What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

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Mom: What do you want to be when you grow up?

John: I don’t know

Dad: What do you want to be when you grow up?

John: Taller and healthy

Dad: Very funny, John. You need to figure that out!

John: How?

Fast forward a few years and John is a senior in high school

Counselor: John, what careers are you interested in?

John: I don’t really care.  I just know that I must go to college and be able to get a job.

Counselor: Your ACT score shows you are great at math, and your Career Aptitude Test suggests you would do well in accounting.

John: Okay, what schools have good accounting programs?

Fast forward 25 years and John has a job as an actuary manager at an insurance company

Coach (me): John, what is important in your life?

John: Having a life.  

Me: What do you mean?

John: I hate my job. I don’t like managing people. This corporate America thing is not for me.

Me: So, what do you want?

John: I don’t know – I just want to be happy and do something I enjoy, but I don’t know what that is.

Fast forward (although it didn’t feel fast to John) 8 years

I get a LinkedIn notification that John is celebrating 5 years as the managing partner of a Wellness Studio! The message exchange went something like this:

Me: John, I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since you took the leap to follow your dream.

John: I can’t believe it either. To think that I was having thoughts of ending my life due to severe depression when I met you seems like a lifetime ago.  Thank you!

Me: You were pretty stuck. Seemed like just a work thing, but it was really a life thing wasn’t it?

John: Yeah, I really thought I just had a jerk of a boss, a less than great team and an organization that was crazy with change. I never imagined that I could be this happy and feel this fulfilled. It’s been a wonderful 5 years.  Don’t get me wrong! It’s been a ton of work, and life has handed me some personal life challenges, but I love what I am doing and I know that what we have created here is making a big difference in a lot of lives.

In a word – STUCK!

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John was stuck. Many of my clients are stuck when they come to me. 

·       Stuck in a job they don’t love.

·       Stuck in a habit they want to kick.

·       Stuck in a relationship that isn’t working.

·       Stuck in not knowing what they want or what to do

·       Stuck in life

I’m not a therapist. I’m not a counselor. I’m a coach! So, what did I do to help John get unstuck?

We did a ton of work, but John and I agree that there were 3 tools that helped him get unstuck.

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Tool #1: Values sort

When we are clear on what is important to us and we make choices on a daily basis that align with those values, we feel good. We are better prepared to meet the challenges life gives us. We have a solid foundation.

To the contrary, when we are making choices that conflict with our values, nothing feels right. It’s like when you know you need to see the chiropractor because your spine is out of whack. It starts with a low back ache. Then, your hip hurts. Next, your knee bothers you. Having that one thing out of alignment has a cumulative effect and before you know it, you are a mess. When we are out of alignment, it doesn’t take much from the outside world to put us off our game.

So, John and I did a values sort. None of his values aligned with working for a big company, or putting in a zillion hours every week that took away from time with his family or focused on numbers instead of people.  

John got very clear on 3 values that he was unwilling to compromise on. 

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Tool #2: Future Self

We all know that we get wiser when we get older, right? Our older, wiser self could tell us a few things that would help us find true happiness and fulfillment earlier in our lives. We would still screw up. Life wouldn’t be perfect. What would be different is that we have a resource with us 24/7 who has some good advice for us. It’s that part of us that knows better.

I led John through a visualization exercise in which he meets his future self, has a conversation with him, and gets some tips on what he needs to do to become his best self.

Sounds bizarre, right? I had my doubts when I first tried it, but after using it dozens of times with clients, I can testify that it works. Deep inside us, we all have a voice that stands ready to guide us if we will just listen!

John’s future self became a constant companion for John. When he was faced with choices about how to respond to a situation or what to do next, he would turn to his future self. It was like having me (a coach) in his pocket – only better, because the wisdom and guidance was coming from a voice that knew him in a way that I never would.

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Tool #3: Action Plan

With clear values and a picture of what a fulfilled life looked like, John was ready to create an action plan of how to get there. This was way more than putting steps and dates on a piece of paper. This was soul searching. This was taking chances. This was tapping into a courage he didn’t know he had. This was asking for help. This was learning to articulate a dream and finding others that had the same dream.

