Are Your Expectations Part of the Problem?

Sylvia_Zadar.jpg

Practical Travel Wisdom

In this photo I'm standing in front an ancient Venetian fountain in Zadar, Croatia just a ferry ride across the Adriatic from Italy. It was a great trip, but very different from what I expected to experience when I planned it. So I had to make daily adjustments to differences that, although not terrible, differed significantly from my expectations and what I wanted to experience.

Normally, when I travel I keep my expectations much more open-ended. That way I step into the unknown with curiosity and a genuine sense of exploration and discovery. This time I returned to Croatia with more of an agenda. Even though my natural flexibility enabled me to "go with the flow" of changes I experienced, I was very conscious of the extra energy it took to manage my expectations along the way. Next time, when I return to Croatia, I'll make sure my expectations are set in their normal travel mode. That will free me to have an even better time there, and elsewhere.

Travel requires us to manage our expectations so they don't become part of the problem that confronts us. Clearly, we cannot control flight delays or cancellations, the availability of food and comfort at airports, or when hotel accommodations fall short of website descriptions. What we can control, however, is what we expect from these experiences and how we make adjustments when they don't measure up to our expectations. 

Travel invites us to explore and discover ways to navigate the unknown and deal effectively with unexpected change. When we adapt, we see ways to become part of the solution we seek.

A Useful 'Playful Practice'

For years, I have relied on a useful practice I call "shifting to neutral." Deciding to remain calm and not react to potentially irritating disruptions helps me navigate with relative ease a mirage of domestic and international security checkpoints, long lines at ticket counters and customs, unexpected flight delays, and unfamiliar airports.

This quiet practice of "shifting to neutral" also could help you regain a sense of inner balance—emotionally and mentally—in business, leadership and life. It starts with recognizing what you can and cannot control. Then, when a person or situation begins to upset you, you immediately disconnect from that irritating or disappointing energy by imagining yourself pulling the cable and plug (through which that negative energy is moving toward you) out of its power source. This drains off the energy—dissipating its effect on you. It frees you to remain calm, centered and clear. 

Practice "shifting to neutral" and notice whether it works for you. Like my clients, discover how this simple 'playful practice' helps you to maintain a sense of inner balance even when dealing with difficult people or situations. That way, navigating change becomes less of an energy drain and more manageable.

In these radically challenging times, I think you will agree these skills are invaluable—whether you are traveling or not.

Get in Sync with Your Own Success

Right Timing

Funny thing about "right timing." It has a way of not showing up when you think it should. Instead you find yourself waiting with impatience and anxiety in "the in-between" - a space between what has already happened and what has not happened yet.

What if this space where nothing seems to be happening is present for you to pause and catch up with yourself? What if it is an invitation to see without being in constant motion where you are now, given the months, weeks and days it has taken you to get there.

"The in-between" is a place where you can pause, breathe in, see, appreciate and savor what you achieved during this leg of your journey in business, leadership and life. Looking back at the distance you have traveled, you lean into and embody more deeply your professional and personal growth. Who you are now has more room to be self-expressed.

Such is the beauty and the power of patiently allowing "the in-between" to reveal its riches to you.

"What you seek is seeking you." -Rumi

The Beauty of What We'll Never Know

In his engaging TED Talk Pico Iyer reminds us that transformation comes when we are not in charge and don't know what comes next. Travel has taught him that the opposite of knowledge isn't ignorance; it's wonder. As a life long traveler, I agree. For the first law of travel is also a law of life.

"You're only as strong as your readiness to surrender."
 

Is Endless Information Turning You Into A Circular Thinker?

How You Think Determines How You Lead

Critical thinking is essential to making good decisions. It engages you in learning what works, what doesn't work, and what would work better.

Critical thinking tests your willingness to consider different points of view. It asks you to question assumptions and examine expectations - whether  obvious, subtle, unexpressed, understated, or 'undiscovered territory'. 

Knowing whether you're a linear, lateral, or circular thinker helps you navigate the uncertainty leaders experience when discerning the best possible decision to make.

YOUR BRAIN IDENTITY

Which of the following characteristics of linear, lateral, or circular thinkers best describes you? Be candid. Select one...

