Believe in the Silver Lining

Change is a theme we’ve heard about a lot this year. Now that one fourth of 2009 has passed, how are you doing with the changes you were hoping to make in the new year? I like to check in with clients quarterly so they can assess how plans are coming and I am a fan of the plan, I must admit!

I have a feeling that 09 will continue to test our collective mettle. We need a special dose of courage, patience and trust to see our way through the events that have the power to transform systems that are in grave need of restructure. We are required to set aside any beliefs that portray ourselves as helpless victims or powerless pawns in the larger picture of business and government. We are required to think and think again about what is most important to us, and how we will prioritize the use of our personal and financial resources.

Even as I write this it doesn’t seem like a bad thing. Seriously, isn’t this similar to what you do at the beginning of every New Year? You pause to look at what’s working and what’s not. You crunch some numbers to see how the budget for the New Year is looking. You make decisions; some call them resolutions, to be a better steward of your life. To eat healthy, exercise more, be clearer about what you want in order to be a better person or live a better life.

Perhaps this is my desire to always find a silver lining. One of my strengths is positivity, and I know that it can be misconstrued as naïveté. But what if we all made an effort to believe that this will be the year of silver linings? That things may seem one way until we look again, until we actively seek the positive impact of a situation, event, or decision. There are, of course, no guarantees that a silver lining actually exists. In the moment, some situations feel more like lead – heavy, cold, unyielding and dark. It’s virtually impossible while we’re in it to see any way that it could resemble silver.

This is where trust comes in handy. We don’t have to see the silver to know that it exists. We can let the gift of time do its best for us. By believing that it is possible, that the silver lining may be there, we can continue to put one foot in front of the other, work and walk our way through dark times to emerge in pockets of light.

Hey, you have to put your attention somewhere. Why not look for the silver lining? More often than not, you see what you expect to see.

Call me if your plan needs some tweaking. You’ve still got 3/4 of the year left! Get on it!

Vision for a new year

Happy New Year! How are you doing with this one? Do you feel prepared – you know, with your list of things to do and ways to change? Did you slip easily into the new year, relaxed and ready to enjoy all that 2008 holds for you? Or did you come kicking and screaming into January as though you are already late for something?

Fear not! It’s ok. It may even be better than OK!

New years can be daunting because there’s so much we don’t know. So much can and will happen – it’s probably just as well that most of us don’t have a crystal ball and the ingenuity to use it.

But January is also a good time to consider what you want. Here is an invitation that I give my coaching clients at this time of year. It’s a process that involves getting at what it is you would really like to be, do, or have in 2008.

New Year Intentions Tool

Give yourself some quiet time and a quiet place to think about all of the important elements of your life – your family, your friends, your profession, your hobbies, your health, your prosperity…

Now imagine that you have moved forward in time to December of 2008 and it’s time once again, to write a holiday letter about the year in review. What would you like to say in that letter about all that has materialized for you in the year 2008?

Begin to write your letter as though all that you are dreaming for next year has already come true. Be as specific as possible. Maybe you have a professional goal to increase your revenue by 15%, or to find a new job that is more fulfilling. Maybe you have a personal goal to pay off your credit cards, or to join a new book group or writing group. Is there some way you would like to improve family relationships? Write about that. Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn to do but haven’t found the time? If you want 2008 to be the year you accomplish this, include it in your letter. If you are hoping for more friends, or a specific relationship to happen, include this information in your letter as clearly as possible as though it has already happened!

Read your letter out loud to yourself, your coach, or someone you trust. Post your letter some place where you are likely to see it and be intentional about re-reading it at least 3 or 4 times during the year.

Being intentional about what you want is a great first step towards actually getting it.


Time for a Change

I am very grateful for both of my children. Even at 20 and 24, they are a continual source of joy to me and I learn so much from them.

Yesterday at Sunday breakfast my son commented that he knew the new job he was just offered was right for him. When I asked him how he knew he said that he’s nervous. I’m sure I gave him my typical quizzicle mom look and he elaborated. When he feels a little scared he knows that he’s about to do something important. He’s not terrified – he has done similar work and he knows he can do it. He is nervous and he recognizes that in order to grow he must stretch out of his comfort zone and continue to try new things.

