How’s That Working For You?

As Ecclesiastes and The Byrds remind us, there are seasons in our lives. Ebbs and flows. We are always changing and dynamic. Sometimes the change is dramatic and swift; at other times it’s subtle, only recognized when we take a look back.

It’s following these subtle shifts that we might find ourselves hanging on to behaviors, habits, or even relationships that served us prior to the shift and may not now.

A growing awareness of a habitual behavior had been growing over the last several weeks. I sort of felt I should change, but it wasn’t clear to me why.  Then in recent conversation a friend shared her favorite question from Dr. Phil McGraw: How’s that working for you?

Aha! This behavior I’m recognizing as something out of sync with who I am – who I’ve become – is no longer working for me. It used to, but no more. There’s been a change. I’ve changed.

Knowing this actually feels liberating. Dropping the habit, now that I know why it should be dropped, doesn’t seem daunting at all. I’m breathing easier. Feel lighter.

Our behavior often supports who we are; gives us what we need. When significant change occurs – new job, new relationship, divorce – or more subtle change like a drop or rise in stress level, what once was a perfect fit may no longer be. At those moments of recognition, it may be helpful to take a cue from Dr. Phil.

January 201

Re-Entry

strong-womenIt’s been so long since I posted, I feel like I’m starting from scratch.  The difference now, of course, is that I’m not starting from scratch.  There are 405 of these little nuggets (405!), so I have a little practice.  I just need to dust off those skills and get at it again.

The same can be said for many things in our lives and, in particular, our careers.  It’s been a long time since I was in retail sales, but I bet I could get the swing of it again if I wanted to.  I’m not directly managing anyone now and I hope that’s not a skill I’ll lose as I teach and coach.  I used to cross country ski and eventually I’ll strap on skis again… and it won’t be like the first time.  There’s a reason that the expression, “It’s like riding a bike,” is something that is often said.  We remember, even if we don’t remember that we remember.

Re-engaging is one of the few times when looking back at the past can be helpful.  Think you can’t write a blog post?  Well, have you done it before?  You can do it again.

What challenge has you squirming?  Chances are that at least a portion of the challenge is something you’ve done before.  You’ve presented.  You’ve moved.  You’ve aced an exam. You’ve learned something new.  You’ve made it through a tough interview.  You’ve stated a new job.

You’ve got this.

Pursue Your Passion

It can be frustrating when others don’t share our passion about something.  When we see an injustice and want to correct it, why doesn’t everyone see it and want to shout from the rooftops with us?

We’ve each got to shout about our own thing.

Recently a friend asked that I donate to a cause.  It’s a cause I follow and care about, but it isn’t my cause.  As she asked I thought about all the good a check of the same size could do for my charity of choice, and I said, “no.”  And I did so completely guilt free.  I know she and people like her are taking care of business over there so that I can focus on what needs to be done in another place.

IMG_0229I’m thrilled that there are people who take care of abandoned and abused animals, who write eloquent letters to encourage our legislators to support equality, or who act to create services for children in our community.  To them and so many more, thank you.  While you’re working on that, I’ll worry about Africa, young mothers, clean water, and a natural food supply.

Oh, I want you to know all about the work that stirs passion in me, but I know you may not change where your money flows, how you spend your volunteer time, or what food you consume.  It’s OK.  It’s my passion, not yours.

Whatever it is that moves your heart to action, go make a difference.  Please.  We can’t all do everything, so we must do the few things that really matter to us personally.  Also remember, when I don’t get fired up about something like you do, it’s not that I don’t care.  It’s just that I’m working to make a difference somewhere else.

Adapt or Go Back?

dreamstimefree_40306Someone changed my default browser. I’m usually pretty adaptable, but I have to tell you – this has thrown my game off a bit this week.  This new browser doesn’t know me and, therefore, doesn’t know my passwords.  Of course, I don’t know my passwords either – because my other browser knows them for me.

And no, I haven’t changed it back.  It’s bugging me but I haven’t done anything about it.  Certainly I’m technical enough to make the switch.  The thing is, I don’t know why it was changed.  Of course, I also keep forgetting to ask because it’s only on my mind when I click on a link from an email….  I also haven’t decided to adapt to the change.

