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!

Making Meaning…

This is my new site. Thanks for stopping by to give it a look. I will be updating it daily to include comments about the things I’m doing – specifically what I’m learning from my coaching clients, and my workshop participants.

For me, it’s all about meaning. I love noticing how we all make meaning from the experiences we have daily. One of the questions I often ask my clients is, “What do you make of that?” In other words, what meaning are you assigning to that encounter with another, or that particular event or experience?

We think we are seeking Truth (with a capital T), but we are really making meaning. And it’s very individual to us. Each of us will make a different meaning from the very same experience. There may be similarities. There will also be differences. It’s called perception.

How about you? What are you learning? What new challenges are you enjoying? Play along, if you’d like, and feel free to comment. Until tomorrow…

The Energy to Sustain

I’ve been noticing that I have lots of energy when it comes to creating something new. I get so excited! When my clients talk about projects, new books, anything that involves the spark of a new idea, I am sitting on the edge of my chair. Literally I am transfixed with enthusiasm. My friends know this about me too. They will often call me when they need some help with a new beginning. They know I’ll be all over the idea of sitting with them, handing them whatever tool they need to get started on the new task!

But somehow, as the new begins to wear off, I find it more challenging to have the energy to see my new idea through. The energy to sustain has a different feeling than the energy of creation.

So, the other day I was taking a long walk into the country. I do this most every day to let my brain have a break and to get some fresh air. I notice that walking helps me generate new ideas and work through thoughts and challenges. As I was turning around to come home, I noticed the wind. It had been at my back on the walk out and was now directly in my face. I began to tense up, thinking Oh no! I made a mistake to walk this way. How could I not have noticed the direction of the wind and made a better plan?! (You may notice yourself doing this sometimes too – being unkind and judgmental to yourself!)

In that moment, I shifted from blaming myself and creating catastrophe. I relaxed my entire body and slowed down. As I did this, everything changed. The wind was no longer my enemy. I quit resisting and started feeling. The experience of putting one foot in front of the other solved “the problem” of walking all the way home into the wind.

So that got me thinking about sustainable energy. When I have a new project or idea that feels incredibly compelling, it is like having the wind at my back. I just sail and life is so good. When I’m in the middle of it, or I’ve done it once and now it’s time to do the same thing again, it can feel like walking into a strong, cold wind. I’m tempted to doubt myself, the significance of my work, and to turn tail and keep running with the wind at my back. My walk taught me that in order to sustain my energy in the middle, it is important to notice what I’m holding onto too tightly. I need to relax, slow down and be easy as I figuratively put one foot in front of the other. And, it helps to lift up my head so that I have access to all of the interesting things that are going on as I’m walking through the mid ground.

Things never happen the same way twice. There is still a lot to learn and enjoy with repeat projects.

What is your Job on the planet?

I woke up in the middle of the night last night. I’ve found it easiest to return to sleep if I leave my bed and go downstairs to read for a while. I can’t read anything exciting or scary – it must be quiet, meditative subject matter. For this, I highly recommend Wherever You Go There You Are, Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

I’ve read this book before but it lives by my bed for just such sleepless nights. And last night I read a section that I just loved! I am particularly excited about the metaphor of each person as a gift. I love thinking about people in this way – each of us gifted with combination of qualities and skills that only show up once in the course of human history. Think of it! Each of us is so unique and we have a very specialized purpose. Our purpose is determined by what we love to do and what we think is important – so important in fact that we can’t not do it. At least without harming ourselves in some way.

Jon Kabat-Zinn writes: “Rarely do we question and then contemplate with determination what our hearts are calling us to do and to be. I like to frame such efforts in question form: “What is my job on the planet with a capital J?” or “What do I care about so much that I would pay to do it?” He goes on to say that if you don’t have an immediate answer, just keep asking yourself the same question. Eventually, if you are patient, he suggests that the question itself will lead you in some interesting ways.

It’s hard to know where this kind of introspection will lead. It may not change what you do, but it might change how you do it. What better time to begin? What is your heart calling you to be? What is your Job on the planet-the one only you can do?

A Thing of Beauty

Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of visiting one of the most beautiful places in the Midwest – the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I accompanied my husband, Bob, to a meeting there. Bob is a sculptor George Rickeyhimself and has been telling me about the park for a very long time. It was delightful and a bit awe inspiring to see so many pieces of contemporary sculpture situated in beautifully landscaped surroundings. Currently there is an exhibit of George Rickey’s kinetic sculpture that is truly amazing. The pieces move very gently with the wind and they remind me of gentle giants.

I had a weird reaction after being there for a while. I rode the tram around the park and got the guided tour that was very informative and helpful. I perused the gift shop and ended up in the cafe for a light lunch. As I was sitting there, I was overcome with a sense of overwhelm and sadness. I was surprised to be feeling this way after having felt very energized initially by all that I had seen.

When I sat with my own feelings for a while, what I noticed was that I felt very small and insignificant. What can I possibly do with my life that will, in any way, compare to the greatness I witnessed there?

I know intellectually that each of us is endowed with different gifts. I know that we cannot all be artists (and one in my family is probably enough!). I also know that I make a difference, and that my intention is to do good work that makes a difference in the lives of others. But, sometimes it’s a challenge to line up what we know in our minds and what we feel in our bodies. When we sit with our feelings they have much to teach us about ourselves.

So, what is the beauty you bring to the world? How are you sharing the gift of yourself with others?

If you want a bit of inspiration, I highly recommend the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park!

You as a Work in Progress

This week I coached with one of my favorite clients. She is a small business owner, a parent and a dedicated community volunteer. She has diligently worked with me to create goals for herself and systems to make sure she is accountable to the work of those goals. She is a very successful woman. Yet, this morning her inquiries were, Why am I still feeling unsatisfied? Why do I judge everything I do as not enough? Why can’t I be like others who seem to be happy where they are in life?
This is a common theme in coaching high achievers with high standards for themselves and others. You may well be able to relate. Her perception is that if she slows down or takes a break that her momentum will be lost and it will be mighty hard to find it again. She has been trained to work hard and strive, strive, strive. There is always lots of important work to be done!

This is not a bad way to be. After all, we need people who are willing to work hard and make a difference! On the other hand, we also need to take care along the way. No goal or plan or person is sustainable without down time. No learning can be realized without quiet time to reflect on how it’s going.

It is also part of the human condition to wish we were already “there”. Why can’t I solve this problem once and for all? That’s where the work in progress comes in. We are all making strides towards being more fully who we are. We are human beings, not problems to be solved. Give yourself a healthy dose of credit this week for the progress you are making. Give yourself a needed break to reflect on all the things about yourself that you enjoy.