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90 Ideas: Dr. Shelly Farnan

System director for diversity and inclusion, 
Burrell Behavioral Health

Posted online

Watch the virtual 90 Ideas in 90 Minutes event and take a deep dive with the speakers via podcast here.

1. Meet your brain.

This is your life on brain science. Be mindful of and get curious about the brains of others, and always invest in and dispense hope. Brain science applies to every space – well beyond psychology and kindness, – into the spaces we frequent and enjoy daily: home, family, work, business, sports, faith, culture, racism and politics. Think of any space and know brain science is at play. Why? Our brains are survival brains, and they survive best when in healthy connection with others. Our brains develop based on what we have learned and, subsequently, are limited by what we haven’t learned. Now, when our brains experience hope and sense possibility, it produces the chemical dopamine. Dopamine motivates us to continue forward.

2. Check your pack.

Assumptions, bias and blind spots – we all have them. Some are key to our survival and others have outlived their expiration date and negatively impact us and others. Breaking news: This doesn’t mean you are bad or good! It means you are human. Let’s check our own packs, and create communities and spaces in which we all feel safe to check our packs and supportive enough to help check each other’s. Then, from our pack checks, lean in to the spaces we have yet to learn and know.

3. Get uncomfortable. 

It’s vital we know our history, our present and our privilege. Here’s how:
Our history books do not share an all-inclusive history. Fortunately, you and I can get caught up. Any chance you get, hear from and experience the likes of Lyle Foster and Leslie Anderson of the Facing Racism Institute, Wes Pratt of Missouri State University, Francine Pratt of Prosper Springfield, Tough Talks and the Missouri College Access Network, and Joe Yancey, retired leader of Places for People in St. Louis. 
Be curious about the following: nonpersonhood, systemic and institutional racism, 13,000 lynchings that occurred after slavery ended, land grants, access to legal documents and legal support, the Jim Crow laws, redlining, the Tulsa race massacre, “The New Jim Crow,” code switching, microaggressions, generational trauma, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and the difference between a protest and a riot.

4. Go platinum. 

Use the platinum rule in place of the golden rule. The golden rule – “Treat others the way you wish to be treated” – is really more about you than it is anyone else. Upgrade to the platinum rule: “Treat others the way they wish to be treated.” Welcome people to be their authentic selves, learn about who they are, then treat them the way they want and need to be treated. Affirm the identities of others. Pronouns matter. Pronouns save lives.

5. Grow your social capital.

Make new friends and keep the old – then introduce and connect them to each other. Outcomes in therapy are based on the relationship with the therapist. Outcomes in the world are based on our relationships with each other. The change of the future is rooted in relationship. When my brain sees a “you” and I’ve never seen a “you” before, my survival state kicks in and registers, “danger.” When I experience a “you” over time and my brain learns that you are no longer a threat, my survival state stops firing and I can now experience you as you are, a fellow human.

6. Be a validator and a disruptor.

To validate: Find the truth in the other person’s perspective. It doesn’t mean we agree with it or love it, just that we see the nugget of truth. There are six levels of validation; check them out and watch the short video, “It’s Not About the Nail.” 
To disrupt: Intentionally engage so as to interrupt the regular way of operating. Disruptors must first commit to learning beyond their worldview and experiences, then purposefully think and act differently. Speak up when you notice those who are not at the table, not making decisions or are not included. Speak up when those microaggressions register and discrimination occurs. Welcome and elevate the voices of those marginalized.

7. There’s nothing soft 
about soft skills.

Emotional intelligence and trauma-informed care are most valuable skills. There’s nothing soft about them. The core human needs are to be seen, known and loved. Emotions matter. We all have feelings. Just like breathing and thinking, they’re always happening and significantly affecting our functions. How we feel is linked to the world around us and is connected to our physical and mental health. In order to lead effectively and productively, we must be able to manage and care for our own feelings and those of others. I highly recommend The Missouri Model of trauma-informed care, The PersonBrain Model with Paul Baker, and Marc Brackett’s work and his RULER strategy.

8. SCIP before you PIP.

We’re pretty familiar with performance improvement plans, intended to help us meet our goals and improve ineffective behavior at work. How familiar are we with self-care improvement plans? Remember, self-care is not selfish; it is undeniably necessary, and it is whatever works to help you feel better, relieved, productive, filled up, etc. Before developing the PIP, SCIP first. Start with your SCIP. Is it in place? Have you been intentional about following it? Could your SCIP, or lack thereof, be interfering with your employees’ or team’s productivity? If you’re building the PIP, invest in understanding your employees’ SCIPs. Implement the SCIP, then reevaluate the need for PIPs.

9. Come, Be Well with us.

Burrell’s Be Well Community is rooted in brain science, and focused on self-care and connection, in which we bring science to life so that we experience the benefits of science in action – together. The BWC meets twice daily; once for our internal staff and once for the communities we serve. BWC offers private Be Well experiences for organizations, teams and groups. It spreads hope and inspiration across several social media platforms, and it connects individuals, organizations and communities locally, across the state and nationally. All are welcome.

10. Laugh and L.A.U.G.H. 

There are therapeutic and healing benefits to laughter! Be sure to check out Sebastian Gendry, Dr. Madan Kataria, laughter yoga and laugh clubs. Here’s an acrostic to help:

Limit exposure to negativity.

Anchor rituals and routines to create structure in our days.

Unite to stay as safely connected as possible.

Gentle/Grace with self and others.

Health for physical, emotional, social and family.


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