The Pebble in your Shoe is Having a Rock Party

“Want to go to a Rock Party?” was my Dad’s joke every spring. Being a farmer, as soon as the fields were dry enough to plow and plant, meant he spent long days outdoors preparing the fields. Over the winter, the freezing and thawing of the soil would push the rocks to the surface, and they would need to be cleared to create ideal growing conditions. The naïve would answer ‘yes’ to Dad’s question and end up following a tractor and wagon all day, throwing rocks onto the wagon. If you were smart, you jumped into the driver’s seat first.

Recently, in a blog post, I shared a story about two of my heroes, the artists Christo and his wife Jean- Claude. When Christo turned 80 he said, “I’m 80. I want to do something really hard.” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve looked to my elders to show me the way. That post was all about challenging mountains to climb, and the small and large courageous acts it takes to scale them. But what if you’re having difficulty scaling the mountain?

Muhammad Ali was so clever with language that he inspired fans and non-fans alike. He said, “It isn’t the mountain ahead to climb that wears you out: it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

Sometimes your particular ‘mountain’ and the problematic ‘pebble’ are not so obvious.

Here are six “shapes’ that pebble could take:

  1. Your mindset — Your underlying belief system is in conflict with your desires. Examples: “If I succeed my world will change dramatically” “I can’t have financial abundance AND healthy strong relationships” “I’ll lose control of my life if I take on a leadership role.”
  2. You have conflicting values.  “Professional ambition and kindness can’t co-exist” “Marketing myself feels like selling out” ” The needs of my family and personal achievement is a competition”
  3. You have conflicting ambitions. Are too many choices muddying the waters? Causing confusion — so you end up doing nothing?
  4. You are not all in. (Caused by: see above) To follow through on goals, you have to be 100% on board with your new goal. 70/30 will not cut it.
  5. You have a limiting narrative. “I have to take care of my family first — and their needs are never ending.” “I can’t ask for that much money, they will never pay it.” “I can’t say no, I can’t handle the consequences.”
  6. You are experiencing overwhelm. Too many things on your to do list? No clear plan on doing any of them?

By eliminating these ‘stones’ you clear the path to achievement. Want to go to a Rock Party?

Are You Ready?

Last week I shared three Hero stories, about people who have pushed themselves through that icky place called ‘discomfort’ and resisted the lure of that soft couch to stay safe. I shared a little bit of my own struggle around keeping a low profile. Which is my place of comfort. It’s about VISIBILITY.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve looked to my elders to show me the way. I really admire the artist Christo and his partner (wife) Jean-Claude. Christo (Jean-Claude passed away 10 years ago) create massive, temporary artworks that build community, create exalted experiences and start conversations. They take years, sometimes decades to come to be. Mainly because they work with a consortium of governments, politicians, citizens, and public and private landowners to get consensus and permission to create his temporary public works.

One thing he has said, is that he and Jean Claude have had to have courage.  On his 80th birthday, he said, “For my 80th birthday, I want to do something really hard.” So he created “Floating Pier”. I know some people who travelled to the ‘Floating Pier”, traversing a lake in Italy. They said it was an otherworldly experience.

Well, that is my mantra now. I want to keep meeting the next challenge, the next ‘hard thing’ — leave my place of low profile to embrace visibility. My own ‘hard things’, are smaller in scale than Christo’s, but they are my own personal version of courageous acts. What are the tough challenges that you’re ready to take on? That will make you stretch, and will take courage from you?

(If you missed last week’s post, you can read it here  )

Your Mind – Set to Dial Up or Down?

Last Tuesday, I was enjoying coffee with a friend as she described 2 business owners, members of her Master Mind Group, who owned the same kind of businesses-Home Health Care Agencies. She was wondering aloud why one of them was successful and the other was not.

The Home Health Care industry is the type of business that is never closed – clients have needs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The people they serve need frequent contact. But not only that, the providers they hire to do the hands on work also have their own challenges — cars that break down on the way to work, sick children that keep them home, etc… But missing work can’t be an option.

These two business owners did constant problem solving. One rolled up his sleeves and met his challenges, open to creatively figure out solutions. The other one became overwhelmed with client needs, angry with his employees, complaining about the system, and eventually closed his doors. Same business, different outcome. What specifically was different? The two business owners had a different approach. And it stemmed from their unique mindset.

