You can thank your dysfunctional family for that. Your therapist can help you detach your sense of worth from your achievements.

Well, then. If you are, like Angela, a driven perfectionist in a slacker world, take heart. Find the places where your drive, idealism and high standards are appreciated and needed. (Your favorite struggling nonprofit? Your gifted kids? Your community garden? Your elderly neighbors?) Spend time in those places.

And, your coworker’s Aunt Matilda’s half-sister? I’m pretty sure she won’t mind if there aren’t any programs at her memorial.

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To my bloggEEs: Does Angela sound like you? Do you find yourself overworked and under-appreciated at your job, at school or at home? Are you a perfectionist? How do you manage your drive, high standards and expectations? How do make time to rest? And, if you’re wanting to improve your work environment , in spite of the slackers, and don’t know where to begin, try the folks at Rebels At Work for ideas and for a community of like-minds. And thank you for being here.


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Managing Your Smartness — A Guide For The Underwhelmed And Overwhelmed

photo courtesy of Jakob Boman, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Jakob Boman, Unsplash, CC

You’re capable. You’re fast thinking. You draw accurate conclusions when everyone else is still lollygagging. You’re at the finish line when others are just leaving the starting gate.

Your coworkers would benefit from your insight if only they could realize that it’s insight. But they don’t understand your leaps and you’re tired of filling in the blanks. So you sound unreasonable or outlandish.

You’re thorough. You’re deep thinking. You analyze the complicated ramifications when everyone else is preoccupied with, well, shopping. You’re scuba diving when others are water skiing.

Your friends and family members would benefit from your perceptions and sensitivity if only they could realize that it’s your rainforest mind and not an obsessive compulsive disorder. But you’ve been labeled dramatic, depressed and delusional so you’re the one in therapy.

Sound familiar? Am I in your head?

Well, then, of course, you feel like a weirdo, like a freak, like you don’t belong. You’re underwhelmed and overwhelmed.

This is especially true if you were a little tyke in a dysfunctional family. At an early age, you had extra amounts of empathy and intelligence. And you probably felt the weight of responsibility.

You still do.

So, here are some ideas that might help.

First, remind yourself that just because you have lots of skills and abilities and you can solve others’ problems, doesn’t mean that you have to step in and rescue them or take that terrible job or say ‘yes’ to every request.

Do you hear me? Reread that paragraph again, please.

It’s great that you’re so capable but it’s important to have boundaries and limits and to take time to nourish yourself. If you take care of yourself, you’ll be better able to help when the situation is appropriate. Practice this phrase when someone (including your child) asks for something : Oh. Interesting. Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you. Then, take a breath and think about it.

If you’re frustrated at your workplace and looking for support, get a copy of Rebels At Work and join their community. The authors, Medina and Kelly, write and talk about ways creative, complex thinkers can work to change the system. You’ll see that you’re not alone and you’re not delusional.

If you’re a parent, it’s especially important that you know your limits and take time for self-care. The parent bloggers here and here offer great advice.

If you’re introverted, Susan Cain‘s book and community provide support and suggestions. If you’re extroverted, you may be particularly distressed. Because you have greater needs for interactions with humans, and because rainforest minds can be hard to find, you may feel extreme underwhelmedness. Look for activities that appeal to you through meetup.com. Join an online group such as intergifted.com. Start your own meetup group, book group, astronomical society or online community.

Remember: It’s normal for you to be both underwhelmed and overwhelmed because of your effervescent, multi-dimensional, perceptive rainforest mind. Managing your smartness isn’t easy. All of those mosquitoes, monkeys and tangled vines. It’s a very very busy place.

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To my blogEEs: Do you often feel underwhelmed or overwhelmed or both? Do you tend to volunteer to help when you’d really rather not? Do you take on too much responsibility? Is it hard to set limits with others? What resources remind  you to take care of yourself? And thank you for reading and sharing. I love hearing from you!


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A Guide for Mavericks, Renegades and Rebels in the Workplace

When you’re at work, are you–

Asking questions that annoy others? Frustrated by the lack of openness to new ideas? Waiting for others to conclude what you already know? Impatient at meetings because everyone is so slow? Upset at the injustice you see that no one else seems to notice? Bored? Avoiding office politics? Providing guidance and supervision for your bosses? Seen as lazy but actually doing more work in less time?  Ready to leave the job once you’ve mastered it? Wanting to change the way things are done? Idealistic and optimistic? Misunderstood and misdiagnosed? Seen as a maverick, renegade, or eccentric??

Maybe, that’s because you have a rainforest mind.

Take heart, dear renegade.

You are not alone.

There’s a growing movement just for you. A tribe of smart rebels finding and supporting each other. Let me introduce you to them.

I found them one day by mistake when I was googling myself. Yes, I admit it. Googling. Myself. There was a blog post written by Carmen Medina. She mentioned a piece I’d written about counseling gifted adults. She was intrigued by the story of Susan who at age seven was reprimanded by her teacher for completing her reading workbook in one night; for working ahead. Carmen hadn’t thought of herself as gifted, but couldn’t help seeing herself in Susan.

I wanted to know more and found Carmen and Lois Kelly‘s website. And, more recently their book. See if you can relate to these quotes from the book:

“Rebels ask hard questions, don’t take things at face value, and don’t accept that things have to be the way they’ve always been. We are also often the ones who can see the future coming and pick up on subtle indicators of change before others do. Above all, we’re people who want to create positive changes, not just whine about what’s not working. We’re an oddly optimistic bunch, believing in what’s possible while many of our coworkers give up.”

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“…pushing new ideas too fast. We can’t help it, or at least we can’t control it until we become painfully aware of its impact on the workplace and on our careers.”

“…Executing the same types of processes and programs over and over again bores many of us.”

“We keep talking, thinking we’re educating our bosses while they just wish we would shut up.”

“…asking provocative questions, sharing our observations, questioning assumptions, suggesting alternatives–and quite possibly alienating that person because we’re coming on so strong.”

“Learning to manage our emotions so that they don’t manage us may be the most important practice for rebels to learn.”

I’m guessing that you’re nodding your head. Finally. Someone gets it.

Their book, Rebels At Work, is a wonderful guide. It provides very specific ways to help you navigate within the system, change things and stay sane.

And finally, Lois and Carmen end with this:

“Crank it up, dear rebels. The world needs us everywhere.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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To my bloggEEs: What are your experiences in the workplace? What suggestions do you have? What questions? Let us know what you think of Rebels At Work. The book is written particularly for folks working within large corporations but I think it also applies to you if you work in a smaller setting or are an entrepreneur. For more of my thoughts on navigating career paths, check out my webinar. And thanks, as always, for reading.