Things I've written. Thoughts. Memories. Musings. Life.
A mid-life crisis or a chance to be “more” me? If you are like many of us caught up in your busy, stressed out, mindless days of automatic and unconscious routines and behavior, you may have forgotten who you are and what you are doing here on this earth. Did you ever catch yourself wondering if you actually brushed your teeth this morning, and honestly can’t remember doing it? Do you look around and think everyone else has the secret to life—they are all doing something worthwhile—but that somehow you just haven’t figured it out? Have you grown stale, are you uncertain about where you are going and why? Do you wonder how you got here? If this sounds like you, you may be at a juncture. A juncture, is, quite literally, a crucial point in time when a decision must be made. A juncture generally occurs during a period of transition. The word “transition” comes from the Latin word “transire,” which means “to go across.” When you are in a period of transition in life, you are, well, literally going across an uncharted territory—the process of changing from one state or condition to another. What are some of these junctures, or times when you are going through a transition and need to make a decision? It could be that you just graduated from college. Or, that you are changing jobs in your career. Maybe you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Or, you have gotten divorced. Or, perhaps you are becoming an “empty nester” with your grown children having left home and embarked on their own lives. Whatever the reason—whether forced upon you, or the result of a series of choices or decisions—the days of sleepwalking through your life are over. You are ready to take an active, conscious role and be fully present in your life, neither fretting about the past nor worrying about the future. This is a time for heightened self-awareness. It’s a kind of tuning in, to yourself. It’s a time for deciding to “go home” in your heart. It’s about giving love and compassion to yourself. It’s a process of creation. I call it “making me,” defining your personal growth during times of transition. CHAPTER 1 CROSSING UNCHARTED TERRITORY “You need a certain dose of imagination, a ray from on high, that is not in ourselves, in order to do beautiful things.” ~Vincent Van Gogh When Vincent Van Gogh wrote those words, he believed that to see this world, a person needs more than eyes. He or she needs a “ray from on high,” an imagination awakened and illuminated by God. Regardless of your religious persuasion, it is not hard to believe that your life is a creation—one that needs only your illuminated imagination, and requires a certain faith and vision beyond that which you have currently experienced in order to change it. Is it possible to change your life by changing the way you think? Positive psychologists in the past couple of decades have studied and written about achieving states of “flow.” Mihály Csíkszentmihályi popularized the term in his 1990 book, describing the mental state of flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake.” Flow is an optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best. Harvard professor Teresa Amabile’s research shows that people who have experienced this state of mind report higher levels of productivity, creativity, and happiness for up to three days after experiencing flow state. Pushing ourselves just outside our comfort zone, stretching to accomplish a set goal and working toward that goal with focus, determination, and little distraction expands our minds and teaches us to be creative and innovative—skills that increase the quality of both the work you do and the life you live. Are you regularly achieving “flow” in your life? Are you pushing yourself outside your comfort zone? If not, how can you do this? How do you know if you can, or where you should be engaging in flow? We are creative beings.
This past weekend, I was drawn to spend time camping near Escondido, California, in the rolling hills about 20 miles inland from Carlsbad and the Pacific Ocean. If you know Southern California, you understand how the ocean breezes, marine layer, and other nuances of geography affect the unique microclimates of our coastal mountains. This particular hilly range is dotted by avocado and citrus groves, ranches, and copious S-curves. It is about 100 miles south of Los Angeles and 30 miles northeast of San Diego, and is 10 or more degrees cooler year-round than my home turf which provides a suitable escape and temperate option for weekend retreats. I was introduced to the area several years ago by friends who have a second home in nearby San Marcos, and despite the sequoias, lakes and rivers, Sierras, and better known parts that draw me frequently to northern California explores, the hiking, biking and camping opportunities offered in the Cleveland National Forest, Pauma Valley, Borrego, and beyond could take me a lifetime to explore. So, when looking for an appropriate socially distanced hike during this 60 - 75 degree perfect weekend, my San Marcos-based friend and I took our pandemic masked selves into the Bates Nut Farm to get the lay of the land from a local...and, Cooper, who was working at the cash register, gave us a bless-his-heart hand-drawn map to show us where there was an unmarked (and still "open") nearby trail. The Bear Ridge, as it turns out, abuts Mr. Bates' nut farm property, which ranged for miles, by the way. I was struck, and delighted, as I often am, by the way a local will describe how to get somewhere by landmarks and memorized visuals, and will often forgo mentioning a street name or a direction other than "turn left out the driveway" or "when you get to the grove of big oaks that you almost run into," go right. I asked if I could keep his map, and he chortled and good-naturedly played along. He mentioned that he was a new dad, and that his three-day-old baby had been born during the pandemic and that he was grateful that the maternity part of the hospital still allowed visitors to be with their loved ones! Ah, these moments of humanity. There's no real reason for my blog post today, except to express gratitude for these moments. And for Cooper's map. #pandemicpastimes
Note to "self" (EQ matters)
