The 4 Parts of the Wheel of Change

Behavioral change is one of the most difficult things to accomplish.  In Marshall Goldsmith’s book, Triggers, he uses a device called the Wheel of Change to address behavioral changes both on a personal level and on a team level.  The main point is to actually reflect as a team or as an individual on how we want to improve going forward.  How often do we talk about that as a department, a family or as an individual?  Unless you are being coached, it’s not likely.

wheel-of-change

This is a great tool to use to coach yourself on a DIY basis.  It’s divided into four areas: Creating, Eliminating, Preserving and Accepting. It’s relatively easy to look at what you want to do going forward when it’s broken out this way.  I like the fact that it is forward thinking instead of a traditional approach of dredging up blame and scapegoats.  This is a much more positive experience.  It’s comparable to when I’m working with a client and they haven’t done the exercise they said they wanted to do. Questions to consider – “No sweat. Is it still important to you?  Should it be phrased a different way so that you’ll feel forward motion?” I have a client who walks at work but not on his treadmill at home.  So he won’t count that as exercise. I’ve asked him, “Is your heart rate elevated? Would those steps count on a Fitbit?” “Yes. Hmmm.  Maybe it is exercise and you’re not giving yourself credit.” It’s amazing how we won’t give ourselves credit for what we actually accomplish.  Being forward focused instead of berating the client for not achieving what they said they wanted to achieve can make a huge difference in accomplishing goals.

 

Here are the four parts of the wheel of change:

 

  • Creating.  This is the innovation or creation piece of the wheel.  What do you add or invent?  When I work with teams, I ask what do we want to do differently?  Sometimes it might be adding a team member who can bring a different perspective.  Sometimes you decide that you want to use a different software to track progress going forward.  I recently decided that I wanted to perfect my team facilitation skills and committed to reading more about the topic for 30 minutes a day.  So I added it to my schedule.  I created a new habit to help me increase my knowledge and skills in a certain area.  What about you?  What do you want to add to your life that will make you a better contributor, husband, partner or accountant?  What can your team add to make it work more effectively, serve the customer better or improve quality?

 

  • Eliminating.  This is eradicating or reducing things that are outdated and ineffective. What do we need to eliminate? When I work with teams, I ask what should we do less of? It may be eliminating a step in the process that doesn’t make sense now that we are paperless.  It may be reducing the meeting time from one hour to 15 minutes to keep everyone more efficient and on task.  It might be reducing your commute by moving closer to the office.  I eliminated actually putting together my weekly newsletter and delegated it to my daughter.  She earns money as my virtual assistant and I save time not having to do something, that for me, is tedious and not the best use of my time.  Organizations frequently get wrapped up in the status quo and never think that maybe if they eliminated a particular technology that has been around since the company was founded, they would have forward motion instead of being dragged down by old technology.  What do you need to eliminate?

 

  • Preserving.  What do we need to improve or maintain?  When I work with teams, I ask “what do we need to keep?” The answer might be sense of humor or meeting times It’s likely the heart of the organization like “family values.”  I also love when I work with teams and one of their values is “fun”.  Isn’t that something you want to preserve and enhance?  Don’t you want to be on a team that values fun? Sometimes we want to throw out the baby with the bathwater.  Taking time to reflect on what you want to keep in your life is important.  Personally, my husband and I eat dinner together every day.  I remember when he first started living with my children and me, he suggested we eat dinner together as a family.  This has been a uniting ritual.  So now, even though the kids are long gone from the house, we maintain this nightly ritual of eating together.  What do you need to preserve?

 

  • Accepting.  What do we need to delay or make peace with?  This is an important piece of the wheel.  We can spend a lot of energy getting angry or resenting something when what we really need to do is just make peace with it.  I was in a job where there were one or two sacred cows in the organization.   I spent a lot of time getting angry about the sacred cow.  “They never show up.  They never do the job.  What are we doing with these folks?”  Problem was that the powers that be had no issue with the performance and had no intention of eliminating them.  When my energy around it turned into one of acceptance; I was much happier.  I didn’t have to spend my time focusing on their failures.  Let it be.   It might be that you don’t have the capital right now to spend on improvements.  Maybe it needs to be delayed until 2017.  What do you need to accept?

 

The important thing about the Wheel of Change is that all four areas need to be addressed.  This makes sense.  In an example that Goldsmith used in the book his client wanted to preserve his family, eliminate his commute, create a new commute and accept that he wasn’t good at golf.   He decided that he would move from the suburbs of New Jersey near a golf course to Manhattan reducing his 3-hour daily commute to a 10-minute walk.  So he gave up golf and is spending more time with his family.  They are all interconnected.  What do you want to work on?

6 Ways to Get Unstuck Today

You meant to start that exercise program this morning but hit the snooze button instead.  You were going to reach out to your friend for a referral and blew it off–and your thought was probably along the lines of, “He doesn’t know anyone who needs my kind of services.”  You had to start on that big gnarly project but decided to scroll through Facebook instead for an hour or so.  You just never seem to get unstuck.  It feels like your days are quicksand and the new normal is sucking you in.A photo by Jared Erondu. unsplash.com/photos/j4PaE7E2_Ws

I was in that place some four years ago.  I never seemed to have forward momentum.   I also had an aversion to change.  Most people do.  I’d rather watch television all day with my free Saturday or bake the perfect loaf of bread than take on a project.  I also didn’t think that I had anything to share with the world.  I had just finished up my coach training with the Neuroleadership Group and I was being coached by my fellow students on a weekly basis.  I had the revelation that I was stuck.  With the help of my fellow coaches, I finally was unstuck.  So this what I learned.

