know you well, they propel you to live your preferred life.
"Friendship? Yes, Please!" - Charles Dickens
Coaching leaders & organizations towards
#1 – Declutter! Someone once told me that not every overly, ripe banana needs to be turned into banana bread. It’s okay to throw away rotting fruit. Are you surrounded by stuff? Is your physical environment at work or home so full of things requiring attention you don’t know where to start? Sometimes, we need to let things go. We hold on to physical things way beyond their shelf life because we assume there will be a dire need of it in the future. Rarely is this true, and when things are out of sight they are out of mind – giving space to focus on more important things. Along that same line, are your thoughts cluttering your brain? I find that clutter is an attention killer whether it is physical or invisible. Part of reducing clutter is quieting the racket in our brains and letting go of the thoughts that no longer serve us well. Toxic thoughts, such as past hurts, disappointments, failures and missed opportunities, add just as much debris to life as anything physical. Don’t let the clutter and pressure of making banana bread keep you from living your preferred life.
#2 – Friendship! The month of December is full of reading Christmas and Holiday cards with newsletters. We know more about our friends and loved ones now. We know about their kids' accomplishments, where they vacationed, and what losses/gains they experienced this past year. Through these written words, whether penned electronically or with ink, we feel a connection. Don’t let another 12 months go by before you feel this connection again. The annual newsletter shouldn’t be the only time we exchange stories about our lives with people that matter. Instead, live life together in regular connection so that when you read the next newsletter you can laugh and say, “I was there for that!” I often ask my coaching clients how well they are known by others. Many come back and say, not many know them well. Let others know you! Find new and creative ways to stay in relationships and make friends. When you are surrounded by people who
know you well, they propel you to live your preferred life.
"Friendship? Yes, Please!" - Charles Dickens
Every New Year brings opportunities to anticipate and be hopeful. As you reflect on your goals for 2014, look back first. How did you manage the clutter of 2013? How did you manage friendship this past year? Notice what you did well and make note of what you hope not to repeat – then let go and move forward.
As the year comes to a close we are already thinking about the New Year. Will we stay in our same job? Will we lose that extra weight? Will we finally get to that home improvement project that’s been on the back burner? Will we start exercising more and eating better? Our list is often filled with hard-to-do things that require enormous energy and significant changes from the status quo. And why is it that we feel we will have more energy in January than we’ve had the other 11 months of the year?
I’d like to make a suggestion for January that is less about doing, and more about thinking. Find your strengths!
When we do things that are strength-based we find ourselves naturally fueled. When our tanks are full, we have more energy for the things that tend to drain us or for the things we aren’t as skilled with. For instance, I can tolerate some project management (which is not my favorite thing to do) as long as I’ve got a strong client base of leaders I can regularly coach.
Make it a plan to reflect, think, solicit from others and journal about the things that could be defined as your strengths. Then play to those strengths. Be in conversation about your strengths with others. Find opportunities to use those strengths as much as possible! Do you love to develop and mentor others? When was the last time you were engaged in that strength-based activity? Do you enjoy “What if” strategy conversations but feel your job doesn’t allow that? Who can you find to dialogue with to allow that strength to surface?
When I coach, the first thing I start with is strengths. Many of my clients haven’t taken the time to realize and appreciate their strengths. From there we can explore many conversations that are possibility-based, versus coaching from a place of deficit.
What is on your New Year’s Resolution list? Does looking at that list immediately start to drain you? Consider putting it aside until you are clear on your strengths. Don’t know where to start?
Begin with Rom Rath’s book called Strengthsfinder 2.0 or go on-line to http://www.strengthsfinder.com. Take the short assessment that will identify your top five strengths, based on years of Gallup research. And at a minimum, have some fun with it and enjoy the exploration of being you!
I had a wise person ask me once, “By saying yes to this opportunity, what are you saying no to?” I had to pause and reflect on what I wasn’t sure I was willing to face. I was potentially saying no to important relationships in my life. It wasn’t an outright, “Let’s never spend time together again” type of “no”, but I knew when push-came-to-shove, the time with important people would be squeezed. Was I willing to let that happen? Was I willing to tackle this issue before it happened and accept accountability for it? Could I bring out the unintended consequences of my yes decision and fully explore them, or would I pretend my yes had no impact on anyone else, and feign surprise when life got stressful and relationships began to suffer?
