Are you choosing beliefs that support and serve you or ones that keep you down or otherwise interfere with you? That’s right; I just suggested that you get to choose what you want to believe. Pick what you want to believe and just go ahead and do that. Simple, right? But, hang on, simple does not mean easy. Let’s back up a touch and look into what beliefs actually are.
Unlike the X-files tagline, the truth is NOT “out there”; it’s “in here”. Beliefs are truths that you hold to be true based on your observations. They are filtered by your upbringing (cultural, educational, experiential), emotional reaction and known results. In other words, beliefs are maps you formed after an experience that you use for future journeys. But here’s the rub: many of them don’t actually have enough consistent evidence over time to be called truth or to be helpful in the future in any way. Yet, we are prone to treat our beliefs as truth. Einstein called reality merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. If reality is an illusion, it cannot be entirely true. So, what then is? Answer: no one knows. We can make observations but we can never know what is entirely true. And yet, we construct our beliefs as if they were equivalent to truths and hang onto them as undeniable, unchangeable. This makes it particularly challenging to acknowledge, let alone accept and embrace, that our beliefs are a matter of choice.
What gets in the way of acknowledging, accepting and embracing that we get to choose every one of our beliefs? Better still, how do we move past these obstacles and choose better beliefs? First order of business is to lay out your beliefs and consider each carefully to see if it just might be limiting you, getting in your way of happiness, effectiveness, growth or greatness.
Let me share one of my limiting beliefs. And it’s a doozy. I have the belief that no one cares about me outside of what I can “do” for them. It’s the driver behind how action-oriented I am. I have much evidence of people relying upon me to fix things or to be the reliable one to always answer an emergency call. This “do” identity wakes me in the night because there’s something I need to do. I’m restless when the phone doesn’t ring or emails and visits seem absent, or the office crowd goes off to lunch without stopping by my office to invite me. It erodes into a fear of being deemed irrelevant, forgotten. On my worst days, I tell myself the story that unless I do for others, I am truly worthless. Not a very helpful belief when it comes to developing relationships, household or team harmony or a sense of inner quiet! At its best, my action-orientation has put me into unique situations, gotten me (and others) out of others and with minimal damage. At its worst, my belief of worth-by-doing feels frantic, lonely and soulless. What’s the answer then? Simply put: I need to pick a better belief.
Here’s how this works:
The heart and soul of changing your beliefs is choice. Choose your belief, your preferred map, if you will, and make purposeful steps along that path every day. Anchor your successes in this work and celebrate milestones. For me, my chosen belief is I am a reliable go-to person of possibility and a great conversationalist. That’s why people want to be around me. All of my efforts flow along that path. So, when a parent on the sidelines says, “you know, I really love being around you; you are just so positive and great to talk to” I smile and say, “thank you; that’s my intent”. To myself I say, “yay me!”
One of the biggest challenges a leader faces is professional jealousy amongst staff or even within herself. But what if that leader can "flip" professional jealousy just like an investor flips houses? An investor buys the worst house on the best street because of its “bones” but sees an opportunity to “flip” that investment through focusing on the possibilities, not problems. What might that require of a leader seeing professional jealousy in a team? Think about it. What would that truly, deeply call upon from her? A vision of a better outcome, a better staff member, a better leader in the mirror, perhaps? Yes. Commitment to the value of such an undertaking? Without a doubt. How about an understanding of what’s behind the rough exterior of professional jealousy? Absolutely - you cannot fix a thing without a thorough understanding of the problem. Finally, might the ability to “flip” jealousy not also require an alternative perspective on jealousy, an ability to think the unthinkable about jealousy telling you a valuable tale instead of a disease to be feared, attacked or cut out? I say, without a doubt. Let me run with this some more.
Too many articles urge leaders to look at professional jealousy at arms length, as an organizational tumour in the workplace, one that must be rooted out and removed, destroyed, erased from corporate memory. The unfortunate side effect is two-fold: 1) there are real human assets wrapped up in professional jealousy and 2) whole-scale removal compromises the leader’s ability to deal with the source of professional jealousy. In other words, professional jealousy is a symptom that can be best addressed at its core. An unexpected benefit of doing so is that the disease may be cured without killing the patient. So, what might jealousy be telling you?
