The Lift 012 | Planning for a Sustained Career and Lifelong Growth with Dr. Carol Pilgrim

The Podcast

An ABA Technologies Academy Podcast

 1.0 BACB, 1 Supervision

Price: $15.00

Linda LeBlan and Tyra Sellers

Linda A. LeBlanc, PhD, BCBA-D

Tyra P. Sellers, JD, PhD, BCBA-D


This podcast episode describes the importance of planning, self-monitoring, and thoughtful decision-making at critical choice points over the course of years and decades.  Three threats to a sustained, enjoyable career are explored along with recommended strategies to minimize each threat: 1) difficulties in transitioning to the workforce; 2) the loss of professional reinforcers; 3) and “burnout.”

Learning Checklist

What you’ll learn in the course and be able to do afterward

  1. Attendees will be able to identify how core interpersonal skills minimize risk to career enjoyment

  2. Attendees will be able to identify strategies to use when they need to make career choices

  3. Attendees will be able to identify the role of self-care in burnout prevention

Course Rating

"This course is recommended for BCaBA, BCBA, and students of behavior analysis who will be or are currently receiving supervision"

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Supervisor and Mentor book back coverThe Book

The book focuses on the importance of strong relationships and teaching higher-order skills throughout any supervisory endeavor. The authors provide a conceptually sound set of supervision practices that will guide the actions of those who aspire to become better supervisors or mentors at any point in their careers.

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Dr. Linda LeBlanc (00:06):

Welcome back to The Lift. This is episode 12. I'm Linda LeBlanc

Dr. Tyra Sellers (00:12):

And I'm Tyra Sellers.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (00:14):

We are so excited to have our special guest with us today. Dr. Carol Pilgrim is a professor at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. She not only has served in their department of psychology, she's also served in the higher education administration as an associate Dean. She has had a sustained, productive, amazing career in behavior analysis, and she's actually one of my heroes. The opportunity to have this time with her is very exciting to me. I'm lucky enough, in the last few years, to have had several of these opportunities to connect with her. That's been something that's really kept me interested in behavior analysis. I forgot to mention, she's also the current president of the association for behavior analysis, international. Welcome to Carol.

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (01:13):

Thank you so much, Linda. It's a real honor to be here and join you and Tyra.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (01:19):

I'm so excited to have you with us today.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (01:24):

We're gonna be talking about this notion of having a sustained career and continuing to grow and evolve throughout that career. We invest so much, early on, to have the opportunity to get in the game. The undergrad, the graduate work, the thesis, the dissertation, everything you do to try to get that first job and to think about all of the reinforcers that you might get. We often don't think 20 years down the road and what those reinforcers are going to be like, but they can really be different and amazing.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (02:15):

I agree. And we have a quote, as always, that will lead us into the content today. This quote is from Nelson Mandela and I mess up even the short quotes. I'm definitely gonna mess up this one because it's long, but it reads, "There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living." I think that sweeping feeling of, "You really need to be all in," and thinking about the now and your future, sets a great tone for what we're gonna be talking about today with you, Carol.

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (02:53):

Sounds wonderful. Nelson Mandela is such a great personal hero that those are true words of inspiration.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (03:01):


Dr. Linda LeBlanc (03:02):

Carol, you got your PhD from the University of Florida, and then have you spent your academic career at UNC Wilmington or did you have a different position before that?

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (03:19):

I went to UNCW directly from graduate school, Gainesville, Florida, never thinking that I would have my entire career there, but it worked out pretty nicely. I stayed and I was thinking about so many of the comments in the chapter that you two made, resonate deeply with me, but when you talk about some of those pivotal decisions, where you take your first job is right up there. [Laughing] Like I said, I wasn't planning on being there for almost 40 years now. Choose wisely. [Laughing] You don't know where you're gonna end up.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (04:02):

Similarly for me, after my internship in post, which was an important decision going to the Kennedy Krieger Institute, gave me a lot of career opportunities. I wasn't at all sure that I wanted to be a professor. In fact, I was pretty sure I didn't, but my major professor disagreed with me [Laughing] and so I was considering different options. If I had not decided to take a one year visiting assistant professor position, just to see what this gig might be like, I would not have ended up as a professor for 15 years with all of the expectations and resources and structure that supported me becoming a better scientist.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (04:55):

I love hearing both of your paths. I went back into clinical work right after I finished my PhD. My story doesn't sound like yours [Laughing], but that led me to some of my greatest mentors and best friends like Dr. Linda LeBlanc and led to many different opportunities. I think the idea is, the choices we make have so many different possible ramifications, and to be as thoughtful as you can. I could've never foreseen I would've ended up, after going into clinical work, going and getting a job at a university. You never know what opportunities are gonna present themselves.

