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DON’T SEARCH FOR THE ANSWERS

 

Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903 in Letters to a Young Poet

What one thing can you do today that will significantly change your life for the better?

Yes, that’s a question!

And the power of questions is what I’m sharing with you today.

Often, when we embark on a course of development, we become aware of how much there is to do. We focus on the shifts we want to make – eating healthier, exercising more, meditation, a new practice like yoga or a martial art, or learning a new skill, sitting with a teacher, deeper reading, etc. etc. And yes, it can be overwhelming.

When my clients bring their overwhelm to me, an effective antidote to their sense of discouragement, even despair, is to ask them to live into a question.

As Rilke eloquently points out in the quote above, living the questions – loving the questions, gradually brings us into the answers.

So what kind of questions am I talking about?

Try these on to see if any fit:

What is life calling me to do?
How is what I’m doing bringing me into alignment with who I am?
What is my heart yearning for?
What is my contribution to make?
What would deeper connection in my life look like?
What keeps me from being true to myself?
What does my soul long for?
If I knew I couldn’t fail, what would I be doing now?
(Add your own)

Pick a question for the next month.

Live into the question this way:

Part One: Begin a journal with that question at the top. Come back to that journal every day for 28 days. Allow yourself to doodle, jot down a sentence or two, sketch, tear out a relevant piece from a magazine. Perhaps include a quotation or poem that speaks to your question. Capture the title of a film or TV show that concerns your question and comment upon it. (Do this either every evening or every morning to begin the day.) Capture in your journal whatever is showing up around your question. Don’t judge it or force it into a frame. Just capture it. Allow, allow, allow.

Part Two: Write your question where you’ll bump into it several times a day – perhaps on a sticky attached to your computer and on a 3X5 in your sock drawer; on a slip of paper in your wallet or attached to your medicine cabinet. Each time you encounter the question, pause a moment, take a full breath and exhale slowly…then go on about whatever you are doing.

At the end of the month, read over what you’ve captured. Answer these questions:

What is emerging?
What thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations arise as you look over your journal?
What are you seeing, learning, noticing by living into this question?

The practice of living into a question is powerful and revealing. Don’t beat yourself up about “not having answers.” Sometimes, having the right question is far more transformative.

5 SECRETS BRILLIANT WOMEN IN CHARGE NEED TO KNOW

Why are you floundering?

You are brilliant, insightful and have incredible ideas. I know because I keep meeting you – a brilliant woman with big ideas to contribute, important organizations and businesses to build, and provocative questions to ask.

But when we “get to it” you tell me that you’re not commanding power. And when we break it down even further, it comes to this: you equivocate, apologize – even look away as you speak.

I know this pattern. I used to do this too. And then I learned these secrets to powerful, authentic communication.

You can learn to stop undermining yourself.

Here are 5 secrets that have worked for me and hundreds of my amazing women clients.

1. Drop the “just:” “I’m just wondering…”
“I just think…”
“I just want to add…”
Just demeans what you have to say. “Just” shrinks your power. Get rid of  the “justs.”

2. Lose the “actually.” “I actually have a question…”
“I actually want to add something….”
“Actually” communicates a sense of surprise that you have something to say. Of course you have questions or value to add. There’s nothing surprising about it.

3. Don’t tell me that what you’re about to say is likely to be wrong. If you’re still starting sentences with, “I haven’t researched this but…”
“I’m just thinking off the top of my head but…” (notice the “just”?)
“You’ve clearly been working on this longer than I have, but…”
You aren’t standing behind what you’re saying for several reasons. Perhaps you’re not totally sure about what you’re going to say. Or you’re really afraid of being wrong so you’re buffering the sting of a critical response.

You’re indicating that you’re not committed to your words before anyone else has a chance to strongly disagree. This takes away the power of your voice! It’s time to change this habit and own what you say, even if you later change your mind.

4. Don’t tell us you’re “only going to take a minute” to say something. It sounds apologetic. How often in presentations do you hear women say, “I’m only going to take a minute to tell you about our service (product, company, etc.)”? Think how much more powerful is it to say, “I’d like to tell you about our company.” What you have to say is worthy of your audience’s time and attention. If you only want to take a moment, do it, but don’t use an apologetic phrase to belittle what you are saying.

5. Don’t make your sentences into questions. Women often raise their pitch at the end of a sentence making them sound like questions. Listen to your own language and that of other women and you’ll see the prevalence this speech habit. Speaking a statement like a question diminishes its power. Make statements sound like statements; drop into a lower tone at the end.

No need to become harsh or domineering.

Women’s unique way of communicating tends to be collaborative, consensus-building and inviting – much needed attributes in  conscious leadership. There’s no need to change who you are or take on a style that’s inauthentic. But it is time to put away the self-diminishing ways of speaking that stem from being afraid of your own power or from believing what your harsh inner critic has to say. Its time to stop offering up your brilliance in tentative, self-deprecating ways.

So how to begin? Start moving into authentic communication by being mindful.