I haven't posted on my blog in a while. I've been busy "managing myself" in the midst of a pandemic. I haven't wanted to repeat or rehash what a lot of self-help and self-care type observers have been putting out there. I've thought a lot of it, and then seen that someone else had written about it, and went about my busy-ness. I've been very busy (productive work and play) during all of this, thankfully. What I did want to revisit today, though, is the basic self-management list for Emotional Intelligence made popular by Daniel Goleman. Here's a quick run-down, as a reminder/refresher or, in case you have never seen the list before and are curious...and my life-coachy suggestion at the end of the article for how to use this: Emotional Intelligence competencies “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” ~Dr. Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author Intrapersonal (self perception) 1. Self-regard – the ability to accept yourself for who you are, warts and all 2. Self-actualization – the willingness to persistently try to improve oneself and engage in the pursuit of personally relevant and meaningful objectives that lead to a rich and enjoyable life. 3. Emotional self-awareness - recognizing and understanding one’s own emotions. This includes the ability to differentiate between subtleties in one’s own emotions while understanding the cause of these emotions and the impact they have on the thoughts and actions of oneself and others. Self expression 4. Emotional expression – Openly and effectively expressing one’s feelings verbally and non-verbally. 5. Assertiveness – the ability to say what you need to say, in a non-offensive way, what and when you need to—or, put another way—communicating feelings, beliefs and thoughts openly, and defending personal rights and values in a socially acceptable, non-offensive and non-destructive manner. 6. Independence - The ability to be self directed and free from emotional dependency on others. This includes being able to be autonomous in decision making, planning and completing tasks. Interpersonal (relationships with others) 7. Interpersonal relationships - the skill of developing and maintaining mutually satisfying relationships that are characterized by trust and compassion. 8. Social responsibility – willingly contributing to society, to one’s social groups, and generally to the welfare of others. Social Responsibility involves acting responsibly, having social consciousness, and showing concern for the greater community. 9. Empathy – recognizing, understanding, and appreciating how other people feel. Empathy involves being able to articulate your understanding of another’s perspective and behaving in a way that respects others’ feelings. Decision Making 10. Problem solving - the ability to find solutions to problems in emotions are involved. Problem solving includes the ability to understand how emotions impact decision making. 11. Reality testing - the capacity to remain objective by seeing things as they really are. This capacity involves recognizing when emotions or personal bias can cause one to be less objective. 12. Impulse control - the ability to resist or delay an impulse, drive or temptation to act. It also involves avoiding rash behaviors and decision making. Stress Management 13. Flexibility - adapting emotions, thoughts and behaviors to unfamiliar, unpredictable and dynamic circumstances or ideas. 14. Stress tolerance - coping with stressful or difficult situations and believing that one can manage or influence situations in a positive manner. 15. Optimism - an indicator of one’s positive attitude and outlook on life. It involves remaining hopeful and resilient, despite occasional setbacks. KB notes: GOALS – to be able to… Perceive, express and manage your own emotions Be aware of others feelings and help establish strong relationships Use the information provided by your emotions to act appropriately in the face of daily challenges. The more you understand your emotions, as well as others, the better your personal and professional life will be.
Being "in the zone" isn't just limited to sports. Artists, authors, musicians, engineers, composers, all enter the paradox where time seems to stand still...and yet it seems to be over in an instant...there's a sense of relaxation but it's also intense...you have a sense of time but lose track fully immersed in deep and meaningful "work." Although flow experiences have been around for thousands of years, it was in the 1970s and 1980s that Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied and helped popularize the modern concept of flow as a highly focused mental state conducive to productivity. In these years of academic study, he was fascinated with creatives who were completely engaged in "optimal experience." But what drew him to his work originally was growing up in post-war years observing people who appeared "happy" but who had lost virtually everything that would usually be perceived as security and peace of mind. He explored how the addition of material resources contributed to happiness, or NOT...and, in particular, was able to substantiate through his research that after a certain basic point, beyond the minimum poverty level, increases in income or material resources don't necessarily relate to happiness. In other words, money doesn't make you happy. Nor does more money make you more happy. His findings were remarkable, and have so permeated our society today that this concept seems commonplace. Csikszentmihalyi proposed: "A person can make himself happy, or miserable, regardless of what is actually happening "outside," just by changing the contents of consciousness." What Csikszentmihalyi wanted to understand was where, in everyday life, do we feel really happy. He wanted to look at what made creative people feel it was worth spending their lives doing things that many of them did not expect fame or fortune for, but were engaged in because the work made them happy. Those he studied mentioned a state of esctasy, where they are able to harness a stream of consciousness...where existence is temporarily suspended...where the creative activity overtakes a sense of self...and time. Hours may pass, and it feels like only minutes have gone by. Professor Csikszentmihalyi interviewed many writers, poets, and artists and all described achieving a mental state, a spontaneous flow, an effortless feeling you get when whatever you are doing feels like it is happening automatically, without thinking. Others describe it as being engaged in meaningful work where you are helping others, and that is when you are truly happy. Masura Ibuka, the founder of Sony, described the mission of the company: "To establish a place of work where engineers can feel the joy of technological innovation, be aware of their mission to society, and work to their heart's content." This is a good example of how flow enters the workplace. But, regardless of who or what organization was under study, Csikszentmihalyi cited seven (7) criteria that establish the state of flow: You are completely involved