Saturday, December 7, 2013

giving thanks

Thanksgiving at my sister's is always a crapshoot: which interesting disease will I catch from her daycare-attending nephews this year?  (As my date later pointed out to me:   Turns out it was a stomach bug -- probably because I was already on antibiotics from the cold I caught (that turned into a sinus infection) from them over Halloween.

You know how a stomach bug feels.  When you can't move in case it makes you want to barf.  How the smell of onions sauteeing in butter makes you want to die.  And how all you want is your mom.  Well, this time I was actually lucky enough to be sick near my mom.  And she took care of me.  In every perfect way.

She petted my head.  She brought me toast.  She encouraged me to take a shower when I really didn't want to, and sat in the bathroom, just in case I felt lightheaded in the shower.  She did everything I've ever wanted someone to do when I'm sick.  Because she's my mom.

I hate being sick, and I especially hate it when it takes me away from my nephews for a full day.  But I am so incredibly thankful for my family, who not only took care of me, but took care of each other without me.  My sister consoled me by swearing it would pass in 24 hours.  My dad asked if I needed anything.  My brother in law brought my littlest nephew's sleepy butt into my room so I could imagine myself patting it.

Every family has it's ups and downs, but I wouldn't trade mine for the world.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

wildly unscientific (but mildly interesting) personality test

I came across this personality test recently and, while it's not remotely scientific, I found it interesting.  Mostly when there were three options I was choosing from, and they were all fairly different.

The way it works is to look at the trees below, and pick the one that appeals most to you.  (Pick your tree first before reading the results):

The results...

1. You are a generous and moral (not to confuse with moralizing) person. You always work on self-improvement. You are very ambitious and have very high standards. People might think that communicating with you is difficult, but for you, it isn’t easy to be who you are. You work very hard but you are not in the least selfish. You work because you want to improve the world. You have a great capacity to love people until they hurt you. But even after they do... you keep loving. Very few people can appreciate everything you do as well as you deserve.

2. You are a fun, honest person. You are very responsible and like taking care of others. You believe in putting in an honest day’s work and accept many work-related responsibilities. You have a very good personality and people come to trust you easily. You are bright, witty and fast-thinking. You always have an interesting story to tell.

3. You are a smart and thoughtful person. You are a great thinker. Your thoughts and ideas are the most important. You like to think about your theories and views alone. You are an introvert. You get along with those who likes to think and learn. You spend a lot of time, thinking about morality. You are trying to do what is right, even if the majority of society does not agree with you.

4. You are perceptive and philosophical person. You are a unique, one soul of your kind. Next to you there’s no one even slightly similar to you. You are intuitive and a bit quirky. You are often misunderstood, and it hurts you. You need personal space. Your creativity needs to be developed, it requires respect of others. You are a person who clearly sees the light and dark sides of life. You are very emotional.

5. You are self-assured and in charge. You are very independent. Your guiding principle in life is ‘I’ll do it my way.’ You are very self-reliant and know how to stay strong for yourself and the people you Love. You know exactly what you want and are not afraid of pursuing your dreams. The only thing you demand from people is honesty. You are strong enough to accept the truth.

6. You are kind and sensitive. People relate to you very well. You have many friends and you love helping them. You have this warm and bright aura that makes people feel good when they are around you. Every day, you think about what you can do to improve yourself. You want to be interesting, insightful and unique. More than anybody else in the world, you need to love. You are even ready to love those who don’t love you back.

7. You are happy and unflappable. You are a very sensitive and understanding person. You are a great listener who know how to be non-judgmental. You believe that everybody has their own journey in life. You are open to new people and events. You are highly resistant to stress and rarely worry. Normally, you are very relaxed. You always manage to have a good time and never lose your way.

8. You are charming and energetic. You are a fun person who knows how to make people laugh. You live in a state of harmony with the universe. You are spontaneous and enthusiastic. You never say no to an adventure. Often, you end up surprising and even shocking people. But that’s just how you are. . . You always remain true to yourself. You have many interests and if something proves of interest to you, you will not rest until you acquire a profound knowledge of this area.

9. You are optimistic and lucky. You believe that life is a gift and you try to achieve as much as possible and put this gift to the best use possible. You are very proud of your achievements. You are ready to stick by the people you care about through thick and thin. You have a very healthy approach to life. The glass is (at least) half full for you. You use any opportunity to forgive, learn, and grow because you believe that life is too short to do otherwise.

So... did it feel right for you?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Oh, this explains it!

I'm in the thick of it.  I love my new job, but if I keep eating cookies, it could become a problem...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

change expectations

In the last few weeks I've gone through a lot of change -- I got a new job (that starts tomorrow) and met a new guy (who's pretty terrific).  So it's no wonder that I haven't written much here recently.

It brings up something important about change that a lot of people overlook.  Every new beginning starts with an ending and a drop in performance.  Before I can start my new job, I have to finish up my old one.  And that means I'm not moving forward with anything new, I'm wrapping up all my old stuff.  Before I can get serious with my fella, I have to stop dating other people and take down my online profiles.  That makes sense.

But what most people forget is that our productivity -- at work, in our hobbies, running errands, whatever -- starts to plummet.

This model, adapted from William Bridges' book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, shows how productivity predictably behaves during a change.

In that first phase, you're in an ending.  Like me, maybe you're experiencing some anticipation, anxiety, and perhaps mild terror.  (You don't have to experience all those feelings listed -- I'm not angry or in shock, but I might be if the choice to leave my old job wasn't mine.)

In that second phase, which I'll be entering shortly, there's a lot of waiting, confusion, topsy-turviness, and some of that anxiety can continue.  Anyone who's had a new job or moved to a new city know this phase well -- how can you be efficient when you don't know where the bathroom or the grocery store is?  And the big mistake we make in this phase is beating ourselves up for not being more effective and productive.  But it's natural to tank here.

