Responding to Setbacks

As you may have gathered from the posts I publish here, I’m a positive person. Because I focus on goals, taking risks, going for it, finding the silver lining, sharing compliments, being grateful, and so much more; I sometimes get comments from people that imply that my life is charmed and lucky – somehow disappointment and setback free.

Whatever.

I’m here to tell you that plenty of disappointments come through the Baana household. We disappoint one another. Friends and circumstances disappoint us. We live in Fargo so the weather regularly disappoints!

What might be different is how we react in our disappointment. Sure, at first we may rant, scream… even swear. Or pout. And then we continue to love each other, our friends, and even Fargo.

When it comes to circumstance, we need to move past the setback and move on. I’ve mentioned before that during these times my favorite question to ask is, “What have I learned from this experience?” As that question is answered, I see the reason behind the setback and figure out how to apply the learning going forward. At least I like to think that’s what happens. Sometimes the pouting goes on for a while before I get to that enlightened moment.

It goes back to what John C. Maxwell points out in his book Failing Forward: the key to overcoming disappointment/failure/set-backs doesn’t happen by changing circumstances. It begins with a personal desire to be teachable. It begins within us.

Continuing to paraphrase from the book… If you’re willing to do that, then you’ll be able to handle the disappointments, setbacks and failures that come your way.

Boldly Be You

It is best when we can boldly be who we truly are.  Regardless.

How often have you allowed other voices to sway your decision-making?  When we make decisions based on what other people think, we are giving them a lot of power.

In a presentation that I gave recently I asked the participants to write down the names of those who influenced their definition of success.  In the discussion that followed it was mentioned that the people on the list would likely be surprised that they were there.  Wouldn’t you be?

This happens when we don’t hold enough confidence in ourselves.  When we lack the boldness to make our own decisions.  Define our own success.  Make our own way.

I’ve been learning that every decision I make needs to be right for me, and that I don’t have to explain what I do to everyone else.  Sure, there are people that should hold some sway – my husband, for example – but even he can’t fully know what’s best for me.

I must come to that understanding myself and boldly be me.

Boldly be you.

Self-Discovery Through Failure

We often learn more about ourselves through failure than through success.  It’s true.  And sometimes painful.

As you may have gathered from the posts I publish here, I’m a positive person. Because I focus on goals, taking risks, going for it, finding the silver lining, sharing compliments, being grateful, and so much more; I sometimes get comments from people that imply that my life is blessed, charmed, lucky – somehow disappointment and failure free.

Whatever.

I’m here to tell you that plenty of disappointments come through the Baana household. We disappoint one another. Friends and circumstances disappoint us. We live in Fargo so the weather regularly disappoints!

What might be different is how we react in our disappointment. Sure, at first we may rant, scream… even swear. Or pout. And then we continue to love each other, our friends, and even Fargo.

When it comes to circumstance, we need to move past the setback and move on. I’ve mentioned before that during these times my favorite question to ask is, “What have I learned from this experience?” As that question is answered, I see the reason behind the failure and figure out how to apply the learning going forward.  Figure out what it is that I’ll do differently next time.  At least I like to think that’s what happens. Sometimes the pouting goes on for a while before I get to that enlightened moment.

It goes back to what John C. Maxwell points out in his book Failing Forward: the key to overcoming disappointment/failure/set-backs doesn’t happen by changing circumstances. It begins with a personal desire to be teachable. It begins within us.

Continuing to paraphrase from the book… If you’re willing to do that, then you’ll be able to handle the disappointments, setbacks and failures that come your way.  And you’ll likely learn something about yourself in the process as well.

A Lesson In Confidence

Sometimes we learn lessons from our children.

Several years ago now, our youngest son decided to run for Treasurer of his class.  We had recently moved so he was new to the school, but he still wanted to give it a try.

He spent time with us discussing his platform and rehearsing his speech and when the day came, he dressed up in his suit coat and headed off to school.

His speech went off without a hitch, we’re told.  And then his competition took the stage… and threw candy out to the audience.  You can guess who won.

