From the inside out – or from the outside in?

Are you feeling challenged in a relationship? You feel like “it” isn’t working for you, or you wonder what’s going on with someone because you can’t seem to “reach” them? In those times when you are expecting something of (or from) someone else, and it isn’t coming, then we ourselves can feel displaced, misunderstood, maybe even wrongly judged.

Here is a way you can help yourself out, by remembering it all starts with “me”. I know, this sounds like a Facebook meme (and it is one, I’ve seen it pop up often enough myself) nevertheless, it really is the key to unlock those moments of relationship confusion. (The next time this meme shows up in your Facebook feed, you might want to hold back for a minute before you pass it over and just for a moment, recall this post.)
Especially at times when you’re feeling frustrated, dejected, like you’ve lost – or are losing, lines of communication with others in your life, start by listening to yourself. You want to find clarity within yourself first, before asking of clarity from someone else.

So, in case you’re not sure how to go about this, I urge you to read on.

Ask yourself: what do I value about me? What do I like about me? Who am I when I’m being my best me? What am I doing when I like myself the most?
If that doesn’t get you centered, then go to these questions:

Where in my life, am I nurturing myself? Am I paying attention to my own needs? Is my own cup full (of compassion) for myself so I am able to pour (some compassion) out upon others?
Am I listening to myself? What is my body telling me? Not only my mind, but my heart, my gut? Do I get tied up in knots just trying to listen to myself? (If that’s the case, then for god’s sake, take a deep breath, and another one, and yet another one – you do want to slow down first!)

Relationships will be strong, loving and nurturing when we first expand our awareness to find the peace, forgiveness and love that is inside of us.

Relationships start from the inside-out, and don’t come from the outside-in.

Let’s talk about compassion and forgiveness

Today, I’d like to talk about compassion, forgiveness and mercifulness.
 
It isn’t good for you, to judge other people for their actions, you are only weighing yourself down when you judge and blame, and you will be inhibiting another’s progress when you hold onto resentment and strife.
When we forgive, we release ourselves from entanglements and old beliefs, and we are open to give up old behaviors.
Giving up such old behaviors also puts us in a place to be able to develop healthy relationships.
Forgiveness is a sign of your strength, not proof of your weakness.
Forgiveness does not mean we are allowing someone else to abuse or offend us, as we are not giving up our right to set clear boundaries when we forgive. When we forgive, we are also freeing ourselves up to release any relationships that are harmful for us. The process of forgiveness is an important element to being able to open ourselves up, and to allow for more positive experiences to enter into our lives.
Forgive and be compassionate, as the gain is higher than any perceived loss you may be holding to at that moment.
When forgiveness and a show of compassion is how you show up in the world, you will begin to notice that others are more compassionate towards you, and you will attract relationships with others that are also built upon consideration and honesty. Forgiving and showing compassion is for yourself: a way you can gain more clarity and peace of mind.

Think slow to move fast

Coaching ideas that work #4

Think slow to move fast

Didn’t get the positive feedback that you felt you deserved and expected? Or someone didn’t express their appreciation of you like you thought they would? Maybe you failed at something that you put a lot of effort into? Is it just one of those days where things aren’t moving like you would like for them to and that has that got you feeling a bit down and out-of-sorts? Here’s one idea you can use to get yourself out of the riptide: think slow to be able to move fast.

This is a technique from Mindfulness – which is all about being present in the moment, being present at a slow level.
It is about putting more emphasis on the *process* of awareness rather than on the object of your attention.

So on days like these, it helps if you just step back a moment and *become aware of your thinking*, not focusing on the actual thoughts you are thinking.
Notice the difference: you are stepping out of your thoughts and just becoming aware *that* you are having thoughts.

It goes like this:
1. If the thoughts are running around in your head and creating a tsunami of feelings and emotions, then slow down and give those thoughts a name. The goal here is that you want to identify them – not just feel them. You can even try to locate exactly where you are feeling them in your body. i.e.: Feeling down? Then say it: “I am feeling sad, my heart feels heavy.” Feeling rejected? Say, “I am feeling rejected, my knees feel weak.” By naming the feeling/emotion, and where it is making itself known to you in your body, you are taking away its power over your ability to think.