I’m always astounded by this wisdom. He is young and yet so wise. This short exchange has me thinking and evaluating the ways I stretch. I am considering my choices in new ways. I must tell him the impact of his words on me. I was encouraged.

It is tempting to try to evaluate where this young man got his propensity for wisdom. Was it from me? Did it come from his dad or some other close or distant relative? Suffice it to say, he is himself. He will continue to stretch and grow because this is what lights him up! His impact will be felt widely in the world – this I know.

“If you think you are too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.”

Anita Koddick

How about you? Do you recognize your own impact? If you aren’t having the impact you desire, perhaps it’s time to stretch a bit. What would be a good reach beyond your comfort zone?

Establishing a Practice

This morning I woke thinking about the word “discipline”. I actually spend a fair amount of time talking about this word in my work as a Certified Positive Dicipline Associate. But I usually speak about the verb which means to teach or to guide. Today I was thinking about the noun as in having the discipline to rise early each day and do something for myself like walk or write.

What does discipline give us? It always seems daunting. When I think of people who have “discipline”, I think of them in an awesome way like they are larger than life. They seem so steady – as though nothing could sway them from their course. I think I associate the word discipline with perfection. Do you do this? It really gets in my way!

What if discipline can still hold flexibility? What if I can build a discipline to get up early each day and walk for an hour, knowing that some days it’s not going to happen. I may walk later in the day or I may have appointments or travel and not walk at all.

In my more reasonable mind, I know that discipline allows me to focus on what I believe is important in my life. It allows me to be powerful and creative. It takes discipline to think about what I want to have and who and how I want to be in this world. It also takes discipline to act on it. It seems easy when I look at others who have created discipline in their lives. I wonder if it is easy for anyone?

Will Rogers once said, “Half our time is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.” How you spend your days is how you spend your life. Reflect on how you choose to spend your time. It will tell you much about your top prioritizes.

And it just might give you some ideas about discipline. What do you want to practice daily that will bring you happiness, joy, fulfillment? Think in terms of small steps. Choose one and begin.

Kids and Chores

It is a beautiful fall morning in central Illinois, and as I was walking early this morning, I noticed a couple of kids who made me smile. I was thinking back over the parent talk I gave last week, and the teacher training I did over the weekend. In both settings, I talked about how important it is for each of us to feel a sense of belonging and importance. Without these two, it is hard to stay encouraged day to day. One of the ways I know to create this feeling with kids is to give them important jobs to do. Sharing in the family work of the household, and the responsibilities of the classroom and school, are important ways for kids to develop a sense of “I’m capable and I contribute in meaningful ways.”

So, the first example I saw was a girl probably about 5 and a boy maybe 7. They were in the driveway collecting the empty trash cans. The boy had an especially creative way of doing this chore – it’s great that kids can have fun doing almost anything! He had his skateboard and proceeded to scoot himself along on it as he took a can in both hands and returned them to the garage. The little girl watched as she dragged the remaining can back to its place.

The next example was a young girl, maybe 10 years old. She was in her garage with her dog. The dog food sack was open by his bowl and she was attaching his leash when I walked by. Soon, I heard them come up behind me – they were both running down the street. It surprised me – I imagined her taking him for a walk, but clearly they were both happier running!

Both of these examples took place before school. It reminded me of the things people often say – about how busy their lives are and how hard it is to squeeze everything in that they need to do. These kids were up in time to do a chore or two before school. I wonder how these small things impacted their day today…

Get kids involved at home and at school. Allow them to help you and share the load of household and classroom responsibilities! Share appreciation for their help! You’ll be glad you did!

Coaching to Make Meaning

Inventors bring lots of new things to our lives. They are creative and resourceful with a strong sense of social interest. They want to invent things that will improve the quality of our experience; things to make life easier, more efficient, and more fun.

In a sense, we are all inventors. We all seek to make meaning from the experiences we have in our lives. And we are quite creative about it. We are constantly inventing stories about what has happened in the past, how we either are, or are not, responsible for what happened. We invent rationales for doing certain things in certain ways, and we invent our futures based on the meaning we make of the past.

This is not a bad thing. In many ways our inventions serve us well. We all seek two primary social needs: to find belonging with others and to feel valued. Making meaning of our relationships and experiences is an essential part of feeling relevant and making peace with our circumstances.