6 ways to get unstuck today:

1. You are not an impostor.  Practically everyone feels like an impostor.  Someone will find out that you aren’t the greatest mother, accountant, teacher, writer, or cook.  This can be paralyzing.  My coach was working with me recently.  I felt like I wasn’t an author.  She reflected back to me what the source of that limiting belief was.  I realized that I had been writing for over four years, have been read in over 100 countries and had over one thousand followers.  She asked me to say it.  “I am an author.”  I owned it.  What do you need to own?

2. Path of least resistance.  Figure out what the project or activity is that you need to break out of and create the path.  I keep my sneakers, shorts and t-shirt in my bathroom closet.  I can get up in the dark, dress and head out before my husband wakes up.  If I had to turn the lights on in my bedroom and scour around for my walking garb, I likely would roll over and hit the snooze.  If you want to take up the guitar again, get it out of the closet and put it in plain sight.  If you want to walk during your breaks at work, take your spare sneakers to work and put them under your desk.  Basically, you’re eliminating the excuses you would normally come up with.  Create the path to your new goals.

3. Clear the decks.  When I write or work on a project, I clear my desk of any clutter like post its, papers, books, magazines, invitations or mail.  So if I’m in the middle of two projects, I put one of the projects away.  It’s out of mind.  This frees me up to work on what is in front of me without visual distraction.  There is no excuse.  I don’t end up going down some rabbit hole of “Should I go to the conference in Austin?”  “I wonder what that letter is about.”  “Why did I buy that book?”  The only thing on my desk right now is my computer, a lamp, a glass of water and a picture of my kids.  So before you get started, stash the clutter.

4. Digital sabbatical.  I have not tried to go without social media and email for a day except for when I was caught in the Berkshires a month ago without power and Wi-Fi.  It is really freeing to not be constantly checking for notifications.  But I DO put my phone in my purse or another room when I am writing.  Like right now.  My email and social media on my computer is shut down.  No bings, chimes or pings to bother me and veer me from my focus.  About two months ago, I turned off all notifications on my phone except for text.  My reasoning is that my kids and my husband typically are the ones who text me, which may end up being important.  For you, it might be something else.  Seeing a little red number 4 in the corner of my Facebook app used to drag me right back into opening the app to check out the latest Like.  Now I do that when I am free and not trying to accomplish something.  Set up Digital-Free Times.

5. Is it important?  When my fellow student coach would work with me, if something wasn’t accomplished, they would ask, “Is it still important?”  Say you didn’t sign up for that 5k or start going to the gym like you said you wanted to.  Maybe it’s not important any more.  Maybe it is.  It’s still a good idea to reflect on.  What is the “why” of what you are doing?  What is the higher goal?  I used to run in the morning because I was training for a marathon.  Now I walk in the morning to just get outside, listen to a book and feel refreshed.  It’s like that task you’ve moved 5 times on your task list.  Is it still important?  If not, delete it.  If it is, do it.

6. Start.  I am amazed what I can get done in 5 minutes.  Before I taught Franklin Covey’s ‘5 Choices’ class, I used to procrastinate if I had five minutes before a meeting started.  Now I’ll return a phone call, finish an email or make a hotel reservation.  I am amazingly more productive.  Any free time is an opportunity to start.  At home, I will pick up a book and read a page or two or put my grocery list together.  The point is, I start.  If I don’t get it done before another commitment, no sweat.  I’ll get back to it after the meeting is done.

I got unstuck through working with a coach.  There is a perception that asking for help is a sign of weakness.  It’s really a sign that you are ready for forward motion.  What do you want to get started on?

4 Ways to Disempower Your Negative Thoughts

You stand on the scale and you’ve gain 5 pounds.  You think, “Fatso, why did you have that extra chocolate chip cookie?”  You avoid setting up the meeting with your boss because you are sure your idea will be shot down.  “She doesn’t think I’m smart.  She’ll never like my ideas.”  You gossip about your co-worker because you know they will never get the promotion they want.  “He’s an idiot.  There’s no way he’ll get it.”  All these thoughts are wearing a super highway of negativity in your brain.  The good news is you can change that.

disempower negative thoughts

Your brain is malleable and can be changed–and it doesn’t even involve surgery.  The key to disempowering your negative or unwholesome thoughts is to change your pattern of thinking.  It takes practice.  But when you start creating wholesome thoughts, they beget more thoughts that are wholesome.  Soon, you are a wholesome thought-machine.  As Professor Mark Muesse teaches in the Great Courses: Practicing Mindfulness, “Unwholesome thoughts break down into three areas: selfish desire (I want my neighbor’s car), hatred (I hate that person because they are different from me) and deluded thoughts (I think I’m the greatest or completely unworthy).”

 

Here are Professor Muesse’s four “R’s” of disempowering thoughts:

 

  1. Simply replace the negative or unwholesome thought with something opposite.  If someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of angrily swearing and tailing them, you should instead think, “I’m sure they are in a rush for a good reason.”  I’ve done this when my boss’ door was shut.  I would switch my paranoid thinking: “She’s going to fire me,” to “She must be working on my raise or a new challenging project.”  When I had a four-hour unplanned airport layover a few weeks ago, I replaced my “I hate this airport and this lousy airline” thought (which became my new negative mantra for a few minutes) to “This’ll be a great opportunity to listen to my book and get in 10,000 steps.”  I also cultivate compassion by saying, “Just like me.”  If someone steals my parking space, I say, “They want to be happy, just like me.”  Replace the unwholesome negative thoughts with positive, wholesome ones.

