Stick to your Path

You’re jealous because your coworker just got a new red sports car and your car is a beat up 90’s Honda.  You’re upset because you weren’t selected for the super duper high profile project but your arch nemesis from work did.   Your ex is posting cozy pictures of her new boyfriend all over social media and you are home alone on a House of Cards binge.  You feel inadequate.   You feel sorry for yourself.  You are on the comparison Highway to Inadequacy. You need to get off that highway and focus on your own path.

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I’m a speaker.  An executive coach.  A mother.  A dog owner.  An author.   I don’t get paid what Tony Robbins gets paid to speak.  I don’t have the same client list as Marshall Goldsmith.  My kids (are awesome) but they aren’t on the cover of Time magazine or on a Wheaties box (yet). My dog hasn’t won any Westminster Dog Shows.  I haven’t written a single book and, therefore, never sold one (although there is a free copy here).  The point is, how high is that bar for you?  If I compared myself to everyone around me on all aspects of my life, I would be sorely disappointed.  Stick to your path and quit looking at everyone else’s.

Here are some ways to do that:

  • Acceptance.  Be Ok with the path that is in front of you.  I was stuck in a should cycle for the last nine months on decisions regarding the rebuilding of my house post Hurricane Matthew.   I should have purchased all new cabinets.  I should have bought new kitchen furniture.  I should have gone with a different electrician.  This is wearing you down.  All that “should-ing“.  Accept what decisions you have made and move forward.  All that should-ing is making you dwell on the past and draining you.

 

  • Different.  I love this quote from Internal Acceptance Movement, “Everyone has their own unique journey. A path that’s right for someone else won’t necessarily be a path that’s right for you. Your path isn’t right or wrong, or good or bad. It’s just different.”  What I try to do when I see that new red sports car in the company parking lot is say to myself “Wow.  Suzy really likes cars.  Good for her.”  Everyone values different things whether it be material possessions or experiences.  I love to travel and maybe my son doesn’t.  We are on different paths and that’s OK.

 

  • Pace.  This is my biggest problem.  I am always in forward motion.  I want to accomplish the next thing.  I want it done yesterday.  This makes me incredibly impatient with other folks who operate on a different pace (i.e.: slower).   It doesn’t bring out my best side.  As I tap my fingers waiting for a response to ten rapid fire texts to my assistant.  Take a breath and connect with your inner Buddha.  Acknowledge your pace and quit trying to have people get on board with your pace.  That’s how people start to stumble.  Stay in lane and keep your own pace and don’t worry about anyone else’s.

 

  • Suspend.  I know you’ve done this.  You see that your coworker has put on weight or is wearing something that, from your vantage point, is unattractive.  You pass judgment in your head.  “Wow. Janet needs to drop a few pounds” or “What made her think that looked good on her.” It’s difficult to suspend judgment but you can label it.  Say instead, “So, Cathy, this is what judgment looks like.”  Step away from the comparing paths and label it.

 

  • Present.  Be in this moment right now.  And now.  And now.  Don’t try and recreate history.  No, your ex is not coming back and that’s OK right now.  Trust that the path you are on is just fine and it’s taking you in the right direction.  Don’t catastrophize the future.   Sometimes paths cross and it’s lovely and there are wonderful memories and then they uncross and there will be new paths to cross in the future.  As you walk your path, be present.

 

You may not end up where you intended to go but you will be off of the Highway of Inadequacy.  Trust you are exactly where you need to be.  Trust that you are enough.  You are enough.

Cape Cod 50 years later

I am fortunate that I get to travel for business to lots of great locations like San Antonio, New Orleans and San Diego. When I initially found out I was going to Boston for a conference, I wasn’t that excited. Boston is a difficult town to navigate by car and the location of the conference meant that I would need to rent a car instead of rely on Uber or Lyft to get around. I also set the intention to try and take a vacation day while there in order to take in the sites. So the question was what sites to take in.

I called my trusty traveling companion: my daughter Natalie. We have been to many places together and I knew she would be a good person to bounce ideas off of. My first inclination was to go north to Wolfeboro, New Hampshire and return to beautiful Lake Winnipesauke, where I spent my summers as a child. My dad worked every summer at a boy’s camp near Alton Bay, New Hampshire. In the last five years, I have stopped by several times to visit. A trip down memory lane. Another option was Cape Cod. As a small kid, we would make a side trip to Cape Cod on our annual pilgrimage to New Hampshire from Wilmington, Delaware, usually because a relative was vacationing there. Natalie suggested, “So one trip is lake water and the other is ocean water. One is down memory lane and the other is an adventure.” I realized I hadn’t been to a beach in several years (even though I live 80 minutes from the North Carolina coast). I also hadn’t been on a solo adventure lately. So ocean it was.

