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Posts Tagged ‘Personal Growth’

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A couple of days ago, I checked my PO box and found this letter. At first, I was delighted to get a real letter. There was no return address, and the handwriting looked familiar…I puzzled for a moment about whom it could be from, then realized (with chagrin!) that it was my writing.

One of my coaches, Kary Oberbrunner, had finally dropped it in the mail…and now I was supposed to open it and read it. UGH!

On May 2nd, I sat on the rusted base of a “bed” (I use the term lightly) in a cell in Shawshank Prison (Ohio Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio), and wrote myself a letter. The assignment had been given by my coach, Kary, as part of the Dream Job Bootcamp workshop weekend. I was to write to my future self to tell me what I need to know so I can move forward more successfully. I should share any advice I would give myself, any new clarity I had gained, set forth some expectations for greater accountability, or perhaps even warn myself, should I feel the need.

I have to say, the whole experience — from the prison setting to the fact I had recently escaped my day job to move into my purpose / calling full time — weighed heavily on my heart. As I put pen to paper and began to write, the tears began to stream down my face. It happens when things of great meaning come to me; while I still find it somewhat frustrating, I’m used to it.

I wrote and wrote and wrote, until someone’s alarm went off and I brought my missive to a close; we had been given several things to do while in the cell and a set amount of time in which to do them. It was time to reconvene. As instructed, I folded the letter, put it into and envelope, addressed it to myself, and sealed it. When I made it back to the prison chapel, I gave it to Kary for safe keeping; he promised to mail it to me within 12 months.

Over the past few months, I’ve thought of the letter, wondering when it would arrive and what it would say when I opened it. Make no mistake, it’s not that I expected some other letter to be in the envelope when it arrived…I simply had no idea what I wrote. Every word on those pages flowed to and thru me, but they didn’t come from me. I don’t know how else to explain it.

When I realized what the envelope was, I began to tear it open — excited and anxious to read it. Then caution took hold and I placed the envelope in my purse, wanting to consider it for a while before I opened it. I finally opened it today and read through it quickly. It was … interesting, to say the least. (oh — and the note on the back was not written by me…Thanks, Kary!!)

I won’t share the message with you; it’s personal. I will say, I have some homework now and need to connect with another Coach whose style I admire a great deal; I believe we have much in common with our down-to-earth, no BS approach to getting honest, discovering oneself, and being accountable for our behaviors. I have some questions for him.

I also have a sense of peace, on another level, as I’ve had some doubts removed about my “sweet spot,” as they call it.

It’s an exercise worth your time and attention. Take pen to paper and spend 30 minutes writing to your future self. What advice would you share? In what areas do you need to hold yourself more accountable? What warning would you offer to the you who may sometimes stray from the path of your true priorities.

Let me know what you discover.

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At what point do we, as parents, begin to imprint our personal beliefs on our children? Arguably from the time we bring them home from the hospital; after all, we are teaching them about our values and beliefs simply as a matter of course in how we live life each day.

The question is, when do we become aware that’s what we are doing and decide to be intentional about it? I’ve had this discussion with myself, and my husband, on numerous occasions over the past several years, and most recently 30 minutes ago…on the topic of selling popcorn!

Our son is 7 and is a Wolf in his local Cub Scout Troop (or is it a den or a pack? Frankly, all those distinctions elude me, but I digress…). The biggest fundraiser for his group is selling tins of popcorn, caramel corn, and chocolate coated popcorn. Some members of his troop will sell by going door-to-door in their neighborhoods, after services at their church, by setting up tables outside local merchants to catch shoppers on their way in and out, and, presumably, some of their parents will even sell for them at their places of employment (I’m not sure this actually helps the child grow in any way, even though it does raise more money).

To motivate the kids, there is a listing of the incentives one might obtain by selling at a certain level. The more you sell, the cooler item you can receive. For example, if you sell $550 worth of popcorn, you can have a Lego Fire Truck (this is what my son has his eye on!), but the levels gone on up into the thousands of dollars sold.

In full candor, I cringed knowing this day would come. I understand the growth opportunity for the kids and the need to raise funds for the Troop. I am not a fan, however, of what the items are that are chosen to sell (usually cookies, cookie dough, very expensive wrapping paper, tins of popcorn) as they are often not anything we will eat or use or send as a gift. I’m not a fan of going door-to-door to sell, either (and have been shocked when young kids ring our bell and I see no parent in site, accompanying them). In fact, I would prefer to simply write a donation check and skip the sales process altogether! But, that wouldn’t allow the kids to experience the process and learn the lessons that come with it. I also recognize my thinking about and reaction to this “opportunity / activity” is not how everyone else looks at it.

My husband explained to our son how it works, and he’s excited. He says he wants to visit our neighbors, dressed in his Scout uniform, and sell them popcorn. Of course, it’s about earning that Lego Fire Truck! And no one has dampened his enthusiasm, yet. So, I’m working on restraint. I’m working on not coloring my son’s experience with my personal thoughts, feelings, or beliefs about this activity and process. It’s actually kind of fun to see his un-jaded enthusiasm for it, even if it’s one of the last things I would want to do.

Thinking this through has left me wondering about how we unwittingly impose our beliefs on those around us and change the way they view the world. Sometimes, those beliefs we instill in them are based on untruths and don’t serve them well later in life. Sometimes, they may bump into enough barriers because of those beliefs that they are forced to unlearn some things in order to achieve their goals and realize their potential. I don’t think we do this to the people around us intentionally, but it happens nonetheless.

