Connect with Loved Ones over the Holidays by Trying This

It’s time for the family gatherings again. You know the ones I am referring to: where people cluster in their usual groups, talking about the weather, travel hiccups, politics; where people cluster around the food taking bites in short and informational filled conversations; where someone introduces a topic they know will fuel the flames of emotional reaction. Yes…those dynamics.

 

This year you can come to a family celebration prepared to add a dollop of meaningful connection. Bring a series of questions with which you can connect more personally with those you engage in conversation.

 

Start by asking someone to share something significant that has positively impacted them this year. Listen as they share that event or experience with you. Then follow up by asking them either: how this significant impact they experienced benefited them or ask them how this significant impact made them feel.  And again, just listen. When you do, you will find that they will share with you a value of theirs that is important to the core of who they are. This will connect you to them in a very personal way that small talk cannot.

 

I find that asking questions like these, at the end of the year, to be a wonderful icebreaker and connector with friends and family.

 

Let me know how the outcome of having this conversation at your family gathering. I would love to hear your comments.

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As They Removed Their Masks, This Choir Left Us in Tears

I recently returned from the GALA Choruses’ tenth quadrennial music festival held in Denver. With over 130 choruses and 6,500 singers from all across the U.S. and overseas, men and women commanded the various stages at the Denver Performance Art Center, the Convention Center and other downtown locations, with amazing shows.

One chorus, The Beijing Queer Choir made its debut at this festival. For this courageous and ground breaking group, joining a welcoming and supportive family of singers was very important. You see, in China, their lives as gay and lesbian people has to remain in the shadows. Family ostracization, lack of community support, and pressure from the government to marry and have children keep their identities concealed when they are performing on stage.

The members did not want to obtain individual visas for fear that “coming out” would led to harassment and imprisonment.  Although being gay is legal, it is not tolerated. Finally, three weeks before the festival in Denver began, the group was given permission to leave China and travel on a group visa, keeping their individual information protected.

Once visas were secured, plane tickets had to be purchased. As you can imagine, the cost of airline tickets this close to departure, was very high. After many conversations with various airlines, and ten days before the start of the festival, tickets were secured.

When performing in China, this eight-year-old choir performs with masks on so they cannot be individually identified. When they stepped on the Denver stage each had a mask on to cover their faces to keep their identities secret while they performed. As the interpreter talked about the great welcome and support they were experiencing in Denver, the singers, one by one, removed their masks. It was a powerful moment for the audience to watch these performers one after another, remove their masks, and reveal, for an audience, their faces, for the first time. And one singer kept their mask on to highlight the fear of retribution gay and lesbian people in Beijing have in “coming out.”

As you can imagine, the audience erupted in howling applause, tears and standing ovation for this chorus armed with courage, purpose, tenacity and commitment.

It was powerful to witness and experience the Beijing Queer Choir as they made their debut in Denver, unmasked.

Leave me a comment on how you have used courage and strength to identify and become who you are.

The Woman I Know Offers a Powerful Lesson for Us All

Bridging the gap between silence and connection can be a difficult bridge to cross. Let me explain.

A woman I know was in a terrible accident. As she was crossing the street, near her home, she was hit by a drunk driver. While the driver reversed her car in reactive panic, the woman I know was dragged further under one of the wheels.  The drunk driver instead of stopping was able to free herself from the struck pedestrian, and sped away. The woman I know woke up several hours later in the hospital, lucky to be alive. It has been four months of excruciating rehab, seven surgeries, with five more scheduled in the next year.

 

The woman I know coaches several competitive sports teams. There are a few important meets coming up which she will unlikely be able to attend as she has two more surgeries scheduled right before the meets. Her teams know of the accident and her rehab but do not know the real extent of her injuries, that they will, in all likelihood, prevent her from being part of their success at these pre-Olympic meets. The teams do not yet know that this woman, who has been their champion, their leader, and their light will be unable to join them. She does not know how to tell them and so she has avoided the subject all together. The woman I know does not know how to tell the teams and the meet’s organizers of the devastating state of her injuries and recuperation.

 

The woman I know, who has always been able to perform, always been the one others can count on, now needs to count on the understanding and love of others. She does not know how to bridge the gap from profound disappointment and not being able to be there for her teams and her desire to be there for them.

 

She is facing the consequences that silence will bring. She knows her teams will need her with them soon. She is still trying to control a situation that has changed control by the act of a drunk driver on a pedestrian who was crossing her neighborhood street.