What is mindset? Here is my definition, “A fixed mental attitude or disposition that pre-determines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations.”

Do you see problems and react to them? Or do you see challenges and respond to them?

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!

 

 

 

 

How do you cope?

Life can certainly confound you. Whether it is the nightly news, cantankerous relatives or incompetent bosses, you feel your blood pressure rise with each episode. Could you use some simple tools to use when you’re feeling stressed, discouraged or angry about something you have no power to change?

Try the 1-2-3 method using R-R-C. Remember these 3 steps to shift ‘consciousness’ — to move your mind through mental quicksand toward empowered uplifting thoughts. Getting stuck in the anger and stress is not productive. Paying attention to stress, discouragement or anger responses is important information to prompt you toward action. Here are three steps. R.R.C. Easy because you already have this.

  1. Reframe. Pause and ask yourself, “What am I grateful for?” “What is good about this?” There is something to be grateful for in every moment, in every situation. There are things to learn within every challenge.Buddhist’s call it ‘Beginner’s mind.’   “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
  2. Revive. Remember past success, past happiness. Feel what that was like, and transfer that feeling to this moment.
  3. Compose. What is the version of your best self in this situation? Who do you want to be right now? Then re-calibrate into the best you.  Consummate professional. Loving individual. Empathic co-inhabitant of planet earth. Courageous human. You’ve got this.

RE-INVENTORS ON THE RISE

 I’m drawn to stories of re-invention. Imaginative people who have either turned a bad situation that was thrust upon them into a win, or have intentionally redrawn their life maps. People with audacity and nerve.

I love meeting and talking to courageous people, with adventurous spirits. This weeks article is part two in an ongoing series of interviews seeking to capture these inspiring stories …….. I have known Heather Suffron for over ten years. In 2016 she became a client of mine, as she began to seek answers to, “What is my next adventure?” Here is a little bit of her story. She is a fabulous writer, so our interview took a written shape. I sent her my questions, and she sat with them, reflecting and then sending her response back to me.

DC: What prompted the re-invention?

Heather: “Well, according to the lovely Debbie Campbell, I’ve had two re-inventions (that she knows about) – one when I quit my job and packed myself off to volunteer overseas and one right now, as I begin a new chapter by getting certified to teach English as a foreign language and see where that takes me.

I guess I would not characterize them as re-inventions as much as new dimensions (or directions) just waiting to be explored and allowing those passions to shine for a while.

1 – Identifying what prompted the first adventure is a long story (and can found in my yet-to-be- published book!), but it was a combination of factors: both of my grandparents passed away, my parents retired and moved to their “cabin in the woods,” and I had a decent job, but not one that I was passionate about or considered a career. I was gifted a small inheritance from my grandparents’ estate, and I didn’t want to just stay put and watch life float past. I wanted to see the world, but I didn’t want to simply be a tourist. I also wanted to make a positive impact on the places I visited. I came up with the concept of combining my desire to travel the world while volunteering along the way long before I got on the plane and did so, but the idea sang in my heart, and it didn’t stop, so when the closest people in my life were called away, it was time for me to follow this dream.

2 – The current prompt is both practical and idealistic (an unlikely possibility, I’ll admit) in nature. I’ve been running my own pet care business for the past 13-14 years, and it has been my sole source of income since returning from my overseas adventure 3.5 years ago. I appreciate so many things about it: the flexibility and autonomy; the variations in locations, situations, responsibilities, and pets; my wonderful clients; and of course, the awesome pets. However, it was never my intention for that to serve as my career, and while I’ve been blessed with a wonderful word-of-mouth referral system, my schedule – and therefore, my income – has been inconsistent (some months I’m booked stem to stern, while other months are slim-pickings, so to speak), and I have to cover all expenses (health care, social security, taxes, supplies, gas, etc.). Furthermore, although I adore the pets I care for, it isn’t the most intellectually stimulating job in the world, so I find that it is time for a new challenge and a new adventure. What is so great about this one is that I’m really excited about pursuing it! I don’t think the importance of education can be emphasized enough, and in today’s world, it is especially beneficial to know English. Top that off with my love of adventure and experiencing new places, and the fit resonated loudly in the rare quiet moments. The increasing urgency to find something more self- sufficient that would also allow me to save money and the possibility of fulfilling career-oriented desires for this non-conventional gal propelled me in this direction.

