Becoming Unfrustratable: It's a Good Choice

screaming monkey.jpg

What do you do when you get frustrated?

Slam doors?


Stomp around?

Clam up?

Raise your voice?

Take it out on other people?


At some point in my life I have behaved in all of those ways. I’m not proud to say it, but it’s true. I know I have encountered people in cars, airports, stores, or work groups that have no idea what they did to deserve the looks or words I sent their way. Fortunately, for all humans, as well as inanimate objects, I have learned to accept a situation as it is – take a deep breath or a walk – and make a choice to dismiss my frustration.

I have a coaching client who really lets things get under his skin. Most of the time, the things are outside of his control and they aren’t bad things – they just aren’t being handled the way he would do it. During one coaching session I could feel myself becoming frustrated with his constant frustration, so I asked “Is this really how you want to spend your life?  Seems like a huge waste of energy to me, but it’s your choice and if you like the feeling of being frustrated, then stay there. However, I don’t want to hear about it anymore.”  

Frustrated cat.jpg

That might not have been my most brilliant coaching moment, but it got us on a path that led to the declaration “I am going to become unfrustratable.” Here are the steps we took:

Step 1:  What frustrates you?  (When management makes stupid decisions)

Step 2:  What frustrates you about that? (They don’t understand how the decision affects me)

Step 3: What frustrates you about that? (No one cares about my opinion)

Step 4: Now that we are at the core of your frustration, let’s figure out what choices you have when someone that frustrates this core value of yours. How do you currently respond? (I don’t say anything and just wait for their decision to bite them in the butt)

Step 5:  What are the benefits of that action? (The brain/ body enjoy frustration as it increases energy when we feel like we are fighting something. It gives us an excuse to do things the same way, which means we don’t have to learn anything new. It reinforces my story that management doesn’t listen and gives me a reason to continue to mistrust them.)

Step 6:  What are the costs of that action? (I get frustrated. They don’t hear my ideas. I get labeled as someone who doesn’t like change.)

Step 7: How could you handle this differently? (Discuss at least 3 options)

Step 8: Choose an option and come up with action steps of how to put it in place, and ask for accountability

This conversation took about 30 minutes and at the end, my client said “I am going to become unfrustratable.” Not sure that is even a word!  He made this choice because he very much likes to be in control, and once he recognized that he was letting other people’s choices dictate how he felt, and how he showed up at work, he decided that he needed to take control back.  For him, that meant he would not allow frustration to dominate his thoughts, actions and take a toll on his health. By the way, we can become frustrated with ourselves and that can be even trickier because we don’t have an external focus. That is why I emphasize that we need to not let frustration control us instead of saying other people’s actions – sometimes it’s our own actions that frustrate us.

Now becoming unfrustratable isn’t as easy as flipping a light switch, but neither is it impossible. He has made great strides. The things that help him have been:

·       Stepping away

·       Getting fresh air, as in outside

·       Keeping his body moving

·       Asking himself 3 levels of why this is frustrating him

·       Asking himself what is most important

·       Asking himself how he could share his perspective in a positive way

·       Celebrating that he shared his perspective and then letting it go and getting back to the task at hand

I, too, have put these steps into practice and the two actions that offer me the best hope of dismissing my frustration are to take a walk outside and ask myself what is most important.  I have never answered that question by saying that the most important thing is for me to stay frustrated and let everyone know it. Those moments still come for me, but they are short lived and I know that I am healthier – physically, emotionally, and socially – for refocusing my energy on choices that move me forward!

let it go.jpg

Breaking Trail ... Who Knew?

April 14.18.jpg

It’s April 15th in Minnesota and I am surrounded by people who are completely disgusted with this late spring blizzard. I’m not sure if it’s my generally optimistic nature or my love of winter that has me excited about the storm. Whatever it is, I couldn’t wait to get dressed in my best winter gear, grab the girls and hit the trail. Apparently, no one else felt the same excitement,  as our streets and neighborhood have been incredibly quiet the last 48 hours.

We were the first ones on the walking path through the park this morning. The snow was about a foot deep and there were no footsteps to follow in. It was us forging the trail and it was a slog! I understand the combination of exhilaration and exhaustion. I couldn’t help but think about what it’s like to be the first … to try anything. The first to share a new idea. The first to bring a product to market. The first to go to college in your family. The first person to say no!   No matter what the “it” is, being first takes strength, persistence, vision, and support!

