A Question to Be Lived Into

Questions. The juicier the better

“……… be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”           — Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

 

Asking the right questions.

 

Coaching is a partnership between equals, with the coach asking questions aimed at opening up thinking and opportunities for greater growth for the other. Rilke charges us to love the questions, and to live into them.

 

Asking questions to grow understanding has a long history. In 4th century BCE, Socrates was known as the gadfly of Athens. Gadflies bite the horse, provoking the horse to action.  Socrates approach — asking questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presumptions. Annoying the powers that be and disrupting the status quo.

 

Chavrusa is a 1st century CE Aramaic word meaning friendship. In contemporary meaning it is a rabbinic study partner. “A chavrusa helps the student sharpen his reasoning powers, develop his thoughts into words. This type of learning imparts precision and clarity into ideas that would otherwise remain vague. A back and forth, question and answer, question and answer.“ (Wikipedia)

 

Good teachers have a toolkit of great questions. Asking the right questions can “motivate learning and fuel curiosity, foster intellectual development and stimulate thinking.” (Brandon Cline, Chicago Center for Teaching, University of Chicago)

 

 

In coaching, the fundamental purpose in asking powerful questions is to move the coachee forward. Discovery is the foundational intention. A core guiding principle of coaching  —  “People are Inquisitive: Wonder, curiosity and inquiry are the source of all learning.” Like Rilke, Socrates, the Chavrusa, and any good leader, the question is a guide to opening up perception.

 

A powerful question is one free of a judgemental voice. For instance, the question, “Why did I fail” implies you are a failure, which is destructive and fundamentally not true.  It stops learning and growth. A more beneficial and constructive question would be: “What blocked me or got in my way there?” Or “How can I move forward now?”

 

Here is one vigorous question to ask yourself today:

 

“Who is in charge of my life? Me or other people?”

 

This is not a simple question with a definitive answer. This is a question to sit with. And like the gadfly, spur you to action. A question to be lived into.

Do you think “Not good enough”? and “I need to fix my flaws”?

Does your barbell have “not good enough’ on one end, and ‘fix my flaws’ on the other?

There’s body building. Then there’s this…

Sometimes we get caught up with forcing ourselves to get stronger in weak areas. Noble and worthwhile ambitions. But you will never be passionate here, and it won’t hold your focus. By investing in your strengths, this can be a powerful source for success.

It must be the educator and designer in me, but I love creating learning tools. Here is an easy three step process to concentrate on your most powerful areas. You can use this knowledge to elevate your success.

 

A little homework:

 

  1. Grab yourself an iced tea, relax in your lawn chair in the back yard and make a list. Take stock of your strengths. Answer these questions:
  • “In what areas of life do I feel naturally strong?”
  • “What am I already good at?”
  • “Given that this is a strength, what’s the next level of development with that?”

 

  1. Next, make a list of two to three goals, and the resources that are available to you right now.

 

  1. Then, weave these two lists together, do this in narrative form. This is positively reinforcing what you already have, instead of focusing on what you don’t have, or are striving to get.

 

Sarah’s Example:

Strengths:

  • I make rapid, easy connections with people
  • I have a large network
  • I have infectious positivity
  • I have great communication skills

 

Goals                                                                        

  1. Develop a part time marketing biz;

     With an eye toward taking it full time

  1. Develop a wider network, outside local area
  2. Health goals – start a regular work out routine

Resources

  1. Connections within Professional Business Community
  2. Use national platform I’m already a part of
  3. Connect within network with a health goal partner or workout buddy

 

Her Narrative

I view my strengths as being my soft skills – because I genuinely like people and am an extrovert, I make rapid, easy connections. Because of this, I have a large network. I have been blessed with infectious positivity, and tend to view the world as a friendly place.

 

Because my goal is to develop a part time marketing business, I will need to use my large network of people to begin getting the word out and start creating clients. I know I’ll have to throw the net wider if I’m going to make it a full time business. I realize now I could take on a leadership role with the state chapter of the professional business community that I am now a member of locally. My connections there will be great resources.

