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Leadership is a Practice, not a Role

For over 35 years I’ve had the opportunity to be in leadership roles, and that’s not even counting the years I served as the eldest of 5 siblings.  Now there’s where I really began to understand what it means to be out front.  Let me share with you, its not all fun and games!  However, I took on my leadership roles with vigor and responsibility.  People could count on me.  Through my ‘leadership role’ experiences, I came to understand what leadership really is-a daily practice.

We practice many things on a daily basis, which turn into habits and routines – some serving us and some not!  Many of those habits and routines are directed toward the tangibles in our lives; taking care of our bodies, our homes, our families, our work.  However, our behavior and the way we show up in the world is largely driven by the intangibles; the way we think, the meaning we make of things, what we believe and what’s important or of value to us.  It is in the intangibles that I have found my leadership power and the ability to influence others.  Over the next few writings, I want to share these practices with you because they have had such a positive effect on my life and my relationships.

Leadership Practice #1 – Own what is yours to own! 

What is my contribution to the situation I’m in?  Sometimes it is so painful to turn the spotlight on self.  To demonstrate this practice, let me share a recent situation I found myself in.

Recently I bought a car.  Prior to purchasing the car, I’d been in a two week tornado of work catching up from being on a half months vacation.  Going to car dealers and dealing with the ‘sales pitches’ was not on my top ten list of things to do.  However, my car had broke down twice on vacation and I travel a lot for work so it had to be done.  I was in the stress pot of wo991F9CF7-rk; impatient, and generally just wanted to get the whole ordeal over with.  I made a hasty choice!  I bought the car and the next day had to drive 150 miles for work.  I quickly realized the seats were not right for me, in fact they really irritated my sciatica.  Aghhh, so here I was with a car that was not going to work for me.  I started down the road of what was the dealership going to do for me.  I was the victim and the car dealers were the ‘mean guys.’

After a week of wasting time trying to get the dealer to do something, I woke up.  No one twisted my arm to buy this car.  In fact, our sales guy was great.  No pressure, just service.  I made the choice to look for a car when I was stressed and very tired.  I made the hasty choice to purchase the car.  Now, knowing I had a problem with the seats, what could I do?  Solution came much quicker once I took ownership.  The seats will be ‘re-foamed’ by a company that specializes in car upholstery and my bum will be happy!

I have found that when you take ownership and practice it on a daily basis, you get to solution and the positive side of life much more quickly.  Can you imagine how our world would change if everyone engaged with Leadership Practice #1?

What Really Robs us of our Time and Energy?

Things that rob us of time and energy…..one of the most common topics that come up in coaching!  I often assess my own use of time as my ‘endless energy’ now has a definitive end-which is about 9 pm every evening! I’ve also learned over the years that I can’t manage time-time is what it is.  I can only manage myself within the time I have.  External demands will always be there. If we are alive, we can count on this!  What happens in our external environment we have very little control over.

What we do haveClockInGrass control over is what we believe about those external demands. For instance, if I believe that I have to be available 24/7 to serve and keep my customers, well I won’t have much of a life!  That belief is robbing me of time and energy.  I can choose to let go of that belief and create a new one: I believe I can best serve my customer when I’m physically and emotionally healthy. This belief is aligned with something I value (health) and makes it easier for me to design my life to match this new belief.

I like to call our Values and Beliefs our OS-operating system.  Values speak to what is core to us, what is really important.  Beliefs come from the meaning we make of our experience, or we inherit them or are taught them through different groups we’re a part of.   We can change our beliefs if they no longer serve what we want for ourselves.  So if you feel robbed of your time and energy, start asking yourself,  “what belief am I operating under and what value am I not honoring by giving my time and energy to this?”

Here are a few common ‘beliefs’ that rob us of our time and energy.

I believe I have to say yes, especially to my boss, partner, kids, church, volunteer organization, whew! If we say yes to everything outside of us, we are saying no to us.  We overextend.  We act as if we’re kids that have been let loose in a candy store.  Sure it is fun to grab hold of and eat all the candy you can, but we all know what we will be cleaning up if there is not stopping point! We just cannot be all, have all.