The wind was blowing with gusto from the south for half of our walk and it provided another type of resistance.Who knew that snowflakes hitting your eyeballs at 40 mph could hurt? There was never a time on our walk when it was easy, but we kept pushing (and pulling) ahead, determined to make it all the way around the park regardless of how hard it was.


When we got to street crossings there were snowbanks that were 3 feet high and we had to get beyond them in order to keep moving forward. The girls got over the banks much easier than I did because they have 4 legs and I only have 2. At each bank or drift, I watched them push off on their back legs and bounce up and over.  Meanwhile, I struggled with my 2 legs because I had to walk through it; I didn't have legs to push off and legs to land on.  I thought about why work is so much easier with a team. My dogs have a 4 person team and my team  has only 2 to work with.

As the leader of the team, I did have to keep us moving ahead. There were times that members of my team were distracted. Critter smells, debris blowing around, another spot to pee on and there is always the temptation to play with each other.  All of these presented chances to get off track. Just like in real life, there were times when I was pulling- leading the way, and others when I was being dragged along. How grateful I was to be on this journey with others.

husky up to her eyeballs in snow.jpg

When we walked in the front door all we wanted to do was flop down on the front room floor and take a nap.  The voices in my head were sending conflicting messages:  "You have lots to do. Take off your snow gear and get busy." and ”That was really hard work. You could have skipped the walk this morning, but you persevered. It's okay that you take a rest and savor the experience."  I chose to rest and savor the moment.  It was from that rest that the idea for this blog came. Had I jumped right into work, I would have moved on and missed these reflections.

I am so grateful that I continue to receive lessons/ thoughts/ insights from my daily life. I hope you make the time for your own reflections as you move through the day-to-day.

p.s. These are not pictures of my own dogs, but they are a close resemblance. I could not handle a camera and 2 Siberian Huskies and a snowstorm!

NOTICING - Do you hide your bossiness behind a question?

NOTICING - Do you hide your bossiness behind a question?

Seems to me that I spend a lot of time lately working with leaders to develop their inquiry skills. in Humble Inqury, Ed Schein, paints a convincing picture of the "tell culture" that we live in. I certainly see it in my work...and in my own life.

NOTICE is my word for 2017

How many parts of your life do you NOT notice?

What are you missing?

We can't change what we don't notice!

We can't be grateful for what we don't notice!

We can't talk about what we don't notice!

It's kind of a big deal... I've NOTICED!

I am going to notice everything I can this year - I challenge you to turn up the noticer in yourself!




I am three months into my 2016 ONE WORD challenge, and I already have 10 life lessons to share.  STRETCH can be literal or metaphorical - you choose!

1. Everyone's point of stretch is different. Never judge whether anyone else is stretching far enough- you don't know!

2. Stretching for 45 minutes once a week is not nearly as effective as stretching for 5 minutes every single day.

3. Each day is a little bit different; don't expect your stretch to increase every day.

4. Just because it's good for you doesn't mean it won't hurt sometimes.

5. Not all parts of you stretch equally - accept that you may have limitations.

6. It really doesn't matter when or where you stretch - just DO IT!

7. You need to stretch right up to the point of discomfort and STAY there for awhile! Growth doesn't happen in your comfort zone.

8. You can always stretch further than you think you can!

9. Progress might be measured in a fraction of an inch and not feet - it's still progress.

10. The first thing you lose as you age is your flexibility; don't be old and stiff - be old and flexible. It's much better to bend than break!


STRETCH is the word for 2016

tiger stretch I gave up New Year's Resolutions about 3 years ago. I switched to a focus on ONE WORD for the year. ONE WORD that could be applied to every part of my life and make it (or me) more of what I wanted.

