Mapping Yourself in Santa Barbara

Each month, CEO Rajiv Mehta, Atlas Advisor Dawn Nafus, and Susan Williams head to Santa Barbara to meet with a handful of people who have committed to the “Mapping Yourself” series of workshops. The workshops are an opportunity for participants to learn deeply about themselves and their situation so that they can better identify new ways of managing efforts, or find additional comping strategies.

Mapping Yourself is a 3-month project sponsored by the Santa Barbara Foundation. It’s a first of its kind anywhere and open to family caregivers in Santa Barbara County.

Below is a Q&A with Rajiv and Dawn about the workshop:

What is unique about Mapping Yourself?

Mapping Yourself is a first-of-its-kind experiment to see how experts in self-tracking can help family caregivers better understand their own caregiving activities and lives. The experts are creating new methods, or adapting existing methods, for collecting data about the participants’ individual situation. The participants then try them, and then the group jointly discusses what was learned — about the both the practical usefulness of the method, and what the collected data means.


How is it adding to research about family caregiving?

We aim for two types of learning. One is to learn about the usefulness of various new methods for collecting and analyzing data about family caregiving, to both the caregivers themselves and  researchers. The other is to assess the value of expert coaching — does the involvement of the coaches make a significant difference in how easily, how much the caregivers learn about themselves? Does it change how they relate to their situation?


What are the goals; what do you hope to impart on the participants?

For the participants, the main goal is that they have a better understanding of their own lives, their own care situations. Such self-awareness opens the door to possible changes and improvements in their lives, through awareness of what needs to be and could be changed by the caregiver himself or his immediate family, through better self-advocacy. Even if circumstances are not changeable, more broadly caregiving is often invisible and underappreciated work. Even a deeper appreciation for the work that caregiving entails can help those involved value it and relate to it in a positive way. We also hope that the experience — of participating in the project and interacting with the group — is itself fun and satisfying.


What have been some of the challenges of the workshops beyond availability of the participants?

For the workshop leaders, the primary challenge is devising self-tracking methods for caregivers that are easy-to-use and meaningful. For participants (already stretched by their caregiving responsibilities) it is finding the time and energy to do the self-tracking, especially using unfamiliar and often unpolished tracking methods.


What is the learning curve in self-tracking like?

As with learning in general, this can vary significantly from person to person. The first step on the learning curve is simply getting comfortable with trial-and-error, which goes along with all self tracking practices. Two common and related challenges are to refrain from judging oneself and to refrain from rushing to solutions. It is best to first just see what is, to take the time to understand how things vary over time and what might be causing such variations, and to then judge whether any changes are possible and/or worthwhile.