Antidote: Try on a new belief-I believe if I say no to ____________ then I will have more time and energy for what is really important to me.   Learn the word NO, or a variation of it.  Having the ability to say no to saying yes to everything is empowering.  In order to say no, try prioritizing according to your values.  Get in the habit of asking this question: If I say yes to this, what am I willing to say no to.  This is a great way to keep you from overextending.

I believe I can do 10 things at once and that will make me more effective with my time.  Much research has shown that multitasking actually robs us of time and energy.  To be honest, I still buy into the belief that when I have more on my plate I get more done because I can multitask.  Sure I can do a lot at the same time but it really does cause an internal stress that translates into lack of energy.  I am in the process of changing this old belief system.

Antidote: Practice presence and mindfultasking.  Being mindful of the present task I am working on is a challenge for me because I really do want to do 3 things at once.  However I am already experiencing a shift in bringing tasks to completion.  Turn off your notifications, your email, step away from the phone!  Present Mindfultasking-try it for a while.  You wont be disappointed.

I believe it is a selfish waste of time to spend time on myself when so many others need me.  Who hasn’t fallen into this trap at one point or another in their lives?  Self care, self nurturing, self love, translated into selfishness.   Perhaps you were taught to serve, serve, serve and in that serving there wasn’t time to honor and care for your life.  Or maybe we were taught through our own life experiences that we were not worth caring for.  This is one area where I have seen deep pain in the human experience. It is our inability to be okay with self care that we set ourselves up for lack of energy and time.  We age more quickly and we limit what our bodies can do for us.  Our bodies, our minds, our spirits need to be fueled, need to be taken care of the same way we take care of others, our homes, our cars, our jobs, etc. So how do we turn this belief system around when it may be deeply ingrained?

Antidote: First, create a new belief: I believe when I take care of myself, I have more life to give, and that the giving is selfless because my needs are met.  This was the belief I tried on and then I began the work of designing my schedule first around my self care knowing that then my serving would be more selfless.  What I am discovering is I have just as much time as before but much more energy!  It has taken some getting use to in prioritizing my self care…..a work in progress, however I will say that changing my belief about self care has had the greatest impact on my life.

Remember, your operating system is your values and beliefs.  Becoming aware of your beliefs and if your beliefs are supporting you and what you value will help you to make empowered choices of how to use your time and energy.

3 Ways to Condition Your Brain for Mental Gymnastics

Mental Gymnastics?  Think about all the flipping, twisting, jumping, swinAustralian artistic gymnast, Lauren Mitchell, performing a layout step-out on the balance beam during the 41st World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in London, United Kingdom, in 2009.ging, flying, and the list goes on, that you see when you watch a gymnastic event.  Then think about what happens in your head when you have A LOT going on-enter mental gymnastics.  When we are not use to ‘performing’ mental gymnastics we can enter into overwhelm and shutdown ending in a paralyzed state.

For twenty-five years of my life, I coached the sport of gymnastics.  In the gym, I quickly learned that when a gymnastic skill is broken down into smaller parts of the whole skill the learning was much quicker.  I also discovered the value of skill drills, having the gymnast repeat the smaller part over and over again (they hated this!) until they didn’t even have to think about what they were doing.

To draw the correlation, when we are on the precipice of change, growth, or overload, the WHOLE of the mess is too much to comprehend and think about at once.  So here are three things you can do to train your brain to perform mental gymnastics.

MAKE THE INTANGIBLE THOUGHT TANGIBLE

I call this the ABCD method-A Brain Clearing Dump!  When you make the intangible thought tangible, it allows you to tap into your senses to help you actually deal with the mess.  Writing things down, you tap into your sense of touch.  You can see your thoughts, which may help you articulate them better to someone, then tapping into your hearing.  You have de-cluttered your head.  Now you have room for strategy and creativity.  This would be like setting up the gymnastic equipment in a gym for the gymnast to do their work of performing.  Your gymnastic equipment is your tangible list of thought.