Linear Thinkers (left-brain dominant)

  • Prefer a logical, sequential structured (step-by-step) progression
  • Focus on details - organizing, planning, and doing things in precise order
  • Define meaningful categories, streamlines and systemizes options

Lateral Thinkers (right-brain dominant)

  • Prefer to look at the big picture and understand concepts
  • Focus on what is being overlooked - challenging assumptions
  • See novel cross-connections that form creative alternatives

Circular Thinkers (right & left-brain co-dominant)

  • Prefer to scan all information - big picture and details
  • Focus on all possibilities - everything being done and thought
  • Circle around different possibilities and indirectly land on solutions

WHOLE BRAIN THINKING

Numerous techniques and tools have been designed to improve linear and lateral thinking. Yet there doesn't appear to be much of anything available to assist circular thinkers, even though circular thinking has the potential to access more of the human brain.

The Medicine Wheel in Native American Tradition spontaneously came to mind when a client described her natural, yet frustratingly unproductive, circular thinking process. Karen (name changed for client confidentiality) works with people in different cultures and traditions. She was very receptive to a modern day practice that would connect her way of reaching decisions with a centuries-old approach to whole brain thinking. 

A CIRCULAR THINKING DECISION MODEL

In Native American culture the Medicine Wheel consists primarily of 4 directions - East, South, West and North - with a center point. The simplicity of it as a Circular Thinking Decision Model is a function of these 5 basic parameters.

Travel this circle from East to North as many times as it takes for you to address whatever is present in each direction. Let the challenges and opportunities engage you in new ways of seeing and thinking about what is possible. Allow what get revealed in the circle to lead you to the best possible decision. 

HOW TO USE THIS TOOL

Take a blank piece of paper. Fill it with a large circle. On it write the 4 directions. Then begin your journey from East to North - jotting down your responses to the decision making points in each direction. The points listed below align with the energy resident in each direction of the Medicine Wheel.

Center (focal point) - Decision You Need to Make

  • Clarify the decision you need to make
    • Where are you now?
    • What needs to change or be better?
  • Describe desired future and intended results
    • What options exist?
    • What opportunities exist - seen and unseen?
  • Write down your ideal outcome
    • What would need to happen to reach that outcome?
    • What crucial factors influence or impact your decision?

East (right side of circle) - Resources Available to Make a Good Decision

  • Expertise
  • Experience
  • Information
  • People: Team / Staff / Partners / Collaborators
  • Finances

South (bottom of circle) - What Decision Maker Brings

  • Skills
  • Talents
  • Resources
  • Natural gifts

West (left side of circle) - What You Need to Make a Smart Decision

  • Question assumptions and expectations
  • Ask different types of questions
  • See possibilities that emerge

North (top of circle) - What Decision Wants to Be Made

  • New insights
  • Deeper understanding
  • Greater knowing and wisdom

Test this circular thinking decision making tool by moving through all 4 directions of the Medicine Wheel. Notice the clarity you experience. See how this traditional wisdom practice engages you in transformative critical thinking — empowering you to make smarter decisions. 

The Power of Doubt

Beyond Belief

What if...

What we believe isn't true?

And, the questions we ask are the wrong questions?

When Casey Gerald's firmly held belief failed him, he searched for something to believe in — in business, in government, in philanthropy. Yet he found only false hopes. In this compelling talk, Gerald shares how he witnessed every facet of the American Dream and learned how essential it is to question our beliefs and have enough courage to embrace uncertainty.

Gerald says, “We hardly realize the human price we pay when we fail to question one brick because we fear it might shake our whole foundation.”

Play Nurtures the Soul of Your Business

A Year of Saying YES to Everything

Introvert, TV Titan, and lover of work Shonda Rhimes shares the priceless and unexpected value she experienced from playing more and working less.

Are you playing enough in business, leadership and life?

Are You Saying "NO!" Enough?

The Power of a Positive "NO!"

Why You Don't Say NO!

Which of these 3 reasons keep you from finding your essential "YES!"?

1.  Accommodation

  • You want to say "No!"
  • Instead you say "yes" to please or gain approval from the person or people asking.
  • You also don't know how to say "No!" to the request.