Eventually, though, that new beginning starts in earnest, and things start to get better.  We feel more comfortable, competent, and confident in our new role.  It's the new natural, or the new default state.

There are no rules about how long each phase lasts.  Sometimes you're in Phase 1 for hours, other times for weeks.  My personal experience is that Phase 2 lasts the longest, but that's because I'm hyper-sensitive to not being productive.  (In fact, I've often taken action in that middle phase that I've regretted later because I was hasty, anxious to get going, and should have been a little more patient with myself.)

I bring this up because it's easy to get frustrated during a change -- especially if you're changing with other people.  You may go through each phase fairly quickly, while a loved one or coworker doesn't.  The important thing to remember is that a) if you're in the middle of a change, it does get better, and b) just because you're on board doesn't mean others will meet you there on your schedule.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

change your thoughts!

I recently attended a Learning Video Boot Camp and made this video -- luckily, it's another one of those times where my training and coaching (and former-acting) worlds overlap.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

book review: Manifesting Change by Mike Dooley

I’m a subscriber to Notes from the Universe (which, if you aren’t, you should be and can sign up here) and the notes are always these wonderfully peaceful and inspirational thoughts. So I wanted to read more from Mike Dooley, the man who writes them.

I also want to shift some things in my life right now, and I’m open to all kinds of methods. I’ve tried coaching, I’ve tried therapy, I’ve tried working my butt off, I’ve tried crowdsourcing… and while each method has brought more into my life and helped me along the way, I’m always fascinated by a new way of looking at things. So I picked up Manifesting Change: It Couldn't Be Easier. (Appealing title, no?)

At the heart of the book are these instructions:
1. Identify your end destination
2. Move in that direction
3. Let the universe figure out the rest for you.

Like he said, it can’t be easier.

There are, however, a few things you should be aware of as you embark down the manifesting path. First, you want to identify your end destination in vague but specific terms. “I am blissfully happy in a relationship with a man” instead of “I am blissfully happy in a relationship with Fred.” “I have the job of my dreams that brings me wealth and meaningful work” instead of “I have the VP of Sales position at JPMorgan that makes me $1 million a year.” The argument here is that the more you narrow down the options for what will make you happy, the harder the universe is going to have to work to put all the right pieces together to make it happen.

Second, you must move in the direction of your joy. It’s not enough to identify your end result and visualize 24 hours a day and never get off the couch. If you’re looking for a job, you must visualize, identify how you want to feel in your job, and maybe some specifics around how much you want to make or how meaningful your contribution is, and then you must go out there and, as Dooley calls it, “knock on some doors.”

[Sidenote: a friend once told me about how she had completely given up on dating and her mother told her that she can’t just give up. That love “doesn’t just walk up to your door and knock.” The next day, the refrigerator repair man walked up and knocked on the door and they’ve been married for 10 years. It’s probably easier, however, to be out in the world of people if you want to meet your soulmate.]

And then the third part is the most challenging part for me – step back, and let the universe drive for you. The more I read this book, the more I realized how much of a control freak I am, always trying to control when I’m dating, what kind of work I do, how much of an impact I have on the world around me. So I’m practicing letting go and, in the proverbial 12 step language, letting god. I’ve turned it over to the universe, so watch out! I’ll probably be married before the R train goes back through the tunnel!

Monday, August 5, 2013

book review: The Four Agreements

My book club recently chose to read the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and I have to admit that when I first started it, I thought, “dear god, there are going to be some members of the group who are going to think this is a load of hooey-gooey horsecrap.” (The first chapter leans pretty far into the la la la side of things.) But once I got past some of Ruiz’ ideas about the “dream of the human condition,” I found four very valuable, very actionable principles to add to my life.

Agreement 1: Be Impeccable with Your Word

What I love about this agreement is that it’s ostensibly about how you treat others. Do what you say you’re going to do, don’t lie, etc., but where it gets powerful is being impeccable with your word towards yourself. Don’t let the self-talk track you run on the inside put you down. Don’t trash yourself for the sake of comedy or to fit in. Choose words that empower you, not words that belittle or betray you.

Agreement 2: Don’t Take Things Personally

99% of what goes on around us has little or nothing to do with us. But because it’s near us and we’re in its orbit, we take it personally. Not taking things personally hit home with me -- I’m single in New York City. Dating here is a challenge, and people do all kinds of things that, if you can zoom out and take a bigger perspective on things, have nothing to do with me.

Agreement 3: Don’t Make Assumptions

I like to operate under the saying “if you’re going to make it up, make it good.” I still think that concept applies, but Ruiz is encouraging us not to make it up at all. Ask questions. Get confirmations. Have conversations. Take risks. Assumptions and expectations go hand in hand, and the lion’s share of disappointment comes directly from expectations. Let go of both, he argues, and your disappointment will decrease.

Agreement 4: Always Do Your Best

This one is a little tricky. On the surface, it seems to be saying that we should strive, yearn, and aim for perfection. But what it’s really saying is that we should do our best in any given situation, and be satisfied that we have done our best. Not compare it to some external ideal of “perfection,” and not berate ourselves for the times when the outcome isn’t perfect. For me, doing my best can mean only giving 85% when 85% is what’s called for. And there is great peace in looking back on my life and knowing that I did the best that I could in any given situation.

We haven’t yet held our meeting on this book, so I’m excited to hear what others have to say about it, but I find the principles simple, and their application varies for me day to day. Could I do better? Probably. But I’m not going to beat myself up over it.

Friday, July 26, 2013

book review -- Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath

Making decisions – good decisions – is challenging, especially when the stakes are high. Chip and Dan Heath have put together a book that really helps to make the process easier and more likely to produce good results.