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My memory of Cape Cod is really fuzzy and based on photos of the trips we took there, I have to believe I was about 9 years old. I recall that my Uncle Jim and Aunt Naomi would rent a home somewhere on the Cape and we would stop by in our old blue Ford Country Squire Station Wagon. By we, I mean my parents and my two older brothers, Dave and Rick. I remember always claiming “the way back” in that station wagon, so I could sleep in a makeshift camp amongst the luggage and decks of cards. I remember thinking that renting a house for a week seemed crazy. Why not just stay there forever? I remember taking a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. I remember grabbing clams along the beach. I remember my two cousins Randy and Gordon. I also recall that everything seemed quite desolate.

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Flash forward to 2017. Traveling solo to the tip of Cape Cod in a day. Starting from Hyannis, I headed up Route 6. Here are the stops that I made:

Salt Pond Visitor Center:  I saw the sign for the Visitor Center at the Cape Cod National Seashore. I made a beeline to one of the rangers and asked for a map. I then asked the ranger if he could recommend a few hikes as I headed out to Provincetown. He was very helpful, highlighting the map and the exits off of Route 6. What’s a map, Cathy? Don’t you have your phone for that? Sure. Maps are old school but I have learned that when out in the hinterland along the coast, one of two things can happen. Your cell dies from taking too many photos and keeps trying to connect via roaming, or it can’t find a signal and you are left randomly roaming without a map and no chance of returning to home base.

Marconi Station Site:  I think I would recommend this site the most. I took the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail, which was nice but the coolest spot along the Atlantic Ocean is the Marconi Station Site itself. It has a nice overlook about halfway up the cape, where you can see the waves crashing. It’s a nice vantage point. But the amazing thing is that Marconi Station was the site of the first Transatlantic wireless telegram address to Edward VII King of England by Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States. The station was built in 1901 and Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company was the predecessor to RCA. How cool is that? A little piece of history halfway up the arm of Cape Cod.

Race Point Beach: So here is where I finally stood on an Atlantic Ocean beach. The classic dunes and grass that lead to a bare strip of gravelly sand. This is the Cape Cod of my childhood. No boardwalk. No snow cones. No hot dog stands. Just perfection. The ocean waves crashing and no one in the water (bit chilly). There were some folks braving the wind and playing in the sand. There is the simplicity of the Cape Cod beach experience. Sweet peace as the boats roll by and the seagulls dive up and down. I highly recommend the drive to Race Point.

Provincetown:  So by now I don’t have a cell signal (see, I told you), so I followed the map and drove until I saw some cute shops and restaurants. I parked on a pier jutting out into Provincetown Harbor. I asked the parking guy for a food recommendation. He asked what I wanted and I said “seafood.” He sent me on my way to the Lobster Pot. Little did I know that it is apparently a Provincetown institution. I had the best lobster roll I have ever had in my life. A table with a view of the harbor. Wonderful. With a full belly, I shopped a bit and took in the quaint, quirky village. Did I mention that after three solid days of cold rain, there were blue skies and temps in the upper 60’s? Simply marvelous.

Highland Light:  This has a lovely view of marshlands and the Atlantic coast. The lighthouse was moved back in the 90’s as the coast line has eroded. Lovely Cape Cod buildings with the grasses swaying in the breeze and the Lupine in bloom.

Red Maple Swamp Trail:  I have never associated Cape Code with marshes, but this recently finished trail takes you down into a Red Maple swamp along a boardwalk hovering over the marsh water. There was a cedar tree with branches so large you had to crawl under them to stay on the trail. I highly recommend the trail if just for the birds’ calling alone. I heard sounds I had never heard before.

Hyannis Port:  I had dinner in Hyannis Port and realize now that this is the spot all the ferries leave for Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. So I must have been here at some other point in my life. I had a bucket of steamers which are so much more authentic that the ones I used to get on the west coast. Unique little town with a ton of boats and a small army of people orchestrating cars, people and ferries. Quite the bustling village.

Overall, it was a wonderful day of hiking, shopping, eating and adventure. Cape Cod on a weekday before the summer heat is a wonderful treat.

Per aspera ad astra (Through hardships to the stars)

You can’t believe you got a flat tire on the way to your final interview for that killer job you are dying for. You can’t believe your ex just charged something on your joint account without telling you. You can’t believe the contractor just delayed the repairs on your house one more week. Hardships are going to come day in and day out, some worse than others. How you face them is critical to your well-being.