in what you are doing—focused, concentrated. A sense of ecstacy—of being outside everyday reality. Great inner clarity—knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing. Knowing that the activity is doable—that our skills are adequate to the task. A sense of serenity—no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego. Timelessness—thoroughly focused on the present, hours seem to pass by in minutes. Intrinsic motivation—whatever produces flow becomes its own reward. One important area of focus was to measure when people reported a positive experience where skills matched the challenge. There is a balance where people need to be challenged, as well as excited, in order to "enter flow." But, if a person's activity is related to something more passive, the feelings they report experiencing can be more negative—for example, boredom, or even apathy. Others have expanded on the work, and some have found it useful to describe the "types" of flow (personalities), with such terms as "hard chargers" (adrenaline-based, thrill seekers, push themselves to physical extremes and high consequences); "deep thinkers" (take things apart, get lost in the system, immerse themselves in trying to discover a new or different or better way); "flow goers" (use meditation or practices of mindfulness to trigger flow); "crowd pleasers" (get their energy from entertaining, or making others feel good). Many people enter flow naturally, others, unfortunately, do not. So how do you learn to create flow in your life? How do you find your own flow? How do you achieve this ecstasy—this happiness that helps you transcend time and a sense of self? First, you must DO something. This is not a passive exercise. It is the state between anxiety and boredom where you are still engaged and challenged—the "flow sweet spot"—is, indeed, the magical place between boredom and anxiety! A core idea is this balance of challenge and skill, as you "change the contents of your consciousness." Here's a really great animated book summary by FightMediocrity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8h6IMYRoCZw Get better at the skill, keep making it more challenging, and you will achieve flow. Here is a video on the four "f's" of flow, where the author wanted to consciously generate more flow in his own day-to-day activities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXD8QjpQrFc 1, Focus—no distractions, no multitasking...total focus on a single task; a "warm up" exercise prior to engaging in flow 2. Freedom—free to express yourself, no self scrutiny...leaving your ego out of it, "let go" and let things happen automatically, trusting your skills without "overthinking" it or judging your ideas or work. Free your mind. 3. Feedback—the state of total engagement requires a knowledge of how you are meeting the goal. I think of Alex Honnold and his remarkable achievement of performing his free solo climb (no ropes, only his body) of El Capitan rock in Yosemite National Park in June 2017, AND living to tell about it! This is about being aware of each move and whether it is bringing you closer to your goal. 4. Four percent—Steven Kotler, in continuing Csikszentmihalyi's work, suggests from his research that a challenge that is 4% greater than your skills—slightly harder than what is comfortable for you—pushes you to the zone where you are engaged entirely in the task at hand. Oh, and here's the Prof. M chart to show the relationship between skill and challenge and the mental state associated with each correlation:
We are stronger
Confucius said: "It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop." I've had a lot on my mind these past couple of weeks, and have refrained from joining the public conversation. Instead, I have been choosing to stay intently focused on and having private conversations with friends, associates, students in my Leadership Communications class, and with family members. I do, however, have a few thoughts I'd like to chronicle for posterity, as this blog on my personal website allows me to do. We live in a postmodern world...what I saw during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election was a battle between those who were seeking plurality, inclusiveness, and equality...and those who somehow interpreted the call for change as a threat to their worldviews. The clash between religious fundamentalism and secularism has left ugly scars in the American consciousness and polarized generations of believers on both sides. Meanwhile, those of us "in the middle"—who believe in equity and don't see it as a threat to our worldviews—remained... ...disenchanted ...yearning for change ...NOT wanting to join the strident, unproductive, divisive fringe conversations ...and I, in fact, avoided them while I continued to lay low and secretly desire some semblance of sanity and reason, respect...and, unification. I'll admit, I didn't have much hope. Perhaps it is ironic that it took the social media video transmission of a black man having the life snuffed out of him by a white policeman who, quite frankly, appeared to be enjoying himself, that a new "woke-ness" has arrived on a scale not seen in years. Do I dare have hope now, as scores of Americans come to terms with our history of unconscionable transgressions and atrocities against human beings because of the color of their skin...? Really, lynching wasn't enough? I'm still a skeptic. However, in the spirit of wholesale change that now appears to be catching on...I will continue doing my part to use my network, heart, and skills...to help in whatever minuscule, minute at a time, person at a time, way that I can do and be... ...to speak when the silence needs to be broken, to present the evidence with passion and conviction, to remind when memories fail, and to feel the pain of human beings I consider my brothers and sisters... ...if/when they’ll let me. I, too, being a white woman..and, hells bells being a "Karen" at that (the new pejorative term for self-absorbed, entitled white women, JEEZ)...will be listening and learning with all humility and compassion. I will make mistakes. I always do. But I won’t let that stop me from trying. Our current state of national chaos calls for one universal truth. And that is: we are stronger when we are given love. Not hate. To be honest, if I had been born black, I don't know that I would have been able to turn the other cheek as so many have, for so long. They have not stopped.
Maybe I'll just say this, in closing: In the upcoming U.S. Presidential election, look for the candidates who understand how the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness apply to ALL people.
"Who Am I?" "Why Am I Here?"