Their acronym, WRAP, reminds us of facets of good decision making that often go overlooked.

W: Widen your options
Our thinking is incredibly limited when making an “either-or” decision – do I stay in this relationship or not? Do I take the promotion or not? One of the ways in which to widen your options (and ensure better decision making) is to include at least a third option. The best way to generate that third option is to imagine that your original two options are impossible. (“Ok, so I can’t stay in this relationship, and I can’t get out of it, either. What are my other options?”) This causes us to be creative and not to get stuck in our preconceived, binary notions.

Another idea that helps to widen your options is to find someone else who has already solved your problem. If you’re trying to decide whether or not to go to the Grand Canyon, find someone else who has gone there. (Like me!)

A third point the authors make in this first section is that we approach problems with a “promotion” or “prevention” mindset. The promotion mindset is all about solving problems and seeking positive outcomes, whereas the prevention mindset is all about keeping bad things from happening. Promotion is more freeing, more creative. Prevention is more fear-based, more restrictive. When facing a difficult decision, try to look at it from both angles instead of just one or the other.

R: Reality Test Your Assumptions
Once you’ve got more options (thanks, step one!), it’s worth taking a look at them from some different angles. Zoom in – see what the details of what life with that promotion would look like on a day-to-day basis. And zoom out – get an overview of what would be different if you stayed in that relationship from a big picture perspective.

Another idea the Heaths throw out there is to deliberately make a “mistake.” I do this a lot, especially in dating – going into a situation that I know could be a flop, just to see what happens. 90% of the time, it’s a flop. But every now and then I surprise myself.

And a third idea from this section is one they call “ooching.” It’s kind of a cross between an inch and a scootch, and basically means trying something out in a little way before applying it in a big way. Ooch before you leap. This could mean volunteering or interning in the field you’re considering changing to before getting a graduate degree in it. (I hear this happens a lot with law school. People like the idea of being a lawyer a lot more than the actual practice of it. Working at a law firm can show you what you’re getting yourself into before you acquire years of debt to pay off.)

A: Attain Distance Before Deciding
Short-term emotion is a powerful thing. We see it often in relationships – more easily, however, in others’ than in our own. A friend of mine met a woman a while ago who, when they first met, was The Perfect Woman. She was funny, smart, and could do no wrong. A few months in, however, he found out she was an alcoholic and a cold hearted bitch. So… finding a way to get some distance from the powerful emotion of the moment is very helpful in making effective decisions.

The same holds true for new jobs. The Heaths tell a story about a woman who had a terrific job interview that would create all kinds of wonderful opportunities for her and scratch all the itches her current job was creating. However, after attaining some distance, this woman was able to see that the new job wasn't going to solve all her problems, and would, in fact, create some new ones that were potentially worse than her current ones. How did she decide? She went back to her core values.

Core values are something I talk about a lot with my clients, and I’m glad to see them reflected in a book about decision-making.

A key point the authors make in this section is that we are generally better at giving advice to others than we are at giving it to ourselves, for a variety of reasons (most of which are due to our own biases). If you’re in an emotionally-charged decision spot, a great question to ask yourself is “what would I tell a friend to do now?” Usually that’s pretty good advice.

P: Prepare to be Wrong
One problem most decision-makers face is overconfidence. We don’t expect our decisions to turn out badly, and so once we make a decision, we turn on autopilot and just cruise along. The Heaths recommend creating a tripwire – a condition that will alert us to the failure (or potential failure) of our decision. The example they give in the book is excellent – it’s about David Lee Roth’s insistence on having no brown m&ms backstage.

Back in the day, Van Halen traveled with a lot of equipment and had very complex setups. So they sent ahead a list of things that needed to be done in each venue to make sure that the show would be adequately set up and safe. Buried deep in the middle of that list was a specification that there be no brown m&ms in the dressing room. If David Lee Roth walked into the dressing room and saw brown m&ms, he knew that the venue had not carefully read the list of safety protocols and that the safety team would have to do a thorough walk-through. If there were no brown m&ms, that review could be more cursory. The m&ms became their tripwire.

If you’re facing a decision, what would be your tripwire? If you take that new job in hopes that it will allow you more time with your family, maybe hitting 70 hours a week at work is your tripwire. Identifying it in advance will allow you to go into autopilot without going too far down the wrong road.

There are a ton of great stories in this book, and really useful, directly applicable advice. It’s written in a fun, chatty tone, and has a decent sense of humor for a book about decision-making.

From the book: “Being decisive is itself a choice. Decisiveness is a way of behaving, not an inherited trait. It allows us to make brave and confident choices, not because we know we’ll be right, but because it’s better to try and fail than to delay and regret. Our decisions will never be perfect, but they can be better. Bolder. Wiser. The right process can steer us toward the right choice.”

You can read more about the book here, and register on their website to get all kinds of helpful resources, like a book group study guide or a copy of the first chapter (so you can ooch your way into it).

Monday, July 22, 2013

are rolls and funks self-perpetuating?

I'm in a lucky spot right now:  I'm on a roll.  My job is great, my clients are amazing, and things in my social/dating life are going well.  I feel like I'm putting good vibes out there and the universe is responding with gusto by introducing me to interesting people and giving me good learning experiences.  It's pretty awesome.

This morning, though, I talked to a friend who is in the opposite spot.  She's in a funk.  (And it may just be a bad enough funk to be a phunk.  Or, perhaps the ever-dreaded pfunk.)  She's worried about where her life is going and how she's going to get there.  She's gone down a rabbit hole of doubt and fear, and is worried that not only will the pfunk remain, but maybe the judging voices in her head are right.

From the outside, I can see absolutely nothing wrong with my friend's life right now -- she's just facing some professional challenges and feeling some fear.  But it got me thinking:  what's the difference between where she is (pfunk) and where I am (roll)?  I think it's all about perspective.  I think my life is going well and it feels like the universe is rewarding me with this roll.  She thinks her life isn't going well, and the universe feels like it's rewarding her with a pfunk.