 

  1. Reflecting on results.  Think about the long-term results of this thinking. Contemplate the forward trajectory or consequences of these thoughts.  If I believe that I am a nervous speaker, I will become a nervous speaker.  If think that I am financially insecure, I will become financially insecure.  Seeing the long-term consequences helps squelch the inner critic.  Another way of looking at it is: do you want to be the Grinch?  Even Grinch-like folks were small children at some point.  It took years of unwholesome, greed-filled thoughts to result in the vengeful person they became.  What are you really creating with all those unwholesome thoughts? Your best you?

 

  1. Redirecting attention.  This is where you direct your attention away towards something more wholesome.  Like your breath, your toes or your ear lobes.  I advise my clients to do this when they get angry and have regressed into their lizard brain (the fight-or-flight part of your brain).  When you are hijacked by emotions, it’s important to get out of your head and back into your body.  Especially before you say something you might regret.  Your best thinking is in your prefrontal cortex but it’s impossible to get there as long as you are in a state of fear or anger.  Remember the phrase This too shall pass.  Good or bad, everything is impermanent.  We just need to accept that it is impermanent.  Joy or terror, thoughts pass away, lose power and fade.  Bring it all back to the breath.

 

  1. This is all about challenging your assumptions.  It might be that you’ve become jealous of your co-worker’s new convertible sports car.  You assume that if you had that car, you would be happy.  Examine what you might feel you’re lacking.  Maybe you want some freedom.  Maybe independence.  Look at the underlying assumptions of why you might be envious.  You might be envious of your boss’ new smart phone.  You want to have the latest technology.  But won’t that phone be an out-of-date piece of junk in 3 years?  I recently moved my home office.  I thought about a nice chair I wanted for it.  I realized that I didn’t want to add any more furniture to my already fully-furnished house.  I realized there was a chair and ottoman that was unused in another room.  So instead of feeling like I was lacking, I discovered I already had what I needed.  Challenge your assumptions.

 

Any type of mindfulness is a practice that takes time and consistency.  Habitual thoughts are not easy to break but it can be done with persistence.  I personally journal each evening about how I have reframed my thoughts throughout the day.  I think the reflection helps me hardwire the new positive, wholesome thoughts.  Good luck!

“It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs.” -Vance Havner

You’ve procrastinated all morning.  You keep checking your inbox or Instagram feed and haven’t touched that project you’ve been meaning to work on.  One more cup of coffee.  One more like on Facebook.  You’re staring at the staircase and then looking down at your phone to see if there is one more thing that you can use to distract yourself from actually, finally taking that step.

Spiral Staircase

 

This has been me this morning.  I have set this time aside to write and all I want to do is putz around.  I keep opening my inbox thinking, “What are you doing here again? Get to work!”  I am never going to get to the top of the stairs unless I at least start.

 

So here are some things to keep in mind to get you going:

 

  • Time blocks. What really got me writing this morning was knowing that this was my time block to write.  I have a commitment to myself that I will get a post done by noon on the weekends.  It’s now 10:39 AM and I have to start.  I have to spend at least 30 minutes on it even if I have no idea what I am going to write.  So I write.  I know some of my clients have set up time blocks for returning phone calls, responding to emails, exercising and being with their families.  Set up time blocks and make a commitment to your work.

 

  • Have a vision.  What does the top of the stairs look like to you?  My vision is “Make a difference in people’s lives”.  Writing these posts aligns with that vision.  Even if one person reads this post and changes one thing in their life because of it, then it’s worth 45 minutes of my time to make that happen.  Know why you are doing what you are doing and align your efforts with it. How will that production report affect your organization?  How will that conversation with your co-worker move you forward in attaining your vision?  Line up your actions with your vision.

 

 

  • Frequently the steps aren’t easy.  I have struggled with this.  When I was in Paris earlier this year, I ended up having to take a spiral staircase to many of my destinations.  I’m really tall and have large feet, so trudging up a small spiral staircase is not only difficult but I can’t see the top.  When we were visiting Sainte-Chapelle (a cathedral built in 1248), my friend and Francophile, Susannah, pointed to a very narrow stone spiral staircase to travel up.  I figured there is no way this building (built 8 centuries ago) is worth being claustrophobic or on my tip toes for.  I was wrong.  Against my better judgment, I followed Susannah up the staircase.  The top of the stairs revealed one of the most heart-stopping, breathtaking, stained glass-encrusted spaces I have ever been in. Take the steps–the view may surprise you.

 

 

  • Step into fear.  My friend Janine and I went to the Eiffel Tower the day after the Brussel airport bombing.  We had tickets to what I thought would be the 1st landing of the tower.  I’m not crazy about heights and I figured that would work just fine.  It turns out we had tickets to the top.  When we got to the top, there was another staircase to go up. Janine was game to go up and I was fine where I was.  She ran up the stairs and came back down to get me. “Cath, you gotta come!”  I stepped into my fear, took the steps and saw a Paris I will never forget.  If I reframed it as a challenge rather than a fear, it became much easier to conquer.

 

 

  • Have support.  I’ve already shown you two examples where my friends have supported me in venturing up staircases with terrific results.  These same friends are in “Cathy’s Brain Trust” and they give me weekly feedback on my posts.  I feel accountable to them to continue to write.  Who is depending on you?  Who are you supported by?  When pushing through to your highest aspirations, you need to make sure you have support.  My daughter is part of that group and she knows me well. Writing is definitely a challenge and I know she’s always cheering me on.

