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Posts Tagged ‘Self-Awareness’

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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I can’t participate in that training. My company won’t pay for it. 

Have you ever said that? I know I have, back before I realized my personal development is 100% MY responsibility. Now I know that the money, time, and energy I invest in developing me is the BEST investment I’ll ever make in my life…and the dividends are beyond amazing!

I was foolish enough to limit my learning, and by extension my potential, based on what my employer was willing to pay for. Looking back, I feel so silly. You see, I’ve learned that if you want to reach your potential, your development is your responsibility, no one else’s. And if you choose to leave it up to someone else, be prepared to live the life they design for you. When I was in that mode — leaving my development up to someone else — I ended up in some places that held no interest for me and were so far from my strength zones it wasn’t even funny!

I spent two full days in Excel training because my boss at the time, an engineer masquerading as an HR person, used Excel for everything and thought I should be an expert at it, as well. It didn’t matter that my official area of expertise, at the time, was corporate communication, and unofficially, people development! I still have the “keyboard short-cuts cheat sheet” the trainer provided, but none of it makes much sense to me.

Many years earlier in my career, I spent three months plodding my way through a web development/programming course because a different manager thought I should be responsible for all aspects of our organization’s web site — content (which made sense, based on my position), design, and the technical operations. Never mind that we had a fully-staffed design group and a web developer on staff. It was a life-sucking three months.

At both of those times in my career, my level of awareness about my potential and my responsibility for my growth obviously wasn’t very high. I didn’t realize I had choices about what I learned and how I applied it. I didn’t realize it was ok for me to spend  money on my own development (beyond all the books I bought and devoured on a regular basis). Today, I can guarantee you, I wouldn’t be wasting a moment of my life’s energy on such folly; not only do I know my passion, purpose, and calling with great clarity, I also understand my growth is my responsibility — I get to drive this bus and I am on a journey!

This self-imposed constraint was brought to my awareness last week when I sat next to a delightful young woman on my return flight from a speaking engagement in Phoenix. A recruiter for an engineering firm headquartered in Charlotte, NC, she was studying for her SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) Professional in HR accreditation exam on the plane, which opened the door to a great conversation. 

As it turned out, she was taking the exam of her own accord; her employer wasn’t even aware she was studying for it. She planned to use her success with the exam to begin a conversation about her future with the organization and the opportunity to branch into other areas of HR beyond talent acquisition. She was confident that by investing in herself and taking the initiative to study for and earn her PHR would send the message that she has a lot more potential and drive than they might recognize.

My question to you is this: Whose responsibility is your development? 

In the past 2.5 years, I have invested enough cash to have purchased a new Volvo XC60, and countless hours in learning, with coaches, mentors, and others in like-minded, growth-oriented communities and programs. I can honestly say that the person I was at the beginning of 2012 very nearly no longer exists in comparison with the person who is typing this blog. My life is extremely different, fuller, more satisfying, with great promise to continue getting better each day.

I don’t say this to impress you, but to impress upon you how important it is to take responsibility for your development, financially as well as regards time and energy. It will open doors for you that you probably can’t even imagine today. It will change your life in amazing ways.

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Yes, it’s true: I stink. The smell of sweat on my body is ripe today, and I am reveling in it!

I know, it sounds gross, but those of you who know how it feels to push oneself past the limits of what we thought we were physically capable of will understand what I mean.

I have been doing DDP Yoga pretty consistently (at least 3x weekly) since last July, which has challenged me on many levels. And, I can see and feel the difference it’s made for me, so far. But I reached a point where I needed help to get to the next level, so I’ve been going to a local Pilates class and the instructor is pushing me into new positions and repetitive motions I didn’t think I was capable of.

While I am certainly not old, my coming to consistent exercise has happened much later in life than it does for many. I’m thankful I’ve finally gotten to it. It’s teaching me so many things about myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Here are a few of those lessons:

We are creative, resourceful, and whole beings. This is one of the basic foundations of the coaching profession. Each of us has everything we need to be successful in whatever we endeavor to do (assuming we are gifted in those areas). We simply don’t reach deep enough to discover what we are truly capable of.

As a “whole” being, meaning Body, Mind, and Spirit, I understand now what difference it makes to take care of our physical being. I cannot do the things I am called to do if I do not have the energy or stamina to physically do the actual work. My brain works better when my body is fit. I sleep better — recharging my body and resetting my brain — when I exercise. I am significantly more confident in what I have to offer and how I deliver it when I feel good in my own skin.