First, increasing your awareness of the unhelpful speech patterns you currently use by simply listening to yourself.

Then set an intention to work on your unhelpful habits one-by-one.

Pick one that stands out and spend a week or two changing it. Then go on to another.

(This works especially well when you ask a trusted friend or colleague for support. That support can look like a non-verbal signal to remind you to stay on track.)

For more support on stepping fully into your power while being authentically yourself, check out my brand new 21 day From Timid to Awesome: Living Into My Brilliance workshop.

You’ll learn and practice effective communication skills, learn strategic presentation strategies, and build your confidence, clarity and connection.

The world is waiting for your ideas. It’s time to start sharing them boldly, fully and loudly, without diminishment or apology.

Brilliant Women:  Support is on the way! Yes, you can take charge! Learn more in an upcoming webinar.  It will be recorded if you can’t be on the live call.  Details to follow.

HOW MY DOG SAVED MY BUSINESS

My dog saved the day, saved my business and that’s why I love him. In playing with Beezley and experiencing his unconditional love, I reconnected to myself, to my deep enthusiasm and concrete belief in what I’m up to in this world, and finally, who I am.

These past few months have been exciting and hard…ever since I made the decision to transform the way I run my business. Exciting because I kept a clear, though imaginary, roadmap pinned before my eyes. I could see where I was and knew the destination. I had a plan to get me there and sharp tools for the trip.

For the first time in my life, I was also really inviting in support, so I found it! Not only support for online marketing and my upcoming tele-summit, but GREAT support. I felt part of an effective and talented team.

Amazing!

And I was sure that I was going to get there, I worked longer hours with more focus than I can remember doing for years. Some of the work wasn’t at all of interest to me, but just needed doing. I stayed mindful of the necessities and often felt in flow – just doing the next thing, next.

I researched and read, watched webinars on marketing, spent more hours at the computer, more hours strategizing with my supporters, even hours hiring the right assistant. Workflow charts, blogging, making videos, creating offers, writing auto-responders, learning editing software, setting up a new accounting program and testing project management software. Work and more work. And all of it around the clients I was currently coaching.

And I saw my own teacher (I am a Ridhwan student) regularly, did weekly inquiry to stay clear and on track and out of the outdated, outworn stories about what is possible for me.

Of course, it all cost money, too. Money I borrowed from my pension plan. Money I borrowed from family. Money I wasn’t sure I would be able to repay or replace anytime soon, if ever.

Yet, I knew what I wanted and I was going for it…without excuses, without hesitation, without certainty of success- but HOPE – big, barrels of hope and a firm commitment to do whatever was required and a conviction that I had something valuable to offer to the world – these were all part of the mix.

Most of the time, I felt enlivened, noticing every cell in my body resonating, enthusiasm spilling through me like slow paint. Decision after decision, user guide after user guide, video correction after video correction, I went all out, stayed with it and forged ahead.

My lovely dog, Beezley, gave up some long hikes for shorter trots in the neighborhood. He hung out near my feet as I packed in whole days on the computer and phone. He even took his vitamins with less fuss. After 11 hour days on the computer, he hopped enthusiastically up on the bed to keep me company, when I collapsed at night.

And all that’s been great. Truly great and I’m deeply appreciative. He’s a handsome, supportive and understanding companion, easy to be with and a great camper- but that’s not why I love my dog.

This week I got sick…terrible burning sore throat and some sort of infection that made me feel like a dirty doormat. The “bug” ate up all my energy. Worse, it ate up my enthusiasm and belief in this vision. The dream lost its color, went stale, heavy, dull.

A harsh inner voice started taunting me with messages like, “You’re wasting your time. Who do you think you are anyway?” And mostly, I was too tired to defend against it.

I started feeling drained, then exhausted and then really, really unsure – second guessing what I am up to, questioning every decision…wondering if I’m making a BIG mistake or worse, delusional. My head went fuzzy about even the simplest task. And that nasty voice kept me obsessing about the money all this was costing me.

Now some people talk to their dogs – a lot. Not me. I generally keep our conversations short. So I wasn’t sharing – at least not verbally what was transpiring.

And Beezley, while smart and with it IS a dog.

But last night, when I felt I had hit a stark low – no energy to move, no idea what to do next and not enough juice to call anyone for support, Beezley jumped up on the sofa with me. Peering into my eyes like a wise sage, he curled himself into the crook of my body and began to lick away my tears.

Slowly, methodically, Beezley cleaned me up…snotty nose and all. What’s more, he somehow conveyed the message that this was just a temporary setback, that everything was really OKAY and that we – him and I, were just fine.

Beezley let me know I was good enough, despite what gremlins were whispering from within my muddled, feverish mind. He showed me that I was loved and that love was more important than just about anything else.

He didn’t need my videos to be perfect or my blogs to shimmer with wisdom and clarity. He didn’t care whether I mastered the learning curve of all the new software programs dotting my desktop.

Beezley just cared about me, how I was doing, whether I was down and what he could do to make me feel better. We were a team. He reminded me of what counts most – love and compassion.