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (05:42):

That's really true. I should add, it's not like I got my first job and never changed from there, because I've had several different hats, even at the same university. Same location, but really some very different positions.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (05:58):

Would you be willing to tell us a little bit more about those decisions and what led you to go pursue those things?

Dr. Tyra Sellers (06:06):

And in particular, Carol, I'm interested in what things you discriminate, "Here's a choice point or an opportunity." I think that's what folks often struggle with is even attending to those things.

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (06:23):

Yeah. Both of you raised really good points. I think for myself, I was in a regular academic progression. I had moved through the ranks and I was really happy with my research and my students. There were some other things going on, to be honest, in my academic department that didn't feel entirely comfortable to me. I think it was that being in touch with what makes me happy to go to work every day, versus that when you're driving into work and you get a little bit of a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. That's not good [Laughing] and those were the points at which I think I became a little bit more open to looking at some alternatives. At about that same time, an opening was posted for a position in the Dean's office at UNCW in the college of arts and sciences. I don't know that I would've looked seriously at that possibility if it had come a year or two earlier, but sometimes the timing of things, you just pay attention and I said, "Well, maybe I'll give this a shot. This could be an interesting time for me." I feel good about what's already going on. I got a handle on that. Let's try something new. It's a little bit similar to something Linda said a moment ago, that willingness to take another step and let's see what this does. What kind of new skills could I learn? What kind of increased impact might I be able to have by working at a different level? What can I learn about the broader systems outside of my department? Those all seem like very valuable possibilities and worth taking a shot at. That's when I applied and began my position as an associate Dean.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (08:35):

I loved that combination. The way you described there might be reinforcers over there, but a certain amount of “need a little something different right now” in that experience really changes the potential value of those unknown reinforcers, and sometimes leads you to be a little bit more willing to explore other things. It is important to notice those subtle changes in your enjoyment of your work experience, because there'll never be a time in my life when I won't want to be geeky and talk about science and also serve clients, and all of that. There are different times when you encounter things in your workplace that don't feel as comfortable. Sometimes you can respond to that by adding in something that's a little different, that maybe serves as a really nice distractor or substitute for a while.

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (09:45):

Yeah, for me too, it was a nice option because there was not a ton of risk involved. [Laughing] If I didn't like it, I still had my lab. I still had my students. I still could teach. My position in the department didn't go away. It worked out to be a win-win situation for quite a while. I was in that position for nine years. There were a number of administrative changes at my university, and then that position started having [Laughing] some different challenges as well. That was time for another switch and I went back to the department full-time. I wouldn't trade it. It was an invaluable experience. I learned so much that I think helped me become a better behavior analyst, maybe indirectly, because I did learn about the way systems have to work and how you can work within a system to affect change. Hopefully I'm able to bring some of that to bear, when I decide to maybe be involved in ABA at a higher level again. It's an interesting thing, a career, how you get these options before you and you decide which ones feel right at the moment. It can be for a variety of different reasons, I think. Sometimes you take the plunge and try it out.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (11:21):

The chapter, and Carol and Linda, both have talked about these critical decision points and that they're important to pay attention to, or make space for if you're going to have a long career. A career that is maybe exciting and grows and changes with you. One thing that I have found with folks that maybe are a little bit junior to me, who may be asking about career advice or things like that, is that often they struggle with making a decision. They're worried it's the wrong decision. They're worried there could be a better decision. I think it would be so fantastic if you two might share some of your takes on how far you go with say a ProCon analysis and ruminating over something before you just say, I'm not gonna make a decision or you pull the cord and make a decision. I think folks need to hear that. My take is at some point you just have to make a choice. If it turns out that it didn't put you in the place you wanted to be, or you don't like that place. Guess what, everybody? You get to make another decision. Just make a decision. What has worked for you both, or what do you counsel or tell folks when they're coming to you with decisions that they need to make?

