A Convergence of Qualities

“Your attitude is a multitude of aptitude and rectitude which decides your altitude in plenitude.” ~ Vikrant Parsai

Over the last ten days or so, I observed and/or experienced situations that heightened my awareness and in hindsight, left me wondering. I’m not going to delve into the situations other than to acknowledge that they were leadership opportunities.

In several of these settings I anticipated demonstrations of leadership – you know, clear and bold displays of character, honesty, principle, rectitude and integrity. In my opinion, an admirable convergence.

We (there were others observing) thought we’d see leaders channel their positive powers of persuasion, possess and show spine, and share how course of conduct decisions could (and ought to) be made in accordance with reason. Perhaps my cultivated views of leadership are too lofty. In my mind, leaders develop the capacities of others, are characterized by a deep sense of ethics, are driven by core values, and are motivated by the pursuit of a higher purpose.

So I was dumbfounded when I heard and learned many of these people ‘whispering’ about the end not always justifying the means, and intentionally twisting and distorting facts when required for ulterior outcome(s). These individuals represented a broad range of professional walks – religion, academia, athletics, advertising and one that didn’t surprise me, politics.

In my after-the-fact reflection I reminded myself that when you choose to behave with honor and integrity, particularly when other people aren’t doing so, it’s likely someone is going to notice and will make different and better decisions as a result of what they observe in you. When you genuinely and confidently express your support for respect, honesty and trust, it makes it easier for others around you to pass that attitude along.

We don’t need to be in positions of public power to have a positive impact on others. It is how we act in our day-to-day lives, congruent with who we really are, that matters. If you are interested in influencing people in worthy ways, here are three considerations:

  1. Look for the expectant. Focus on positive direction by scanning the news and events for examples of integrity. Talk about what you see and hear with family, friends and colleagues rather than the latest scandal. Make endorsing integrity a stronger value in your life than criticism.
  2. Remind and reinforce others. Sometimes others will show or tell you what you did (or are about to do), is not right. Thank those people, for they are giving you the potential for personal growth.
  3. Be transparent. Most of us would like to be something we’re not. Admit your shortcomings. Part of being honest with yourself is being honest with others. Living transparently and not pretending to be someone you aren’t actually makes people think more of you. Yes, it’s counter-intuitive. It’s also transformative.

Think Like a Negotiator

“Never forget the power of silence, that massively disconcerting space which goes on and on and may last induce an opponent to babble and backtrack.” ~ Lance Morrow

Everything is negotiable! Period. So says Eldonna Lewis Fernandez, my guest on this week’s Awakening to Awareness radio show. And she has the knowledge and experience to back up her statement.

            Eldonna Lewis Fernandez

Eldonna Lewis Fernandez

Eldonna is a retired Air Force veteran with 23 years of honorable military service.  She is a negotiation and contracts expert with over 30 years of leadership, contracts management and negotiation experience.  She has negotiated contracts from $1 to over $100 million both stateside and internationally.  She was deployed to the Middle East after 911 and has years of experience in foreign acquisition.

She is a subject matter expert in the Contracting Career Field and has developed and taught courses on Contract Claims, Negotiation and other aspects of Contracting. She has seven years of extensive experience working for defense contractors in the Aerospace Industry. She also holds a Top Secret security clearance and has been a trusted agent of the U.S. Government for 30 years.

I have seen Eldonna train negotiation strategy and techniques in an experiential setting. I have heard her speak in front of 400+ people. I would not want to be across the negotiating table from Eldonna. :) From these vantages (plus others), I invited her on to the show because she is a trove of negotiation-specific information and skills.

In one short hour, Eldonna shared insights into:

  • How negotiation is both an art and a science
  • The critical importance of being prepared entering any negotiation
  • Why one needs to “stop talking!” and use silence as a negotiation technique
  • “Owning your power” and having others be captivated by your confidence
  • Asking for exactly what you want
  • The value in building relationships
  • Role playing and her experiential approach to learning negotiating skills
  • The desired goal/outcome: win-win results
  • Placing integrity first in any negotiation
  • Possessing attitude which drives confidence
  • Influencing skills
  • And much more

I asked Eldonna to share two key takeaways for the listening audience and she offered:

  1. Get it in writing!
  2. Read before signing anything and be absolutely clear on the terms and conditions.

You can listen to the podcast (here). If you’d like to learn more about Eldonna, her new book, Think Like A Negotiator: 50 Ways to Create Win-Win Results by Understanding the Pitfalls to Avoid, or her training programs, her web site is linked here.