Hearing the grain of truth from within a situation of professional jealousy is a challenging undertaking for leaders but crucial to improving employee engagement, teamwork, productivity and organizational climate and systems. Systems and structures within the organization were all witness to the rise of professional jealousy. Use every instance of professional jealousy as an opportunity to determine what, in the system or structure, created the ideal conditions for this emotion to spring forth and you will have an admirable chance of rooting out those conditions and creating new ones that encourage more fruitful behaviour, emotions and results.
Many of my blogs come from a unique place, I am told. I trust that’s a good thing for each of us. We stretch and learn the most as a result of circumstances we least expect. Thinking about that unexpected space, have you ever considered how failure has shaped you? Bit of a unique approach, don’t you think: failure as a guide, a tool, a positively defining moment. Or maybe you’ve heard the term failing forward. But what do YOU find in those failing forward experiences, to date? And who knows about them other than you?
I love sports stories and analogies and really connected years ago with Michael Jordan’s perspective on failure and greatness. "I have failed over and over and over again and that is why I am great". What a powerful statement: I have failed which is the source of my greatness. That idea works for me; it helps me get closer to failure to find the lessons in it instead of running, hiding, denying or covering my faulty tracks. Failure, therefore, is not permanently debilitating to me. Instead, it becomes something that triggers greatness opens up the possibility of incredible excellence. This connection shifted my thinking from lack, loss, fear and wallowing in self-pity to one of what I have come to call sovereignty over all that is in my life. To me, that’s the ultimate gift. I own all of it, even the bumps and bruises, the so-called failures in my struggles.
I knew a young woman in high school who was gifted, artistic, beautiful, talented, sweet, popular, a singing, dancing glory with smarts. Opportunities were simply handed to her. Everyone loved her. She was perfection. Initially, I hated her until I realized that perfection might be an impossible burden. What if she actually failed, one day. And, by 16 years of age, I figured that was a pretty likely experience for everyone. Suddenly, I felt sorry for her because everyone treated her like perfect was the only acceptable way to be. Slowly came to fear for her life after high school, when the constant crowd of admirers moved on. This discomfort deepened when she sheepishly asked for help from some skillful musician friends in our ensemble on a solo part she’d been struggling to master. She didn't ask for help from our director or her friends in the choir. I had a feeling I knew why: they wouldn’t have taken her request seriously because perfection didn’t need help. She had never failed. She never knew failure or what to do when faced with it, when living it, when piecing oneself back together after it. I feared - at the age of 16 - the very first time she would face failure the experience would break her. Did she possess the resilience that is only borne of falling and rising that is necessary to stand back up in her life? It was a life-changing shift on the so-called gifted people around me.
So what about me, then? How has failure shaped me and am I really aware of it in such a way that I can (or have) used the experience to be resilient, even great, as Jordan suggests? I think I have over time and trial. Failure has defined who I am. In some ways, failure has not been a good definition but in others it's been critical to defining who I am today. I am aware that cover-your-a@@ (CYA) mode does not work for me and that fearing failure or retribution of some sort represents a slide in that direction. So, I tune into when I am feeling CYA mode, push back and remind myself of times when I truly have failed, what I learned from those times and recall, "hey, I’m still breathing"! To be clear, I have been relieved of my duties - read: fired! - twice. The first experience was brutal. Three years of brutal, in fact, until I reminded myself that (a) I’m still breathing and (b) the universe just might be looking out for me in some odd way by leading me through this. So, I looked and looked for points of light in the situation, small, small shreds of silver lining and worked at stitching those together. In this case, I realized I had become master of my own schedule in the aftermath of being shelved from a once-certain career AND someone powerful felt somewhat responsible to help me. These two together gave me permission to re-invent myself steadily and surely. I stood back up and found the space to follow my highest inspiration and solely that because no one else expected much of me, at the time. I carved a new path for myself. I began to thrive. I proved to myself first and everyone else second that I not only could I survive I could become stronger and more resilient than anyone (even me) ever imagined. So strong that the NEXT time I failed, there was barely a shift in my sails. This time, I made my choice, stood by my decision and quickly engaged in my re-invention process. This time, I took others similarly affected along with me. It worked for all of us. But even better for me, because I already had the experience of failure under my belt. Past failure propelled me forward and always will. Now, you know the story too.