I'm not trying to say that we create our own realities (though I may be kindasortakinda implying that), but on the extreme edges (funks/rolls) I've personally experienced a strong mind-reality connection.  When I want to see crap, I can always find it.  And when all I'm seeing is good, life is sweet.

The challenge for me (and for many people, I think) is that it's hard to flip the switch from funk to roll.  It's kind of a chicken and egg scenario -- at this point, the outside world has to give me some indication that I'm doing well before I can feel like I'm on a roll.  What I'm hoping I might be able to get to is the opposite -- that by thinking I'm on a roll I can start to get out of a funk.

It's a matter of faith in myself and my abilities despite what I'm seeing in the outside world.  And at the moment, that feels like a big stretch.  But I'm willing to take my roll and see just how long I can get it to last.  And maybe that's the first step.

Monday, July 15, 2013

the relationship with your boss

(I write some articles for work, and this is borrowed and/or adapted from one of them. Enjoy!)

Every relationship has its challenges, and the relationship with your boss is no different. You have the power – and the responsibility – to make it the best relationship you can.

Any time there are two people working together, there are all kinds of opportunities to see things differently. Your boss may think you’re not skilled enough for a task you believe yourself to be. Your boss may have opinions about how you should dress or behave that you think he/she should keep private. Or your boss may prefer meeting in person when you think an email will suffice.

The good news is that taking responsibility in relationships means acknowledging that the only person you can change is you. Sure, your boss may do or say things that drive you crazy, but you can’t change him or her, and trying will only frustrate you! You don’t have to love your boss – you don’t even have to like him or her very much. But you do have to do your part.

This is where the basics from stress management come in. Apply the 3A’s – alter the situation, avoid the situation, or accept the situation and alter your response to it.

First is altering – what can you change in the world around you so that your boss’s behavior doesn't impact you so much? If your boss thinks you’re not skilled enough for a task, for example, can you alter the way you demonstrate your skills? Provide a weekly recap of all the things you did that prove you’re up for the task.

Second is avoiding – how can you reduce your exposure to the things that drive you crazy? This does not mean avoiding your boss completely! But it does mean that if the conversation finds its way to your boss’s opinions about your personal life, you can adeptly steer it in another direction. You don’t avoid your boss, you avoid the topics that cause the most stress.

And third is accepting the situation and altering your response to it – what do you need to think or do differently so that your boss’s behavior doesn't make you nuts? If your boss prefers meeting when an email will suffice, accept that there are going to be times you’ll have to spend an extra ten or twenty minutes when you’d rather be doing something else. If you change your expectations from “why doesn't she just email?” to “she prefers meeting, I can live with it” you may find yourself feeling less stressed about the relationship.

This last principle is the most important in avoiding stress in general, and I can see it all the time on the subway. When there are delays, you can’t alter the circumstances. (Unless, of course, you know how to drive a train.) You can’t avoid the situation; you’re smack in the middle of it. And so all you can do is accept the situation and alter your response to it. Instead of thinking (or, perhaps vocalizing, as New Yorkers tend to do) that this train needs to move or I’m going to be really late, you can accept that you’ll be stuck here for a minute or two and you can use the time to start thinking about what you’ll need to do next to mitigate the impacts of the delay.

I heard a great quote which covers this fairly well: if you can do something about it, why worry? And if you can’t do something about it, why worry?

All of this ties back to your responsibility to the relationship with your boss – or with anyone. Are you taking care of you? Are you bringing your best self to the relationship? Or are you blaming it all on your boss and hoping that, magically, he or she will a) know what exactly needs to change, and b) be able to do it?

Monday, July 8, 2013

building your self-run business

A few weeks ago, I went to a presentation by Joanne Killmeyer, a professional executive coach, about things you can do to build your coaching business.  I was asked by the group (ASTD -- the American Society for Training & Development) to write it up for their blog, and I did.

You can see it here.  If you run your own business (or want to), there are some good ideas to be had.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

no regrets. (or, well, ok, at least not as many regrets)

Regret. It’s a big, heavy thing that I (like many, if not most people) try to avoid at all costs. I work hard to make sure I live a life I can be proud of and, barring that, that I learn from all my choices, good or bad. And to me, those are two key ingredients to the general lack of regret in my life.

Now, am I saying I have no regrets in my perfectly perfect life? Absolutely not. There are things I wish I hadn’t said, frogs I wish I hadn’t kissed, princes I wish I hadn’t let go, jars of peanut butter I wish I hadn’t eaten, and all sorts of things that, given the opportunity to go back and do it over again (knowing then, of course, what I know now) I’d absolutely do differently. But that doesn’t mean I regret having done them.

As an obvious example, I spent almost a decade of my life pursuing a job as a professional actor. It has had consequences – I’m still behind the eight ball as far as my career and compensation go. But what I learned in that decade, especially as it regards rejection, is invaluable. The benefits of that choice, for the most part, outweigh the costs.

So my guiding principles are: first, aim to live a mindful, well-considered life. Time and energy are precious, so I don’t want to fling them away on nothing. Then second, learn from my choices. What do they mean for me going forward? What will I do differently? How will I change and grow? If I can do this 80% of the time, I’m golden.

However, there are people who have thought about this far more than I have. Martha Beck, a popular and incredible life coach, is one of them. Her advice for “regret-proofing” your life is this:
1. Get past denial. Denial is thinking “this shouldn’t have happened” or “if only…” This only serves to make you more miserable.
2. Separate the feelings. Regret is usually a combo of anger and sadness and if you can articulate what’s making you sad and what’s making you angry, you can let go of them faster.
3. Grieve what’s lost. Take the time to let go of the sadness.
4. Identify and seek out what you were hoping to get. What has regret forced you to give up? And how can you get that back into your life?
5. Analyze your anger. Listen to it for instructions. Talk it out or write it out.
6. Learn to lean towards love. When we make choices based on love, they are harder to regret. At your next choice point, make the decision that is most loving.