Wasting, Existing or Thriving

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

~ Oscar Wilde

Have you ever had this opening remark directed at you? It’s a stunning statement yet for some people, it may apply or have applied. It’s certainly not complimentary and it could be a life changer, if accurate and intended. But let’s shift from wasting time and life.

Enter existing. Too often we go through life on autopilot, going through the motions and having each day pass like the one before. That’s okay, and comfortable for some (many?), until you’ve gone through another year without having done anything, without having really lived life. Existing can be synonymous with an endless status quo, idyllic, anchored, indifferent, stale, slogging away.

Simply existing is really kind of sad. Dodo kind of sad. While penguins and ostriches are flightless, penguins can swim and an ostrich can run fast. The dodo simply became extinct when a predator was introduced. While we cannot fly, most of us can do things that are exciting, invigorating, like swimming or running.

Have you watched your kids go off to college, only to realize you missed their childhoods? Time wasted? Sure we have jobs, chores and others things we don’t necessarily enjoy, but a large part of living is focusing on the enjoyable; actively engaging. It has been proven that if you focus on that which makes you miserable, you’re not going to live fully. And many will acknowledge that simply existing can be miserable. Still, if existing is to what you aspire, then who is anyone else to encourage you otherwise?

But if you want to truly live life, to thrive, to enjoy it to the fullest, instead of barely scraping by and only living a life of existence, then you need to find ways to break free from a mundane existence and embrace life. Truly living involves spending time doing things that inspire you. Even if you only sing briefly in the shower, if that’s what you truly love to do, enjoy yourself and live it. You don’t need a recording contract or groupies, simply enjoy the experience.

If you’d like a couple of reminders for how to thrive, here are four:

  1. Learn to be 100% responsible for your life. Admit/own your ‘mistakes’ (aka learning opportunities) and learn from them. Trust that something better will happen because of them and thus, allow you to live both more aware and at choice.
  2. Thriving is important because you are a person of great value. You are worthy of the best life has to offer.
  3. Take chances. We often live our lives too cautiously, concerned about what might go wrong. Be bold. Invite some risk. Quit your job and start your own business (plan it out first!). Ask out that person to whom you’ve been attracted to for some time. What have you got to lose?
  4. And this one might get me in trouble… Turn off the TV. How many hours do you waste (see, we’ve come full circle to waste) in front of that screen? Lessen your attraction (addiction?) to it and find other things to do, things that will stretch or challenge you. Consider actions that will nourish your thriving.

Rituals, Routines and Ruts

“In the beginning man makes the habit. In the end, the habit makes the man.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

This post started simple. I was going to write about some pros and cons of routines. As I filtered thoughts, I found myself meandering around routines, habits, rituals, ruts and behaviors. Granted they’re not mutually exclusive but I wanted to find my way back to something more focused. So work with me as I try to ‘tighten’ this message.

There may not be much difference between a routine and a habit. A habit typically refers to a constant, often unconscious inclination to perform an act, acquired through its frequent repetition. They can be good, bad or indifferent. Create a habit and it becomes part of your routine. A routine suggests ordinariness, even a lack of thought; to be on autopilot. But routines also involve choice for taking advantage of a range of things such as time, willpower, discipline, and optimism.

It’s helpful to have order and discipline in our lives. Creating good habits and useful routines helps us feel productive and directed. Yet, sometimes, routines turn into ruts without our realizing it. We can find ourselves feeling trapped, bored, and boring without understanding why. Enter stress; obviously unwanted and unneeded. When we feel relied upon to perform tasks we’ve grown to resent, or simply to do things the way we always have, that sense of duty can sap our energy and enthusiasm.

On another hand, a ritual usually refers to religious meaning or a solemn ceremony. But rituals are not always simply a means to an end. They can be rational, extremely effective and deeply valuable on their own. For example, think of rituals performed after experiencing losses that alleviate grief or rituals performed before high-pressure tasks to reduce anxiety and increase people’s confidence. They can also be as simple (and superstitious) as eating certain foods or ‘crossing ones fingers’ for good luck.