Go figure that my dog would be such a good teacher. His compassion fueled my own. I re-aligned my priorities, sank into the ready affection we share, shucked off my cares and began to play with him, making both of us happy and a bit goofy.

And in playing with Beezley, experiencing his unconditional love, I reconnected to myself, to my deep enthusiasm and concrete belief in what I’m up to in this world, and finally…who I am. And THAT’S how my dog saved the day, my business and why I love him!

3 SIMPLE STEPS TO HAPPIER LIVING STARTING TODAY

Of course you want to be happier. Everyone does. So, why are so few people there?

Because most people haven’t learned the simple steps, I am about to share with you.

What’s one huge thing that gets in the way of your happiness?

You probably said money or a relationship or having enough time. And while any or all of those might increase your happiness factor temporarily, they won’t keep you happy for long. Soon, you’ll drift back to the place you know only too well.

What will make a long lasting difference? A new relationship with your inner critic. One based on compassion and forgiveness.

You know, the harsh, even mean, inner critic – the one with the voice. The voice that attacks you with all the, “You should have…” and the niggling, “Why didn’t you?” and spins you into a cycle of blame and shame. The one that is harsh, judgmental and insists on “knowing best” without taking circumstances or feelings into account.

Here’s the shocking news. The happiest people around, the ones that lead lives filled with meaning, on purpose and in balance, they’ve learned the secret to dealing with that harsh critic.

And they deal with it by learning to forgive themselves when they miss the mark.

And you can learn how too!

In fact, happy people hold mistakes as “missing the mark” rather than sins against humanity. They allow their energies to be used to “correct course” rather than be leached away into blame, shame or even, self-hatred.

So here are the 3 steps to living a happier life:
1. First notice your harsh inner critic – how loudly and how often it speaks up – just notice.
2. Next, acknowledge that it really wishes to take care of you; it just isn’t very skillful yet.
3. Now do the forgiveness practice that I’ve included below.

Do this every evening for 28 days. Start tomorrow. Make time for it… 5-10 minutes. Consistency is more important than time.

Place your hand on your chest, right over your heart, close your eyes gently and take a few deep breaths. Let your attention sense into this area of your body. Let it fill this space. Notice what you experience. Just breath and notice.

Remember that there is no right answer – there is nothing that you are supposed to experience. Whatever you find or do not find is your experience. Stay with whatever sensations you find in your heart’s “space,” and note how these sensations change over time.

Keep away from any judgments. Don’t try to analyze the “why” of these sensations. Make a clear distinction between your thoughts and the sensations that arise. Stay with the sensations, letting the thoughts go by like bubbles that arise and burst.

Now with hand over heart, say aloud or silently, “I forgive myself for all the ways I fell short. I forgive myself for my past confusion and behavior. I forgive myself for my past limitations. I truly forgive myself”.

Breathe deeply as the words fade away, keeping your hand over your heart.

You’ll quickly find that as you learn to forgive yourself, your energy will be used more productively, you’ll feel better about yourself and you’ll be happier.

And there’s a bonus! As you learn to be kinder, more compassionate with yourself, the benefits spill over to include others. So you attract people, people who want to hang out with you, enjoy being with you. And that just adds to and reinforces your own personal happiness.

So what are you waiting for? Get started today, be consistent and start living your happier life.

CHANGE YOUR ID, CHANGE YOUR LIFE

You want to change. It’s not easy. You’ve probably noticed that.

We all want to become better people — stronger, calmer, healthier, more creative, more skilled, more balanced, a better friend or lover.

Why is it that really wanting it, even getting inspired, doesn’t do the trick?

What can you do to make the positive changes you long for, stick?

Meet Daphne

When she first started meditating, Daphne was inspired. For the first few weeks after a retreat, she sat on her beautiful new cushion every morning. Then, as time rolled on, her practice became spotty. After a while, meditation was an infrequent part of her week.

Shame (she confessed to me and other close friends) didn’t help.

Here was something she REALLY wanted, knew the value of, and still, she couldn’t make the change from being a non-meditator to a consistent one. She was upset, frustrated and disgusted with herself.

I wanted to help. Of course, I knew about the 28 day make or break a habit rule, and I knew that certain habits, like dominoes falling, put other good things into place effortlessly, but what I didn’t realize was how much the identity we hold impacts change. Wow!

What I learned was that identity was the single most important factor in making change happen.

Daphne’s identity was that of “spontaneous” person. She even told people that with pride. So…how could this new daily habit take root? She couldn’t be spontaneous about meditation AND do it regularly. (She had to do it every day and preferably at the same time.)

What had to change was her identity. As long as she was identifying as “spontaneous” being consistent on the cushion was a battle.

And here is an important secret: we are never limited to just one part of ourselves – it just that part we choose to identify with, so that’s what we put our attention on, ignoring the other parts.

So what needed to change? Daphne’s identity. It needed to expand. We talked about it.

