The truth about confidence
I once asked my boss, "so, are you going for that new director position?" and was stunned to hear her say, after dodging the question just the teeniest bit, "I don't think I'm ready". You're kidding me, I thought. This was a woman I had a great deal of respect for, possessed a PhD and had been working for that organization for a decade already. She was highly competent in her field, well respected with colleagues and stakeholders alike, patient, intelligent, focused, driven and held high, results-oriented standards. She seemed confident to me and pretty well everyone I knew. I went away wondering what might be missing, though, for her. Then another skillful, competent, well-respected woman of integrity in my circle applied for another director position and was turned down because she answered the where-will-you-be-in-five-years question modestly rather than ambitiously like another male candidate. He had pointed to the most senior member in the room and told him he'd have his job! Guess who was the successful candidate. Yup. The overtly ambitious male.
Why we think we want more confidence
Now, some of the reasons behind these shocking experiences make sense to me. Author and anchor-woman, Katty Kay, in a YouTube clip about the book The Confidence Code, which she co-authored with fellow journalist Claire Shipman, connects the dots for us. She asked an audience, "why is it that women believe they have to have 80% of the skillset to apply for a new job when men believe they only need 50%?" and "why is it that confidence matters more than competence" when competing for a new job. These questions are almost rhetorical because they highlight a huge disparity in how men and women typically perceive themselves in pursuit of a role. I dare say, that's the case with the two women I know. Theirs is a matter of confidence. But why is confidence such a big deal? Moreover, does a crisis of confidence happen for men as much as women? Or ever? It would appear that the answer to the latter is YES. But let's dig further.
"More confidence" is a request I hear often when working with coaching partners: women more so than men. Then again, more of my coaching partners tend to be women. Regardless of gender, when the topic comes up, I often joke about it saying I should have brought "pixie dust" for just such a request and ask my coaching partner to tell me why I might say that.
The hidden false assumption is people mistakenly assume confidence is a prerequisite for stepping out there, rather than the result of stepping out there. Let’s shift our perspective to look at it another way. If we assume we require confidence in order to take risks we'll never take them unless, perhaps, we see ourselves as reckless. But who wants to be the reckless candidate? If we instead accept that confidence is actually the by-product of risk-taking it comes more within our reach then. Little by little, with practiced and a thoughtful approach in scaling up our risk-taking, we gain more confidence in doing so. Kay and Shipman assert that this thoughtful practice will yield increased confidence and I agree. The more I have personally learned to take risks without full confidence - let’s say, that magic 80% level - and support clients in doing the same, the easier it becomes to build my confidence. Greater levels of personal confidence then give me the foundational courage to step out and take even bigger leaps, more important changes, things I never would have imagined in the past.
The link to comfort
I’ve said it before: comfort and courage are not synonymous. Courage, in fact, feels UNcomfortable. That's how you know you're doing it! Confidence, as it turns out, produces a similar feeling, although this is influenced by your genes and experiences. Sound familiar? Confidence is not a given behaviour trait that feels good or natural for all of us. In fact, some of us have more of it, while others have less meaning some of us feel less uncomfortable than others in using it. Yet like any behaviour trait, you can build muscle in it with practice, patience, small steps, self-compassion, reflection, more practice, more patience, bigger steps, greater frequency, continued reflection, and so on. But be prepared: it may feel moderately to highly uncomfortable leaning into courage that you don’t yet feel you have in order to build the confidence you dearly seek to acquire.
Initially, upon picking up Kay's book, I wasn't sold on reading it. It just felt wrong to tie confidence (or the lack thereof) to being female. Personally, I already "feel" confident. It turns out, however, that there is value in the research the authors highlight. I had no idea, for instance, that confidence has a genetic link. No wonder confidence feels fine to me but scares the daylights out of others. And, yes, there appears to be a gender-link though this link is not as exclusive as saying: men have confidence and women don't. Each of us has differing levels of confidence. Everyone of us wants to feel confident but few know how to get there.