There’s a famous quote attributed to Mark Twain that goes like this: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” I love this quote. But, besides being an admirer of Mark Twain’s genius as a writer, I’ve been inspired in more recent years by the “inner work” that he did. When the family trust finally released his autobiography 100 years after his death in 2010, I listened to it in audiobook form and it was a revelation. He dictated much of it from his bed or porch the last 10 years of his life. The book contains the journal-style, reflective way he thought of his life and everything in it. Through this intimate foray into Twain’s remarkable memories, he describes in his words certain recollections, and also actively revises, dreams and wonders out loud, creating in the process a divinely jumbled process that evokes his own experiences and feelings as though he is both reliving them, and also possibly editing them! The net effect for me: it was like sitting in the room with him listening to the inner workings of his mind. What a delight. Being a life coach is a little like that for me now, too, with my clients. I have the incredible privilege of listening to you tell the story of your life. And, to help you learn to understand your own inner world, while you concurrently express it in the real world. You are the author of your life story. It’s undeniable: no one else on the planet is like you. And because authenticity—living an authentic life, your "best life"—involves continual growth and self-knowledge, understanding, a life coach can help you define the WHO and WHY of your life. One of the exercises we engage clients in is developing their own life purpose statement. So those two questions, “who am I?” and “why am I here?” can truly be answered. Wait, what? You mean, it’s possible to write out your life purpose? Um, yes. It’s part art and part science—it’s definitely a creative process but it has structure to it. I guide you to use your mind, body, and soul, and not just what your intellect alone tells you to want. With a purpose statement exercise, I help you first understand a couple of things: 1. Whether or not you are conscious of it, you have been living out your purpose in some way already. 2. Like Mark Twain’s "unconscious" ramblings, you have an opportunity to tell it out loud, to write it, because it is based on your life and what you have already experienced and felt. 3. You already know some things, again, because you have learned about yourself from many years of living. Of course, client purpose statements are unique. You can’t copy someone else’s. Maybe it would be helpful to see how someone might word theirs, but, the exercise makes you “do the work” of examining your own successes and past experiences, and draw upon the skills and resources that are unique to you. The exercise itself comes in four (4) steps. 1. List a dozen or more times in your life when you knew you were “on” purpose. These are times you can recall when you were aligned with “why you are in the world.” It’s important to cover your entire life, and then include more experiences from the past five to 10 years. 2. Next, you write a few sentences, bullet points, or phrases about each experience, defining for each: (1) What you did (2) Where you were (3) What the outcome was (4) How you felt 3. Then, your writing should also answer the questions: (1) What was essential to my sense of being “on purpose?” (2) What about this experience was richly satisfying? (3) What was of value for me? 4. Highlight key words and phrases, then copy them onto a different page. Examine them to identify commonalities and themes. You will use these words and phrases to build your statement of purpose. 5. Draft a brief statement of your life purpose in two (2) to four (4) sentences using the key words and phrases of your life. No two purpose statements will be the same, of course. “My purpose is to manifest love in caring for self and others” might be a short and sweet declaration for one person. Others might get more wordy, and more detailed. “The purpose of my life is to…” is a good way to start. Don’t expect to get it right in an hour. I find it’s best to let it sit for awhile. Read it to others and be open to feedback. Read it out loud over several days. Let the words resonate. Percolate. Incubate. Finally, test it. You know where you are headed when you purpose is clear: Does your statement clarify what you will do in your work and your life? Here are some clues that you have connected with your purpose, according to the Institute for Life Coach Training: · You feel a strong connection with the purpose you have described. · You have a desire to fulfill it. · You feel deep pleasure when you act in concert with it. · Your interests naturally gravitate toward fulfilling it. It’s important to feel an internal “yes” – a tug of sorts that keeps you on course – to know that your life purpose statement fits you. It is not a professional statement to convince others, but when you speak it to yourself it resonates and gives you power to act, to enrich the world, to find personal fulfillment, to live your passion. Your purpose statement hums like a tuning fork…attuned perfectly, and only, to you. Let me help you sort through your own "divine jumble."
