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The gift of insight

Ok, so to the untrained eye it may have appeared I was just lounging by the Falls Pool at the Marriott World Resort yesterday in Orlando, Florida, but it was more than that. Much more, in fact.

I have spent the past 5 days getting refilled, recharged, re-energized by the John Maxwell Team and its outstanding, most generous faculty and staff (not to mention some fun and learning with John Maxwell, himself). Today, I gave myself permission to do nothing more than lounge by the pool to read, reflect, and connect with a dear friend, Chris Parker. The results are numerous, but I will share just one with you today.

Taking the time for myself gave me the gift of insight. I am reading The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne Dyer. It’s profound, so not fast reading. Today’s nugget was this:

…you cannot see outside of you what you fail to see inside.

Take a couple of minutes to let that sink in and contemplate it.

Here’s my take…what we see around us — in nature, objects, and in people — is a reflection of what we believe to be true about ourselves. For example, if all we see is rudeness, arrogance, selfishness, and negative attitudes, it may be time to take a look in the mirror. For if we cannot see anything but bad stuff, it’s likely we don’t think much of ourselves.

On the other hand, if we are able to see the true beauty, generosity, kindness, and positive attitudes in everything and everyone around us, this, too, is a reflection of what we hold within. If we can see the good in others, it’s likely we see those qualities in ourselves, as well.

It was very eye opening for me and I’ve spent some time with the concept in my journal. Will continue to contemplate and consider what changes I may need to make in my life.

I encourage you to do the same. I would love to hear what insights you have, and I hope you consider them a gift.

As one of my mentors says, “you can’t see the picture when you’re in the frame.” Isn’t that so true?

When we are on the outside looking in, it’s so much easier to see things in others that they can’t see themselves…like recognizing someone’s potential, or fears.

As a coach, this is particularly frustrating, as I’ve been stuck in that place…that place where I didn’t recognize my potential, the self-limiting beliefs I was allowing to hold me back, the fears I didn’t acknowledge that also held me back. Fortunately, I found the mentors and coaches I needed to help me through. They held the mirror up for me to see myself with greater clarity. They asked me the hard questions, which caused me to dig deeper into my thinking and realize there were a lot more options in my life than I thought. I have been, and continue to be, blessed by them. I am also very blessed to be doing that work myself.

But I have to recognize my limitations. I can’t do for someone what he/she won’t do for him or herself. Twice in the past year, I’ve had “near misses” with coaching clients. They sought me out because they were stuck and wanted to become unstuck. They knew me from previous connections and reached out because they believed I could help. I believed it, too, after we talked about what each was going through. Both committed to the coaching process, and I sent them the information they needed prior to getting started. I asked each of them this question: What will you allow to stop you embarking on this self-discovery journey? Both of them, boldly I might say, said “nothing!” And yet, both backed out prior to our first session.

What will you allow to stop you?

I ask that question because I know what it’s like to be in that place and while it’s exhilarating to think you are moving forward to proactively make a change, to take charge of your life, it’s also frightening (remember the mirror? We don’t always want to see who we truly are…). I want them to think it through and recognize they have the power to take the step, the same as they have the power to continue to hold themselves back.

To date, while I keep in touch with both of them, and continue to offer them whatever thoughts, information, insights I have that may be of value to them…they remain distant. I wonder how they feel, what they think, what their lives are like with the knowledge that they have chosen to stay in that place, chosen to remain stuck, when they have the power to initiate something different. Time is passing.

At some level, my heart aches for them; they were close to change, close to knowing themselves more deeply, close to taking charge of their future, close to reclaiming their power. Now, they are a little more aware and still in that place. I am learning to accept that I cannot do it for them. I cannot accompany them on a journey they aren’t ready to take.

I hope they come back; I want to discover who they are in their more powerful, radiant, knowing selves.

 

My own worst critic

I’ve been told on more than one occasion, by more than one person who knows me well, that my expectations for myself are extremely high, and these people are correct. They are. I’m sure I could tell you all kinds of reasons for why that is, but in terms of Strengths, I attribute it to having Maximizer as a dominant theme. Folks with high Maximizer have high expectations and work hard to make something strong into something superb.

I spent today with a team of fairly young leaders from a company I’ve been blessed to work with for the last several months. Today was our first workshop and it was a FULL day. As the day came to an end, and I packed up all my materials, I felt the too familiar “let down” feeling that I often experience after workshops I facilitate. I suspect part of it is the actual physical disconnect that comes when one has been fully engaged, mentally (and for me empathetically), with a group of bright, interested, interesting individuals for an extended period. I suspect the other part is the process of my internal self-assessment; the desire to determine how well I served them, and often find myself wanting.

You see, I can always think of one or two things I could have done more effectively to connect at a deeper level, to serve more effectively, to facilitate more new insights, to offer more new perspectives. I am fully aware that my opportunity, at that point, is to make note of these insights so I can implement them in the next workshop. What I strive for is to be able to have those insights earlier, to be able to adapt as I go through the actual workshop and improve in the moment.