What about you, how have you gloriously failed...and who knows your story?
I am compelled to write this blog for two reasons: (1) it’s been a while since I posted one and (2) I am inspired by a non-inspiring message from just today. The backstory: my eldest is off to university. In an effort to support her, my son (15) and husband (>15) and I (ditto) sat through - no, endured - an uninspiring presentation from the university’s head of career and personal counselling services. The focus, although unclear, seemed to angle towards parents supporting a successful first year for students. The information left us with a laundry list of how bad transitioning into postsecondary was going to be and feel. Aside from the urge to put my coaching business card in his hand and say, “I specialize in speakers like you; call me”, I want to rebut his entire approach to life’s transitions.
Transitions are not about fear, imminent failure, certainty that everything has changed which puts us on an imminent path to destruction. No way! Why would we even want to believe that? It is, instead, an emotional and juicy new experience not unlike the first time we did anything. Skiing our first black diamond or taking our newborn home or reading for that title role or applying for that promotion. These are gut wrenching and wondrous experiences that earmarked the greatness of what was yet to become. So, let’s reframe the lessons of transitions, shall we?
First, know what it is. It’s not an end or a beginning but an overlap. It’s a process that takes time, invitation, a change in pace, explicit attention to what will change and what will not. Then, realize it’s normal to resist. Resistance is a signal. Every flower experiences resistance just before bursting into colourful display. Next, accept. The experience is coming; soon enough you will be in it, so go with it in whatever way makes the most sense to you. Finally, give yourself permission. There is no rule book; how you choose to progress through your transition is perfect. Throughout it all, acknowledge your experience, teach yourself about it and prepare for other transitions. You’ve been here before. You’ve “grown up” in other ways. Your “what next” has loomed and you managed to survive fine. As a footnote, remind yourself, you’re not done yet. It’s important to get good at surfing transitions. Children will move on; you will move on. Gravity will pull, time will march, water will swirl and calm, rise and drop and it’s up to you to choose to lean into it and move with it for the rest of your life.
When the process begins for you, lean in. Honour the thrill of the ups and pulls of the downs and focus instead on surfing the experience. Focus on the process. Think back to a time when you went through other transitions in life. What worked? What can you carry forward from that experience to this one that will support you moving through your own resistance, the uneasiness of change and all that needs to be done throughout? Take time every week to slow a little, review what you are learning about yourself, others, your relationships, your contribution to the world both behind and ahead of you. Write it down. Repeat. Whenever possible, share this with a great listener. Find wisdom of your own in that sharing and congratulate yourself for each new realization.
Any transition is an opportunity to prepare for (as best we can), to embrace, to fall down with, to pull ourselves up upon once more, to wobble around on and feel giddy as we think to ourselves, “hey, I might be getting the hang of this thing”. Transitions are rich spaces between old complacency and future possibility. Transitions feel odd and uncomfortable because these feelings signal significance. We are highlighting those moments when “what was’ gives way and we reveal the colourful, amazing capacity we have for what will be next. As for me, I had my cry with my daughter leaving. That’s part of my process. We forgot things on the to-do list. That’s fine. We talked explicitly about her support network (and mine). She’s been in university one whole day and has two new friends already. She will be fine. I have my box of tissue and someone else will take the wheel when I need it. I will be fine. And I trust that the future possibility for us both is both academic and relational. She and I are about to mint a brand new relationship: one in which I am more her peer and less her parent. Little by little, we are redefining for an amazing future together.