 

The woman I know is at a crossroad which, if she does not manage, will find herself in a position of defending her silence. And you know her teams are already asking questions. They have to be as they get closer to critical pre-Olympic trial meets and find it odd that she is not giving them a return date. I have a conversation scheduled with her in a few days to help her to that conversation with her teams.

 

Are there gaps of silence you must construct a bridge to take you to the other side, the side of connection and best action? What are you doing to construct your bridge or is it too hard?

 

Leave me a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Can You See It? The Family Mountain Moved

In your own family, it can be hard to be seen differently by your adult siblings than how they viewed you when you were young.

Sometimes, adding a new dimension to that view, is tantamount to moving a mountain. Because of this, it took a l-o-n-g time for me to create bridges of communication between remaining members of my family. But it was important for me to do so. Because of the work I do with individuals and families, guiding them to stay connected for generations, I wanted to bring the same tools to my own family.

We are very competitive, very stoic, very aloof, and somewhat questioning of each other’s motives. This makes for a very challenging environment to talking about family purpose, connection and legacy. The family is able to dismiss the subject in a short dismissive conversation, one that goes like this: “We don’t need to do that. We’re fine. Others can do that if they want. We know what we stand for and if one of us doesn’t, they’ll figure it out.”

I knew my family would be one of the toughest families to bring together for anything other than the customary family events but after a conscientious many year building of trust, safety and deeper connection, the remaining 3 branches to the trunk are beginning to communicate with each other. Wow, what an experience this is. From not being able to recognize a sibling in a lineup of three, to communicating by letter, phone, and social media, is a tremendous change. From not acknowledging each other to asking about each other’s well-being is a huge breakthrough. From not being in the same room together for years to hosting an easy pre dinner social, the family is beginning to talk. And now, we may even have a gathering to put the family story together for future generations.

The mountain is moving…at least in our family. It was worth the focused attention to bringing the family back together.

Is your family preserving or resurrecting its connection? Leave a comment on what’s going on in your family.

Thank You for Being Part of My Fulfilling Year

Reflecting

 

Thank you for who you are to me—people of grace and profound commitment to bringing a richer weave to the fabric of life-your own and the world around you.

 

When I reflect on you,

You who have deliberately chosen to direct your lives

Purposefully and with great meaning

I see shimmering stars lighting my path

I see the beauty of persistence and determination in you.

 

As I think of you

I feel the essence of the freedom you feel

When enduring strength and power replace your initial fears and doubt.

I am touched by your commitment to being your best

With your Legacy, your Life and your Money

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

We welcome your comments

5 Key Steps to Supporting your Mission Statement

When creating your personal mission statement there are 5 steps you want to follow to make it unique, lasting, significant, worth sharing and meaningful.

The first is to think about what you want to be known for. Perhaps you want to be known for your ability to build something, to lead something, to create something or to model something. Step one is to become clear on what it is you want to be known for.

Step Two is to define it more specifically so it takes on a life. Describe what it looks like, how it impacts your life and those lives you touch, who else is in the picture with you, how it makes you feel. Describe all you can about it so you can feel it in front of you as an actuality.

Step Three is to put a date to it. When do you want your mission to actualize and be something tangible and real. Once you put your date on it, ask yourself if this is a realistic timeframe or merely a random one?

Step Four will confirm your date on step Three. Check to see how it supports and forwards your values. Put action steps that need to be taken to make the mission happen in way that enhance your values.  Then determine if these action steps are doable in the time given or are they dependent on variables which could shift the time frame. Define mileposts so you can measure how you are doing. Create your action steps.

Step Five is to acknowledge your achievements. Once you have done your first action step, acknowledge yourself for moving towards living and expressing your mission. Then create the following step or two that need to be taken that will take you to your first milepost. As you near your first milepost, determine how you will celebrate reaching a milepost. This will help to enforce what you are doing and give you an opportunity to measure your progress to realizing your mission.

Leave a comment. I would love to hear how you use your mission statement if you have one, or when you will craft yours, if you haven’t already.

Shocking Headlines Take a Back Seat to One Uexpectingly Powerful Trait

In a time where headlines point unflinchingly to the shocking, there is a quiet voice emerging in research that confirms what has been known but rarely spoken of through the ages. It is the power of humility.

What is humility? Humility is a state of respect where you allow others to shine as well or better than you do. It is where you give praise where it is due, where you can trust others because there is nothing to hide or protect.