SORT AND CATEGORIZE; BREAK INTO SMALLER CHUNKS OF THOUGHT

Looking at your list of thoughts, ask yourself,  ‘what goes together?’  Or take it from the perspective of  ‘one of these things does not belong with the others’.  (Feel like you’re on Sesame Street?).  Then name the categories in a way that it makes sense to you.  There is power in this process because without really knowing it you are conditioning your brain to make mini-decisions, mini-choices.  Sorting and categorizing gives you the ability to see, move around and play with your mess of thought.  Before you know it, you have conditioned your brain to be a bit more agile, flexible and powerful in making choices and decisions.

ASK YOURSELF QUESTIONS

Have you ever experienced a situation when you are trying to remember a person’s name, a name of a song, or a place and you just can’t bring it forward?  But the whole time you keep saying to yourself, what was the name of that ____________, oh well, I can’t remember.  Then perhaps an hour later, a day later or even a week later out of nowhere the answer pops in your head? Your brain never stops looking for the answer to an open-ended question.  Using what, how, and where questions allow your brain to work for you.  Ask the question and let go.  I have found if I’m patient and pay attention, the answer always presents itself.

These three practices, as simplistic as they may seem, allow you to condition your brain for the really big mental gymnastics that happen in life events such as changes in job, family, lifestyle, health, relationship, and much more.  It’s often the simple practices that create the biggest shifts.  Practice these and do a mental flip….don’t flip out!

Creating Your ‘Starbucks’ Experience: 4 Area’s to Define Your Unique Work Experience.

starbucks

When I think of ‘Creating an Experience’ I think of Starbucks, a company that sells coffee.  However, Starbucks does not just sell coffee, do they?  Starbucks is a company that created an ‘experience’ of coffee.

So much so, that many coffee companies followed suit in creating aesthetic and service ‘experiences’ that left the costumer wanting to come back for more.  Creating atmosphere  and service which tie coffee to conversation, learning, relaxation, friendship, laughter, as well as a mix of human needs and emotions.  Brilliant!  It is no longer about coffee but about the ‘experience’ of purchasing the coffee and what that grants us.

We have all heard of creating ‘customer experience’ which I believe solidifies the relationship between service provider and customer and enhances both the service and relationship.  Working with varied service providers, I’ve witnessed first hand the success of a ‘customer experience’ focus.

Starbucks focused on four factors to create the Customer Experience: Atmosphere, Quality Coffee, Customer Service, and Partner (employee) Satisfaction.  It is the fourth factor that I believe impacts all the rest.  It was the belief of then director of marketing, Howard Schultz (now chairman and CEO), that happy employees would lead to higher customer satisfaction.[1]

Yet, many service providers rarely focus on creating an experience for the ‘internal customer’, the company partner.   In my way of thinking, this would be like expecting a car to run with no maintenance performed and no gas in the tank!  I believe there has to be a balance of in and out focus.  Meaning, if the company is all output to make sure your costumers are having a wonderful experience without paying any attention to the experience happening with the company, people will lose steam.

I became fascinated with the idea of creating a ‘customer service experience’ for myself that left me feeling happy at the end of the workday?  What would it look like? What kind of work environment would keep me wanting to come back for more?  How could I create an experience that would tie my work to the things I value and want as a thread through my life’s fabric-whether I’m in my professional life or personal life?

I explored these questions and set out to create my own ‘Starbucks’ experience. What I discovered was not only have I created an experience for myself, but also my productivity increased as a result!  Happy employees (even if you are your own employee!) create higher customer satisfaction!  I’ll share with you the 4 area’s I took into consideration:

Atmosphere

What type of atmosphere do I prefer to work in?  Am I more focused in silence or do I prefer background noise?  Do I like to listen to music or does it distract me?  Do I like the ‘cave’ feel or a lot of light?  What about color-do I like a lot of color in my physical space or a more subdued palette?  I often work virtually in between appointments.  I started paying attention to the spaces I was drawn to work in.  What is in those environments that I could duplicate in my office?  What type of art am I attracted to? What in my life makes me feel good?

This really helped me to set my office up as a ‘feel good’ place to be-not just a place to do work.      It is full of color, books, music, a whole wall white board (creativity) and lots of light! Every day I get to experience my life in my office instead of just doing work in my office.

