Sprint or Marathon? Some Tips for the Winding Road

When running a sprint, you need both an initial burst of power and sustained speed. You can blow out with everything you’ve got, and pour it on all the way. But if you try to do that with a marathon, you’ll burn up everything you have in the first hour and will be left without the juice to make it to the finish line.

So it is with life. More of a marathon than a sprint, right?

You’re in it to finish, with a bit of glory, a narrative of flourishing, and your trophy (re: legacy) at the end. A legacy of love – accomplishment – purpose. So it’s time to leave behind the mentality of sprinters, and embrace the mindset of a marathoner.

You don’t go straight from 0-50, from the couch to the race. Preparing for a marathon is to  think of your goals as a kind of graceful step ladder– you put your foot You don’t go straight from 0-50, from the couch to the raceon the first step, and find the second, and move at a thoughtful pace — feel comfortable, then move on. Prepare, warm up, practice, measure — it’s a gradual process. Do you expect yourself to be perfect straight out of the gate? To be able to ‘do it all’ immediately?

To continue the metaphor, let’s consider the strategies that marathoners use..

Link with others who will encourage you when the going gets tough.

Pace yourself.

Be aware of your limits and plan accordingly.

Practice gradually upping your tempo to increase your capacity, slowly over time.

Make sure you take time to Rest and Recover.

I think our expectations of ourselves is to push, pour it on, and go at life like it is a sprint. When the reality is, that kind of tactic will cost you the race.

Change your outlook, and you can cross the finish line with your resilient spirit flying high.

 

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?

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!

 

 

 

 

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.

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.


 

Opportunity Knocked. She Wanted to Run In the Opposite Direction

Daria was stuck in a big decision. She was waffling about a job offer she’d gotten in Seattle. Her initial reaction 2 days ago had been one of excitement. The job was a good match, for a company on her A list. And Seattle? She loved the city! But something had happened in the two days since she had been offered the job. A mental paralysis had settled in. And she was now swimming in a funk of indecision. With a yes or no deadline looming, she called me and we met over coffee to discuss what had happened.

How do you go from over the moon excitement to the basement of doom in two days? Worry. Daria started to list all the ways this was going to be hard. She would have to find a place to live. She would have to learn a new job. She would have to build new friendships. Learn a new city. Start all over. This was freaking her out, and the anticipatory worry had overwhelmed her.

“Daria, all of these things are true. It will be hard. Moving to the other side of the country won’t be easy. But one thing I know about you is you learn quickly, are resourceful, and have great energy. Do you think all of these worries will still be true in six months?” Daria looked at me, and slowly shook her head, no. “Will you have learned the city by then?” “Well, yes.” “Will you have learned your new job?” “I’ll be on the way.” With each question, I could see her mood shift. Lighten.

Daria had gotten stuck in the space where she realized the magnitude of the undertaking. Where things were going to be hard work. But she had not moved through the process. She had forgotten to stay connected to her dream,and to her strengths. It’s like staring at your feet when you’re trying to stand tall and walk, it’s impossible to do. You have to lift your eyes and look at the distant horizon. Where will you be in six months if you say yes to a new opportunity? If I know you, you’re not afraid of the hard work of growing into your potential.

“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