At what point in your life story are you able to truly respect and honor yourself? For some people, it happens early in their lives. For others, it takes a lifetime. For my own part, I have learned that it takes a lot of energy to adapt to other people’s opinions of you, and I find I have less motivation to do so the older I get. Duh. (Thus, the "palm plant" emoji image that accompanies this post!) Why do we continue to give our energy, our precious life’s blood, to what other people want to tell us about OUR lives? How is it that you spend more time absorbing, which is, in a sense honoring, THEIR beliefs about what is true about you, than YOU spend honoring yourself? Doesn’t this seem a bit backwards? Yes, it is. But it takes a lot of inner work to get in touch with, and stay in touch with, what is true for you...and to honor it. Everyone has their own dogma. Or, said more plainly: everyone has a principle or set of principles they live by, and by definition, that at some point were laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true. How boring. And how ultimately utterly self-destructive. I’m not saying that dogma is all bad. I am saying that adopting someone else’s dogmatic way of thinking can be BAD FOR YOU. Dogmatic individuals, as a matter of definition, have many problems in understanding new ideas. They cannot accept reasonable ideas INSTEAD of their own ideas. “MY OPINIONS ARE FACT!” they assert. But wait, if I stop listening and accepting their ideas, am I not doing the same thing? Not really. Not when you are being true to yourself. You can listen politely. But you don’t have to agree. And, you certainly don’t have to adopt their way of thinking. Further, you can set healthy boundaries with those who try to unduly influence you (and your thinking), and you can not only think for yourself, but feel everything, and act with purpose. And live a satisfying life. However “unconventional” that may end up being! Wait, what? Now, I’m not talking about throwing common sense to the wind. Or being reckless. Or rash. Or irresponsible. Or offensive. OR DANGEROUS. (To yourself, or to others.) But what I am talking about is not being afraid to stand up for yourself, and your own ideas. To honor yourself, you must stop listening to others so much, and listen to yourself MORE. It is an active practice of self-love when you learn to trust your gut. You know more about what is good for you than anyone else. Unless you are mentally ill. In fact, I would argue that when you are NOT listening or in tune with your own gut, you can make yourself sick! And that, my friends, CREATES mental illness. How do we learn to let go of self-condemnation? Let go of fear? Let go of unnecessary obligations? (And set healthy boundaries?) Let go of naysayers? Let go of the past? Learn to forgive? And, how do we learn to let go of doubt? And especially, self-doubt? As a life coach, I do not counsel clients about their illnesses; I would have to refer them to a psychotherapist. But I do encourage clients to honor themselves with kindness. By engaging their time and effort into supporting their own dreams. By reinforcing positive beliefs about themselves and others. And by exploring the idea of their own lovability. You may be your own harshest critic. Boy, is it hard to give up this job! I tell you what, though, there are plenty of people in my life, maybe in yours too (presumed “loved ones”) who take on that job with relish. While I have been living and refining my life and purpose, others close to me have believed it is their duty to tell me how to successfully live my life—to tell others how to live is, in effect, their life purpose! I’d much rather help others find their own. Not tell them what it should be… I suppose that’s why I am a Life Coach. And, not an “armchair psychologist.” No one can direct you, make decisions for you, or take action on your behalf as long as you are mentally competent. Don’t let someone make you believe you are mentally incompetent just because you don’t agree with their assessment of you, lol! No one is an expert on someone else’s life. You are the authority on your life. In making decisions, you must first listen to yourself. Then, if you want to, you can reach out to others for their ideas. Or to listen or feed back what they hear you say. A life coach is skilled in listening, asking questions, and letting you find your own answers. A life coach does not give advice. Nor does a life coach impose their opinions on you. There are ways to avoid absorbing others’ negative or maladaptive mindsets, and to learn how to adopt a healthier mindset yourself. I can think of a couple of quick, easy tools that I use when someone else is trying to speak for me, or silence my voice, or convince me I’m wrong, or otherwise dominate my thinking: 1. Take a mental break. “Listening. Not Listening.” One of the quotes I like to remind myself of is: “What you think of me is none of my business.” That helps me listen, but not necessarily automatically take to heart what someone else thinks about me, and may be intent on dumping at my doorstep. Remember, oftentimes criticism is both unwarranted and unnecessary. And, more than that, it can be unwelcome. There is nothing wrong with “listening. Not listening.” It can take time to access your inner knowledge. While it takes time and patience, you can learn and improve your ability to listen to yourself and to determine what is best and right for you. Even if it’s not their opinion of you that is being hurled in your direction, it could be a rant that you find repugnant. If you find their remarks offensive, contradictory or antagonistic—essentially you don’t agree with them and aren’t enjoying being the audience or recipient of their rant—you are not obliged to participate. You can walk away, turn it off, click the “x” or otherwise tune out. Also, learn to recognize that just because someone else is LOUDER doesn’t make them RIGHT. 2. Don’t lower yourself to their standards. Michelle Obama was quoted as saying “when they go low, we go high.” When people feel compelled to call you names, or are foisting their opinions of you (and everything you are doing “wrong” or thinking “incorrectly” about), try to understand that it really isn’t about you at all. What they are saying (sometimes “spewing,” really) has little to do with you, and is likely a reflection of what is going on in THEM. Rise above. If you can, reserve what you think about others to private conversations with yourself, or with those you can trust. 3. Give a little grace. To yourself. One of the hardest things to do is to forgive. To let go of past wounds and unconscious resentments. It is crucial to understand that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. To know better is to do better. Usually. However, you can't make someone else learn or know better...you can only work on yourself. A couple of years ago, I learned that forgiveness does not require the other person to apologize. Or, to accept your forgiveness. Forgiveness is something you do when you stop blaming yourself so that you can move forward. You let go of negative emotions. Often the person who transgressed against you has no idea of the damage that he or she has done and most often that person thinks that they didn’t DO anything. Well, guess what? That person is likely NEVER going to know or accept that their beliefs, feelings, or behavior caused you suffering. C’est la vie. The forgiveness is for you. You are never going to get what you want from that person. Let it go. --------- In my last blog post about writing your life purpose statement, I talked about tuning in to the “hum of your soul,” like a tuning fork. There are many conscious practices you can engage in on a daily basis that help you stay in touch with your courageous, best self. Don’t wait until you lose your focus, vitality, and drive. Or, until you make yourself sick. It is easier to honor what you know, and what you have, than to recreate or have to reinvent. Start honoring yourself today.
