Opening the Curtain to the Power of Using Your Strengths

Today I want to illustrate the importance of your strengths by telling you a story.

Hundreds of years ago, kings brought in their most trusted knights to the roundtable. It was here that they discussed critical topics like protecting their community, strengthening diplomatic ties with other communities, and key battle strategies.

Each knight was selected to join the table because of a particular strength they portrayed. It was the combination of all their unique strengths that together made the group so powerful.

The word that represented each knight’s strength was carved around the edge of the round table, in front of the high backed chair they sat on.

When a topic was introduced, each knight talked about how their unique and nurtured strengths would carry them through their mission. The other knights would add to the conversation with their observations of support to this strength.  For example, if there was an unexpected storm that ravaged the fields, one knight’s strength of communication coupled with another knight’s strength of organizing along with yet another’s strength  of maintaining security around the kingdom were combined to reduce the challenges of the disaster and keep the community united.

They understood that merely being strong warriors and personable diplomats was not enough. Most armies and sentries did that. They understood that a group firmly rooted in understanding the value of their strengths individually as well as in combination was their greatest weapon. And it was, bringing great leadership and respected safety and security to their community.

Today, strengths are still key components to a significant life. They act as great servants in times of challenge or conflict, presenting themselves as our inner advisors. We merely need to listen to and for them.

Strengths show up as attributes like: flexibility, focus, decisiveness, analysis, insight, humor, creativity, balance or a host of others to guide us in taking the most appropriate action. I just referred to two of mine this morning-calm and decisiveness- for a challenging situation in my own life.

Let me know what your top strengths are. How do your strengths guide you in your life? Where have you recently used them? Leave me a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts on how you use your strengths.

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Adrianna Huffington and Richard Branson Give us the Key

Recently I read an article from Forbes titled What 10 Leaders Wish They Had Known When They Were 22. Along with the career savvy advice from Sallie Krawcheck, former executive at Bank of America, and excellent reminders from Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, there were two comments that got my attention.

The first was from Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group who said: “Have a blast but build your purpose.” He continued by succinctly adding: “… if you don’t really love what you do, you won’t succeed.”  To me, he seems to epitomize his purpose of making a difference in this world. He has added the cool factor to the products he delivers to consumers for decades.

The second comes from Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post said: “Chart your own path to success.” She continued to say: “…chart a new path to success, remaking it in a way that includes not just the conventional metrics of money and power, but a third metric that includes well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving, so that the goal is not just to succeed but to thrive.”

I remember when I initially thought about, as a young adult, what it means to thrive. I remember when I asked the questions I’d like to share with you for you to ask yourself: What is my purpose here? What gifts, talents and proclivities have I been given that I can make an impact with?

As you think about these three questions, go deeper than listing he things you like to do. Go deeper. Reach in to your heart and find out what are the principles you live by. Describe the credos and the beliefs you stand by. These will give you your cornerstones to your unique and rich life. Knowing and having these will provide you your unique threads to your purpose driven life.    

Leave me a comment how you have come to live your purpose and chart your path to success. And if perchance, your purpose still eludes you, comment about the journey you are on to finding your purpose.  What are the blocks you seem to run into again, again and again? What do you need to find the meaning in your life you so very much want

The Key to a Meaningful Life is Inside…Check it Out

If I ask you what is important to you, how would you answer that?

Would you tell me about an aspect to your work that you really enjoy?

Would you tell me about a sport you like to play or a skill you have developed?

Would you tell me about your friends and family members who give your life more sparkle and meaning?

 

For many people the first and most obvious answer is to mention the tangible things in life that give pleasure, which make them unique, which make them happy.

 

But these are things in life. So let’s look into what makes these “things” important to you. I will start by asking: What is important about a passion of yours?

 

Here is an example: tennis is important to me. At one time I was a nationally ranked player. I loved to compete. I loved to improve. I loved to be better than others. But what was important about that to me?  I learned about how to control my emotions. This was a powerful lesson. I learned how to strategize which I love to do. I gained understanding of me through tennis. That was powerful.