* I think the overriding drive in both cases was the sense of necessity, for lack of a better word – like if I didn’t pursue this dream, I would regret it and always wish that I had. There is a great quote (often attributed to Anaïs Nin, but research indicates it was most likely from Elizabeth Appell) that hits this at its core: “And then the day came when the risk to remain tight, in a bud, became more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Yes, there are challenges, and growing pains and scary moments, but that is part of learning and growing and becoming more of who you are capable of being, and it is so worth it!

DC: How did you go about it?

HS: 1 – “There was a ton of research, logistics, decisions, and preparations for my one woman’s journey to save the world (again, see forthcoming memoir) : ). I had to decide where and when I wanted to go, what kind of volunteer work I wanted to do, and which organizations fit my criteria (socially- responsible, locally-driven, environmentally-oriented, etc.). I had to raise some money to subsidize my expenses, obtain the proper visas and research clearances, get the required vaccinations, shop for the proper clothing and gear, purchase my transportation tickets, formulate my itinerary, sort out my finances and credit cards while traveling, fill an EpiPen prescription… You get the picture. There was a lot involved in making this happen, but although there were so many plates spinning, it hostly never really felt like work, because I knew it was serving the bigger picture of fulfilling my dream.

2 – I’ve entertained the idea of teaching English as a foreign language for quite a while, and it kept resurfacing over the years. When it became clear that sticking sole to pet care was not going to be sustainable for much longer, I returned once again to this possibility. I did not want to settle for any job just to have a job (like a place-holder), and some of my work with Debbie highlighted this frustration and certainty. I wanted to be truly excited about the path I chose to take, and ESL, by virtue of its focus on education and helping others, as well as the possibility of travel and adventure resonated with me. I wanted to get certified to teach ESL so that I would have that important credential and feel prepared with knowledge and tools at my disposal to be an excellent teacher for my students, and I wanted to go through a school with a reputation for graduating promising teachers who found good jobs quickly. There are plenty of fly-by-night certification programs, but I did not want to take a certification course and be let loose on the job market only to find out that my program lacked certain credentials or respect in the community, so I did a lot of research and found a third- party source for reviews of former students, as well. The application and interview process was a titch more difficult than and thorough than I expected, but I wasn’t deterred, and I like to think that that’s a good sign that I’m on the right path!

DC: Challenges/hardest part

HS: 1 – “There were lots of hard parts. See above, because all of the work that went into taking my overseas adventure was challenging, but the great thing about finding that path and heeding that call is that the work (even when it isn’t glamorous or easy) doesn’t really feel like work. It’s all part of the process of realizing your goal or dream. There were plenty of obstacles, but if you know in your heart that you’re doing the right thing, those road blocks won’t matter.

The biggest challenge for me with this trip was easily my fear of flying. It’s not simply that I don’t like to fly. It’s that I get seriously anxious and have a full-on panic attack from time to time. Sometimes even just thinking about getting on a plane and flying is enough for my body to start responding physiologically with a racing heartbeat and sense of claustrophobia. So for me to undertake a trip that involved multiple plane rides was downright terrifying to me, but I would never have forgiven myself if I let my fear stop me from doing what I really knew I needed to do. So I got a few referrals, and I went to see a couple therapists for the first time in my life. Apparently, there is a therapy called EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) that is extremely successful for people with similar phobias. Unfortunately, there was not enough time for me to receive the proper protocol of treatments, so that left us with other strategies in the cognitive behavioral discipline, and they left me with enough knowledge, insight, and tools that I was able to manage my symptoms enough to get from here to there and back again.

2 – I’m not quite sure what the hardest part will be with this new adventure, though I will say that the Pre-Course Task was challenging in and of itself! I was a decent student, but I’ve been out of academia for a while, so I assume returning to that kind of discipline will present its own challenges, and I’m introverted by nature and prefer to get know people naturally over time and without having the spotlight on me, so the thought of standing in front of a classroom of students while being evaluated by fellow trainees and instructors is WAY outside of my comfort zone. But again, I cannot let that fear stop me from pursuing something so important to me.

DC: What did you learn from the experience?