Energy

Here I started with the question-What energizes me and what depletes me?  Humor and Inspirational stories really energize me.  One gets me enjoying the moment and the other offers me a broader scope of life.  In creating my customer experience, I make sure I allow break time to experience both-which are readily available through youtube, social media etc.

The other question I asked was; what are my energy patterns? How can I create my work experience around my energy patterns?  While energy patterns are a real science-learning how to work with them is truly an art!

I have a lot of mental energy in the morning so part of my created work experience was scheduling my heavy ‘thinking’ work in the morning as much as possible.  When I made this shift, I found that I began enjoying this part of my work much more because my energy was aligned with my task at hand.

Productivity (Managing self in time)

What do I most enjoy doing in my work?  What is like nails on the chalkboard to me? How do I manage my time and what tools do I need to set myself up for a great work experience? What do I need to do or have that would best serve me during my work hours?

The answers to these questions led me to hiring an Administrative Specialist and having her manage some new tools that are allowing me to have a great work experience!

And I also consider her ‘work experience.’  The great thing is that I hired someone who gets how to create a ‘work experience’ for herself.  She is in her zone and I am in mine.  High productivity and happy people-what could be better?

Celebrations

I was never the type to celebrate.  I dreaded holidays, parties, and most anything that had to do with celebration.  In my work, I focused forward-everything was a check off the list and I was onto the next…..until!!!  I was given some feedback on how my lack of celebration was hurting others as well as myself.  Not recognizing accomplishment, growth, life changes, keeps everyone in a space of ‘never being good enough’!  While this was never my intent, I could clearly see the impact.  It was hard to hear and was the greatest gift given to me.

Now part of my created work experience is celebration.  I celebrate when I reach a goal, experience growth, accomplish a feat I did not think I was capable of, or just because I can!  I have a number of ways I celebrate-both large and small.  I’ve also embraced celebrating others I work with and walk with in life.  Party on!

I encourage you to create your own unique work experience.  Don’t wait around for others to do it for you-take ownership of how you want to experience your workday! You won’t regret it.

[1] National Business Research Institute Inc. [US]; https://www.nbrii.com/blog/the-customer-experience-starbucks/

Practice to Mastery

“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Gymnast on balance beam

For 25 years I coached in the sport of gymnastics. I will share with you the one thing that differentiated a top athlete from a mediocre athlete was showing up for and participating 110% in deliberate practice. And the research backs this up. In The Harvard Business Review, an article titled “The Making of an Expert,” clearly demonstrates that the research “revealed that the amount and quality of practice were key factors in the level of expertise people achieved. Consistently and overwhelmingly, the evidence showed that experts are always made, not born.” [1]

Whether it is sport, business, or life there are certain principles of growth that are universal. Deliberate Practice is one of those universal principles. Within deliberate practice, there are certain guidelines:

  • Practice what you are good at and what you are NOT good at.
  • Break it down and be deliberate about practicing that one thing until you have it mastered.
  • Be patient with the investment of time and energy.
  • Have a support system of a teacher, coach, mentor, etc.
  • It takes 10,000 hours of practice to realize mastery.

What do you want to master in your life? What one area do you would want to grow and develop in? What one area, if changed, would impact the rest of your life? For me-it is my eating habits. Once you determine an area, do some pre-work before you jump into practicing-so you know what to be deliberate about in your practice.

The Practice

What is practice? To do or perform habitually or repeatedly. We have all heard it before-“Establish a new routine that matches what you want, practice that routine and become consistent in the practice.” And yet, one of the most consistent complaints I hear from people is “I just can’t be consistent!” If I can’t be consistent, what hope do I have to incorporate this new practice?   The reality is that you are always practicing…and are probably pretty consistent at what you are practicing.

If you go to work, come home, have dinner and watch a few tv shows-you are consistent in practicing this routine! If you do something different every day you are consistent in variety. Recognizing that you can and are consistent is the first step to understanding how to change your undesirable habits into desirable habits and then to establish a structure to hold the practice of those habits.

The issue is breaking the consistency of one practice and transitioning into a new one. In Charles Duhiggs book on the ‘The Power of Habit’ he addresses the Habit Cycle of Cue, Behavior, Reward. The Cue is also known as the ‘trigger’ which precedes an action and ends in a pre-determined reward. By becoming aware of the trigger, you can strategize new behaviors/rewards. I will demonstrate this by using my example of eating habits.