 

I realize now that my strengths as a people person might help with my health goals too. I will commit to connect with people who can support me with diet and regular exercise. A personal trainer or workout buddy?

 

P.S.  If you are curious about what your strengths might be, the University of Pennsylvania has a survey you can take. You’ll need to register. ( Look for QUESTIONNAIRES. They offer many surveys, the strengths survey is called VIA Survey of Character Strengths. There is also a shorter version available, Brief Strengths test.) https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/

Onward and Upward!

 

 

 

 

He Stared at the List. Then, an Awakening

Action: Energy + Momentum = Results

I was meeting with a client last Wednesday who is working on a change in career direction. This guy (I’ll call him Kyle) is very goals driven. As we have worked together, Kyle has researched, interviewed authorities, and collected data. He keeps a notebook of ideas with goals attached and a calendar with deadlines in the notebook. He looks at the notebook everyday. He had gotten to the stage of exploring 3 distinct career paths, and couldn’t decide. Which path should he explore?

Which path should he take?

I saw his notebook as a very ‘brain centric’ tool. Kyle definitely had that part covered. My work as a coach is to coach the whole person, head and heart. It was time to check in with Kyle’s heart. Which career direction did he feel the most passion and interest for? As we explored this conversation for a while, he realized that he was most excited for one path! (I saw his eyes light up). We found out that he had resisted that choice because:

1. It was the scariest. The learning curve was longer and the outcome unknown. The other two options would have been easy. Kyle already knew how to do them. And bingo, that was the reason they were on the list!

2. Secondly, he was waiting for ‘other people’ to give him permission to proceed. After contacting a training and certification organization, he had received little direction, and that had not been helpful. Prompting Kyle to hang out in limbo and WAIT.

As a coach, I know any action will yield energy, momentum and a result. I encouraged him to get right into action. He had the power within himself to begin. He didn’t need to wait. He decided to jump in.

Kyle called me later to say he was excited AND nervous. Perfect!


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Princess Knocked Me Out

I had so much to learn……..

A summer spent bagging groceries at McNeilly’s Market earned my half of a Welsh Pony/Quarter horse mix named Princess. She was beautiful and a dream come true for me the summer I turned twelve. She had just arrived, and was grazing in a small corral when I decided I would grab an apple and give her a special treat. I climbed over the fence and ran toward her, coming from behind. Wrong move. I got soundly kicked, and lay flattened, unable to breathe, the wind knocked out of me.

It was a long time before I had the courage to go near that horse. I now understood Princess was an animal to be feared.

Personal upheaval can feel like that. One of my clients is going through a contentious divorce, and another works for a large company that is being acquired by another large company. The similarities here are that both clients feel a loss of control about a future that is constantly changing and unknowable. How do you navigate these choppy waters? How do you cross the field without getting trampled by the bull?

Develop your strengths and understand yourself within the situation. By working on these two things, major change feels less like upheaval and more like evolution

 

At twelve, I had so much to learn. About horses, and everything else. The beginning of my 4b807df6-7b93-4682-a81c-98860d91aaeaunderstanding came when my Dad noticed I hadn’t taken our horse out for a ride yet. “You’ve got to ride her Deb. I know you’re afraid. By now you’ve learned never to come up to a horse from behind. You were right though, let her get to know you by bringing her treats. Then saddle her up and take her out, no excuses. Or else you’ll always be afraid. And you don’t want that.” Know your strengths, understand yourself and the situation. I pulled on my big girl boots, found my courage, and went for the ride of my life.

From Adversity to Applause

“What were your top three challenges of the last six months?”  This is the question I ask in my Quick Start strategy sessions.

“What were your top accomplishments over the last six months?”,  is the second question I ask.

More often than not the answers to these two questions are, amazingly, the same. 