She started thinking of herself as a disciplined person (who could be spontaneous). And she started paying attention to all the places in her life she was disciplined (brushing her teeth, moisturizing, preparing for her clients, etc.) Yep, those parts she hadn’t shone the light on.

As she focused on each time she did something consistently (a small win) this new identity took root. And, so did her new habit of beginning the day with 20 minutes of meditation.

Identity-Based Habits

The key to real change is focusing on creating a new ( larger) identity first. Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously).

To change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself.

Imagine how we typically set goals. We might start by saying “I want to eat healthier” or “I want to get stronger.” If you’re lucky, someone might say, “That’s great, but you should be more specific.”

So then you say, “I want to stop eating processed foods” or “I want to do 100 push-ups.”

These goals are centered around our performance or our appearance.

Performance and appearance goals are great, but they don’t have the traction of habitual behavior. If you’re already doing a behavior, then these types of goals can help drive you forward. But if you’re trying to start a new behavior, then it would be far better to start with an identity–based goal.

The interior of behavior change and building better habits is your identity. So take a real look at yourself.

Each action you perform is driven by the fundamental belief that it is possible. So if you change your identity (the type of person that you believe that you are), then it’s easier to change your actions.

The reason why it’s so hard to stick to new habits is that we often try to achieve a performance or appearance–based goal without changing our identity. Most of the time we try to achieve results before proving to ourselves that we have the identity of the type of person we want to become. It should be the other way around.

The Recipe for Sustained Success

Changing your beliefs isn’t nearly as hard as you might think. If you pay attention, you’ll see what has been “kept in shadow” by not shining the light of your attention there.

Try these two steps.

1. Decide the type of person you want to be.
2. Prove it to yourself with small wins.

Here are five examples of how you can make this work in your life.

Note: It is very important to start with incredibly small steps. The goal is not to achieve results at first, the goal is to become the type of person who can achieve those things. That means really seeing yourself fully and in technicolor and then living into the parts (identity expander) that you haven’t identified with.

For example, a person who works out consistently is the type of person who can become strong. Develop the identity of someone who works out first, and then move on to performance and appearance later.

Start small and trust that the results will come as you develop a new identity.

Want to lose weight?
Identity: Become the type of person who moves more every day.
Small win: Buy a pedometer. Walk 50 steps when you get home from work. Tomorrow, walk 100 steps. The day after that, 150 steps. If you do this 5 days per week and add 50 steps each day, then by the end of the year, you’ll be walking over 10,000 steps per day.

Want to become a better writer?
Identity: Become the type of person who writes 1,000 words every day.
Small win: Write one paragraph each day this week.

Want to become compassionate?
Identity: Become the type of person who perform random acts of kindness.
Small win: Pay “it” forward every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Want to be a better friend?
Identity: Become the type of person who always stays in touch.
Small win: Call one friend every Saturday. If you repeat the same people every 3 months, you’ll stay close with 12 old friends throughout the year.

Want to be taken seriously at work?
Identity: Become the type of person who is always on time.
Small win: Schedule meetings with an additional 15–minute gap between them so that you can go from meeting to meeting and always show up early.

What is your identity?

When you want real change, proving your identity to yourself is far more important than getting amazing results. This is especially true at first.

If you want to get motivated and inspired, watch a YouTube video, listen to your favorite song, and follow a TED talk. But don’t be surprised if you burn out after a week. You can’t just rely on being motivated. You have to become the type of person you want to be, and that starts with proving your new identity to yourself.

If you’re looking to make a change, stop worrying about results and start worrying about your identity. Become the type of person who can achieve the things you want to achieve. Take on that identity now. The results will show up in neon lights.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, IMPERFECT ACTION

My attempts to make some teaching videos for my website had my insides twisted and my mind bent. It was important – critical even for the new direction of my business – and I was deeply enthusiastic about the much needed transformation. A lot rested upon these efforts – the evolution of what I had worked so hard to learn and wanted so much to share with a wider audience, a coming of age within the new way coaching was done and financial stability – sorely lacking for some years, but it was not happening.

I was stuck. Frustrated. Fearful. The fear felt dark, clammy and spoke in a child’s whisper. “What if I can’t do this?’ Frustration came on as a nasty adolescent snarl, “Attempt number 74 and failing.” A well modulated adult voice offered good coaching, “You’ve overcome challenges before,” – to no avail. As I tried yet again, that coaching voice was drowned out by the others.

Attempt after attempt proved either boring, slow or worse. The voices in my head got louder. I faltered, then came to a dwindling halt.

Funny, because teaching and presenting to live audiences was a joy, a high that I loved and found effortless. But this new format, offering insights up to a screen with built-in camera, went stale. I felt dull witted and lonely alternating with frozen and stiff. And there was no “juice” coming off the silicone, juice that informed a live presentation and helped hone the contents, tone and energy…something to work off of and with, as I navigated what was needed. The juice had dried up and I was beached in this never never land.