STRETCH is my word for 2016

  • Physically, I am losing flexibility faster than any other physical factor. I am going to stretch my body every time I think of it during the day. Consistency will win out!
  • Emotionally, I tend to stay in the box and avoid situations that can bring up emotions that are uncomfortable for me. I'm tired of avoidance. I'm tired of living in the comfortable emotional space. Time to venture into a space where I feel my emotions might be teased up on their edge.
  • Intellectually, I am going to stretch myself to learn deeper. I am great at a superficial level where I am learning a little about lots of things. Great at the level where it comes easily. If it requires me to really fire up the brain and hang in there to understand, I sometimes check out. No more pretending that I know - it's time for me to engage in the challenge - find out what's it like to struggle to learn something.
  • Socially, I have myriad opportunities to stretch. I am great socially when I'm in charge of the conversation - the who, the what, the how long, the where. That needs to stop. This is the year where I will meet people where they are at. If it's small talk (which is hard for me), I'll stay there and see what's in it. If it's on the phone (which I detest), then I will use my mobile device for something besides texting and talk into it.  If it's in someone's home (in a location or situation where I typically don't venture), then I need to go into their space. If someone else connects best early in the morning or late at night, I'm going to make the effort to stretch to their timing - not mine.
  • Spiritually, I have much to learn through study - through faith - through prayer. I have been comfortable with my level of spirituality for far too long, and it's time to stretch myself.  Not really sure what this holds, but I know that it's been awhile since I felt as if I was reaching for anything here.
  • Work; it's time to take risks and try new things.  I know what I'm good at. I don't know how good or bad I might be at many things - it's time to check it out.
  • Family; it's time to stretch into being a better grandmother - unplanned time with these precious children, who do not need an agenda or a place to go - what they need is me and I need them.
  • Friend; this is about stretching to be more of what my friends need from me (a listening ear) and less of what I do well (coach, offer solutions). This may be the biggest stretch of all for me.
  • Service; I love to serve, and up until now, I am best when it is convenient for me. That needs to stop.  My stretch opportunity is to serve when it's needed, not when it fits my schedule.
  • A final thought about the benefits of stretching is that you are less likely to be injured or hurt - you can fit into more places/situations - it raises your awareness of your limits and little by little you go beyond what you thought was possible.  That's a pretty great thing.

I shared my STRETCH 2016 because I know if I put it in writing, I will hold myself more accountable. I also hope that you might consider the ONE WORD that you can take  into every facet of your life this year and grow/develop as you have never done before.

Get creative - t-shirt, post it note on the bathroom mirror, phone password, screen saver - put it everywhere and let it seep into your DNA!

Anyone want to share their ONE WORD for 2016?

Feedback Is Hard Work


Spencer Johnson, the author of Who Moved My Cheese, said "Integrity is telling yourself the truth. Honesty is telling the truth to other people."

A large part of my career has been spent in helping individuals, teams and organizations embrace feedback. I have found that feedback is not a favorite thing to give OR receive. Even the people who say they enjoy receiving feedback typically don't. It sounds brave and mature to say that though.

How does Webster (the true authority on meaning) define feedback?

: an annoying and unwanted sound caused by signals being returned to an electronic sound system

: helpful information or criticism that is given to someone to say what can be done to improve a performance, product, etc.

This definition made me smile. As I find myself in situations where I am either providing feedback or helping others provide feedback, or in many cases helping someone else receive feedback, I think it is often thought of as "an annoying or unwanted sound". It's somehow okay if I say something critical about myself, but I really don't want to hear you say it. Isn't that interesting? As I read the 2nd definition, I notice that it says "helpful information or criticism..." - do you think that "helpful" is meant to describe both "information" and "criticism", or even in this definition, is criticism seen as not being helpful?  Is it only information that is helpful?

I don't know the answers to any of these questions I am posing. Actually, there is no right answer - there is only your perspective.  PERSPECTIVE - that is the most powerful word to remember about feedback. When I offer someone a piece of feedback, I am offering them my perspective on something ... their idea, their process, their choice of restaurant, their taste in music, or even the way they drive. When I offer my perspective, I have no control of how it will be viewed through the recipient's perspective. Will they see it as helpful?  or as criticism?

