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Posts Tagged ‘Self-Awareness’

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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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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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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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