I remember the worst year of my life. I’ve been reflecting on it a lot since my dog and I were displaced by Hurricane Matthew seven months ago. The year was 1997 and I lived in Windsor, California. My son was 18 months old and my daughter was 4. I owned a restaurant that I was changing from a Sizzler franchise to a stand-alone restaurant called Coyote’s. I was attending the University of San Francisco (USF) at night for my Master’s in Human Resource and Organization Development. I owned a 3000-square foot house with an enormous mortgage. I asked my then-husband of thirteen years to help me carry the groceries from the car. He said, “No,” as he lay on the couch. It was there and then I decided I was leaving him. Needless to say, it was a tumultuous year. But I made it through.

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So why reflect on that you ask? Because I was so much better after surviving that year. I found out how strong I was and that I can survive anything. Here are my reflections on how to survive hardships and arrive safely in the stars:

 

  • Support.  Luckily, my parents lived a half block down the street so I had built-in childcare and a lot of financial support as I navigated the divorce. I also had a cohort of students at USF. A cohort is a group of people around the same age with similar interests. Our cohort was comprised of students in the same class for the entire coursework for our Master’s degrees. I can guarantee you, I would have dropped out of school if it wasn’t for that cohort and their support as I separated from my husband. My team at the restaurant were completely supportive as well. When you hit rough patches in your life, find some solid support.

 

  • Exercise.  I belonged to a gym at the time. I didn’t drop my membership, even though it was a financial hardship. I still needed to show up for class and exercise. It cleared my head. It helped me focus on something else besides the overwhelming situation that was my life at the time. Getting back into your body and out of your head is so important. I did not meditate back in 1997, but I do now and anything that gets me into my body and out of my head is so important. Be sure and exercise.

 

  • Faith. Practically everyone around me told me to sell my house. I mean everyone. But deep down inside I knew I could figure out how to hold onto it. I had faith in myself. I knew I was a strong, smart, hardworking woman and I could somehow swing that mortgage and make it through. I ended up renting out rooms in the house to some really great roommates whose rent helped me afford the house. I didn’t end up selling that house for another five years as it remained a constant home for my young children. I even sold it for a profit. Keep the faith. Believe in yourself.

 

  • Feel.  It’s so easy during difficult times to stuff your feelings. It’s easy to drink or medicate to dull the sensations. It’s so important to feel the sensations and feel your feelings. I know I grieved and cried a lot during the separation but I didn’t know to label the feelings. Now I do. So this is what “betrayal” feels like (pain in my stomach and heat on my neck). So this is what “abandonment” feels like (tears streaming down my face and a knot in my shoulders). As the famous unattributed quote says, “Sometimes you have to go through things and not around them.” Feel your way through.

 

  • Forgive.  It turned out that there were many sins my ex had committed that I was not aware of during our marriage. Initially, I was angry and hurt and most of all – resentful. It took me many years to forgive him. It wasn’t easy. But holding onto that resentment was causing me more harm than good. Searching for more ways of how he hurt me was only reopening the wounds and scarring them all over again. Finally forgiving him set me free. We are all trying to do the best we can. So was he. So was I. This is the most difficult part of getting past hardship. Remember to forgive.

 

  • Stand up.  I had many blows during that awful year including back taxes and other financial setbacks. Every time I had a blow, I got back up. I didn’t crawl into bed (or a bottle). I got back up to face the next day. My tenacity for getting back up helped me survive. Knowing that I had two small kids depending on me was a huge motivation as well. They are still my motivation to this day. Stand back up because there is someone out there who needs you.

 

In retrospect, that year taught me a lot about my own resilience and how much I adored and still adore my children. The resultant stars from that hardship are my own self-reliance and two beautiful, hardworking children who love and count on me. It doesn’t get much better than that. What are your stars?

Transforming the Negativity Bias

This starts in grade school. Two kids are whispering and you assume it’s about you. Your boss hasn’t responded to your email in a week and you think she’s getting ready to demote you. Your child is late getting home and you assume they have been in a car accident. It’s all hardwired into your brain. Your ancestors didn’t wait around to find out if the rustle in the bushes was a saber tooth tiger. They ran. If they didn’t run, you wouldn’t be here.

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The problem is that this constant focus on the negative in today’s day and age, is bad for your body and brain. If something good and something bad happen in the same day, you end up focusing on the bad. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt says, “Over and over, the mind reacts to bad things more quickly, strongly and persistently than to equivalent good things.” As Tony Robbins wrote for the New York Times, “It turns out that cultivating positive emotions such as joy, contentment, interest, pride and love pays huge dividends.” The good news is that you can rewire your brain towards the positive.

