You see, Marina was diagnosed with stage four cancer six months ago. Within a week of her diagnosis, she went through intensive chemotherapy treatments only to find out much later that it was a shot in the dark … an experiment to see if it would work to slow down or stop the growth of her cancer.
Results came in like a punch in the stomach — the cancer had progressed in spite of the chemo.
As I understand it, there are three main determinants of disease; the first is a genetic predisposition, the next is environmental factors (what you eat, drink, what you’re exposed to) and the last is your beliefs, psychology, emotional state, stress.
We can have a genetic predisposition, but these other factors are what influence whether our genes are activated.
While attacking the disease with Western Medical protocols and change of diet, Marina chose to confront her cancer and face herself squarely. She decided to look within at how she may have contributed to bringing on her disease and what she could do to help herself heal.
Marina recounted her process with me, “I was faced with this question:”
‘What is the payoff for me? What do I get out of being ill?’
“I was so angry that the workshop leader suggested I (we) may actually benefit from being ill. When I felt my strong resistance, I knew there was something for me to explore so I went for it.”
As Marina began to write in her journal the pen swept over the paper with increasing velocity. Without effort, Marina managed to write two full pages dedicated to the various ways she derived benefit from being ill.
Key things from her list. Permission to say “no” to:
- request for help
- receiving help
- sign on for a project
- join a board
- extract herself from boards and other activities
- take leave from family and friends when she wants time alone
- take time for herself
- take time away from her computer and let emails sit in her inbox
- slow down and reduce her activity level (which has always been quite high)
In essence, to consider herself first. Marina smiled, “I have an excuse to take care of myself; to be fully ‘me’ without apology.”
“I’m the good person. My role is to give and to help. Therefore I don’t receive or ask for help. I pretend I don’t have needs, but secretly I hope you’ll see that I do. I take care of people. I can anticipate your needs. You need me. I expect to be appreciated. I must earn love and appreciation.”
This comes at the expense of their own self-regard and self-care. The belief is that:
If I please others; take care of others, if I am a giving and loving person I will be worthy of love.
As she started to take care of herself and to allow others to give to her, Marina’s true self began to shine through. She was surprised and delighted to share, “People are drawn to me. They want to be around me. They appreciate my authenticity.”
Opportunities for self-care and to receive help and support from others is ongoing. She laughs every time she realizes she’s stepped into her old ways, and then course corrects. Marina continues to notice how her pattern as the giver has played out throughout her life.
Despite her initial reluctance, friends have set up a bank account to receive donations for Marina to get care through a well-respected complementary medical clinic. She continues to courageously face her challenges to heal on all fronts: physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually.
Healing can take place when Type 2 is able to give freely without expectation, to receive from others (pride is not in the way) and to source self-love; when Type 2 declares “I am worthy of love because of who I be.”
What appeared as two inverted “v” silhouettes emerging in the foreground, turned out to be a furry-eared donkey.
As my friend Mar and I enjoyed an early evening hike, by chance I looked up just in time to catch him surface from behind the hill. There was Mr. Donkey set against the backdrop of the limestone mountains, lit up by the setting sun.
This was a precious moment I would have missed, had I not looked up in time. I delight in the unexpected and life is full of them … if we are open, awake and present.
How much of life passes us by when we forget to look up, and glance around instead of just focusing on what’s ahead?
These last several years, I have engaged in the joyful practice of relishing the moment. Instead of judging what is, wanting it to be different/people to be different, I have been graced with arriving at a place in my life where (when I am at my Wendy best), I accept and appreciate ‘what is.’
‘What is’ for me today? An ending that is simultaneously opening to a new beginning. Once again, I prepare to say good-bye and step into the unknown. On my last few walks through the village, I smile at a fisherman untangling his nets, knowing he will soon be a relic of the past, pause to caress the donkey’s face, smile inwardly as I glance around at the people I have come to know and love because of all of who they are …
There are so many sights and sounds and I just want to inhale them all; to burn them into my mind’s eye so I can recall this place I have called
home, at will. And yet, time is like grains of sand slipping through my fingers the tighter I try to hold on. These endings have become excruciatingly and exquisitely painful.
Since an early age, I’ve had a deeply felt sense for the temporal nature of life. The choices I have made along my journey have brought me face to face with a series of continual endings and beginnings, good-byes and hellos and the vast spaces in-between.
