coming together

I carry a heavy burden on my heart for the way our world is so fractured and divided these days. I have lived a lot of years, and I do not remember it being like this before – a very clear and determined “us versus them” – with anger, hatred, meanness, and unwillingness to listen to each other prevalent in every sector of our society.

While some segments of our population struggle for equity or validation, others defend their positions or past privilege without any heart willingness to consider a contrasting point of view with an open mind or compassion. We take sides, brother against brother, and spew ugly contempt on anyone who presents a differing story or opinion. 

Every work style preference or personality assessment I’ve ever taken – and I’ve taken a lot – has shown me the obvious truth everyone else is not the same as me. Even the most simplistic assessments usually categorize people into at least four different types.  This tells me that at least 75% of the world may experience any number of life issues from a perspective or preference that greatly differs from mine. Those assessments also tell me that it is important to know myself AND respect others. They remind me that I desperately need other people – who are not like me – to fill my gaps.

What has happened to our respect for others?

What has happened to appreciating differences?

What has happened to human kindness?

Brené Brown addresses the “sorting” that we often do and experience today in her excellent book, “Braving the Wilderness“. She claims that although we desperately desire belonging, we will not find it by picking sides and lobbing grenades of division and defensiveness at each other. As a social work PhD, she is greatly concerned, as I am, by the current status of our world. Thankfully, she does not dwell only in the negative reality, but she also offers some positive alternatives:

“People are hard to hate close up. Lean in.”

Brené explains that as a social species, our greatest strength is not found in “rugged individualism” but rather in our ability to communicate, care, and work together. Connection matters – and it is in getting to know people up close that dispels the generalizations, false stereotypes, suspicions, and fears that drive us apart.

Getting to know each other up close requires honest curiosity about people who are different from me, the courage to step out of my comfort zone, and a willingness to enter into tough conversations. Not always easy to do, but the benefits gained from collective social connections make it worth the effort.

This post only scratches the surface of this topic – Brené presents a deeper perspective in her book. I highly recommend it.

For now, I chose a few action points:

  • Admit when I am no expert on a topic and ask good questions to learn more
  • Intentionally initiate to get to know people who are different from me
  • Actively listen to understand – especially deeper heart issues
  • Speak up about those beliefs I hold strongly
  • Invite others to tell me if they experience me “sorting” people

How have you experienced “sorting” or the “us versus them” mentality? 

How have you attempted to come together with others – especially those who are different from you?

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**You might also enjoy this post, “standing alone” or check out Brené’s website (she offers free reading guides for her books).

standing alone

alone beata-ratuszniak-5430-unsplash

I do not believe in preaching something to others
while not doing that same thing myself.

I’ve written and spoken on “unhurried living”, so I’ve also attempted to live out those truths in my life this year. One way I have done this is to guard a number of reading, reflecting, and/or writing hours each week. This has not been easy for me, but it has been so very worth it, whenever I’ve followed through on this plan.

So far, one of my favorite books to read was Brené Brown’s “Braving the Wilderness”. Brené writes about a couple of topics in this book – all were very challenging and helpful for me.

Brené’s main topic, and the subtitle of the book, is “the quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone”. She launches the challenge with a quote by Dr. Maya Angelou…

You are only free when you belong no place —
you belong every place–no place at all.
The price is high. The reward is great.

Although this sounds like a paradox, there is deep truth in these words. Brené claims that we can never feel like we fully belong with others until we are willing to stand completely alone (“in the wilderness”). We must learn to individually accept our authentic, vulnerable, and imperfect self so that we do not give in to the pressure to change or hide our true self so others will accept us.

Before we will ever be comfortable with others, we must believe in ourself.

Brené also claims that we connect better with others when we are more courageous with our real self – not going along with gossip, group think, or people pleasing – but risking even loneliness to speak truth and defend what we value most.

If we betray our deepest foundational beliefs to “fit in”, we will always live in fear of being “found out” as an imposter – and rightly so.

We will never experience true belonging when we live as a fake.

Belonging requires bravery and trust that the ONE who made us knew what He was doing – He did not make a mistake – and our ultimate belonging comes from Him.