Here is how to transform your negativity bias:

  • Gratitude.  Taking stock of what is going right. It could be as simple as a roof over your head, being grateful for your child graduating college, or having your boss actively listen to you. I personally have been writing in a gratitude journal for over five years. I used to do it in the evening and then switched to the morning. I used to write five individual things like “Daddy”, “Baci”, “Dinner”, “Natalie” and “Ben”. Now I write three things and say, “I am grateful for Janine’s support. I am grateful for Joe’s attentive listening. I am grateful for a great dinner at SoCo.” It’s more specific and writing the word “grateful” has a bigger impact. Be grateful.

 

  • Store.  Look back right now at something that has happened positive today. I just had delicious bacon and eggs with my daughter. She really enjoyed the bacon. Now I need to stop, dwell and think about that positive experience, while I take a few breaths in order to store the positive experience in my head. This is an idea posited by Rick Hanson in a TedTalk. When you relive a positive experience in your mind for even a few seconds, it rewires your brain towards the positive. Be sure to be storing the positive experiences.

 

  • Score.  I struggle with this one. I even have Positivity as one of my top 5 from StrengthsFinders. According to John Gottman, there needs to be at least a 3 to 1 ratio and, ideally, a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative feedback you give the people in your life. So try and keep score. Are you telling your kids everything they did wrong and how bad their grades are or looking at what went right? Like, “Hey, thanks for getting up on time” or “Thanks for putting your books away.” We all want praise. It makes us feel better and with us all being hardwired for negativity, remembering that the one criticism you give will likely live on and all the positivity will float away. Keep score of your sincere positive feedback.

 

  • Visualize.  As Marelisa Fabrega wrote for Daring to Live Fully, “Whenever something negative happens to you—for example, someone says something mean to you—visualize a drop of black ink falling into a large container of clear water. Although at first the ink is very black, it quickly mixes with the rest of the water until it’s gone, and all you can see is the clear water again.” I really like the image of the negativity diluting into clear sparkling water.

 

  • Reframe.  Coaching is all about reframing. Coaching is so beneficial because the coach isn’t connected to the outcome. They bring a different perspective and put a different frame around it. My daughter and I just attended a lovely 6-course dinner. One of the courses was not very good. All of the rest were stunning. I started getting wrapped up in the one bad course and started to regret the entire evening. Luckily, my daughter was able to reframe it for me. “Hey, so one course wasn’t so great, but the rest was terrific and it was a magical evening.” It was. A perfect sunset. Lovely wine. Delicious food. Great conversation. Reframe towards the positive.

 

  • Realistic optimism. As Tony Schwarz wrote for the New York Times, “The notion is not to become an uncritical Pollyanna – but instead to practice “realistic optimism.” That means telling yourself the most hopeful and empowering story possible about any given situation without denying or minimizing the facts.” Thus, you aren’t in denial but you can create a story that has a more positive outcome.

 

Either way you flow through your day, your positivity or negativity are contagious. Try and spread the positive stuff and ignite others.

What My Dog Taught Me About Limiting Beliefs

This past week I had quite the scare.  My beloved, happy-go-lucky dog Baci was suddenly missing. Out of the blue, I looked around on Saturday morning and wondered, “Where’s Baci?” She must be outside, I thought. I checked the usual spots (dog house, garage, under the deck, tree #1, tree #2, tree #3….you get the picture) but to no avail. Then I was outside looking down the road and into presumably the uncharted territories of the neighbors’ yards and the road. By happenstance, a neighbor was down the road about 100 yards away walking her dog and I heard a familiar bark. Aha!

There she was, two doors down, barking her head off at another dog being walked, defending her new found territory. What in the world? How did that happen? I carried her home. I have a wireless containment system that involves a dog collar and base unit. When Baci gets out about 100 feet from the base unit, she receives a warning beep and then a slight shock. I’ve had the system almost as long as Baci (about 8 years) and she definitely knows her territory. The base unit was broken. For how long? Who knows. At some point, she started testing her outer limits–her limiting beliefs.

Outer Limits.  What my Dog Taought me about Limiting Beliefs.

This is what she taught me:

  • Routine.  Baci always has the same routine. The “usual spots” in the yard that she investigates every time she is outside. Heck, she has the same routines inside the house. The same windows she sidles up to peer out. The same tap, tap, tap, tap across the wood floor. We’ve all got the same routines. Brush your upper right teeth before the left. Wash your hair before your face. Check your phone and then pour coffee. At some point, Baci changed her routine to head into the outer limits. If you want to change things up, you are going to need to change up your routine.