I recently came across a study that was published in the Organizational Dynamics Journal that found humility to be a critical strength for leaders. It gives a leader the ability to reflect with empathy. In other words, a humble leader can look at situations and see how their actions affect others and allow for the other’s perspective as well when determining outcomes. This is huge and this is not easy.

As an example of the power of humility I want to introduce you to Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of Panasonic, the largest Japanese consumer electronics company and known as the ’god of management.’

Panasonic opened its doors in 1918 and with hope, exuberance, fear and excitement. Matsushita asked his employees to adopt and apply the value of humility as they conducted their business with and on behalf of Panasonic. With the spirit of humility, he did what most companies don’t do. He shared the company’s “secrets” with all his employees. He wanted Panasonic, even as it grew to thousands of employees, to be focused on being an inclusive team and he knew that the best way to form this type of team was through humility rather than through coercion or elitist ideology. He traded the air of superiority he easily could have perpetuated through the company with humility because he wanted his employees to feel part of his success rather than laborers of it. As a result he was revered by his employees, by the Japanese government who awarded him with many great honors and by other business owners who hired him to help them become more humble business people.

Humility, as in the case of Mr. Matsushita, included having a moderate self- regard, with a strong vision and voice so that his struggling company could become a giant both in the tech world and in the world of business management.

How do you foster humility in yourself? Do you notice a difference in your communications and connections with others when you use humility? Write a comment, I’d like to hear your thoughts.

The 3 Indispensable Tools To Give You a Life that Matters

Living a life that matters is a choice that some people conscientiously make. Some come by this choice due to an event or situation that made them stop and evaluate what exactly they are here to do and be. Others come by this choice because they feel disconnected from something they can’t put their finger on but feel is waiting for them to “find.”

But once they have this revelation or go on their search, how do they build their purpose?

This is a good question with a simple but perhaps not so easy to implement, answer. They just need the right tools to help them bring into focus their which truly matters to them.

And what kind of tools are these? They are the tools which, rather than needing to be internalized because they come from an external source, are found internally and then manifested externally.

The first tool to use is the tool of inquiry. The place to start with this inquiry is to ask yourself: “What is really important to me?” Go beyond the stuff you want to accumulate and go to the principles and values you hold dear, values like: love, balance, freedom, responsibility, patience, humor…. Discover and then articulate what is truly important to you.

The second tool to use is commitment. With your values in front of you, determine the commitment you will make to have them take center stage in your life. How you will let these values guide you in your day to day life. Say, for instance that your number one value is Balance. Determine each day, before you let the day unfold, how you will use balance to lead your day. It may have to do with the way you interact with others. It may be in choices you make in your life with eating, exercise or work. However you want to have balance guide your life, commit each day to how you will use what really matters to you. In the evening, before you go to sleep, review that value was expressed.

The third tool to use is your personal mission statement. With your values as your starting point, write down your first draft of your mission in life, that which your values will lead you to be and do. Review what you have written, put it aside for a day or two, then revisit and tweak it until it feels pretty good to you. Now place it somewhere where you have to look at it daily. Although you might not “see” it every day, you will on occasion and it is those occasions that will realign you to your mission.

Let me know your experience with living a meaningful life with these 3 tools: articulate your values, commit to expressing them and having a personal mission. I would love to hear from you.

To Change the Habit, Change the Trigger

I am aware of my food choices. I am careful about the foods I choose to eat. If it is sugar, I look for cane sugar rather than white sugar, chemical sugars or even chemically produced stevia. I use honey as a medicine and molasses as a source of iron. I like cookies so I make them myself knowing I can control the kind of sugar, the kind of flour and the amount in the cookies I bake.

In the long and cold January and February nights I like to have a small cookie or two to give me a nice boost. And I bring some to work so that when I am working late, I can have one as a reward for getting things done. At least this is my plan, one to which I commit to every time I put it into action.

But sometimes the plan goes awry. I am sitting at my desk at work. It’s Monday, I feel an energy dip and I now have a choice to make. What am I going to do? It’s winter and rainy or cold so I “can’t” go outside. I know, that’s the first excuse. I look into my food bin and I see them: my cookies for the week. I’ll just have a small snack-warning number two-“small” snack. It’s amazing how easily and without even pausing to consider the impact to my goal of losing 8-10 pounds this will have. I eat 4 of those small tasty treats. I know better and still I go for those tasty treats.