You can read her whole article here. I’m betting you won’t regret it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Combating stuckness with nothing

Ever since I got back from vacation, for a variety of reasons, I’ve been feeling really stuck. And I’ve been trying to motivate myself out of it in all kinds of ways – affirmations, promises, getting out in nature, trying to look on the bright side, eating chocolate, not eating chocolate... You name it, if it’s in a self-help book, I’ve tried it. And I’m still stuck.

I’ve been here before. It’s the stuck paradox. I’m so stuck, no amount of pushing against the stuck is going to unstick it. It’s kind of like when I get really bored – I know that if I just get up and do anything it will be less boring than laying there thinking about how bored I am, but I’m so bored I don’t have the energy to get up and do anything. (This was the story of my life while I was temping.)

What I’m working with now is the Let It Be technique. Basically, I’m just allowing myself to be stuck and trusting that, like the ocean, my life will come along again and sweep me back into itself. I’m talking about it (which is risky because, well, if I promise I can help other people get unstuck, but can’t seem to get unstuck myself, what does that say about me?) and I’m finding that the combo is starting to work.

How do I know it’s working? Well, I’ve been too stuck to write a blog post for the last few weeks and here I am writing again. Is it a full recovery? Not by a mile. But, as I once told a client, baby steps only move forward.

Monday, May 13, 2013

on productivity (and what it takes)

My friend likes to think that I write all my blog posts about him.  So, in a friendly move, I'm actually writing one about him.  (You're welcome.)

At dinner a while ago, he and I talked about his new job, and how part of the reason he took the job was to prove to himself that he could.  I've always known he could, but I've never doubted his professional skills the way he has.  One thing I know about him -- if he says he's going to do it (for work), he'll work hard to make sure it's done.

We had dinner again recently, and in talking about our schedules, he told me that he's still working the same ridiculous hours -- full, long work weeks and consistently working on weekends.  I've been telling him for years (and, in his defense, he's been agreeing with me for years -- though not doing anything about it) that working harder and longer is not necessarily the key to working better.

And luckily, I found an article recently that says I might be right.

Relax! You'll Be More Productive, written by Tony Schwartz for the New York Times says, "A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health."

Schwartz goes on to praise what he calls "renewals" -- naps, vacations, times in which the mind is quiet -- and the beneficial impact they have on our ability to stay focused and work smarter.  "By managing energy more skillfully, it’s possible to get more done, in less time, more sustainably," he argues.  

See the rest of it for yourself here.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


A dear friend of mine recently sent me a podcast about vulnerability that was part of an hour-long TED program created by NPR (a good remix if you're tired of listening to TED talks that rely heavily on visuals).  In this talk, Brene Brown -- a woman I had heretofore avoided because I saw she had been on Oprah and, well, that made me doubt how uncheesy she was going to be -- focuses on shame and vulnerability.  She defines shame as more ore less this fear:  "is there something about me, that if other people know it or see it, that I won't be worthy of connection?"

She tells the story about her struggle with vulnerability and the research she's done around people who are willing to be vulnerable.

It's a great listen:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

an experiment in love

My ability to love is one of my greatest strengths. In the past I viewed it like a superpower and saved my love for when it’s needed (making sure I Used My Power For Good). But I didn’t allow myself to goof off with it and just have a good time. Think about it: Wonderwoman must have flown her invisible jet to the Caribbean for a weekend, and when no one was looking, I guarantee you Spiderman made trampolines out of his webs. So instead of over-focusing on Finding The One or Getting The Love I Need or Calling In Mr. Right, I decided it was time to be as loving as I can on a regular basis. You know, for kicks.

Luckily, I think I’m on the right path. I was recently told how incredibly loving I am – from someone who wasn’t even in love with me! So this is good.

The difference between how I see it now and how I’ve seen it in the past is the result. I’ve been afraid to love if there’s even the slightest chance I won’t be loved in return. But that’s just a game of chicken. Why wait for the other person to dive first? Why not just practice loving and see what happens?

I came across a couple of articles recently that really spoke to being loving instead of being loved. Robert Holden posted a lovely piece on The Daily Love that talked about what happens when two people looking for love find each other: nothing. They may find infatuation and be tempted to think it’s love, but it falls apart. “If, however,” he says, “you are committed to being the most loving person you know, you will attract someone who is committed to living on that wavelength too. And, when two people – who are committed to being the love they are looking for – finally meet, they will find love.”


Another piece that caught my eye was by Margaret Paul, Ph.D., an author who specializes in relationships. She posted ten signs that you’re really in love (and not just infatuated) and the one that stood out to me was number four:

You receive deep joy in giving to your beloved.

Her focus is more on being supportive and not begrudging your partner any of the work you do on his or her behalf, but I see it as the same thing – you get great pleasure out of loving your partner (not out of being loved by your partner).

It’s a new perspective and a new experiment, so I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

the power (and agony) of silence

Due to a knock-you-down-drag-you-out-and-just-when-you-think-it-can't-be-worse-spit-on-your-feverishly-clammy-and-achy-body sickness, I've been unable to speak above a whisper for eight days. Eight days!  This is my new definition of hell.

I've discovered some interesting things, though.