First thing you should know about me is that I believe in Coaching. Secondly, I believe in it so thoroughly, I have a Coach. However, it strikes me as intriguing that rarely do I get asked, “So, do you have a coach?” Even if my partner-in-conversation asks this, never has that person asked me what I talk to my coach about or what I have learned in the process. Perhaps this is out of courtesy for the confidential nature of coaching…maybe I could be the one to inquire into that assumption…but it made me think about how I might respond. Really, if I carefully consider my journey of the past 20 months, or so, what have I learned? What have I learned from my Coach, with my Coach or, more importantly, what have I learned through my Coach. In true goal oriented style, I submit to you, a top 5 list of personal revelations through Coaching:
1. Daring, for me, is about not knowing: It is tough to approach a call time and suddenly realize I do not really know, with any clarity, what I need, what I want, what would be of the greatest use to me during this time. Try being a Coach AND a client of a Coach AND very goal oriented with this hanging over your head. That’s challenging. During my work with my current Coach I have been offered (and accepted) the permission to not know. This has opened up my mind to consider, “ok, if I don’t know what I want, how could I create that understanding, create that doorway towards knowing?”. That was a revelation for me and took me back to what I loved early in life: drama, theatre, playing. What if I played in this space and time and took out of it only what intrigues me? What benefit do I perceive from being able and willing to stand in that very uncomfortable space of not knowing? What did I learn…I learned that I DO know how to be daring. I know how to stand in an uncomfortable space longer than most. I know how to wait, listen, learn, adjust towards what comes from being willing and open to what emerges without forcing it or manufacturing it. And it has been through playing in this space of not knowing that I have become daring. I have created my own landscape as a fulltime Executive Coach and Presentation Coach, real-estate investor, published musician, etc, etc. I amaze me, and I now know how to continue to amaze me.
2. Trust the process: even my own! Yes, there have been times when I have fallen off the face of the earth and my Coach never judges me in these moments. She calls or sends me an email or text saying she is trusting my process and wondering where I am today, how I am moving with the universe and in what ways she can support me. This is incredibly helpful to my mindset that allows for little personal “oops” moments. You know, those moments when you realize that you are on MOUNTAIN standard time and your Coach is NOT…omg, did I blow my call time??? Breathe deeply, Kelly. It’s OK. Nothing is broken. Nobody has perished. Trust the process and get into the mindset of considering what is the best process for here, now and propelling into tomorrow.
3. Connection: I seek connections. I pride myself on connecting people. My favourite informal party-game (at least it’s a game in my head) is to converse with ANYONE in the room long enough to find our “6 Degrees of Separation”. In other words, I need to find the moment in time, the person, the place that connects us to one and other. Once I find that out, I am absolutely thrilled. (P.S. It always works!) Interestingly enough, this does not equate to wanting to connect deeply with tonnes of people. If I were to draw from 2.0 Strength Finder, I am not looking for friends, per se. I can get along with an amazingly broad array of people. I am seeking connections with them, to know how we fit together. The challenge here is how to maintain the deeper connections I want to foster with friends and family in my inner circle.
4. Receiving is a form of giving: In my work as a fulltime Executive Coach, I give, give, give, give. That makes me feel worthy, valued, good and is a wonderful place to live. But like anything in life, if overdone, this can become too much of a good thing. I ran into a wall, of sorts, when I began to feel like I wasn’t getting anything back. I felt like pieces were being taken off of me and that I was vanishing, in the process. Coaching fatigue? Perhaps. But I needed a solution, not an explanation of what I was feeling. I was finding that I had friends and family members who were seeking me out for my coaching skills, asking for coaching sessions that I did not want to give. I wanted them to just be my friends and family, not my clients! Where was I going to draw the line? Did I have to draw the line? Wasn’t I holding out on them if I DIDN’T coach them??? Increasingly, I had lost my centre of receiving these requests openly and with excitement. This thought was interfering with my work to increase my coaching contracts, connect with potential clients and build deep relationships with people who were important to me. The solution was eloquent and simple but required practice and homework. I needed to shift my perspective to think about the connection between giving and receiving. I needed to consider how I receive in life, what I was capable of receiving and be proactive in thinking about receiving, in life and work, as a form of giving back to the giver. I look at it like this: someone has given me a compliment. My express appreciation for that gift says something about the compliment (adds value or takes it away) AND the giver (adds value or takes it away!). And as for homework on this, I have a vision board in my bedroom on which I put a sticker and a brief note about what I have received in any one given day. This is practice for me that shapes my thinking and behaving.