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (12:44):

One of the things I always say is, "Don't worry about that until it's your decision." Don't turn down the job you haven't been offered. I think that notion just apply, because you learn a lot more about something in the application process, whether it's at a university, whether it is part of a change in administration, whether it's a promotion in an organization, or what have you. The process of applying gives you the opportunity to think about what questions you wanna ask. They're not just interviewing me, I'm interviewing them and I don't need to have any anxieties until I get the offer. If you're lucky enough to get multiple offers, then okay, now you really start thinking about which of these are right for me and offer me what I want. I am part of a dual career couple, which adds a little bit of an extra layer. Both my husband and I were professors and in related fields. We have slightly different takes on it, but those not in behavior analysis could easily see us and think we're identical. Sometimes you get lucky. There were several open positions on the market when we were looking, and there were several where there were two near each other or in the same department. We did have a choice to make that was really about these all seeming like apples, but that might mean we are not thinking about some component of it, that's a differentiator. Tyra, I know you have talked about this too. We had to make our decisions together. At some points, we made our decisions separately, at later points in our career. Part of it was about that notion of what I want my day to be like, what I want my life to be like. I also rose through the ranks and higher education administration probably would've been the next step. I can remember thinking I'd try this 15 years ago, but what I didn't end up doing was running a human service organization, the way that I had thought I really wanted to, and had even thought at some point about wanting to be part of a lifespan disabilities Institute, like at University of Kansas. I thought would I rather be a Dean or associate Dean? Running how colleges work or would I rather be a Dean running how ABA services work for people with special needs? The second one felt like the days that I wanted to have. Carol, what about you?

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (16:08):

What I love about [Laughing] talking to you two and reading the book as well, is that you really force me to try to articulate some things that I've always just done and never really [Laughing] had to say. In making decisions, I don't know that I have one single strategy. It depends on the particulars of the choice. I always found it invaluable, once you do get to the point where the choice is offered, talking to good friends and colleagues. Especially ones who have been in similar positions and just not to ask for what I should do, but just talk through with me. [Laughing] What I'm looking at here, often a chat with someone else. I try to do this with my students or former students, as well as not to give the guidance, but to ask some questions, to help prompt some directions for thinking. It's that circle of colleagues that can be very useful often in saying, "You know you don't like to do that," [Laughing] "You know that will drive you crazy," or "This is right up your alley. You really could have fun with this." That feedback can be very invaluable. At the end of the day, though, I think you get a sense from talking with the people in the spot where you're thinking of going. Whether that's gonna be a good fit. I like something that Linda mentioned a moment ago, "What am I gonna be doing on a daily basis?" What's my day gonna be like? It's nice to think in terms of the big picture grand endpoint, but what makes you happy [Laughing] in your career? Am I having fun? I don't wanna cast that the wrong way. There's always gonna be parts of any position that aren't fun. From moment to moment, but am I gonna be enjoying my life on a daily basis? That's what you really wanna get a crystal ball to show you. Unfortunately, those don't exist yet. You gotta take your best guess.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (18:43):

That's right. Tyra, you've been super brave at making change already multiple times in your career. I know that you've thought through that in various ways. Would you be willing to talk a little bit about that?

Dr. Tyra Sellers (19:02):

Yeah. Like Carol, I struggle, and I've shared in previous episodes, I struggle with tacking a lot of my covert behavior. I hate to be non-behavioral and say I'm just intuitive. I do the things, because that sounds terrible. Clearly I am responding to my learning history and the environment, but I'm obviously not really good at attending to and discriminating those things well. I suppose all I can say is I'm not scared of getting it wrong. I'm more scared of being regretful or missing an exciting opportunity where I could have potentially failed miserably, but in doing so, I would've learned a lot. I suppose to me, if a choice point involves the choice between something great, but sustained and similar versus something great, but different that will push me. I'm more likely to allocate my choices towards the new thing or the thing that's a challenge. There may be something in my history. I'm not a risk taker or anything like that. I don't think I get bored easily. I've been married for almost 30 years, so clearly I don't have commitment issues, [Laughing] but I like to continue to learn and I like a little bit of discomfort. I suppose for me, some of those decision points are if I can detect that there's a learning opportunity that is exciting to me. Then I really do make a list of reinforcers. What do I love about my current situation? Can I have that or an approximation of that or better in the new situation? Is their new learning? Then I'm good to go. I suppose that would be it. Just know that you're gonna make some mistakes that you were like, "Ugh, that was not the best choice I could have made." You just make a different one. That's okay.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (21:25):