The pros of silence

  • Turns out that many things I find myself wanting to say, if I just give others a little more time, they'll figure out for themselves.  So not all of my comments are as urgent as I've thought them to be.  
  • It wasn't until this experience that I remembered what it was like not to know the answers to questions.  (Was there life before the internet?)
  • I can observe others a great deal more.  
  • Texting becomes a more viable means of communication.
  • I can hear myself think.
  • Not speaking up has made me realize how easy it is for others (especially introverts) to feel trampled by those, like me, who speak easily and all the time.
  • I've realized there are more means of communication than speech.  Acts of service, performed by my loved ones, have reminded me that, even though I miss it desperately, talk is cheap.
  • I've seen the value of choosing what I say and being as succinct as possible.
  • There are specific people I actively miss speaking to.  (This is a nice feeling, strangely.)
The cons of silence
  • I'm a very, very social animal.  Not being able to express my thoughts has made me feel sad, lonely, isolated, and irrelevant.  
  • It's not as if my thoughts have been stilled, they've just been trapped.  And I think this was how my first attempt at meditation looked -- I was trying not to have thoughts, or to regulate them, or somehow master them.  Leaving me feeling isolated and unhappy.  
  • I haven't been able to coach, work, or follow up with people beyond emailing.
  • Did I mention it's lonely?  It's lonely.
  • There are specific people I actively miss speaking to.  (This also a not-so-nice feeling, it turns out.)
I've often wondered if I could do one of those retreats where you don't speak for ten days.  Turns out, I probably could.  The question is, would I want to?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

it's all situational

Just last week I was certified in Ken Blanchard's Situational Leadership Model (II), which basically helps leaders determine where their direct reports fall on an intersecting continuum of commitment and competence.  Then, depending on where those followers fall, the leader flexes his or her style to meet the followers where they are.

The picture below helps describe this.  The D1-D4 section at the bottom relates to the follower's commitment ("will do") and competence ("can do") and the four-box at the top relates to how the leader should interact with the follower based on his or her "D" status.  You can see that if the person is a D1, the leader should use Style S1, which involves a lot of telling, directing, and "high-directive, low-supportive behavior."

It's a great model, and what I've given you is a two paragraph overview of something much more complex (and if you'd like to know more about it, email me, I'm happy to discuss) but it got me thinking:  isn't every successful interaction situational?  Aren't we always flexing ourselves to try and meet someone else where he or she is in the moment, or at least where we think he or she is at the moment?  (And if not, should we be?)

For an easy example, think about trying to figure out the best way to convince someone to see things your way.  You know you're short on time and you want to be most effective, so your two axes this time become "interaction preference" and "time":
If you're trying to convince an introvert with no time, you'd probably be more successful writing bullet points for him/her to read over than if you try to sit down and talk things through.  Similarly, if you've got an extravert with plenty of time, do it over lunch and chit chat about all the reasons it's a good idea.  An introvert with plenty of time could be given something to read or have a one-on-one discussion with time to process.  An extravert with no time might need a quick conversation outlining the major benefits.

I'm not saying this model (which I just invented) is backed with the kind of research Blanchard's is.  It's not.  And, hell, I'm willing to be wrong about what I've suggested would be successful.  But you can see my point:  how taking someone else's preferences into account can help you be more successful in whatever it is you're trying to accomplish.  However, it's making a pretty big assumption you know what the other person's preferences are.

Another example could be trying to teach adults -- do they want to absorb or do?  Do they have great knowledge or little?
Again, if I've got visual/auditory learners who know a lot, I can show them pictures and have a dialogue with them, whereas if I've got kinesthetic learners who don't know much, I need to give them an experience with whatever it is I want them to learn.

But again, I'm assuming I know what the other person's preferences are.  Where this starts to get a little wonky -- and yet, it still holds true that we flex ourselves in these situations -- is in dating.  The four-box in dating would be on the continuum of how much "he likes me" and "I like him."

If you're in the red box (he doesn't like me, I like him), you're going to behave very differently and treat him very differently than you would if you were in the orange box (he likes me, I don't like him).  The same thing is true if you're in the green box vs. the blue one.

The question here, though, is which box yields the most authentic behavior, and which one is the most "successful"?  Sadly, I have no suggestions for how to behave in each box of this "date-uational model."  I'm simply pointing out the fact that when there is something we want from another person, we're well-served to look for signs of where that person might be and try to meet him or her there.

So what can you do to try to meet someone where he or she is?  First observe their behavior and try to meet them where they are.  And, if you need to, ask questions.  (Though you may get mixed results with this one if you ask your date "where on the continuum from 'he doesn't like me' to 'he likes me' do you think you fall right now?")  Pay attention to the other person.  And be willing to admit that your approach is not the only one that works.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

greater personal responsibility

Many of my clients tell me they want to own their lives.  The focus of this work varies -- some clients are trying to get clear on what they want, some are trying to identify and end bad patterns, and still others are trying to create new patterns that serve them better.  But the crux of it is the same: my clients are all taking greater personal responsibility for the way their lives are going.  (And I applaud them for that.)

The tricky thing about personal responsibility is that it's so easy to shirk.  What's your internal monologue when you misplace your keys?  When I do, the first thing I think is, "this can't be happening."  The second thing is, "did someone move my keys?"  Then I slide into "I can't believe I lost my keys -- what an idiot!" and then, "I'm going to be late if I don't find my keys.  I HAVE TO FIND MY KEYS!"  I never approach lost keys with the mindset of "yes, of course, I've misplaced my keys somewhere and will be able to find them in no time."

An interesting article by Christopher Avery uncovers a very typical thinking pattern when it comes to personal responsibility.  In his model, Avery points out that when we first face a problem, the brain's immediate reaction is to deny that the problem is even happening.  (My old roommate and I had a running quote board and the one that lasted the longest up there was "It's Ok, It's Not Happening.")

The next step in the process is to lay blame.  I think tons of people in the world just get stuck here and never move past it.

After blame comes justification.  If nobody else moved my keys, I must have put them in a safe place (and not their normal place).