Some call me a nomad, but I didn’t set out to live that way. For those of you who have uprooted, you may have learned what I didn’t know until my roots were planted in new soil. Once you leave a place you cannot go back, at least not in the same way. You are different, people are different, the place has changed with time. That’s the nature of life–ever-changing.
What have I learned about beginnings and endings — about change? Here are 10 Valuable tips to help you ease your way into new beginnings.
- Beginnings come first. Have a vision for your life. Know what’s important to you; why you are making a change and what you’d like to be different as a result of your change in circumstance. Be clear. The end result is unlikely to match your vision exactly, but it may even be better. When you create with conscious intent, you have a much greater likelihood of materializing your vision
- Beginnings always require a leap of faith–nothing is certain
- Ask for help–it will come
- You don’t have to “make bad or wrong” your current circumstances in order to look forward to the next. Appreciate fully what you have; what was and what gifts this place, this person, this job provided
- Don’t rush through your ending to relieve the pain of letting go. Closing things down, readying for the change, saying good-bye is important. This process aids in the acceptance of change
- What loose ends do you need to tie up? Who or what do you need to make peace with? Do it. Don’t leave a trail of litter behind you because it will keep you from fully moving forward
- Throw 100% of your commitment (energy, focus, intent … ) behind the change. If you’re ambivalent, you’ll have a hard time materializing your vision
- New beginnings take time. You are a learner once again. Give yourself permission to feel awkward, to make mistakes, to feel incompetent in your new circumstances
- It will take awhile to find your new rhythm. But you will
- How do you want to be in this new beginning? Go forward with conscious intent. How do you want to show up — for yourself, others, in your new situation? You can choose to start anew; to let go of habits that don’t serve you and create new ones that do.
How have I been changed by my current circumstances?
In this place, I have learned to look up, pause, linger, deeply listen, lighten my load, experience the vastness of my heart and to accept …
… and that roosters crow all day and night, that people are more lovable because of their imperfections, that slowing down opens the senses, that there are benefits to nosy neighbors, that living a life at scale is possible and desirable, and so much more. I hope to carry these treasures with me like a turtle carries it’s home.
This poem helped me (and no doubt, countless others) be courageous in the letting go into new beginnings. May it gift you with the same.
For a New Beginning
In out-of-the-way places of the heart, Where your thoughts never
think to wander, This beginning has been quietly forming, Waiting
until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire, Feeling the emptiness
growing inside you, Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety , And the gray
promises that sameness whispered, Heard the waves of turmoil rise
and relent, Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled, And out you stepped
onto new ground, Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear You can trust the promise of
this opening; Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning That is at
one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure; Hold nothing back, learn to find ease
in risk; Soon you will be home in a new rhythm, For your soul senses
the world that awaits you.
~ John O’Donohue ~
I have neglected my blog of late because of my impending move and I imagine that settling into my new home will also be getting most of my attention. It will take me a little while to find my new rhythm, so please hang in there with me. I love to write and hope to have some good stuff to share coming soon!
In the meantime, what beginnings are taking form in you?
Add to my list: what have you learned about endings and beginnings?
When the weekly Brain Pickings newsletter landed in my inbox, I clicked on their link that took me to an excellent summary of the book: Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam M. Grant, Ph.D. I have not yet read the book, however I found the review intriguing.
According to the review, the book breaks people out into three interaction or reciprocity styles (Givers, Takers and Matchers) and how each one leads to varying degrees of success. What grabbed my attention was this quote about givers:
… But there’s something distinctive that happens when givers succeed: it spreads and cascades … Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them. You’ll see that the difference lies in how giver success creates value, instead of just claiming it.
Givers are the type of people who use their own gifts and talents to “amplify the smarts and capabilities of others,” like Liz Wiseman’s Multipliers. In the workplace, givers share their ideas, knowledge, information, time and energy. They are neither doormats nor do they give for strategic purposes. I know many people for whom this is natural.
However, each one of us can be a giver. It’s a choice.
A little story. I met Sam (not his real name) less than a year ago by a chance encounter, and he is most definitely a giver who contributes to the lives of many, without strings. He shares his experience and hard-earned wisdom, generously. Through his mentoring, we have learned to expand our ability to see more broadly and with finer distinctions. He’s taught us a language to articulate what we see that provides clarity. As a result, we have become more skilled at our craft, and our clients and relations are beneficiaries.