Well, and I think what you just described is really being able to articulate your values, your reinforcers, this is what I like. This is what I can tolerate, and this is gonna be a no go [Laughing], that's just a hard pass for me. I don't wanna be in an environment where there's this or that or the other thing.When you can do that, you really can bring a lot more to your decisions rather than just that intuitive, intuition's a good thing too. It's very often what we have before we formulate and set out loud what the values and reinforcers are. I do think that sometimes a promotion seems valuable in and of itself, and Carol and Tyra, you were in the academy as well. Here's the way that works: You're gonna bust your butt for a certain number of years. They're not only gonna decide whether you get a promotion, they're gonna decide whether you get to keep your job. [Laughing] If you are on a tenure track and then there'll be another promotion after that perhaps, but the promotions are very few and far between and in the private sector, that's not the case. The promotions can actually come very quickly and the promotion opportunities could come because of somebody else's needs, not yours. We need a whatever, a clinical director or a director of what have you. Starting a new thing and you might be capable and offered that promotion. In fact, it might mean it's a wildly different job. I think that if you really don't know what your values and your reinforcers are, it seems like I'd be crazy not to take a promotion. Well, of course I should do that. Yet, sometimes that can erode, what feels like it erodes is your love of the field. What it actually erodes is your happiness in your current circumstances. Have either of you seen situations, no need to give names, but where someone maybe took what seemed like a promotion and an advancement and it just made him unhappy?

Dr. Tyra Sellers (24:14):

Yeah. Carol, have you?

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (24:19):

I have. I know the world of academics better than the private sector, but often promotions may be easier to come by than raises [Laughing], but you might only have an opportunity for a raise if you do change to a different position. People will be in life situations where they feel like the raise is important because they're taking care of their families, etcetera. It always sounds good to make more money of course, but when that dramatically changes the job, and it often does, I've seen that backfire badly in a couple of cases. Not only was the person miserable, but they couldn't really excel at the position, because it was so different than what their skillset was and what their reinforcers really involved. It was terrible to see it happen in real time. Sometimes counseling the person to "maybe this wasn't the best move" is a good strategy at that point. It can work, that match between what you're signing on for and what you're going to be able to enjoy, and do well at. It needs to be there.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (26:00):

Yeah, I agree. Those are really good examples. I have seen similar situations. I think what commonly happens is because someone is good at what they're doing, people make the mistake to assume that they will be good at the next level, which is sometimes absolutely the case, but sometimes not. I think that's something to watch out for each of us in our careers, right? Just because I'm really solid at this does not necessarily mean I either have the skillset or want to develop the skillset to be good at the next thing. That usually comes from the outside where someone else is like, "Hey, Linda said I need someone to fill this position. You do great at your job." The question is cool, but what about what I'm doing great now? Will it translate into me doing great then? I have seen one instance and Linda, you may have seen this once or twice, where someone really thinks that they want that job. They've talked themselves into that's what I want. Maybe in one instance, I even thought you really do want it because they seemed so convicted. When they got into the position, they knew what it entailed, but they didn't like it and they weren't good at it. That feels terrible.

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (27:26):

Yeah. You can be a really good scientist and a terrible department chair, [Laughing] just as an example. People who decide, "Yeah. I'd like to be chair of the department." It can be a very different skillset for sure.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (27:45):

That, to me, is one of the biggest differences when you switch from doing the content of your job to managing people.