Periods of loss, challenge, suffering, and failure can be powerful catalysts for personal growth and transformation. “It is often through suffering that we develop inner strength, from loss that we increase our understanding, and from overcoming struggles that we come to discover our own strength and resilience.”  (excerpt from Wired to Create)

“Adverse events can force us to re-examine our beliefs and life projects, and therein lie their power and creative potential. After the experience of adversity, the mind is actively dismantling old belief systems that no longer hold up and creating new structures of meaning and identity. ”

How do you move from the intensity of a challenging period into one of positive transformation?

To move from Adversity to Applause:

1. Take notes. Acknowledge that this was difficult. Whatever you were faced with, give yourself credit for surviving it. With the simple act of writing down what was hard and what you learned from it, you move the experience from a weight around your shoulders to a place of empowered resilience.

2. To make meaning of difficult experiences, resolve to let go of bitterness. Bitterness lives within powerlessness, and you are not a powerless person.

3. Applaud your strength. Life is messy, painful, full of potholes. You found a way through. Give yourself credit for getting to this next, higher place. Bravo!

Note: Excerpts from “Wired to Create” by Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., and Carolyn Gregoire.

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Is it time to clear the air?

I work with people who want to develop in their careers, or move through divorce not reduced but expansively, or who want to meet challenges and thrive instead of hide or fight change. In essence,to live a full meaningful life. In every arena, because of the complexity of we humans, being in relationship with others can sometimes be ‘difficult”. To succeed and thrive means to meet those relationships with complete presence.


 

It’s Time to Clear the Air

We’ve all been there. It’s time to have that ‘talk’. Things have come to a head, and you’ve decided that you can’t ignore it any longer. So gather your courage, pull on your boots and be an adult.

But where to begin? Here are some thoughts.Untitled design

First and foremost. You cannot make anyone talk through an issue. The only thing you can do is offer a safe place for dialogue to happen. How do you create a ’safe’ place? By acknowledging that this might be difficult. That you care enough about improving the relationship to work on it. Own up to the fact that you may have contributed to ’the problem’ (whatever it may be). By offering this, you validate everyone’s feelings. Next, be ready to do a lot of listening, if the other party feels like opening up. Another thing to remember, this is a process. The initial conversation may just open the door a crack to honesty.

Which brings us to the next important feature of any relationship — their feelings are theirs, not yours. Your actions are yours. That is what you need to own. Let them know you care about improving things, and are willing to hear, regardless of what they are feeling. Your goal is not to make their feelings go away. It is simply to witness them and stand by the relationship.

Accept that some things may not be resolved. Again, you don’t have control over the thoughts or actions of others. But knowing that this is a process free’s you to lead the way and set the tone, because good things can happen. If not now, then somewhere down the road. By being open and receptive, you hold the key to the opportunity for deeper relationships, which are vital to a rich and abundant life. The life you are committed to having.

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Are You 1. Brilliant or 2. A Fraud. A Multiple Choice Question

Sitting carefully in the formal living room, I surveyed the richly furnished surroundings. This was living room # 2, completely decorated in several variations on the color white. I was feeling like I didn’t belong.

I was at a committee meeting, one I was asked to be on, working with academics, engineers, and other highly educated people. The thoughts that were zooming around my head were deadly. “They are going to find out I’m not as smart as they think I am.” “They are sure to see how unsophisticated I am.” “ I’m just flat out unworthy to be here.” “I’m a fraud.” Truth be told? That same narrative tape begins its reel in my head every time I’m in a new situation. After working with hundreds of clients, I know that this phenomenon is just about universal. And what I also know, there is a way to make that disagreeable scenario disappear. You can stop it cold. Screenshot 2015-09-30 14.05.15

I recently read this story. Every year, students in the incoming class at Stanford Business School are asked, “How many of you feel that you are the one mistake that the admissions committee made?” And every year, about two-thirds of the students raise their hands.

Now this is curious, because getting into a top-notch program is not easy. A high GPA, excellent scores on the GMAT and strong letters of recommendation from prominent professors and professionals are necessary. High achievers who succeed academically on tests and grueling internships are in that classroom. Yet, despite this, the majority of students who achieve their goal of admission to this program seriously doubt they deserve to be there.