Ironically, for much of my life I had taught educators, organizational leaders, entrepreneurs and coaches that learning involved discomfort, a willingness to forego feeling ease and confidence, and the courage to continue past wanting to quit. I had had the experience myself many times, learning to ski, lead ropes courses, speak a new language in another country, teach new curriculum, co-author a book, but now, well, now I was giving up.

I had to blame someone or something. I lined up the usual suspects. “I am too old to learn a new technology.” “It has to be a stellar video or nothing.” “This technology is not responsive to the human factor.” and so on. The rationalizations weren’t very satisfying, but I couldn’t work ‘round them.

I tried taking a break and coming back “fresh”. I watched other teaching videos – so many they became a blur. I listened to the supportive echo of family and friends cheering me on. Nothing helped.

Then a colleague, collaborator and friend, Ben Gioia, www.marketingwithheart.com asked me what my true objectives were for the video. I told him I wanted to offer folks a most basic understanding of how they were hardwired for stress – a reptilian brain function that limited them to fight, flight or freeze and what they could do to move from reactivity to responsiveness as the basis for all other change in their lives.

Stating it clearly for him, I felt a ruffle of returning enthusiasm, quickly followed by the taste of defeat. Someone else might be able to bring it off, but once in front of the camera, I went into marionette mode. And I shared that experience with him.

Ben then said something simple, heard elsewhere. He said, “Imperfect action, beats perfect inaction, every time.” And his words exploded the cement blockade I had erected.

My video didn’t have to be perfect. I didn’t have to exude ease and confidence in this very first one. It didn’t need to reach the entire western world. It didn’t represent all of who I am or all of what I am capable of…My video could be a simple, imperfect offering of a useful strategy, I knew to be helpful.

The next morning, after a strong coffee, I began again. I tossed away my scribbled notes. I deleted all the previous attempts from googledocs. I forgot about my hair. I imagined a friend sitting across the table from me and just spoke about something I knew almost as well as the shape of my son’s hands.

As I filmed, I shared my own experiences with the move from reaction to response, including the pain and triumphs. A quote from one of my teachers arrived unbidden. And suddenly, I found myself smiling, inside and out.

No, the video wasn’t perfect. There were many redos in its future. But something had shifted. I dropped the need to create “perfection”. My self-image went on holiday. And when I clarified again and again the purpose for what I was doing without the sticky attachments, I was free to be creative.

Imperfect action became the rule as I continued with a series of videos necessary to this project.
And now, as I approach bringing this part of my business transformation to a close, I feel deep gratitude for the stuckness, the fear and the frustration. I can accept them as well traveled companions who will come again and again as I take on new challenges, grow and learn. And to each I can say, “well met” and go on about the task at hand.

BUSTED: THE MYTH OF CERTAINTY

” I know, I know, “Paul said over lunch as I explained my many challenges and discoveries. I was talking to a friend about the process of moving from “live” presentations into the medium of video and what I was learning along the way. The content of my share was less important suddenly, than his need to pretend a knowledge he didn’t have. He had never made videos, or made the switch I had launched. Yet, he often “knew” whatever was being shared. And NOT just bout this subject. So what did his need “to know” mean?

I began to ponder the very human desire to manage Reality by eliminating uncertainty, the dark place of not knowing. Yes, there is a strong desire to feel safe… in the familiarity of certitude. And while the issue I had mentioned wasn’t major in the overall challenges of life, Paul’s response was a gateway into a BIG fear. We naturally fear the unknown – from death and dying to the mundane stuff.

Our brains are pattern making machines. We try to push everything into an already established patterns. More so, we humans as Maslow pointed out, know “security” as a primary need. These two combine as a potent force: physiology and psychology. Humans want to file everything away neatly and feel safe.

But when, if ever, are we truly safe? And what, if anything, do we really “know”?

We think we “know” until our lover leaves us, or we marry our true love or the market crashes, or the housing market collapses, or we are offered a new job in a new city, or we hold our first child in our arms, or we are promoted, or our first feature film is in the can, or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, or we start our own business, or we’re robbed or worse… the list goes on and on in the same curious way that life unfolds.

What do we really know? Facts? Figures? Even our memory is unstable. How does data like that impact our inner world, our sense of Life? Is having the answer on exams the same as managing our future?

Sure, uncertainty is painful. It gives us the free-fall sense of being “out of control.” Most people hate that and the fears and anxieties that accompany the feeling. But certainty is a myth! The next moment could bring about a life-shattering shift (the Boston Marathon) or the delivery of unexpected news: “Your pregnant” and can change the direction of our life for years.

Isn’t it time to embrace the gifts in the very real “not knowing”which booms and barges through your life? Rebecca Solnit, well-know essayist and sociologist says “Leave the door open to the unknown,the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself come from, and where you will go.”

We are uncertain about the forces of nurture and nature, about WHY “the Big Bang,” about when and how we will die!

Trying to ease our anxieties by “knowing” is like trying to blow back a cyclone with a straw. Impossible! So what shall we do instead?

More useful is embracing the generous offerings of uncertainty. They are many and profound. Humility comes to mind. How would life be if we moved through it with more? Who would be attracted to us? What opportunities might become available? How would our compassion grow?