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (27:56):


Speaker 1 (27:57):

Who might do the content of your job. Those are different skill sets, different interpersonal skill sets, different decision making skill sets. You are more of a facilitator than you are a doer, and it's not always the easiest transition and it's not always enjoyable. I know many people who get jobs in ABA, the switch from managing the services that are provided to their clients, to managing and supervising people who now do that task can be a difficult one. It's this combo of, "I no longer get to do that stuff I really loved and why I got into this field and I have to do these other things that I never imagined that I would be doing and that I actually don't like." [Laughing] That really can be quite a one, two punch. I have seen it just a few times and when I have seen this, I was so admiring of the people who made the decision, but I've seen a few times where people realize that and said, "Nope, give me back my old job, please." I was amazing at that and I wanna continue to be amazing and that's not always possible, but it's more possible than you think, if you can be brave enough to ask for that. You're in an environment where the people in it want to see you be successful and are gonna benefit from your success in whatever domain. It's scary to do that, because we have these wacky rules about if you're a successful person then that means you need to succeed at all of the things. Now this is your thing. How are you going to succeed at that and succeed and be happy are not always hand in hand. Indeed. Well, Carol, one of the things in addition to your switch into administration in academia, you have also been involved in various aspects of our field, in various leadership positions. What has that been like to add that into your professional experience? What do you get from those kinds of things?

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (30:45):

When you were talking about finding your own values and reinforcers in your career, I would list my involvement with our professional organizations and journals as being the very top of that list. I think of those kinds of positions, very much as service positions. It's a way to really try to have some give back to the field that has given me everything that's provided my entire career and so many of my own reinforcers. I just got brought up as a young academician on, "This is what you do." You're benefiting from these professional organizations. You need to try to help them work as well. In providing those kinds of services, you have the opportunity to learn so much more about the field and make so many wonderful friends and colleagues, and just learn about different parts of what goes on in the field in ways that you would never contact from just reading the journal articles. When you're talking to the scientists, visiting their institutions and feeling the passion from their students, that's what makes all the rest of it worth doing. [Laughing] You remember that this is a much broader enterprise we're all a part of. You can get really locked into your day to day work, but we're having a broad impact as a field and as a science and all the parts need to work together well to help that be as successful as possible. Being able to be part of that is really important to me.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (32:53):

Well, I have a question that follows that for both you, Carol and Linda. Knowing your values, great. Knowing your reinforcers, great. Knowing what you don't like, great. What are some strategies? You both have had very, very rich sustained careers that have included absolutely crushing your job, but also doing all of these other things that have frankly benefited the profession, have benefited me and so many others. What are some strategies that you use to make sure that you can continue to do your job? Including the stuff that isn't on that list of ice cream and candy and potato chips, but you still have to do it and make time for all of these other things that are so critically important for you to continue to stay passionate and hopefully make those yuckier days better. How do you make time for that? How do you keep track of it? How do you stay motivated to do those things?

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (34:04):

I'm the last person in the world who should give advice on this, because I do it by working all the time and over committing. [Laughing] Not always, but I get excited about things. When I saw women in behavior analysis organization forming, I was full and I was new. I was soon to be coming into even more demands. I was like, "So what? I wanna do this. This is amazing and it's gonna really add value." I might just have to shift some priorities and even change some of my organization and time management strategies. I'm not saying everyone should do this, but I have primarily done it if I just can't say no, which I can't say no. If I just remember that. [Laughing] If I just can't say no, I think through, "Okay, if I'm gonna do it and it matters enough to me that I can't say no, how am I gonna say yes and crush it?" It matters to me to not do a half baked job and then I start thinking about, "Okay, what could I change? How could I be more efficient on that? Where could that fit?" Sometimes you do get over committed and then you pull it back. I've always got a one year, three year and five year plan for digging out of the hole. [Laughing]

Dr. Tyra Sellers (35:49):

Linda, you need a weed whacker. Get out of the weeds.

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (35:54):

Yeah. I agree. I try to, before agreeing, be more selective now than I have been at points in my past. I've learned a little bit [Laughing] and really tried before taking on something new because I'm like Linda. If I can't really give it my all and do a good job and feel like I can bring something to the task, then I should say no. Absolutely. If it's something I feel really committed to that I do feel like I could make a contribution. My first, my next question to myself is, "Where will it fit? Exactly where can I fit that in? Can I fit it in?" Thinking that through before committing, I wish more people would do that because I think lots of individuals feel like they wanna be involved in leadership roles and maybe take on too much, too rapidly at a point where they're not making much of a contribution. That doesn't help their career trajectory. If you get a reputation as someone who sits on committees, but is hard to schedule around and doesn't really pull their share of the load, you're not gonna get invited to be on the next committees. It's really important to think that through before jumping in. It's not ever easy, but I think that's a necessary step before saying yes.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (37:38):

