• Read The Cycle of Change

    Change, Leadership, Well Being

    The Cycle of Change

    The other day I decided to step down as an organizer for a women’s group I founded several years ago.  The decision was a long time coming and was bittersweet.  It was a fantastic experience, and yet intuitively I knew it was time to move on.  I think years ago I would have held on longer and pushed myself to muddle on.  Quite often the things we take on become a big part of our identity.  Sometimes the hardest decision to make is when to let go. The 4 Cycles of Change And this got me thinking about the cycle of change, which I often refer to as a deck of cards.  And when you think about how a game plays out, there are 4 phases: The Shuffle Phase of Change Shuffle – in this phase we’re wondering what game we want to play.  We’re thinking about the options that might be on the table.  Perhaps we’re thinking of transitioning our career or learning something new.  There’s often excitement, but there’s often a lot of fear, a lot of trepidation.  What if I make the wrong choice?  What if I make a mistake?  What if it doesn’t work out?  What if I embarrass myself?  We may find this phase to be exhilarating if we’re focused on all the possibilities and opportunities that may manifest, or our inner saboteur may be rearing its ugly head.  Or both at the same time.  We may find ourselves paralyzed by inaction as we are overwhelmed by the possibilities. The Deal Phase of Change Deal – in this phase we’ve chosen the game we wish to play, and we start to signal our intent.  We are making our first move, so to speak.  A lot of excitement again potentially, and a lot of potential for inner turmoil.  But the difference is we are now committed.  We are taking action, the ship is starting to move in a certain direction, although the path may not be completely known.  In this phase we might feel quite unsteady, some days we might feel like we’ve made great progress and other days maybe we feel we’ve gone backwards.  Our emotions will most likely be a mixed bag – there will be wins and successes as we start to make our moves, and there will be setbacks.  The choice of how we ultimately respond to these is up to us. The Play Phase of Change Play – in this phase we are all in.  We’re playing to win, to succeed, we’ve defined what success looks like.  We know the drill, we can handle the inconveniences that may come along the way.  Of the 4 cycles, this is the one that is the most stable.  The problem with the play phase is that sometimes we stay too long.  We may have a tendency to overplay our hand.  We might find ourselves eventually becoming bored, stagnant or lacking purpose or meaning in our endeavor.  Maybe we crash and burn.  But we hold […]

    November 4, 2022

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    4.6 min read

  • Read Put down the mask and allow yourself to be seen.

    Authenticity

    Put down the mask and allow yourself to be seen.

    As we navigate life’s path, it’s interesting the things that will come up over and over again.  I’ve often mused that life will keep giving us the same lessons over and over again until we really learn them.  And really learning something is more than learning it on a theoretical level, or a “head” level as I tend to call it. Many of life’s lessons are what I call “heart” level lessons.  These are the ones that we must feel.  The ones that we need to feel to heal past experiences, so we can let more love into our life, and the shadow of the inner saboteur becomes fainter and fainter. We all wear a mask I had one of these experiences this past weekend.  I was on a girl’s trip to Rockport with some friends of mine.  The four of us met in a hiking meetup group during the pandemic and have been very close ever since. I hadn’t slept very well during the trip and the last morning I found myself in a very raw and emotional state.  The final morning, I started to cry, more like allowed myself to cry and feel some things I’d been shoving away for a while. And then I found myself worrying about things like: “What will they think of me?” “I’m ruining the trip.” “I look silly and I’m embarrassing myself and them.” I sat out on the dock in front of our lovely pastel colored condo and watched the sun come up.  The beautiful purples and pinks shimmering through the clouds, the seagulls diving into the water looking for a morning treat.  I cried, I was breathing deeply, I was letting out fear I’d been carrying for a while.  But I didn’t want to bother the group.  I separated myself on purpose so I wouldn’t be a burden to them.  The fear and embarrassment of showing strong emotion in front of my newish friends was just too overpowering. I was startled when I felt Carol’s hands on my shoulders.  She started to rub my back, and I let her.  The important point of this story is I let her.  It wasn’t easy I will say, even for me, a coach, someone who teaches communication skills and emotional intelligence.  It still wasn’t easy. So often in life, I think we learn that we must be strong.  And we take on a very limited view of what that means.  We put on a mask that hides our true nature from the rest of the world.  I think I’ve often prided myself on being that person in the group that has her proverbial “shit” together.  That knows what she is talking about.  That never loses her cool.  Because I somehow deduced that people won’t like me or want to be friends with me if I let them see who I really am.  That it’s not acceptable to ever be “out of control” or need a moment to cry. Which frame do you choose? […]