All the more reason for becoming as self-aware as possible, so we can be more intentional about what we say, how we behave, and what we expose others to.

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How long will it take?

That’s the point in the conversation when it becomes painfully obvious, to me, at least, that the person in front of me truly isn’t ready to initiate change in her/his life. That’s the point when I realize the person in front of me is looking for the quick fix, the easy out — you know, the path that won’t take him/her out of her comfort zone. Because while this person recognizes something isn’t working in his/her life, and is aware of the lack of congruence — even if he/she cannot articulate it as such — she/he is not uncomfortable enough, yet, to make a change.

One of my mentors shared a story with me a few years ago, when we were talking about pursuing dreams. He said he often stops by the Rosetta Stone kiosk in an airport he frequently flies thru, and considers purchasing a module. But, then he finds himself tempted to ask the salesperson how long it will take to learn the language, and mid-way through that thought, he knows he’s not passionate enough about it to give it what it would require to succeed. He thinks of it as negotiating terms and pursuing dreams doesn’t work that way.

It’s a similar principle with prospective clients who understand something isn’t working in their life, their organization, within their team, and they know they need to do something different. If I believe I have value to add and a potential solution, I offer it, and then we have what I think of as the (no disrespect intended in any way, shape, or form) “come to Jesus” moment: What are you willing to do differently to initiate and see this change through?

What are you willing to do differently to initiate and see this change through?

And when the person asks, “How long will it take?” I know the conversation is done and all that’s left is the pleasantries (well, to be fair, I’m typically direct about what will happen if they don’t take action)  as I prepare to leave the meeting.

Here’s the deal: Whatever shape your life, team, organization is in, you didn’t just arrive there this morning; you developed the habits and behaviors and embedded the thinking that have all conspired to get you to where you are today over the course of many (MANY!) years. Unlearning those habits, challenging those beliefs, and changing one’s thinking will not happen overnight (even if I do have my magic wand with me!). It takes time; sometimes more and sometimes less, depending on the level of discomfort, desire to change, willingness to challenge thinking and beliefs, willingness to rock the boat, even.

Whether I say it will take six months, twelve months, or longer, consider this: That time will pass either way, whether you do the work or not; it’s inevitable. The choice is yours: Will you step out of your comfort zone, take the action, and work through the process? Or will you simply be another six months or a year older, and still living in the same proverbial place?

What will you decide?

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Yes, this was me, some months ago. My stylist actually called in sick twice in one week…the first time, the salon called to let me know, and rescheduled me for a couple of days later. I showed up early and waited nearly 30 minutes (there was no receptionist on duty — just stylists all with clients) before someone decided to tell me he’d called in sick, again.

I was so frustrated and upset, I was nearly in tears, but it’s not what you think. And, it’s not uncommon. I’ve heard similar stories from many of the women in my inner circle — and extended network — on numerous occasions.

It wasn’t actually about the haircut. The root of the issue (no pun intended) is this: As usual, I had a lot going on in my life, and had waited until my hair was truly out of shape, out of style, and just downright unruly before I’d called to make an appointment, which meant about another 10 days before I could actually get into the salon. It’s not as if I wasn’t aware that within a certain number of weeks of my last cut, that my hair would have grown and would need some professional attention. The issue was I had chosen to put my needs last, after my family, my business, my personal growth, etc…Commendable, maybe, but not conducive to peace or good mental health over time.

I was so looking forward to an hour of true down time, when someone else would be fully focused on me and my only responsibility was to sit upright in the chair; at that point, I needed that. So, when I finally took the time for myself and the stylist didn’t show up, I was at the end of my emotional reserves!

Ladies, tell me you haven’t been there…whether it was your hair stylist, nail technician, massage therapist, or a girlfriend you were planning to have coffee or lunch with…The stars were no longer in alignment and that respite you so desperately needed evaporated nearly in an instant, leaving you frustrated, emotional…whatever the reaction, it was likely out of proportion to the actual event.

This is one of the reasons I’m collaborating with Tracy Worley and Maureen Craig McIntosh to bring you Gracebreak Retreat. We are taking an intentional time out to reconnect with ourselves and other strong, talented, courageous women. We will discover our natural talents (potential) and strengths (performance), define or refine our core values, dig into the choices we make and the behaviors we demonstrate that either serve us or don’t! And we’ll connect with other women who share similar challenges in their lives, broadening and strengthening our inner circles and support network. And we’re doing this just outside of beautiful Bozeman, Montana.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I routinely commit to things I really don’t have time for, or do not have deep meaning for me?
  • Do I routinely put everyone else’s needs before mine?
  • When I do take time out for myself, is it usually accidental (unplanned), late at night after everyone else is asleep, or simply because I’m desperate (and then I feel guilty for taking it)?
  • When was the last time I truly took significant time out to reconnect with and nurture my own needs?

If you answered yes to any (or all) of the first three, and you need to look at a calendar or have someone give you the answer to the last one, you need to be there with us. We’ve designed this retreat specifically for you. The truth is, you cannot give what you do not have and when your reserves run dry, you are of no service to anyone, especially you!

We can’t wait to see, and serve, you there! Register today!

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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