5. My emotions lack voice: Connect to my desire to build connections and what it means to effectively give and receive, I discovered that my emotions don’t really have a voice for me. This blog, for example, was incredibly challenging to write. I am an Executive Coach, for heaven’s sake! Which is to say, I coach in business situations (mostly) and I coach for results. Hard qualifiable, quantifiable results. I am not interested in coaching matters of the heart (that would be a Life Coach and I am thankful they exist). To me, coaching is about goals, progress, movement, action, repeat. Speaking from the heart and making that real is outside of my comfort zone. And that’s okay. So, what does my heart say? Not much and not often. It simply doesn’t speak with words. It feels. I know when I feel good, bad, exhilarated or when things are confusing or life is slipping. I feel and sense these things but struggle to say them. So, don’t ask me to put it into words. What I can do is to share these emotions by way of metaphor, a song that captures my emotions, a poem. And then I practice explaining what it is about these pieces that encapsulates my emotional voice, so well. (NOTE: I only do this with, as Brené Brown says, the people who have earned the right to hear it. You might say, my website crowd has earned that right because I am clearly stepping out of my comfort zone to even say this much. Please, be gentle.)
One of the strength activities at my local gym is to push a large box around the running/walking track, which strikes me as one of the most ridiculous and detrimental activities to promote a vision of enthusiastic health nuts. But it brought to mind the question of what it takes to motivate: a push or a pull.
I wonder, would I rather push a box up a hill (or around a track, as the case may be…no pun intended) or pull a box up a hill? Both of these images make me think of how many times I have heard or thought about my lack of motivation to do X or Y. Is it really the push of motivation that I was lacking. Is it really motivation we are talking about or is there something else behind that? What if it’s our connection to the outcomes of an action? What if we feel unmotivated when we lack an appropriate or meaningful connection to the results? What if motivation comes from the pull of the desired results?
Motivation seems so disconnected to me; like it is somebody else’s job to motivate. Moreover that the feeling of motivation is different from the results. So, I’m going to flip motivation on it’s head. First, I need to call it my responsibility, not someone else’s. No one is coming to fix me; I am the patient AND the doctor. Second, I need to connect to my results. What results matter to me? Focus on those, the proverbial end, if you will…and not the beginning, the fact that you are or are not motivated.
The challenge, however, is that asking myself what results matter to me is the tougher question and yet, it’s the
“real” question. If I am stuck on my motivation for running versus my motivation for lounging on the couch with the cat, then I am avoiding the results I want. Every morning I think, “Gee, I am over a certain age where my metabolism is not as invisible a player in my life…where did this roll or aching joint come from?”
So, what result would I prefer. Fewer rolls and no joint pain. Flexibility and a good night’s sleep. Sounds all too simple, right? Why, then, do I say, “I just don’t feel like running”? Why do I bring work home but claim not be motivated to look at it? Simple, it’s easier to be unmotivated than to identify what results are important to us. That clarity takes time and focused effort. It requires us to examine who we are, who we desire to be and who will get us there. Ourselves.
So, I am hiring myself to identify my desired results. Once I have my desired results figured out, I am going to retrain my own behaviour. If my results are important enough, desirable, meaningful and of value to me, I am more likely to feel like doing what it takes to get me there, to be pulled by the desired results. It’s not a very
complex solution, I know. But why does it have to be? It’s simple behavior replacement: if the results are reinforcing, the participant will be pulled into the action more often and with greater ease. And, I will apologize in advance that my partner’s applause when I finish a run (or a blog), does not cut it for me. I am off to figure out what results in my life are valuable to me and unpack backwards to the actions that will draw me towards them…gotta run!
Progress in life and work involves setting goals, laying a plan you will follow towards those goals and taking the first step, the next, et cetera. Right? Is it really that simple? Perhaps. But, what if you are hamstrung by life’s circumstances, age, competing pursuits or demands. How do you even know if you are ready to pursue that brass ring? When other people suggest to you, “hey, you should apply for that promotion”, and you hear yourself saying, “I’m not ready”, what are you really saying? Could it be that this is a goal that you simply didn’t consider? Are you prepared enough? When will you be ready for that move? In short, what’s the hold-up? And more clearly, what exactly are your goals in life, in work? No small task to get to the bottom of that one, but well worth it. You are worthy of the effort.