Screenshot 2015-09-30 13.56.07The story isn’t limited to students. Research done on every level of successful professional comes up with the same number. 70% of all high achieving people describe feeling unqualified, like a fraud, in spite of many significant achievements. This behavior has many names — fraud factor, impostor phenomenon. First described by psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD, in the 1970s. Defined as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.” Feel familiar?

It goes something like this: “I’m here, sure, but they’re going to find out I’m (Fill in the blank)” “ I’m here just by dumb luck” “ I’m not smart, in fact, I’m really stupid. Didn’t I just do something stupid yesterday?” “ If they knew of my other imperfections, they wouldn’t have invited me here.” I could go on….

These thoughts hold you back from fully enjoying life. From completely embracing success. The impostor phenomenon appears when you are embarking on a new endeavor outside your ‘zone of comfort’. I think it is a trick from our psyche to keep us safe, in a way. A primitive warning signal that we are about to do something different and we should be wary. But this warning signal triggers shame and vulnerability too.

Take heart. There are ways to change the story going on in your head.

1. Recognize that just about everyone have these feelings. You are not alone.

2. Give yourself credit for stepping outside your comfort zone to try something new. Credit also, for all of your past achievements.

3. Allow yourself to be imperfect.

4. Understand that this is some part of your unconscious, trying to keep you safe. Acknowledge this. Then give yourself permission to go ahead anyway.

5, Another permission granted: Give yourself permission to congratulate yourself fully for growing and developing, Step into a new and more abundant reality. Because you really are wonderful, and the world needs to have that!

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The Secret Behind Every Decision

“I think I’m depressed” Tom (not his real name) said quietly over his coffee cup. Indeed, he looked sad. I urged him to tell me what was going on. As the story unfolded, Tom said that he was having trouble feeling good about his decisions. He blamed poor decision-making on his lack of a big bank account and a more prestigious career. His father, mother and sister were all very accomplished people. He was sure there was something wrong with him, that he couldn’t do the same.

The Secret Behind Every Decision

Tom’s story included the fact that he was a good Dad to two daughters. His marriage had broken up when the girls were young. From the tenor of his story, I had a feeling that Tom had not made poor decisions. But that his values shaped his behavior and choices, values he wasn’t aware of. I knew that if I could help Tom discover what values drove his past decisions, he would feel a lot better about himself, and that would inform all future decisions.

Values are the principles that you live your life by. Too often, we are unable to identify what is really important for us. We don’t live our lives in alignment with our values, and then wonder why we feel unbalanced or things aren’t working. To honor your values means to create and live your life in such a way that there is nothing in the way of living them. This leads to a life lived with integrity.

The compass that sets your course are your core values. Those core values direct all of your life choices and every aspect of your behavior. Core values are defined by you. They are:

  • Something that is regarded as important.
  • Standards of behavior.
  • Beliefs, ideals.
  • Guidelines of worth.
  • Principles that guide conduct.
  • Seen as intrinsically desirable, valuable.

Values are easily squashed by needs, shoulds and problems.

Needs. ..Shoulds. ..Tolerations. ..Unresolved matters. ..Addictions… Irresponsibility. Stress… Fantasies. ..Roles. ..Money. …Obligation/Duty……..

Until this list is handled, values orientation is difficult to do, because most people have values and needs confused. Their needs are so great that they overshadow their values. This circumstance makes living a values based life and setting values based goals unsustainable. A Values based life brings fulfillment.

Some examples of values: Accomplishment, Discipline, Social Recognition, Spirituality, Taking risks, Tradition, Wealth, Creativity.

