Oops, I Made a Mistake

Whether you are 15, 115, or somewhere in between, the life you are building is the life you will leave for others to remember you by.

I thought about this yesterday after I was adamant on making a point instead of understanding another’s point of view. When my perspective was called out, I paused to reflect on my conduct. In this particular situation, I realized that I was focusing on the wrong thing.  I was so focused on the point I wanted to make that I was not listening to the other person’s point.

I was embarrassed because it is important for me to live by the values I hold so dear and understanding is one of my top values.

But the reminder that I was insisting on my point, rather than considering the other’s point, was important to hear. After all, if I do not have the aptitude to give space for someone else’s point of view, I am living in a world of potential isolation, unnecessary conflict and separation.

Allowing someone else’s point of view does not mean I have to give mine up or that I have to agree with theirs. It merely means I am letting them be in their thoughts and feelings as I am in mine.

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Listen for It, Listen to It, It’s There to Help

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you have witnessed your own behaviors in action?

Here is an example: You are in your car, driving down the highway, it’s twilight, with the sun just about out of sight. But it’s not quite night. Others in their cars, like you, are heading home, perhaps distracted, already thinking about dinner, to dos, tv shows, and home conversations.

You turn your signal in to indicate your intention to move from the left the middle lane. You look to see if anyone from the far-right lane is indicating they are going to turn to the middle lane. All clear.

Then that voice, one you have heard inside your head before, reaches out and tells you not to go into the middle lane, that far-right lane car is going to move into the middle lane.  You stay where you are and sure enough, THAT car moves into the middle lane about which you had signaled your intention. And they moved over without any signal, nothing. But you knew. Good thing you listened to THAT voice. It may have saved you a trip to the hospital.

How do you recognize THAT voice? It’s a protective, sagacious, and valuable voice. Researchers at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, conducted a study where participants repeated a word over and over as they performed a test: push the button when a certain symbol flashes on the screen. As this symbol flashed on the screen frequently, it could set off and did set off impulsive responses. The researchers found that when participants could not listen to their own inner “talk”, they were more likely to act more impulsively.  The researchers said this about the study: “Without being able to verbalize messages to themselves, they were not able to exercise the same amount of self-control as when they could themselves through the process.”

Listen for it, listen to it…your inner voice. It’s there to help.

Stress Can Wreak Havoc in Your Life

When you face danger, your body’s alarm system stimulates the production of adrenaline and cortisol. This is “stress.” This feeling of stress can be valuable as the adrenaline gets your heart beating faster and the cortisol produces glucose to help you react both mentally and physically. Once the danger is over, the adrenaline and cortisol rushes stop.

Unfortunately, that is not the only time when stress manifests itself. You can also experience stress whenever something bothers you or throws your world out of balance. Whether it’s from money or work issues, relationship or communication tensions, or something else that’s bothering you, when stress lingers, adrenaline and cortisol continue to pump through the body.  This isn’t productive.

If you cannot turn off your body’s alarm system you can find yourself eating more, exercising less, sleeping less, becoming forgetful about where you put things, more argumentative and impatient, more irrational, with increased abdominal fat, blood sugar imbalances and more.  You react to these hormonal releases with a faster beating heart which can result in higher blood pressure and increased cholesterol.

Stress itself is a constant in life and it is necessary: it helps you overcome dangerous/annoying situations. But, prolonged stress is toxic to your body and this is what you should avoid/manage. With the proper tools and systems in place you can protect yourself from its deleterious effects. Exercise, healthy food habits, laughing, and focusing on your strengths and values are key components to maintaining wellbeing.

Live with your core strengths and values at the forefront of your life.  They matter.

I Made a Startling Observation about Leadership

I recently noted something I want to talk about. A little while ago I attended a “town hall” meeting of a group to which I have been a member and one-time leader for well over a decade. At this meeting of about 200 people, I experienced a phenomenon that may have always been there. Let me explain.

There are members who feel comfortable in criticizing the leadership, the direction and other parts of the organization. They are vocal in their criticism, sometimes sparking controversy and sometimes adding fuel to fires already lit. But, often, something changes within them, that they do not see, when they become titled leaders of the overarching organization of the group.