Brené shares other great messages in her book, and I will write more next week. This week I want to practice true belonging. I am going to do my best to:

  • Give myself grace when I become aware of my weakness, imperfection (my 2018 theme is “embrace imperfection“) or failure
  • Lean in and bravely speak truth instead of going along with others, if I disagree
  • Offer a safe, non-judgmental response to others who offer a differing opinion – hopefully encouraging them to brave the wilderness also

I’d love to hear from you… When do you struggle to accept yourself? How have you learned to “brave the wilderness”? 

how to say “no”

As a leader and coach of leaders worldwide, I hear many ask how to juggle the additional responsibilities and challenges that come with a new role. The one question leaders rarely ask is, “What are the things I should NOT be doing in the new role?”

We tend to think that if we get smarter and more organized, we can add more and more and more to our plates, rather than recognizing the truth of our limitations. A better use of that greater wisdom and better organization is applying those skills to saying “no”.

Every time you say “yes” to one thing,
you say “no” to everything else.

Shauna Niequist writes…”You can’t have yes without no. Another way to say it: if you’re not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it.“

I am no expert at saying “no”, so here are a few tips that can help us:

CHECK your heart – Why are you saying “yes”? This is similar to the heart issues behind hurry sickness. Are you a people-pleaser who is afraid of losing a friendship? Do you base your sense of value on other people’s need for you? Do you consider your own needs unworthy of attention?

CONNECT with healthy community – Draw close to people who honor your “no”, who encourage you to tell the truth, who value your growth (and wellness) more than they value their own needs getting met.

CHOOSE the “5 things” rule – Joel Spolsky, from Trello, helps his team members limit their focus by asking them to consider five things at a time:

  • Two tasks they are presently working on
  • Two tasks they plan to work on next, when they finish the first two
  • One task they WON’T DO (even if people expect them to work on it!)

CALL a friend – Or call a coach or mentor and ask them for help in paring down your “yes” list. I used to plead, “I know I need to cut something out. Just tell me what to cut!” I desperately needed “pruning” assistance from someone who believed in me and had my best interests at heart.

COUNT the cost – Take time to reflect on what you will miss or lose by saying “yes” to each option. Will it cost you rest? Time with family or friends? Space to think and reflect?

Saying “no” to some choices is good stewardship of your energy, your time, your mental focus, even your health and key relationships. There is no shame in saying “no”. We really can not do it all. So choose the BEST things wisely.

Consider these questions:

What have you said “no” to because of your “yeses”?

Where could you say “no” to a “yes”?

learning by doing

Our Keith Webb workshop was so good! I am very grateful for my teammates who facilitated our training with excellence. I want to share two of my highlights with you.

1 – First, the workshop used adult-learning (andragogy) many times everyday. 

I enjoy attending trainings when the facilitator uses adult-learning principles. I also appreciate the opportunity to add some new creative ideas to my toolbox.

Some key adult-learning principles:

  • Honor the knowledge and experience of the audience
  • Allow the adult learners to self-direct their learning by planning – as much as possible – what content to cover
  • Make the workshop task or problem-oriented using realistic and relevant situations rather than content-oriented.
  • Use varied activities for multiple learning styles and information retention.

These are some of the creative adult-learning activities we experienced during the workshop:

  • Personal reflection time to record what we hoped to learn as well as our desired coaching topics before beginning the workshop
  • Practiced coaching in pairs, triads, and speed-rotating around the table
  • Coached on real life issues
  • Reviewed material by teaching it back to our peers
  • Acted out concepts, watched videos, worked in small groups, created metaphors, and asked for feedback to better learn the concepts
  • Summarized the highlights and action steps at the end of each day

2 – Second, the workshop demonstrated that even while stumbling through a new method and making many mistakes, people discovered break-through ideas that were encouraging and hope-filled.

Personally, I considered some of the deeper heart issues behind one of my struggles, cried, laughed, and left the workshop with practical and do-able action steps.

This is the power of coaching. When a coach asks powerful questions, listens with full engagement, helps move the coachee toward action, and trusts God to do the transformational work… great things happen!

How can you integrate some of these adult-learning ideas in your next training / teaching / workshop opportunity?


Again, to learn more about Keith Webb’s coaching model, you can buy the book HERE, read Keith’s blog, or look up one of his workshops via his website HERE. Highly recommended. 🙂

Other posts about Keith Webb’s coaching model: how’s that working for you? and want to be a good coach?

