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Posts Tagged ‘Reflection’

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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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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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I had the privilege of attending a business summit last week, where 800 business leaders and legislators gathered to discuss a number of issues in our state. Part of the agenda was an opportunity to get to know the candidates for our Congressional seats in the upcoming election. In pairs, these folks were given the opportunity to respond to a series of questions posed by a moderator, and one in particular caught my attention.

The moderator asked: What accomplishment in your public service career are you most proud of and what would you like the chance to do over?

What accomplishment are you most proud of and what would you like the chance to do over?

As I listened to each of the four candidates who participated, I found myself becoming more and more disappointed in them; although it is politics, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Essentially, here’s what they said: “I’m most proud of XX (fill in the blank with some specific thing), and I really have no regrets. I can’t think of anything in my life I would take back or do over.”

Really?

Pardon my disbelief, but that response left me cold. I can’t think of anyone I’ve met  who has no regrets, who wouldn’t like the opportunity to do something over. This is not to say that the something has to be monumental. It could be as simple as wishing one could take back a hurtful comment made in the heat of an argument, or fueled by hurt or misunderstanding. It could be wishing one took advantage of an opportunity that had been presented, but was missed out of lack of awareness, fear, doubt, insecurity. It could be a desire to do something again because of lessons learned and a desire to do whatever it was better, smarter, smoother, etc…There are often unintended consequences to our actions, and sometimes, we would like to try, again, based on that awareness.

I do understand the concept of saying “I have no regrets because I’m happy with where I am today.” I do. You see, I am very blessed to be where I am today, and looking back over the course of my life, I can see all the connections on the path to getting me here, and understand why the various experiences were necessary. At the same time, there are things I’ve done and said that I’ve deeply regretted and wish I could take back or do over, with more insight, stronger intuition, greater empathy, deeper wisdom. I’ve made apologies and amends and learned to forgive myself, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve goofed up, on numerous occasions, and would like to have done it better the first time.

But, this is how we learn. We try, we stumble, we learn, we try, again…

So, back to the political candidates. I assume some well-meaning communication officer or PR person told them it’s important to focus on the positive and not admit to any potential weakness or failure. I find it disingenuous. It disconnects them from the rest of us mere mortals who goof up on occasion. It leaves me feeling distrustful of them. If they can’t be open about a mis-step at some point in their life — or political career — what else will they not be honest and forthcoming about? And what will be the outcome if it turns out someone finds something in their past that they regret and would like to have done over?

This is like a job interview, isn’t it? When the interviewer asks the candidate what his / her strengths and weaknesses are. The truth is, we all have both and if we attempt to present ourselves as if we don’t, we’ve planted the seeds of distrust and disbelief. It usually doesn’t go well after that.

So, what about you? How would you answer the moderator’s question? What would you do over, and why?

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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