Tom did a values assessment with me, and discovered that family and responsibility were much stronger values for him than affluence. Tom had been comparing himself to others and in his mind he hadn’t measured up. A man with a prestigious career and a big bank account was the role he imagined he was supposed to play. For Tom, the discovery that he had made the choice to work at jobs that would be best for his family, jobs that allowed him to be the kind of Dad he wanted to be, brought him great relief. That knowledge paved the way to making peace with the past, feeling satisfaction for the present, and empowered about the future.

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What’s On the Other Side of That Door?

Are you ready?

Screenshot 2015-10-28 19.42.00

The door bell rings. You open it unto the darkness. The figure on the other side of the door is a question mark.

A spirit, a ghost, or a bum? Or is it benevolent? A queen, a wizard, a clown? It’s All Hallows Eve, Halloween.

Born out of an ancient Celtic holiday (Samhain), Halloween has continued a centuries old evolution, built upon layers of cultural meaning. The elements of darkness, mystery, traversing the roads in search of sweet treats and disguises designed to try on a different personae have been there from the beginning. A celebration of the abundance and plenty of autumn against the back drop of the empty gardens of winter, the slipping of the day into the night, Halloween appears as we enter the dark part of the year. Like Persephone being pulled into the Underworld, themes of darkness and light, mystery and transformation are tied together.

Traditions are only kept going if they serve an important function. Halloween has evolved and spread because it has a purpose. It gives us a way to play out our dreams, fears and fantasies. Our dual nature. Our modern version is playful and fun. Costume parties, pumpkin carving and kids who dress up and trick or treat. Wishing you an abundance of treats.

“Traditions are only kept going if they serve an important function.”

It is the same with behavior. The behavior that elevates your life is positive, but the behavior that you see as negative also serves a purpose. Are you ready to find out what purpose it serves, and what you can do to live an exceptional life? Then let’s have a conversation. You’ll leave feeling good, loving yourself and ready to take action!  Get access here

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Multi Tasking Between Summer and Fall

Smell it in the air? The aroma of autumn. And with it, transition. We switch from summer activities to fall chores. From vacation mode to work mode. In the morning do you reach for your wool sweater, but by afternoon are you stripping to your tee shirt?  I’ve been hearing conversations that remark on the difficulties of bringing focus back. To changes begun in June and then stalled by July — before August vacations, summer pleasures, and houseguests being shown around town. Is this where you are too?

Honeycomb (2)

This reminded me of research being done on multi tasking and the brain. Turns out multi tasking is largely a myth. We are incapable of doing 2 things at once that require executive functions (the same part of the brain). But we are good at switching back and forth. When switching to a new task, we have to pause, then commit.

The pause is what the first weeks of September are about. This is your chance to use the breathing space between summer mode and the autumn seasonal shift to re-focus. To make the transition easier, follow these suggestions:

1. Take a moment and review your goals from spring. Are these still important to you? Are there any you want to let go of?

2. Where are your interests being drawn now?

3. What ‘energy drainers’ are you noticing? Have there been changes these last 8 months that need attending to?

4. What would you determine are your major challenges? Are you ready to tackle them?

September ushers in days of higher energy that can galvanize development. The distinct shift in the season can give you renewed purpose and focus. Opportunity awaits.

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“Deborah challenges me

to identify barriers and confront obstacles so I am more productive and aligned with my deepest goals. Her insights along my journey are invaluable.”

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“Deborah is an energetic, engaging and skillful listener.

“Deborah is an energetic, engaging and skillful listener who is always fully present when we meet. She challenges me to confront obstacles and identify barriers in my practice so that I am more productive and aligned with my deepest goals. Her insights along my journey are invaluable.” ”

Amy | Project Manager at the University of Michigan and Professional Artist

“Deborah listens carefully to my short-term and long-term goals

and sets a course of strategy including time-tables to carry out my plans and keep it within a structure and focus.”

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“She challenges me to recognize my worth

I love Debbie! She is kind, insightful and honest. She challenges me to recognize my worth, identify obstacles and pursue my goals. She treats me as if I am already the person I hope to be. She is a rare find and a joy!”

Heather Suffron, Business Owner and aspiring ESL Specialist