2. When you’ve identified the feeling/emotion, then you can take the next step: describe what happened that gives you this feeling. This is how you do it:
Say to yourself “Yes, … and…” .
So going from the examples above, you could say, “Yes, I didn’t get the promotion and now I am feeling sad (rejected, angry, unfairly treated, … ).” Be sure to use the word “and” here – instead the word “but”.

(“Yes, … and…” leads to a positive response, whereby “Yes, but…” leads to defensiveness. You can try this out for yourself: change the example above to “Yes, I didn’t get the promotion but I … tried my best/they’re too stupid to see what I have to offer/<enter argument of choice here>”. When you use the word “but” you automatically start to rationalize, look for reasons to explain things away. Can you tell the difference?)

3. Give yourself permission to postpone judgement of your thoughts, after all, you’re only giving them a name.
This last step gives you some time – you’re slowing down the process of “feeling”, and giving your mind time to regroup and be able to observe things in a different light. You’re also giving yourself the time you need to get yourself back on course.

By doing just these 3 steps you have taken control over your thoughts and you’ve slowed down the rip tide they can create if they’re allowed to run free untethered.

I’d be interested to find out if you’ve tried this out for yourself. Do comment and let me know if it works for you!

Coaching Ideas that work #3

Describe – don’t explain it away

What happens when we take a piece of behavior and identify ourselves with that behavior? Or refer to something as if it were our personality:  i.e. “That’s me, I’m clumsy!” (Identity? Personality? Behavior?) “I always get angry when someone does xyz.” (Identity? Personality? Behavior?)

You’re describing a behavior – not your identity, and not your personality. You are telling what you do – not telling who you are.

You might be inclined to counter this statement by saying something like, “Well, that’s just the way I am.” But are you really always that way? Everywhere and all the time?
Sometimes things can trigger us, and we act in a certain way, but here’s the catch: we don’t have to act “that way”! That is just how we have practiced acting (repeated the behavior), and now that we’ve practiced “that way” (the behavior) long enough, we think it is “us”. When in reality, it has just become our habitual way of acting (behaving).
It is not who we are. It is just how we sometimes express ourselves.

So how can you stop “being clumsy” if you think that is you? How can you stop being angry when someone says or does something that triggers you?

The first step is to become aware of whatever the trigger is. If, in your environment, there is something that triggers you, you need to identify that trigger first – become aware of the trigger. For example, “I am always clumsy at my mother-in-laws house.” Aha! Mother-in-law’s house is the trigger! “I always get angry when someone interrupts me in a meeting.” Aha! The meeting setting is the trigger.

Then the next step (and this insight, although known for many, many years, has been confirmed by recent neuroplasticity research) is to express acceptance of this, your own, behavior. By accepting it, you are telling your mind you want to work with this behavior, and not against it. (Dear Brain, there is no reason to get all afraid that I will go and change my oh-so-comfortable personality. You don’t have to bother about going into defensive, protective, or child-pout mode.) By acknowledging that this behavior is a part of “you” (better said, a part of how you interact with the world and how you experience reality), you are working with your brain/mind and not against it.  So go ahead, acknowledge it, but do it like this: “I do this abc behavior in xyz circumstances.”

Then the third step is to ask yourself, “in what situation do I not act clumsy”? “In which situations am I able to easily control my anger”? Whatever you’ve been erroneously identifying as being “you” or “your personality”, you now want to think about a time when you are not “like that”.

Done?

See?

You are not always clumsy, not always angry, not always <fill in the blank here>!

To take this exercise to the next level, you may want to consider what I consider the overall-best self-help question of them all: “When am I at my best?” This is who you want to be as often as you can.  Who is that “best me”? Can you describe her or him? In what situations are you your “best me”? Make it “real”: describe this “best me” in all its lovely details! Who is there with you? The people, the place, the sights and sounds, the smell, the temperature, what you are wearing, where are you sitting, where you are standing …? Think of as many details as you possibly can, and in your mind’s eye feel it, hear it, see it, smell it and bathe in the glorious feeling of being “best me”.