What do you want for yourself that you are not already experiencing?

I want to eat healthier.

What consistent routine do you currently practice around eating?

My practice is that I grab eat. I eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack after dinner. I sometimes have a glass of wine with dinner.

I sometimes just eat a snack in place of dinner.

If I am home working, I tend to snack in between meals on un-healthy snacks.

I also consistently grab snack type foods when I am tired.

What do you believe you can change or not change?

I don’t believe I can change my grab eating — it is too engrained in me.

I do believe I could plan better and pre-make healthier food that I can ‘grab’.

I believe I am aware of my triggers (tiredness) and could acknowledge the trigger and re-condition myself to either drink water or grab a pre-made healthy snack.

Looking at what you believe you can change, what will you commit to doing?

I will commit to planning ‘healthy foods’ for the week and making them on Sunday to have to grab and re-heat during the week.

As a gymnastics coach, practice was not only mandatory for advancement, but it was a safety measure against injury. I had a standing rule that a gymnast had to perform a skill 10 times in a row technically correct before they could move to the next skill level. You can imagine the grumbling! However, we rarely experienced serious injury in the gym. How does this translate to life? With the above example, every time I did not follow my protocol (planning/preparing on Sunday), it would be considered a ‘fall’ and the count would restart. I may be at 6 weeks of doing it and took a fall! Back to #1! The point here is that at the point of 10 weeks of practicing my new commitment consistently, I am more grounded in the practice and my risk of injury (not eating in a healthy manner) is minimized.

While you can use this guide of powerful questions to help you self coach and self discover, remember that experts have a strong support system of teachers, coaches and mentors. If you are ready to make a change in your life and you are in transition, give me a call, I will support you in new practices to make that happen!

 You are what you practice……and you are always practicing something!

“Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement.” – Matt Biondi

 

 

[1] Harvard Business Review; July 2007, The Making of an Expert; K. Anders Ericsson, Michael J. Prietula, Edward T. Cokely

From Change Catalyst to Being with Change

Change Ahead Road Sign 900x598I’ve been called a ‘Change Catalyst’ throughout my career, embracing change at a high level in my professional world. As an entrepreneur, change and growth were something I wanted in order to develop my business. However, I noted the interesting observation that I did not have the same desire in my personal life! For example; I have always thought that I want to be a woman that grows old gracefully. In reality, I was fighting the aging process more than I care to admit. I pushed, I forced, I made myself physically do what my body no longer wanted to (or could) do. I wanted to continue to eat like I was in my twenties and thirties and I certainly didn’t want to wear old ladies’ clothes! Nope! I was NOT going to accept the changes my body was going through!!!

After a while, I started getting curious about what it would be like to work with my body instead of against it. What would it be like to become aware of what my body is telling me, to acknowledge how able-bodied I am, to fully accept where I am in the moment with my fitness, health and energy?

As I have gone through this process I have discovered the freeing power of grace. Grace, for me, means accepting and being with whatever shows up. No resistance, no fear, no forcing — just being. So now I keep the picture in my mind of maturing gracefully, accepting and ‘being with’ the joys of aging. What can be joyful about that? Well, for one: I get to keep buying new clothes!

I see change as the energy that we all live with. It is the River we swim in: We can choose to swim upstream and fight against the current the entire way, we can swim quickly downstream with the current and miss all of the obstacles, we can dive underneath and try to hold onto the bottom so as not to move, or we can float on our backs, taking everything in, moving with the current and allowing change to be just what it is.

Change itself is not something you can opt out of. It is not a person or phone call you can ignore. And, no matter what you think, it is not the enemy. In fact, change is our greatest ally. Change brings about freshness in us. It moves us into the healthy tension of excitement and fear at the same time. Change is the reason that humans have survived for millions of years on this planet. What is it, then, that keeps us opposed to change?

Beside the fear of the unknown, there is the comfort of what is. Or, to be more precise, the illusion of comfort. We confuse the illusion of comfort with our human innate need for homeostasis and stability. Even our bodies crave equilibrium, as demonstrated in a balance point for body temperature (98.6 degrees). We work towards balance every day of our lives; hence the popularity of such topics as work/life balance, setting priorities, time management, change management and the list goes on.