2.  Avoidance

  • You don't return phone calls, respond to emails, or put off getting back to the person or people making the request.
  • You're very uncomfortable or afraid to say "No!" because you do not want to upset, hurt or offend the person or people asking.
  • You don't know how to say "No!" nicely.

3.  Anger/Attack

  • You really do not want to say "Yes".
  • You're angry at yourself for feeling like you can't say "No!" 
  • You begrudgingly say "yes" but with very negative agreement.

Power Up with a "No!" Sandwich

Start with Your Genuine "Yes!" (top slice of bread)

  • Know the value on which you stand, what saying "No" actually allows you to say "Yes!" to—your big, most authentic "YES!"
  • Based on what you really value, ask yourself what saying "No!" allows you to say "Yes!" to that keeps you true to yourself.

State Your Positive "No!" (meat in the middle)

  • Prepare the person asking to receive your positive "No!"
  • Stand firmly in a commitment to your value-rooted, genuine "Yes!" and say your positive "No!" from that place within yourself.

Consider Ending with "Yes!" (bottom slice of bread)

  • Start with your decision to say a Positive "No!"
  • Then, if appropriate, choose what you are willing to do that is different from what is being requested of you.
  • "I am willing to ____________________________________________ (fill in the blank).

Using this "No!" sandwich empowers you to say a Positive "NO!" It also takes you out of the unproductive loop of trying to please people or gain their approval. Instead it's possible for you to please and approve of yourself without being selfish or egotistical.

Of course, if you would like help learning and embodying this critical leadership skill, contact me. I would be happy to assist you in communicating your Positive "NO!" in difficult conversations and challenging situations.

Easier Than You Think

Manage Your Focus

When faced with sudden opportunities, unexpected decisions, or unclear next steps, do you consider how your response could feed the deeper aspects of who you are?

Too often nerviousness, excitement and a real sense of urgency blur our focus and muddy our view of novel yet available options.

Yet there is an easier way to navigate our natural feelings and the conflicting thoughts accompanying them.

Strange as it sounds, stop trying to figure out what to do. Allow curiosity to shift the way you look at what's possible.

Interrupt your thoughts. Instead of paying attention to your questions about "how you should" respond, quiet your mind with genuine appreciation: "Thank you for sharing." This gratitude calms your thoughts by letting your mind know that it has done its job and can relax.

Next, give yourself more mental, physical and emotional space.

You can do this in a lot of effortless ways. Pause for a few moments. Breathe slowly and deeply. Stretch... Stare with soft focus at the sky... Listen to soothing sounds... Walk in nature.

Then, when you feel more spaciousness inside and around you, consider  less-explored and surprisingly useful questions.

Question Your Questions

  1. What assumptions am I making?
  2. What am I not seeing—obvious or subtle?
  3. What else might be possible here?
  4. What deeper needs could be nourished?

Allow your unconscious to explore these questions and give you answers in unexpected ways. Put away your phone and let your mind wander while you

  • Wait in line at a store
  • Do household chores
  • Walk the dog or feed the cat
  • Listen to the conversation of strangers.

Notice how answers to your questions begin to take shape in these everyday settings. Let the clarity you receive turn your decisiveness into rewarding results.

3 Body Wisdom Business Lessons

Presence...Balance...Flow

When I began the Tai Chi class conveniently taught at my neigborhood park, it had been years since I practiced this 'slow motion' martial art. The time lapse didn't matter because this Tai Chi form was different than the other three forms I learned and forgot so long ago.

Now I'm a Tai Chi newbie again. As I deal with how long it takes my body to grasp the presence, balance and flow of each moment, I realize that Tai Chi also is teaching me 3 valuable 'body wisdom' business lessons.

  1. Patience is a practice.

    • Trying to control my progress keeps me from seeing small steps I can take.

    • Relaxing my expectations frees me to learn by practicing.

  2. Transitions energize next steps.

    • Shifting back a little before moving forward gives me  momentum to go in a new direction.

    • Slowing down helps me balance the way I take my next step.

  3. Economy of motion leads to better results.

    • Focusing on one change at a time shows me how one move flows into the next move.

    • Making small shifts—a minor foot adjustment or correction in my posture—enables me to move into the natural rhythm of Tai Chi and experience the next steps I'm learning to take.