 

Now, back to you: what is important about that thing of yours you love? Because life is not all an outer experience, it is powerful to discover the inner meaning of what brings you joy and fulfillment, what brings meaning to your life.

 

As you look inside yourself you may find yourself able to tap into an inner dimension of your life giving you power and an ability to live a life of meaning. This inner dimension begins to create a life from your source to your intended outcome rather than moving from outcome to outcome.

 

Try it. Leave a comment and tell me what you found for yourself.

What Money Means to Chelsea Might Not Mean much to You but…

A year or so ago, Chelsea Clinton was interviewed by Fast Company. Back then her comments went mostly unnoticed. Her comments recently resurfaced in the U.K’s The Telegraph with a new headline. This time it grabbed people’s attention. It was brought to my attention when people asked me what I thought of her comments.  Here is what she said: “I was curious if I could care about [money] on some fundamental level, and I couldn’t.”

When this was brought to me, I was a little confused. Here is this woman, an only child of a wealthy family, the wife of a wealthy hedge fund executive, making a statement like this. She has money so what did she mean by this seemingly casual comment?

I had to investigate further to see if there was more to what I was hearing. As you might imagine, there was more to the quote. She followed her seeming lack of concern about money by saying that she realized that making money “…wasn’t the metric of success that I wanted in my life.”

Now this makes a big difference. For her, it seems that amassing more wealth is not as important as other areas in her life.

I applaud her for looking beyond the lure of money and looking to put more meaning in her life. I think it is terrific that she, with the wealth she has and may be expected to maintain, wants more depth and significance to her life.

I also don’t think she would have said what she did if she didn’t already have the comforts and privileges she been given. If she had to rely on her ability to earn money to meet her monthly financial obligations, I have no doubt her relationship with money would be different.

I only hope that she understands the role and responsibility money has for someone in her position and not squander the role she has as leader of the family’s foundation.

What does money mean to you? Let me know by leaving a comment here. I’d love to hear from you.

 

Family Security is Built on Two Elements: Money and…

Family security is built on two elements: forwarding the determined purpose of the family money and developing the inclusive family mission. We will look at the value to the latter, developing the inclusive family mission.

I’d like to share with you a quote from a book I read. The quote illustrates the role of a mission statement for a family. Stephen R. Covey, the famed author, educator, and motivator in his book Principle Centered Leadership said this:

Too many families are managed on the basis of instant gratification, not on sound principles and rich emotional bank accounts. Then, when stress and pressure mount, people start yelling, overreacting or being cynical, critical, or silent. Children see it and think this is the way you solve problems-either fight or flight. And the cycles can be passed on for generations.

This is why I recommend creating a family mission statement. By drafting a family constitution, you are getting to the root of the problem.

If you want to get anywhere long-term, identify core values and goals and get the system aligned with these values and goals. Work on the foundation. Make it secure.

The core of any family is what is changeless, what is always going to be there. This can be represented in a family mission statement. Ask yourself, “What do we value? What is our family all about? What do we stand for? What is our essential mission, our reason for being?”

You have been reading my many blogs on the benefits to articulating and developing family values and missions. My family has built and is developing ours. We started back in the mid- 1990s. We see the benefit to doing this.

Please leave a comment with your thoughts on Stephen R. Covey’s remarks. He spoke well to the benefits of building a legacy family by developing the family’s core foundation.

I’d love to know your obstacles to putting together your own family mission statement. I’d love to know, if you have a family mission statement. How do you keep it relevant, dynamic and inclusive?

The Codes We Live By are Stronger Than the Tattoos Inked on our Bodies

I don’t have any tattoo but I know someone who has a body full of them. One thing he noticed is that over time those inked from a passion like homage to a girl friend or a defiant statement to society in general have less and less relevant meaning to him. Those born of experience like the ones representing an accomplishment or those representing codes he lives by, he said have gained more relevant meaning through the years. In humor he added that he is thinking about getting a massive tattoo of a compass with needles pointing to those tattoos which sustain meaning for him. He can use them as guides.