The question really is, “how can we maintain stability while everything around us (and sometimes in us) is changing?” This is not a scientific article in the sense that I am giving you research statistics to answer this technical question. This excerpt is on shared experience. My experience has been one of discovery. When I realize what is really important to me in the midst of my resistance, that ‘core value’ becomes my stabilizer. One of my core values is health/wellness. When I was resisting where my body is at 58, I was working against this core value. In other words, the pushing and forcing were causing me more illness and injury than honoring my value of health/wellness. This is why I reconsidered my perspective. Four steps that helped:

  1. Awareness: become aware of what changes you are going through or what changes are happening in your environment.
  2. Acknowledge: Acknowledge the change to yourself and to others.
  3. Accept: Let go of the struggle, be with the change, knowing you have survived many many change experiences.
  4. Allow: Allow the change to happen. Step out of the illusion of comfort. Embrace the healthy tension of excitement and fear.

I would love to hear of your change experiences and how you have worked through them. Please comment below.

Help! I’m Overwhelmed!!

This is a common cry I hear from clients, and one I have said myself, even just recently.  It has caused me to pause and ponder on what it is that creates overwhelm.

When I am feeling overwhelmed:

  • Feeling Tired And Stressed.I may have an expectation of myself that I am not meeting. And meeting it seems dauntingly overwhelming.
  • I may be juggling too many things and am so cluttered in my head and/or physical environment that I cannot see the straight line in order to prioritize.
  • I may be dealing with multiple distractions and behaving like I cannot manage them.
  • I may have not gotten enough sleep, good nutrition, or exercise.
  • I may have extended beyond the boundaries of what I know I can handle.
  • I may not have used my voice to express my healthy limitations.
  • I might be focusing on the future and worrying about what might happen.

And the list goes on and on.  Looking back on these, it is easy to see that overwhelm often originates from thoughts and feelings, which then drive behavior.  Could that mean that if you were to change your thoughts, then your experience with overwhelm would be different?  I think it is more than that.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, you may want to explore what belief system you are operating under and if that belief system is helping or hindering you.

Let’s take a few points from above and try to unpack them.  These are real life examples that clients and I have “unpacked,” only to discover a belief that is creating the thought pattern, which in turn creates overwhelm!

Overwhelm: “I may have an expectation of myself that I am not meeting.  And meeting it seems dauntingly overwhelming.”

Old Belief System: “I am not good enough.”

New Belief System: “I am significant as who I am in this moment and I value growth so I will continue to learn as life presents itself.” 

You can clearly see that when you believe that you are not good enough you never will be good enough, regardless of what you have accomplished.  That belief will always be whispering in your ear.  We have the ability to change our belief systems.  This client changed their belief to one that not only accepts who they are in this moment; it also includes honoring a value of learning in a way that removes expectation on a timeline.  Which operating system do you want to function under?

Overwhelm: “I have been so busy!  I may have not gotten enough sleep, or ate well, or exercised. I am tired and have no energy to do my work. ”

Old Belief System: “I believe I have to take care of others first, and then myself.”

New Belief System: “I believe I need to put my oxygen mask on first if I want to have the energy to serve others and have peace for myself.” 

Once you change a belief system, it is important to be aware of when you are operating under the old belief system and what triggered it.  For me, a major trigger is tiredness.  The tiredness could come from a number of the examples above, lack of boundaries, limitations, self care, no voice, over focused on the future, etc.  Knowing this, it is easy for me to do a quick inventory of what belief system I am operating under and shift my focus to one that serves me well.

Practicing a new belief system, combined with deep breathing and getting present to the moment, have helped me and my clients to get or stay out of the overwhelm.  Consider a new operating system and then see how quickly things get done!

When I said NO to notifications

Pretty mulatto girl having restMy phone kept running out of juice.  I couldn’t figure it out. It had charged all night!  Someone suggested that I turn off some of my notifications.  I went into my settings and decided that I would turn off all of them except my phone ringer.  Even though I did this to save battery life on my phone, I ultimately discovered how much “battery juice” it saved in my own life.