Another offer of uncertainty is curiosity. Not only the small spurts that take us Wikipedia or google, but the larger undertakings of a travel adventure, or a university course, a new degree perhaps or a retreat, the pleasure of new book in a different field and so on. With even more impact comes the curiosity that allows us to try on new roles in the world, take on new responsibilities from the stance of “Wow, wonder what I’m capable of?’

Which leads to another offering – creativity! Breaking through the false concrete of “knowing” into the freedom of creative uncertainty allows for trying on new streams of attention – photography, opera, salsa, writing haiku, entrepreneurship, travel. And think of all the learnings and joys that unfold there. Even if living the “ordinary life in an extraordinary way” doesn’t look like a technicolor change from the outside, how precious the shift may be from the inside.

Now these ways of going into the “dark place” are painful. In the that country, we experience fear alongside enthusiasm, suffering alongside wisdom, frustration alongside delight. Or whatever emotions arise, there is always an alchemical mix of which not knowing is the catalyst.

So the next time you are tempted to prematurely “know” take a long, deep breath… pause and allow all that you don’t know about whatever is directly in front of you to arise with its cacophony of feelings.

Perhaps curiosity will arrive arm-in-arm with creativity. Regardless of whether humility shows up or any of the other players, staying with the uncertainty will be an invitation sent out to Truth.

HOW LANGUAGE REVEALS OUR REALITY: FOOD FOR THOUGHT

 

Tension in the conference room hit the red zone. One VP animatedly described his current project as “a battle”. He was angry with several people who report to him for “lagging” and one for “abrogation of duty”.  Others were “incompetent” as their inability “to take orders” demonstrated I was struck by his language. Did it describe his reality or help construct it?  What did it mean for the executive team’s future?

 

I am a coach and my work in that conference room demanded an understanding of where the executive team broke down, how specifically the issues affected the culture and what steps were required to bring these decision makers into enough alignment so the corporation’s mission could move forward.

 

“Listen deeply,” we are often told by communication experts. As coaches, though we nod sagely in response, what exactly are we agreeing to do? I suggest a critical first step is to attend to the metaphors our clients utilize which frame their unique perspective on reality.

 

We learned in literature class that metaphors and similes add interest to our writing and speech. And while that is true let’s concentrate on metaphors as more than a linguistic device. Let’s look instead at metaphor as a means to interpret the client’s world.

 

Metaphor is used here as any circumstance in which a person uses one conceptual category, circumstance or thing to define or describe another; essentially to understand and experience one thing in terms of something else.

 

Linguist George Lakoff and philosopher Mark Johnson provide convincing evidence that metaphors may actually be people’s primary mode of mental operation. They argue that because the mind is “embodied” – that is, it experiences the world through the body in which it resides – people cannot help but conceptualize the world in terms of bodily perceptions. Our concepts of up-down, in-out, front-back, light-dark, warm-cold are all related to orientations and perceptions acquired through bodily senses.

 

“She is a top performer” indicates a vertical orientation while he is falling behind” indicates a horizontal one. In the book, Metaphors We Live By, Lakoff and Johnson  suggest that the metaphors through which people conceptualize abstract concepts influence the way in which they understand them. Furthermore, this understanding frames their actions which reinforces the metaphors, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

Consider some familiar expressions people use when describing ideas as food, plants, and commodities.

Ideas Are Food

What he said left a bad taste in my mouth. These are nothing but half-baked ideas, and warmed over theories.  I can’t digest all these new ideas. Can you swallow that claim Doesn’t that argument smell fishy? Now here’s an idea you can really sink your teeth into. She devours information.  This is the meaty part of the paper.

 

Ideas Are Plants

She has a fertile imagination. Her ideas have come to fruition.  That idea died on the vine. That’s a budding theory. The seeds of his great ideas were planted in his youth. He has a barren mind.

 

Ideas Are Commodities

There is always a market for good ideas. Great ideas are currency in the intellectual marketplace. It is important how you package your ideas.  She has been a source of valuable ideas.  

 

What can we discern about the speakers of these sentences? It is no surprise that humans attempt to understand vague, abstract or complex concepts in terms of more familiar experiences. The point is that the metaphor a person selects to frame a concept/experience necessarily focuses attention on some aspects while ignoring others.

 

If ideas are commodities, then they must be marketable. Focusing attention onthis metaphor emphasizes how these ideas will be received (bought) by other people and whether they are saleable.  This is very different from an orientation that holds ideas are plants. If ideas are plants, instead of rushing to get them out the door and to crank out as many as possible, ideas can be allowed to ripen and mature, to come to fruition. For the speaker who holds ideas are food, they are to be digested. Many ideas can then be tasted and tried. Ideas are to be consumed by that speaker.

 

In listening deeply we are able to note how the speaker who orients to holding ideas as commodities places value externally. A belief is expressed that value is in the eyes of the beholder (or buyer). Once we recognize this belief, we can check out whether this is true in other parts of life for this person. If his orientation is external, he places importance on how he is perceived. What behaviors would follow from this orientation? How would he assess others? Where would he find meaning? What role would self-image play in his life?