But, it is important to recognize that we are inventing. The truth we think we seek about life is actually more about meaning, and we assign meaning ourselves. No one can do this for us; however, having another’s perspective can be very helpful. Coaches are great at this.

For example, if you’re still holding on to a version of your life in which you play the role of victim, a coach can help you re-invent that story in a different way. After all, not all inventions are viable. There is no shame in junking an unsuccessful attempt. Inventors do it all the time. Look at Thomas Edison. His eventual achievement was inventing not just an incandescent electric light, but also an entire system that contained 7 different elements necessary to make the incandescent light practical, safe, and economical. He supposedly had over 100 attempts and worked for one and a half years, before he was finally successful in creating the incandescent lamp that changed the world.
So why not shed a little light on your own story, your personal invention? A coach would ask you some clarifying questions:
• How is your current invention working for you?
• Does it encourage you to see yourself as powerful, as important, as the author of your own destiny? Or does your invention portray you as a minor character, playing only an insignificant role in the story of your life?
• Who are some characters in your invention that need to be written out?
• What new script is required for your cast of characters?

A coach will help you take responsibility for inventing the life you want to live. There are so many options. Give up the fear that you will make a wrong decision. A coach can help you decide what you want and determine some small steps to get you heading in the direction of your desired results.

One reason the coaching industry is growing is that people are well intentioned. They commit easily to doing the things that will make a difference in their lives, and they fully want to follow through. But then life gets in the way, and they get distracted from their goals. A coach is not just a good inventor, but is also skilled in understanding commitment.

What would it be like to have a trusted professional who will hold you accountable to begin living the life you’ve re-invented?

Tell me a fact and I’ll listen,
Tell me a truth and I’ll learn.
But tell me a story,
And it will live in my heart forever.

–Native American Wisdom

Invest in YOURSELF

I was speaking with one of my coaching clients this week about all the fear that is surrounding us lately. The financial climate, the upcoming election, all of the regular stuff that just happens. What are we to do? How can we keep ourselves steady in the face of all this unsettling news?

One thing that always works for me is to laugh and have fun. I suggest you keep your social life alive and stay in touch with friends! I had an opportunity to do just that last week at the Pathways to Success Conference for Women presented by Women in Leadership of Central Illinois and NAWBO. There’s nothing like great shopping at a silent auction, good food, a nice glass of wine, timely information and entertainment from speakers, and meeting with new and old friends to reconnect and remember why we’re in business. I even won the centerpiece!

Another thing I know is that we must rely on ourselves. Not just our colleagues, friends, and family, but ourselves. And we can do that by focusing on our strengths. We have natural talents and strengths that can never be taken away from us. This, my friends, is a powerful notion. The idea of identifying and using our strengths rather than beating ourselves up about our weaknesses is really catching on. I’m hearing more and more about it all the time. And what I realize, after working with clients and seminar participants to identify theirs, is that we are slow to embrace them. It is still a lot easier, more natural maybe, to focus on what we don’t do well instead of what we do.

My recommendation is to invest in yourself and purchase the book, StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath (about $14 on Amazon) and take the short assessment on line. When you get your strengths report, you will have a list of your top 5 strengths as well as 10 things to do to better utilize all 5. Keep your list handy. Read over them everyday until you are very comfortable with the descriptions. Choose 2 or 3 of the 10 things you can do to improve and make a plan about how you would implement these suggestions and how you are going to assess your growth. Allow this plan to take you into the new year. Rather than make an empty resolution, commit to following your plan to grow your strengths.

And if you find that it’s challenging to take the time on your own to follow through, call me. Scroll up to the top of this page and click on the Special Offer tab. It is an end-of-the-year package of 3 coaching calls that will help you do just what I’m talking about. I’ll even buy you the book! For WIL members who participate, I will contribute a percentage of the fee to our scholarship fund. In this way you’ll be investing in yourself and in the future of another woman in leadership.

It’s good to remember we don’t have to do it alone!

A New Kind of Leadership

I’ve been doing a series of Leadership Seminars and I’m learning a lot! The first two seminars were titled Leadership and Self Discovery and Leadership and Understanding Others. The third in the series is coming right up on March 6 in Peoria, Illinois and is titled, Leadership and Collaboration.