He is fortunate in that he wears constant reminders of the codes he lives by. Okay, they might be in tattoo form but he has his reminders constantly with him, loudly emblazoned on his body.

Many of us don’t have tattoos. So, how are we reminding ourselves of the codes we live by? For me, they are present in my day to day life. I reach for them when I am in a client meeting, when I have to think about how to deal with crucial or sensitive topics or when I am dealing with emotional consequences with those I know.

Why should we listen to our codes? They are our inner guides. They represent out version of a true north on our compass guiding us through the forests of life.

What are the ingredients to the codes each of us live by? They are represented by our values, principles, beliefs the sense of what is right on the inside partnered with strengths, talents, skills and expressions on the outside.

Parker Palmer, in his book: A Hidden Wholeness said this, when talking about the fundamental importance to living your life from your code: How can I affirm another’s identity when I deny my own? How can I trust another’s integrity when I defy my own? A fault line runs down the middle of my life and whenever it cracks open-divorcing my words and actions from the truth I hold within-things around me get shaky and start to fall apart.”  

Our codes are our center, like true north is for a needle on a compass. When applied to a family they represent the center of that family’s reason for being. We will look at how families introduce and integrate these codes to their existing family dynamics and culture.

Leave a comment and tell me how you track and use your code. How does it benefit your life to do so?

Next Time You Want to Find the Gold, Dig for the Buried Treasure; it’s closer than You Think

If you read the last post you may remember that I talked about the value of the center. Today I am going to take that conversation one step further. We will look at the center. What is it?

In all my digging, testing, tossing, retesting and confirming, I have found that people’s center is comprised of core motivators. I am not talking about the base reptilian reactors we have: the freeze, fright, flight, or flock components. I am not talking about the mammalian forces, emotions that cause us to react to stimuli, wants and desires. I am not even talking about the rationale mind that analyzes everything for us with as much conviction as our emotions have in convincing us to do something. No, the center I am referring to lives in the calm space inside us. It is the small quiet voice within that leads us to being the truest person, making the best choices for ourselves.

Beyond the lure and familiarity of the reptilian, mammalian or rationale brain functions lies yet another universe. Science has not given this modality great attention yet. Religions and spiritual practices have focused their attention here with great appetite and insight. Recently psychology, especially in the merging cognitive and positive disciplines, has delved into this area of human expression.

Co-authors Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman wrote in their book: Character, Strengths, and Values that China with Confucianism and Taoism, South Asia with Buddhism and Hinduism and The West with Judeo-Christianity and Islam, have all concentrated great attention in researching the strengths, virtues and principles.

After you have found and described your core principles, then you can move to creating action to support the meaning to and in your life. Viktor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning said that purpose is where man seeks meaning. He goes on to describe how man finds this meaning for themselves: “Well, if we investigate how the man in the street goes about finding meaning it turns out that there are three avenues that lead up to meaning: First, doing a deed or creating a work; second, experiencing something or encountering someone. Most important, however, is the third avenue: Facing a fate (purpose) we cannot change, we are called upon to make the best of it by rising above ourselves and growing beyond ourselves, in a word, by changing ourselves.”

To find your center you have to take the time to look inside yourself, discover and articulate what is really important to you, not as actions,(not yet,) but as principles. Once these are clearly determined they must be defined, defined as to how they matter to you. What about them is so important to you? That importance becomes the manner in which they act as that small quiet voice in the inner calm space that override the reptilian, mammalian and rationale minds.