 

  • Environment.  The day that I found Baci -AWOL, there was a blanket of snow on the ground. This is a drastic change in environment when you live in Eastern North Carolina. This was not the usual fare. With a blanket of white snow, her perspective and our perspectives were different. The snow was covering her usual “barriers”. Perhaps her imagined border had been the roots she would never cross or a fallen branch. A change in environment can change the way you see the world. Change your office, re-organize your books, or change the wallpaper on your PC. The barriers will disappear.

 

  • Test.  At some point, she tested the limit. Probably by accident at first, but she went a little farther than she had before. And then a little farther. And then a little more. She inched her way to new territory and was no worse for wear. Test your limits. Write an intro to a book. Sign up for that art course you’ve always wanted to take. Open a new PowerPoint template and make a few slides. Test your outer limits. And then go a little farther. And then a little more.

 

  • Explore.  When I look back, I was wondering how long the invisible fence system was down. When I reflect back, I can remember seeing Baci in places that had previously been off limits. Or I would look everywhere for her, give up and go inside, and suddenly she would be at the back door trying to get in. It.Could.Have.Been.Months. Wow. She was out there exploring. Finding new cats, tennis balls and squirrels (probably the same squirrels, just finding them around a new tree). She always came home. She knew where home base was. Go explore. What’s on your bucket list? Check a few off. Barcelona, Copenhagen and Alaska are on mine. Go explore some new trees.

 

I’m not suggesting we all let our pets run wild. But I do feel conflicted about restoring Baci to her home territory. How exciting for her to test her limiting beliefs and break beyond her usual outer limits. Don’t wait around for the next snow, the lottery, or your own retirement…test your limiting beliefs. See how exciting and rejuvenating it can be.

How to quit awfulizing so much.

Do you want to procrastinate? Do you like to procrastinate? Do want to come to a complete stop? Start worrying? Worry about the what ifs? Dwell on all the things that could happen? Might happen? Could happen? Should happen? It sucks the life out of you. Quit awfulizing.

I had a client recently gnashing her teeth because her child was going overseas for a month. Her biggest issue was the not knowing. How would they communicate? What is Skype? Where would he be living? So my question was: “How is all this worrying working for you?” Well, it’s not. It’s paralyzing, sleep depriving…a waste. Worrying or not worrying will not change the outcome.

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I’m not saying I don’t understand. I have two young adult children who have been more than an hours drive away for the last two months (one 11 hours south and one 2 hours west). They are making their own decisions, their own plans and their own mistakes.  My worrying or lack of worrying won’t change the outcome. But at least I sleep. This has not always been my M.O. (modus operandi). It’s taken me years to back off the Ledge of Worry.

How to get to worry free in 5 not so easy steps:

1. Decide.  You need to simply get on board or not. If you really enjoy thinking of endless ways how your child, your parent or your spouse could be in a car accident. If this is your fuel, then join the fretters club. But if you’re ready to do the mental dump and start living in the moment, then you need to make the commitment. This can’t work unless you do.

2. Optimism. You will need to be optimistic. This will be difficult for the glass-half-empty-people out there. What if everything is going to be better than expected? Maybe the plane is getting in early. Maybe your team will go to the NCAA finals. Maybe the boss’s office door is shut because they are working on your raise. Everything is possible including the windfall, the referral and the next project. Expect the best.

3. Turn it off.  The news that is. I was just in Atlanta and my husband had the evening news on. OMG. Shootings. Drownings. Murder. Car accidents. My blood pressure went up. My mind starts wandering down horrible trails. What if that was my kid, friend, or coworker? Nothing good can come from the news. 98% is sensationalized and depressing. I’ve taken a clue from my daughter. She gets caught in rain storms without an umbrella or in freezing temperatures with flip flops on. She doesn’t watch the news or the weather. She takes is as it comes. Why ruin the surprise?

4. Moment.  As in, Ya Gotta Live in the Moment. This is the most difficult. There is always a certain  amount of reflection and planning in life. We just need to stop dwelling on embarrassments, back stabbing and finger pointing. We need to quit anticipating the worst outcome. So your friend has cancer. Worrying for them is not going to help them. Praying for them can. Assuming they will be cured is a much more positive approach. Being with them in the moment is a gift.

5. Alert.  Pay attention to your thoughts. No one else will. You need to be vigilant. Pessimism has a way of seeping into our heads. When you get caught in your fourth red light in a row, chill out. It’s going to be fine. Sometimes I fantasize that if I didn’t get caught at the red light I would have been some place three minutes earlier and caused a car accident. This was meant to be. Just make sure you’re staying in charge of those fretting thoughts. You are your own sheriff. Clean out the riff raff.

So the next time your spouse/partner is late, imagine that they’re picking up your favorite coffee or scoring a new project. It will send out positive energy and you will sleep so much better.

What would you do?