Rituals (and most of us have them) can have a casual impact on your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. If you’re wondering how you might add to or restore some focus to your rituals or routines, here are three possible actions:

  1. Acknowledge your top three. Every morning, ask yourself, “What are the top three most important tasks that I will complete today?” Prioritize your day accordingly and don’t retire at night until the top three are complete.
  2. Align meaning with what matters. Often, rituals are the things we care most about. If you value nature, consider a tree-planting ritual by performing mindful and valued steps that allow you to celebrate nature. Whatever rituals you create, remember to include significant and repeatable steps.
  3. Craft an “Ignore list.” Most people have a to-do list but it may help to ask yourself: “What’s not worth doing?” Write down what you’re willing to disregard – emails you have no intention of responding to, vacuuming, or exercising more regularly. Review the list occasionally to ensure that nothing on it is getting your undeserved attention. (But think twice about the exercising.) :)

Extraordinary Places

                Deborah "Atianne" Wilson

Deborah “Atianne” Wilson

“Your wealth is a measure of your service to others.” ~ Jewish Proverb

Significant in the coaching profession and in life is the word “shift.” I’ll refrain from defining shift as we each have our own meaning for it. We’ve all experienced shifts – directly or indirectly, voluntarily or involuntarily. My friend, Deborah, having faced abuse, abandonment, rejection, divorce, dis-ease, infertility and financial fears was invited to shift from a place of depression, physical pain and ego misunderstandings to extraordinary places of peace, empowerment, joy, authenticity and love.

Deborah “Atianne” Wilson is known as The Intuitive and Spiritual Wealth Coach. Everything that has shifted, healed and transformed in Deborah’s life has come from the fundamental knowledge that it all matters – we all matter. I know Deborah personally and she is not a ‘woo-woo’ person. She is a grounded woman with uniquely gifted intuitive abilities and thoughtful perspectives. She shared some of her story and her wisdom on this week’s Awakening to Awareness radio show (podcast here).

I invited Deborah to talk about her new book: It’s OK to be Spiritual and Wealthy: 19 Essential Keys for Living a Joyful, Prosperous & Abundant Life… something to which I believe we all aspire. During the show Deborah spoke about important life lessons including: practicing true forgiveness (challenging for many people); the value of expressing and living our life of freedom; divine connection (though not necessarily in a religious sense) and; giving and being in service to others from a joyful place in our hearts.

If the concepts of prosperity, joy, serving others, inner work, and personal responsibility resonate with you, consider listening to the podcast. If you are interested in learning more about Deborah, here’s a link to her website.

Acting Too Quickly

“A man who sees action in inaction and inaction in action has understanding among men and discipline in all action he performs.” ~ Bhagavad Gita

On occasion, I have been known to take a contrarian viewpoint. I will challenge the status quo and frequently seek uniquely different ways of accomplishing and achieving. Credit my innate curiosity and exploratory nature. It’s simply part of how I process. :)

Such is the case with me and action, the latter a meaningful part of existence. Action clearly serves a purpose and can gently inspire, as well as actively incite us. Generally, people are encouraged to take decisive action. And often, too quickly. It’s people less inclined to impulsive action who keep a comfortable grip on the action reins.

Acting too quickly can be the cause of many problems. Having been impatient for a good chunk of my life, I know this well. A lot of personal mistakes result from a combination of exuberance and an eagerness to please – to get the job done. Many of us have experienced moving too quickly without taking time for adequate, even thorough, consideration. And then wondered about the outcome.

I have been surprised to find how many times situations will resolve themselves if they are allowed to. I have also been discouraged at how complex some situations have become when I took action quickly to bring something to a resolution before truly understanding what the problem or goal was in the first place.

And then there are those people who will choose inaction simply because it allows them to stay in their comfort zone, to do only what they’re familiar with, even if it oddly yields desired results. But the comfort zone is equivalent to a safe, relatively unproductive state.

We know that a clear vision, flexible plan, and realistic schedule will take you a long way towards successful achievement. But without action, visions are unlikely to materialize. Thoughtful action is prudent. And while some people may argue ‘time is money,’ it is important to assess the need for expedited action.

“Measure twice, cut once” is an old craftsman’s saying. It’s a good idea for life in general. Restated for action, we could say “think twice, act once.” Because premature action can be much more damaging than a measured approach to most any situation.

Consider your actions as carefully as you do your valuables.

Moments… Big and Small

“I believe that life is a journey, often difficult and sometimes incredibly cruel, but we are well equipped for it if only we tap into our talents and gifts and allow them to blossom.” ~ Les Brown

I suspect you’ve had many big moments in your life. Perhaps a significant graduation; the birth of a first child; Paris for your 25th anniversary. But do you remember the small moments, the ones that flash before your eyes? Quite often, it is those tiny moments that are far more significant – like wiping a tear from your grandmother’s eye when she buried your grandfather or actually listening to someone distraught about a matter you couldn’t affect.