Practice...Practice...Practice...

As in business, leadership and life, the more I practice the easier it is to remain alert, flexible and agile,

So as you read this, I'm getting up from sitting too long in front of my computer and going downstairs to practice Tai Chi. While I know that I'll never become a Tai Chi Master, I'm on the path to consistent practice.

Where do you routinely need to practice patience, presence, balance and flow in your business, leadership or life? 

Find Your Fascination Power!

What Fascinates You Most?

Whatever your greatest fascination is, it runs like a river through your work or business, leadership and life.

For me, it's journeying into the unknown to discover and experience wonders living there. That's why I love helping clients deal with troublesome and complex leadership, professional and business challenges―their uncharted territory.

While the landscape and terrain of what's not working for them is known to me, clients' inner and outer adventures reveal to them their unique courage, commitment and confidence. This frees them to create meaningful results and thrive as leaders. Their transformational journeys―the practical steps, simple elegant solutions, and inner peace clients experience―always fascinates me.

Visible or Invisible?

If your greatest fascination is invisible to you, it's hidden in plain sight. Often it lurks inside pressing problems that push you way outside your comfort zone.

Funny thing is, your difficult decisions and stubborn challenges provoke less anxiety when you know and understand what fascinates you.

This knowing shines a light on how your fascination is attracted to certain types of problems because dealing with them offers a strongly desired sense of satisfaction.

This certainly is the case for the women leaders I coach. When we uncover the roots of what fascinates them, their body relaxes and their minds become quiet and alert.

The significant script change in their inner story shifts the way they view the outer world. Instead of things happening to them, they see things happening with them. And, problems become opportunities to experience the fullness of their fascination power.

Experience the Difference

One client spent years dealing with extremely stressful complex changes at work only to find herself struggling to navigate a different set of worrisome changes in her own business.

When she realized her greatest fascination was her persistent love of learning, she saw how this deep natural desire was at play in all her stressful attempts to navigate big challenging changes. So she decided to pay close attention to what she learns from complex change that keeps her fascinated.

This focus expanded her awareness, deepened her understanding, and crystalized her knowing. She shifted out of overwhelm and felt free to engage differently in her growing business. Now as an entrepreneur, wife and mother, she navigates predictable and unpredictable changes in her business and life with a dynamic sense of balance and inner peace. By helping clients with their difficult problems, she is putting her natural fascination with complex change to even greater use.

Uncover Your Uniqueness

When you understand your deepest fascination, what it values, and the role it' like to play, you can turn what fascinates you most into a valuable ally.

Discover the wisdom and power of your own natural fascination. Learn how it can work wonders for you in business, leadership and life.

Schedule a complimentary 30-minute Discover Your Powerful Fascination Session today.

Journey From Awww to Awesome

Easy Yet Enlightening

When was the last time you paused to catch up with yourself? You know, slowed down to see the entirety of what you have accomplished, feel it fully, and appreciate all your efforts and high flying results in business, leadership or life.

If it's been quite a while since you've even thought to do this, you are not alone. Smart women leaders, executives/professionals and entrepreneurs are so busy moving on to the next big challenge that they rarely stop to savor the fullness of their achievements.

Focusing on improving performance in themselves, their teams, and their businesses or organizations without waiting to inhale their successes keeps them from feeling satisfied or fulfilled.

Don't let this happen to you! Instead, use this simple practice to experience the satisfaction and fulfillment you have worked so hard to have.

Give yourself a few precious moments in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Jot down your responses to 3 questions about your work/business, leadership or life.

  1. Where are you now that is better than where you were 9-6-3 months ago?

  2. What have you accomplished to arrive at this once desired place?

  3. How are you celebrating this progress and savoring your wins?

Without re-reading them, put your answers away for a few days. Then find a time and place to sit quietly with your favorite drink and read what you've written.

As you sip refreshing tea or a smoothie or lemonade, drink in the progress and wins you have won.

Savor the moments you are experiencing as a result of your achievements. Let the sweet taste of satisfaction and fulfillment flow into your heart and seep into your bones.

Feel how in sync you are. Now in this clear state of presence you are ready to engage in greater accomplishments and enjoy more welcomed progress.