Tell me how you’ve practiced this little powerful little tool in the comments section. I would love to hear from you!

How to motivate others by asking the right questions

Do you sometimes feel like you’re wasting your breath, trying to tell people what to do, what they should be doing, or giving them tips on how they could get better results? Are you trying to sell an idea and they just don’t get it?
Why not stop “telling” and start “asking”. Good questions get the other person thinking, You want them to come up with the reason why such-and-such is a good idea for themselves, that is what motivation is all about.

Here are a couple of guidelines for how to ask “good” questions:

  • Ask friendly, clarifying questions.
  • Be fair: don’t set traps.
  • Ask open-ended questions. (Open-ended questions are the ones that can’t be answered with just a “Yes” or a “No.)
  • Ask “active” questions. Active questions require the person the take responsibility for their answer. (“Passive” questions means somebody else, or the environment, is responsible for how the question is answered.) 
  • Be grateful and aware that the person may not have an answer for you just yet.
  • Avoid causing the other person stress. That won’t get you far.
  • Avoid asking rhetorical questions – unless you want to enter into a philosophical discussion.
  • Avoid being too direct. This can come across as being aggressive.
  • Listen to the answer – silence is golden.

Daniel Pink, management expert and the author of five best-selling books, (my personal favorite is “Drive. The surprising truth of what motivates us.”) said in an interview with Big Think:  “The key here is that we tend to think that persuasion or motivation is something that one person does to another, what the social science tells us very clearly is that it’s really something that people do for themselves. And your job as a persuader, as a motivator, is to reset the context and surface people’s own reasons for doing something. Because it works a lot better.”

Why we don’t hear others …

… and why people may not be listening to you.

If you think you’re not being listened to, then maybe it is because you may not be really listening to them, it is hard work to hear what others are saying. If you really desire to listen, so that you really hear what others are saying, then try out this internal check by asking yourself the following:

Mind-reading:
“Do I think I know what the other person is going to say next?”
You won’t be really listening if you already think you know what someone else is going to say next.

Rehearsing:
You’re not listening if you’re just waiting for the other person’s lips to stop moving so you can say what you’ve already formulated in your mind.

Filtering:
This is when you only hear what you want to hear – and leave out the rest. You could call this “selective hearing”.

Dreaming:
“Uhhh … what did you say?” Its when your thoughts are drifting off …

Identifying:
If everything you hear is referring to you, then you probably aren’t listening to everything that is being said.

Comparing:
This is when you’re passing judgement. It is when you get sidetracked assessing the messenger that you’re not getting the message.

Derailing:
“Yeah, so, what I wanted to talk about …”
You’re changing the subject too quickly and that tells the others you’re not interested in anything they have to say.

Discounting/Sparring:
If you hear what’s being said, but quickly belittle it or discount it.

Placating:
If you agree with everything you hear just to be nice or to avoid conflict, that doesn’t make you a good listener.

If you feel like any one of these hits a bit close to home, then good for you! You’re becoming more aware of what it takes to be a good listener. Awareness is the first step to improvement.

We’ll be talking more about awareness and how that is the secret sauce to coaching, as we move along. For now, I have a challenge for you: see if you can notice where any of this is happening around you. I’m not encouraging you to call anyone out on it, just the opposite, to be exact!  I’m asking you to become aware of when it takes place!
Once you become aware of it, you’ll notice when you do it, too.

I’d love to hear from you, on how your listening skills are improving through awareness of these booby-traps to listening. And please do share your comments and experiences as you try this out!

Surviving setbacks with ambiguity

When things don’t go our way, when sand gets thrown in your cogs and it seems like everything you have been doing just goes wrong (or doesn’t “go” at all), when for one reason or another, something with a deadline comes to a screeching halt – what do you do?