Have you ever known someone whose personal challenges didn’t prevent them from supporting those around her/him? Were you aware that her/his suffering enabled them to be even more of an emotional bedrock for others? Maybe it has something to do with their having gained perspective on the important ‘stuff’ – things that really matter.

Not everything matters, though we mistakenly think it does. I invite you to reflect on the small, significant moments that have made up your life. Not summiting Mount Fuji but breaking bread with a homeless person. Try to remember. Think about what you saw, what you heard, what you felt. What was really happening in those moments? Even more importantly, what did they do for someone else?

You’ve likely been invited to answer this question: If you could plan it, how would you spend your last day on Earth? Spending some time with this exercise (by writing down your ideas) will help you focus and yield perspective on what really matters most to you. The question is fairly generic, but your answers will be telling. Dr. Kent Keith in The Paradoxical Commandments said, “Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.” Keith also said, “Give the world the best you have and you might get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.”

People search for what is meaningful in their lives, especially when they are broken, confused, frustrated, or simply bored with life. If you’re not passively part of a moment, you’re creating moments. And many of them are small, seemingly insignificant. But to others, they may be huge!

In a 2011 conversation, a chronologically gifted woman taught me that no matter what I end up doing with my life, I ought to make it significant. Even if your body or your mind is tearing itself apart, consider engaging your senses – your gifts. Start by being present. Look into people’s eyes and see them. Ask what matters to them. And celebrate moments with them.

In my work I invite people to look at their own lives and the day-to-day activities that fill them. Then I ask: How many of those activities have really mattered in terms of the true reason for your existence? (And yes, I recognize this depends on one’s definition of “true reason.”)

One simple suggestion today, an old-fashioned one… Consider demonstrating the importance of a relationship by calling someone just to see how they’re doing. To be honest, I receive very few calls from people who don’t have a self-serving agenda. Those who do call because they genuinely care about me, stand out. Think about it, how often do people call (not text or email) you just to say hi or to find out what’s going on in your life? Your call may end up being a significant moment for them.

Comfort Zones

“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.” ~ Max DePree

Those who knew me then, would say I was a relatively shy child. Even today, I am comfortable tagging myself as an introvert. A little insecurity is not a bad thing for a young person trying to find their grounding in the world. Yet overcoming initial insecurity makes one more self-confident and prepared to step out of their comfort zone. At least it did for me.

Animals in the wild have their comfort zones. A bear will return to its lair to lick its wounds or sleep the winter away. But it cannot survive for long without stepping outside its comfort zone. Unfortunately, most of us survive quite well living entirely inside our cocoons. Our lives, our habits, our thinking gets into a rut.

In an early 2012 survey of 5,000+ people, it was found that males have a larger comfort zone than females, but when broken down by ‘comfort zone types’ it’s clear that while men have a larger ‘professional comfort zone,’ women have a larger ‘lifestyle comfort zone.’

At one time, comfort zones served a purpose in our lives. But staying in that space does little to enable the growth most want to achieve now. Parting ways with your comfort zone and stepping into the world of personal expansion can present opportunities that will, in time, assist in refining your purpose. Starting small and choosing to shift beyond your limited comfort zones often exposes you to new experiences, opinions and interests.

It has been said that any challenge falls into one of three ‘zones’ – our comfort zone, our growth zone, and our panic zone. An unwillingness to move out of a panic or comfort zone and into a growth zone, is often indicative of a resistance to change. If you are open to stepping out of your comfort zone and stretching yourself, here are three suggestions:

  1. Understand the truth about your habits. They represent past successes. You have formed habitual, automatic behaviors because you once dealt with something successfully. That’s how habits grow and why they feel useful. To shift from what is less than ideal in your life, you need to give up on your tightly held habits and try new ways of thinking and acting. Those habits are going to block you from finding new and creative ideas.
  2. Do something weird. One obvious way to leave your comfort zone, even if temporarily, is to do something new. But a more interesting option might be to do something weird. When you choose something new you may choose something that aligns with your personality and thus, comfort. This can be limiting. Instead, choose something that is out of character for you. Something that isn’t you and the people close to you wouldn’t think that you would do.
  3. Get a partner. There are some things that aren’t meant to be done alone. It’s amazing to see how much fun it is to explore and create with an ally alongside. And since you’re no longer alone in your adventure, you can feel safe as you step into a ‘growth zone.’ Find a partner. Make it happen.

Social Media for Boomers

“Social Media is about sociology and psychology more than technology.” ~ Brian Sollis

Put away that cozy image of the little old lady knitting a sweater for the grandkids, or the distinguished gentlemen playing chess in the park, because the newest elder generation is not going to sit quietly in a rocking chair. This according to Brian Profitt in his ReadWriteWeb article, “Why Boomers Won’t Release Their Grip on Technology.”