Sam brings out my best and my desire to pay it forward. Meeting Sam has changed the course of my life.
We may never know the ripple effect our acts of generosity, kindness, caring, listening, support, and sharing of ourselves–have on another. When we give each other a hand up, it’s a win-win.
We feel good, we help someone else, others are happy for our success (according to the article, people tend to be happy for the success of givers), and it has a multiplying effect.
Can you remember that special adult who made a difference in your life? The teacher who believed in you and your talents? The boss who shared her earlier career mistakes so you would know you were not alone? The important stranger who said a kind word just when you most needed it?
The thing is, regardless of whether we are a giver, taker or matcher, what we say and do has a ripple-on effect.
What a profound responsibility that is.
With each action we take, each sentence we utter or write, each tweet, FB or G+ post, we make a difference to someone, somewhere.
Each of us has the possibility to forward and change the course of humanity for the better … We can leave a legacy that lives on in the hearts and minds of others, well beyond the death of our physical form.
Recently, I watched an interview of a physician on one of the major news networks in the US, who shared the story of her near death experience. While unconscious, she went through a life review and saw the ripple-on effect of her words and deeds. She was able to witness at least 35 layers beyond the person immediately affected.
What if that’s true? It begs the question, “what are the ripples you intend to spread, even if you never know how what you do, matters?”
Please join the conversation. Who has given generously and made a difference in your life? What was the effect on you and others?
(For a terrific article that delves into the book, check out Kare Anderson’s review in Forbes)
If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you know I commune with the natural world regularly for solace, inspiration, clarity, deeper contact with myself, to integrate experiences, to source meaning …
I meander and let my intuition do the walking. On a recent outing, I chose not to let my mind wander but to continue to bring it back to the here and now. What was before me was too spectacular, beautiful, inspiring to miss. More than that, I wanted now. I didn’t want to miss out on my life while I occupied my head.
Do you want to know a little secret? All we have is now.
We hardly experience here while wanting to be there. We are always on our way to something more, something better, someplace else.
Most of us are in the present-past or the present-future, but we rarely occupy the now. Why not?
How much of life do we miss while we ride the rails of our habituated patterns of thinking and feeling, over and over? How well do we know ourselves when we endlessly distract and stay stuck in these well worn feelings and thoughts?
These thoughts and feelings are not ours to have.
They simply are.
Seemingly from out of nowhere, I Choose Now became my mantra. Each time I found my mind wandering, I brought my attention back to what was right in front of me with the words, I Choose Now.
I let go of whatever thought or feeling tried to occupy me. With each repetition of the phrase I inhaled the beauty around me. I allowed the miracle that is our natural world to touch me. It was excruciating … and sublime.
This poem continues to inspire me as I journey through life. It’s meaning still unfolding.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
~ David Wagoner ~
Rays of sunshine burst through clouds and sweep across citrus orchards and olive groves
Thousands of seagulls circle in tornado formation and squawk in revelry
Sunlight reflects off grey-green olive and blue-green carob trees leaves
Orbs of yellow and gold citrus framed against blue sky
Donkeys bay, roosters crow, lambs baaah, bird songs all echo across the valley
Ecstatic joy brings tears to my eyes – allow the joy. Don’t try to hold on, don’t shut it out.
And when you relax and accept here; when you stop beating up on yourself for not being someplace that you’re not, embrace where you are and keep your eye on where you’re going – that’s where the magic of life happens. That’s where “you happen” as you create yourself in every moment.
I choose now
Today I went on a walk in nature. It was tough to pry myself away from the demands of work; from the incessant incoming emails, phone calls, social media … all begging for a response.
Forget proactive, I have become a reaction machine. Boing – incoming Facebook message. Bing – Gmail. Bong – Mac mail. Ting – Twitter … the mobile, the land line, Skype …
Are you a slave to the beeps, buzzes and whirs of the internet and mobile world?
With all of the incoming, I had no space. I had no room to think or just be. I needed time to step back and give myself an opportunity to process, mull over, and to make thoughtful decisions … I took “me time.”
I threw on my hiking clothes, left my “to do” list behind, set out on my hike and let my mind and body wander. What were the results?
Fabulous! The meanderings of my mind produced this:
- Three creative solutions for a pressing issue
- I realized that two actions needed to move to the top of my priority list
- I resolved a vexing problem
As a bonus, I felt exuberant and refreshed. All I did was allow nature to permeate my senses. I took in the beauty around me, felt the sun on my skin, listened to fresh rainwater gushing down the torrent, and had no agenda other than to get my body moving and to be outdoors.