After justification comes shame.  So many people get stuck feeling bad about the decisions they've made that they don't own up to having made them.  Shame gets its own cycle for many people, spinning them off into other, more distracting kinds of despair.

After shame, there are two choices -- you can either accept that the situation is what it is and that you are somehow obligated to move forward with it (gritting your teeth, of course), or you can run away and quit, dropping whatever it was you were doing in the first place.  (In the keys example, this might look like feeling like you have to leave the door unlocked because you couldn't find your keys, or deciding not to leave the house at all, thereby removing the need to find your keys.)

It is only by realizing that you have choice at every stage that you can move through the stages of the model into owning your responsibility.

There are three things that will help you live in a place of greater personal responsibility and move through all the phases between denial and responsibility more quickly -- having the intention of owning your shit, being aware of where you are and how you might be getting stuck in one of the stages in the model, and confronting yourself with reality by questioning the assumptions you are making.

Here's an example of how I put this into work.

I was in a training class at a hotel recently and over the break I needed to check out of my room.  I went to the room to pick up my suitcase, and the key didn't work.  My first thought was, "well, that's not right, the key's supposed to work," (denial) so I tried again.  Didn't work again.  Then I thought, "Oh, the front desk must have cancelled my key!" (blame) so I called them to get it fixed and I had to make the round trip to the front desk, adding to the time I was away from class.

On the way back to class, I really wanted a cup of coffee, but I knew I was going to be late.  I ran through all the reasons I could use to apologize for my delay -- the key, the front desk, how bad I felt about being late -- and I ran through what it would feel like to sit in the class without my coffee (obligation) and I decided that I would "own my shit."  I chose to have the coffee, even though it would make me late, and I wasn't going to blame anyone, justify my lateness, or even feel bad about it.  I was at choice, I was aware, and I was willing to take ownership if need be.

In this world it's easy to be hard on ourselves for the mistakes we make.  Especially when we feel we should know better.  But to truly own your personal responsibility for your life, you have to see that mistakes aren't inherently bad.  That the world is not black and white.  And that there are going to be times you do things that would be easier to blame or justify away.  The benefit to personal ownership, in my opinion, is the feeling of freedom and choice that comes along with it.  Saying, "I did this.  I chose to do it.  And maybe it's not perfect, but it's what I did."

Thursday, February 28, 2013

why I love yoga

There are about 100 reasons I love yoga.  These are the top ten:

1.  Yoga clothes.  Stretchy, comfy, non-binding, mildly-flattering.  Say no more.

2.  Awesome pose names.  When my sister and I were little, we used to make up words by putting syllables together and saying them confidently, as if they were words.  Our best combos?  Plib-doo, snib-wad, dil-do.  Yoga brings me back to my childhood roots, with words like hanumanasana, eka pada rajakapotasana and dwi pada viparita dandasana (Upward Facing Two-Foot Staff Pose, if you must know.)

3.  Being with myself.  It's an hour and a half where I don't have to think about anything but whether my foot is in alignment with my knee.  Or if the stretch in my shoulder feels good or not.

4.  Having a bodily sense of humor.  I've been lucky to have yoga instructors who are not serious downers.  They've all been very gentle, friendly, easy women (hey! not that kind of easy!) who take their own practice with a grain of salt, and encourage us to take ours that way.

5.  Connecting with Lisa.  She's my yoga buddy.  Going without her feels different.  Not bad different, but I like it better when she's there.

6.  Dedicating my practice to something.  My instructor encourages us to take a moment at the beginning of class to pick something to dedicate the next 90 minutes to.  I don't know if I'm supposed to think about my dedication for the next 90 minutes (I rarely do), but I like the idea that the universe is responding to my issue -- kind of like the Prayers for the People that we did growing up in the Episcopal church.  But way less Jesus-y.  I've dedicated my practice to forgiveness, to Lisa, to my future boyfriend, wheresoever he is...

7.  Did I mention the yoga clothes?  I've lost my ability to dress like a professional.

8.  Savasana.  Corpse pose.  Basically, laying on the floor, dead-like for 10-15 minutes.  Letting thoughts come and go.  Wrapped in a blanket, rewarding myself for taking the time for myself.

9.  Using my mat.  I've had it for a hundred years and only recently started using it.  Now I feel better about the space it takes up in my apartment.

10.  Being done with yoga.  There's this nice, rubber noodle feeling afterwards.  Like I'm in a warm broth of happiness, relaxation, and peace.  And what am I wearing?  Yoga clothes.  Say no more.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

acceptance and forgiveness

I feel like acceptance and forgiveness are like the chicken and the egg -- which comes first?

I have a friend, who, when he was my boyfriend, dumped me three different times.  The first time he dumped me because he got a promotion at work and was too busy to see me.  The second time he dumped me because he freaked out and felt so overwhelmed by his life that he couldn't make time in it for me.  And the third time he dumped me, surprise surprise, he didn't have time for me.

The first two times, I forgave him (obviously), but I didn't accept that the way he was (and the reasons for which he was dumping me) wasn't going to change.  I thought, "oh, if only he gets a less stressful job," or "if only he chose to make having a relationship a priority, this could work."  Except that that's not who he is.  Work is his priority.  No matter how much he talks about wanting a relationship (and he does), until that core value of his changes, he won't have one.  Or at least not with me.

The third time he dumped me, however, I went beyond forgiveness into acceptance.  I finally saw him for who he is, for where he is, and for what he's capable of now, not in some distant, magical future.  I let go of his potential, and accepted his actual.  The funny thing is, I don't know how I did it.  All I know is that it's done.