These days, being "fluid" can mean that your sexual preference can change...the phrase "to be fluid" has entered the vernacular to define a willingness to explore or lack of willingness to be "fixed" in one's sexual orientation. I first heard the term when working in private, higher education, probably about 10 years ago. Today, the idea of "being fluid" means much more to me than the popular definition applied through the diversity and inclusion movement. Those who have debated the binary system of gender as two distinct, opposite forms of masculine and feminine are absorbed with expanding the nomenclature and distinctions. Sure, somebody needs to do this work. But, I am less interested in what divides us, or defines us as individuals, and more interested in what binds us, defines us, as human beings. To be honest, I am weary of a world that INSISTS on binary arguments. Black or white. Republican or Democrat. FOX NEWS or CNN. Democracy or fascism. Liberal or conservative. Christian or non-Christian. Believer or non-believer. Right or wrong. In or out. Ingroup or outgroup. Rich or poor. Racist or anti-racist. Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter. Hell, today, we can't even agree on what the word "PATRIOT" means! I understand now why people defect from their beloved home countries. It's hard to feel like you "belong" in a place that not only doesn't feel like "home" but has developed a national psyche and way of being that does not fuel understanding and, instead, foments MIS-understanding. We are no longer musing and writing about some future "dystopia..." WE ARE LIVING IN IT. It's hard to just "be" with such chaotic conditions. Not to mention a pandemic thrown in...the stress, the anxiety, the sickness...how much more can we take??? Don't get me wrong. I'm all for the dissidents. Yo, history tells us that even in his time Jesus was a dissident. In Jesus' time, remember, if you followed his rantings, you were considered a "bad Roman." Yes, someone has to fight to help change things. And, I deeply appreciate their dedication, and stamina. The experience of America today, for MANY Americans, is that of an authoritarian, oppressive state. We do need to continue to challenge policies, doctrine, our institutions...and this pandemic and time in history has laid us bare. But the idea of "being fluid" isn't necessarily a political one. So, what is this idea? A young friend of mine, I'll call her "P," says BEING FLUID is "being like water... ...Acting like water when things get difficult versus lingering." "Otherwise, I'll sink," she says. P is referring to the need to stay light, to be adaptable, to shift quickly...uh, and maybe, to stay afloat. How do we do this, when all around us, there is unabating disagreement, distress, dismay, disenchantment, disappointment..more "dis-es!" dis- 1. a Latin prefix meaning “apart." Yep. (Rodney King had it right: “Why can't we all just get along?") It's a psychological problem, really. Despite our best efforts in legal, economic, and scientific fields over the centuries to establish our systems and human responses as "logical," the truth is (as neuroscientists have postulated) that we are 98 percent emotional and about two percent rational. What does "being fluid" look like? In the emotional reactivity of today, people are generally acting from their FEAR zone. This is natural, of course. When you are operating from your natural fear zone, you are denying and avoiding. Or, you may be taking extra care to "stay comfortable," and "seek validation" (talk to others who look and think like you, watch and listen to media that supports your viewpoints). Coming away from a fear zone involves entering a LEARNING zone. Learning is the evolutionary step that requires new awarenss, recognition, seeking, understanding. And, learning takes an individual to a new place of educating themselves, and even more scary—becoming vulnerable (admitting to themselves, and perhaps others, that there are GAPS in their knowledge, yikes! "I never saw this or understood this BEFORE!"). In the learning zone, a person may also learn to listen to others who think and look different than themselves. The third zone—the ultimate goal in "being fluid," in my view—is the GROWTH zone. In this area, you will not only have learned new things and new ways of thinking, but you may actually be excited to promote and share your new learning with others. And, it's a strange and wonderful thing about being human that you may also be able to "sit with" the discomforts or tensions or dichotomies, even natural conflicts, between your old assumptions or learning, and your newfound "growth." This brings to mind another conversation I had this week, with another friend...an older friend of mine. I'll call him "J." J, like P, is very wise. And quotable. He is able to hold natural conflicts within him, and stay very clear on both sides of the arguments. Of course, he holds his side with passion and conviction, and is able to clearly articulate his strongly held views. However, it isn't the warrior in him that I admire this week. It's his way of capturing the essence of our conversations...this particular quote about the juxtaposition of our emotionally fraught, and DIS/DYS-functional lives stays with me: J says: "Honey, life is CRUEL AND WONDERFUL." How right he is. Don't sink. See, and feel, it all. Stay fluid, please. Don't fear. Keep learning. Keep growing. ..