If you are curious, Kay and Shipman have a website at http://theconfidencecode.com/, where you can take a confidence assessment. While I wasn’t surprise by my own results, it was uplifting to read that:
But if you want to work on your confidence there are small, measurable actions you can undertake to push your comfort zone, increase your personal confidence and stretch your tolerance for exercising even more personal and professional confidence. If developing a greater sense of confidence is on your mind, how might you begin today? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below.
How you travel through life and relate to it matters. Most importantly, our perspective determines this relationship because it drives what we give time and energy to and what eventually grows out of that invested time and energy. What if we choose to stand apart from our perspective on life? Have you ever tried to define your life perspective? If you did, what then would you see? What questions might then become most important? Maybe a starting point is asking ourselves, how am I living my life and what does that say about my beliefs. Let’s unpack that further:
Lately, I have encountered people who are actually on a journey of surviving life and who even assume others are on the same journey. Some are even barely tolerating it and hanging back until … Until what? It “gets better” or “the dust settles” or “the world gets back to normal”? Their perspective is often that life is long and hard and now is no different. I hear them express that life is often deeply painful, so much so that they expect to relive their accumulated pain over and over. Life is to be endured and the pain never forgotten. When I asked a former partner if he knew any better stories after hearing him retell a painful and familiar one, I was told, “that’s the worst one I can think of”. I was stunned. I wondered why, when I’d said “a better” story, he understood me to be asking for an even more painful story. What was life about to this person? A continuum of pain. How does that perspective influence how they tend to relate to life? As something to be endured? I was stunned.
To me, life is about joy, beauty, wonder, presence and enjoyment: the world in a blade of grass, sunshine, a warm smile on a stranger’s face, the feel of a gust of fresh air, or the sound of running water or laughter. Yes, I’ve experienced pain, abuse, loss, tragedy, heartbreak but I’m working on becoming more alive rather than living merely to survive these things. To my partner, however, enjoying life seemed alien and, perhaps it is to others, as well. Learning that I hold a different perspective often stuns and surprises them, even to the point of confusion and frustration. It is not, perhaps, that they feel life shouldn’t be enjoyed but rather that the question of enjoyment is out of place, ridiculous even. Sort of an alternate universe: what’s enjoyment got to do with it? (Thanks, Tina Turner.) “I’ll enjoy something in a moment, when I’ve pulled through,” they seem to say. “Right now, I’m terribly busy worrying about the sky falling,” as they puzzle at my pointing out a meteor in the sky with wonder, not fear. What about the impact this perspective has on self and others? In my case, my partner could not tolerate the concept of life as anything other than painful - even beauty was, to him, a reflection of his pain. He went to great ends to find pain, create and recreate it, wallow in it, speak about how difficult his life had been, connect with and call out of others their pain and survival stories. In short, he kept this pain/survival perspective alive which kept him from becoming alive. No surprise, the chasm grew and we split up in the chaotic wake of his choices that grew from his dedicating his life to a perspective built upon pain and survival.
In typical coach-like fashion, I worked hard to view this time as a learning opportunity, to look for flowers in the Armageddon around me. Frankly, it tested my very life. I began looking around to see and hear other life perspectives, sobering ones, that bumped up against each other. Are there life perspectives out there I hadn’t considered? How could I keep contact with my life/joy perspective even as I crawled, grieved, despaired and wobbled along feeling gutted? I’ve been able to access life/joy strength before, I knew. How could I successfully tap into that pool again without denying grief which I know must be processed and cannot be skirted?