This is annoying. After the second one, I don’t really want more, I just eat them all because they are there.  So I stop bringing the cookies to work. This works for a couple of weeks and then I quietly talk myself into some dark chocolate…just a little. I go to the store and rationalize my purchase of two bars by seeing the 2 for 1 Theo sale.  I have the same intention-eating the 65% dark chocolate bar with cane sugar over the week.

But no; I unfold the wrapping and before I know it I have eaten half the bar. If I weren’t annoyed I’d have to be impressed with my lack of respect to my own objectives.

And I even have oranges in my food basket at work. I like oranges, but the same 4 big, juicy oranges are sitting in the same place they have been for the last 10 days while I have gone for the chocolate.

I know the trigger is the feeling I experience of an energetic lull and wanting to quickly assuage it. I quickly, silently and almost automatically talk myself into the value of the sugar as brain enriching glucose. Really?! Apparently it is good enough a rationale for me to go for the sweet. And they are so much less fuss than the orange. After all I have to peel the orange and it may get runny. How messy! The orange is not a piece of chocolate I can feel melt so delightfully on my tongue. No, it’s just an orange.

The trigger is the self-talk on needing the energy boost to which I easily and agreeably offer myself the great solution of a cookie or chocolate.  You may not think this is so bad, but when I am trying to lose the 4 pounds I gained from not exercising for a week over the holidays while drinking hot chocolate, it’s not helpful.

So I have changed my trigger. When I hear the trigger of “time for energy boost” I pause and say what for: if it is “you’re tired, I say okay, let’s take a desk nap.  If my body then says I’m not really that tired, but I need an energy lift, I say great, me too. Let’s have that orange. With reluctance I bypass the cookie and the chocolate and the energy bar that’s been there for a month, peel the orange. And am grateful. I have lost 2.5 pounds since the holidays.

Changing the trigger changed my habit.  I still make my cookies and still have two each weekend evening. I have satisfied my craving mind.

What do you do when you hear that trigger you don’t want speak to you? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

We Found Meaning behind the Noise

The moment had come. It was Christmas Day.

Individual families shared their morning together with their traditional breakfast of pancakes, muffins or eggs. They opened their Santa stockings and family gifts with glee, humor and wonder.  Now it was time to get their coats, scarves and gloves on, hop in the car, and ride to the bigger family dinner and gift exchange celebration.

One by one the cars drove in to the appointed house and parked…almost. Because the great debates and casual yet striking comments were already in play.  “Are we all meeting at 1 or 2? If it’s 1p, we’ll be late.” “Oops I forgot some of the appetizers. I think they are in a paper bag on the kitchen table.” ”How about if you park in front? No, I want to park on the side. That way I can decide which door to walk in.” “This is my first Christmas alone. It feels weird but I’m glad I’m here.”

As each car unloaded their secret Santa gifts, their gag gifts, the animal toys and extra children’s amusements, with olives, almonds, pates and cheeses, Martinellis or Mimosas, the Christmas festivities were underway.

After warm greetings and brief, casual conversations, we picked the order of choosing or stealing the annual gag gifts wrapped in all kinds of wrapping, from crumbled up paper bags to elaborate paper and bows, and fake receipts hanging out of boxes, all made to deceive…or not. From chocolate to rain snow globes, from International Crane Foundation socks to a penguin toothpick holder, the gag gifts were chosen and stolen to laughter and fun.

We then segued to special photos or books from the year we wanted to share. It was satisfying to watch a shy one decide to talk about one…then two pictures they took. They felt so proud and part of the circle in what they shared. It brought us closer as we caught a deeper glimpse into lives, some of which we had fleeting moments with this past year.

With a closer bond growing between us, we went to the table to being the dinner with a serving of tangy and light Watercress soup to whet the appetite for the bigger meal to come. We each shared in a challenge we faced or accomplishment we attained, what we learned and how we could support each other going forward in meaningful and connected ways. We felt great gratitude in having three generations around the table together sharing and wanting to vivaciously support each other.

After the main meal of pesto infused salmon on a bed of angel hair pasta, and circled in peas and broccolini, we returned to the living room and opened out Santa’s gifts, our gifts to one another.

With dessert, we followed up with ways we would support those who wanted people to lean on, encourage those who wanted to feel more love and belief in them, and commitments to visit those who felt that their physical distance was an issue.

We were grateful to find the love, gratitude and meaning we share with each other behind the noise of the casual conversations we know only too well how to have…endlessly.

How did you find meaning with your chosen family this holiday season? Leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to hear.

May 2015 bring you meaningful and lasting connections with your family.