Here are today’s two reminders:

You can’t see the picture when you’re in the frame. And, just because you can doesn’t mean you should!

I don’t usually use a lot of tools in my workshops. Yes, there’s high quality content, thought-provoking questions, facilitated discussions, group coaching, and exercises that will help bring the key lessons to life for the participants…but I typically don’t use a lot of worksheets, forms, etc. In my experience, often creating the space where some of these deep, meaningful, perhaps uncomfortable conversations among key team members can take place is the greatest value I can offer.

About a month ago, I had another leadership coach observe me in action. Her feedback included a recommendation that I enlist more tools; although she admitted to having a bias for tools. Today, I enlisted a lot more tools…and while some worked well, some didn’t resonate with me or the team I was serving. The day was too full…we all needed more room for the free-flowing discussion. We needed longer breaks. I needed to remember that just because I had access to the tools didn’t mean I needed to use them today.

What I’m most thankful for, at the end of the day, is that we walked through the “Today was great because ___________, and would have been even better if _____________” feedback exercise and they were candid with me about worked and what didn’t. I have their perspective on how to serve them better in the future. I look forward to having that opportunity.

In the meantime, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to get to work with and serve them today.

 

I have an idea for a new business. I dream about it. I talk to other people about it; tell them I own it already, in fact! I write advertising for it in my head. I can see it with crystal clear vision. I’m tempted to order furniture and other supplies for it. So far, it’s only a domain name I have purchased, but have yet to make real in any other way.

What held me back, you ask? Well, I’ve never ventured into the realm of commercial real estate. This business will require some space; some unconventional space at that. I didn’t know anything about leases, utilities, insurance, etc…and that held me back for a bit; until a recent phone call with an entrepreneurial inner circle I belong to, when I shared my vision and what was stopping me moving forward, and one of the women shared how commercial leases work.

Voila! I had an entirely new level of understanding. Here’s where I was and where I am now.

Driving around the locations I think might be appropriate for my business, I look at buildings for lease. One, in particular, has a sign on it that says “$6-8 per square foot.” I assumed — without investigating — that meant $6-8 per square foot PER MONTH! For 1000 square feet, which is too small for my needs, that would be at least $6000 per month!

I thought it was insane. After all, I don’t live in Manhattan, London, Paris, or the like! I wondered how that could be and how small business could afford it. There’s my ignorance on full display.

I was enlightened on Monday, that those kinds of lease rates are typically based on a 1-3 year lease agreement; the cost is per year, not per month! With that new understanding, I quickly did some preliminary math and discovered I can afford commercial space without too much concern over being able to cover the rent.

The result: I’ve already spoken with a developer who specializes in renovating vacant buildings, as well as a commercial realtor and will be looking at a few spaces next week. I’m not just jumping in; first I will do some market research to ensure there is indeed demand for what I want to offer and also to determine appropriate price points for the service.

My point is this: I was allowing fear to hold me back. Fear that I didn’t have the resources necessary to even move forward. Fear that I lacked something fundamental that would keep me from success. Fear that what I would learn about leasing commercial space would tell me my dream wasn’t going to become a reality.

And think of the very simple thing I needed to do that would allow me to understand what was really involved: All I needed to do was pick up the phone, call a commercial realtor, and ask a simple question — how do lease rates work? That simple.

So what is holding you back today? What simple step could you take to increase your understanding of something that would move you forward in whatever you are striving to achieve?

I encourage you to simply take a deep breath, and do the thing you think you cannot do. You just may literally astound yourself!

Maybe you think that if you don’t think about it, pretend it’s not there, it might go away?

I assure you, it won’t! In fact, it will become bigger the longer you allow it to fester. Conflict comes with a lot of baggage — mostly our own, stuffed full over the course of our lives with a lot of stuff gathered during previous conflicts and experiences with the person in question.

Last week, two of my coaching participants were working through how to deal with some conflict that had been plaguing their work lives for some time. As we all know, what happens at work bleeds into what happens outside of work, and vice versa, so it wasn’t just something they were thinking about, dreading, 8-5, but all day.

One said he felt deflated when he left work because of what appears to be an idealogical misalignment with a coworker. He wanted to down play it, make it less significant than it actually is. The other was interested in maybe bringing me in as a facilitator without having attempted to work through it herself.

The conversations we had were direct, uncomfortable, and filled with apprehension and fear. Dealing with conflict is rarely a fun thing; rarely something we look forward to with positive expectations. But we all know, we have to deal with it somehow, some way, or it will eat at us daily until something happens.

It’s similar to dealing with acute versus chronic pain in our bodies. We can experience it every time we have an encounter with that person, which is like a slow death; or, we can commit to bringing it out in the open and working through it intentionally, and experience that discomfort all at once.

What I know is this: If we don’t deal with it in a straightforward manner, it causes us to leak energy throughout our day and over time it wears us out. It’s keeps us from performing at higher levels, from accomplishing more, from experiencing healthy, constructive relationships, and from experiencing joy…in all areas of our lives.