As I began recognizing I could access simple presence with the joys of life in the chaos that followed, I felt quieter inside. In the quiet, I wondered where did I get this sense of presence and an ability to touch enjoyment within a single moment. How is this possible for me even in the midst of figurative and literal death and destruction? Am I truly that unusual in my ability to find joy as a solace, a persistent option in every circumstance in life, always there, within reach and untouched by any pain I feel within the moment. Joy, for me, is not inside pain. It doesn’t accompany pain, but rather joy and beauty, warmth and wonder are everywhere whether I am in pain or not. Joy and beauty don’t shrink because I’m experiencing struggles or grief. However, they can expand if I notice them. At the very least, I am given a moment’s reprieve from difficult emotions in noticing and embracing the wonderment. I know this and feel I have known this since I was a child. Now, I consciously apply it. But where did this conscious application begin?
I can remember quite clearly how beautiful and sunny the day was when, at 19, I learned my mother had passed away after a long battle with cancer. I recall gazing out of the car window, marveling at and enjoying the quality of light that day, smiling slightly at how warm the sun felt on my face. My presence in that moment didn’t mean I loved my mother less, nor grieved any less for her passing than did my brother or father. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. I was struck by the sudden notion that she was beyond me now. I realized in that car that while this was true, she was also beyond all of life’s pain. I realized I could now carry her in my heart wherever I went and never needed to worry about her wellbeing. She was suddenly everywhere, just like the light of the sun or moon. How is this perspective even possible at 19 and even now at 52?
Achieving this perspective is possible and I am proof. It’s taken me roughly 20 years from that painful day in 1989 to consciously choose to apply a life/joy perspective in every interaction. But I strongly suspect you do not have to experience a huge loss to examine your life perspective. Here’s my challenge: consider which perspective you ought to foster in order to honour and grow your human experience and strengthen your innate human capacity for greatness in life? Surely, some perspectives are to be avoided or rooted out of one’s mind and life. What are those perspectives to you and how might you go about rewriting them? What perspective will you replace it with and how might you become conscious of choosing that perspective daily when it’s easy so it comes to you more easily when life is harder? What difference do you look forward to in doing so? Finally, what or whom can help you along the way? I urge you to become conscious of how you view life in order to choose wisely.
If You Want to Write, Write
Here we go again, back on the subject of writing and goals, knowing that the hardest thing about setting a goal and going after it is not failure. It’s re-establishing commitment to your deeply rooted goal after an inglorious, cataclysmic, life-altering event that threw you headlong into on-coming traffic while you thought you were happily trucking along with your goal. Yes, that, my friend, is much, much, much harder indeed. Fast forward and finally healed after living through Armageddon and going public with my daily commitment to write, no thanks to life, everything and everyone who tried to throw me off track. Let’s see how I do this time.
I wanted to write a book. And I was writing. I was. Maybe not daily, but I was working at the angle of consistent writing that would lead to a book. And the Universe had begun to respond. I was invited to write for work, albeit without a byline, but with reasonable success. I wrote for pleasure in my journals, filling one, at least per year, even though some are quite the testimony to a year of personal tragedy and look like they’ve been through the accompanying train wreck. I had a wall where I posted several book ideas on sticky notes and watched them grow and sprout and develop. Then, my goal to write a book by December 2021 took a radical detour when someone close to me (who shall remain nameless) made choices that he then visited upon me, effectively blowing my mind apart (and heart to bits) just a year and a half before my self-imposed deadline. Most days, I was lucky to remember my name. And so, no book. Or was that just the excuse?
Then I got myself a therapist, cut off communication with said-individual bit by bit, purged everything I found that reminded me of him and moved my deadline. January 2022. Guess what? No book. I got a new journal and filled it up with love for myself and gratitude for life, stopped seeing the therapist - she was awesome, by the way; everyone should have a therapist just like we all have a doctor, dentist or chiropractor - and still, no book. I wrote myself a wildly important goal (aka: WIG) and read Charles Duhigg, created some writing strategies, built a digital scoreboard but still, no book. Something was missing.