Personal Growth Zones
I started this topic in an earlier post, and wanted to add a visual to it, to help illustrate my points about the challenges of personal growth. I mentioned that personal growth is a psychological problem. It's in our heads! Despite our best efforts in legal, economic, and scientific fields over the centuries to establish our systems and human responses as "logical," neurologists now tell us that we are 98 percent emotional and about two percent rational. People get locked into their emotions: I'm suggesting "staying fluid" in order to grow. In the emotional reactivity of today, people are generally acting from their FEAR zone. This is natural, of course. When you are operating from your natural fear zone, you are denying and avoiding. Or, you may be taking extra care to "stay comfortable," and "seek validation" (talk to others who look and think like you, watch and listen to media that supports your viewpoints). Coming away from a fear zone involves entering a LEARNING zone. Learning is the evolutionary step that requires new awareness, recognition, seeking, understanding. And, learning takes an individual to a new place of educating themselves, and even more scary—becoming vulnerable (admitting to themselves, and perhaps others, that there are GAPS in their knowledge, yikes! "I never saw this or understood this BEFORE!"). In the learning zone, a person may also learn to listen to others who think and look different than themselves. [I will add, however, that you have every right to avoid bombastic, insensitive, ignorant, bullying, annoying, or otherwise flat-out hateful people who refuse to keep their ideas to themselves—when you have been clear about not wanting to engage in debate. This is healthy for you (good boundaries), and allows you to maintain equanimity in what might become a toxic situation—no bueno!] The third zone—the ultimate goal in "being fluid," in my view—is the GROWTH zone. In this area, you will not only have learned new things and new ways of thinking, but you may actually be excited to promote and share your new learning with others. And, it's a strange and wonderful thing about being human that you may also be able to "sit with" the discomforts or tensions or dichotomies, even natural conflicts, between your old assumptions or learning, and your newfound "growth."
Is it news?
DO I NEED A NEWS RELEASE? Occasionally, my "several professions" overlap, and although today's post isn't about life design, it IS about communicating change...in a way. I work with an organization that needed to know more about when a "news release" is warranted. (By the way, we don't really call them "press releases" anymore, because the meaning of "press" has changed so much.) So, in the spirit of sharing with readers of this blog, or anyone else interested in the run-down...here are my thoughts on the topic: "Do I need a news release?" ------- First, the definition. A news release is a brief document that shares something newsworthy you or your stakeholders have done with the press and other media outlets. You usually send a news release to journalists and editors who may use your timely information to write a news article, or interview the subject or beneficiaries of the news. News releases are important to journalists, bloggers, and influencers because their readers/listeners/followers are interested in YOUR NEWS. Second, what questions do you need to answer in order to construct a usable news release? AUDIENCE & TIMING Who’s it for? What should the timing be? Who is the news intended for? Who is your audience? Is this the best way to share the news with them? What do they read? Watch? Listen to? Who are primary influencers? What other ways could you reach your intended audience with the news? Is the information timely? Are you using the information to inform audiences of a deadline or asking them to take action? Are you allowing your audience enough time to respond? PURPOSE & RESPONSE Why is the news being shared? What do you want your audience to do? Is the topic an achievement to provide recognition? Has any other entity or partner organization already promoted the news? Does the news or topic support a goal of our programs or stakeholders? Do we want the audience to DO something, or TAKE ACTION? Some examples (these happen to be related to school operations): A grant cycle is approaching, and we want to issue a news release to distribute the deadline for applications widely through city and community (or other)
media outlets AND Social Media. In this case you may want to direct your
audience to the web page where the application is posted. An assessment cycle is approaching, and we want to issue a news release to
remind parents and communities that “testing time is coming.” In such a case,
you may want to direct your audience to the assessment calendar web page. Is the news release simply sharing information? If no action is needed or intended, what is the justification or support for the information in the news release? CONTENT & QUOTES News releases are written to be brief, accurate, and readable. They are generally between 400 to 600 words, and follow a specific format that journalists are accustomed to using.
In the old days, journalists would still write a story from your news release. But these days, it is often the case that an editor could post your information as it is! Nonetheless, the typical news release is designed for use by media, such as: Newspapers Magazines Radio and TV stations Local bloggers Online news sites Community organization newsletters Podcast hosts Talk show hosts News releases provide detailed information without the use of superlatives or narratives. A journalist, blogger or influencer wants to be informed, not SOLD. In addition, we must avoid the temptation to use our industry or sector jargon, or insider terminology. Acronyms can only be used after the first reference spells out the title in its complete, long or original form! A news release can provide the base for other communications tools. It’s a good place to start to get the “Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why” in one short document, and then the details can be adapted for other forms of media, such as Social Media outlets, or a script, etc. A news release must have all facts checked, and verified, by the sources of the information. The information must be accurate, approved, and not mislead or misrepresent any information or people mentioned.
Your communications advisor/Public Relations professional can prepare a quote for you. It’s allowed! The quotes are helpful to express the tone, emphasis, and main message that is being attributed to the person for whom the quote is being written. In other words, we DO put words in your mouth, if you are the subject matter expert or program lead, but YOU can edit/approve the quote for accuracy and to make sure it “sounds like you!” A news release is different than a Media Advisory. A Media Advisory is very short, generally is used without narrative or explanation, and includes the Who, What, Where, When (for example a notice or announcement of an upcoming meeting). CONTACT INFORMATION A news release or Media Advisory should always include contact information for the public relations professional who fields inquiries from the media.