I love all of that. I also have trouble saying no. A strategy that I recently have tried that is helping is even if I really wanna say yes, and even if I could say yes and do it, I'm stopping and saying, "Is there someone else who could do this better than I could?" That has been really great, because there are some things that I haven't had to say yes to. There is empirically someone better positioned, better matched, more motivated with more time than me. I also get that the added benefit of doing good in the world is getting the heck out of the way and facilitating other people doing good in the world.

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (38:25):

Yeah, or even if someone couldn't do it better than you, is there someone who could do a really good job who this would be a good springboard for? That's a really important contribution to be able to make as well. Now, here's somebody who could take this on. I think it's just the skills you might not have thought of, right?

Dr. Tyra Sellers (38:48):


Dr. Linda LeBlanc (38:49):

I think now being the editor of JABA and a few years into this, I will say it's been an interesting opportunity to help other people get their papers published and to make their papers better, and to help my AEs get a little recognition in the field. What I found so beneficial years back when I was an AE, is having to see so many papers and make decisions really honed my ability to see, "That's gonna pay off. Yeah, not so much. That's not gonna move the field forward," or what have you. The shift, at some point in your career, to the majority of what you do is helping other people get farther along and leveraging some of your time and effort against all of their great skills and knowledge and opportunity. I love that and I'm not having to write all those papers that got published in JABA. I just gotta read 'em and offer a few thoughts. There's some good stuff with that too.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (40:20):

[Laughing] I love that. I wonder if you two would be willing to share some of the strategies, either that you have learned or put into place for yourself or that you try to teach your mentees, your supervisees, your trainees, around how to keep an eye out for career longevity, how to manage stress, how to look for and address burnout before you're like, "Forget it. I'm gonna go be a barista at Starbucks." What tools do you all use or what strategies do you give to other folks?

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (40:57):

I think this is one of the most important things you can do as a mentor. To see someone invest so much time and effort to get started in their career and then 3, 4, 7 years in decide, "I'm gonna go do real estate," or whatever it is. It feels like a loss for them and a loss for us. Very often what I see is that they think this isn't the field for them, when in fact, a few of their skills are off and aren't quite where they need to be to be able to handle the everyday coming at you, so that your head is above that with a view to the impact that you're having and that opportunity to savor your reinforcers. For me, it really starts with those core professional skills. If you are struggling with them, everything seems hard. If you're really great at these, everything seems easier and it might seem easy enough and that's organization and time management, problem-solving and your interpersonal skills. Everything's harder if you can't get along with people. If you can get along with people and your day to day interactions are generally good, reinforcing and smile laden. [Laughing] Most things seem like you can do this and you give yourself that cushion. For me, that's probably one of the first things I always look at is, "Are you sure you really have a waning interest, or is it just that it feels so effortful all the time?"

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (43:08):

It's really nicely said. I would just add to that. I think that's the place to start, but sometimes the person has significant skills, but they're not a good match with the particular position they happen to have. Maybe then the skill set is how to look or other options, because there are some bad jobs out there. There just are positions that are wrong, either in general [Laughing] or for that individual, but they don't need to give up the field because their current position is not right for them. Some really realistic self-assessment of where the issues fall is important. I would just add too, staying connected with the field more broadly through our professional organizations, I think is another way to really maintain that contact with why you got involved in the first place, even if your current situation is not perfect right now.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (44:21):

Yeah. I think all of those things are yes. Listeners, just make a checklist. Think about those things for yourself, teach those things to your trainees. I have one suggestion and mine is very specific. Pick a topic outside of your area and cultivate that to whatever degree you can. For example, when you go to a conference, pick a talk that's completely outside of your area. I promise you, you will leave that talk with probably a renewed energy and maybe some new ideas for your application, for your profession or for your area. That has always been really helpful for me. I'm a social person, I don't have social anxiety. I love conferences, but at every big conference I get a little overwhelmed and I definitely suffer from the, "I don't belong here. Everybody's smarter than me." I purposefully put myself in a situation where I don't know anything about this topic when I go. I'm amazed at how smart people are. I'm also amazed at myself that I can understand what they're talking about. I do feel smart, and that's always been really helpful for me. I don't know if you all have any very specific, "Try this," if you know your meal is too salty, "Try this." That's kind of how I think about it.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (45:48):