As we heard him tell the story about his lesson in how politics really work, I was bracing for his reaction, ready for the tears.  They never came.

You see Davis was confident in what he had presented.  Confident in his ideas, confident that he had taken the path that was right for him, and confident that he’d been true to his values and ideas.  He had failed in his run but he was not a failure.

How often we lose confidence because things don’t work out as we’d hoped!  When we know that we’ve been true to ourselves, that’s when we need to remain confident in knowing who we are and what we’ve presented to the world.

Thank you, Davis.  Lesson learned.

Coaching Challenge: Strengths

You have strengths and you need to be using them.  Every day.  In all that you do.  This week I’m challenging you to do so.

Here we go….

  • Still haven’t taken the time to figure out exactly what your strengths are? Use one or all of these methods to find out a little more about yourself.  Keep in mind, this is NOT something you can ask of someone else – only you know what makes you feel strong so only you can do this work.  Also, each of these looks at strengths from differing angles, so it’s not overkill to do them all.
  • Find ways that you can use your strengths each day.  I described how I do it in yesterday’s post.  Of course, you can’t very effectively do this if you haven’t done the work in the first bullet.  So go, get to it!
  • As Danielle LaPorte suggests, find ways to do more of what you love each day.  I will expand that and add: find ways to do more things that strengthen you each day.  In time you’ll be doing more of what you love and what strengthens you and less of what you loathe and depletes you.

People who use their strengths are happier and more successful, more balanced and less stressed.  All fantastic reasons to focus on that which makes you feel strong.

What Strengthens You?

Preparing for a presentation last week, I was reminded again how important it is for each of us to use our strengths in all that we do.  It’s also surprising to me that I’ve only posted about doing so a handful of times.  I’ve never devoted a week to the topic.  It’s about time.

Before we get too far in, it’s important that we’re all on the same page when it comes to defining “strengths.”

Here’s the thing… what you are good at is not necessarily the same as your strengths.

What?

That means that every time you were asked about your strengths in job interviews and you rattled off everything you are good at, you were probably answering a different question than the one that was asked. Your skills do not equal your strengths.

Strengths strengthen you. If you do something well and you hate it, it demotivates you, and it leaves you weary, then it is definitely not one of your strengths. You can also think of these as “burnout skills,” a good perspective when thinking about how what we do well can actually fry our spirits.

Quoting from Marcus Buckingham, a leader in strengths-based leadership: “You can be good at something – even really good at something – and still hate doing it. If that’s the case, then you definitely should not consider that activity a strength, because doing it will leave you feeling drained, weakened and depleted. Building your career around that kind of activity is not a recipe for long-term success.”

So what strengthens you? What, when you are done, leaves you feeling like you haven’t really worked at all? This is your gift, your genius work. You’ll hear it referred to many ways but really, it’s all the same thing. These are your strengths.

And doing what strengthens you not only makes you stronger, it also makes you happier and your life more balanced.

Stay tuned to learn more…

Coaching: Defining Your Life

On the surface, the posts this week seem to be on varying topics; however, they do have a theme.  It’s all been about how you define each aspect of your life and how much control, or even responsibility, you take for every area.

Unfortunately we often give a lot of our power away to other people – people who may not even know that they’ve played a part in how we define success, happiness, balance or fulfillment.  At the top of your list of “who has input” for each of these should be YOU.  Is it?  Let’s dig a little deeper.

Here we go….

When thinking about your personal success, happiness, balance and fulfillment, which feels the most out-your-control to you?  Keep this particular area in mind as we continue.

Who are you allowing to have influence?  Does it make sense?  How would they respond if they knew?  How can you take the power back from them?  You realize you’ve given your power away, right?

Take five minutes to think about what these things mean to you.  Success not derived from metrics given to you at work but clearly set by you and on your terms.  Happiness defined by what you’ve chosen to include in your life, not dictated by others.  Fulfillment realized by what makes you feel full inside.  Balance achieved by all areas of your life being filled to the same capacity – and what each of those areas in your life is, be it family, work, faith, community, or any other you choose, is completely defined by you.