HS: 1 – Gosh… That’s a broad question, because of course, I learned a ton – everything from specifics, like the operation of a hydrophone and the kinds of vegetation that grow in the tundra and techniques for de-escalating anxiety and where the train stations are located in Birmingham, England to intangibles, like if I put my mind to something, I can accomplish it and what I would do similarly and differently when I go on my next overseas volunteer adventure.

2 – It’s a little early to say at this point, and I’m sure many lessons are chomping at the bit to reveal themselves. So far, though, I’ve learned how much I’ve forgotten about the English grammar rules I learned in 7th grade! I’ve also learned that this definitely feels like the right path for me at this time.

DC: What are you most proud of?

HS 1 – “I’m most proud of actually doing it. It wasn’t easy. A lot of effort and time and resources went into it, and anytime you travel – especially internationally and alone – there is uncertainty and risk involved. But I did it. I researched my options. I created my own criteria. I contacted the organizations. I planned the itinerary. I scheduled my appointments and shopped for the things I’d need and set up my blog and raised the additional funds and submitted the applications and got on that plane and found my way from destination to destination and had an amazing time along the way!

2 – Early stages yet, so I’m most proud of getting accepted to the program and completing the 50-task workbook ahead of time. Lots more ahead of me, so stay tuned! : )”

DC: Any advice for others contemplating re-invention

HS: “Again, I really don’t look at it as a reinvention, but simply different aspects of who I am. I see it as learning more about myself by listening to my inner voice and pursuing those dreams that might otherwise be silenced.

I would say: Go for it! There are things I’d do differently in the future, but I’m so glad I took that leap, and it has made me more confident about taking further leaps and embracing new adventures. Be true to yourself by honoring your dreams and goals. You will make mistakes, and it may not turn out the way you expect, but that is also part of the joy of the journey. I don’t think enough people try something new because they are afraid, and they come up with a million excuses not to follow their own dream, and that is what is heartbreaking to me – not that someone doesn’t accomplish what they hope to do, but that they might not even try. They end up being their own worst obstacle. Get out of the way, and embrace your own adventure! And speak to Debbie. She will help you find your path!”

The Power of Small Acts of Courage

I never know what might happen.

Tall, short haired and serious, Jean is a very inspirational woman. A Vice President in her company, she works very hard and is well respected. She came in January to a business retreat I led. The work that day concentrated on changing or letting go of things that were not serving life and work. My job was to help the participants to expand and transform in ways they wanted more of. Sometimes surprising things come out of these retreats.

As Jean worked through the exercises, she compiled a list of ideas, both personal and work related. Jean was on firm ground when it came to work goals. But when it came to personal relationships, she was less confident. On her “I want more of this” list, she had written in the personal column, “To be closer to my daughter”. Her adult daughter lived with her in the lower level of her house. They had an okay relationship, but not as close as Jean wished it was. It was a source of sadness to her that they lived in the same house. but never enjoyed each other’s company or had any fun together. They actually had very little interaction. 

 

When Jean and I had coffee later, her eyes were shining. Now that a closeness with her daughter was on her wish list she was feeling hopeful. Jean decided to test the waters and see if there was anything she could do to reinvigorate their family dynamic. She decided to write a note, but give it to her daughter in person. The note said, “Our lives are so hectic and busy, I know. But one of my goals for this year is to have more fun with you. Would you help me with this goal? What do you think?”

 

After her daughter read the letter, she looked up in surprise. She wasn’t 100% enthusiastic, but she didn’t say no.  Jean’s daughter could have said no, but Jean’s desire for closeness over rode the risk. This took great courage. Jean was used to showing strength at work, but in personal matters, she sometimes floundered.

Next day, Jean drew up a list of potential activities to choose from, and asked her daughter to choose something. When the weekend rolled around, they were going to a concert together.

Is this big goal work?

Yes, if the goal is deeper, more loving relationships. Relationships are built, one step at a time.

Does this fulfill the “I want more of this” goal?  Jean was one move closer to a goal that can expand outward. This kind of transformation begins with the quiet power of courageous acts.

What is your “I want more of this” goal for 2017? Work and career? Deeper relationships? Building pathways to greater purpose? Can you do something today that’s a first step?

It all begins here.