 

Returning to the conference room, I note that VP, who holds his experience as a battle, may see his role as a general and his direct reports as his battalion.  He is more likely to see his organization as a hierarchy than an opportunity for collaboration and to interpret requests of him as orders and to issue commands that are non-negotiable. What becomes important when listening deeply to him is checking whether this orientation holds for the rest of his life. If so, what is the cost to him to hold life this way? What is missing for him?

 

 

Since metaphors are particularly useful, as they define roles, how a person sees himself and others, quickly becomes clear to the coach. From here, an understanding of the speaker’s experience of the world emerges. Often, metaphors become an excellent predictor of the behavior the speaker will naturally assume. Knowing this, a coach can anticipate breakdowns.

 

When I worked with teachers, I heard many metaphors that disclosed the teacher’s orientation to his students. My classroom is a zoo, or my kids are really blossoming told me a great deal about how that teacher perceived of herself, her role, her students and education.

 

If a speaker sees himself as a gardener, his direct reports are plants to be cultivated. If he is a shepherd, they are sheep, unable to think for themselves. Furthermore, do these speakers think of their family members, friends and associates this way? What behavior would be predicated by these ways of orienting to others? To themselves? To the world?

 

As coaches we can begin to develop the competence of listening deeply by taking note of the metaphors we hear. We start with ourselves. Becoming aware of the metaphors we use, holding questions about the natural behavior that follows from this perspective – our orientation to others, checking these out  are important first steps. Anticipating breakdowns follows from there. Working this way, first with ourselves then with clients makes the command, “listen deeply”  a practical tool. Metaphors are powerful. Pay attention to them and your coaching will deepen.

 

 

 

How Language Reveals Our Reality: Food for Thought

 

Tension in the conference room hit the red zone. One VP animatedly described his current project as “a battle”. He was angry with several people who report to him for “lagging” and one for “abrogation of duty”.  Others were “incompetent” as their inability “to take orders” demonstrated I was struck by his language. Did it describe his reality or help construct it?  What did it mean for the executive team’s future?

 

I am a coach and my work in that conference room demanded an understanding of where the executive team broke down, how specifically the issues affected the culture and what steps were required to bring these decision makers into enough alignment so the corporation’s mission could move forward.

 

“Listen deeply,” we are often told by communication experts. As coaches, though we nod sagely in response, what exactly are we agreeing to do? I suggest a critical first step is to attend to the metaphors our clients utilize which frame their unique perspective on reality.

 

We learned in literature class that metaphors and similes add interest to our writing and speech. And while that is true let’s concentrate on metaphors as more than a linguistic device. Let’s look instead at metaphor as a means to interpret the client’s world.

 

Metaphor is used here as any circumstance in which a person uses one conceptual category, circumstance or thing to define or describe another; essentially to understand and experience one thing in terms of something else.

 

Linguist George Lakoff and philosopher Mark Johnson provide convincing evidence that metaphors may actually be people’s primary mode of mental operation. They argue that because the mind is “embodied” – that is, it experiences the world through the body in which it resides – people cannot help but conceptualize the world in terms of bodily perceptions. Our concepts of up-down, in-out, front-back, light-dark, warm-cold are all related to orientations and perceptions acquired through bodily senses.

 

“She is a top performer” indicates a vertical orientation while he is falling behind” indicates a horizontal one. In the book, Metaphors We Live By, Lakoff and Johnson  suggest that the metaphors through which people conceptualize abstract concepts influence the way in which they understand them. Furthermore, this understanding frames their actions which reinforces the metaphors, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

Consider some familiar expressions people use when describing ideas as food, plants, and commodities.

Ideas Are Food

What he said left a bad taste in my mouth. These are nothing but half-baked ideas, and warmed over theories.  I can’t digest all these new ideas. Can you swallow that claim Doesn’t that argument smell fishy? Now here’s an idea you can really sink your teeth into. She devours information.  This is the meaty part of the paper.

 

Ideas Are Plants

She has a fertile imagination. Her ideas have come to fruition.  That idea died on the vine. That’s a budding theory. The seeds of his great ideas were planted in his youth. He has a barren mind.

 

Ideas Are Commodities

There is always a market for good ideas. Great ideas are currency in the intellectual marketplace. It is important how you package your ideas.  She has been a source of valuable ideas.  

 

What can we discern about the speakers of these sentences? It is no surprise that humans attempt to understand vague, abstract or complex concepts in terms of more familiar experiences. The point is that the metaphor a person selects to frame a concept/experience necessarily focuses attention on some aspects while ignoring others.

 

If ideas are commodities, then they must be marketable. Focusing attention onthis metaphor emphasizes how these ideas will be received (bought) by other people and whether they are saleable.  This is very different from an orientation that holds ideas are plants. If ideas are plants, instead of rushing to get them out the door and to crank out as many as possible, ideas can be allowed to ripen and mature, to come to fruition. For the speaker who holds ideas are food, they are to be digested. Many ideas can then be tasted and tried. Ideas are to be consumed by that speaker.