The cool thing was, I wasn’t trying.
However, somewhere in the background of my mind, the processing was happening. And I realized, again, the importance of Me Time.
How does this work? Instead of intense focus, our brain moves into:
High alpha rhythm, which signals mental relaxation, a state of openness, of daydreaming and drifting, where we’re more receptive to new ideas. This sets the stage for the novel connections that occur
-Psychology Today, The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: Insight and the Creative Brain
It’s not too late. If you must, bring your mobile with you but put it on “airplane mode” so it’s not transmitting. No calls. No emails.
Give yourself a real break. Take a U-Turn and prepare to be amazed by the results.
In a recent article in Smithsonian Magazine, author Robin Rosenberg offers, “As a clinical psychologist who has written books about the psychology of superheroes, I think origin stories show us not how to become super but how to be heroes, choosing altruism over the pursuit of wealth and power.” Rosenberg suggests that perhaps the best super power of all is empathy. I’d like to take it a few steps farther.
Perhaps it’s time to be your own hero.
“In his study of the “myth of the hero,” Joseph Campbell asserted that there is a single pattern of heroic journey and that all cultures share this essential pattern in their various heroic myths. In his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces he outlined the basic conditions, stages, and results of the archetypal hero’s journey.” (excerpt from the author page on Amazon)
Campbell saw the Hero’s Journey as a journey to becoming our authentic selves.
The hero’s journey is often described in literature and film, from Odysseus in the Iliad to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Siddhartha, Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars trilogy, and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings.
(I explore this and describe the steps in my book InsideOut Enneagram: The Game-Changing Guide for Leaders)
As I came to discover on my own journey, The Enneagram is an invaluable map for our self-exploration. Many people arrive at the Enneagram, discover their Type and then take it no further. They have found a system that accurately describes their habitual behaviors and worldviews and a way to better understand their families, colleagues, friends.
Others take it further. They want to develop a broader range of strategies to relate to themselves and others; they want to play to their strengths and to stop repeating the same mistakes; to lessen the hold of compulsions and patterns.
But there is more.
Notice, the Enneagram symbol exists within a circle. All Types are subtly distinct from one another and are aspects of a whole, like facets of a sparkling diamond. The Enneagram can provide a map for the process of individuation as described by Carl Jung and depicted by the Hero’s Journey, to integrate all of the nine Enneagram Types within us.
We don’t need to look to others to fulfill our need for heroes. What if each of us were brave enough to take off our defensive armor and go exploring like the hero of myth and story.
The hero lies within.
As for those in leadership positions, we know that what gets us there isn’t necessarily what we need to excel at leading others. What is essential for effective leadership is how we show up. We have an opportunity and I suggest, a responsibility to take on our personal development; to bring unconscious habits and patterns to the light of day, drop what no longer serves us, try on new ways of being and responding and act from our authentic selves.
Joseph Campbell wrote:
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
The big question is, will you say “yes” to your adventure?”
As I prepared to enter a new year, I began a journey of inquiry with this question, “What am I committed to?”
One word … COURAGE, demonstrated through courage in work, courage in choices and courage in relationships.
Courage at work. I went to an international conference to deliver a paper and to speak on a panel. While at the conference, I sat in on a talk by a Harvard professor. He suggested that people who manage change in organizations should align more closely with the needs of senior leaders and deliver skinnied-down versions of the change process.
My body had an immediate response to his suggestion. I felt a twist in my stomach and my hand shot up in the air. “Are you suggesting we collude with these folks (participate in their illusion), knowing full well that what we deliver won’t get them the results they want?”
Just after that session at the conference, I had lunch next to the VP HR for a global Fortune 50 company. He was in the same session with the Harvard professor. I asked him what he thought, and his reply was, “Wendy, I have a family to support.”
My interpretation, “Wendy, if I tell the truth and do the right thing, I will lose my job.” Certainly, many external consultants believe we won’t get the work if we don’t dance to the beat of the client drummer. I wonder? Is this fear based in reality or a belief we hold based on … experience?
When my clients hire me, I believe they choose me and pay me to give them my best advice, do great work and deliver exceptional results. If I tell them what I think they want to hear instead, I’m not doing my job and I am doing a disservice to my client and client system. I have to have the courage to tell the truth, give them my best advice and risk that they won’t like what I propose and therefore won’t hire me.