The ideas and activities I’ve been presenting in the series come from my years of study and experience as a classroom teacher and principal, as a parent educator, as a teacher trainer and most recently as a professional coach working with business leaders. I owe a great deal of my knowledge base to the work I’ve done with the Positive Discipline program, a series of books written by Jane Nelsen and a score of other writers which is based on the psychology of Alfred Adler.

I’m used to teachers and parents being a bit surprised by the idea that children actually do better when they feel better and that solutions may be more effective when handling mistakes than punishment. Somehow, I thought these progressive ideas would be more familiar to business professionals especially when the focus is on developing ourselves as leaders!

But, not so! I’ve noticed that the idea of mutual respect as the primary precursor to effective leadership is still a cutting edge idea. Oh, we may agree that it sounds good. We may even agree that it’s necessary. But really knowing what it looks like and sounds like? We need lots of help with that.

For me the idea boils down to a solid understanding of how to be both firm in addressing your needs and kind in addressing the needs of other individuals at the same time. You can see how this is unusual for us when society has trained us to focus on the needs of others before our own. The first step is to get past the fear of being perceived as selfish. The second step is to take the time to consider what we need in the moment. And the third step is to have faith that the other person(s) can actually handle hearing what you need.

I was coaching a business owner this morning on this very topic. When I asked her what it would take for her to operate from this idea of mutual respect she said, courage and trust. It will take courage for her to state what she needs and it will take trust in herself, in the other person, and in her intention to be a positive force in the world.

I believe the world is hungry for a new kind of leadership. Leaders of the new order must have the skills to understand themselves and what their styles invite from others. They must be able to empathize and to understand what motivates different individuals. They must be able to collaborate with others to develop new products and to solve problems in order to make the world a better place both now and in the future.

Passion Meets Profession

I will be exploring this topic with professional women in leadership positions on October 17 at the Pathways to Success Conference in Peoria, Illinois. We all want to find the right work-the work that expresses who we are and the work that we feel passionate about.

Passion and destiny seemed closely connected. We think if we are fulfilling or honoring our destinies, surely we will feel fire, excitement, passion while we are at work. My sense is that sometimes we are more concerned about the what than we are about the how. For example, you could be running around looking for the perfect job, the job that makes you happy and has you feel fulfilled. It could drive you crazy – always looking, searching for the perfect position, thinking that when you find it, then every day as you leave your home for work, you’ll just feel happy as a clam.

What if fulfilling your destiny has more to be with how you are? So, you can be who you are and express the passion you feel regardless of what your job is. We have all known people like this. People who are passionate about service, or value, or people. It doesn’t seem to matter what their jobs are, they are just good at connecting with people.

Now I’m not going to go so far as to say what you do for a job is not important. That it doesn’t have a huge impact on your life. I’ve coached many people to get more clear about what they want professionally, and I’ve provided accountability for them as they go out and find it. I am saying that you can fulfill your destiny wherever you are, and in whatever set of circumstances.

Find passion! Seek it out. Find something that you can feel passionate about and do something that will bring you closer to it. It may be a volunteer commitment until you can do it professionally. Find an opportunity to share who you are and your passion every day.

And if you’re in the neighborhood on October 17th, please come up and introduce yourself!

Looking for Connection

I was coaching a client yesterday about connection. Recently divorced, she is really wanting connection, and feeling scared because she does not have the relationships she wants right now. I asked her to begin really looking for it (versus paying attention to all of the ways she is not experiencing it.)

What we focus on expands. If you are looking for all of the ways you are disconnected from family, friends, community, that is what you will see. If, on the other hand, you open your eyes to all of the ways you do experience connection, this is what you will find.

I put this idea to the test this morning on my walk, and this is what I noticed. I saw the same woman twice – once early on one road, and again about 20 minutes later on a completely different road. I saw my son as he was completing a task for work on the Ranger. I saw a discarded love note on the ground. Written on lined notebook paper with many colors of ink, it said, Angie, You knock my socks off! I saw a very old headstone while I was walking home through the cemetery, that was practically worn smooth. On it was the image of two hands clasped in a handshake. I experienced a nudge from nature when a big walnut fell to the ground with a Pop! about a foot from where I was walking. It brought me back to the present moment, and I felt gratitude that it had not hit me in the head!

We all seek connection. We are social beings–it’s part of the human experience to want to be with others. So today, get out there and connect. Smile, speak, shake hands, hug, meet others eye to eye and be genuine. We’re all in this together!