Once you have articulated your guiding principles you know your why to your life. Taking the time to find and articulate them is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. You will have given yourself the clarity of knowing your center, yourself.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a client who couldn’t wait to tell me how excited to they were to have everything “click into place for them.” As he said to me: “I finally understand how important knowing your values is. It makes everything else make sense. Now I know why I am so passionate about my giving.” Responsibility is his highest value and for him, responsibility means acting for the good of the global betterment with his money. He continued to say: “I don’t have to feel ashamed about my passion towards the planet. I feel a responsibility towards it. That’s who I am. Now I can be that, not fight it. I can be me, not fight me. Knowing my why makes me feel so relaxed.”

According to a 1999 survey by Public Agenda, adults in the United States cited ‘not learning values’ as the most important problem facing today’s youth.”

I encourage you to go on a dig to your center. Dig in, see what you find. There is buried treasure in there just for you.

Leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you on your views and experiences with your center.

You Can’t Define the Edges without Knowing the Center

I recently read a book The Book of Secrets by Osho. A Buddhist baker I know in Maine recommended it to me after receiving the book from his aunt as an inheritance bequest. He read it and thought I would enjoy it. Although I questioned some postulations, I especially liked how the author expressed man’s dilemma.

For example, the author said: “Man is as if he is a circle without a center. His life is superficial; his life is only on the circumference. You live on the outside you never live within. You cannot, unless a center is found.” “On the circumference only lukewarm life is possible. So really, you live a very unauthentic life….You simply go on waiting, hoping that something will happen somewhere, someday.”

Later he goes on to say: “No animal is free: he has to live and follow a particular program that existence gives to him. When he is born, he is born with a program-he has to follow it. He cannot go astray, he cannot choose. There are no alternatives given to him. For man, all alternatives are open, and with no map to move with.”

I find this intriguing because it illustrates something I have discovered. While animals are bound to following a predetermined course we don’t have a set map. A lion doesn’t go about the Botswana Delta agonizing over how whether to eat their gazelle raw or grilled or whether to drink water or a shot of Tequila. They follow patterns that have been worked out over millennia. We, on the other hand don’t have a chartered life. We are free to choose.

But there is great responsibility in that choosing. We create ourselves through our own efforts. I believe the best way to create our best selves Is by knowing ourselves first, by finding our center. Once we find ourselves, we can then move to the outside, to the circumference.

How do you do this? I think Osho stated it well when he wrote: “First, you either need help or you don’t. Second, either you can move into the unknown without any fear or you cannot. And third, without any method, without any technique, without any system, can you proceed a single inch or can’t you? These three things you have to decide within you: analyze your mind, open it, look into it and decide what type of mind you have got. If you decide that you cannot do it (finding your center) alone then you need a system, a master, a scripture, a technique. If you think that you can do alone then there is no need for anything else. But be honest, and if you feel that it is impossible to decide-it is not easy to decide-if you feel confused, then first try a master, a technique, a system. And try it hard, to the every extreme, so that if something is going to happen it happens.”

When the center is found, the edges can be defined. Once the center is found, the responsibility in making the right choices begins to come into focus. Our life now has a clearer path to walk on.

I wish for all of us to find our center. Then we can be.

Leave a comment by letting me know what you realized or thought as you read this blog. I look forward to reading your comments.

 

A Simple Legacy Now Moves into the 2nd and 3rd Generation with Conviction

As you may know, an American icon, Pete Seeger, passed away a little over a month ago at age 94. You may remember him as a singer and writer of protest songs such as If I had a Hammer and Where Have All the Flowers Gone. You may remember him as a political activist, and Communist sympathizer who was blacklisted in the 1950s. You may remember him as a member of the Weavers, a celebrated vocal group who sold an estimated 4 million records.

What you may not know about Pete Seeger is that he saw himself as a storyteller. He dropped out of Harvard in 1938 where he had planned on becoming a journalist and took his banjo on the road. He met Woody Guthrie in 1940. From him he learned how storytelling through song can showcase life and powerfully bind people to a cause. Seeger and Guthrie worked their craft as they hitchhiked and rode freight trains. During their travels Seeger met the people who carried and sang songs they had learned from their parents and grandparents. Seeger was getting the education he thought he would enjoy but couldn’t find at Harvard.