Coping with Change

You just lost your job and you are reeling with a thousand questions. You just lost your best friend to cancer and you don’t know how you are going to go on. You are told you are getting a new boss and the word is they are a jerk. These are all massive changes. Life altering. It’s frequently unforeseen. It comes out of nowhere like a sudden car crash. Suddenly you are on a different path.

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There are lots of ways to deal with sudden change. A lot of them are unhealthy. Stuffing your feelings with food. Escaping with alcohol or drugs. Going on a shopping spree. There are healthy ways to cope with change and here are a few ideas.

 

  • Accept and label your emotions.  I lost a pregnancy about 25 years ago. I never dealt with the grief until about a year ago. I was talking to an outstanding coach friend, Sandy Lewis, about pregnancy and the topic came up. She asked if I had grieved for the baby. I hadn’t. So, for several weeks, I lit a candle and named the lost baby “Angel”. I cried. I wept. I wailed. I felt it in my stomach mostly and I labeled it. This is what loss feels like. This is what disappointment feels like. I felt it through my whole body and accepted it. Most of us usually stuff our feelings and never get them out. But they sit there waiting to be experienced. After a weekly ceremony of honoring my feelings and grieving for that lost child, I finally got past it.

 

  • What is the gift?  There is a silver lining to practically anything. The pregnancy I was talking about was an accident. But the gift was that I realized I wanted to have children. When I divorced my first husband and father of my children, I realized that I was worthy and deserving of love. And I found that love. When I was laid off from my first “professional” job, I learned that corporate cafeterias were not where my joy was. I laid off a guy last year and he realized it was time to move and retire. He hated his job. If your relationship ends, you may be thrown onto a path of adventure that you’ve only ever dreamed of. If your current job ends, you may meet a whole new group of people that you thoroughly identify with and who actually become your friends. The important thing is to find the gift and accept it.

 

  • Don’t fight it.  As Amanda Abella wrote in Lifehack, “Life changes are usually out of our control. Rather than trying to manipulate the situation and wishing things were different, try flowing with it instead.” Resistance is completely natural but be conscious when it’s time to move on. The resistance is making you suffer. As a client of mine once said, “Sit back like you are in a recliner and let the current flow. Putting your feet down in the white water is dangerous. Kick back and go with the flow.”

 

  • Find healthy habits.  I remember that when I left my first husband, I started smoking again; it was a way for me to take my independence back. It took me five years to quit again. There are lots of healthy options like meditation, yoga, journaling or taking the dog for a walk. It’s easy to get caught up in not being present. You can go over and over and over the sins of the past and get caught up in how you are going to pay the rent without a job. When you feel that start to take over, go for walk and listen to the birds. Get present.

 

  • Reframe it.  I reframe things for my coaching clients all the time. I remember a client was suffering from a mean ex-husband. I asked her what was good about the situation. She replied, “I learned I can take care of myself.” It was easy to get caught up in being the victim and not being able to find your power. If you don’t have a coach, phone a trusted friend. Let them help you reframe it. It frequently takes an outside perspective. It’s difficult to do the work by ourselves. Phone a friend.

 

Change is difficult and we are all wired to resist it. Acknowledging and accepting is the way forward. What change are you coping with?

Revamping your Mornings

Your alarm clock goes off and you hit snooze. You roll over and figure you can slide into work late because your boss is out of town. You bag going for a run or writing in your gratitude journal. Heck, you don’t even know where your running shoes or journal are! You haven’t written in it for months. You brush your teeth, take a two-minute shower, dress and head to work sans breakfast. Does this sound like your typical morning? Is it setting you up for success?

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I just finished Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning. It’s an inspiring book that I highly recommend. He has a ton of free resources on his website tmmbook.com. If you want to set yourself up for success, give it a read. Or read some of the highlights here. It turns out that I was already practicing many of the strategies that Hal espouses in his book. What I have done is to add a couple of tweaks to my morning routine, and I’m starting to realize that some of my success over the last few years can be attributed to my morning routine. I’ve now incorporated some of Hal’s ideas and my morning is getting even better.

So here is how to revamp your mornings:

  • Get up early.  You night owls out there are all groaning. Hal recommends 4 or 5 AM. What? Is 7 AM early enough? Frankly, I’ve been getting up at 5 AM for several years now. Sometimes 4:30 AM. If you don’t need to arrive to work until 8 AM, that gives you 3 whole hours less your commute to incorporate some of Hal’s ideas. Hal says that practically anyone can be a morning person. I have to admit, I have always been a morning person so this wasn’t a difficult adjustment. Part of the secret is your mind set. Believe you are a morning person and you can be. As Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” Decide that you are a morning person.