Courage in Choices. A colleague relayed an illustrative story to point to the kind of things she regularly faces in her work with clients. Candice is a very effective and successful executive coach. Currently, she is coaching one of her clients, Alexa —director level — to negotiate with her boss to be able turn off her mobile phone between 6:30-8:00 pm, so Alexa can spend time with her three young children. Alexa is struggling to make this request of her boss.
Candice continued , “while the economy has picked up, during the crisis people were asked to do more with less and it’s become the new normal.” I’ve checked this out with other colleagues to see if it matches their experience. I heard a resounding, “Yes.”
Does this sound familiar to you? Do you find this at all disturbing? I do.
Has anyone seen the research that shows more hours worked, less private / family time, being “on call” at home, yields better results, increases productivity, innovation … ? I haven’t.
But I have seen research that points to the opposite.
… neuroscience is now showing us that the cumulative consequences of stress can be a dire thorn in the side of business innovation,” Rick Hanson PhD, a California based neuropsychologist. (quote from Forbes article: Employee Brain on Stress Can Quash Creativity and Competitive Edge. 9/05/2012)
What is the cost to society when parents are distracted while working while at home, less time is spent with their children and no boundaries exist between work and home? What is the cost to the individual, to the organization as stress becomes the norm? The science tells us it’s not good.
Courage in Relationships. When we embark on love relationships, we set the tone and patterns of interaction right at the beginning–and these patterns are hard to change once established.
The longer we are in relationship, we let things slide, we are often less willing to have the difficult conversations and speak the truth. It feels riskier, yet it is another paradox. Playing it safe, rather than playing to win, is what dulls, wounds, or kills relationships–at work and in our private sphere.
We begin to collude (co-illusion) because we fear the risk of what might happen if we say or do something the other person doesn’t like or doesn’t want to hear. Will we be rejected, abandoned, fired … ?
Rather than say and do what needs to be said and done. We stop telling the truth about “what’s so.” We do a disservice to ourselves, our clients, colleagues, friends and family.
Looking to 2013
What are you committed to as you look forward to 2013 and beyond? What do you want to create in your organization, in your community and society?
Can each of us muster the commitment and courage to examine our guiding beliefs and see if they are really true? Can we practice telling the truth without blame or judgment; give voice to what we see and know in our hearts? (Angeles Arrien, The Four-Fold Way)
“Real courage is risking something that might force you to rethink your thoughts and suffer change and stretch consciousness. Real courage is risking one’s clichés.” ― Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction
The world needs each of our voices… and I think you’ll like the results.
Make it a wonderful new year!
Have you ever had one of those days when it seems nothing is going right, when life feels like a continual struggle? The glass appears half-empty and you are wearing those “ain’t it awful glasses?” All you can see is what’s not working?
Shhhh … don’t tell anyone, but in times like these, I want to crawl under the covers, curl up in a fetal position and suck my thumb or just rail against the world and stay enveloped in self-pity.
I had one of those days recently. At some point in my life, I learned to recognize the symptoms and and how to cope. My historical coping strategy was to realize that other’s have it far worse than I. However, that only serves to make me feel guilty for feeling bad.
What works for me is to take a big long break. Over and over, I have found that working longer and harder makes things worse.
I’ll never forget the story of my friend, Laura who was suffering financially. She was afraid she’d lose her home and everything she tried, fell flat. Business was slow. Laura was alone and she wanted to meet someone–a special someone.
Her response was to take the last of her money and visit a friend in Paris, to take a long deserved holiday. Of course, this seems like a crazy thing to do when your finances are rocky. But working harder was getting her nowhere. When she came back from this wonderful holiday, opportunities began to open up. Work became plentiful and she was able to keep her house. She is now quite happily married too.
Sometimes a change of scenery to offer a change in perspective or to shift your energy, is just what’s needed. Often, we sit in front of the computer and just work longer hours–for diminishing returns.
My strategy is a version of Laura’s. When I spend time in nature and in the company of good friends, I feel replenished and so much better. I know I need to take a break–sometimes a few hours, sometimes a day …
My friends allow me to vent so I can get it out of my system. Exercising gives me energy, nature helps me see the wonders of life and puts me back into a state of awe. It takes me out of myself so I see the bigger picture … the majesty of life and the world around me. Nature teaches me about resilience, strength, creativity, simplicity, and mystery …
I come back to myself and hear my deceased dad’s words in my head, “honey, tomorrow’s another day.”
