• 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 How free are you really?

    Mindfulness

    How free are you really?

    I spent the last few days up in Taos in the mountains on vacation, desperately trying to keep up with my energetic husband on the high mountain trails.  As I was huffing and puffing up the slopes of Wheeler Peak at 13,200 feet, one has some time to think deep thoughts, the alternative is to be consumed with fear about sliding off the mountain.  And as the 4th of July holiday passed, it inspired me to think about freedom, and what is means to be truly free. There are things like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the types of rights contained within our constitution.  And then there are the more subtle elements that lie within the recesses of our minds.  Because when you really start to think about what it means to be free, quite often, the inhibitor of our freedom lies within. Fixation on the Future To what extent do I really have control over my thoughts?  Or am I a slave to anxiety, negativity, burnout?  Often each day we’re locked in unconscious patterns of thought.  Our focus and attention are hijacked.  We forget our innate self-worth and often fixate on accomplishments and accolades as proof that we are worth something.  Am I good enough?  Am I smart enough?  Have I accomplished enough?  Will I ever have enough time to get everything done? We worry unnecessarily rather than focus on the moment we are in.  We float through our day, half present, consumed by the thoughts in our head, not really connecting with others, not really enjoying the moment, or appreciating where we are at, because we’re so consumed by where we need to be.  Once we get to where we think we need to be, we’re consumed by a new need, a new want.  A new client, a new project, a new job, a new career.  Because unfortunately when we’re fixated on the future, there’s no end in sight.  Our needs and wants are unlimited. No wonder we’re so exhausted. Fixation on the Past Or maybe we’re ruminating on the past.  Which can often be a recipe for depression.  I should have done that differently.  I shouldn’t have had that conversation that way.  I messed up.  I made a bad decision.  If I knew then what I knew now… But the point is you didn’t.  What are you holding onto from the past?  How is holding onto this limiting your capacity to feel fully free?  One of the principles of my coaching philosophy is “It’s impossible to make a mistake.”  This is often difficult for many folks to grasp.  We think about people we’ve wronged, bad decisions we’ve made, tests we’ve screwed up on.  The list is long.  But when you really get down to brass tacks and you think about those moments, you didn’t set out to “make” a mistake.  Typically, you did the best you could in that moment with the level of consciousness you had. Or maybe instead of shame it’s anger and resentment […]

    July 6, 2022

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    4.2 min read

  • Read Forget the mind for a second, it’s the body that really matters

    Well Being

    Forget the mind for a second, it’s the body that really matters

    I’m just going to be honest.  This week I’ve found myself in a real funk.  I haven’t been as motivated to do things, and I’ve found myself falling into the trap of thinking that the harder I am on myself, the more I will push myself, or rather shame myself, I will suddenly move into action.  And then I start noticing all the things I haven’t done, one of which being, I haven’t given much thought to writing this blog.  And because I’m then coming from a negative place to start with, I don’t want to do it, because whatever I produce won’t be good enough and will just be a real pile of crap.  Obviously, this is an excellent frame of mind to start any task from… Our bodies are speaking to us And then I realized something and decided to cut myself a little bit of slack.  I’ve got a physical issue that has flared up at the moment.  It’s called vestibular neuritis just in case you were wondering, and it’s a condition that affects my right inner ear.  When it flares up, I get really dizzy and the entire day feels like I’m riding on a boat on the high seas, and I can’t get off.  Needless to say, this kind of sucks, as it often affects my ability to concentrate, to feel focused, to feel like a normal human being.  It’s a boat ride without the beautiful view, and with a bit of constant low-level nausea.  Hooray. The realization I had is just how important the body is to our full sense of wellbeing.  I should know this right?  I am a yogini after all.  I even taught yoga for years.  But the reality is that most of us don’t.  We do yoga for exercise and to look good in our new Lululemon top.  We often talk about mind, body, spirit connection, but we tend to prioritize the mind, humans being the hyperactive creatures that we are, our noggins just never seem to turn off.  And we treat our bodies as a bag of bones that we drag behind us in the quest for enlightenment and fulfillment.  Sure I need to feed it well.  And drink plenty of water these days if you live in Texas like I do, it’s hot out there!  But what I’m talking about goes beyond the maintenance needs of day to day in terms of things like food and sleep. Tune into your body – what is it telling you? Our body is sending us messages all the time.  And we need to learn to tune into them and listen.  As opposed to ignore and push through the discomfort like is the normal tendency of many of us to do.  “Give me the drug.  Give me that pill that will make me forget about it.”  I’m realizing this is the way I used to handle this condition, which I’ve had since my early twenties.  The result was that during a flare […]

