Monday, June 28, 2010

Let The Feeling Flow

The British are known for having a stiff upper lip. We tell our children not to cry when they are upset. Men are often raised to believe it’s weak to show emotion (outside of anger) or to be vulnerable. The problem is that when we stifle our emotions, they don’t go away. They might allow themselves to be buried for a minute, but they will surface again some other way. Alcoholism, drug abuse, food and shopping addictions, explosive and unexpected outbursts are just some of the ways buried emotions find their way to the surface.

Instead of burying them, we need to accept them and embrace them. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be frustrated. It’s okay to be angry. Whatever you are feeling is okay. All feelings are valid. It’s okay to express them; in fact, it’s the healthy and the strong thing to do. What isn’t okay is taking those feelings out on others. However, a healthy display of emotions, especially negative emotions, is a positive thing to do.

When you have those feelings, let them out. Seek out those who will support you in feeling your feelings. There is no faster way to make yourself feel worse than to be around people who don’t understand you or belittle your display of emotions. Go off by yourself if need be. Find a friend who will just listen. Stay away from those who will tell you that they told you so or mock your feelings. Even stay away from those, at least temporarily, that want to advise you or tell you what to do.

On the other side, when those closest to you need you, be there for them. Allow them to feel their feelings. Be the shoulder they need to lean or cry on. Be the sounding board as they work through their feelings. Model the type of behavior you would like them to show you.

You don’t want to wallow in the negative but if you do need to wallow in the way that you are experiencing. As a coach friend of mine likes to say, “The only way to get through it is to go through it.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Power of a Pretty Dress

Billy Crystal, way back on his Saturday Night Live days, used to play a character called Fernando. His catch line was "When you look good, you feel good." It was a recurring character and was a consistently funny sketch. Yet, without being shallow, there is some truth to that.

Looking good isn't everything ... but it can make a difference. A few weeks ago, a friend and I did a little shopping. I purchased a few sun dresses. Weeks later, I decided to actually take the tags off one of the dresses and actually wear it. I could not believe the result.

I had tried it on at the store and liked it, but when I put it on at home with the right shoes and did my hair and make-up, I loved it. I loved the way I looked and I felt really good. I felt confident and optimistic. I'd had a bad day the day before and this dress gave me the pick me up I needed.

I had lunch with my shopping buddy and she commented not just on the dress but on the fact that my whole aura had changed. She could see not just a pretty dress but the confidence that the dress brought out in me.

It wasn't about the designer label. It wasn't a designer dress. It cost me $15. It wasn't about being provacative or sexy because it wasn't revealing at all. It was about enhancing and drawing out the beauty not just on the outside but the beauty on the inside as well.

Never underestimate the power of a pretty dress.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Lose the Excuses Success Formula

Maybe because my degree is in journalism but my formula from success is easy. It’s based on the six questions that make up any good story: who, what, why, where, when and how.

Knowing who you are, your strengths and weaknesses, your passions, your purpose is critical to success. Who you are determines what you want and how you will develop your plan and approach challenges and setbacks. When you know who you are and what you have to offer, it creates an authentic confidence that will propel you towards success.

What is just as critical as Who. Actually, they work together. Once you know who you are, what you want should flow naturally from that. What you want is born out of who you are. What do you want to manifest? What parts of you – talents, desires, dreams – do you want to bring out or focus on? Spend some time making your what very specific and targeted. The universe does not respond to ‘vague’.

Look around and take stock of your current circumstance. Maybe you know where you want to go. You can see your vision. Yet, to get there you have to start from here, using the resources available to you right now. Where you are might not be ideal but it is where you are. The good part is that if you start working towards your goal, you won’t stay where you started for long!

While it is true that there might never a perfect time to begin, it is also true that some times are better than others. You wouldn’t want to start training for a marathon while you are eight months pregnant. Look realistically and courageously at the timing. Be realistic about what you can do and courageous so you won’t use timing as a reason to procrastinate.

This question is often overlooked, and if you ask me, it’s the main reason why projects get derailed and dreams get deferred. You have to find a why … not someone else’s why but your own why. Why is this important to you? Why do you want it so badly? Why does what you want matter to you? You need a reason so intimate and so compelling that it can carry you through over the hurdles and help you find a way through the challenges.

People gloss over some of the earlier questions and try to start here. They put a lot of thought into how they will do something before they even know what they truly want or why it really matters. The how is the last part of the equation. If what you want is based on who you are and why you want to achieve your goal is truly compelling then you can work out how you’ll do it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Life Coaching in the News: The Curious Case of Alvin Greene

A South Carolina Democratic Primary has turned into national news. Why? Alvin Greene, a previously unknown unemployed military veteran is now the Democratic nominee for the US Senate. He faced off against a more well-known competitor and won. Greene won without a website, phone campaign, rallies, fundraisers or even signs. How he came up with the $10,000 filing fee is a bit of a mystery, but the bigger mystery is how this guy that no one knew managed to get over 100,000 primary voters to choose him.