Suddenly, as if a switch has been activated within them, their criticism transforms into a call for peace and understanding, for tolerance and respect. Those who criticized now call for an end to “negativity”, the negativity they had sparked or fueled, themselves, at one time.

Until recently I had not noticed anything askew about this change. But, for some reason, I now focused my attention on a question. I asked myself: “Why, as leaders, do we shut down criticism, when as followers we initiate or support criticism?” As leaders we tend to seek harmony and while as followers we tend to seek a voice. But so often, neither listens to the other. Each merely wants to shut the other down.

I find it interesting that we cannot look at both criticism and the role of “leadership” as being two sides of the same coin. Neither are inherently “better.” Neither are inherently “right.” I believe voices want to convey something even if their expression, or the words themselves, seem divisive. Leaders are not necessarily parents or moral authorities but can think they are, because they have been given implicit responsibilities or titles.

How do you view criticism? Do you try to shut it down? Do you tolerate it? Do you know how to speak to it, so it feels heard, while still maintaining your center? How do you view leadership? Does it have an implicit authority that overrules a “voice?” How do you build a bridge to listening and collaboration when criticism and harmony live together?

 

Finding My Way Back to My Core… I’m Ready

There are unexpected and unwelcomed times when I find that I am “off.” What do I mean by “being off?” It is those times that I feel off balanced, feel like I am reactionary rather than thoughtful and somehow, for some unexplained (to me) reason, cannot get back to my center, my core. I find myself mucking around in emotional states and unable to get out of them.

I try to trick myself by putting myself into another emotional state but that doesn’t bring me back to my center. It merely creates more gunk. It is so weird. Eventually, I remember what I must do. I have to say, when I first discovered this, twenty plus years ago, I was stunned by its power. I return to what is at the center of my being, my values.

Values represent the core of who we are. They represent our essence and when we lose sight of, forget or deny our core, we lose our focus. When we are adrift from our center, we take on different characteristics and find ourselves in the world of emotions with their endless judgments, pushes and pulls a circus-like universe of joy, disappointment, criticism, comparison, etc. None of it forwards the core of who we are.

I have been swimming in my emotions for the past few weeks, and only now, by writing this, am I realizing that I have abandoned the guidance my values provide and the compass they are in my life. Okay, I am ready, wisdom, go ahead, rule!

Share with me how your values lead you in your life, how you recognize when you have deviated from them, and how returning to them brings you back to the center of who you are.

Trust is like a Spider Web

In a book I recently read, trust was defined in one word: predictability. That was powerful. And I began to inquire: “Is that all? Maybe that’s what trust comes down to.”

So, I started looking at trust more carefully, or more specifically, my use of trust, I understood it to be more than predictability. But what more was it? I looked at trust for me and saw that what was missing in this one-word definition were the additional components that give trust its almost mercurial characteristic. I would like to mention them here.

I have found that trust includes a sense of reliance in someone’s character. Where predictability infers expectation, reliability infers consistency. Whether it is a sense of reliance in their sincerity, their competency, or the way they show up, reliance in someone is a major ingredient to trust.

Another component to trust rests in understanding one’s motivations. Motivations reveal intentions, priorities, goals and needs. When I understand someone’s motivation, I can bestow trust.

Yet another component to trust is the feeling of true authority born by experience and not merely by knowledge. When I sense that someone is a student of what they are talking about, rather than a transmitter or information, I can grant trust.

What I find interesting about trust is that we can provide trust quickly, slowly, or not at all. There seems to be a continuum for the application of trust. I have found that this continuum revolves around feelings of safety, feelings of reciprocity, and feelings of being understood. Trust is a mighty bridge to building and sustaining connection. And like a spider web-strand which is ten times stronger than steel at its same weight, trust is a strong bond between people. And again, like the spider strand which can be easily broken and change the nature of the web, trust can be broken or withdrawn suddenly, and like the spider web, changes the nature of the relationship to which it was bound.

Let me know your thoughts on trust. How do you experience trust? How do you dole out trust? What causes you to withdraw trust?