    June 23, 2022

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    4.2 min read

  • Read Bummed Out Because You Messed Up? Try this…

    Motivation

    Bummed Out Because You Messed Up? Try this…

    I heard something today in yoga class.  Sweaty and out of breath, laying in savasana, the teacher reminded us to tune into our breath, and said, “ If you find your mind wandering, find your breath and focus on it.  The beautiful thing about your breath is it’s always there.  You can always go back to it.  You can always start again.” The Choice Trap And yet, we often act like we can’t. “I screwed things up with that client, I can never build it back up again.” “I didn’t major in the right thing in college, now I’m trapped.” “That acting thing didn’t work out.  And now I’m too old and don’t have the right experience, no one is ever going to hire me.” “I was doing so great with that new habit, and then I lost traction.  What’s the point, I may as well give up?  I’ll never be able to get back into it now.” That last quote was mine today, in relation to this blog.  I had set myself the task of writing 2 times a week, and this week it got away from me for no good reason.  And then I look at my watch and realize it’s Thursday afternoon and I’ve written nothing this week.  And then I told myself, “See Shelley, you knew you’d never do this.  This is why you never should have started that stupid blog again in the first place!  You don’t have what it takes to sustain this new habit.  You might as well give up.  You suck!”  And then it got even worse, and I found myself in a pit of self-induced shame.  Telling myself that I “should be” better at this by now, and I “should” practice the things I preach to my clients. The Problem with Should Until I realized I was “shoulding” all over myself – also something I warn my clients about. Dang.  I hate it when I’m right. So here I am, MacBook in hand, and I told that voice to shut up today, because I choose to remember what my teacher said.  I also choose to remember what William Glasser said, who wrote Choice Theory, one hell of a book, and coincidentally one of the best books I’ve ever read.  (He’s dead, just in case you’re wondering, but not from making bad choices.)  His premise was that every moment of every day is a choice.  I can choose to believe I’m a failure, or I can choose to believe otherwise.  I can choose to move closer to this person in this moment, or I can choose to move away from them.  Will that choice serve me or not?  In every moment there is some element of agency.  Some element where I can become the master of my own fate, even if it’s just changing what I choose to believe about what happened.  A very helpful thing indeed if I choose my own interpretation, because unfortunately I haven’t become omnipotent yet.  Otherwise the […]

    March 3, 2022

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    3.3 min read

  • Read Sorry Whitesnake, you WEREN’T born to walk alone – A quick tip for building a support network

    Well Being

    Sorry Whitesnake, you WEREN’T born to walk alone – A quick tip for building a support network

    A proud child of the eighties, I’m sometimes reminded of that Whitesnake song, “Here I go again on my own.  Going down the only road I’ve ever known.  Like a drifter I was born to walk alone!” Catchy huh?  Except for the fact that the songwriter was more concerned with finding the perfect rhyme than sharing an important truth about life.  Which brings me to the point of today’s blog:  how to develop a support network.  Cultivating a robust support network is an important ingredient in the multifaceted recipe of resilience. 

    February 3, 2022

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    3.3 min read

  • Read Stop Trying to Be Perfect

    Authenticity

    Stop Trying to Be Perfect

    The other day I was going through my writing files and found a bunch a blogs I had never used.  I re-read them, and truth be told – some of them were actually pretty good.  Maybe not award winning good, but good enough to get a chuckle or two from a bemused reader over their morning cup of coffee and soggy bowl of bran flakes. Then I realized the reason I had decided to never use them was that I had previously decided they were crap and belonged in the digital equivalent of the dusty junk drawer, as far away from the human eye as something could possibly be.  They just weren’t perfect enough. This got me thinking (a dangerous thing I know) about how often we have an idea or a wish to try something new and stick it in the proverbial junk drawer. Perfect – The enemy of good We have an idea, and we start to label it with words like:  silly, childish, whimsical, impractical, too idealistic, unrealistic, not original enough, not perfect enough, not gluten free enough… You get my drift. And then we shove that part of ourselves away, only to be encountered on a rainy Sunday morning when you’ve got nothing better to do and you’re suddenly confronted with the ghost of dead dreams. When we decide to let go of being perfect, this makes space for being authentic instead.  And along with that comes creativity, freedom, exploration and most importantly – joy. For years I had shied away from working with very senior leaders.  I had decided somewhere in the recesses of my brain I was too quirky, not polished enough, not as well versed enough on the all leadership buzzwords as I could be, not experienced enough, not prestigious enough. I hadn’t studied with someone important, like Daniel Goleman or Stephen Covey.  My foggy and faulty logic was that in order to be successful with this type of audience, I would need to be something other than what I was.  Something better than what I was, whatever that really means. For years I had put off working with this group and focused on mid-level leaders. (Very rewarding and enjoyable work too by the way which I still love and continue to this day.)  I had decided this was my niche.  And all the best marketing practices supported my choice, as it’s important to be clear about who your target client is. Be Authentic Instead But one day I finally took the plunge and thought, what the heck – what would happen if I just put my stuff out there with a senior audience?  My story, my experiences, the reason I do leadership development, my trials and tribulations. I didn’t die, just in case you were wondering. There were several comments in the facilitator feedback on how open, vulnerable, authentic, interesting and engaging I was. And one recent executive coaching client mentioned he had specifically hired me because he read my book and […]

    January 31, 2022

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    3.6 min read