• Read Awareness is great, but don’t forget to act

    Well Being

    Awareness is great, but don’t forget to act

    For years, I chased the big insights.  I think many of us do.  Particularly if we fall into the category of someone who is super interested in personal development and mistakenly intent on “fixing” ourselves (I stubbornly argue there is nothing in you that ever needs to be fixed) the insights are like gold and can often feel addicting at times.  Perhaps we feel lighter for a while, our perspective has changed.  We can feel our growth.  We might start to recognize that we’re showing up differently as opposed to embracing that old bad habit.  And then we have a day where we are faced with all the old problems, and we fall into the trap yet again.  And we may start to wonder, how did I end up here?  Didn’t I already learn this lesson?  I thought I had figured this out, why am I back in the same place? Development can and will be messy This is why I often tell folks when they contact me for a consult that development is a messy business.  Some days it can feel like you’ve taken one step forward and then two steps back.  I use the word “feel” for a reason because in my experience the trajectory is typically up, even though it’s never a straight line. I say this because I’ve noticed a trend in myself and human beings in general, who can make great strides through new insight and shifting patterns of awareness, but often lack taking action that will help to reinforce that new insight. Here’s an example to illustrate what I mean.  I start to recognize how important it is to be grounded in my body daily.  I recognize the power of yoga in my life.  And then I get busy, and for a few weeks I fool myself into thinking it’s not as necessary as I thought, and I stop doing it.  And then I wonder why I’m feeling so restless all the time.  Why I’m feeling disconnected from my purpose as a coach and trainer, and everything starts to feel more like a daily grind.  I wonder why I’m snappier at people.  Why I’m confused about the things that really matter in life. Or perhaps I recognize that part of the “problem” with myself is the lack of compassion I have for myself.  Because of this I can’t hold appropriate boundaries with friends or family members, as I’m always needing and chasing for their approval.  Or I dimmish my accomplishments thinking they’re not good enough, which ultimately steals my joy or keeps me from trying something new.  I get the whopping insight, perhaps even heal some old childhood wounds with the help of coaching or therapy that caused the deficit in the first place.  And then a few months later, wham, bam, I find myself in the soup again.  The insight has flickered out because I’ve forgotten to make it a practice.  I mistakenly assumed that was just “fixed” now.  Don’t forget to act […]

    November 9, 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 Your values matter in life and leadership.  Here’s why.

    Authenticity, Leadership, Life Direction and Purpose, Mindfulness

    Your values matter in life and leadership.  Here’s why.

    A discussion about values can often seem like an artificial conversation.  It’s a nice to have, not a need to have, right?  Something I do once at a training course because the facilitator forces me to do it, and then I shove the paper they’re written on in a desk drawer and forget about it and go on with the rest of my business. Values can help or hinder our growth and development What’s interesting to understand about values is they can help us or hinder us.  And that might seem counterintuitive, because aren’t values a good thing?  The answer is, it depends.  Let’s say I value accuracy.  If I place too much emphasis on accuracy, I might find myself overworking reports, overworking data, to an extent that’s unnecessary for the task at hand.  Many of us trip ourselves up this way and forget the tried and tested 80/20 rule. One value that I tend to hear a lot from clients is trust.  Trust is an interesting one because we often gravitate towards it if we’ve been hurt in the past.  Maybe our parents got divorced and it eroded our trust in them.  Maybe a spouse or partner cheated on us, and the result was devastating, we can never trust again.  Maybe a business partner stole money from us, or a family member wronged us.  The list goes on and on. Based on these life experiences we then conclude that trust is the most important thing in any relationship, and we cling onto it for dear life.  We suspiciously look for signs that someone might be untrustworthy.  We fear that our worst nightmare will come true, and then it does.  We reinforce this idea by telling ourselves things like, “the only person I can trust is myself.” Fear based values versus conscious based values Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not wrong to value trust.  But it’s worth thinking about the relationship you have with your values.  Did I consciously choose to value trust because it’s important to me, or am I desperately clinging to this value out of fear?  And if I’m clinging to a value out of fear, how might that be blinding me?  How might I then be unconsciously creating the situation I fear? For years I clung to authenticity.  It was my biggest personal value.  And when I think about my personal history, that makes perfect sense.  I grew up in a household where conformity was valued, and I often felt like I could never be myself or loved for who I am.  I had to fight very hard for the right to just be myself.  I even prided myself at one point of being the proverbial black sheep of the family.  I was so concerned with losing my “authentic self” that it inadvertently blinded me to choices I might have liked but wouldn’t even consider because they seemed on the surface to be too conforming. A few years ago, I gave up authenticity as my most important […]