I love it. Yeah. Potatoes absorb the salt. That's what you do. If your soup gets too salty. Tyra, have seen you do this and Carol, I've seen you do this. Pat Friman also talks about this. Work hard when you're working and then enjoy your time off. I think all of us can get a little muddled, right? Where we feel like we're working all the time or what have you, or our stimulus control is all "awhack" if that's a word, but I just said it. At least for us it's a word [Laughing]. I think one of the things that I've gotten better at, and I've had to as I've taken on these additional big duties, is when I talk about time management, I talk about planning all the hours and using all the minutes. Sometimes you use those minutes for productivity, but sometimes you use those minutes to catch your breath and to make yourself a cup of tea that smells lovely [Laughing] and to walk outside and just feel the sunshine on your face for a minute. I think that's something that you could do almost every day, multiple times a day, even in a busy scheduled day. If you wrap up that prior thing a couple minutes early, you could just make a decision of, "What small thing could I do right now to boost my spirits?" Maybe it's a good smelling lotion. Obviously I'm a real sensory person, but those little things, when they fall out, things can start to feel hollow pretty quickly and overwhelmingly.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (47:55):


Dr. Carol Pilgrim (47:56):

I like that. We have all kinds of devices that will signal us when we need to stand up and walk around. [Laughing] We need a device to signal us to contact a reinforcer, even if it's just a small one. [Laughing] Brighten up your day. I'm also, I have to say, a big fan of vacations. [Laughing] I think everybody needs vacations and they don't have to be expensive or flashy. Stay vacations can be good too, but where you really take time, even if it's just a weekend where you don't get on the computer, don't pay attention to the emails and you make some time for you and your loved ones, and not let anything interfere with that. That's critically important to schedule into [Laughing] busy schedules as well. [Laughing] It's always worked for me. Yeah.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (48:57):

I love that.

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (48:58):


Dr. Tyra Sellers (49:00):

Yeah. It's a recharging. I think what I hear from you is that go into it purposely. Don't have one foot in. You need to commit, because you can't be feeling guilty about it. You can't be thinking, while you're sipping that lovely smelling tea out on the patio, "I should be X, Y, Z, right now." You need to say, "From this time to this time, I am giving myself permission to not think about those things and to do these other things or do nothing." That is something I am still learning because I very much will sometimes be one foot in both places. It's not fair to anybody because I'm not doing anything well. I'm not recharging well, and I'm not working well. I'm obviously not honoring those around me. I love the idea of that commitment to this is my time and I deserve it and it's okay. I'm gonna be better when I come out the other side, I'm gonna do better.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (50:06):

That's gotta be your wellness rule. That combats some of the other rules that sneak in on us that you should be doing that work. Whatever it might be. If you're gonna use a "should", you should let yourself enjoy something. I'm okay with that one. [Laughing]

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (50:35):

Absolutely. We're supposed to know about reinforcers, right? [Laughing]

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (50:41):

That's exactly right.

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (50:44):

It's work hard when you're working, and relax hard when you're relaxing.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (50:50):

And know what those relaxing things are, because I will say this, and I've been in these shoes sometimes, if you get a little too far down that path of whether you call it burnout, fatigue, overwhelmed, you can't remember what your reinforcers are. When the free moment comes, you're like, "Whoa, what do I do? Maybe I'll take a nap." You have to really remind yourself and recontact and reinvigorate your reinforcers to experience them again. I think that note of savoring your reinforcers is a great one to end on, and I have savored this reinforcer of having Carol Pilgrim join us today. Thank you, Carol, for being with us. Just also for all that you've done as a leader in our field and for being part of our professional lives.

Dr. Carol Pilgrim (51:52):

Thanks so much. I thoroughly enjoyed today. Thanks for the invitation.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (51:57):

What a gift this time has been. Thank you so much.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (52:02):

Thanks everyone for joining us on this episode of The Lift and we hope you'll listen again.


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