 

 

  • Be open to the unknown.  Frequently we don’t know exactly where we are headed.  We have a vision but there is so much that is unseen from the bottom of the staircase.  My friend Susannah and I were hiking in Haystack State Park.  At the end of the hike was Haystack Tower…with a spiral staircase no less.  It was a hot, humid day and I think the last thing I  wanted to do was go up the tower’s two flights of stairs.  Susannah assured me that the views were at the top of the tower.  So-you guessed it-I went up the two flights and the payoff was a view of three states at once: MA, CT and NY.  Stick it out and it will pay off.

 

 

  • One step at a time.  Many times I have clients who are frozen from being overwhelmed.  They want to take action, but when they decide they want to write a book, it’s paralyzing.  They can’t take any step because a step like “write a book” is not easily done in a morning.  The key is to break it down into chunks.  Bite-size chunks like “write an outline”, “decide what software to use” or “research books on writing non-fiction for one hour”.  Break it down one step at a time so that the step can be accomplished in 90 minutes or less.

 

This isn’t always easy when there are so many distractions in life.  It’s easy to think that skimming through and putting out fires is getting you to where you want to go.  Figure out which staircase you want to go up and start with one small step.  The view from the top is going to be awesome.

“The most successful people are those who are good at plan B.” -James A. Yorke

You are frustrated because they cancelled the show you bought the tickets for six months ago.  You don’t get the promotion you’ve been dreaming of since you came to this company.  The proposal you sent to your ideal client which is going to double your income this year, is turned down.  Is the universe ganging up on you?  Nope.  You just need a Plan B.

Plan B

I recently traveled to New England on business and pleasure.  I ended up with several Plan B moments.  I was staying on the 17th floor of the Hartford Hilton.  The fire alarm went off at midnight.  Sleep was Plan A.  Descending 17 flights of stairs on foot was Plan B. I was staying at my friend’s beautiful country home (in the middle of nowhere in the Berkshires) and planned on writing while there.  There was a thunderstorm that plowed in overnight. Phone and wifi were dead.  Plan A was writing.  Plan B was having a lovely day long conversation with my friend.  I missed a connecting flight at Washington Reagan airport.  Making the connection was Plan A.  Walking 10,000 steps in Terminal C was Plan B.  The important thing was being open to Plan B.

 

This is how I remained open to Plan B:

 

  • Keep the goal in mind.  I’ve retold the story of taking 17 flights of stairs and more than one person told me, I think I would have just stayed in the hotel room.  Truth is I didn’t smell smoke but in a 22-story hotel, how could I possible know what was above me.  The goal was avoiding participating in a fire and if trudging 17 flights kept me safe, then that’s the goal.  Getting home safely was the goal when I missed the connection in DC.  It’s easy to get caught up in the frustration of a change of plans but if you focus on the end goal it calms the anxiety.

 

  • Know where your essentials are.  When a fire alarm goes off and there is an annoying strobe light to accompany it, it’s disorienting.  I tried to turn the light on next to my bed.  It didn’t go on.  I thought the electricity was out.  Fortunately, when I fumbled over to the desk lamp it worked. But I had no idea where my sneakers and glasses were.  Having shoes and glasses were essential.  During the thunderstorm two nights later and the lights flickered, I made sure I had my glasses and shoes next to my bed.  Socks?  Laptop? Nope. Not essential. So in a work situation if you end up not having an LCD projector, use a flip chart.  If you don’t have a flip chart, have someone take notes on paper.  Figure out what’s essential.

 

  • Label the feeling.  I was sitting in the last row of the plane when we finally pulled close to the gate and making my connecting flight was very present in my mind.  I had a ton of anxiety and, frankly, I was angry that we were sitting 10 feet from the gate but were not actually “at” the gate with the door open.  I consciously sat in my seat and thought, this is what anger feels like.  My forehead is hot and my stomach is clenched.  OK.  And this is what anxiety feels like.  My stomach is flipping and my throat is tight.  OK.  I sat there inventory-ing my feelings as they arose and labeling them.  I was able to witness the feelings instead of getting sucked into them. Labeling the feeling keeps you from stuffing it away as well.  Let it rise and vanish as you consider each one.  If you take anything from this post, work on labeling your feelings; it will keep you from getting sucked into them.

 

  • A plausible alternative.  When someone cuts me off in traffic, I try and imagine that they are headed to the hospital on an emergency.  When I was sitting in the back row of the plane, I decided it must be some safety issue and the plane couldn’t pull up to the door.  When the client I sent a proposal to doesn’t respond,  I imagine my offer ended up in their spam folder.  Better reach out by phone.  A coach friend of mine, Michele Woodward, recommends that you reach out to a potential client three times.  That’s a great rule of thumb.  With smart phones and bulging email inboxes, the world is a giant distraction.  It takes patience and persistence to get through the clutter.  Assume that they want to get back to you, they are just overwhelmed.  There is always a plausible alternative or explanation.

 

  • What opportunity is available.  When I realized I missed my connection and had four hours to kill, I decided that I could listen to my book on Audible and walk 10,000 steps.  I’m not sure there weren’t a few folks who saw me walking by them 15 times who didn’t think I might be lost or a lunatic but here was an opportunity to get a few hours of my book done and get in 10,000 steps.  The opportunity in Hartford was seeing some thirty Hartford firefighters.  These guys were there to potentially save my life.  What bravery.  They do this every day.  Run in while we run out.  I don’t have the opportunity to see that every day.  The opportunity in the Berkshires without wifi?  Isn’t it obvious.  20 hours without social media and email and phone.  Priceless.  All I need is a good friend and a dog and the opportunities are endless.

