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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?

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!

What Do You “Do” as a Life Coach?

Happy Girl Driving Her CarSomeone once asked me in reference to my career, “what do you do?”  I told them I’m a Professional Life Coach to which they inquired, “Is that for people who suck at life?”  My response was, “do Professional Athletes suck at being athletes?”  Hardly.  Otherwise they would not be paid the big bucks.  Athletes are so involved in the play, it is hard for them to see the tweaks they may need to make or strategies they may need to change.

A Life Coach is much the same as a Sport Coach.  We are partners with our clients/athletes to help them get from where they are to where they want to be.  There may be other stakeholders; however, the fact is much of what happens for the client/athlete and coach is dependent on the relationship they establish. So at the core of a great coaching engagement is a great relationship.

Sounds easy, right?  Not so when you consider what is truly needed for a relationship to thrive.  Trust, presence, listening, genuine curiosity and interest are just a few of the competencies needed in a strong, thriving relationship.  It takes time and intentionality to cultivate these type of partnerships.

The other key distinction between a coach/client relationship as compared to other relationships is that all the power rests on the client’s shoulders.  The coach is a partner supporting the client’s end goal.  While the coach is a partner and certainly in the relationship, it is all about the CLIENT!

Professional life coaching is sometimes confused with similar services like training, mentoring and consulting.  Theories such as leadership, emotional intelligence, mindfulness and neuro-linguistic programming can complicate professional coaching if the focus rests in these theories.  While all of these “side-arms” may flow in and out of the coaching relationship, pure coaching is not about any of this.

Pure coaching is about getting to the “who” of the client in relation to the topic, or “what” they bring to the coaching.

As an example: A client comes with a problem of financial overspending.

Coaching the what would address:

  • What financial software they use
  • How they budget
  • Who can hold them accountable
  • How they track, etc.

Coaching the who would explore:

  • What beliefs they have about money
  • How the overspending is impacting them
  • What is important about changing this behavior, etc.

Getting to the core of their “relationship” with money (or perhaps another issue that presents itself) is what coaching the who is about.

Life Coaching is for anyone and everyone that has a desire, dream, intention, or goal to move forward in their life, business, or relationships — including their relationship to self.  If you want awareness to the gaps, barriers, or “internal drivers” that are keeping you in the passenger seat of your life, business or relationships, then know that coaching supports that clarity.   Life coaching puts you behind the wheel, so YOU are in charge of your journey!

Conflicting Beliefs and the Hamster Wheel

Young troubled businesswoman with hands on head

I grew up in a Catholic working class family.  We were taught to have a strong work ethic.  Working hard was an underlying theme that ran through everything we did; from daily chores to going to church, to being in sports and doing homework.

I completely embraced this value, sometimes to the point of creating work just so I had something to work on and feel like I was worth something!  This is an example of a value out of balance.  Aside from the importance of working hard, I received the message (intended or not) that my self worth was based on my productivity.  There is a huge difference between working hard for the joy of what you are doing and serving others, and working hard to feel good about yourself.

So, that was one belief I grew up with: work hard and life will be good to you.  Now, couple that with a belief that rich people are “bad” people; they live off the backs of the common class, they take advantage of the poor, etc.  This belief was not a directly taught belief. It was one I formed in my childhood as a result of listening to discussions about politics and to the nuns and priests talk about frugality and how God blessed their “not-having.”  Without realizing it in consciousness, I tucked away all sorts of beliefs around work, money and how those two things “should” interact.

How did this conflict in beliefs show up for me?  I worked very hard and every time I was on the brink of great success, I would sabotage myself!  You see, I had to work hard to feel good about myself and if I had great success that translated into money, then I was living off the backs of others and that would not make me feel good about myself. Realizing this conflict, I was able to reframe my belief system and create a healthy relationship between me and money and work.   Now I believe that money flow allows for more giving. This belief works for me.