He came to me recently and told me he had a choice between a job that would be less demanding (but potentially more spiritually fulfilling -- yay!) and one that would be more demanding (but potentially soul-crushing -- boo!).  I knew immediately which he would choose, even though I was hoping he could find it in himself to choose the other one.  When he told me, he was worried I would be disappointed in him.  And while I'll admit I was sad that he was going to miss another opportunity to take his life in a new direction,  I wasn't the least bit disappointed in him.  Because I can now accept him for who he is.

In this case, forgiveness came before acceptance.  Three times.

However, I'm struggling with a non-romantic relationship right now, and I'm feeling pulled to accept before forgiving.  I know the situation won't change.  I know that.  But I'm finding it hard to give up hope that it will.  And that hope is addictive.  It's alluring.  And it's what leads me straight to disappointment.

When I write it out, it seems perfectly clear:  If I can accept that things won't change and I can forgive this person for being who he is (and not being who I want/hope/need him to be) then I'm scott free.  If I can let that hope die, then I can also rid myself of the disappointment.

So why am I having such a hard time with it?  Did the chicken have this much trouble with the egg?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What evidence do you see?

In a conversation last night I was reminded of how easy it is to be so focused on seeing ourselves negatively – as somehow lacking, in need of improvement, or otherwise deficient – and how quickly life will serve us evidence that what we think is true. For example, if I think I’m imperfect, the enormous bruise on my leg (and my stupid clumsiness that led to it in the first place) will convince me I’m right. If I think I need to be better than I am, the feedback from my boss will convince me that I’m no good at my job. And if I think I’m deficient, not hearing from the guy I gave my card to will seal the deal on that one.

However, and this is the part that takes reminding, the reverse is also true. If we’re focused on seeing ourselves in a gentler, more accepting light, life will serve us evidence of that, too. If I think I’m human, I can laugh at the bruise – it is really nasty and a good story. If I’m patient with myself, I’ll see the helpful kernel in my boss’s advice. And if I believe I’m whole, I’ll let that guy sort his business out without me.

It’s all about selective attention.

Look at the video below and you’ll see what I mean.

Unfortunately, I knew what I was getting into before I saw the video, so I saw the gorilla walk right through the middle. But I could also see how, if I were focused intently (like I am sometimes on being hard on myself), I could miss it.

Think about what you gather evidence for, and if it’s what you really want to prove to yourself. If not, what can you do differently to prove yourself perfect, just the way you are?

Friday, January 25, 2013

"why shouldn't you succeed?"

A client of mine recently sent me this article from the Huffington post and I think it sums up why people who work with coaches benefit from the relationship. As the author, Deborah Gaines says, "With kindness and patience, [my coach] began to do what all good coaches do: dismantle the road blocks I had placed in the way of my own success."

For me, as a coach, this happens in two directions. First, it's about removing what you've layered onto yourself in hopes of being/having/doing all the things you've wanted to be/have/do. All of those layers aren't working, right? If they were, you'd be/have/do all the things you've wanted. So removal. Then, alignment. The second part is all about identifying what's important to you, and then getting more of that in your life.

To do this, I often have clients identify their values. What are the guiding principles that steer them through their lives? What makes them tick? What makes them uniquely them? What principles and practices are important in their lives? What do they want from the people and the world around them? And then I ask them to identify what percentage they're living that value. (Usually the answer is under 50% for at least one essential value.) And then I ask what it would take to bump that percentage up 10%. Not 100%. Not even 25%. Just 10%. And we go from there.

We're a culture that often asks "what's next?" instead of "what's possible?" And coaching, on the whole, asks both. Because what's next is of no value if you haven't truly considered what's possible.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Perils of Setting Goals

In a recent NYT article, Experts’ Advice to the Goal-Oriented: Don’t Overdo It, the author, Alina Tugend, highlights the dangers of casually setting goals without examining yourself, the process, and the goal itself.  Some goals are too overly focused, she says, and leave out important elements.  Some goals are overwhelming, and require all your effort, leaving no room for the other things you want in your life.  And some goals are too preposterous and lead easily to cheating.

That's why goal setting all by yourself can be a dangerous thing -- it's easy to lose perspective.  In my recent Make it Happen Now! class, each participant arrived on the scene with a goal in mind.  We worked together -- sometimes as a whole class, and sometimes just in pairs -- to make sure everyone's goal was viable.  That it was reasonable.  That it was only one goal (and not multiple ones).  And then we worked together to come up with actionable steps each participant could take to move that goal forward.

One participant said, "I couldn't think of a better way to start the new year than taking [this] class and getting my goals crystallized through [Kate's] methodical and proven process."  And that's what it's all about -- put your goals through a process.  Examine not only what you get when you reach a goal, but also what you get if you don't reach it.  Look at what you give up if you reach your goal.  It's counter intuitive, but doing this kind of work means you won't be blindsided by these surprises down the road.

There's still a chance to take Make it Happen Now! this year on Sunday, January 27th.  Find more information and register here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

some interesting research on goals

I saw a compelling article the other day about goal setting that I thought I would share with you. It's from a website called Leadership IQ that has great work- and management-related posts and webinars on a regular basis. But this one caught my eye.

Leadership IQ asked around 5,000 people about their goals, focusing on the differences between how men and women approach their goals.

Here are four of the study’s key findings:

Gender Study Finding #1: Women care about their goals more than men: Because women are more emotionally connected to their goals than men, they’re more likely to stick to their goals when the going gets tough.

Gender Study Finding #2: Men visualize their goals better than women: Like the visualization used by elite athletes, men more clearly picture their goals than women. This gives them greater direction and focus.

Gender Study Finding #3: Women are more likely to procrastinate than men: Women feel less urgency to achieve their goals than men. This results in procrastination, and potentially, goal failure.

Gender Study Finding #4: Women set tougher goals than men: Women are more likely to leave their comfort zones and set challenging (and even scary) goals. This leads to both greater achievement and fulfillment.

Interested in more? Read the rest of the article here.