I have often been baffled by people who cannot articulate their goals. I always knew what I wanted to be and everything was part of that larger plan, in pursuit of that goal. I was a driven child, teen, young woman, a self-described “real trooper” and clearly action-oriented. (Sitting still continues to be a challenge!) So, I didn’t get it when others couldn’t say what they wanted to be when they grew up, graduated, moved away; I also lacked sympathy for those who didn’t just get on with things and move towards some goals…ANY goals. Until it happened to me. My goal to become a professional actor was attained and there was, suddenly and unexpectedly, something missing. My goal was a flop and I had no idea why. It was heartrending and confusing; moreover, I had no idea what to DO next. And that is the rub: I was confusing action for progress. I lacked my own sense of clarity around my goals simply because I had been pursuing the very same thing for so long such that it never occurred to me to get clear on what it was about that dream – acting – that stirred me to pursue it. It was a goal disconnected from who I was and what I valued.
In order to set a goal, one that you can commit to, hold yourself capable of attaining and accountable for pursuing, regardless of the hurdles, you need to became clear about why it is important to you – the value it will deliver to you. If you are unclear on the value a goal has for you, it’s impossible to set the right goals, to pursue the right goals or to stay the course when hurdles emerge. Goal setting, for the sake of goal setting, is an activity, a series of actions masquerading as progress or fulfillment. Goal setting first requires clarity in order to anchor those goals, to ensure they are true and to test them out before you hit any rough water.
Ode to Journaling … A Blog is Born
Journaling is one of those activities that either strikes fear in hearts or connects deeply with leaders. And we are all leaders of one sort or other. I can identify with the fear as this unfinished blog/journal entry has been sitting on my desktop for a week looking at me expectantly. Still unfinished. And my business partner keeps bugging me to “write something, come on, you do it ALL the time”. He’s right. I do, so why is blogging any different. And what value will it hold?
Looking back at your school experiences might shed light on why each of us sides with either fear or connection with journaling / blogging / whatever we now call the semi permanent recording of our world. Having kept a journal since I was a child for personal reasons (in pencil, in case I wanted to go back and change my immature words) and then later in life as a theatre arts student for academic credit (thank you Dr. Norris for allowing us to use images, clippings and scribbles), I eventually identified with a certain sense of security in writing down my thoughts. It gave me, an extrovert, a ready-made sounding board for clarifying my thoughts, a vessel for collecting my emotions and containing them to some degree and helped me identify, stick to and celebrate goals. Now, I have multiple journals for various purposes. There’s the one I keep by my bed – which is always attractive and of high quality – the one that I record home renovation plans in, the scribbler with my poetry and song lyrics and even a portable journal I can slip into a pocket or briefcase. No doubt that when I am gone, my children will wonder if I ever looked up from the plethora of literature I have created through these journals; and that is a fitting legacy, I figure.
So, am I addicted to journaling? Could be. I can’t seem to leave my house without something to write on! And they have all been wonderfully useful; I love them all. There have been many a great plan born inside (that’s how I planned my start in real estate investing), trips dreamed up and executed (when Customs asks just what I bought in Italy or France, I KNOW), notes of greatness (random, chaotic, quotable and delicious) and life schematics (how WILL the furniture fit in the basement) that have seen first light in my spontaneous hand. Some plopped out on the back of a napkin with worldwide apologies to all the wait staff who never got their pens back. Or they shuffled into my tiny moleskin that is always in my briefcase – a ready-made source of Kellyism tweets good for at least 10 more years. You might say: timing impacts my journaling. When the mood strikes me, I MUST be able to record it, lest it be lost forever.
And so, I begin the Keystone Leadership Development Blog. Be kind, I don’t really know who’s reading right away, but I trust you will be careful with my Blog Baby. Remember, it’s just a journal with a beautiful cover into which I will pour my wonderings, revelations, curiosities and queries. It’s not that hard I figure; I have been doing it all my life.