I have coached with many clients that have also experienced conflicting belief systems they weren’t even aware of.  Often times, you may discover a conflicting belief system when what you really desire keeps eluding you at your own hand. Exploring a client’s self-sabotage or patterns that appear to hinder their success can often lead to discovering conflicting beliefs that are creating dissonance for the client.   It may not be in the same area as my experience; however, conflicting beliefs will often keep you in the hamster wheel with little understanding of why you end up there.  We are not always conscious of our belief systems, especially if they were formed in childhood.  And in the normal course of conversation, we don’t talk about beliefs the way we talk about current day issues.

Getting to belief systems takes a discovery process.  You have to pay attention to your own negative talk, excuse making, frustrations, assumptions and ask yourself: “what do I believe about this?  How is this belief supporting or detracting from what I desire for my life?” This is a good place to start!

Even better: if you feel like you have been in the hamster wheel for a while, reach out!  Working with a Life Coach will help you to become clear so you are better able to make choices that support what you want for yourself and then establish supporting values and beliefs.

Slow Down to Speed Up

Fall Swirl 900x675Have you ever hit a time in your life where it seemed that nothing was moving at the speed you want or expect?  Or that maybe life is moving at a speed where you can’t catch your breath? What I have learned is on either side of this duality lies the balance for us.

In 2006 I changed careers.  For a time, my career was moving very slowly and I was bored out of my mind.  No matter what I did, proposed, initiated, created…nothing seemed to be moving at the pace I expected or wanted it to.

Then, out of fear, I jumped into something that I thought, from my limited viewpoint, was the answer!  That position took me into the fast lane of life.  So much so that I was an anxious mess and not very fulfilled in my daily living.

I hit the wall, the slow down.  “The wall” was a disc rupturing in my back that required two surgeries within a month’s time and then a two-year recovery.   In order to slow down, I was forced to literally stop.  All I could do was focus on getting through the pain cycle and re-learning what my new way of “being physical” looked like.

I had been an athlete my whole life.  I coached gymnastics for 25 years and not a day went by that I wasn’t in some form of physical exercise.  To say that being out of movement was a challenge for me is an understatement.  It was a completely devastating experience and perhaps the reason it took me so long to recover.  I was trying to force myself to be who I was, which was causing more setbacks than helping.

Since then, I have had other slow down experiences.  Each time, I learn more about what I am being taught in this life lesson.  I would like to share two lessons with you for when you may “hit the wall,” whatever that is for you.

Embrace and Be In The Present Moment.

Some may call this presence, mindfulness, and meditation of sorts.  It is all of this and more.  I have learned in my slow down moments to pay attention to what I am paying attention to.  This finally helped me to realize I was not paying attention to what my body was telling me. In fact, I was completely ignoring the signals that were blatantly blinking RED to stop!  Hence, another reason for a long recovery.

I was gifted a Mindfulness Course by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  What a lifesaver!  Mindfulness has gone beyond just my body.  I have been practicing it in all areas of my life now for 6 years.  Each year I get more and more clear on my ability to create what I want for myself.  I have also learned to accept whatever timeline presents itself.

Get Clear on What You Control.

That would be you and only you! What we have “control” over is our own values and beliefs; these drive our thinking and feeling which then drives our behavior and responses.   We have some values and beliefs we are very much aware of and we have some that we are not aware of.  These may be inherited or learned; we are not necessarily conscious of them, but have been in the weave of our fabric since childhood.  The clearer we are in these areas, the more clearly we are able to navigate what we want for ourselves. This is what life coaching helps to support: discovery of your unique value and belief systems and how those are expressed in your life.

I have found that these two practices will cause a slow down to speed up.  Both practices support clarity and clarity supports movement.  You can see the way.  For me, as a side benefit to these practices, I have learned to accept what is, trust the process, pay attention to my energy and if it is good, have faith that what I am doing now will lead to where it best serves.  Now I can say my days are resonant to whom I am authentically and my life is fulfilled.