What makes you feel successful?  What makes you feel happy?  What makes you feel fulfilled?  What makes you feel balanced?

OK, it might take more than five minutes.

If nothing else, begin to shift your thinking.  Begin to see your life for what it is – your life.  Yours.

Own it.

Ready to make a change and can’t figure out where to start?  The first call is always free. Learn more…

Defining Fulfillment

How much attention do you pay to what truly fulfills you?  How much thought have you given it?

When we think about defining success or balance, it often comes down to feelings of fulfillment.  We feel successful when we feel fulfilled.  We feel balanced when we feel fulfilled.

Given this, you’d think we’d spend more time thinking about what that means for us.  More often than not, we’re moving too fast to pay attention when it happens.

There are many things that have the potential to fulfill our lives: time with family or friends, travel, specific tasks we do well, recognition, worship, writing, and the list goes on.  These things have the potential to fulfill; however, even this short list easily shows how my list will never match your list.  Things I find fulfilling may drain you completely.

People often let others define what success means or even what balance should mean.  But fulfillment is something that seems inherently personal; it’s something that must be felt and known individually.  Personally.

Pay attention to what fulfills you and you’ll begin to understand what will bring balance, success, and happiness to you.

Defining Success

Frequent readers know that about a year ago I left my long-time Microsoft career to create my own coaching and consulting business.  From that point on, “How is your business doing?” or some variation of that question has been asked as part of just about every conversation I’ve had.  Or so it seems.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy people ask; happy that they care.  I need these people because my business depends on their referrals and positive word-of-mouth.  I want people to ask me because it means they are interested.

I bring this up today because having this question asked of me over and over has made me realize something about how I’ve defined success.

I haven’t.

Each time I’ve been asked, I’d begin a little game of “What do they think my success should look like?” inside my head as I answered the question.  Is it the number of clients I have?  Is it how much money I make?  Is it the diversity of what I’m doing?  Is it how much volunteer work I’m able to do?  Or maybe it’s how much free-time I have… or if I’m able to pick my kid up from school… or if I speak to groups of 500 people… or….

I’d walk away from the conversation feeling successful or not based on what I perceived their perception of success to be – and how I measured against that.  And I’d feel successful – or not – based on that until asked again.

I suspect I’m not alone.

As Marcus Buckingham points out in Find Your Strongest Life, success means feeling effective and capable.  And effective and capable can come at us from all sorts of directions.  Ultimately, individuals must define it for themselves.  It’s up to you to figure it out.  Alone.  Without input from others.

Define your own success.  Then, when someone asks how business is going you can honestly answer based on your own requirements and how effective and capable you personally feel.

That’s what I’ll be doing from now on.

If you’re challenged by what success means to you, check out these thoughts in a short video from Danielle LaPorte: What’s Underneath Your Definition of Success?

Coaching: Tough Conversations

Fear sometimes holds us back from telling people around us the truth.  When we do this, we rob our family, friends and coworkers of the opportunity to grow and change.  If we can see what they cannot, it’s a gift to give them the information we have.

Thinking about that conversation you’ve been putting off, let’s dig deeper and figure out what it will take to make it happen.

Here we go….

As you read through this week’s posts, who came to mind?  Who were you thinking might be too fragile to hear what you have to say about them?  Who would improve and make their lives better if they only knew what you knew?  What specifically would you like to tell them?

How could you deliver this information in a loving and supportive way?

Perhaps you’re thinking too much time has passed?  How sure are you on this?  Maybe it’s a better-late-than-never scenario.  If so, how could you make the message seem timely?  Has the offence been repeated?  Did someone else recently bring it to your attention again?

Honestly, most critical feedback I’ve received has resulted in change that mattered.  I appreciate each person who had the courage to have those hard conversations with me. My thanks goes out to them.

Now, go do the same for that person who needs your feedback.