Some contribute it to race. Others contribute it to name recognition (Alvin Greene sounds a lot like iconic soul singer Al Green). Others still claim it’s because his name came first on the ballot over that of his opponent Vic Rawl.

So, you ask, what the heck does this have to do with life coaching? Good question, here’s my answer. Regardless of what prompted over 100,000 people to vote for Greene – be it race, recognition or order on the ballot – they voted for Greene and they voted without a clue of who they were voting for or what he stood for. South Carolinians woke up Wednesday morning having chosen a candidate who can barely manage a basic interview.

The lesson here is simple, do your homework. Homework doesn’t end when school does. Whether it’s buying a home or a car, choosing a school for your children, filing your taxes or casting a vote, the onus of responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders. You are responsible for doing the research and the due diligence before you take action.

Predatory lenders took advantage of a lot of people’s naiveté when it came to home buying. They lead people into mortgages with ridiculous adjustable rates. Every year, some poor celebrity loses everything to the I.R.S. because they didn’t pay close enough attention to who handled the finances. There is a saying, “The devil is in the details.” He hides there because he knows no one will look for him there.

Tragically, we can’t just blame predatory lenders, the IRS, shifty politicians or the Bernie Madoff’s of the world for manipulating us. We play a role in that manipulation when we don’t do our homework. The bigger the decision, the more costly the consequences, the more due diligence you should undertake. Find the devil in the details.

And,when it comes to voting there is always another choice. If you aren’t familiar with the candidates or the causes, you can always choose not to choose – just leave it blank.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A.W.E – Amazing WOW Experience

Last week, I had a truly A.W.E.-inspiring moment. A summer storm had just passed, intense with its displays of electrifying lightning and booming thunder and over almost as soon as it began. After it passed, I grabbed the leash and took the Marty for a walk.

I saw it immediately – a beautiful rainbow arching in the sky. It was gorgeous. I stared at it the entire time. Midway through the walk, I noticed something else, a second faint rainbow, almost like a shadow over the first. A double-rainbow! I didn’t have my real camera with me but I did have my camera phone and I quickly tried to capture it. The photo is okay but it just didn’t do justice to what I saw with my own eyes.

It is truly a gift to keep your sense of wonder and awe into adulthood. It’s one of the things I appreciate most about my dad. At 72, he still has experiences that make him say, “Wow!” Others have lost their sense of wonder and find awe and wow beneath them. As adults, they discount these moments, labeling them immature or irrational or just plain silly. My heart goes out to those people.

I remember driving across country some years ago. I had stopped for the night in Albuquerque, NM. The next morning, I got up very early and hit the road again, several hours before sunrise. I drove out of the city and into the night. And then, it happened. A.W.E. Outside of the city, driving into darkness, the sky opened up. I saw twice as many stars as I had ever seen before and they were all about five times as big! It was almost as if I could reach out and touch them. I felt like I was driving in space! I was A.W.E.-struck. It was amazing.

I could sit here and recount some of my most A.W.E.-inspiring moments – an unexpected elephant sighting in South Africa, watching dolphins playing in the ocean, marveling at the tininess of a newborn’s hand, the beauty of a sunset or a perfect rose dappled with several raindrops. My point is that A.W.E. happens and it happens all around us.

A.W.E. can happen anywhere at any time we just have to be aware of it and willing to experience it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fearful or Fearless

Fear is not always a bad thing. While fear can be a paralyzing force that prevents us from moving forward, fear can also serve as a signal, a big hint that something isn’t quite right. The key is to recognize the fear, take what we can from it and move on.

I keep in touch with a lot of people I’ve worked with at one point or another. Recently, I’ve talked to several people from an old job. One former coworker saw the writing on the wall. Over the past two years, she’s seen a number of her friends and co-workers lose their jobs. She’s seen the restructuring of departments and workloads. She’s watched morale plummet. So, slowly, about a year ago, she started putting together her exit plan. A month ago, they eliminated her position and transferred her to another job in another department. She felt as if things were going from bad to worse. She put her plan in action and when she called me, she was no longer working with our former employer.