10300679_10154121452395174_7750278747470352175_nI am strong. 
I’ve always been strong emotionally and intellectually. Now, I am becoming strong physically. I recently had the opportunity to do a brutal, butt-kicking work-out with the Igniting Souls Community, and I kept up fairly well. I was even able to do the rope pull by myself one time. Think of the kind of rope you’d see on a tug boat for attaching to other things, attached to a weighted sled, which you pull to you (laying flat on your back, hand-over-hand above your head for about 50 feet), then push the sled back to its starting point. (These are a couple of my Igniting Souls cohorts — pushing the sled back)

Persistence pays.  This will come as no surprise to anyone who has accomplished anything, because any accomplishment with any significance comes only to those who persist. Nothing worth having comes easily or freely. There is always a bump (or three or twelve) in the road, there is always a cost (often twice as much as you anticipated), and things often take much longer than we think they should (the Law of Gender — incubation period for any kind of seed — is at play here, and there are some things we cannot know how long will take to grow). Success comes to those who have a definite purpose, plans for acquiring the object of their desire, and are willing to do the work every day to get to where they dream of being, even when it looks and feels as if they are not making progress.

I didn’t gain an extra 20 pounds or acquire a few extra inches on my body overnight and no matter what I do today, I will not be 20 pounds lighter or a few inches smaller tomorrow…but if I keep at what I’m doing, I will be over time. In fact, I am down about 10 pounds and enough in inches that I’ve dropped two sizes in clothing.

Investing in yourself is the best investment you will ever make. This is why I pay for it; “it” being coaches, mentors, and a self-proclaimed Pilates Diva! I pay for time, energy, attention, encouragement, and wisdom from people who have traveled these paths before and are getting the kinds of results I desire. No one else will do this for me; I must invest in myself and add value to myself before anyone else would even consider it.

So my challenge to you today is this: How are you investing in you?

What is the “it” that you should be paying for?

When will you take that next step, the first one that will move you that much closer to your dream, and invest in your future?

Share your answers in the comments box below; I truly want to hear from you.

In the meantime, have an intentional day; I’m off to the shower!

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Yes, it’s true. I went to prison 10 days ago — the Ohio State Reformatory, in Mansfield. You may be familiar with it if you’ve watched The Shawshank Redemption. 

In getting there, I traveled a number of roads I’d never been down before, both literally and figuratively. I went down those roads with a sense of expectation, of anticipation of profound discovery, knowing I would be confronting the physical prison and my personal prison. As the van drove down the highway, getting ever closer to its destination, I wondered “am I ready for this?”

Am I ready for this?

Is anyone ever ready to confront themselves and scrutinize the self-limiting beliefs that have held them back for years? Is anyone ever ready to scrutinize the self-imposed constraints they’ve placed on what they will or won’t do in their lives? Is anyone ever ready to walk into a cold, dank, musty, rotting place, filled with the ghosts (I’m told they are real in this place, but cannot say I felt or saw any) of those who were literally locked behind those bars?

The focus of the experience was to recognize our personal prisons, often realized through day jobs that fill our bank accounts (to some degree) while emptying our souls, and develop a plan for creating our dream jobs. I spent some time alone in a cell, laughing, crying, wondering, and reflecting on my life. Oddly, as I sat on the rusting springs of a “bed,” I could see muted light coming through the glass block windows across from my cell; I could hear birds singing.

IMG_0595While in my cell, I wrote a good deal, in my journal, in response to some questions posed by one of my mentors/coaches who facilitated the experience, and in a letter to me from my future self. This letter will be mailed to me at some point in the next year; I will be absolutely surprised by what it says, as I have no memory of what I wrote!

On the figurative side, I discovered much about  myself. My prison is no longer a day job; although I consider myself blessed to have escaped from more than one that was not the place for me. What a blessing to fully understand one’s purpose in life! No, my prison is truly self-constructed, bars created from beliefs about who I am and how I show up in relationships and what those beliefs and behaviors mean for what I will experience and accomplish in my life.

Self-awareness is the starting point for making any meaningful change in one’s life. Higher levels of awareness allow you to make choices, intentionally, with thought given to your desired outcomes. I’m working at a higher level of awareness now, and intentionally thinking and moving differently within the important relationships in my life. For now, at least, those particular prison bars have been erased.

While it’s unlikely you will travel to, or spend any time in prison any time soon, I encourage you to spend some time with pen and paper in reflection. Consider what imprisons you. What’s keeping you from fully living into your passion and purpose? What small step can you take, with that new awareness, to change your reality?

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Over the course of my life, I’ve not been known as the most diplomatic person, so perhaps you’ll forgive my choice of words.