And, working through it will help you grow…as a person, friend, spouse, colleague, and leader. This is a skill that will serve you well throughout your life, because conflict will appear, again, at some point, as it inevitably does. And when it does, although it won’t be less comfortable, you can approach it with a little more skill and confidence, knowing you’ve walked through a similar fire before and survived.

 

 

Learning to savor life

I started drinking coffee in high school. It was the thing to do, right? After all, my parents started every morning with a fresh pot, and it always smelled so good. Even today, I love the aroma of good coffee beans or coffee brewing. However, my coffee drinking habit changed dramatically a couple of years ago.

Well, it changed the first time about 8-½ years ago, when my husband and I decided to start a family; I switched to decaf at that point, and have not switched back. But I digress…about two years ago, I was still drinking my two cups of decaf every morning; one while getting ready to leave for work, and one in the car on my 45-minute commute. It was a strongly ingrained habit, part of my daily ritual, prepared for and completed each day fully on auto-pilot (without any thought given to this practice…oooof!).

One day, however, it all changed, and I don’t know what the catalyst was, exactly, unless it was related to my deepening thoughts around how I was wasting my life energy, time, and talent in a dead-end corporate job where I was in the wrong role and my true talents (growing people) were not appreciated nor desired. Those thoughts led me to thinking more about everything involved in that job — including the daily commute of 45 minutes each way — and what changes I needed to make in my life. After all, it’s not a dress rehearsal; this is the only one I get and I am determined to make the most of it!

In that process, I actually tasted my coffee one morning. Yes, actually was conscious, attuned to, and thinking about what my coffee tasted like and I realized it didn’t taste like anything! At least nothing yummy, anymore (I had cut out the sweetened, flavored, non-dairy creamers for other reasons…and was just down to coffee with skim…blick!). I thought, perhaps, I’d just made a bad pot (not particularly specific about the amount of beans I would grind each time). So, the next day, I considered the flavor, again. Still “blick!” And I decided there was no reason to keep drinking it. I cleaned out my coffee maker, stored it in a cupboard, and that’s been that.

However, I do still enjoy a caramel latte on occasion. And in the last month, I’ve had occasion to order one in a coffee shop where I was actually at a table, rather than on my way out the door. On both occasions, I received my latte very pleasantly presented in one of those short, wide, over-sized coffee “bowls” coffee shops are want to use, and my immediate reaction was irritation! That’s right, I was not delighted, but irritated!

Skilled barista’s are particularly talented in all things coffee, and one of those skills is filling those “bowls” right to the rim. Nice to not get shorted on a high-priced beverage, but maddeningly impossible to move it without spilling some of that precious liquid, leaving a sticky mess. It also requires one to actually stay in one place, carefully sipping (at least at first) one’s drink. I had forgotten to request a “to-go” cup; my fault.

The result? I was forced to pay attention to my latte and how I drank it. I sipped it slowly and carefully, so as not to spill. I took the time to drink it at a leisurely pace, actually tasting all the flavors. I watched people in the coffee shop around me. I breathed. I relaxed. I savored the moment and the latte…and when I did allow myself the time to do that, rather than hurrying on to whatever was next on my to-do list, I was intensely grateful for the oversized coffee “bowl” with liquid to the brim. It reminded me I’m not in a race, and busy doesn’t equal productive, nor does it equal time spent on things that truly matter.

My questions to you, faithful reader, are these:

What part of your life are you not “tasting,” not fully experiencing?

What habits do you  practice on auto-pilot and how are they serving you (or not)?

What are you missing because you don’t take the time to savor the moment?

I would love to hear from you…use the comments box below and let me know what you come up with.

I facilitated a couple of workshops, discussing communication fundamentals and the dynamics within a particular team, yesterday. I had invited an observer into the second session, as we are considering doing some work together and she wanted to see me in action.

Afterwards, as I always do, I asked for some feedback. Her response? She noticed a drop in my energy level at a couple of points during the two-hours she observed. It was true; my energy level did drop and I was acutely aware of it. In “Strengths” terms, one of my dominant strengths had not served me well and I ended up in the “basement,” because it wasn’t on my radar, which would have allowed me to think ahead to how I would adapt when the moment hit.

The basement is where we go when our strengths are not used to full, positive potential, or when they are overused. In my case, it was Empathy, which my #8, so lots of influence on me at that level. I tend to really pick up on and identify with the tone and emotion in the room, and yesterday, there were a couple of people who seriously checked out for a portion of the session; in a small group, it’s painfully obvious to everyone around. I allowed myself to get sucked in…Not what I consider a top-notch performance for myself.

So, after receiving the feedback, I thought it through during my hour-plus drive home. Then, I spent some time discussing it with a Gallup Strengths Coach today. We talked through why it happens, how I can be more prepared for it, and what steps I can put in place to guard against allowing myself to end up in the basement, again.

It always comes full circle for me: Self-Awareness allows us the opportunity to think and act with intention, which makes it more likely we will achieve our desired outcomes.

I am thankful for the awareness and the choices I now have as a result.