An Ocean of Possibility

 

 

day lilies

 

Little tiny seeds get planted.

Maybe they’re put there on purpose. Who knows how?

Maybe the wind blows them across water and over mountains to land where they land.

And they sink down into the soil, waiting, waiting, waiting.

Waiting for that moment when it’s the right time to start sending out roots.

Then shoots.

Green upstarts, breaking through the nurturing, sheltering soil and bursting into the light.

After a particularly grueling winter, it feels like there’s finally an opening. Last week’s snow has turned into a sea of hopeful green-ness.

And a wide and beckoning ocean of possibility.

Do you feel it, too?

Now is the time to open your arms wide in a loving embrace of all that is spring.

With a deep breath, brush off what’s past and open up to all that’s here for you, right now.

Lift your head from all the tasks on your list, and take a good look at all the change around you.

It’s staggering, isn’t it?

You’re living amidst change you can use to spark your own renewal and growth.

Every one of these spring days gives a visible reminder of what’s possible. Which is – anything.

Anything and everything is possible in days such as these.

Welcome spring and the many opportunities borne on your breezes.

 

Tell Me, Who Are You?

 

Horse & CarriageThey were at the absolute top of their game. Masters of their craft, they knew exactly what their customers needed.

They knew how different materials created different results, and worked tirelessly to turn out quality products.

They started as boys, became apprentices, and then were masters of their own shops. Esteemed and valued, they were absolute experts in their field.

And it was a field that was dying.

Because these were the buggy whip manufacturers of 1900.

Oh, they knew exactly how to make a whip for you if you had a pony cart. And what to make if you were driving a team of eight. They knew the perfect supple leathers to use, and how to make the best grip for any kind of weather.

They were amazing artisans.

But by about 1930, cars had overtaken the horse and buggy, and fewer and fewer people needed a whip to drive their non-existent team of horses.  In the span of a just few years, the centuries-old whip making industry was dead.

And many people were out of a job.

I’ll bet there were plenty of old whip makers who sat around on porches and complained that the world was a hard place, and lamented that a way of life was gone – a way of life that was good, honest and simple.

I’ll also bet that there were some buggy whip makers who saw the writing on the wall and became leather workers in another field. They fashioned belts or jackets. Or sofas.

Or maybe went outside their trade and became chauffeurs of new-fangled automobiles.

Or started a real estate business. Or went to school.

They acted.

It seems to me that there are always some people who take loss – expected or unexpected – as a catalyst to shape a new identity. They drop an old way of being and exchange it for a new way of living, seemingly taking it all in stride.

And then there are those who don’t.

Isn’t that fascinating? Someone was really great – at the top of their game – as a… travel agent. And rather than say, “I was a great travel agent, and I’m sure I’m going to be a great at something new”, they spend their energy wishing that the entire world would change and everyone would start using paper tickets again. Maybe someone felt so in the zone as a journalist, or a record label executive, or a book publisher – and then technology forever changed those fields.

It seems like some of us bang our heads against the wall desperately trying to find another job just like the one that will never, ever exist again.

Likewise, maybe we’re stuck because we got such comfort and sense of place being someone’s… spouse, child, grandchild, loved one.

Yet we spend our days honoring the gap in our lives rather than honoring the lives that were lived.

It’s important to grieve loss. In fact, it’s vital to your overall health and well-being – you have to understand what happened, and try to find a why…if there is a why to be found.

But it’s what you do when you find yourself in one of these change points makes all the difference.

You need to fashion a new story of who you are – a new identity – which honors the past but allows you to be fully present in the here and now.

To even get started, you have to be brave.

To take the first steps, simply embrace even the saddest loss as an opportunity to create a new identity. Draw strength from how great you were with the person or thing you loved, but move forward fully open to the idea that something new can be something good, too.

Or, alternatively, you can sit on the porch with your complaints and cling to the past.

The choice is entirely yours.

 

It’s All My Fault

 

 

I used to be one of those people who apologized to chairs.

Pink classical style Armchair sofa couch in vintage room

As in, I’d bump into that striped easy chair in the living room and say, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

I’d run into the table and out would pop, “Excuse me!”

Yes, I was one of those women. One of those women whose most-often-uttered-word is an apology.

And it’s a very big club.

At Busch Gardens one time, I saw an elegant older woman driving a bumper car. Every time her car so much as brushed another car, she very clearly said, “Oh, I do beg your pardon.”

She was one of us.