I bring this up because it got me thinking about change and adaptability.  Sometimes there are little things we have complete control over that we let get under our skin.  We spend time irritated with the disruption and maybe with the person we see as the cause of the change and yet take no action to relieve our own discomfort.

So I’m going to change the browser back to what it was (family, you’ve been warned) and I’m also going to pay attention to see if there are other things in my life that I’m treating this way.  What else is bothering me that I could do something about and haven’t?  Where am I unnecessarily seeing myself as a victim?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a computer setting to change.

Thank You, Friends

Several of my friends – and likely yours, too – have taken their gratitude to Facebook over the course of November, each day listing another blessing in their lives for which they are thankful.

I haven’t done this, primarily because it never occurs to me to start in on November 1st and then I’m behind.  It’s a fun and uplifting exercise.  And yet, I noticed a post where someone was thankful that Facebook had the feature to hide posts from others who were doing this so that he wouldn’t have to endure seeing them.

What?!

How jaded have we become if somebody’s public note of thanks is an event that rubs us the wrong way?  Personally, each note of gratitude I see reminds me of a similar blessing I have and I find myself noting that I’m thankful for that as well.

And so I want to thank my friends who are sharing their gratitude this month.  I’m delighted to see my social networking feeds filled with appreciation, blessing, and joy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For you…

Lessons from Walt

The following post about Walt Disney is one of the most read pieces I’ve published.  Turns out lots of people are looking for information on Walt’s perseverance.  In any event, I’ve been reminded again how important it is for us to persevere even when we’re tired – maybe especially when we’re tired – of keeping at something.

Well, have you been trying for twenty years?  Me neither.  Keep pressing on….

Walt Disney’s Perseverance  Originally posted February 22, 2011

Travel with me back in time to 1938. It was four years past the original book release of Mary Poppins and Walt Disney made his first attempt to gain rights to transfer the beloved story to film. Mickey Mouse was a big hit and this was the year that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released, winning Disney an Oscar (accompanied by seven miniature statues). Really, the Snow White story provides another wonderful example of perseverance, but I’ll try to stay on track.

Anyway, 1938 was a big year for Walt (understatement), so you’d think that when he approached Helen Lyndon Goff (pen name P. L. Travers) she would have been flattered at the opportunity to work with him on a film adaptation of Mary Poppins; but no. Turns out that she didn’t think a film version of her books would do justice to her story; she didn’t want it to be turned into a cartoon.

So Mr. Disney asked again… and again… and again… and again… for 20 YEARS! During that time he released animated classics like Pinocchio, Fantasia and Bambi. He opened Disneyland. He moved out of animated films with Treasure Island, Old Yeller and The Disney Club. These were the golden years of Disney and of course I can’t begin to do justice to these 20 years with a little paragraph here.

And yet year after year, he’d pick up the phone, send a letter, drop by – however it was that Mr. Disney courted Ms. Travers’s business – to try to get the rights to Mary Poppins.

Here’s my commentary: really? Why? How did he see the potential? Why was he so driven? Or was it just a crazy obsession because he’d been told no? And didn’t he have enough going on? Why this? We won’t know… but my mind wanders. Back to the story….

Finally, P. L. Travers gave in and the rest, as they say, is history. Mary Poppins released in 1964 as one of Disney’s most successful musicals. It won Oscars. Julie Andrews won an Oscar. The songs, editing, and visual effects added even more Oscars, resulting in a total of 13. (BTW – all this information is available on Wikipedia and Answers if you want even more information on the topic.)

As you can see, Walt Disney’s perseverance paid off. In my post yesterday, I cited this as something that I found more applicable to me personally than the “hey, look how they picked up after failure” stories. I can relate to doggedly going back to something that I think really needs to get done – just like Disney did with Mary Poppins. I know I wouldn’t have had the insight to see the potential in Mary Poppins, but I can think of things in my life that I shouldn’t give up on. For that I can learn a lesson from Walt.

Even if it takes 20 years.