 

want to be a good coach?

Keith Webb's "The Coach Model"

Coaching values the coachee’s past experience, honors their knowledge and
decision-making skills, and fosters their ownership of chosen action steps. 

Keith Webb’s, The Coach Model, offers an excellent process that helps me to focus on coaching rather than talking, and enables me to help the person I’m coaching discover solutions for themselves.. You’ll notice that Webb’s five process steps spell COACH so that it easy for to remember. Here is a quick summary of how it works:

CONNECT — How are you?

A good coach begins the conversation catching up on anything that has been going on since their last time together. This “small talk” helps to build relationship trust and ensures there is no major distraction going on that might sabotage the discussion that day.  An especially difficult situation may require rescheduling the appointment or simply acknowledging the trial may lessen the pressure enough to continue with the conversation.

During the Connect time, a good coach will also ask about action steps. The question, “What progress did you make on your action steps?” positively assumes progress, validates partial completion, and focuses on what worked well. This is also a great time to address any struggle or failures and help the coachee adjust their action steps if necessary.

OUTCOMES — What would you like to work on today?

Once the past action steps have been reviewed, it is time to for the coachee to state their desired outcomes for the meeting. A good coach helps the coachee by asking questions that narrow the topic enough so for progress in the time allotted. Some questions help:

  • Explore: What might be the deeper issues? What do you want to achieve?
  • Clarify: What do you mean by…? Could you give me an example of…?
  • Focus: Which part of the problem would you like to work on today?

AWARENESS — What can you discover about this issue?

Once the coachee settles on a topic, a good coach asks lots of powerful, open-ended, questions to help the coachee reflect, increase perspective, and consider different angles that might be helpful.

A good coach will be careful to ask questions that benefit the coachee. For example, a coach doesn’t need to know all the details of past situations, so questions focus more on what the coachee wants to see in the future.

Tell me about the conflict.
vs
What would excellent resolution of the conflict look like?

COURSE — What will you do this week to move forward?

Now it’s time for action! Once again good questions help the coachee generate a variety of possible action steps, evaluate the options, and then choose the best one(s). Using SMART (Specific,Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Timely) ensures the coachee confirm the what, how, by when, and with what help details of their actions, increasing the follow-through.

HIGHLIGHTS —  What are your “take-aways” from our conversation?

“We build our brains by repeating things.” Keith Webb

A good coach closes the conversation by asking summary questions for the coachee to review and repeat their newly gained awareness or knowledge and useful or meaningful aspects from the appointment. This helps to embed the learning and give some feedback to the coach also.

If you want to learn more about this process and increase your coaching skills, I highly recommend Keith Webb’s book, The Coach Model. You could also attend one of his workshops. or read his BLOG

I’d love to hear from you… What are your best tips for coaching well?  What process do you use for coaching? 

_________________________

You might also like: how’s that working for you?a coaching process you can use, asking powerful questions,  or questions for a destination

how’s that working for you?

Photo by CloudVisual on Unsplash

Some of my worst experiences with people
had to do with me trying to convince someone else of my “great” idea.

In one way or another, I was displaying what Keith Webb calls my “know-it-all-ism”. It was not pretty, and it did not work nearly as well as I hoped it would. It often resulted in high resistance, defensiveness, or hurt feelings – none of which I intended, but I definitely caused that impact. Turns out, telling people what I think they should do doesn’t work very well for me at all.

I am reading Keith Webb’s book, The Coach Model, in preparation for a coaching training I get to attend soon. So far, the basic concepts are not brand new, but they are excellent reminders of key principles and practical helps. They have convicted me in many places and encouraged me in others. Rather than experience this range of emotions alone, I thought I’d share some of them with you!

First, a summary of the symptoms of “know-it-all-ism” – just in case you want to join me in the painful self-awareness process…

Keith explains that there are two types of “know-it-alls” – aggressive and passive:

aggressive know-it-alls:

  • are quick to speak
  • listen – until the other person takes a breath
  • have an answer for everything
  • win arguments, but lose respect

passive know-it-alls:

  • pretend to listen
  • maintain a smug facial expression
  • ask questions that subtly point out why the speaker is wrong
  • internally mock or criticize the speaker

Ouch. I am guilty of both of these.