And so it is. This is what I have learned, over and over.
It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it. – John Steinbeck
On this occasion, I returned home to find some important emails waiting for me with good news. The next morning, calls came in that helped resolve several problems I faced. My mood lifted. Those vexing problems of yesterday began to evaporate. The sun came out and I stood on my terrace facing the mountains and soaked in the warmth of the sun. It was a good day.
When I hear that people commit suicide, I think, “but if only they had waited another day.” Life is such a mystery and we never know what wonders or what special helpers are just around the corner waiting for us, if only we ask for help.
Thank you dad, yes, tomorrow is another day.
On a recent hike with friends I mentioned, “Usually I see ‘heart rocks’ when I am walking, but I haven’t been paying attention today.” No sooner had those words left my mouth, when we all noticed a heart-shaped rock on the trail ahead.
Today I set my attention on finding heart rocks. I saw at least 10.
What we pay attention to, we amplify. Our focus shifts and we begin to see what was there all along, while our attention was elsewhere.
Have you ever had the experience of something (a word, a concept, a brand …) brought to your attention, and immediately you notice it everywhere? Did you wonder whether it was synchronicity? Perhaps something you were unaware of before is now in your field of vision?
There are Two Essential Ways of Being for leaders that motivate their followers, help bring out their best and help them see beyond what they think is possible:
- Pay attention to your seeing. What you focus on, you amplify.
- Where is your focus of attention? Is it on problems, what’s wrong, what’s not working … do you easily find fault with others?
- If we focus on problems, what’s not working or someone’s annoying character traits–that is what we see and we often see it to the exclusion of other things. We see more problems, more of the character traits we expect, more …
- Problems start to grow
Several years ago, I lead a meeting to improve the interactions, information and patient flow and overall processes between in-patient and out-patient OBGyn and Maternity.
The group began to identify all of the ways the processes didn’t work, all of the problems, patient complaints, MD complaints, and on … until someone finally said, “What are we doing?” Great question.
The group vitality and energy had been sucked right out of the room. We created a list of problems and issues vast enough to overwhelm the best of us.
In a moment of inspiration, I restarted the conversation by asking, “If you could create your ideal department with smooth transitions, rewarding interactions, satisfied members, patients and physicians and you were highly motivated and happy at work, what would would be going on? What would you see, do, hear; what would be in place in terms of process and flow?”
The group energy soared! The wall was full of sticky notes. Ideas and associated actions to further develop the ideas, had been generated. When the meeting ended, we were poised to join the physicians the next day and build on the work we did together. As we began to leave the room, someone turned to me and said, “What did you just do?”
2. People live up (or down) to your expectations of them.
- This goes for how leaders act toward and view others as well as how others act toward and view people in positions of authority. Remember the Pygmalion Effect?
In their study, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson (1968) set out to demonstrate that our reality can be influenced by other’s expectations and set up self-fulfilling prophecies. Their research demonstrated that if teachers expected a higher performance from some children rather than others, those children did, in fact rise to their expectations. Rosenthal identified four ways teachers behaved differently towards the students for whom they had more favorable expectations:
- They created a warmer climate. They are nicer in the things they say and also in the non-verbal channels of communication
- Input. They teach more material to students for whom they have more favorable expectations
- Response / Opportunity. They call on these students more often and let them talk longer. The teachers help and shape the responses with them and help the student articulate the response.
- Feedback. If more is expected of a student, the student is praised more for giving a “good answer.” These students receive more positive feedback. Interestingly, the teacher will accept a lower quality response from these students.
Now let’s connect these two human tendencies and see how we can shift our focus and actions:
- Pay attention to your seeing. What you focus on, you amplify.
- People live up (or down) to your expectations of them.
Suggestion: Seek out the best in others and give feedback accordingly. Dr Lois P. Frankel, author of See Jane Lead, wrote about the 7:1 rule:
Give people seven pieces of positive feedback for every developmental criticism.
Most of us avoid giving developmental criticism and when we finally do, it is unplanned and ends up coming out as sharp, blunt or abrupt. OR we give feedback without specific suggestions or an offer of assistance to develop the desired behavior. OR we behave in ways that let people know we disapprove or are dissatisfied, and then leave them guessing.