Savoring the Moment

This weekend we had one of those too rare family meals where everyone stayed at the table for hours after the food was gone.  I recently learned that my son’s girlfriend hadn’t seen any pictures of him when he was little, so out came the photo albums… along with many stories to tell.

I hope we didn’t bore her.  For the rest of us, it was clear that we were relishing our precious memories.  Having the chance to share those with her anew made us cherish them even more.

Savoring, as we did over our extended meal, is an activity that brings us happiness in the present.  According to Marin E. P. Seligman in his book Authentic Happiness, happiness in the present is part of the three-legged stool of happiness.  (The other two are “satisfaction about the past” and “optimism about the future.”)  We can actively pursue savoring through these five techniques:

  • Sharing With Others: This is what my family did as we shared photographs and memories.
  • Memory Building: Whatever is happening, take a moment to preserve it in your memory.  This could be done by taking a mental snapshot or by obtaining something physical, like a souvenir.
  • Self-congratulation: To quote Dr. Seligman, “Don’t be afraid of pride.  Tell yourself how impressed others are, and remember how long you’ve waited for this to happen.”
  • Sharpening Perceptions: This is all about paying attention to the details.  What spices can you taste in your meal?  How does the house smell when you arrive as a guest?  How does one side of your body feel versus the other while you sit by a fire?  Can you pick out the harmony in a song?
  • Absorption: Just as it sounds, allow yourself to be absorbed in the moment.  Don’t think.  Simply feel it.

Any of these activities is something each of us can do on the spot, right now.  More importantly, we can choose to savor moments when we’re not feeling happy in the present.  Try it out and you’ll likely find that this list will turn a sullen mood around.

Coaching: Anticipation

Whatever you’re anticipating, it can be used to your advantage.  Discard worry and use anticipation of events to your advantage.  Ready to consider this?

Here we go….

What have you been worrying about lately?  What are you anticipating that’s causing your angst?  Identify it.  Name it.  Recognize it and reflect on it.

Now that you know what it is that’s causing worry, what can you do about it?  Is it in your control?  If so, what can you change?  Is it outside of your control?  Recognize this and let it go.  Really.

Finally, what do you have planned in the future that you are positively anticipating?  A gathering with friends?  The holidays?  A vacation?  Finding a new job?  Buying something special just for you?  Whatever it is, take time each day to anticipate what’s coming your way.  Nothing in the works?  Plan something.  Soon.

Anticipation can work in our favor or it can work against us.  It’s up to us to make the choice of where we want to spend our time and energy.  Anticipate good things!

Positive Anticipation

Just as anticipation of demanding events can make us more tense, anticipation of something wonderful happening in the future can make us feel joyful right now.  Particularly during stressful times, anticipating a fun and exciting event can lift our spirits.

This is exactly why it’s so important to have positive plans in our future.  As we traverse through stressful times, if all we can see are more demands and, at best, a few mundane happenings, our anticipation will be primarily negative.  It must be balanced out.  Yet too often we leave planning for fun in the hands of others.

Personally, I’ve learned that during stressful times I have a tendency to quit planning for fun – or for much of anything, for that matter.  It’s at these times I know I need to push through my anxiety and make some happy plans. When worry has a hold on you, this is the best time to create something good to anticipate.  It can be something small such as lunch with a friend.  Or something much larger, like a vacation.  Either way, when we have something fun to anticipate, it makes us hopeful in the present.

Anticipation of positive events brings hope and hope is a perfect emotion to balance out our worries.

Oh, the Anticipation!

It has been said that when left with incomplete information, we fill in the blanks with the worst-case scenario.  Human nature seems to lead us down the path of worry.  Anticipation of the unknown can create a host of anxieties.

What are we doing to ourselves?  Looking back, those events we spend so much time worrying about rarely play up to our negative expectations and often never happen at all.  It’s the anticipation of the event that gets our blood pressure to rise, adding stress to already stressful times.