 

I’ve always had my father as an example of patience.  I have always admired his unflappability.  Whether it was a flat tire or a teenager changing their mind with Friday night plans, “Daddy, can you drive me and my friends to bowling instead of playing Monopoly at home?”  I try and tap into his patience when I face my Plan B. Tools help.

6 Ways to Cope with Blamers

Your co-worker is constantly blaming his boss for his 80 hour plus work weeks.  You are blamed by the project chair for the missed deadline although they were responsible for the delay.  Your partner blames you for the cold dinner, after arriving thirty minutes late.  You end up embarrassed.  Dumbfounded.  Sometimes seething.  These destructive feelings, when ongoing, cause irreparable damage to the relationship and your self-esteem.

blamersBlamers are everywhere.  I see blamers as those who have external locus of control.  As defined by Psychology Today, “The belief that events in one’s life, whether good or bad, are caused by uncontrollable factors such as the environment, other people, or a higher power.”  If you feel as though everything is out of your control and out of your realm of responsibility, you’re going to have lost that responsibility elsewhere.  This is what blamers do.  “A person with an internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and their outcomes.” Odds are that if you are suffering from the blamers around you, you have an internal locus of control and are feeling responsible for the blame that is heaped on you.  Fear not!  There are ways to cope with this.

 

6 Ways to Cope with Blamers:

 

  1. Own your piece. Everyone has at least 2% of the truth. This is a tenet of CRR Global. So does the blamer.  If you get defensive and start arguing with the blamer, it is discounting the 2% of truth.  Maybe you were late with one little piece of the project, maybe you didn’t answer the email by the deadline, maybe your ideas weren’t well fleshed out.  I’m not suggesting you be a doormat, but acknowledge the 2% that is correct.  It’s not “I completely blew this, I’m sorry” but “I can see that responding faster to that email would have impacted the outcome.”  Everyone is right…partially.

 

  1. Find the brilliance. A lot of people rarely compliment the other folks in their lives. Whether at home or at work, we don’t try and catch people doing something right.  But everyone does something right every day.  Even if it’s brush their teeth or complete the monthly report on time.  Look for the positive.  Hunt for it.  I was working with a narcissist once.  She didn’t like any of my ideas for a project.  She showed me one of her ideas which I sincerely thought was innovative.  I said, “This is brilliant.”  She did a 180 degree change on the project.  Now she was onboard.  If I had held my tongue, we would have remained at logger heads.   Look for the brilliance.  Then broadcast it.

 

  1. Listen with empathy. When someone is blaming either someone else or you, be sure to actively listen with empathy. This can be difficult.  It can be painful to hear someone trash your best efforts.  It will help to focus on your breath so that you can stay out of going to your lizard brain and activating your limbic system (the fight or flight response). It may even take returning to the topic later after you’ve had a chance to cool off.  My husband was upset with me a few nights ago and asked that we talk about the topic on Sunday morning.  This was really effective.  I had time to reflect and he had time to reflect.  We were in a better space to listen and be empathetic. Make space to listen.

 

  1. Respond looking for solutions. Aja Frost wrote a great article called 7 Perfect Replies to (Politely) Shut Down Negative People. My two favorite for coping with the chronic blamer is, “Is there anything I can do?” and “I’m sorry to hear that. Did anything good come out of the situation?” This can shut the blamer down because it is focused on forward positive motion.  Blamers typically want to dwell on how bad everything is. I have asked clients who are focusing on blame, “What 2% are you responsible for?”   This is a proactive approach.  It focuses on what can be versus what was

 

  1. Come from a place of love. As Kelly Smith wrote for Tiny Buddha, “Remember, all actions are based in either fear or love. Base yours in love. Realize their actions are based in fear. Often, these fears are ones that no one can reach because they are too deep-seated for the person to acknowledge. Accept that, and continue to operate from your own base of love.” I personally have been meditating on loving kindness for months.  My mantra has been to be the “Love and light” in my life.  Having an open heart and compassion for others helps me see the good in all people regardless of the facade they may be exhibiting.  We all want to be loved, happy and at peace.

 

  1. Let go. As Kelly Smith wrote, “It’s not worth your constant wondering and worrying. It isn’t good for you to hold onto it and over-analyze it. Let it go; visualize yourself blowing it all into a balloon, tying it off, and letting it drift away. Feel lighter because of it!” I love the balloon metaphor.  Another practice is to clench your hand in a fist with your anger towards the blamer, and then release.  Let the blame dissolve into the ether.

 

Sometimes your best efforts can’t change or pacify other people’s behavior.  There may be a difficult decision in front of you.  Chronic blamers can be toxic for an organization or family unit.  If you’ve tried these coping mechanisms and you still feel like your self-esteem is being affected, you might need to move on.

Why you need to act As If

You drive up to the restaurant and see a full parking lot.  “Ugh.  This is going to be a long wait.”  That co-worker you dislike was given the project you wanted. “Grrr.  He wins every time.” Your child doesn’t respond to your text.  “She must have been in a car accident.”  You are, in essence, expecting the worst.  And guess what typically follows?  More bad news.  When you align your energy and expectation with what will go wrong often, invariably, it does.