From personal experience, it feels so delicious and rewarding when I offer positive, authentic feedback. I found this to be largely true for both for the giver and the recipient. You are in essence, filling up their tank with jet fuel when the recipient feels seen and valued.
Experiment: Look for the inherent gifts, the positive in someone who pushes your buttons, someone you don’t like, someone who you believe is a low performer. Then give authentic, positive feedback to that person. Notice how you feel and how that person responds. See what happens over time.
Do you treat certain people differentially in meetings? What can you do to shift that? See what happens when you do?
So what is in your line of sight? What are you paying attention to? Shift your focus and see what happens. On your next outing, look for hearts in nature. You don’t have to search, just pay attention. You’ll see …
Last night I went to a dinner party and a friend commented, “you look 10 years younger!” Gee, why did I wait so long to take a vacation. Frankly, it was a bit disturbing to think about what I must have looked like before I left!
For those of you who read my last post about the importance of unplugging to recharge, you’ll be happy to know that I unplugged. Mostly. As a business owner, the prospect of doing this was daunting. But I did. Here’s what happened and here’s what I learned. Take note, for those of you haven’t yet risked it.
We prepared. My social media team was in place and ready to post and promote my pre-written blogs, to send out my pre-written newsletter and to continue to send out my pre-written tweets. We changed my Facebook page photo to show that I was unplugged. Clients and colleagues were notified, and I initiated a gone fishin’ email notification auto-responder for folks that sent me emails. I was ready!
How did it go?
- WiFi access was often non-existent and spotty at best, so that really helped
- With each passing day, the pull of the internet slowly subsided from a continual drum beat to a soft murmur vying for my attention
- I did use my iPhone to check emails for anything urgent and only sent out one email response for something that was time sensitive
- My traveling companion, one of the least plugged-in people I know, requested at the last minute that I bring my computer along. She was in charge of booking our lodging and wanted to book the B&B’s while en route. Ugh, another temptation.
- My traveling companion wanted to get access to email frequently throughout our trip and look for internet hotspots. It took extra discipline not to succumb.
- I found myself concerned about how my Twitter connections would respond to my lack of interaction.
- I loved being unplugged and wish I could have, with confidence, let the email go too.
What were the results?
- My Twitter followers were still there and still retweeting and sending me direct messages, despite my absence and lack of response
- I was able to be fully present in my experience and delight in my travels
- I had much needed time for reflection and was able to make space for inner focus
- I really did return recharged
- I have still not caught up with all of my email and work that piled up while I was gone, but am chipping away daily.
With time to reflect on and integrate all that had transpired over the last several months–I walked away with some pearls — areas for my growth and development as a leader and that are good reminders for all of us.
My seven leadership pearls of wisdom
- Find that still point inside even though there are waves crashing around you
- Maintain your own rhythm when others travel to the beat of a different drum
- Remember that everything and everyone is a mirror to reflect aspects of yourself to you
- Prepare, then trust your team and let go
- Make sure to take your time off–and enough time to renew and replenish!
- Be present to your experiences and the world around you
- Let joy be your wellspring of energy and connection
My self-work continues … practice:
Maintain contact with that still point inside no matter what is happening around me
Keep playing my own rhythm while others play theirs’
To unplug or not to unplug?
That is the big question.
I’ve always been pretty darn good at taking vacations and setting boundaries around them. In the early days of the Blackberry, I didn’t own one so it was easy to disconnect from work–especially since I like to travel to more remote locations. I also stayed away from computers while on holiday, figuring my email could wait until I got home and my friends would still be there.
Isn’t the idea of a holiday to get away, relax, recharge, experience something new, and shift perspectives?
If we are on email, our attention is back at home. Why bother leaving? You may think me selfish, but I don’t even send postcards. I want my full attention on my holiday, on my traveling companion and on wherever I am.
Unlike most folks in the US, I was known to take 3 to 4 weeks of holiday at at time. My work colleagues seriously asked, “Aren’t you afraid they’re going to realize they don’t need you if you’re gone that long?”
Others admired me.
For me, the value derived from getting away was greater than the any potential downside. I played, explored, rested, relaxed and enjoyed. I returned to work recharged with renewed vigor, filled with new perspectives, and was a more easy going, better version of me.
As an entrepreneur for the last 5.5 years, I have been presented with a whole new set of challenges. New technologies have emerged to dare even the best holiday-takers to unplug.