How can we change?  Here are a few things that have worked for me:

  • Look back at similar circumstances and remind yourself that the worst-case scenario very rarely happens. It likely won’t happen this time, either.
  • Walk through the worst-case scenario playing in your head.  How would you react? What would REALLY be the worst that could happen?  See yourself living through it. Learning from it.
  • To counter the above exercise, walk through the best-case scenario.  See how you can shine in a difficult situation.  As you do this, take note of what you need to do to support this happening so that you are best prepared.
  • Find someone to alleviate your fears by reminding you of your knowledge, your expertise, or your preparedness – whatever it is that you have that is going to carry you through this event.
  • Finally, remember what you are doing to yourself.  Sometimes simply remembering that you are worrying about situations that will likely not take place may bring a little peace.

And then, walk through it.  Make the presentation.  Ask for the raise.  Have that difficult conversation with your kid, spouse or parent.  Step into the hot air balloon.  Put on your party dress.  Go.  Shine.

Coaching Challenge: Learning

I once heard a conference speaker say that as a manager he would pay for any sort of learning one of his employees wanted to pursue.  Often learning something in one area provides inspiration and insight to us in another.  He knew this.

Whether intentional or as a by-product of a life event, learning is foundational to growth and development.  If you can’t think of a few things you’ve learned over the past couple of days, it’s probably time to pay more attention.  Be more deliberate.

Here we go….

  • Is there something that you want to learn and haven’t yet?  What’s holding you back?  Make a plan to move toward the goal by figuring out whether it’s time, money, or some other commitment needed.  Find what it will take for you to execute and make a plan to get it done.
  • Next time you participate in an activity that isn’t what you usually do, take a few moments following the event and think about what it taught you.  What did you learn about yourself?  About your relationship with the individuals around you?
  • Pull an unread non-fiction book off your bookshelf and read it.  Read them all?  Buy a new one and read it.
  • We learn so much when we teach others.  What do you know that you can pass on?  What would you like to learn more about so that information can be shared?  Like the actions in the first bullet, make a plan to make it happen.

Finally, enjoy the process.  It’s not usually fun when we feel forced to learn something.  When a new topic or idea can be approached with a sense of curiosity and adventure, it’s then that we’re able to learn the most.

Coaching Challenge: Setbacks

We all have setbacks throughout our careers and as we move toward our goals.  Sometimes it’s a deadline missed.  Other times it’s a hoped-for outcome that doesn’t come to pass.  And from time to time individuals can let us down.  Regardless of what’s happened, it’s important for each of us to take stock of what’s been learned and – more importantly – move ahead.

Have you had a recent setback that you haven’t quite gotten over yet?  Keep it in mind as we go through today’s coaching challenge.

Here we go….

  • Take time to write out what you’ve learned from this recent setback.  As much as possible, recognize the positive and those things that will provide wisdom as you continue toward your goal.
  • Once the list is complete, take a moment to be grateful. These lessons learned have made you smarter about what to do next.  Recognize this as a good thing.
  • If you find that you’re blaming someone else, decide to forgive and let it go.  Focus on what you could have done differently.  You can only change you.
  • Identify the next step you will take to move forward and make a plan to do it.
  • Going forward, decide now how you will react to the next setback you face.  Maybe you’ll set aside time to wallow and then be done.  Maybe you’ll go right into figuring out what you’ve learned.  Whatever it is, have a game plan.  There will be another setback.  Plan for it.

Finally, if resilience is something that isn’t your strength and if setbacks knock you out for quite a while, find someone to talk to about it or pick up a book on the topic.  Resilience can be learned and how you react to setbacks can make you stronger.

Moving Beyond Setback

We know we should be resilient; pick ourselves up after a setback and move forward.  Carry on.

When it comes right down to it, what exactly does this MEAN?  If you’re like me, you may find checklists and action steps to be very helpful.  When I’m feeling lousy and wanting more to wallow in a little self-pity than to truly move ahead, being told what to do next can be beneficial.

It’s because of this that I found the 10 Ways to Deal with Setbacks article from TechRepublic to be sound advice.  Below are suggestions regarding what to do when failure has come knocking at your door.  As the article says – tips for prevailing even when things go wrong.