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The flip side of this is acting As If what you really desire is going to happen.  This was something I personally experienced some 13 years ago when my husband and I were trying to sell our house in California.  We were living in a rented house in North Carolina, my stipend for rent from the company I was working for was ending, the credit cards were maxed and one offer on the house in California had just fallen through.  I was in a really bad desperate space.  My teenage step daughter was visiting at the time.  As she looked at the rental we were living in, she said, “This looks like a hospital.”  Not very inviting, huh?   We had intentionally left everything in boxes so that “it would be easier to move.”  The trouble was, we were not creating a home in North Carolina.  We were in transition and set to stay in transition for the foreseeable future.  Not a good place to be.  We were acting As If we were in transition, staying stuck.  We spent the next weekend putting up pictures, knickknacks, buying fresh flowers and making it a “home”.  You know what happened next? The house in California had an offer in the next week and closed within a month.  End of transition.  We acted As If we were home in North Carolina, and so it was.

 

These are reasons why you need to act As If:

 

  • Dwelling on what will go wrong is debilitating. Spending hours on ruminating about what your sister said to you or how your co-worker wronged you is fuel for what Dr. Daniel Amen calls “Automatic Negative Thoughts.”  When you fuel these “ANTs”, they only getting bigger.  The neural pathways in your brain which at one time might have been a deer trail, start to build into a roadway and then into a super highway.  You know these people.  Things rarely go well for them because they are so vigilant for what will go wrongLet go of the dwelling and act As If.

 

  • It is energizing.  When we finally decorated our rental house, I felt great.  I felt like I belonged.  I liked the space I was in.  The universe feels that vibe.  It returns the energy.  I have a few clients that are in transition.  I asked what they could do to move forward, to act As If.  One made the decision to buy a kitchen table so he would not have to eat on the floor of the apartment.  Another paid for the ex’s stuff to be shipped off.  Once these decisions were made, there were big smiles and a sense of buzzing in the room.  The force field holding them back was let go and now they were energized to move forward.

 

  • You identify with the real feeling that you want.  Whether it’s freedom, a weight lifted or a sense of adventure, discovering the guiding force to propel you forward is critical.  As Andrea Schulman wrote, “So you want a new car, and you’d really love to manifest it with the Law of Attraction.  This is a great thing to want….but what is at the root of this wanting?  What emotion are you trying to feel by attracting a new car?”  Freedom, prosperity or control?  There is a core emotion driving that desire.  So tap into it.

 

  • Look for signs.  Look for alignment.  This is the opposite of dwelling on what’s going wrong.  A personal sign for me is a blue heron.  Every time I see one whether in person or a photo or painting, I feel emboldened.  I’m on the right path.  The universe is winking at me.  As CRR Global would call it, it’s a Quantum Flirt.  It’s all going to be OK.  When you act As If, you expect these signs to come, and so they do.  Open your awareness to signs that are around you.

 

  • Come from a space of abundance.  This requires rewiring your brain.  I have been brought up with a sense of lack.  I can remember telling my kids that we couldn’t afford that.  As Schulman wrote, “Would a person who has lots of money say ‘I can’t afford that’ when she saw something pricey she wanted?  No, she would probably say something like, ‘I’d love to get that!’ – so you should too. Even if you can’t afford it, act as if you could. I have had this mantra for a while, ‘Money is always coming my way.'”  And it shows up.  A refund on my credit card, a gift card from a friend, a check in the mailbox or my husband taking me to dinner.  Abundance is constantly following me and thus it is so.

 

To act As If is quite liberating.  I am constantly expecting the unexpected.  I am in forward motion. How about you?

 

5 Reasons Why Empathy is the Difference Maker

Your co-worker cuts you off before you’ve entirely explained your idea.  Your boss prescribes you how to fix the production issue, but never even asks what your ideas might be.  Your spouse doesn’t bother to hold the door open when you are carrying in the groceries.  The 18 wheeler won’t let you merge in order to get past the accident.  All of these are signs of a lack of empathy and its persistence is eroding the relationships around you.  As DeLores Pressley wrote, “Empathy is the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions or experience of others. Empathy is more than simple sympathy, which is being able to understand and support others with compassion or sensitivity.”

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So why do we need more empathy?  It is what makes us human. Most of the animal kingdom is working off of “me-first” instincts.  Kill or be killed.  You’re never going to see a crocodile share its prey with another adversary.  Empathy connects us and through that connection, we are able to compound on those connections to much greater success and well being.

Here are the 5 reasons why empathy is the difference maker:

  1. Understanding others helps develop relationships. Think about that guy at work who always brags about his fabulous European vacation and his wonderful new motorcycle. The guy you can’t get a word in edgewise with.  You know who I’m talking about.  Do you feel any warmth or connection with him?   Not likely.  Do you want to go above and beyond for him?  Not likely either.  Trust gets built when there is shared understanding.  Relationships are the foundation of organizations.  Unless there is trust and understanding, it’s difficult to have success.  Empathy is the re-bar in that foundation.
  1. Empathy ensures openness. In any relationship, whether it’s a marriage, partnership or corporation, openness is critical. Openness is the antithesis of secrecy. This is why everyone gets paranoid when the CEO’s office door is shut.  “Here come the layoffs.”  It also ensures that leaders aren’t prescribing the answers.  So, what happens is the co-worker brings an issue and their counterpart says, “What are your ideas?” instead of “This is the way you should do it.”  An openness to all possibilities creates innovation and breaking out of the status quo.  This is critical for organizations as well as personal relationships.
  1. Putting other’s interest first brings mutual respect. As written by Toby Norton, “Serotonin is the molecular manifestation of the feeling of pride—we get it when we perceive others like or respect us. On a deep level, we need to feel that we and our work are valued by others, particularly those in our group.” This helps reinforce positive feelings from everyone. “Hey Joe made sure I knew the numbers were off before I presented to the Board.”  I’ve got Joe’s back going forward.  This mutual respect compounds on itself like a ripple effect across the organization or department or family.  It’s the way we do things around here.
  1. Empathy makes it safe for us to fail. I can hear you whining. “But, Cathy, we don’t want to encourage failure.”  This is a pipe dream.  Of course we are going to fail.  At work, at home and at school.  If we don’t encourage failure, everyone starts hiding the evidence.  I don’t want Suzie to know that we had an error in the report.  I don’t want my manager to know that the product isn’t priced right.  If we cannot be transparent and fall on the sword when we fail, then neither will anyone else around us.  This breeds secrecy and distrust.  Everyone goes around constantly looking to repair their image.  It’s exhausting and demoralizing.  Empathy creates a safe place to fail.
  1. Feeling valued by others compels the group forward. As written by Norton, “Homo sapiens developed a herd instinct; thanks to those cooperative chemicals (i.e. serotonin and oxytocin), we find comfort when we’re part of a group.” According to Sinek, “Our confidence that we can face the dangers around us literally depends on feeling safe in a group. Being on the periphery is dangerous. The loner on the edge of the group is far more susceptible to predators than someone who is safely surrounded and valued by others.” It is a simple as saying “Is everything OK?” It’s paying attention to simple gestures like holding the elevator door, letting the car merge in or helping reset the room after the training.  These small things help create value and connection for everyone.  It keeps paying it forward on an ongoing basis.