Meanwhile, a few days later, another former co-worker from the same company called me. She’s fearful that she might be losing her job. She too has seen a number of her coworkers lose their jobs over the past two years. She’s seen how the new management has devalued the employees and in several cases, she’s seen some truly unethical behavior. Now, her supervisor seems to be targeting her. When I asked her what she was doing, she shrugged and said, “There’s nothing I can do but hope for the best.”

Her ‘hope’ plan goes like this. She hopes that she will keep her job. She hopes that if she doesn’t keep her job, at least she’ll get a severance package. She hopes she won’t have to look for a job so she is not circulating her resume or even checking any job boards. She’s afraid she won’t find something that pays her close to what she’s making now.

What’s the difference? Both women experienced fear. Both felt that their futures at the company were in jeopardy. One used fear as a motivator. Fear was the catalyst that got her to take action. The other used fear as a paralyzer. Her fear prevented her from taking action. It stopped her cold in her tracks. For her, I hope the hope plan words, because if it doesn’t…

Living a life without fear isn’t living a life. The issue isn’t getting rid of fear it’s learning to use fear. Learn from it. Listen to what it’s telling you. Use that information to move beyond it. Fear might never be a friend but it doesn’t have to be an enemy either.

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's Not Wrong to Receive

Volunteering, donations, supporting charities, and becoming a mentor, giving is good. We are supposed to do for others. In fact, as the Good Book puts it, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” It doesn’t however say,”It’s blessed to give and wrong to receive,” although that is how a lot of us take it.

Giving is good. We all get that. But there is a role for receiving as well. Let’s say your best friend’s birthday is coming up and you have just come into a windfall. You want to take some of your money and get her something she’s always wanted. It’s a bit pricey but you have more than enough to cover it.

Excited, you go out to the store, and get it. In fact, you get the top of the line version. Eagerly, you get it wrapped in the most beautiful paper and you set it up so that it’s a great surprise. In fact, it’s an event.

Finally, you give her the gift. You know she’s going to absolutely love it because she’s been talking about it for quite a while now. She tears through the paper and …

With her brow furrowed, she says, “Thanks, but I can’t accept this.”

It’s not an imposition, you explain. In fact, you had more than enough to afford it. She shakes her head.

“But, I’ve listened to you talk about this forever. This is exactly what you wanted, right?” You ask.

“Yes, but I can’t accept it. Sorry.” With that she puts the gift back in your hand.

Giving is great but when you don’t receive, you deny the other person the opportunity to give.

Often we feel guilty if we receive something wonderful. We feel we aren’t worthy. We think there are strings attached. We get suspicious. We feel guilty.

Good things can happen for us. Good things do happen for us. When they do, we need to be ready and willing to receive them with gratitude and enthusiasm. Allow people to give to you. Allow them to help you. Allow them to be there for you. Allow life or the universe or God, to answer your prayers and give to you as well.

Receiving isn’t wrong. It’s just part of the process.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Get Clear

What do you want? A job isn’t the right answer. A successful business isn’t the right answer either. Having a relationship, losing weight, going back to school, those answers aren’t working for me.

You need to get clear on what you want … exactly what you want. If you want a job, will any job do? Do you want to scrub toilets? How about picking up trash from the side of the road? That might be fine for some people, but if that isn’t your idea of a job, then you need to get clear.

When I graduated from college, in my youthful arrogance, I turned down a job, a good job. It took me another year to get my foot in the door at a radio station and when I did, I wasn’t getting paid. I toiled there for a year and a half. During that time, I got experience and made a decent demo tape. I also applied to any and every job I could. I applied to places I couldn’t pronounce. I sent resumes and tapes to places I couldn’t find on a globe. My goal was simple, find a job as a news producer. Any job.

Eventually, I got a job as a news producer in a small Midwestern town. The job was fine but I was miserable. Forget dating, I would have settled for just a friend. For a year, every evening, every weekend, I was alone. I ate alone. I went to the movies alone. I never made a local call because no one I knew was local. It was awful.

After a year, I left. I didn’t have another job. I didn’t care. I just had to get out.

I had not been clear about the job I wanted. I didn't want 'any job' 'anywhere', although that was the energy I was putting out. I wanted a job, as a producer, in a medium-sized city that would pay me at least $5,000 more than I ended up making. But desperation overtook clarity. I settled for anything and that's exactly what I got.

Knowing what you don’t want is a good start but you need to know exactly what you do want.

If you want a job, what job? Where are you working? What salary are you making? What are you doing every day? What is your boss like? How long is your commute?

If it’s a relationship, what are your partner’s characteristics? What activities do you share? What do you like about him/her? What does he/she bring to the relationship?

If it is a business, what defines a successful business to you? How much revenue are you generating? How many people are working for you? What are your days like? Who is your ideal client or customer?

Clarity is key.