  • Step back and reflect
  • Find a confidante
  • Stay positive
  • Focus on the future more than the past
  • Learn from the experience
  • Be careful regarding blame
  • Find a way to benefit
  • Write about your experience
  • Teach others
  • Remember that failure isn’t final

Yes, it’s definitely easier to read the list than to actually do it all.  But then, wallowing in self-pity isn’t a compelling option, either.  Taking each one, one step at a time, will help you move forward after a setback and will assist your efforts to progress past any setback.

Coaching Challenge: Be Grateful

This week we’ve had the opportunity to express gratitude for the steady hands of surgeons, for the speed of life flights, and for injuries minor enough to be taken care of with supplies in the first aid isle at Target.  It’s been wild week for our family and friends and I find myself grateful for text messages, real-time updates on Facebook, and the chance to support those I love with prayer.

Even in difficult circumstances, we can find ways to express our gratitude. It’s all about how we look at it, isn’t it?  Going forward our challenge is to find ways to be more grateful.

Here we go….

  • Did you try the “Three Blessings” exercise yet?  Try it for a week.  Notice how it changes your perspective.
  • Next time you find yourself beginning to complain about something – or someone – stop yourself and state a reason you are grateful in the situation – or why you are grateful for that person.
  • Next time you find yourself worrying, do the same.
  • Begin the habit of thinking about what you are grateful for while brushing your teeth, driving to work, or enjoying your morning coffee break.  Fill your mind with gratitude.
  • When you hear someone else complain, respond with a grateful statement.  There is always a silver lining.  Find it.  State it.

With any week focused on being grateful, it has to end with me telling you how grateful I am that you read these posts.  Thank you for giving your precious resource of time to this blog.  You are appreciated and I’m so happy you are here.

Count Your Blessings

A week focused on being grateful must include the “Three Blessings” exercise.  I’ve mentioned it before and here I go again because doing this will change your perspective. Gratitude and thanks have been frequent topics on this site and regular readers know how strongly exercising gratitude contributes to our overall well-being.

In Martin Seligman’s most recent book Flourish, he builds on the Positive Psychology movement with concrete, research-based activities each of us can do to not simply be happy, but to flourish.

Because we spend so much time focusing on the negative (we do, you aren’t alone on this one), taking time to focus on positive events in our lives helps to add balance.  Ready to improve your well-being?  Here’s what Seligman suggests:

Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep.  Write down three things that went well today and why they went well.  You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote.  The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).

Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?”  For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up some ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes” or “because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.” Or if you wrote, “My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy,” you might pick as the cause “God was looking out for her” or “She did everything right during her pregnancy.”

Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week.  It will get easier.  The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.

This activity is appropriately called the “Three Blessings” exercise.  How wonderful to set aside time each day to count our blessings!  We have so many…

You can find all books mentioned in this blog online at the Coach Carolyn Store.

Coaching: Following

Perhaps this week is the first time you’ve given any thought to being an exceptional follower.  With all the focus on leadership, it’s no wonder so few of us have spent much time thinking through our followership skills.  Today, let’s change that by asking ourselves how we can all be better followers.

Here we go….

Yes, you may be a leader.  However, you are also a follower, too.  Take a moment to identify areas where you are a follower.  If not at work, maybe it’s at a charity where you volunteer or a special project you’re working on with others.

How well do you play the role of Follower?  What can you do to listen and trust the leaders in your life?  How can you better support them?  What do they need from you to better lead?

Thinking about the next followership opportunity that comes your way, what can you do to be a great follower from the beginning?  What will it take for you to get on board quickly and take direction when needed?

Most importantly, what reminder can you put in place to keep yourself from focusing on what the leader could do better and instead focus on what you can do to help him or her lead better?

We are all followers at some point or another so we may as well be awesome followers!

Follow The Leader

There can’t be any leaders if there are no followers and each leader must lead at least one person, usually many.  I’m doing the math and figure there are more followers out there than leaders, yet an Amazon search brings up over 100,000 results for “leadership” versus 236 for “followership.”  Seems like it should be the other way around.

In any event, we are followers even if we’re also leaders.  Most of us are leading in some ways, following in others.  These are roles, after all, not permanent titles affixed to us regardless of circumstance.  And most of the time we’re followers, not leaders (again, simply doing the math…).