Over time, here’s what I learned: When you start off with “sorry” – when you take credit for everything that’s gone wrong – you’re one-down at the outset of any encounter.

You’re automatically at fault.

And then it becomes that it’s always your fault.

When anyone is in doubt, it’s you who’s always wrong.

Which is one hell of a way to make sure you get all the blame for pretty much everything.

This past week, a client had a difficult situation with herself, a business partner, a client and deliverables that went undelivered. As we talked through it, she kept saying, “It’s all my fault.” As a recovered Aplogetic, I listened with care.

“Are you sure,” I asked, “that you are the single and only reason this happened the way it happened?”

As we explored the matter, it became clear that perhaps office politics were involved, and perhaps communications between the business partner and the client could have been better.

It became clearer and clearer that while my client had some responsibility for the situation, she didn’t bear all the weight for the problems the project had faced.

Why is it that some of us are quick to take responsibility for things that are really other people’s responsibility or completely out of our control?

We say things like:

“I should have been able to make this work.”

“I should have been able to keep this from happening.”

“I should have seen this coming.”

Really? You are so strong, so powerful, so capable that there is nothing in the world you can’t do? Including stopping earthquakes, holding back tsunamis and getting teenagers to clean their room?

My, my. You are something.

So – tell me – why do you apologize all the time?

Honey, there is no way in hell it’s always your fault.

You aren’t that messed up.

You aren’t that powerful, either.

You are you. Darling, dear, goofy, sweet, kind, loving-in-your-own-way you.

And you can’t be in charge of everything. Nor should you be.

That job is way too big for little old you.

You have one job and only one job – and that’s to be the best you possible.

Look at it this way – you and I are fully and totally 100% responsible for the part we play in any situation. But sometimes somebody else is responsible for 95% of the trouble.

So, do this: Only when you know for sure that you have caused harm to another person, do you utter the word “sorry”.

Remember, chairs and tables can’t feel.

And some things are truly other people’s fault. Or just the way things in the world are at that moment.

It’s not your fault.

Save “sorry” for when you really need it. And, when you really and truly mean it.

 

7 Questions I Asked Myself

Large collection of metal bowls full of herbs and spices

 

Even coaches need coaching.

Maybe you find that amusing, or even startling. But the truth is: Growth never stops.

I will never, ever be finished understanding, knowing – and surprising – myself. It’s a life’s work.

And, to be honest, sometimes all the options available in our lives are a little overwhelming. How do we decide where to focus, and what to say no to?

To figure that out, a Friday ago I sat down and asked myself some questions which served to focus and streamline my energy. Maybe you can benefit from asking yourself the same questions, too.

1.  What do I no longer want to do? What no longer feels right?

Now, in my case, I made two columns – the left one was affirmative, and listed what I want to keep. The right column was a list of 14 things that no longer feel right, such as “stupid rules”, “my wardrobe” and “eating crap”. Your list might be a wee bit different. Or not.

2. What needs to be cleaned up? Literally, and figuratively?

Again, two columns: Literally and Figuratively. In “Literally”, I put down “hall closet” (tell me – how’s your hall closet, hmmn?), and “garden” – so feel free to identify those niggling areas of your world which physically could stand a good cleaning or de-cluttering. In the “Figurative” realm, I’ll bet you have a couple of areas to address. I know I certainly do.

3. What do I want that I don’t have?

Oh, boy. This is a rich area. Don’t edit yourself here – let your psyche run wild. Your inner knowing will tell you things that may suprise you – such as, “I want support” and suddenly you’ll find yourself looking for a new calendar, a cleaning crew, an assistant, and a pool boy named Paolo (even though you have no pool). It is amazing what comes up.

4. What are my beliefs around (work/love/money/life – whatever you feel is most troublesome in your day)?

This is a huge area that holds people back. We have hard and fast beliefs in the most stuck areas of our lives, and it’s really only those beliefs that hold us back. “Work must be hard”, for example. Or, “all the good ones are taken”. And, “people like us never get ahead”. Writing those beliefs down on paper is a great way to begin to examine them to see if they are at all true. And most of them…aren’t. They’re just in the way of our happiness and success, so collect them, examine them and drop ‘em like they’re hot – so you can get moving toward what you want.

5. How can I be more grateful every day?

Research shows that focusing on what is working and expressing gratitude about it creates a sense of well-being which powerfully impacts health, work and relationships. So I came up with five things I can do daily to be in the gratitude zone: set positive intentions; be mindful and notice good things; say it out loud to someone else or myself; smile; and, thank people. Easy peasy, huh? What will you come up with?