    August 23, 2022

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    4.5 min read

  • Read Feeling is freeing: How to Practice Emotional Intelligence

    Authenticity

    Feeling is freeing: How to Practice Emotional Intelligence

    For years and years, I would have told you that I was a very emotionally intelligent person.  I was aware that emotions could take many forms, had many names and I knew intellectually it was important to understand them.  Emotional intelligence has been a notable topic for many years, and I considered myself to be one of those wise people who were in the know. Unfortunately, in all of my information gathering on the topic, I ignored one crucial point.  That in order to have emotional intelligence you actually have to experience emotions.  Who would have thought? The key to emotional intelligence is to not just identify the emotion we are experiencing with a handy dandy robust emotional vocabulary, but to allow ourselves to feel it non-judgmentally.   This is a key point, because many of us who grew up in households where emotions were not welcome got used to shoving them down and pretending they didn’t exist. Feeling is freeing When we suppress emotions, it typically doesn’t lead to much good.  We end up accumulating hurt on top of hurt and over time these feelings build up until one day we can’t shove them down any longer, and the long-awaited bomb finally erupts.  Or we can try to numb them out with the help of food, booze, shopping, video game playing or any other addictive habit we have accumulated over the years.  Not a recipe for success either. We often try to squash the negative emotions.  The ones we consider to be “bad” like anger, frustration, sadness, guilt, shame (my personal favorite), disgust, overwhelm, anxiety, fear.  We’re often not super aware of the oh so subtle tricks we’ve accumulated over the years for disowning these things in ourselves. I feel anxiety before delivering a leadership development program, particularly a new one.  Perfectly reasonable, right?  And yet, in my head I’m thinking to myself, “Bad Shelley.  You shouldn’t be feeling that.  You’re only feeling that because you’re a bad teacher and facilitator.  If you were better at your job, you’d be more confident and you’d never experience this.” So the anxiety comes up, and I try to swat it down by directing anger at myself for having the emotion in the first place. Or perhaps I’m frustrated or angry at a family member.  “Bad Shelley.  You shouldn’t be feeling that.  You’re only feeling that because you’re a bad niece, sister, cousin, etc.  If you were a better person, you would be more caring and emphatic and understand their perspective and where they were coming from.” Here is the mental leap that often eludes us:  having and especially feeling an emotion does not make a person “bad.”  What matters at the end of the day is what we do with the emotion we’re having.  I can be angry and resentful inside and yet I can still manage to put that aside and recognize in the moment exhibiting that behavior would not be helpful.  I can choose my response.  I feel the way […]

    August 18, 2022

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    4.5 min read

  • Read When you feel the need to please, think about this first

    Authenticity

    When you feel the need to please, think about this first

    Ever been pushed into pleasing in a difficult situation and then resented the heck out of it? Here's something to think about next time you feel the need to please.