About five years ago Pete said: “My job is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet.” Fifteen years earlier he said: “The key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”

Pete found his purpose and stayed with it. He did not feel the need nor the draw for the comforts in life. He always lived modestly. And as icing on the cake, he shared his legacy with his family which included his wife, children, grandchildren and god children. They now build on it through the power of doing something beyond oneself and expanding the notion of connection though community. The family has become more tightly knit as a result of Pete’s loving communication imparting of his purpose and mission.

From this legacy story, my question for you is: what are you doing to bring meaning to your family mission that future generations continue? How is your family sharing in that development in a way that keeps them harmonious and united while also living independent lives?

Let me know by writing a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you.

How Decisions Favor the Prepared Mind-The Synergy between Reason and Emotion

From Plato to Freud, from reason to cognition, we have traveled a long way to unravel the workings of how we make decisions.

Antonio Damasio and Antoine Bokhara in the 1990s introduced the Iowa Gambling Task, simulating how decisions are made. They learned that emotions’ react before rationality. This may not seem extraordinary now but it certainly was a breakthrough then.  

Feelings are saying something. But how should they be interpreted?

Sometimes they need to be listened to. When a child cries after falling, their emotion might need to be addressed. The child wants to feel safe and protected.

Sometimes emotions have to be bypassed as Captain Al Haynes did when he landed a severely compromised United Airlines plane in the summer of 1989. He said he felt like he was simultaneously living in two worlds: the world of emotions where he feared for his and the passengers’ lives and the world of control and rationality where clarity and correct decisions had to be made to survive.  

How have you been compromised by the exuberance of your emotions? Have you ever experienced what I call a split mind, fully aware of both your acute emotional state while needing to make correct life-saving decisions?

In Jonah Lehrer’s book How We Decide, he explains how the prefrontal cortex played a role that fateful day for Captain Haynes. Lehrer describes it like this: an experienced working memory is part of the prefrontal cortex’s flexibility. Problem solving, critical nuances are found in the prefrontal cortex whose neurons continue to fire after stimulus has disappeared. Emotions alone don’t resolve situations, rationality alone doesn’t resolve situations. Combining them creates the synergy to make successful outcome.

How can we regulate our emotions? The answer is surprising simple: by thinking about them.  Psychologist call this metacognition….The prefrontal cortex can deliberately choose to ignore the emotional brain:” According to the neuroscientist Benedetto de Martion, “’People who are more rational don’t perceive emotion less, they just regulate it better.” Now, that’s a profound discovery. Every emotion can be accompanied by self-awareness.

Aristotle, in his book The Nicomachean Ethic said that rationality wasn’t always in conflict with emotion….’Anyone can become angry-that is easy. But to become angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way-that is not easy.’ Is it important then to think about emotions in order to more fully experience them?  Yes.

Too much thinking can short circuit emotions. Choking in sports is an example. In the middle of a tennis match you begin to question what you are doing. That seed of doubt can wreak havoc on your outcome.  I remember a semi-final of a match of a tournament I was expected to win. I won the first set of this match. But for some reason, I tightened up, I was started to play to protect my win and as a result not only did I lose the second set, I couldn’t recuperate, and lost the third set. My emotions absolutely got in my way. I choked.

Sometimes we do better when we know less. Because working memory and rationality share a common cortical source-the prefrontal cortex-a mind trying to remember lots of information is less able to exert control over its impulses.

I believe the better we know our intention into going into something, the more effective we are at looking for the information that will guide us to the outcomes we intend. Know the emotion you want, use the rational brain to get you to your intended outcome.  

When have you integrated the emotional and rational brain for great results? What are situations where you have faced unintended consequences when emotions or extra thinking have derailed your intentions? How can you bring synergy to your emotions and thinking?

Leave a comment, let me know how your thinking and feeling support you in living a satisfying life.