How about you? Ever act like a know-it-all?

Thankfully, the book offers a better way. Keith Webb defines coaching as:

An ongoing intentional conversation that
empowers a person or group to fully live out God’s calling.

This kind of conversation eliminates the need for me to know it all. It also releases me from the self-imposed responsibility of changing the other person or correcting whatever I feel that person is not handling correctly (yet).

A coaching conversation of this type puts the attention on what God has in mind for the person and allows it to happen in His timing – not mine. There is incredible freedom in this coaching. Keith writes that freedom often feels risky – like accompanying the person on an unknown journey – but at least it will be their journey, rather than mine. I’ll have less control, but I have a feeling that will work out better for both of us.

I’m looking forward to learning more from this book and from the training. I’ll share more in a next post – stay tuned!

getting to the heart of the matter

A friend asked me about unhurried living the other day. Every time someone asks me to give advice or talk about unhurried living, I chuckle inside at God’s ironic sense of humor in choosing me as a spokesperson for this topic.

I am also very grateful, because each time I write or think about unhurried living, it reminds me how important – and necessary – these truths are for my life. Living in an unhurried way is a constant struggle for me. Not only can I easily over-fill my schedule, but I also regularly over-pressure my heart.

“Hurry is not just a disordered schedule.
Hurry is a disordered heart.”

–John Ortberg

Down deep, there are reasons why we hurry. Empty places in our heart cause us to feel that a busy, full, hurried life will make us more valuable, more important, or more useful to others. We hope that our frantic pace will gain us a sense of belonging, acceptance, or goodness in the eyes of those around us. Or the continual busyness ensures that we never have time to sit still and feel the weight of our loneliness, our fears, or our pain.

I believe that we will never truly experience the peace of an unhurried life if we do not face the deeper heart issues that drive our frenetic pace. 

Which of these may cause you to hurry?

  • HABIT | Rushing is your M.O.
  • WORTH | When you are in a constant state of urgency, you feel valuable.
  • GUILT | You feel bad when you slow down or if you are not doing something.
  • FEAR | You are afraid of being still and facing your disappointments.
  • PRESSURE | You feel the need to perform to earn love and prove yourself.
  • COMPETITION | You sense if you slow down, others will move ahead of you.
  • CONTROL | You think that you have to do everything or life will fall apart.
  • FOMO | You fear you will miss opportunities by slowing down.
  • You’re truly BUSY and need some help.

I relate to a number of the issues on this list. In the past, pride was clearly the culprit. I also have the guilt voice in my head from some of my upbringing influences. Recently, I have also seen FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out) push me to always want to do more.

We all have reasons that compel us. If you can recognize and name some of what causes you to hurry, you will have taken the first step to overcoming that driver. As you face the truth – without shame or self-contempt – you will also be moving towards healing. You will find new strength and power to make life-changing choices that unhurry, not just your schedule, but also your heart.

This is not a quick, easy fix of course! We can not hurry growth like that. However, taking time for this reflection may help you take the most important steps on your journey to unhurried living. 

What causes you to hurry?

what makes you happy?

Photo by Zachary Nelson on Unsplash

I find joy most days and in most situations. I am generally optimistic and look for the best in people. My faith tells me God is good and so are His plans. Even so, sometimes sadness or stress lands heavy on my shoulders.

The other day an article captured my attention. It offered four practical activities, supported by neurology, that will help make us happy. The four actions are not difficult to apply, even if we are not brain researchers, and they are simple yet powerful. I want to share them with you:

1. Ask, “What am I grateful for?

“Gratitude makes us feel better” + “A grateful attitude improves our mood and increases our energy” = TRUTH. Gratitude activates our brain to produce dopamine and serotonin – chemicals that enable us to see rewards and take action to move toward them. As an additional benefit, when we are grateful for something or someone, those chemicals give us a natural “high” which motivates us to feel it again and so repeat the process.

The article also taught me something new:

Even when life is hard and we can’t find anything for our gratitude list…
it doesn’t matter! The simple act of searching has the same effect!

2. Name your negative feelings.

Pretending not to feel bad or suppressing negative emotions does not work to make us feel better, and sometimes has the opposite effect. Even if we can fake it on the outside, our internal limbic system is reacting.