This blog was posted today from a “builder” I have been following, and whom I respect immensely. In this post, Chet Scott points out that high performers self-identify and emerge from the pack. As a manager or leader, you don’t have to search for them…they will demonstrate who they are in a number of ways, and as a manager/leader, you get what you deserve. Here are a few things to watch for:

High performers seek feedback. They want to know how they are doing and will ask for feedback from people they respect, frequently. If you don’t respond with honest, candid feedback — both positive and constructive — they will know you’re feeding them a line, and over time their respect for you will deteriorate.

High performers seek challenge. They are not satisfied with, nor willing to accept, mediocrity. These are the people who will ask for more responsibility, look for projects and opportunities to continually learn, grow, and stretch themselves. They are hungry and if you don’t feed them, they will find someone who will.

High performers seek other high performers. They don’t want to be the smartest people in the room; they actively seek out people who are ahead of them in whatever it is they seek to learn or achieve, so they can learn from those who have gone before them.

High performers don’t get hung up in the HOW. These folks are internally driven, motivated to achieve. They are inspired by WHY, and if you can connect them to the Why of what needs to be done, they will find the way — the How — to make it happen, and they will attract those resources to them.

The question now is: What kind of a team do you deserve? As Chet says, do you need to kick your own a_ _, and demonstrate what you’re capable of, so you can attract high performers? If not, you will attract who you are and they will perform at, or lower than, your level.

So do the hard work, scrutinize who you are and what you have to offer before you evaluate the performance of your team. If you seek change in your team or organization, you need to start with you.

If you don’t have a “builder” or coach to help you through this process, I strongly encourage you to find one. Speaking from experience, you won’t get there on your own.

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If you’re curious about my self-identified lack of diplomacy, here’s a little insight…

Over the course of my life, I’ve not been known as the most diplomatic person. You may find this ironic, considering my chosen career — Corporate Communication — for the past 20+ years, but it’s true. In fact, I went through a Harrison Assessment a number of years ago, and my “diplomacy” score was very low, which was brought to my attention by the VP of Marketing, with whom I worked frequently. He considered it a potential disaster waiting to happen, given my job.

Here’s how I explained it to him. The Harrison Assessment offers statements like “I enjoy diplomacy in my work.” As you go through the assessment, you note whether the statement is like you or not like you. As a professional communicator, word choice is extremely important; words matter, so choose them carefully. I think of “enjoy” in terms of pleasure, satisfaction, etc…So, while I understand and appreciate the need for diplomacy, and am perfectly capable of discerning when I need to practice it, I don’t “enjoy” it.

That’s it…

 

 

 

 

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Last week, I spent some time in Huntington, WV, meeting with clients. One of them was kind enough to join me for lunch, and she suggested we dine at Jim’s Steak and Spaghetti. The place is truly a landmark in the city! And it’s a shining example of crystal clarity on who they are and what they stand for.

The Jim’s menu is very simple and clean. They offer a few sizes of spaghetti (meat sauce or marinara), and few sandwiches, a few salads, a few drink options, and several choices of home-made pies. Nothing fancy, just good, solid home-cooking presented and served in a no-nonsense way by very friendly staff.

When I arrived, about 30 minutes early, the place was bustling, with booths and counter space full throughout the restaurant. As I waited for my “date” to arrive, I observed the place. It’s decorated as I imagine it has been for years — reminiscent of an older coffee shop or diner; simple, serviceable fixtures. The front counter has a sign that clearly states the establishment does not accept debit or credit cards; although they do provide one of those slim-line ATMs if you need to get cash (I assume they prefer to not deal with the fees charged by credit card companies, but are not averse to their customers paying them, if need be!). Note that this lack of accommodation for a mode of payment we all take for granted these days has not slowed business at Jim’s one iota! Pictures adorn some of the wall space — clearly, many a dignitary has dined at Jim’s, including JFK and Senator Joe Manchin.

My lunch companion grew up in Huntington and has been a customer at Jim’s since high school. She shared stories with me of what a local icon the place is and how it hasn’t changed much in the many years she’s been going there, even though it is now managed by Jim’s daughter.

I’ve been thinking about Jim’s for a whole week now. It’s a great example of knowing exactly who you are, what you stand for, and what you’re good at. Jim’s puts on no pretenses and that’s exactly why its success has stood the test of time.

There are valuable lessons to be learned here. Can you state, with equal clarity and simplicity, who you are (as an individual or as a representative of some organization) and what you stand for?

If not, I encourage you to spend some time working on this. If you aren’t clear, imagine how fuzzy it is for your employees, suppliers, customers, and potential customers…and what the implications of that lack of clarity has for your success.

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