Without realizing it I had become as conditioned as one of Pavlov’s dogs, otherwise known as Classical Conditioning.  Whenever I heard a sound, I picked up my phone.  Because I had notifications turned on for everything, I was picking my phone up all the time except when I turned it off during coaching meetings.   I had become blissfully unaware of my own conditioning to these “sounds”.  As I was waking up to how conditioned I’d become, I decided to turn off the notifications on my computer as well.  I added reminders on my “to-do” list to check email in the morning, afternoon and at the end of the workday. I limited my use of Social Media to the end of the day.  I wanted to see how much time I was freeing up by not jumping to the sound of the bell.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the level of freedom I gained by turning off my notifications.  In hindsight, I realized how the distraction of the sound diverted my attention from what I was doing to whatever the notification was.  It’s like your boss telling you to finish the month end report by the end of the day, but then bothers you every 10 minutes to ask for something that has nothing to do with the report.  I don’t know about you, but after about 2 hours of that I would lose my cool! And yet, I tolerated the intrusion from my phones and computers.  I followed the shiny object.  When I finally turned the notifications off I immediately experienced freedom.  Without those distractions, my work became focused and intentional.

As a side benefit, I was able to trim two hours off my workday: down to 6 hours from 8 hours. Wow!  A 2-hour gift of time!  Instead of filling those two hours up with more work, I decided to use it for my own interests that I never seemed to have time for.  The greatest benefit, however, was the mental space I had freed up.  I could not believe how much of my thought life was wrapped up in reactive conditioning that had little, if nothing, to do with what I was involved with in that moment.  As I was freeing my reactiveness, I began noticing a different level of creativity in my work.  Freedom of time, freedom of space, freedom of attachment to what was happening in the outer world.  I gained all of this and more when I turned off my notifications.

Now, on the flipside, if I ever want to condition myself to start a healthy routine, I may set an alarm sound on my phone.  Just for a time, until I fall into the space of repeating the routine on an unconscious competence level.  There is a balance in everything!  Take your own inventory of how much time you spend being distracted by the numerous notifications on your phone or computer, whether by sound or number popping up.  Then take ownership of your devices and free yourself!

The Tipping Point of the Mind

 

Tipping Point of the MindI recently heard a conversation that went like this:

“Get your lazy butt to the gym!  You are missing too much swimming.”

“I know, but I just cannot get up that early anymore.  And then if I go later, my lane is taken and it is more crowded.”

“Look whiner; life isn’t perfect and does not run to your schedule. Now quit whining and get to the gym!”

“Why bother? I can’t do what I want to do anymore without exhausting myself.  And what I do doesn’t seem like much, so why bother.  It wouldn’t hurt to take a few days off.”

“Really? I thought you said exercise was important to you.  And anyway, you always feel better after the swim.”

This conversation was one I had with myself as I was contemplating my workout.  One side of me was trying to help and the other was working to hinder me.   Managing “internal conversations” is not very different from managing people with different personalities.  While you may believe you have one personality, we all have many sides to self.   And often one side is often fighting the other.  Why is that?

As human beings, we crave homeostasis—we want stability.  An example of this is our body’s ability to maintain a temperature of 98.6 internally regardless of the weather outside.   This is homeostasis.  So one side of us wants things to stay the same: comfortable, secure, while the other wants to continue to grow, take risks and evolve as human beings.  Often times our need to stay the same is motivated by fear.  Fear of change, fear of growth, fear of success and the list goes on.

The tipping point in the mind is whenever we have a picture of “normal” that is based on judgment or biases, and our life or our person does not match that.  This is when we are most susceptible to a negative way of thinking.  Other triggers can be things like change (even good change), loss, fear, and success.  Basically, all the negative voices kick in when life as we think it “should” go – isn’t!

What is happening for me that I am arguing with myself?  Aging.  The voice that is saying no to the gym is my avoider.  I don’t want to face the fact that no matter what I do, I cannot workout to the level that I used to.  Of course, I still swim a mile or more 3 days a week, do a 2-3 mile walk/run 2 days a week and do yoga 2 days a week. So why isn’t that “good enough”?  Because of the fantasy that I can still work out to the level I did when I was in my 30’s and 40’s.  Because reality doesn’t measure up to my fantasy, I stop myself from celebrating what I am doing to remain healthy and fit.