    August 11, 2022

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    3.9 min read

  • Read The Miracle of Space

    Productivity

    The Miracle of Space

    To say I’ve been busy lately is an understatement.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely grateful for the meaningful work I’m doing currently, I’m more excited than ever about the future and the possibilities it may hold.  But my brain is full, and some days I feel like I pass from one zoom call to another zoom call and there is barely space to take a breath. In the last few weeks, I’ve noticed an alarming trend too – I often forgo the yoga or pilates class and just keep working instead.  Just get the proposal out.  Finish the blog post.  Hurry up, you can do it Shelley!  Make that hamster in the wheel of your mind spin.  Except it just won’t.  The hamster feels punch drunk and lethargic.  He’s had enough, packed his bags and moved to Puerto Vallarta.  Adios! Sound familiar?  Hence the topic of this blog, the miracle of space. Space is magical Space is magical.  It’s the place of inspiration, of creativity.  Have you ever been struggling with something, a concept, a problem, and you get up to go to the bathroom or grab a cup of coffee?  Then you walk back to your screen and boom – you have the answer!  It’s not a coincidence.  It’s not the fact that a magic genie lives in the bathroom.  It’s the magic of space.  Our brains need it to be creative, to innovate. I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve had such a hard time coming up this week with a topic for this blog.  When your head is full and tired, the ideas don’t really flow.  I was starting to think of previous blog posts I could recycle, but my pride intervened.  I can’t do that to you my dear readers… Creativity Craves Space I used to teach a course on creativity, which is slightly ironic considering I’ve never considered myself a particularly artistic or creative person.  I used to hold up a paper clip or a shoehorn or some sort of everyday object in front of my group of participants.  Then I’d ask folks to brainstorm as many uses for that item as they could in 5 minutes. 5 minutes may not sound like a long time, but sometimes it felt like forever when I was running this exercise.  And I never shortened the time.  The first minute or so, every obvious option for what to do with a paper clip got exhausted. Then we’d typically sit in awkward silence for a minute or two.  I never said much.  I didn’t try to prod the group on.  I didn’t tell them to hurry up.  And then the ideas would start to flow again.  But this time they were brilliant.  They were the ideas that were way beyond the obvious.  The real innovative ones.  I’ve heard potential uses for the paper clip the likes of the world have never seen. Where is the space in your day? I sometimes do mentor coaching as well, the […]