Given this, how many of us have spent time thinking about how we can be better followers?  Observing the scant number of books on the topic, my guess is just a few.

So how can we be better followers?

  • Listen  We’ve got to hear what our leaders are saying if we’re going to effectively follow.  Knowing what our leaders need is found in the words they say.  We must hear them.
  • Trust  Our leader has been put in place because of his or her expertise, experience, and understanding of the organization.  Trust that he or she knows what’s going on and has put thought into decisions made.  If a decision doesn’t make sense, there may be something you don’t know that he or she does.  Believe they have good intentions.
  • Manage Up  Fill your leader in on what you are doing.  Don’t withhold information.  Be honest when you encounter roadblocks.  Ask for help when you need it.  Don’t surprise them at the last minute with bad news.  Share good news, too.
  • Follow First  Get on board with ideas and changes quickly.  Be an advocate for what needs to be done.  Don’t drag your feet and push back on inevitable change.  Watch First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy.  “The first follower transforms the lone nut into a leader.”

Ultimately, what each of us can do best as followers is to follow the lead of the leader.  The leader will tell us how we can best follow if we listen, trust, and follow.

We Are All Followers

Following a tweet, over the weekend I was lead to an article on being a follower.  Reading this got me thinking about how much time and attention is focused on being a leader and yet we rarely see articles on how to be a good follower.

And we are all followers.

With this focus on leadership, followers are sometimes characterized as sheep, conformists, maybe even lazy.  After all, if we were really bringing our A-game, then we’d clearly be the leader, right?

Without realizing it, many of us think this way.  And at the same time we’ve also observed situations where there were too many people trying to lead and relatively few willing to dig in and do the work.  Not enough participants willing to follow someone else’s lead.

It may be time to ditch this notion that being a follower is a bad thing and focus instead on how to follow well.  I know there have been times where I’ve spent too much time focusing on how (I thought) I could lead something better than the leader, which could only result in being a pretty poor follower.  Had I been a better follower, it likely would have been better for the organization and probably better for my career, too.

So where are you trying to lead when you should really be following?  It’s a question I’ll be asking myself more and more.

Coaching: Expectations

Regardless of whether we set our own expectations or someone else sets them for us, the expectations placed upon us can either motivate or discourage us.  It depends on whether we meet them or not, right?!  When thinking about the expectations you have for your career, your relationships, or other areas of your life, keep in mind that the source and the essence of these expectations plays a role in how you feel about your success.  With that in mind, let’s dig a little deeper.

Here we go….

Where do your expectations come from?  Have you set them yourself or have you accepted them from someone else?

First, think about those you have set for yourself.  How realistic are they?  Are they a source of motivation or do you use them to beat yourself up?  What would a motivating expectation look like for you?  How can you rewrite your own expectations so that you aren’t letting yourself down?

And for those expectations that have been given to you, have you accepted them freely or are they being imposed on you?  Those being imposed by someone other than your employer should be accepted or let go.  For those being accepted by you, how can you make them your own?  This will help make them motivators for you.

Finally, examine your relationships and be sure that you aren’t imposing your own expectations on someone else unnecessarily.  Your relationship will benefit from it.

I expect to take a long, relaxing weekend.  I hope you do as well!  Enjoy every last moment of summer.

Your Expectations

Yesterday’s post was about not taking on the expectations of others when those expectations aren’t clearly set or stated.  We shouldn’t accept the guilt or burden of meeting what we didn’t know someone else wanted from us.

Perhaps more importantly, we need to be sure that this isn’t something that we’re doing to someone else.  I think those of us who are parents are exceptionally good at this.  After all, what sort of parents would we be if we didn’t have expectations of our children?  We also do this to our spouse, our parents, family, coworkers and friends.  And we shouldn’t.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have expectations.  I’m saying that those expectations need to be clear and stated.  If you expect your kids do something, tell them.  If it sounds ridiculous when you say it out loud, it’s probably not a fair expectation.  This also goes for anyone else that you feel may have let you down.  Did they know you expected something from them?  Do they even know that you feel like they let you down?

So go ahead and set expectations if it’s your place to do so.  If it’s not, then don’t and just let it go.