Include: CONTACT: First Name Last Name PHONE: (xxx) xxx-xxxx
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org POSSIBLE NEWSWORTHY ITEMS: Program launches: new programs often make for good news pieces
Events: these can offer reporters something timely and interesting to share with their audiences Deadlines: program applicants or participants may need an announcement or Media Advisory to get information on their calendars or remind them of a deadline
Partnerships: if you team up with another noteworthy organization, the media may want to know
Research: unique data and original insights are helpful to people’s lives Awards: these work best if you can tie them back to your work; your organization would not necessarily promote an award, especially if the granting organization has already issued their news release announcing your awardee
A new state (of being)
Some people resist change, and spend most of their waking hours buttressing their “same old, same old” or the “familiar.” Their focus and energy goes to creating predictability, running their “hamster paths” of life, staying safe, reducing risks, and protecting their comfort zone. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this approach. In fact, it is their presumed stability and security that gives them their satisfaction and comfort in life. But what happens when you shake up that very foundation, and challenge yourself by allowing—even creating—quite a bit of personal discomfort for the sake of personal growth and change?
In prior posts, we talked about how cultivating a growth mindset actually conditions you to take on challenges and learn from them, and can, in fact increase your abilities and achievement. Remember, Dweck’s research showed how having a growth mindset allows you to thrive on challenge and see failure “not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.” I often use my trapeze analogy to remind clients that when you reach out for the “other bar” as you are swinging out over the abyss, the open space between MAY be terrifying…but, it also creates the openness and freedom to seize new opportunities, see new vistas, encounter new people, find new perspectives, feel exhilaration…hey, you’re FLYING, right?! You swing out over the abyss, letting go of the familiar. On the “old” trapeze bar, you are letting go: of things and people you don’t need, hangups and toxicity that no longer serve you well. You mourn, you grieve, you hurt, you cry, you may even strike out. You close doors. You say good-bye. You “unfriend.” But, wait, you say, when you move, aren't you just you taking your baggage with you—“you can’t outrun yourself,” you may have heard...? But what if that’s not true? What if a “do over” really can produce a “new and improved” you? When you head out in a new direction, you can’t help but put one foot in front of the other. You may feel unguided, uncertain, lonely, alone, unsure. But if you keep on walking, keep looking, stay open, seek…you will find. In this mindset, the hand you choose (or are dealt) is just the starting point for development. How can you learn to trust the process? The hardest part of truly letting go, starting over, moving to a “new state” (a place, a way of being) is learning to trust the process. Connections will come. People will extend themselves to you. Opportunities will arrive. You will grab onto that bar on the other side of the abyss. We have uncanny abilities as human beings to effectively reproduce the conditions we need for happiness, fulfillment, security, love, friendship, family, spirituality, a home. AND, most importantly, you need to learn to trust your own decisions. Don’t avoid growth and change because fear keeps you from moving forward. “Make a decision, then make the decision right.” So go on...Jump in the river, and swim! If you don’t, you won’t get across. Only you can decide, after all, if the decision is right or wrong. Only you can dwell, and let those anchors drag you down. My friend, Linda McShan calls these hard knocks or lessons “growth notches,” like growing to become a strong, tall redwood tree.
"They create a lot of experience, and strength, and growth," she adds. Just a couple of notes, then, about learning to have confidence in your decisions, and not second-guessing yourself, as you put yourself in new and uncomfortable situations in order to grow. 1. Trust yourself. Making a decision sometimes forces you to grow in areas where you are not comfortable. 2. Choose to think differently. If you THINK you have made a mistake, stop dwelling on the idea of having made a wrong decision. No decision is irreversible, first, and second, you are doing the best the can on any given day, with the information that you have. 3. Don’t catastrophize. Don’t imagine the worst. 4. Reflect on what you are learning. Yep, sometimes you learn from your mistakes. But, sometimes, they aren’t really mistakes…you’re just learning from the decisions you make. Especially the scary ones! 5. Get comfortable with mistakes. No one is perfect. And, even “masters” in their field of endeavor started out NOT being good at what they do! Cut yourself some slack, all learning is good. Maybe you’re not “dumb,” you’re just “new.” Think about it; if you haven’t done it before, you are simply learning or doing something new. And that’s exciting. Here’s a quote to leave you with: “Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from simply making decisions.” ~Coach Karen Here's the accompanying podcast on this topic: https://www.blogtalkradio.com/lmacknetwork/2020/12/11/waking-up-with-linda-mcshan-karen-bergh-think-thursday
Getting reacquainted with hope
Getting reacquainted with the feeling of hope is strange in the best way. It's been a long, hard road... With the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act signed into law last week, there are a few glimmers. Several of these affect me and members of my family directly. According to the latest news: So, ARP has ensured distribution of $1,400 stimulus checks throughout the U.S. (I received mine last night.) It also provided much-needed relief to small businesses hardest hit by Covid; expanded access to emergency paid leave and unemployment benefits; extended critical financial assistance to help secure housing for people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, homelessness; and bolsters programs like SNAP (which some of my family members need). The ARP will reduce overall poverty by nearly one-third and cut child poverty nearly in half, largely due to a major expansion of the child tax credit (CTC). As we approach the 11th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act's introduction (which some of my family members still benefit from), the ARP will increase tax credits for health insurance, ensuring that no one pays more than 8.5% of their household income toward the cost of benchmark or less expensive plans. We're now seeing the U.S. step into a leadership role, with increased testing, a national vaccination plan that includes equitable distribution plans (most of my family has now received their doses of the vaccine), and funding to safely reopen schools. I don't know about you and your family. But, I'm grateful, at this time.