Try incorporating more empathy in your life.  Listen without judgment.  Clarify your partner’s needs.  Be open to what is there.

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6 Startling Truths about Miami

I recently traveled to Miami with my husband to visit my son who has lived there for the last three years.  My preconception of Miami was an amalgamation of Robin Williams dancing like Martha Graham in the Bird Cage, Jackie Gleason saying “And away we go” on the Jackie Gleason Show and the obligatory Miami Vice of cocaine, scantily clad women and cigar boats on the run.  Flamboyant, hard drinking, hard partying, vice-ridden and over exposed Miami.  After spending three days there, I can assure you that there is a much softer side of Miami.  An honest, authentic side.  The side that rarely gets any airtime.13866692_10154350659443688_1001912075_n

 

Of course, I doubt I would have discovered this softer side of Miami if it weren’t for my son.  He is a natural explorer and has spent three years finding nooks and crannies that the typical tourist would never find.  He’s not intimidated by foreign languages or exploring new foods.  To be a good explorer we all need to be open to something different.  Something that isn’t the status quo.  We weren’t likely to discover these truths if we had camped out on South Beach drinking overpriced mojitos for three days.

 

Here are the 6 startling truths about Miami:

 

  1. The food is amazing. This is high praise from a NorCal (Northern California) dyed in the wool foodie such as myself. I used to think the best taco I ever had was in San Diego.  Nope.  It’s Coyo Taco in Wynwood.  Try the devilishly complex, sweet, salty heat of the Cochinita Pibil on their house made corn tortillas.  The best fried chicken I have EVER consumed is at Yardbirds. Something about 27 hours of brining and frying in a cast iron skillet makes it crispy juicy delicious.  Anything off the Versailles menu is authentic Cuban goodness.  Sanpacho is a Colombian restaurant in Little Havana that has an amazing Bandeja Paisa ($9.95!!!) that takes up two giant plates and could have, if my husband had concurred, fed a family of 4.  Bulla Gastropub in Coral Gables had terrific, delectable tapas served by an incredibly friendly staff.  Whatever your food vice, it can be found in Miami.  Just remain open to exploring the nuances of this melting pot of cultures.

 

  1. Incredibly friendly people. It’s intimidating getting off the airplane at MIA and hear almost 80% of the folks around you speak exclusively Spanish. I felt like I had just gotten off the plane south of the equator and I should be exchanging my money for pesos.  The signs might have been in English but the language of Miami is definitely Spanish.  Happily, this does not create a language barrier.  The clientele in a restaurant may be completely Latin with us being the exception, but the service staff tolerated my attempts at Spanish with a smile or switched happily to English. We elected to eat outside for one meal and a few errant raindrops fell down and the server offered to move us to another table; as if to say, “So sorry for the raindrops.” Several of the places we ate did not have table service; other customers happily gave up a stool or a chair for us to sit together.  Not the sort of friendliness you expect in the big city but wow, what a refreshing and welcoming experience.

 

  1. It’s more than just Palm trees and skyscrapers. The University of Miami has an amazing campus with exotic Banyan trees, wandering Muscovy ducks, fish that fly out (yes, fly) of Lake Osceola AND a warning sign for crocodiles. Fortunately, we didn’t see any crocodiles but I can assure you I have never seen even a warning sign for crocs in Manhattan. It is lush with vegetation and wildlife.  There was a peacock standing in front of my son’s house.  There are leaves on some of the vegetation the size of a VW.   We came across several Ibis’ (long-legged wading birds), a blue heron hanging out on a rock and a tiny green heron splashing on the rocks.  And there have to be more palm trees in Miami than any other city on the east coast.  Natural lush beauty is plentiful in Miami.

 

  1. Art abounds. Typically, when I think of art I think of New York, Chicago or Santa Fe with rows and rows of galleries, sculpture gardens and art museums. The secret to Miami is that you don’t even need to set foot inside a gallery.  The most amazing art is available out in the open in the Wynwood and Overtown neighborhoods.  They are old warehouse districts that have what seems like hundreds of outside murals of all shapes and styles.  Murals of the Dali Lama and Andy Warhol, science fiction and realism, black and white and psychedelic.  If you don’t like what’s in front of you, you just look across the street or walk a few steps more for something completely different.  Miami is rich with art.

