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Let Your Body Lead: Career Planning With Somatics

Let Your Body Lead: Career Planning With Somatics

Presented at Railsconf 2022

How do you build a career you love? As engineers we try to make choices based on data, metrics, research. We make spreadsheets and “Compare Features.” And yet...so often we end up unhappy. All that careful research somehow doesn’t help.

But what if you made decisions a different way? What if you had a sophisticated decision-making apparatus to guide you, built precisely to your needs -- an always-available guide?

You do! It’s called your somatic intelligence. With practice you can learn to tune into it and let your body lead the way to satisfaction and fulfillment -- in every area of your life.

Amy Isikoff Newell

June 02, 2022

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  1. Amy Newell @amynewell Railsconf 2022 Let Your Body Lead Career

    Everything Planning Choosing with Somatics
  2. Who am I? That crazy lady who shows up to

    tech conferences in thigh high boots to talk about her feelings (Also VP of Engineering at ConvertKit - yes we’re hiring, software engineer since 1999, Rubyist since 2007, I am mentally ill and I have too many boots)
  3. Why do I talk about my feelings so much?

  4. It’s because I like to live in reality, and feelings

    are some of the best information we can get about our present reality.
  5. Our bodies are not “meat sacks”

  6. Humans are complex, open, distributed systems.

  7. What do we know about complex distributed open systems? Hard

    to reason about Difficult to debug Constantly changing We can’t control them
  8. How do we work with such systems? We increase their

    observability. We get better at asking questions about the present state of the system and making choices based on that present state. Rinse and repeat as we guide those systems where we need them to go in the future.
  9. Somatics is a way to increase the observability of the

    complex distributed system that is our self.
  10. Somatics: “The field that studies the soma: ‘the body as

    perceived from within’” - Thomas Hanna
  11. Somatics: “feeling our livingness” - Richard Strozzi-Heckler

  12. Somatics: Embodied Self- Awareness

  13. Sensing the present reality: Exteroception: what’s going on outside me?

    Interoception: what’s going on inside me? Proprioception: where am I?
  14. Interoception in Action

  15. Coin Flip

  16. tails

  17. Heartbeat

  18. Can you feel your big right toe?

  19. We like to think that feelings are the opposite of

    facts, but feelings are actually our best access to the facts about ourselves in the present moment.
  20. Our sensations and feelings drive our actions whether we notice

    them or not.
  21. There’s no sensing without moving. It’s one system: the sensory-

    motor system.
  22. What’s more, you can’t NOT make changes based on your

    observations of your current state.
  23. “Anatomically speaking, your capacity to feel your sensations is inseparable

    from your ability to choose a wise course of action. In order to make good decisions, you must be able to sense your preferences.” — Amanda Blake Your Body is Your Brain
  24. Observability/embodied self- awareness: the better we can observe the system,

    the better choices we can make about how it needs to change
  25. But: we don’t have to know why we’re making a

    choice in order to rely on our somatic intelligence to do so.
  26. In fact, research shows we know things in our bodies

    long before we have cognitive access to the information
  27. But research also shows that the better we can sense

    our internal state as well as what’s going on around us —that is, bring it into our awareness, the better choices we can make.
  28. How do we get better at paying attention to what

    is going on inside us in the present moment? We practice.
  29. Uh-oh, I said “practice”! 
 Did I just trick you

    into attending a mindfulness workshop?
  30. Well, yeah. There are lots of ways to get better

    at interoception, but one of the best is the body-scan meditation, and yes, it’s a form of mindfulness practice.
  31. Everything we do that limits our access to our feelings

    reduces our ability to choose wisely
  32. But Amy: 1. I can’t feel my body! 2. I

    don’t like what my body is telling me! 3. My body is telling me things that don’t seem to be related to what’s happening ‘out there’. 4. My body tells me too much, I can’t tolerate it! 5. When I let my body lead I make dumb choices that hurt me!
  33. “If we do not live in our bodies we do

    not have to feel the pain of internal and external oppression.” - Richard Strozzi-Heckler
  34. Want more about oppression & somatics? Emergent Strategy by Adrienne

    Marie Brown
  35. How can you apply this to making career choices?

  36. “What is the next most elegant step?” — Adrienne Marie

    Brown, Emergent Strategy
  37. Anne Lamott: “the next circle of light into which I

    might step”
  38. Some choosing questions: Do you feel bored? What would be

    interesting? Do you feel suffocated? How can you get more air? Do you feel joyless? What would be fun? Do you feel excited? What is causing that and how can you get more of it in your life? Are you feeling burned out? What will help you rest? Are you feeling bored? What would offer some challenge? Are you feeling suffocated or trapped? What will give you more air? Are you feeling cynical, hopeless, or existentially empty? How can you reorient yourself in the direction of your values in order to find more meaning? Are you feeling joyless? What would be fun?
  39. Use tricks to access your feelings about something: - coin

    flips - tarot cards or other oracles - journaling - movement - poetry or other kinds of art Are you feeling burned out? What will help you rest? Are you feeling bored? What would offer some challenge? Are you feeling suffocated or trapped? What will give you more air? Are you feeling cynical, hopeless, or existentially empty? How can you reorient yourself in the direction of your values in order to find more meaning? Are you feeling joyless? What would be fun?
  40. Connect with your felt sense of yearning and your felt

    sense of caring.
  41. Caring is not an intellectual exercise. It’s an embodied experience.

  42. Do what “feels right”

  43. If you like where you’re going even if you can’t

    say why you decided to walk that way, congrats! You’re letting your body lead.
  44. “You only have to let the soft animal of your

    body love what it loves.” - Mary Oliver
  45. Why do I emphasize choosing over planning?

  46. Making a plan is different from making a choice

  47. We are bad at predicting what we will want in

    the future, and we’re especially bad at it if we ignore the best source of information we have about how we’ll feel in the future: how we feel right now.
  48. If you really want to make a plan… How do

    you want to feel in 5 years and what makes you feel that way now?
  49. Let’s wrap this up!

  50. “There’s a certain warmth and joy that emerges as we

    become in touch with the somatic reality of our lived experience. Our bodies now appear as encyclopedias of information about how we are dealing with our present transition.” — Richard Strozzi-Heckler
  51. “Sometimes we drug ourselves with dreams of new ideas. The

    head will save us. The brain alone will set us free. But there are no new ideas still waiting in the wings to save us as women, as human. There are only old and forgotten ones, new combinations, extrapolations and recognitions from within ourselves, along with the renewed courage to try them out.” - Audre Lorde “Poetry is not a Luxury” (italics mine)
  52. We don’t just make plans; we make choices. We make

    choices with our bodies. When we get better at listening to our bodies, we make better choices.
  53. references and more info: amynewell.com/railsconf2022 careers: [email protected] or DM me

    on twitter @amynewell