This topic is on my mind today because I had the opportunity to share 360 survey results (feedback) with a coaching client today. It used to be that I would get pretty worked up about those sessions where I needed to help a client receive someone else's feedback. It's gotten easier and as I left the session today, I began to reflect on what was different for me these days as I work with feedback.  I always start by asking my client what they appreciate about the feedback. Most times I hear them say "I'm happy that people were honest." This isn't saying that the feedback was welcomed or easy to hear or even agreed with ... it is saying that people appreciate honesty from other people. That aligns with what Spencer Johnson says.  Honesty is telling the truth to other people. I would alter that and say honesty is telling "your truth" to other people.  It isn't very often that feedback can be actually labeled as absolute truth, but if you believe something to be true, then it is truth to you. We spent quite a bit of time today, my client and I, talking about how refreshing it is to know what someone thinks or feels. This client will now have the task of going back to each person who provided feedback and deepening the conversation, and the learning.

Here are a few key lessons I have learned about feedback:

* Begin by asking if someone is interested in another perspective. If they say no - try to honor that.

* The best feedback is both honest and honoring.

* Not everyone wants to receive feedback in the same manner. Practice the platinum rule and give unto others as they would like to be given unto.

* The sandwich principle of something good - something critical - something good  is POOR!  Everyone knows there is a stinky middle in this sandwich and it often makes them discount the positive things you wedged around the stink.

* Think of it as feedforward (Marshall Goldsmith coined this term) and make the conversation focused on a successful future instead of a failed past.

* When receiving feedback, just breathe and say thank you.  No need for reaction.

* Feedback is neutral - just like events are neutral - you are the one that attributes a negative or positive connotation to it.

* You always have a choice of what to do with feedback (when receiving).  When giving, remember that the person you are offering it to has that same choice. You can only offer it/ give it - you have zero control of the reception once the gift is given.

This was not meant to be an exhaustive list of tips about feedback (sorry that it kind of turned into a lengthy post); it was meant to be a reminder that feedback is hard. We can all improve in how we give it and how we receive it. We all have places in our lives where we need to be brave and speak our honest truth.  We all have places in our lives where we need to keep our perspectives to ourselves. I hope that this bit causes all of us to ponder which is most appropriate - speaking or refraining from speaking - knowing that there is a cost and a benefit to both of those choices.

Just Be Who I Want You To Be

People tell us who they are and we ignore itThis quote popped up on my FaceBook Newsfeed this morning and I had instantaneous resonance with it.  I am interested in what your interpretation is or in what it stirs up for you. Let me share my stirrings! Stirring #1 - When I see people who are really sad, I want them to not be sad.  Someone has a death in their family or is diagnosed with a terminal disease or loses their job and they are sad. I can get so caught up in wanting them to not be sad that I put all my effort into trying to get them to move on - breeze through this sad part - get to the place where life is better. That is not fair and it is not healthy!  I do not have to jump into the sad space with them; actually, I cannot because even if I have had something similar happen, it's not the same. What I do need to do is recognize that they are in a sad space. I can name it "I see that you are really sad and this is really hard for you right now."  Naming it is a great thing. I don't have to try and pull them out and tell them my story. I need to let them know that I see them and see how they are being. "I see you trying really hard to be strong. I see you reaching out and helping other people who are struggling with this too."  I had a coach who taught me about acknowledgement and the power of that.  It is really quite simple.   "I see that you are a sad mom who is working really hard to be brave for your children."  That is powerful!  I see the person as they are and I let them know what I see.

Stirring #2 - I am a pusher and a driver. I love challenge. I want to live up to my potential. I think life is better that way. So, I push other people to want MORE! One of my greatest realizations in life came during my first marriage. I was married to someone who really was content with life as it was - job as it was - we, as we were. I, on the other hand, always wanted more for him. Because I like change, challenge, goals, and being driven to achieve, I thought he should want that. I somehow believed his life would be better, our marriage would be stronger, and he would be happier if he just pushed harder.  WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   He was telling me with every fiber of his being who he was and I was ignoring it!

Stirring #3 - I'm pretty sure that people who know me would not describe me as being easily offended. It's quite difficult to hurt my feelings. I'm just not that sensitive.  I'm not saying that it's good or bad; I'm simply owning the fact that I don't let what people say or think affect me very much. In many ways, life seems easier to me that way. When I see people I care about getting their feelings hurt, I continue to push on the fact that they don't have to be that way. "You really aren't that sensitive. You are choosing to let people hurt your feelings. Stop that - it doesn't do you any good."  I want to believe that they are not really that sensitive and that what other people think or say doesn't really matter to them.  Guess what? It actually does. And, the fact that it does actually makes them pretty kind, wonderful people.  Because I see the angst it causes them, I continue to try and see them as someone that can change - that should want to change.