On the other hand, if we voice our feelings, it reduces the amygdala reaction in our brain. Describing our emotions with a word or two helps diffuse the intensity.

We will increase our happiness
when we state how we feel when we are not happy.

**An interesting side note: Labeling is a primary tool used in hostage situations to diffuse negative emotions.

3. Make a decision.

Making decisions also calms the limbic system, reducing stress and worry. We do not have to make a perfect decision – a good enough decision will help. Deciding gives us a sense of control, and feeling in control reduces the stress hormone cortisol… and increases dopamine activity. In addition, if we do something because we “should” or because we “have to”, we do not get the same benefit.

We feel better when we choose to do something that produces a good result
than when something good happens by chance.

4. Touch people.

When we feel rejection in relationships, our brain circuitry reacts the same way it does for physical pain (activating the anterior cingulate and insula). We all need to feel love and acceptance.

Small touches like handshakes and pats on the back release oxytocin which activates pain-killing endorphins. Holding someone’s hand during a medical procedure lowers the discomfort level. Massage also increases dopamine and serotonin activtity. And the more we care for the person, the more their touch helps.

Hugs are powerful.

So there you have it. Four “easy” activities that can make you more happy. 🙂

Which of these activities can you practice today? What else makes you happy?


You might also want to read: got the gratitude attitude? or learning to be thankful

What’s love got to do with it?

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We are in the “love month” – a perfect opportunity to talk about how love and unhurried living intersect. What does love have to do with unhurried living? E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

Love has everything to do with unhurried living.

Our ability to love others well requires unhurried living. We demonstrate love through thoughtful intentionality, quality time, patience, focused attention, engaged listening, perseverance, and undistracted presence… all of which require a lack of hurry.

I do not love well when I hurry.

Some of the things I try to do to unhurry my time with others:

  • remember people are valuable
  • put my phone facedown and lock eyes with the person
  • ignore the to-do list in my head
  • breathe deeply and be present
  • remember all those times when someone took time to listen to me
  • stop multi-tasking or invite the person (child) to help
  • relax and enjoy the time together
  • If I am truly unavailable temporarily because of a deadline or lack of emotional bandwidth, ask to schedule a time as soon as possible
  • leave margin in my day for unexpected interruptions
  • trust that God is ultimately in control of what I do in a day
  • repeatedly read over this list

Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible.

Living unhurried has all kinds of benefits for our health, our reflective thought processes, our decision-making, and our productivity. It only makes sense that unhurried living can also greatly benefit those we love. 

How can you unhurry your love for others this month?

Life is better savored.

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I love this beautiful photo taken by my amazingly talented photographer daughter. Even a quick glance at the majestic mountains, rolling hills, pine trees, and green grass makes me take in a slow deep breath and relax in my soul just a little bit.

The photo reminds me of trips when the scenery around us took our breath away and, even if we had an arrival deadline, we could do nothing less than slow down and enjoy the incredible beauty.

savor. the. moment.

THINK ABOUT IT:

Is a book better if you speed read it, or if you take your time and get lost in it?

Is a song better if you skim through it, or if you take the time to really listen?

Is the view better from the window of a speeding car, or if you take time to pull over to the scenic overlook?

Is your conversation with a friend better if you have a rushed meeting interrupted by your emails and text messages, or if you can relax and really focus on the person?

Today as I write, I remind myself that I do not need to travel far away to savor a moment (although that is really nice when it’s possible!).

Just this week I had an opportunity to savor the aroma of fresh vegetables roasting in the oven – a special treat meal created by my daughter. I had a few minutes to walk out on the back porch and feel the gentle breeze and the warm sunshine on my face. I enjoyed my coffee while it was still hot. I put my phone away and intentionally engaged in a refreshing and invigorating coaching appointment.

The moments to savor are everywhere around us.
We just need to see them.

I confess I also missed many opportunities this week to savor the moment: I ate on the run. I forgot details discussed with my husband because my eyes were glancing back distractedly at my notifications. I gave up reflective time for another appointment and did not reschedule it in my calendar.

Savoring must be intentional.

Today I am going to remember that gorgeous mountain photo in my mind and intentionally keep my eyes open to what I can savor.

What can you take time to savor today?