    July 29, 2022

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    4 min read

  • Read The Problem with Feedback

    Communication

    The Problem with Feedback

    The other day I got my student feedback from a course I teach each semester on Managing without Authority for a local university. I opened it up, excited to see what the students said, and my eyes were drawn to the one respondent that disagreed the course was valuable, and also disagreed I was knowledgeable.  In the free form feedback it said: “Too much reliance on students and not the teacher. We spent more time talking in groups than being provided real insight on managing without authority. If we asked a question, it was not answered and instead thrown on the class to answer.” My heart sank.  And the mind monkey took off.  I’d been outed.  Because when I look deep at my own inner saboteurs, the one that screams the most is “You don’t know enough.” We Fixate on the Negative Feedback So that comment really stung.  I’ve often noticed this tendency in life, where we humble human beings fall into negative confirmation bias.  We look for the things that confirm our worst fears.  Our worst fears are then confirmed, and we fixate on it.  Never mind the 18 other people that strongly agreed that the course was valuable.  Never mind the copious comments on how engaging the course was, how much they liked the case studies, my humor, the breakout groups.  Never mind that these 18 thought I was knowledgeable.  In that moment none of it mattered.  This one individual in the six years I’d been teaching for this institution had finally seen the truth of me.  The game was up. Unfortunately, I had opened this email in the middle of an important 3 day meeting I was participating in.  And then I cursed myself for opening something that could be potentially triggering at a moment I needed to concentrate most.  It took some effort, but I managed to steer myself back into the meeting and reground myself.  Yay for mindfulness techniques!  I spent a few moments practicing some deep breathing, focusing with my eyes on a few objects in my office that bring me joy and are beautiful to look at.  Slowly but surely the dissonance faded away and I regained my composure. When will we be enough? But it got me thinking…it’s interesting this tendency we have to need to prove ourselves.  We obsess about the big presentation that’s coming up, how we must be prepared and have the answer to every potential question under the sun that might be asked.  We stress about the quality of our work.  Is it good enough?  Will people think that I’m credible and I know what I’m talking about?  We stress about the quarterly performance review; will I be rated above average or exceptional?  And what does it mean if I’m not? But here’s the bottom line – When do we get to enjoy things?  When we know enough?  Because that’s a fool’s game.  Enough is never enough because there’s always something new to prove, someone new to impress, […]

    July 20, 2022

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    3.7 min read

  • Read It Really Is All About Your Intention

    Life Direction and Purpose

    It Really Is All About Your Intention

      At the end of yoga class yesterday, my teacher Erikka came up to me and said, “Your practice looks really nice.”  Quite a compliment, coming from her, a graceful swanlike woman, I’ve often watched her move seamlessly out of one posture to another, balancing on one foot in warrior three without a care in the world. Effort without Intention It reminds me of when I first started my yoga practice.  I was anything but.  There, in the sweaty confines of the hot room, I was swearing under my breath as I struggled to lift my crooked back up one inch off the floor in cobra.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  I came back to class, day after day because I knew I felt better, but I looked at the postures as difficult mountains to climb, never acknowledged any progress I made and certainly never thought my practice was “good enough.”  I muddled through year after year and somehow found the willpower to never give up. Lately I’ve been talking a lot in these blogs about the body, and particularly our connection to it.  I’ve been realizing how frequently we get triggered by something, have that feeling that we’re out of control or overwhelmed, and then move about our day, only half really being in this wonderful bag of skin and bones we call home.  We lose touch with the sensation of really “being” in our body, how miraculous that experience is.  We become, for lack of a better word, “ungrounded” and float our way through life living almost exclusively in our head, in the neurotic diatribe that is almost always occurring in our monkey-like mind. The Power of Intentions So yesterday, I did set an intention in class.  For many years I’d roll my eyes when teachers would say that.  When I taught yoga, I’d often tell students to do it as well, but I really didn’t grasp what the words meant.  I thought it sounded cool and zen like. My intention was to ground myself in my body during my practice.  I’d had a tough week, I’d been triggered many times teaching a new course to a group of participants.  My mind was on hyperdrive, “Was I good enough?  What kind of feedback am I going to get?  Was I too honest and harsh in the group coaching circles?  Do the participants think I’m some sort of hack?  I should have said this.  I should have said that.  I’m not sure they got all that much out of the experience.  Maybe I upset them.  I’m never going to be called back to do any work for this client again!”  But I digress… So my intention was to look at the yoga not just as an interesting challenge, but a tool for connecting my body to my mind and spirit.  I focused deeply on my breathing and recall hearing myself breathe in and out.  In mountain I reached my arms up to the sky, to salute the […]

    June 30, 2022

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    4.5 min read