 

  1. It is family centric. Whether we were at Versailles at midnight or Coyo Tacos at noon, there were families everywhere. My impression previously had been that Miami was singles bars and clubs.  There are the obligatory gallon size mojitos on Ocean Drive in South Beach and it’s a must see for the Miami Vice art deco and people scene.  But the other 90% of Miami is full of tight knit families.  We took the short ride out to Key Biscayne and there were at least 10 large families having picnics on the beach or near the lighthouse.  Point the finger at all the family centered Latinos in Miami if you want, but you don’t see families of 8 to 10 eating out together in San Francisco at midnight.

 

  1. Miami is soft. There seems to be a perpetual breeze. It is accentuated by the sway of omnipresent palm trees.  It may have been 90 degrees but it felt like a soft velvet licking your skin.  We were trapped in a rain shower walking outside at one point and hid under an awning waiting for it to pass. But we suddenly realized, what does it matter if we get wet and it’s going to stop eventually.  We got a little wet, it cooled down, it stopped, no harm, no foul.  It’s a pace; a pace you don’t find in many other large cities.  It’s soft and patient.

 

The trip was especially nice because my son was able to play host to my husband as a first time tourist to Miami.  I’m so proud to see my son be the leader and caretaker while us “parents” sit back and take in the hospitality.  The tables were turned in the captivating city of Miami.

“Quiet on set!” We all want to be directors.

You submitted the proposal two weeks ago and there has been no response. “Action!” Everyone is talking over each other during the meeting. “Quiet on set!” Your child isn’t listening to your chore list. “Boom!”  The team can’t seem to get any traction on the project. “Roll!”  Wouldn’t it be great to have a giant megaphone in your hand and a bird’s eye view of all aspects of your life?  So if you wanted your friend to sober up, your boss to give you a raise or make your partner a sexy beast, all you would have to do is change the script and make it happen.  The truth is, while we may have delusions of being the director of our lives, we really just need to rewrite that script and surrender control.director

There is an ongoing theme that crops up a lot when I coach.  More than a lot.  Clients are constantly striving to change the other people in their lives.  They want their son to stop smoking, their co-worker to quit being nosy, their boss to acknowledge their accomplishments–you get the picture.  With all this constant striving to control and change others, we become embittered.  “I’ve told him to quit smoking dozens of times and he doesn’t listen to me.”  Sigh. “I’ve quit talking to my co-worker but they are still nosy.” Argh. “I’ve finished 6 projects ahead of schedule and my boss hasn’t said a word.” Woe is me.  The heart of this is the way we react to it.  The story we tell ourselves in our heads and the approach we take.

Here are some tips on how to let go of your need to be the Director:

  • Acknowledge that you are trying to direct others.  Changing a mindset always starts with acknowledging that it even exists. Several years ago, my son was baking a cake in my kitchen.  I ran around cleaning everything up and putting things away.  Critiquing each step.  He stepped back and said, “Let me fail.”  It was profound for me.  I needed to acknowledge that I wanted to control the situation, as if a cake was life or death.  So this is what control is like.
  • Reflect on your striving.  As a coach, I ask, “Can you control your boss…your daughter…your co-worker?”  Invariably the client says “No.” I ask, “Can you let go of the striving to control?” Client: “That’s not easy.” The striving itself is the source of your pain.  You are trying to change reality (albeit for the better) but the striving is undermining your relationship with the person you are trying to change.  So think about that.  You can’t change someone else’s actions, and you striving and worrying and manipulating will only twist you into a knot. So pick it up and put it on the table to look at it.  So this is what striving is; it’s striving to change things that you cannot direct.
  • Shut down the illusion.  So when I was in the middle of the baking catastrophe with my son, I decided to leave the room.  I was nothing but a stressed-out hindrance.  I took off my director’s beret, let go of the story and went to my trailer (actually my office). Let go of the illusion of control. I already knew how to make that cake.  Now it’s his turn.  My being in the kitchen was not going to change the end result.  It was delicious, by the way.  All by himself.  Successfully directing is just an illusion.
  • Figure out what you do have control over.  Hmmm.  Well, your reaction.  You have control over your reaction.  Even better to tell yourself, I have control over my response.  I can get mad, angry, frustrated, sad, or resentful.  I can also be sublime, calm, happy, relaxed or joyful.  You really do get to choose; the choosing is just different than what you initially thought.  I can remember being in the restaurant business and dealing with disgruntled customers.  My reaction to their bitterness was to be over-the-moon friendly.  Big smile, eye contact, “My day is just fabulous” attitude and it was infectious.  I was amazed at how I could turn a situation like a miss on a rare steak around through my own outlook.  Be that spark.  Understand that you can control yourself.
  • Don’t take it personally.  This is hard.  I have several clients that are putting off their happiness until…they get a promotion, their nemesis quits, their husband loses 20 pounds or their daughter sobers up. I can’t be happy if my daughter is unhappy.  I can’t be happy until Suzy quits.  The failures (and successes) of others are happening independent of you.  Whether or not that cake failed had nothing to do with me.  Let go of your personal responsibility for others’ actions.
  • Realize that everyone else wants to be the director of their own lives.  This is especially true when world events seem out of control.  So buried behind your boss’ request for a new venue for the holiday party is likely their need for control.  The tight deadline from your co-worker is to make sure it fits in their life.  Understand and respect that even your dog wants to control you by pawing you when you stop petting.  We all want influence and control.

This is not easy and it is a slow process. Take it slowly and consciously and it will change.  Just remember when you start getting wrapped up in the dramatic film in your head to ask yourself, “Am I really the director?  Am I really in control?” and let it go.