Sunday, I leave for a trip and I am determined to stay away from email and social media.
Can I do it? Twitter, FaceBook, Linked, G+, Pinterest have become indispensable tools to grow and sustain my business and visibility. What happens if I am not Retweeting, Tweeting and posting on Facebook for several days? Although I have my team to do some social media posting for me, I won’t be there to interact.
The amount of preparation involved in order to be able to leave and disconnect, has multiplied. Blogs have to be lined up to be posted and newsletters pre-written to go out while I am away. And on.
Can any of you relate to this?
Yet, I remain undaunted and determined to prove to myself that I can unplug. The world will go on and my business will continue to grow and flourish.
The temptations are great with WiFi available in hotels. But as leaders of organizations, as colleagues, as spouses, parents, partners, we owe it to one another to unplug and recharge. It’s a bit of an energy oxymoron, no?
We demonstrate respect by giving our full attention to our traveling companions, to our experience and to the world around us. The person who returns will be a rested and relaxed; a person who has had space to breath, space to reflect on and make meaning of everything that has been going on the last many months. The person who returns will see work and life in a new light.
Holidays offer up creative time … with new impressions, new perspectives, new experiences. We have the opportunity to think differently or come at a situation or problem from a different perspective. This is precious time that will serve you, your organization and those close to you.
With that, I bid you adieu.
Wish me luck on my commitment to stay unplugged and I’ll be back in the Saddle on September 12. I look forward to sharing my new insights and to learning about your experiences unplugged!
Please comment–for the sake of all of us.
Alex was a successful executive at an international bank in San Francisco, when disaster struck. In a singular and unpredictable moment, his life changed forever. A massive fire tore through his hillside community near San Francisco and engulfed and destroyed a multitude of homes. Alex’s was one of them.
At that time I was working in San Francisco’s financial district. On the day of the fire I bumped into Alex who happened to be my client at the time.
We were in the elevator in his office building and he was heading up to his office. I knew he lived in the area of the fire and so I asked whether his home was one of those affected. He looked at me with calm and nodded in the affirmative. “My home was completely destroyed. There’s nothing left.” I imagined how he must have been feeling and wondered what I would do if my feet were in his shoes.
Tight in the chest with worry, I looked him in the eyes asked “what are you going to do now?” Without missing a beat he replied, “I’m going to buy a toothbrush.”
That wasn’t the answer I expected.
Then I thought to myself, “I guess so.” What would I do?
Back to the necessities, back to the basics.
What would you do if you lost all of your worldly possessions and your home?
Alex and I reconnected not long after and as it turned out he used this fire as an alchemical fire for his life. It burned away everything, including his sense of self-identity.
He took this as an opportunity to reconsider how he wanted to live his life moving forward. Rather than immediately rebuild and reconstruct in order to keep going “as is,” Alex stopped in his tracks. He took time to reflect and reconsider.
This “disaster” gave him a chance to start anew. Scary, yes, but he saw opportunity in the disaster. Like the Phoenix, he rose from the ashes.
At a much later time in my life, I found myself in a similar position under very different circumstances. How Alex handled his tragedy informed and inspired my approach and resolve to move forward.
Within short order, Alex left his executive position at the bank and started his own business venture renovating homes. No small change. He had a new lease on life and was elated about his new career. This was an idea Alex toyed with over the years, but didn’t have the will, the faith or the courage to make this change earlier.
In Section V of Little Gidding from the Four Quartets, TS Eliot offers:
What we call the beginning is often the end.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
Life is filled with continual endings and beginnings. Everything is impermanent. Circumstances can change in a blink and suddenly the life we thought we had is no more. When we hold on with a tight grip to what has been, we are doomed to suffer.
How gracefully can we let go of our attachments; to the way things are, to our things and to our self-identity? With each letting go there is an opening for something new to come in.
If you accept that change is inevitable, wouldn’t you rather seek out those changes and create your life rather than waiting for the unexpected to force a change?
Be intentional and deliberate about what you want to do, how you want to be, what you want to create. Reflect on what gives juice and meaning to your work and life.
Where will you focus your time and energy?
This is your one precious life …
Just ask yourself, “what would Alex do?”
One of the reasons I love working with the Enneagram is that it helps us see the role and identity we’ve trapped ourselves inside of … and we have the opportunity to create ourselves anew.