Rippling to a Shift in Paradigm

Change, Influence, Positivity, InnovationI recently had a discussion with someone around the direction of humanity. (No small subject here!) The outcome of the discussion was representative of what I have heard over and over in regard to political issues, human failings, and the general state of humanity: “oh well, I can’t do anything about it!”

When did we adopt a victim mindset to our existence? A mindset that demonstrates an inability to change the collective mindset, our ways of thinking and our assumptions? Yes, the world’s challenges do seem overwhelming at times. Where did they begin and how do they end? We have overcome, continued to grow and thrive, and change our ways of being for thousands of years.

I believe the question really is, “where do I begin?”  Every great movement is started by one.  Do a Google search for Derek Silvers’ “How to Start a Movement” for a fun demonstration of this.  All it takes is a few followers to start a ripple effect. We have seen this rippling gain great momentum and create both negative and positive impact and change.

Influence

In Irvin Yalom’s book Staring at the Sun, Yalom talks about the rippling effect. He writes that it “refers to the fact that each of us creates, often without our conscious intent or knowledge, concentric circles of influence that may affect others for years, even generations.” The effect we have on others is in turn passed on, much as the ripples in a pond go on and on until they are not visible BUT continue at a nano level.

Influence is, simply put, the power and ability to personally affect others’ actions, decisions, opinions or thinking. There have been many books on how to influence others because when you have the power and ability to affect others, you are creating a paradigm shift through the ripple effect. So, if nothing else, you have the ability to create the change you want by being the change you want. If you want a change in gun laws, be diligent in following the politics, be vocal, be involved, and be authentic in your living (NO GUNS in your home)! This will create more influence than you realize. All it takes is one and a few followers to start a movement!

Self and Civic Responsibility

Beyond Influencing, taking self- and civic responsibility will create the change you want to see happen.  Self-Responsibility means looking at what you can do to influence and create a ripple effect as I mentioned in the example above.  When you take responsibility for whatever that is, you are no longer a victim to humanity. Civic responsibility means getting involved in the community, register to vote, participate in local government or hold public office. There is so much that you can do as an individual to influence and be a part of creating change. “I’m starting with the man in the mirror” is a way of being as much as a song by one of the greats!

A Conversation — A Ripple — A Change

All these examples below came out of conversations. Each idea was the brainchild of one person who, through agreement and collaboration, created a movement. They saw a need and met it.

As you read through these examples remember the comment: “oh well, I can’t do anything about it!” You will clearly see that is a fallacy you are telling yourself.

  • “Bricks and Sticks” Built Environment – Community conversation around sex trafficking jumpstarts the building of new housing for women seeking to rebuild their lives.
  • Cultural Resources  –  A small group of high school students responds to racial unrest in their school by hosting student-led conversations that generate new understanding, solutions and action from the administration.
  • Economic Vitality – Series of conversations leads to the creation of a program that helps thousands of Minnesotans become homeowners, start small businesses and go back to school.
  • Leadership Everywhere  – Leadership development program creates opportunities for congregations, clergy and people of faith to come together and discuss ways to collectively improve racial and economic equity.
  • Natural Environment – Grassroots organization hosts community dialogue sessions that shift public opinion and generate cross-sector support for the removal of non-functioning river dams, setting the conditions for improved water quality and habitat.
  • Political Influence – State agency, in collaboration with a community-initiated credit union, hosts a series of statewide listening sessions that results in a legislative agenda to address poverty.
  • Social Glue (connections across people and organizations) – Coalition of twenty organizations and agencies that serve families with preschool children in the same region host conversations to develop shared definitions of success, and create more opportunities for success together than they would have separately.[1]

We are not victims of the human experience; we are victims of our “lack of” willingness to participate in life!

If you truly want something to change, be that change, become a part of that change and live the change. All of that is within your power to do. See what you can create in the world!

[1] http://www.socialinnovationlab.net/examples-of-ripple-effects/