The Rider, The Elephant, and the Path

A while back, the owner of the fitness studio where I do my High Intensity Interval Training, posted a message. I thought it was relevant to this month’s theme of L.I.F.E., Living in Full Expression, where life is lived with purpose, meaning and significance. Initially, I was going to just highlight a few points in his message to us, but instead, after reading it again, I have decided to share it with you as he sent it to his H.I.I.T. members. I liked it that much. Now, before I do share it with you: Thank you, Josh Cooper and Embody Health for this message.

Have you ever acted against your better judgment? Ummmm, of course you have. We all have. Sometimes you do things that you later regret. And this keeps you from achieving that healthy, energetic life you want.

• You hit snooze rather than waking up early to exercise before work.
• You blow off your healthy eating plan to indulge in a hamburger and fries.
• You start an exercise program only to drop out two weeks into it.
• These regrettable actions prevent you from achieving your goals and keep you stuck.

Most of us are all too familiar with this frustrating paradox. It’s almost as if there are two sides inside of you, raging war on each other. Your sensible side versus your emotional side. What you want versus what you do.

A psychologist named Jonathan Haidt came up with a mental model that explains exactly why you do things that you wish you hadn’t – and how to take control to finally do the actions necessary to get what you really want.

“The image I came up with for myself, as I marveled at my weakness [of willpower], was that I was a rider on the back of an elephant. I’m holding the reins in my hands, and by pulling one way or the other I can tell the elephant to turn, to stop, or to go. I can direct things, but only when the elephant doesn’t have desires of his own. When the elephant really wants to do something, I’m no match for him,” explained Haidt in his book, The Happiness Hypothesis.

Human decision making is like a tiny rider on a massive elephant. The rider may think he’s in charge, but the elephant’s will always wins. The Elephant, The Rider, and The Path are a great framework for understanding yourself and what drives you. All human change depends on it.

Here’s Haidt’s mental model for creating lasting change in greater detail…

The Rider: is your rational and analytical side. The Rider is a visionary that has the ability to think long-term, to plan, and that is willing to make short-term sacrifices for long-term payoffs. The Rider loves to contemplate and analyze, has limited reserves of strength, suffers from paralysis by analysis, and relentlessly focuses on problems rather than solutions. Most crucially, the Rider is so small compared to the six-ton Elephant that anytime they disagree about which direction to go, the Rider will lose.

The Elephant: is made up of your emotions and instincts. The Elephant prefers the comfort and security of a well-trodden path, even if a new path leads to a better outcome – this is why it’s so difficult to change your habits. The Elephant has enormous strengths: love and compassion and sympathy and loyalty. The Elephant is the one who gets things done.

The Path: is your surrounding environment, the context in which the Rider and the Elephant operate. A rocky Path makes change hard, if not impossible, even when the Rider and the Elephant work together.

There are three steps to lasting change:
• Direct the Rider
• Motivate the Elephant
• Shape the Path
1) Direct the Rider:
Change begins with a plan, and it’s the Rider who comes up with plans. Direct your Rider to analyze what’s right, on what works. When you’ve lost weight and made progress towards your fitness goals in the past what worked for you? Focus on these bright spots rather than on potential problems related to your desired change. Once you’ve come up with a plan, move on. It’s important to move quickly and to avoid getting bogged down with paralysis by analysis.

2) Motivate the Elephant:
In order for the plans of your Rider to succeed, your Elephant must feel emotionally invested in the outcome. Find an emotional connection that you feel deep down in relation to the goal. Don’t just think about why you want to achieve your goal – feel why you need to achieve your goal.

3) Shape the Path:
Make change easy. Reduce obstacles in your life, so that the new desired behavior is frictionless. Move the barriers between you and the actions that you want to take. Lay out your workout clothes the night before. Spend time in the morning to prep all of your healthy daily meals. Get a trainer to hold you accountable to showing up to your workouts.

The key to effective change is getting the Elephant and the Rider moving together on a smooth path to success. Do this and you’ll stop doing things that you later regret.