 

  • Bedtime Affirmations.  This is new to me. Hal recommends setting yourself up for success with bedtime affirmations, which are free on his website. I have tried it the last few nights and I do think I am sleeping better and waking up energized. It basically says the I am going to be successful, wake up well rested, go to bed at ____PM and wake up at ____AM. You fill in the blanks. Full disclosure, I have always been an early bird and have never hit the snooze bar, so this was relatively easy for me. Try out Hal’s bedtime affirmations.

 

  • Water.  Hall recommends a full glass of water as soon as you rise from bed. I have been sleeping with a full glass of water by my bedside for decades. The thing is, I don’t usually drink the entire thing before kicking off my day. Hal points out that you’ve just spent 6 to 8 hours without water and it’s time to start re-hydrating your brain and body. It’s a small subtle thing, but it makes sense. A plant won’t grow without water. Why not feed your brain and body? Drink a full glass of water first thing.

 

  • Journaling.  The ironic thing here is that I recently started writing in a gratitude journal in the morning. I used to write in my journal at night and sometimes I would skip it. Once I skipped it a few times, next thing I know, I don’t even know where it’s located. I’ve been doing it first thing in the morning for several months now, and it works a lot better. Hal is not specific about what you journal about–you can switch it up over time to keep it fresh. Start journaling in the morning.

 

  • Exercise.  This book inspired me to start walking again every morning. I have been a lapsed morning walker for a while. I went for a decade walking or running almost every morning. Hal inspired be to get back out there and I am about a week in. It feels awesome to get outside, hear the birds and get my heart pumping. I feel better throughout the day. Hal recommends yoga and I’m thinking about shaking up my routine, once I am definitely on track to be a morning exerciser again. The key here is that it’s only 20 minutes, but that 20 minutes makes all the difference.

 

  • Tweaks.  As I recommend in my free e-book 102 Itzy Bitzy Habits, don’t take on five new routines right away. You will get burned out and give up (think New Year’s resolutions). Adapt one or two changes to your morning or evening routine for a few weeks, then add one or two more. I already have a morning routine, so I just added the exercise and bedtime affirmations. Don’t bite off too much.

This is just a brief summary of what I have chosen to take on. I already have a morning routine that takes about an hour. I’ve just incorporated some of Hal’s ideas into mine. I highly recommend the book or his website for more information. How are you going to revamp your morning?

What story are you telling yourself?

You walk into the room and everyone snickers. They must hate the new shoes I am wearing. Your assistant forgets to copy you on an email. She must have it out for me. Your boss doesn’t return your text for at least 2 hours. She must not think I am important enough.

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These are all stories we tell ourselves. We take a few floating facts and put them into a story that sets us up for disappointment. We feel marginalized and often shut down. The thing is that everyone tells Their Story in their own head. But how often do we test our assumptions? How often do we verify that we have The Story right? This whole concept was illuminated in Brene Brown’s powerful book, Rising Strong.

Here is how to unravel your story:

  • Curious.  As Brene wrote, “Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty.” It is so much easier to live in our self-deprecating assumptions that everyone is out to get us. When we open ourselves to curiosity, we open to possibility. This helps reframe or re-write the story. So how does this play out? Hmmm. Maybe my boss is in an important meeting. Maybe my assistant didn’t forget to copy me intentionally. Maybe I should ask my friend why everyone was snickering. Remain curious.
  • Wabi-Sabi.  Wabi-Sabi is accepting imperfection and uncertainty. As Brene wrote, “It’s always helpful to remember that when perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun.” Striving for perfection is exhausting. You will never be ________ (fill in the blank: good, smart, thin, funny) enough. Seeking perfection is inviting shame. The shoes will never be right. The report not all encompassing enough. Shame will not help the story in your head. Embrace the wabi-sabi in your life.
  • Enough.  This is one of the best quotes from the book: “Many of us will spend our entire lives trying to slog through the shame swampland to get to a place where we can give ourselves permission to both be imperfect and to believe we are enough.” It’s so important to tell yourself that you are enough. Try this: Shoulder’s back, stride into the room, smile and make eye contact. The next time you are walking into a room of new people, try it. It makes a remarkable difference in how you show up and how you feel. You are enough.
  • Own it.  Brene wrote, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” I’ve done this a few times with my husband over the last few weeks. When I started believing that he was mad at me or was upset about something, I would start by saying, “So I have two stories that I’m telling myself. One is that you are working really hard and are stressed and can’t be as attentive. The other is that you don’t love me anymore and you are seeing someone else.” Guess which story was true. Now I can own the real story.
  • Discomfort. This can be uncomfortable. It takes bravery. As Brene posits, “People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real bad-asses.” Think of yourself as a New York Times reporter fact-checking your story. It’s definitely uncomfortable to step into the vulnerability of uncertainty. If it’s too comfortable, are you really challenging the facts of the story. Engage in discomfort.
  • Ditch comparison. Comparing yourself to other’s is another way of writing the wrong story. As Brene wrote, “Stay in your own lane. Comparison kills creativity and joy.” Comparison is a limiting belief. In addition, it invites in perfectionism. My neighbor has a nicer car. My boss has a bigger office. I don’t make as much money as my colleague. Not very inspiring. Nothing to compel you onward and upward! We are all on our own path. As Brene says, “Stay in your own lane.”

