I just went to Beijing for a week. It was super-fun and interesting. I studied Chinese for many years and hanging out in a Chinese-speaking place has a way of integrating my past with my present. (Funny how you can forget whole parts of yourself when they are not in daily use.)
Now I'm back and I have massive jet lag. For reasons I don't understand, it's always more pronounced flying east than flying west. So I've been waking up a 3:45 or 4:00 am every morning. This is beneficial for doing things like catching up on email but not so good for my overall disposition at any given moment. To put it another way, I can be kind of crabby when I come back from long trips. And then it's easy for crabbiness to turn into obsessive thinking about one negative thought or another and ... well, you can see the whole downward spiral.
Since I am already tired by my own downward spiraling, I'm trying out a technique: acting out of character. So as I consider what to do at any particular moment, or what plans to make, I divide them into "in character" and "out of character."
Some out-of-character things for me are:
(1) spending time getting to know my new MacBook Pro (which currently is sitting in its box, as it has for 10 days since purchase)
(2) going online to research what printer would work best with said computer (I avoid all online research)
(3) doing some kind of crafty activity at night, like making a photo album of my trip
(4) going out for breakfast (I did wake up at 4:00 am, after all) and having waffles or French toast
(5) going to some cheap restaurant like Dallas BBQ and not thinking about calories or where the meat was sourced from.
In contrast, some in-character things are:
(1) answering emails
(2) obsessing about the future direction of my career
(3) having dinner at the bar of my local pseudo-bistro (Bistro Citron on Columbus Ave)
(4) mentally announcing a new diet or exercise regimen
(5) calling up people to tell them about my jet-lag.
The in-character things are easy but unfulfilling -- I feel tired even thinking of them. The out-of-character things are off-putting but sort of exciting -- I'm not sure I will do them but feel a glimmer that I would like them. (Except for the Dallas BBQ thing. That just seems gross.)
So in a few minutes I'm going to OPEN THE BOX of my new computer and see what it's all about. ("What's the big deal?" Jason asked. "Don't you just turn it on?" Umm, maybe. But it seems hard.)
There's a big coaching principle behind this, which is: when we try to solve problems, we usually approach them from our preexisting points of view. Meaning, the same way of thinking that has created the problem tries to solve the problem. When we end up still feeling stuck, we try harder but usually stick with the same tools. It usually doesn't occur to us that our method of dealing with problems may be inherently limited.
When you are coaching someone, this becomes very obvious, primarily because you are a separate person from the person you are coaching. You can see that she is looking at things from a particular angle, and is blinding herself without knowing it to other options. (In Myers-Briggs speak, we would say, "you're being true to type." Which isn't always good.)
But when it's just me and my own head, I don't always see it. Instead, I just dance around with the same annoying, draining thoughts until it occurs to me, "hmm, this is not fun. What other options do I have?" That's why I'm practicing doing things out of character.
I suspect that doing things out of character has some additional benefits: there is greater potential surprise at the outcome, and you are more likely to engage deeply in something, since doing something out of character requires concentration. In contrast, things that are in character maybe do-able without that much thought, which means that your monkey mind can continue rattling on even as you do them. (Does anyone really feel free of negative thinking when reading and answering emails?)
By the way, another out-of-character thing: actually writing a blog post when I have an idea, rather than nursing it for weeks or months until the moment is right for writing.