The discipline of weighing decisions isn’t as simple as a pro and con list. There is a true discipline in saying no. As I like to say, “No is a complete sentence!” The problem is, we aren’t clear on what we are saying no to.
There is a phenomenon called the Doorway Effect. When we walk through an open doorway, our brains see it as a shift and sometimes purge, because what happened in the old room is less relevant in the new room. Have you ever gotten up to leave the room for something and then completely forgotten what you were doing? Or for some reason you are standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open and you don’t know how you got there? Darn you, Doorway Effect!
I think we’ve all experienced this Doorway Effect professionally. Have you ever gone to a meeting where the work was discussed, decisions were made, plans had been determined, and then everyone walked out of the room but the work stayed behind? Were you one of the people who later seemed confused on why things didn’t get accomplished and how the work was forgotten? I think we’ve all been there, and again, darn you, Doorway Effect!
If we say yes to something and walk through that doorway, can we afford to forget anything? Can we allow certain things to lapse? There is real wisdom in taking stock of all that we value in our current state before making a decision to say yes to something new. With intention we will be less likely to inadvertently say no to all those things that matter.
As New Year approaches, what do you want to say yes to? Are you clear on what you’ll be saying no to as a result? Take time to evaluate your current room before you walk through another doorway. The intention and effort will be worth it in the end.
This summer I picked up a book by Anne Kreamer called It’s Always Personal, Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace. I’ll start by saying I did not care entirely for the book. I found it difficult to read, but I admire anyone who has the stamina to write a book so I won’t use this blog to criticize her work. The author blends story with theory and then throws in some interesting aspects of neuroscience. It was the neuroscience that caught my eye and I continue to be drawn back to a specific portion of her book that deals with tears and why we cry. Tears are a controversial subject in that most people aren’t comfortable shedding them in front of a witness, and when they do they rationalize the tears in order to avoid feeling residual shame. For example, “I’m just really tired” or “I’m really stressed” or my favorite “I don’t know why I’m crying”. Good news – I can tell you why you’re crying!
There are different types of tears. There are basal tears that keep our eyes moist on a daily basis. Reflex tears wash out dust, eye lashes and bathe our checks when we cut onions. Then there are the psychic tears that are in response to something triggered by an emotional state. These tears carry higher concentrations of protein than the other two types. I liked how Anne puts it in chapter seven, “Psychic or emotional tears, because they are exceptional, force us and those around us to acknowledge that something important has just happened.” We cry because something has moved us emotionally and it is never about the tears. It is about the event. Some people tear up when something powerful and positive happens. That same event may move others to smile, laugh with joy or whoop and holler. Others tear up and cry when something painful is happening. Again, that same event may cause a rage in someone else, or cause another to go off in an angry rant or a silent shutdown. Reactions to any stimulus are going to be different, and yet we tend to demean our tears as a sign of weakness above all other responses.
As a coach, when I get the privilege of being witness to someone’s tears, I slow the drilling down because I know we’ve hit oil. The tears are a signal to me that the conversation has shifted into something very important for the client. If I wasn’t fully at attention before, I certainly am now. And yes, tears may come to a person by surprise, but that is only because they weren’t fully aware of how important that “something” was until now. I find the best response when someone is shedding tears is to ask what is behind the tears. When they apologize for the tears I like to remind them that their tears just tell me that something is very important to them. If they want to apologize for anything, apologize for the yawns, sighs and involuntary eye-rolls that we’ve perfected over time. Those biological responses are much more insidious, and indicate we’ve become indifferent and perhaps shamefully superior in our thinking. I’ll take tears over those hurtful responses any day.
How do you handle your own or other people’s tears? Can you shift your focus away from the tears, especially if they make you uncomfortable, and instead, focus on what the tears are about? Remind yourself that the tears indicate something important is happening!
Carrie Arnold, PhD, PCC, BCC
Principal Executive Coach & Consultant for The Willow Group (Writer, Reader, Trainer, Facilitator, Wife and Mom)