Now, how will you use this metaphor to keep yourself on your path, the one you are shaping for yourself for your L.I.F.E. of significance?

Starbucks Offers More than Coffee and Tea

In his book, Onward, Schultz wrote: “Stick to your values, they are your foundation.” He said these were key to rebuilding Starbucks.

Schultz demonstrated the fundamental benefit to a company having values, and using them to build their presence. “It is our mission to make sure the world sees us through those lenses.” He wrote.

Starbuck’s values are: Community, Connection, Respect, Dignity, Humor, Humanity, and Accountability. “They are visibly evident and often referred to in meetings and prior to key actions.

Values not only impact a company; they also impact our individual lives. What are your values? What role do they have in your life-are they directors in your life, or merely white noise around your life?

In a fast-paced world of deadlines and expectations, where impatience can override wisdom and expediency overrides understanding, values can get swept aside for “later.” This can have disastrous consequences in communication, in decisions and in the choices one makes.

Values are part of an intentional life. They form the foundation of success. Howard Schultz recognized the essential nature of this. Like Starbucks, how do you make your values the cornerstones to your life?

Values have Power, Massive Power

Values, what is the point of focusing on them? Although we rarely talk about them, our values are the foundation of ethical action. Values are both personal in their meaning, aligning with personal beliefs and universal in their understanding of its relative importance in people’s lives. Values have been studied by various disciplines such as philosophy, psychology, anthropology, sociology, history, theology, art, marketing, and behavioral sciences. Yet most of the time, we are oblivious to their impact, influence or importance in our lives. It is as if we want to prove values are unimportant by doing or being anything else than what our values direct us to do or be.

For example, I know that I can fill my time with activities, activities that ensure time is being spent and filled without thought to their significance to living a meaningful life. I can make piles, I can get the piles done, I can schedule, I can even avoid contacting people I am thinking about in favor of “getting things done.”

But all those return to their proper secondary or tertiary position when I ask myself these questions or reflect on the statements I am going to ask you to consider. As I reflect on the responses, it recalibrates my focus to that which is truly important to me. I think it may do the same for you.

• You have been asked to lead a team of advisors, all of whom are dedicated to their work and all of whom are committed to a best outcome: what values do you want to bring to this new team?
What other values do you think would be valuable for this team to consider?
• Describe what led you to pick these values.
Define these values with the relevance and meaning they have for you.
• Identify one of your top values. Talk about an experience where you expressed that value well.
• Think of a person in your life, who, in the last five to ten years, has had a powerful, positive impact on your life. Describe how they impacted you and how that experience has enriched your life.

Now, step back for a moment. See how you have just connected to your values and how that has affected you just now. Values have power.

Let me know what you experienced that brings your values to the forefront of your life.

Partner with your Strengths. They Are Ready to Serve You

Without our strengths, we would not be able to dispel threats, dangers and alarms. We would not be able to demonstrate skill, or show off, or be able to intercede when necessary.  Strengths are like breathing. We need to use them and often do, without thinking. The problem is like breathing, if we don’t know how to use them in various conditions, they may not be able to serve us when we need them most.

If you were in a smoke-filled house, wouldn’t it be important to know how to hold your breath as you got past the smoke; the smoke that kills more people than fire?  Your strengths are also how you show yourself to the world around you. When you want to impress, when you want to show off, when you want to make a statement or add value to a situation, you call on your strengths to “introduce” you. Your strengths are how people see you. They are a tangible representation of who you are.  We use them to perform and most people judge us by our performances.

Researchers in positive psychology have discovered that when we identify and regularly use our signature character strengths, life becomes more satisfying and meaningful.

Strengths are what I call your “Outer Cloak.” They are what you “wear” when you are out in the world expressing yourself, when you want to make an impression, when you need to accomplish a task or serious endeavor. You use your strengths. For example, you might express your strength in generosity when you are out with friends, your ability to organize in accomplishing a task, or your ability to persevere when undertaking serious endeavor.

Most of the time, however, you are unaware of the strengths you are applying. Most of the time you are unaware of how others see these strengths in you.

How do your top three strengths add meaning to your life? Let me know as I would like to hear what you say.