A few tips in working with your negative internal voices:

Call them out and question.  What do they want, what do they need? What is the fear? What is the frustration? What is the fantasy? What is the folly (non-understanding)? Take the message into consideration, change what you want to and then let it go.

Play with them.  Give them a name and have a conversation with them.  It is amazing how they lose their grip on you when you bring them to the light.

Bypass them.  Go right to your positive side.  For example: when my avoider is saying “why bother?” and giving a million excuses, instead I go right to recognition of what I am doing to honor my value for exercise and then celebrate my commitment.  This works every time!

Most importantly, remember that you have control over what you choose to do with your thoughts.  Balance is dynamic and always in movement, even if it’s slight. Pay attention to when your thoughts are tipping to the negative and use one of the antidotes above to bring your mind to balance.  Keep practicing and before you know it, you will have complete authority over how and what you think!

 

 

 

 

The Power of Why

Drop falling in the water with splashing

Recently I watched a YouTube video by Simon Sinek that he calls “The Golden Circle”. The video explained how Sinek developed a model to demonstrate that inspiring leaders lead from their inner circle.  Imagine 3 circles, one inside the other.  The outer circle is your what, the middle circle is your how and your center circle or “inner” circle is your why.  Leaders that lead from a clear why have far more impact on those they lead than if they were to lead from their what (what they do versus why they do it).

Simon Sinek believes a good part of the journey of life is getting clear on The Golden Circle and your big WHY, because it shifts and changes.  Yet, in some ways it stays the same, constant. I can share from my own life experience that there have been shifts and changes and there has been constant in regard to my Golden Circle.  The What and How have changed, the Why has been the same.

I was that kid in the neighborhood who was always organizing others to create something: a show, a game, a project, a recital.  It didn’t matter what it was really, what mattered was we were creating something and then I would encourage everyone to do their best.  In high school, I was not the “best” on our gymnastic or track teams; however, I was always the captain or co-captain — leading, arranging and encouraging others to do their best.

When I graduated, I started coaching gymnastics with my high school coach. I was again in a position of supporting others, encouraging them to stretch themselves and reach deep within for the tenacity to keep going.   Then I started working with the park districts to create gymnastic programs, organizing staff and participants, putting on shows, organizing competitions and always encouraging the athletes to be the most they could be.  I had a wonderful 25-year career in gymnastics as a coach, director, teacher and mentor.

After my gymnastics career, I was ready for a change and transitioned into a facility management position with the park districts.  After 5 years I realized that position was not my “Big Why”.  I had wanted a change but this was definitely not the right one.  So, I went back to my roots and discovered that what I enjoyed in my gymnastics career is what I did in the neighborhood as a child.  I created, arranged and coached.

At the same time that I realized facility management wasn’t for me, I heard about Life Coaching.  Perfect!  I enrolled at a leading professional coaching school, took my courses, acquired creditation and the rest is the life I am leading now.

Sometimes it takes an experience that is so dissonant to who you are to reflect what you are resonant with. Finding your Why seems like a daunting task.  Often I hear people say, “I don’t know what my purpose is.  I don’t even know how to start trying to figure that out.”  I get it!  I was once in that place.  When my gymnasts were struggling to learn a skill, I would tell them to “break it down”.  We would deconstruct and practice that part, drill after drill, and then add the next part until we had the whole skill mastered.  This allowed their body to get used to the feel of each particular movement.  To draw an analogy, that is precisely what I did when I was trying to discover my purpose in life.  I broke it down.  Of course, this did not happen overnight.  It was a process.  A process I now use with my coaching clients in supporting their discovery of purpose in their own lives.

If you are struggling with trying to figure out your purpose, your why, start with your day and get clear on what your why for the day is.  How can you serve this day purposefully? Then do the same for your week, month, year.  Once you break it down and begin recognizing purpose in your life, it will become easier to uncover your bigger WHY.  If you still need some help figuring it out, give me a call and I will support you through the journey!