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Today's blog is all about unplugging. It’s like the writer Anne Lamott once said, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

Psst... if you're a woman looking for a chance to unplug, recenter, and rejuvenate your leadership, then hurry and save $500 with early bird pricing for the Heroine's Journey Women's Leadership Retreat The deal ends TOMORROW, May 3rd though enrollment is open through August!

STORY: FOMO vs JOMO Instead of the FEAR of missing out, what if you could discover the JOY of missing out.

READ MORE: ... Not this time.

BOOK STUFF: Book Club. I'm having a fangirl squeeeeeee moment. Brigid Shulte, author of our book for May & June -- Overwhelmed: Work, love and play when noone has the time -- has agreed to pop into Book Club!

PODCAST STUFF: NEW episodes! The latest episodes are all about overwhelm -- how to manage it and how to fix it!

GOING FURTHER: Retreat and Circle. Early bird pricing for the Heroine's Journey retreat ends May 3, 2024, after which the price goes up $500.



The constantly connected world we live in can be really bad for our brains. The never-ending barrage of text messages, emails, to do items, reminders, and social media has us always "on" and overstimulated, always in FOMO (fear of missing out), always getting yet another notification "ping" to set our teeth on edge.

Why do we do this to ourselves? You probably already know it has to do with dopamine, but probably not for the reason you think.

Dopamine isn’t the reward molecule. Yes. You read that right.

The drive to check your phone isn't because there's a constant stream of rewarding good things on email or social media (am I right?) Dopamine's role in the brain is to signal novelty, change, and the unexpected. It's released when you get invited to a friend's birthday or when you get a funny gif that makes you laugh.

But dopamine is also released when bad things happen like an upsetting email or incendiary comment on one of your Facebook posts.

The more dopmaine there is, the more motivated yo are to keep working. But also, the more irregular and unpredictable the dopamine is, the harder you'll work to get it.

In rats, how that works out is if a rat is trained to push a lever ten times for one reward, when the reward is turned off, the rat might try the lever 100 times then give up. But if the rat is trained on a lever that randomly gives a reward one in ten times on average, sometimes after just one press, but sometimes after 40, when the reward is turned off, the rat will keep working and working and working and working, often going several thousands of lever presses before stopping.

That's how we are with our phones. A survey by Consumer Affairs found that the average American picks up their phone 144 times per day. The vast majority of those times, say 130 of them, it's ho hum, nothing special. I just check my phone and my friend reminded me to bring an umbrella. Meh --> no dopamine.

But 12 of those times it's something meaningful. A quote shared by a friend that resonated deep down to my core. The latest news report of strife and discord --> moderate dopamine.

And 2 of those times it's a huge surprise. My niece sent a video thanking me for her birthday present... awww. A friend was in a car accident and is in the hospital --> HUGE dopamine.

And it's those irregular, unpredictable, unexpected dopamine bursts that has us continually online, continually picking up our phone, continually touching base with our social networks.

That fear of missing out (FOMO) is a specific case of this behavior, is defined in scientific research circles as a special case of this with two key components: a) worry that others are having rewarding experiences that you're not invited to, and b) desire to stay connected with people in one’s social group.

So for those of us for whom social belonging is important and uncertain, those pings and dings that tell us "yes! you're included" or "no! go away" are particularly HUGE dopamine bursts to our brains. Ones we will work particularly hard for.

One solution

Instead of FOMO, JOMO is the joy of missing out —feeling content to disconnect and be present with whatever and whomever is in front of you in that moment.

I did an experiment on myself over spring break — a 1 week digital detox — because I was noticing how distractable I had become and how itchy I got around my phone. Plus it was spring break on college tours with my family. I wanted desperately to be present in the moment and to savor my time with my son who is growing up too fast. So, I used the ScreenTime setting on my phone to grey out all social media, email, and news all week long.

Here’s the results by the numbers: 

  • Week before: 18 hours 30 minutes on my phone and 638 pickups

  • Digital detox: 9 hours 17 minutes on my phone and 388 pickups

  • The week after: 8 hours 48 minutes on my phone and 219 pickups

I feel like life has slowed down. I’m more present, more creative, less itchy, less anxious. Happier.

What might some JOMO in your life look like? Could you turn off social media, email and news for a digital detox? Could you go on a hike out of cell phone range? Could you go on a retreat (come to mine!)? Could you do something touristy in your own town but intentionally leave your phone behind.

Read More: ...

No. Not this time.

Small challenge: Take a 1 hour brain break. Go for a walk. Sit in the garden. Play with your kids. Pet your cat. Savor a cup of tea. Meditate. Take a bath. Call a friend from high school. Open that water color set someone gave you for Christmas but you've never found the time...until now. Do nothing at all.

Medium challenge: Spend half day phone free. Do something touristy but leave your phone behind (or at a minimum, stowed in a zippered inside pocket). Phonelessly explore a lofty cathedral, towering castle, fascinating museum, bustling market, dinner with friends, lazy afternoon by the lakeshore, meander through a new-to-you neighborhood in your hometown, hike.

Big challenge: 4-7 day digital detox. Get away. Set your vacation email responder. Put limits on your phone and laptop as if you were a screen addicted teenager. And then unplug.

Book Stuff: Book Club

Thanks to those who were able to join me in April to talk about Mastery by Robert Greene! BUT better yet... I'm in email conversation with New York Times Bestselling author, Brigid Shulte, to have her come to either our May or June meeting to discuss her book Overwhelmed.

This is one book club you don't want to miss. Join us on Thursday, May 23rd, 4 pm Pacific time! Email to be added to the notification list that contains the zoom link.

Podcast Stuff: NEW episodes

In her book Overwhelmed, Brigid Shulte says: "The stuff of life never ends. That is life. You will never clear your plate so that you can get to the good stuff. So you have to decide. What do you want to accomplish in this life?"

Episodes 5 and 6 of the Leaders' Playground take us into that question and ultimately out of overwhelm. You'll learn all about working memory and cognitive load. I'll teach you about choosing 3 rocks and a method I call the 5Ds (dump, delegate, date, do, or re-define). There's a really special part where you hear Tutti and I in conversation, re-defining our work together, turning work (marketing yuck) into play (connection yay!)

Find the Leaders' Playground on Spotify, Apple, YouTube, Amazon, or my website. And if you like what you hear, click that follow button and forward this email to a friend who would love their work to feel more like play.

Going Further: Retreat and Circle

If a chance to truly unplug sounds amazing, if you are looking to rediscover why you fell in love with this work in the first place, if you wish to connect with other experienced female leaders, then join the Heroine's Journey Leadership Retreat . Mendocino. Glamping. Leadership development. Two exec coaches. Curated group. Early bird pricing ends TOMORROW on May 3rd! 

And if you want longer term support to make leadership less lonely, join the Collective Wisdom Leadership Circle.

“Irene has an incredible gift of guiding us but also allowing room for multiple discoveries. It's truly magical how well the group got along with each other, and we could truly feel the support from the others. The clarity of what each meeting focused on and the exploratory activities you had for us truly brought us enlightenment and brought us together and helped us so much in our own lives.”

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