I had this happen to me just this week. I was working on a presentation, doing a lot of research, writing a lot of notes (and I had a zillion tabs open in my browser), when my PC decided it was just too much for it. I would type in a word (and I type fast) and it took 10 minutes for just one letter of the word I had written 10 minutes ago, to show up on the screen. I was desperate (and that is putting it mildly!) I fixed what I knew how to fix. Threw out programs and apps and stuff I didn’t use anymore, defragmented my hard drive (it was 0% defragmentation, but anyway ….). I closed tabs and saved stuff to external drive. My hard disk was only by 34% usage and still…. It did not want to work for me again. I will spare you all the other stuff I did in my attempt to get it to go like I was used to it working again … but I did everything I knew how to do, and I let myself be helped by other people who knew how to do stuff I didn’t know how to do. Same result.

So I was upset, angry, depressed, sad, worried … all kinds of things were going on inside me. I had tantrums, I went silent and pouted, and I decided that I should move to the south of France and become a sheep farmer – as far away from technology as I was able to imagine at that moment.

Then I recalled my own “how to set your New Year’s Resolutions” guidelines that I posted at the end of last year. And the one that kept rising to the top of my consciousness was, “what do you want to feel like the most in 2018” – and that certainly wasn’t “upset, angry, depressed, sad, worried”. I liked this internal dialogue and so I continued with it:

Me, Question: “What do I want to feel like?”

Me, Answer: “Happy.”

Me, Questions: “So what has to happen that would make you happy?”

Ta da! The answer was obvious.

I was, at first, so happy (!) that I did not dwell on my negative feelings, and that I wasn’t allowing myself to be anxious and worried, and that the solution was already there when I asked myself the question that shook me out of my self-pity and back into control. I was in a position to make a decision, simply based upon a process that I had already decided would work for me and which I came up upon months ago: I will ask myself some questions and then base my next actions upon those answers that I had already chosen as best for me.

So maybe this seems trivial for all the supermen and women in the world out there, but in the heat of the moment, all I could think of was how bad and unfair and …. <insert victim role description of choice here> is.

Just knowing that I want to feel at peace, and what I would do (and allow myself to do) if things didn’t go my way (which is another one of the questions in the New Year’s resolutions postings), helped me to move on and get out of my funk – granted after a few hours of despair – but not for days.

What this has to do with ambiguity? Well… I had to accept that there may be other solutions than those that I originally thought I had; and that I could adjust my response to the situation and could take on a different perspective. Sure, my vacation budget took a hit because of this – but without a working PC there would be no vacation anyway.  I had to be adaptable here, to the situation – and then think how I could expand my options.

Summa summarum: being adaptive supported my self-confidence, and I know that self-confidence is the trust in yourself that you can solve problems and challenges. If it is one thing I know about me, it is that I can adapt (sometimes it is a curse, but in this case, I consider it a blessing).  I just had to remember that and whammo: I felt self-confident that I could find a solution. It occurred to me then, that this is what ambiguity is all about – it is the ability to stay calm in the face of the unexpected and to trust that there is a solution.

So back to my original question at the top of this post – with just a slight change: I put the emphasis on a different word:

When things don’t go our way, when sand gets thrown in your cogs and it seems like everything you have been doing just goes wrong (or doesn’t “go” at all), when for one reason or another, something with a deadline comes to a screeching halt – what do you do?

Gratitude. How can you get it to “really work”?

After posting the article from a German magazine on the question of “does gratitude really work” (and they came to the conclusion: yes! it does contribute to success!), on my Facebook Group page,  I got inspired to share with you how I keep track of what I am grateful for… and to testify that yes, expressing gratitude and becoming aware of what I am grateful for, does work for me!

I keep a journal. Simply because I can go back and read what was going on in my life at a certain time, what was bothering me, where I was making progress and how I felt that I felt. That in itself is something I am grateful for. If I didn’t have the journal to check back in with, I probably would not remember all the good things that happened to me… and I probably would not remember – or relate the cause and effect of results in my life – for some of the things I did.

There are plenty of options available to choose, on how to keep track of what you are grateful for. Just Google it  – I got over 5 and 1/2 million links. Find what fits best for you and your style. Like I said, I keep a journal, because that works best for me.
So – in case you were wondering (hah! hah!) what I write in there, then let me share my structure with you.
Now I don’t always answer all the questions, and sometimes the answer from one question is actually the same answer to another question.
Feel free to copy this practice for yourself if you like. After a while, it gets to be second nature and you don’t think about “how to do it” anymore.
I find for me, at least, that having a standard format makes it easier for me to not go off on a rant or beat myself up over things.
 