Bring Your Best Self

We need to bring our best selves to any conversation that includes giving someone a dose of reality.  Similar to the ideas presented in A Meeting Full Of Love around meetings in general, a one-on-one discussion where you present less-than-favorable feedback requires a loving, giving attitude.

You must know, down to your toes, that the person will be better off having the information versus not.  If it will not make them better, ask yourself whether you should be sharing it at all.  Go in with the best of intentions.

Once you’ve established that base, keep these additional tips in mind:

  • Be warm and engaging.  Smile.  Be authentic when you do this.
  • Start positively, perhaps by laying out your intentions.
  • Say your piece and then stop to listen.
  • Let them share their side of the story and don’t argue.
  • Offer to help with any change needed without telling them how to react to your news.

Oh, so much easier to write about than to do in actual conversation!  That said, I can tell you from experience that keeping these things in mind will result in a better outcome – and missing a few of them has the possibility of driving a wedge between you and the receiver.

When preparing, remember that you are actually helping a friend, coworker or peer by sharing this news.  If keeping quiet would hinder their career or relationships, you owe it to them to speak up in a loving, supportive and respectful way.

Not So Fragile

People are not as fragile as we think they are.  A professor of mine at University of Texas – Dallas reminded us of this often, challenging aspiring coaches to dig deeper with their clients.  She was right.

In an advice column I read over the weekend, a friend had informed the writer that she had chronic bad breath.  Her letter was to ask what to do about her breath, not about how upset she was with her friend.  Quite the opposite, she was happy that someone had enough courage to tell her the truth so that she could do something about it.

The last conversation I had with my coach was about getting a little tougher with one of my clients.  It was then that I reminded myself that he probably isn’t as fragile as I’ve been treating him.  My job is to ask tough questions….

Thinking about tough conversations, my mind goes to all the managers out there who are now in “review season.”  A performance review can be delightful to deliver – or it can be the worst thing ever.  Remembering that the employee is not as fragile as you think they are helps in preparing for what might be a difficult exchange.

Of course, strong as the other person may be, anyone can be brought to tears if a hard message isn’t brought with love and respect.  We’ll talk more about that side of the equation tomorrow.

Letting Go Of Ego

Yesterday’s post was really about ego getting in the way of looking hard at an opportunity to see if it’s real or not.  That got me thinking… in what other ways does my ego get in the way?

Ha!  The better question might be this: in what areas of life does ego NOT get in the way?

While our egos can impact many decisions we make, it often does the most damage to our relationships.  As mentioned in the post Being A Good Friend, to be a true friend we need to check our egos at the door far more than we do.  We have to believe that her time is as valuable ours, her words more important than the next thing we have to say, her success worth celebrating, and the friendship worth nurturing.

We also have to let go of our ego to apologize.  There’s a story reflecting this in How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age about Beth – someone who worked well with everyone… except Harvey.  Realizing her part in the dispute, she said the following:

“You know, Harvey, I’ve got a lot of feedback here, and the first thing I want to say is that I’m positive about a lot of it.  The next thing I want to say is that there are some things at which I want to be better.  I’ve been disrespectful to you, the company, and the traditions of the company.  Please accept my apologies.  There is no excuse for this behavior.”

Wow.  And how else could Harvey respond except to own up to his part in the deal (which he did)?

So, how is your ego getting in the way of having better relationships?  Perhaps it’s time to let go of your ego and let humility shine through.

Prioritizing Preparation

What we choose to prepare for exposes our priorities.  If something is truly important to us, we’ll take the time to prepare for it.  And if we say it’s important and yet don’t prepare, how important can it really be?

As a new business owner, people will mention to me that they’d like to start their own business one day and yet they are doing nothing to prepare for it.  Without preparation, it won’t happen.

There are those who want to retire early and yet fail each month to put money away to properly prepare.

An individual may say that he doesn’t want to take daily medication but won’t prepare for maintaining his health through exercise and nutrition.