This Guy Was Everywhere

It was move in day at a large college. A terribly hot and muggy day. A man dressed in rugged jeans and a faded t-shirt was everywhere. Unloading boxes, bringing luggage up four floors, unpacking trunks, guiding traffic, problem solving. No one knew who he was, but he was smoothing the way for the students who were both excited and nervous.

Later that evening in the Welcome Ceremony in the Great Hall, these same students were surprised to see the same man, at the podium wearing a suit and tie. He introduced himself as the College President. What?  The students were taken aback.

The message? As President, this man was accessible, cares about people from top to bottom,  and demonstrates an interest in removing barriers between himself and his constituents, the students. He understood moving day was stressful, and the students and their families might feel anxious and exhausted. This takes boldness of action combined with a lack of pretension, and true empathy.

What is true leadership? A leader is someone with many good qualities, but a great leader inspires others. We seldom think of humility as a leadership quality. And yet, the most inspirational leaders have a quiet strength that identifies them as a person of integrity. I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of leadership model I aspire to. One of openness. An eagerness to learn more. And gently, without fanfare, walks the talk.
Ready to make your next leadership move? What will it be?

 

 

Thank you Dr. Fair for telling this story and inspiring this article!

Like what I do? Go ahead and share it. And thanks!

Are You Holding Back?

You’re successful. You’ve worked hard, been rewarded for your hard work, met challenges and sought out greater opportunities. And then, some new ‘thing’ just rises up and stumps you.

Sunshine was spilling through the window, but Sarah ‘s mood was perplexed. She was an ambitious professional. Hardworking. With many successes to testify to this hard work. But today, her normally positive attitude was hard to sustain.  She had set some new goals for herself, but just couldn’t get excited about them.

As we talked about her new plans, it became clear that she was holding something back. A part of her wasn’t ‘all in’ and she didn’t know why.

After some deeper conversations, where I probed and asked lots of questions, Sarah began to realize that there was some icky unfinished business related to what she was trying to do. As we talked, she began to understand that emotions around events in the past (which she thought were in the past) were interfering with her passion to fully embrace what she was trying to do in the present. 

Together, we developed some homework assignments, aimed at examining fully what was going on. Greater understanding leads to empowered action. Released from the entangled morass of undealt with emotions, she felt renewed energy. And in our next coaching session, Sarah saw a way to make something positive from it, to clear away the unfinished business. Funny how this happens, but she felt excited about what she wanted to do right now.

If you feel like you’re holding back, ask yourself, “What is interfering with my enthusiasm for what I want?” It’s a great question to get you started.


 

We Create Our Own Reality

Autumn, glorious season. Gorgeous colors, harvest tables, cool crisp air. Autumn, all shifting shadows, early darkness, shedding trees. When life might be disheartening. When your heart might go thud. Autumn, the paradoxical season.

It helps to look up. To notice the beautiful full moon. To breathe in the air that smells like crimson leaves. To ease someone’s burden. To make a new decision. To grab onto new, fresh, energy.

To look for opportunity in the cracks.

As songwriter genius Leonard Cohen penned, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

Reality sometimes thrusts unwelcome craters into your plans. But the experience itself, you create.as-songwriter-genius-leonard-cohen-penned-there-is-a-crack-in-everything-thats-how-the-light-gets-in Your joy. Your sorrows. Your ups. Your downs. And everything in between. The choices you made that have led you to the spot you are standing in right now. In that way, you have complete control. What will you do next? Take action? Make a renewed commitment? Make some new music?

Wisdom from India.Arie.

“Shadows make you whole.

A life without pain is a wolf in sheep’s clothing

If you listen to its lessons, you’ll find the gold

You cannot touch the sky from inside yourself

Life’s going to hurt but it’s made to be felt

A bird cannot fly until it breaks the shell

There’s no such thing as perfect. We’re all doing the best that we can.

We have a choice to live ….. or be truly alive!

You’ll be stuck on the ground until you 

finally

break

the shell.”

(Paraphrased lyrics from Break the Shell, by India.Arie)

Because you created your life thus far, you have everything you need within you to create the love filled life of your dreams right now. Take the next step. What will that be? Look for opportunity in the cracks.

“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.”

Rosemary Collins, Business Owner

“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.”

Nancy Wolfe | Educator, Professional Artist

“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