6.  How can I nurture myself better?

Sleep. Feed myself well. Stretch physically and mentally. Learn daily. See doctors as needed. Stand up straight.

That last one there sounds small, but when I stand up straight I feel better. Stronger. Like I’m ready for anything.

So I’m going to try to stand up straight more often, because I like feeling like Wonder Woman. [This is the sole reason I wear bracelets, sugar.]

I had a #7, too.

7. What books need writing?

Now, this may or may not be a question you ask yourself. But asking it in this way instead of “what book can I write that will make me a ton of money?” allows real ideas to come forward. Ideas that will serve people, have an impact and allow you to write a book that’s memorable. And might just make you some money. Of course, I came up with six ideas – you know me. And now it’s time for sifting and shifting, and something great will emerge (notice the positivity? Yay, me! I am already doing #6!).

Now comes the fun part. Having asked myself these questions, and answering them honestly and openly, I came up with a set of to-dos that feel focused, efficient and purposeful.

I have a vision.

A plan.

A purpose.

All from seven little questions.

How are you going to answer them?

 

 

Can You Take A Compliment?

 

Contrary to popular belief, it is entirely possible to be too self-deprecating.

It is extremely possible to be so very self-effacing that you wind up with no face left.

Teamwork

Maybe you think it’s charming or funny to say the equivalent of “oh, this old thing!” whenever anyone says anything nice about you, but it’s not. Not really.

Could be that when you feel uncomfortable with being in what you consider a power position you default to saying something like “you know, I’m making this up as fast as I can”, but – guess what? – despite your best intentions, you’re not creating a connection to other people with that sort of comment.

You’re just undermining yourself.

Because you know as well as I do that when you’re in the break room getting coffee and you say to the assembled throng of co-workers “I really have no idea what I’m doing”, that as soon as you walk out the door the chatter will be, “You know, she really shouldn’t be in that job – she doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing.”

So much for your idea that by running yourself down, you can blow down the barriers between yourself and others.

Self-deprecation is often deeply ingrained in our way of being. Probably it stems from the guidance we’ve received since we were able to process language – “remember, you’re no better than anyone else” and “don’t get too big for your britches” and, sometimes, “who do you think you are?”

We use self-deprecation to continue this relentless yet familiar drumbeat of messages. Because some of us have a secret worry that if we stand out too much, we’ll stand there all by ourselves. No one will invite us to sit with them at the lunch table, or any birthday parties, or to the sleepover on Saturday night.

Yes, oh, yes indeed, the workplace often dredges up all the fears of middle school.

And so some of us self-efface right down to the vanishing point – and the thing that vanishes is our ability to even (secretly, quietly) tell our own selves “well done”, let alone appropriately take credit for anything we accomplish.

Over time, that blindness to accomplishment really grinds you down. And makes you question… yourself, and whether you’re any good. Your judgment, and whether you’re smart at all. Other people, and who’s right. Then you question the entire world, and move right on to the galaxy.

Self-doubt becomes just that big.

So you’ve got to learn how to take a compliment. There’s an easy way to start – when the Big Kahuna says, “You handled that really well” take a deep breath and say:

“Thank you.”

Many leaders – especially new leaders – you know, the ones who went to a leadership training class one day in the Marriott’s Chesapeake breakout room (which happens to be the Platte breakout room in Nebraska, and the Dogwood breakout room in North Carolina, and the Pacific breakout room in California, just FYI) and did a worksheet and role-playing exercise called Always Give Credit To Your Team.

Hey, it’s always good to make sure your team gets credit – but not in a way that implies that you are unnecessary to the success of the group.

[Proving that you are in no way involved in your team's success is not great career strategy, also FYI.]

So, instead of saying, “Oh, Big Kahuna, Jamie and Maggie really did all the work”, how about saying, “Thank you. I am really proud of the way the team came together on this. Particularly, Jamie and Maggie – they did a great job.”

Look what you just did there! You took credit and you gave credit – a nice balance which totally preserves your leadership position and shines a spotlight your hard-working people.

How freakin’ smart is that?!

And since you are so very smart, next time you edge toward your default position of using undermining self-effacing self-deprecation, stop right there.

Take a minute.

Think: could I just say “thank you” and hold onto my gorgeous, leadery, accomplished  face?

Oh, honey – I bet you can.