    June 2, 2022

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    5.4 min read

  • Read One Simple Phrase To Invite Calm In

    Well Being

    One Simple Phrase To Invite Calm In

    The other day I woke up with an ache in my neck.  It was a familiar pain, I’d experienced it in the past when I hadn’t been practicing proper ergonomics and I ended up having to do 4 months of physical therapy to get it to subside. And there it was again.  Despite the fact I know better, I’d been doing all the things I shouldn’t.  Sitting hunched over at my computer in bed or on the couch because I was too lazy to go to my office.  And forget the maintenance exercises I’m supposed to do each morning.  Who has time for that? Well, it came back this time with a vengeance.  Pain like I’d never felt before.  So painful I couldn’t sleep at night.  There I was, lying in bed on a girl’s weekend to Marfa, Texas with my best friend, awake in agony for the better part of 3 nights. The spiral loop of doom It was the last night of the trip that I really started to think myself into jail.  My friend had left me alone in the hotel room so I could go to bed early and get some rest.  Except rest was not to be had.  My mind was spinning. I knew I had to calm myself down, but I was off to the races… The day after we get back I start teaching a new leadership program for a client.   What if I’m running on no sleep to do that?  What if the pain doesn’t go away?  What if I’m not firing on all cylinders and have difficult participants?  What if they think I’m an idiot?  And then that will just set off a chain reaction to affect every other session I have with these people, who will now just view me as some kind of overpaid talentless hack who knows nothing about leadership?  Why does this kind of thing always happen to me?  I’m cursed!  It’s amazing where one’s mind will go when it has the opportunity to run free.  Mine is typically off the cliff in 10 seconds or less.  My mind was caught in what I call a spiral loop of doom – you keep replaying worst case scenario over and over again, and your anxiety rises and rises.  Eventually you end up in a state beyond fight or flight, where you literally freeze, start to dissociate and shut down. I started opening all the tools I have in my mindfulness toolkit.  I tried meditation.  No dice.  I tried breathing techniques, but again, nada.  The loop of doom had grown too strong.  And then I remembered a little phrase that my cousin Margaret had mentioned years ago when she was trying to quit smoking.  “This will pass.”  Her trick was to repeat it out loud to herself when she would get the compulsion to light up a cancer stick.  “This craving will pass.  This moment will pass.” The calming beauty of a simple phrase The beauty of that […]

    May 18, 2022

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    4.1 min read

  • Read An important caveat to vulnerability: Don’t throw your pearls before swine

    Authenticity

    An important caveat to vulnerability: Don’t throw your pearls before swine

    The other day I shared something deep and personal I had written in a very public forum, and then found myself freaking out about it.  Social media is a strange thing, and I’m not sure there are many of us who have completely mastered the art of using it.  I felt that funny feeling in my stomach.  You know the one, when you’ve been caught with your proverbial pants down.  The embarrassment, the shame, like when the teacher called on you in the second grade and you didn’t have the answer and you looked like a fool in front of your entire class. I’ve always been told by others that they admire my vulnerability.  My rawness.  My ability to put myself out there and let it all hang out, so to speak.  And so, I often do, and therefore was quite taken aback by my emotional response to sharing a seemingly innocent article the other day. Perhaps I’m not as comfortable with vulnerability as I thought I was? Vulnerability is a funny thing.  It’s a big buzzword at the moment, we’re all told we should do it.  We should lead with it and practice vulnerable moments with co-workers.  We should practice vulnerability daily in our personal lives.  Brene brown says vulnerability is the key to living a wholehearted life, whatever that means.  And I get it on many levels, it is an amazing way of creating connection with other people.  Think about it, how can anyone ever really know you if they don’t know the real, unpolished, not-so-perfect you?  It’s also important when it comes to letting go of perfectionism and practicing compassion for oneself.  Overall, vulnerability can be a really great thing. There are limits to vulnerability But there are limits.  And frankly, there should be limits to it.  Which is the lesson that hit me like a ton of bricks the other day.  You may have heard the phrase, “Don’t show your pearls with swine?”  It’s a popular piece of advice, and is adapted from a phrase in the Gospel, “Cast not pearls before swine.” Okay, I know where your thinking just went.  So the point of this is to not call other people a pig, no matter how much you may believe someone deserves it.  Or to start preaching at you.  The point is to carefully distinguish amongst who it is appropriate to share your heart with and who it makes sense to keep it more closed.  To make a conscious choice to share or not to share.  And then share it only with people who will really appreciate your message. I think every person and every culture struggles with this, but I do think having lived in many different countries, that we Americans often take the cake with this one.  We share and share and share because we think we’re supposed to.  We share things with our family for instance because they’re family and we think this is what family is supposed to look like, and […]

    May 4, 2022

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    4.8 min read