I have slowly tried to incorporate this into my life. I take a step back when I am angry or resentful over something and try to reframe my story. It’s not easy but I do feel more present and I am able to re-write the story. What story do you need to reframe?

7 Leadership Lessons From Sir Ernest Shackleton.

This is a re-post from 2013 as my husband and I unpack our still unlivable house (no plumbing yet). It’s one of my most popular posts.

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.” – Sir Ernest Shackleton

I just read Alfred Lansing’s book Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage. The book is about the voyage of the British ship Endurance in 1914 and its leader, Sir Ernest Shackleton. It is an amazing account of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition and how 28 men survived for 21 months after the ship was beset in the ice floes of Antarctica. How does a man lead 27 men to safety in sub freezing temperatures, no digital equipment (not even a radio) and countless obstacles (including climbing for 36 hours over uncharted mountains without climbing gear)? Leadership and grit, that’s how.

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The ship was first beset in the ice floes for 9 months. However the pressure of the ice pack slowly (but surely) crushed the boat, so the crew of 28 had to take to the ice pack on the Weddell Sea. The ship sank about 30 days later after the crew had taken most of the provisions and three life boats off the ship. The rest of the odyssey involves 7 months of camping on ice, rowing on the open seas in lifeboats, breaking the group up and eventually, hiking uncharted mountains without any gore-tex or ice picks to an eventual rescue of the entire group. Every frostbitten one.

This is what Shackleton taught me about leadership:

  1. Honest.  Shackleton was brutally honest with his expectations of the expedition (see quote above). Safe return doubtful. Only those who are up to the challenge are going to sign up. All leaders can learn from this. Don’t sell the job as something it isn’t. If the work is tedious, say it. If there is constant travel, be upfront. Be honest when you are bringing someone onto your team.
  2. Team.  Shackleton built a cohesive multi-national team of 28. He made an instant gut decision. He asked Reginald James if he could sing (he could and was chosen).  Two Surgeons, a tried and true Navigator, Photographer, Artist, Seaman, Cook and Carpenter. He fit the team together like a puzzle. Great leaders do. They don’t look for carbon copies of themselves–they look for complementary pieces. Have a diverse team of talent and character with traits that don’t resemble you.
  3. Decisive.  Shackleton made a decision and stuck to it. There was no waffling. When you decide to get off a breaking ice floe, you can’t turn back. He adjusted the goal several times from one island to another but he never waffled. The men knew that Shackleton could be counted on. When you lead, be decisive. Your folks are counting on you.
  4. Inclusive.  He was constantly seeking opposing viewpoints. He would listen to other’s viewpoints, whether it was which direction to go or how much food to dole out. In the end, he would make the decision, but everyone would be heard. When they were on the 7-day sail to Elephant Island, if one person was chilled, he ordered hot beverages for all. Inclusive leaders have their finger of the pulse of the group as a whole.
  5. Delegate.  Shackleton delegated clearly, definitely and with no regrets. He left Frank Wild in charge of 22 men on Elephant Island. Everyone knew Wild was in charge and Shackleton left him there with full confidence that Wild would succeed. He did. Delegate projects with full confidence in your team. Don’t waver or take it back. Delegate with clarity.
  6. Improvise.  Obviously they had to constantly improvise. Wood from the sinking ship was used for shoe bottoms, blubber from penguins to light the lamps, lashing three men together to slide down a mountain face like a toboggan. Shackleton and his men made do with what they had. Don’t wait for the next software upgrade or next year’s budget to move the project forward. Improvise with what you have now.
  7. Faith.  Shackleton had unfailing faith and optimism. He kept the more pessimistic and ornery folks in his tent, lest they infect the others. You cannot survive 21 months in the bleakness of the Antarctic with little more than the clothes on your back, a compass and a stove without optimism. Leadership is all about having undying faith that you can overcome any obstacle.

I have to say that as I read the book, I was stunned and impressed with the insurmountable obstacles that they did overcome and for Shackleton’s heroic, unfailing, inspiring leadership.