Writing 250 words daily was not challenging enough, you could say. I’m at 390+ right now and haven’t even broken a cognitive sweat. Writing 250 good words, that’s another thing. I’m certainly not ignorant enough to believe that quantity equates to quality. I’m also wise enough to know that one’s perceived substandard quality can also be a crutch to failing to engage in the appropriate quantity when writing. This brings me to tonight, in a hotel in central Washington, knuckling down because I’m PUBLISHING IT BY THE WEEKEND. Why? I need some skin in the game. If there’s no performance expected of me, there’s no driver to my cause, nothing really at stake, nothing real and tangible on the line (pun intended). All I need now is a consistent audience to reach for it. I think…
My new logic will be this: if you want to run a mile, you need to walk to the corner grocery store. If you want to sing, you need to open your mouth in front of people. And that’s where I am. Here, with you, in front of people. If you want to write a book, you need to write a page. Publishing in any way I can, knowing that if I want to write, I ought to write.
How to become Goal-Hungry
Why are goals so meh for most adults? I’m not convinced I know why but I sure do notice it. And bristle against it. Try it at your next company event or family get-together! When asked, “so, what goals are you working on in your life”, most will laugh. The vast majority of people I ask shrug, chuckle as if I’ve made a joke. They give vague - “I’m always trying to work on my health” - or even fantastical answers - “winning the lottery?!”. First off, I like to apply the Yoda-principle: do or do not; there is no try. Next, if you assume something will come from the outside to solve all your problems (i.e. a rich aunt, a lottery windfall, your stocks go all Silicon Valley, a knight and a white horse), then you are giving up control over yourself and your life. It’s so interesting to me how people respond to the question, “what goals are your working on in your life RIGHT NOW”. When they realize that I am truly asking what they are working on to make a significant improvement in their life, it’s a showstopper. Too many don’t want to even continue down this line of conversation. Although I’m tempted to ask, why this is the case, I’m not sure that an answer would actually help change the situation. Instead, what might help more is to foster experiences for them in what I call goal-hunger.
Goal-hunger is that spark-worthy and driven sense of wanting so badly to achieve something vital to in our life that it practically consumes our every waking thought. You know you have goal-hunger when someone asks you what you’re working on in life and you practically burst at the seems to tell them! Vicarious experience, for all it’s value-add to the collective human experience as a key way in which we learn how to do (or not do) things, doesn’t help us find our goal-hunger, I’d suggest. Instead, what helps is interacting with people with current goal-hungry experiences in order to break out of our own vague or fantastical notions. We need a few contemporaries to share with, learn from, be cheered on by and to cheer on. The hunger, energy, drive, and spark of this kind of community is dampened by a collective meh if we are not careful. You see, there’s a different energy when those around you are working hard on something dear to them, just as you are, when you breathe the same air as those driving their efforts in a singular direction. Your goals don’t even have to be the same and probably shouldn’t be lest we copy each other’s reality. Just the heartbeat and soul, that yearning and focus needs to be the same amongst us. “Oh, you’re working on finding a job in the health and physical wellness industry because you are impassioned to rehabilitate people at risk of heart disease like you have? Wow, tell me about that and how that’s going for you. I’m intrigued.” A collective meh will get in the way. But, what’s a solution?
I’m intrigued by this relatively new Meetup trend and the era of broker/curator businesses. There’s a collectivist mindset in these platforms and approaches that is equally entrepreneurial, innovative, generative and speaks to the face of the future. But since everyone has different life experiences, differing viewpoints and different values, and thus, different goals, could the spirit of goal-hunger be the platform itself to generating a community? These goal-hungry people will engage in a community that behaves like open-source learning meets crowdsourced solutions. The very energy of the community is what you come for. If a goal-setting meetup were an option as a way to break free from meh mentality and surround oneself with goal-focused, goal-hungry people, what would that do for you and your goals in life? A group that’s sort of “Got Goals? Now What?” where the only membership criteria is to have OR want to have a worthy goal in your life to pursue, catch and positively influence you and what you care about. Hey! I’m kind of liking that idea. What if…?
What do you think?
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!”
Flipping Professional Jealousy
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:
Motivation or Connection
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?” 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!
Kelly Johnson, PCC Executive Coach