 

In listening deeply we are able to note how the speaker who orients to holding ideas as commodities places value externally. A belief is expressed that value is in the eyes of the beholder (or buyer). Once we recognize this belief, we can check out whether this is true in other parts of life for this person. If his orientation is external, he places importance on how he is perceived. What behaviors would follow from this orientation? How would he assess others? Where would he find meaning? What role would self-image play in his life?

 

Returning to the conference room, I note that VP, who holds his experience as a battle, may see his role as a general and his direct reports as his battalion.  He is more likely to see his organization as a hierarchy than an opportunity for collaboration and to interpret requests of him as orders and to issue commands that are non-negotiable. What becomes important when listening deeply to him is checking whether this orientation holds for the rest of his life. If so, what is the cost to him to hold life this way? What is missing for him?

 

 

Since metaphors are particularly useful, as they define roles, how a person sees himself and others, quickly becomes clear to the coach. From here, an understanding of the speaker’s experience of the world emerges. Often, metaphors become an excellent predictor of the behavior the speaker will naturally assume. Knowing this, a coach can anticipate breakdowns.

 

When I worked with teachers, I heard many metaphors that disclosed the teacher’s orientation to his students. My classroom is a zoo, or my kids are really blossoming told me a great deal about how that teacher perceived of herself, her role, her students and education.

 

If a speaker sees himself as a gardener, his direct reports are plants to be cultivated. If he is a shepherd, they are sheep, unable to think for themselves. Furthermore, do these speakers think of their family members, friends and associates this way? What behavior would be predicated by these ways of orienting to others? To themselves? To the world?

 

As coaches we can begin to develop the competence of listening deeply by taking note of the metaphors we hear. We start with ourselves. Becoming aware of the metaphors we use, holding questions about the natural behavior that follows from this perspective – our orientation to others, checking these out  are important first steps. Anticipating breakdowns follows from there. Working this way, first with ourselves then with clients makes the command, “listen deeply”  a practical tool. Metaphors are powerful. Pay attention to them and your coaching will deepen.

 

 

Tension in the conference room hit the red zone. One VP animatedly described his current project as “a battle”. He was angry with several people who report to him for “lagging” and one for “abrogation of duty”.  Others were “incompetent” as their inability “to take orders” demonstrated I was struck by his language. Did it describe his reality or help construct it?  What did it mean for the executive team’s future?

 

I am a coach and my work in that conference room demanded an understanding of where the executive team broke down, how specifically the issues affected the culture and what steps were required to bring these decision makers into enough alignment so the corporation’s mission could move forward.

 

“Listen deeply,” we are often told by communication experts. As coaches, though we nod sagely in response, what exactly are we agreeing to do? I suggest a critical first step is to attend to the metaphors our clients utilize which frame their unique perspective on reality.

 

We learned in literature class that metaphors and similes add interest to our writing and speech. And while that is true let’s concentrate on metaphors as more than a linguistic device. Let’s look instead at metaphor as a means to interpret the client’s world.

 

Metaphor is used here as any circumstance in which a person uses one conceptual category, circumstance or thing to define or describe another; essentially to understand and experience one thing in terms of something else.

 

Linguist George Lakoff and philosopher Mark Johnson provide convincing evidence that metaphors may actually be people’s primary mode of mental operation. They argue that because the mind is “embodied” – that is, it experiences the world through the body in which it resides – people cannot help but conceptualize the world in terms of bodily perceptions. Our concepts of up-down, in-out, front-back, light-dark, warm-cold are all related to orientations and perceptions acquired through bodily senses.

FEAR: HOW TO OVERCOME THE PERFECT ENEMY

Whether you are afraid of greatness or afraid of failure, fear will stop you mid-step. Not once, but again and again.

So whether you have clarity, a strategic plan, actionable steps and a strong vision, if you don’t deal with the fears that will inevitable arise, you won’t reach the finish line.

The first step is overcoming this “enemy” sound counter-intuitive. Befriend your fears. Study them, understand why they arise, what they are trying to protect you from. Compassion makes a better friend than resistance. Be kind to your fears, chat with them…let them speak.Once you’ve better understand your friend, fear, you can begin to work  with it. Read more [+]

BARELY BREATHING: A CASE STUDY IN COMPETING COMMITMENTS

What is possible when we transform the language of complaint to the language of commitment?

Yesterday, a client who sent a desperate email request for a session signed Barely Breathing had a breakthrough.

I can’t take credit. I credit Robert Kegan.  I used his Immunity to Change model to have her look at her suffering as the intersection of two competing commitments.

She is committed to a loving, harmonious relationship with her teenage son who wanted to trade in his working truck for a newer, fancier model before leaving for college,  AND, she was committed to doing what was “in his best interest” as she interpreted it: saving money until he completes his studies. Read more [+]