So what is important enough to you to prepare for it?  Want to be a corporate vice president one day?  What are you doing to prepare?  Want to own your home outright?  What steps are you taking to prepare for that?  Want to be healthy when you’re 80?  How are you preparing for that today?

No judgment here, simply pointing out that preparing, prioritizing and importance work together.  If you aren’t prioritizing preparations, then perhaps it – whatever IT is – isn’t as important to you as you thought.

Add your name to my mailing list to receive coaching tips sent right to your inbox twice monthly. Click here to join.

Just Getting Through Today

Maybe this week isn’t a good week for you to figure out what it is that you want so that you can fix your eyes on the horizon.  Perhaps the end of your workday is the only destination you can see right now.  Looking to the future means getting to 5:00PM on Friday without quitting or giving someone a piece of your mind.  The future, it seems, is tomorrow and beyond that… well, it will just have to take care of itself.

Sound familiar?  Well, I hope not… but for some, it’s reality.  And if you aren’t there now, you likely can remember a time when a job, a relationship or a situation left you feeling like there was little hope of anything ever changing.

What to do?

When those doldrums take hold, we need to take charge.  Here are a few ways to create an attitude change when circumstances have you down.

  • Take care of yourself.  When the focus is on the immediate negative circumstance, it seems that this is also the time when we give up exercising, choose to have a glass of wine to unwind, or avoid friends who might provide a blessed pick-me-up.  Remember to breathe.  Eat right.  Get a good night’s sleep.  These things all help with perspective and provide more willpower to take on the next day.
  • Remember who’s in charge.  That’s right; it’s you.  When we can take an honest look at where we are and what we can do about it, that’s when circumstances begin to change.  Even if it’s only a little bit at a time.
  • Release.  Stress has a way of building when bottled up inside.  Find an understanding confidant.  If it’s too personal, find time to exercise or write or whatever it is that allows for stress to be channeled outside of you.  If needed, hire a professional to help you through this time.
  • Recognize and acknowledge the good stuff.  Every day things happen that we can be grateful for.  Challenge yourself to complete the Three Blessings exercise each night.  Thank God, the heavens, your luck or the universe when something happy happens.  Don’t let the little things slip by you.
  • Remember, this too shall pass.  Really, Grandma was right.  As the familiar bible passage and The Byrds remind us, to everything there is a season and seasons always change.

Finally, sometimes simply getting through today – or even this moment – really is enough.  Accepting that alone can bring welcome relief.

Coaching: Honesty

As stated earlier in the week, honesty is a tough subject to take on because most of us see ourselves as honest people.  That said, most of us likely recognize that we have room for improvement in this area as well. I suppose that may be true for many of the topics tackled here.  As always, I invite you to really think about your answers and write them down if that makes the exercise more powerful for you.

Here we go…

Starting with yourself first, what area needs a more honest look?  These usually are areas that we’re avoiding – like my example of avoiding the scale because I didn’t want to honestly know what my weight was.  What are you avoiding so that you don’t have to really know about or deal with?  Your finances?  Your boss?  A coworker?  The scale?  How can you lean into your discomfort and make a true assessment of reality?  Once you know where you are, you can better define a new path to make changes.

Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise. ~Sigmund Freud

Moving on to the definition of “honest” and what that really means, how has it changed for you after reading the posts this week?  Did you, like me, see honesty as simply truth-telling?  When have you shared a truth with intentions that weren’t pure and upright?  Would you handle it differently now?  How?

Sometimes it’s good to look at ourselves and figure out how we can make some honest changes.  Of course, that requires that we have the courage to be honest with ourselves.

Visit the Breakthrough Strategies website!

What I’ve Honestly Learned

This week’s topic of Honesty has been a learning experience for me.  I came into the week thinking about the subject in the rather black-and-white terms of lying versus truth telling and now I’m coming to understand that there is so much more to it than that.  Now I find honesty aligning more with integrity and authenticity.  Truth is still an important component, of course; however, it’s not the only piece.  Perhaps not even the most important piece.