In August, 2013 the Pew Research Center on Retirement released a report with some fascinating statistics on social media among Americans 50 and older:

  • 60% of people in the 50-64 year age group, which is most of the boomer population, are now on at least one social media site.
  • Facebook is by far the most popular social media site for this age group.
  • Baby boomers spend 27 hours per week online, which is two hours more per week than those who are between 16 and 34.

My guest on this week’s Awakening to Awareness radio show was Carol McManus, America’s LinkedIn Lady. A self-described ‘recovering corporate executive,’ Carol left the comfort of the corporate cocoon (in 2007) after 26 years and reinvented herself as a coach, consultant and leadership trainer. In a few short years, her speaking and consulting requests shifted to social media because everyone wanted to know how she did what she did and how they could replicate her success for their own business.

                            Carol McManus

Carol McManus

On the show, Carol made it clear that this generational cohort was not heading “out to pasture” and that they are increasingly making use of social media for multiple purposes. She highlighted Facebook and LinkedIn as the two platforms most likely used by boomers and told listeners why. Not surprisingly, Facebook is the account of choice for those interested in connecting or reconnecting and rekindling relationships. And LinkedIn for business connections. Carol talked about online privacy, managing your own social media, stepping into one’s technology fears and why to avoid Twitter.

It was an enlightening and informative interview. You can listen to the podcast on iTunes here or on the Awakening to Awareness show page by clicking here.

As Time Goes By

“As the arteries grow hard, the heart grows soft.” ~ H. L. Mencken

This title comes from Dr. Glenn Miya, who was featured in a mid-December post titled, “Why Wait?” Dr. Glenn uses the expression “As time goes by” with his chronologically gifted patients who prefer it to “aging.” On today’s Awakening to Awareness radio show, Carol McManus talked about social media and its use/value to the boomer generation. And a couple of weeks ago I wrote about The Joys of Living Beyond 50, a post that generated some thoughtful feedback.

Acknowledging these contributing factors, I’m going again with the “as time goes by” theme… sharing three additional awareness opportunities for those having achieved the half-century mark (source: purpleclover.com).

  • Opening that jar or stuck window will take more oomph. With muscle mass on a natural downward slope, it follows that simple everyday activities might suddenly stop you in your track. However, recent studies show promising signs that these muscle changes may be stoppable. Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh found that staying active throughout life leads to only minor drop-offs in muscle strength. They’re not sure if similar benefits will result by taking up exercise mid-life, or if the type of exercise matters. Bottom line: Start or keep on exercising!

  • Cavities will start to be a concern again. Like your hair and your skin, your tooth enamel (the protective layer) is thinning out and breaking down, exposing your teeth to more bacteria. What to do? Don’t put off your twice-yearly dental cleanings and ask your dentist for dental sealants which are protective coatings that guard against decay.
  • Your legs won’t keep up with your will (or need) for speed. When people told you that life would slow down as time goes by, perhaps what they really meant to warn you about was the fact that you’ll literally become a slow poke. Here, it’s not your legs that are the problem, it’s the signals your brain is sending to your muscles. This change actually begins around age 40, when the brain cells that shoot motor-control commands to muscles started to slide. So? Vary your workouts but also toss in some mental training. In 2008, neurologists at UCLA found that giving brains their own workout could prompt repair cells to kick into gear. Try memorization activities, taking music or language lessons, or playing computer games.

If you’re serious about your continued wellness, here are three additional considerations:

  1. Investigate your family history. In your 50′s, it’s time to look at your family tree to learn if your genetics increase your risks for diseases such as cancer or heart disease. Understand that history. Get a colonoscopy or a calcium test to help determine whether your arteries are starting to harden, and if you need lifestyle changes. It can’t be just worrying about everybody else.
  2. Check your hostility. Anger often seems connected to a variety of health problems. When people indulge their anger, their heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormones increase and stress the body. These people tend to display more depression, dissatisfaction with life, have fewer social connections, and use more unhealthy coping behaviors. Find healthier ways to cope, or change your job, relationships or attitude in some way to retain some balance.
  3. Enjoy the grape. Red wine has a powerful anti-aging compound in it known as resveratrol. Though it is unlikely that the dosage of resveratrol in red wine is high enough to impact lifespan, drinking alcohol in moderation is also associated with decreased risk of heart disease and other vascular problems. My own cardiologist confirms this. :)