Debby’s Journal
Day, Date
 
Moments:
– “this <event/conversation/experience> was magical today. Totally surprising (as in serendipitous), beautiful, magical! “
– “this <event/conversation/experience> was my absolute best “grateful for it” moment today.
 
Reflections:
– “this happened today that I need to reflect on / think about / ponder over some more”.. I know this, but I need to write it down to make it happen.
– “this is the lesson I learned today” Where do I stand in the “big picture” right now, in light of my goals.
– What is working for me (overall, learnings I have implemented and taken from past experiences. The “Good” part of “Good or Grow”?
– What still needs work- (where can I grow? (This is the “Grow” part of “Good or Grow”)?
 
Awareness
– Where/which areas would I be better off, if I did more of this?
– Where/which areas would do me better if I did less of this?
 
Today’s overall rating
On a scale of -10 to +10, give this day a rating on the “Ego vs. Spirit” scale. After giving it a number, I write down next to the number what it was that made me want to take this number. If I am feeling very amibitious, I even put down what I think I could do to change that number to the next one or two higher levels. 
 
Ego = -10 (minus 10).
Those (exceptional) days when life seems to be a struggle, energy is not flowing at all through me, I really just feel hopeless and lost.
 
Ratings between -10 and 0;
Generally downcast, not feeling good about myself, judging myself (and probably others) …
 
Neutral = 0 (zero)
Those days when I am using my free will, I am living with intention / with intent.
 
Ratings between 0 and +10
Those days when I am living with intent, feeling pleasant recognition and tuning into my inner power. I am not tuning into my ego-based self-talk.
 
Spirit = +10 (plus 10).
Those exceptional days when I sincerely feel complete reverence for unity and spirit. Nothing in my life that my ego wants to accomplish.
 
Today’s overall value:
Give this day a value – in one or two words
(i.e. “patience”, “growth”, “clarity”, “daring”, etc.etc.)
How do you personally exercise gratitude? Do you do this daily, hourly, weekly, or … never?
Do you keep a journal? If so, would you care to share what your process is, if you have one?

Alternatives vs. Choices

There is a subtle but significant difference between “alternatives” and “choices”.
An alternative is something that is offered to you – outside of you, the person, they are external to you. Choices, on the other hand, are alternatives that fit in with your internal map of how the world functions (or, in your opinion, how it should function, what fits best to you).

You may be offered many alternatives – or options, but still think or believe that you have no choice. Choice involves actually being able to select from those alternatives, to find the most appropriate one that fits in with your own beliefs, your internal capabilities – your “world”.

In a discussion today, it came up that if there is only one choice that fits for you, then that really is not a choice at all. It is a “given”.
When you have two choices, well that is actually better defined as a dilemma.
Only when you have three choices – or three possibilities that would work for you and your internal beliefs – that is when you are actually able to “choose”.

Even if you are given good alternatives, these are not necessary the choices you have.

How could you broaden your choices, so that you’re not stuck in a dilemma?

How could you evaluate if the alternatives are really choices for you?

Something to ponder the next time you are offered alternatives. Not only when you stand in front of the ice cream vendor, or are trying to decide on a new color of wall paint at the selection counter.

Resilience

I was reflecting on a presentation I saw today on resilience and how a person best builds it up … The ideas presented were good, yet I still think they overlooked the most basic things that are at the heart of having resilience: trust and faith.

Trust as in:
trust in yourself,
trust in your abilities to bounce back – regardless…,
trust that the universe has your back;
trust that in the end, everything will work out.

To me, resilience means, that although I may not know right now how it will end, I am just sure that I can cope with the outcome. Be that a burned dinner, a botched sales pitch or a broken leg …

Faith: Resilience also means having “faith” to me.
Faith in myself, as well as in the faith I put in trust.

Resilience to me, isn’t overcoming the bad, but knowing that I can handle whatever I set out to do.