We can tell the truth and not be honest.  That thought never occurred to me before.  Now that it has, I can think of many examples where the truth was told with bad intention, without fairness or uprightness, with insincerity in the hoped-for result.

Confession time: I can even think of a time or two where that truth came from me.  I suppose that’s why this has been a learning experience for me.

So, I’m an honest person… as are most of you.  What’s changed?  From here on out, when I share a hard truth with someone I will also examine my principles and intentions.  I’ll be sure that I’m speaking with fairness and sincerity.  I will be genuine and authentic.

If I have ulterior motives, I now know that telling the truth may not, in fact, be honest.  Honestly, the truth may need to be kept until the time comes when it can be shared in a way that meets this new, higher standard.

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom. ~Thomas Jefferson

Find me on Facebook: Coach Carolyn

Honest Or Truthful?

There’s a lot of buzz in the media today about a New York Times op ed written by a departing Goldman Sachs executive.  As I read the piece I thought that this must be a brave and honest soul, having the courage to call leaders of such a powerful institution to task in this way.

Then I recalled the definition of honest that I shared with you yesterday… And I wondered…

Did he share his thoughts with those leaders before he was ready to leave? Or did he instead stew on them and leave in a glorious, dramatic huff?  Did he work to become a catalyst for change before he gave up?

Asking these questions, it occurs to me that timing is important when sharing the truth. Giving those impacted an opportunity to change before sharing it with the world seems more honest to me than taking shots before that chance is given.

Of course, I have no way of knowing how it all went down with this particular guy, but it made me think….

Perhaps thoughts like this will help me be more honest versus simply truthful in the future.

Haven’t seen the article yet? You can read it here.

We’re All Honest, Aren’t We?

Honesty is a tough subject to take on because, honestly, we all think we’re pretty honest.  Oh sure, there are a few George Costanzas out there who see their way of bending the truth to be a gift; but those are few.

The fact is, we strive to be honest and we all fall short of that goal.  Even in studies where researchers simply ask people how often they lie, the average is almost twice a day.  And that’s completely dependent on those people in the study telling the truth!

But there’s more to being honest than simply telling the truth or not.  In fact, checking out Dictionary.com shows that “truth” isn’t in any part of the black-and-white definition of honesty.  That definition of Honest is:

  • Honorable in principles, intentions, and actions; upright and fair: an honest person
  • Showing uprightness and fairness: honest dealings
  • Gained or obtained fairly: honest wealth
  • Sincere; frank: an honest face
  • Genuine or unadulterated: honest commodities

So when you answer the cashier at the grocery store with “yes” when he asks you if you found everything OK – and you didn’t – this alone doesn’t make you a dishonest person.

Conversely, when the truth is told with dishonorable intentions, perhaps this isn’t honest after all.  We’ve all heard people share a hurtful truth followed by, “I’m just being honest.”

But were they?

Add your name to my mailing list to get occasional updates on group coaching, speaking events and workshops. Click here to join.

Be Honest With Yourself

A few people have made comments lately that lead me to believe that I might not be the only one who has found it difficult to be honest with myself from time to time.  When it comes to being honest and having integrity, how can we really exhibit those values externally if we aren’t able do so with ourselves?  In addition to living these values, being honest with ourselves is important in setting and achieving goals, too.

Several months ago I began a new fitness plan.  As part of the program, it was suggested that participants should take “before” pictures and record measurements.

I didn’t.

While I knew my physical situation had gotten bad enough so that I was ready to start exercising, I wasn’t ready to be honest about the specifics of where I was.  And while that didn’t keep me from starting, I don’t know what my actual progress has been.

So what does that hurt?  In this example, not much.  It did, however, show me how we protect ourselves from the truth from time to time.  Similarly, there are times when it can be harmful if we fail to hold up a mirror and look at the truth about who we are and what we hope to be.  When we’re defensive about feedback given, when we make excuses to skip events, or if we ignore our finances, not only do we lack integrity internally; we’re likely not being very honest with those around us as well.

What have you been ignoring or avoiding?  Maybe it’s time to hold up a mirror.