Moral of my stirrings - We really do need to meet people where they are at - wherever that is. We don't need to go and live there, but we must meet them there.  It doesn't mean that we can't talk about what we see as possible, but it does mean that we realize they have choice. Their choice may not be our choice - that's okay. I have seen others want something for someone else more than the person wants it for themselves.  I have BEEN that person.  STOP!   We can convince ourselves that if I want this badly enough for you that you will want it too. We can believe that if I see you in a certain way and tell you enough times that you will believe it. I'm not saying that we give up on sharing new ideas or possibilities or nudging others; I'm saying that we need to try and see someone from how they see themselves. We need to try on their perspective, and then we could ask them to try on ours. Ultimately, each of us gets to decide which perspective we want to wear!



A great QUEST-ion should lead you on a QUEST, in pursuit of something valuable,  interesting,  a treasure?

I'm on a QUESTion kick these days.

Skilled facilitators ask great QUESTions.

Good leaders ask thoughtful QUESTions.

The interviewers you love to listen to ask probing QUESTions.

Wonderful conversationalists ask engaging QUESTions.

Coaches help you find your way in life through powerful QUESTions.

I am not talking about your everyday questions that can be answered yes and no or with a short answer, like  "will you pick up some bread?" or "what time will you be home?" I'm talking about the kind of questions that can change your life, or at least change your way of thinking.

Some QUESTions don't really have answers, but they send you on a great journey - that's okay, too. Perhaps the journey itself was what you needed.

A really great QUESTion should send you on a quest. I love a QUESTion that sends me to a place I have never been before. My coach told me that a powerful QUESTion should send you somewhere - it should shine a light into a room or a tunnel where you haven't been before, and maybe you are just a little afraid to enter, but you are also so intrigued by the possibilities that you take a step and try to see what's there. That is a good QUESTion.

Powerful QUESTions reveal things you didn't know were there. Sometime we hide from questions because we don't want to know the answer - we don't want to look down that tunnel, but we need to. If we get to a scary place, we just need to ask another QUESTion that will get us further along and through to the light. Oftentimes, the only way around something difficult is to go right through it. QUESTions can help you do that.

I am blessed in my line of work that I get to spend a great deal of my time coming up with great QUESTIons and sending people onto paths that are unfamiliar or forgotten or scary or well-traveled. I ask them to follow these paths and bring back what they notice along the way. I know I have asked a great QUESTion when they say "I don't know - I need to think about that - I need to spend time with that - that' s a really great question and I have no clue what the answer is." That's when I know I have sent them somewhere good - they are going to go on an adventure where treasure lies.

If you are interested in going on those kinds of paths yourself, I really encourage you to check out THE SCHOOL OF YOU

I promise you that every week of that program will send you on a quest leading to treasure - personal treasure. If that is not your thing, then I encourage you to find another way to engage with powerful, meaningful, probing questions. Pull back the covers on some stuff and see what's there. Don't be satisfied with the superficial, easy answers that lie near the surface. Be brave - be open to learning - be open to investigating the what, why, how, who, and when of things. Ask them of yourself. Ask them of others. Spend time with intentional, thoughtful inquiry this year.

 What answers are waiting to be found in your life?


Dealing with Procrastination .... Tomorrow

I have an item on my to-do list that has been the number one priority for 6 weeks. Do you have one of those?

DEFINITION: Procrastination is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time, sometimes to the "last minute" before the deadline.

Perhaps that is my issue - I have no deadline. No one in the entire world cares if I get this thing DONE or not. I am not saying that I never procrastinate things that have a deadline imposed by others, but I always get those things done when they need to be done.

Why am I making me and my own deadline unimportant?

Why is it okay to disappoint myself?

What excuses am I inventing about why this can wait?

What would getting started look like?

What first step would make it easier to keep moving?

What am I willing to say no to, so that I can say yes to this?

I have my homework for tonight - lots of questions to answer. Maybe I will just wait and answer those tomorrow :-)