Even with values and a future self and an action plan, there were times when John was frustrated. I kept saying (and I fully believe) that he wasn’t ready for to step into a life that was fulfilling. That stuck feeling was like super strong Velcro keeping him attached to old habits and old ways of thinking. 

“When you are ready for the life you want to life, that life will show up.”

I said that every week to John! He wanted to be easier. He wanted everything that was in the plan to happen on his schedule. It didn’t work that way. It actually didn’t work, until he took the BIG LEAP. He met with his boss (after conversations with his wife, his financial planner, his kids and his new partners) and gave the date for his LAST DAY AT WORK!

Once that happened, the plan of happiness and fulfillment accelerated. John wasn’t stuck anymore. He was free to focus all of his energy on moving toward something he was clear and passionate about.

YAY for John! What does that mean for you?

It means that coaching works. It means that we all deserve to spend our life doing things that make us feel fulfilled. It means that feeling stuck happens to all of us at one time or another. It means that we sometimes need help getting unstuck. 

You don’t get extra credit or gold stars for working through it on your own.  Reach out and find someone to help you get clear on what good looks like and then go after it!

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7 Things I Know That Can Help You!

When you purchase a bunch of bananas or a couch or a car, you don’t necessarily need to know much about the person who is selling you the product.  Even though you are spending more money on a car than a bunch of bananas, the purchase decision is still mostly focused on the quality and price of the product. That is not the case in my line of work! 

If you are going to hire someone to coach you or your team, you need to know who they are, how they work and what they believe in. I’ve been working in the field of personal and professional development for over 25 years, so I can’t put all of that in one blog post, but I can let you in on a few cool things I know!

 
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These are 7 things you absolutely should know about me!

1) I love to help people get out of their own way and be their best selves. Even as a third grade teacher, I was trying to help grow strong, smart, kind, self-aware humans. The parents and the principal thought I was teaching math and reading, but underneath those subjects I was trying to help my little flock of  eight-year olds understand that how they showed up for school every day had an impact on their classmates, on me (their teacher), as well as how they learned and thought about school (and life).

2) I believe the most important skill we can develop is the skill of noticing. We can’t change what we don’t notice. We don’t appreciate what we don’t notice. We don’t understand what we don’t notice. It’s hard to be intentional about using a talent we don’t notice we have.  I could go on, but I think you get my point. It is easy to fall into robot mode and just move from one thing to another, to ignore how people are reacting to the things we do and say, to skim along the surface of life at warp speed and never really see the depth of any one place. 

Many years ago, I attended a conference where every person was given a large, blank puzzle piece and asked to write what we thought our piece of the bigger picture was. On the back of our blank puzzle piece was some bit of a huge mural sized picture of the world. The point was that we all have a unique part to play – we each own one piece of the puzzle.  I wrote “I am going to notice what is around me and within me and do all I can to turn up the noticer in others.”

3) I am not afraid to speak my truth/perspective. When I started doing this type of work 20 years ago, my mentor shared some of his wisdom. “Jean, you must be willing to lose your job every day if you are going to be good at this work. If you are afraid that you could get fired, you will hold back from speaking your truth to the things you observe and understand.”

What exactly does that mean? Let me share an example, and I did get fired. I was consulting with a large pharmaceutical firm on a change project. We were about six months into the work and it was time to gather some feedback on how effective our project communication was. When I shared the survey with my boss, who had tasked me with creating the survey, she was critical. She wasn’t critical of the length or the quality of writing. She was critical of the questions I asked. I had listed various methods of communication and asked people to rate how effective those methods were, as well as how well they thought we had communicated key messages.

Jenny: “You can’t ask about these items. We haven’t used those methods. We also haven’t communicated those messages.”

I responded with surprise

“After 6 months we should be using multiple methods, not just town halls and email. These are also messages that our leadership has told us they are sharing with their staff.”

She began to get uneasy.

“I know we should be doing better in those areas, but we aren’t there yet.”

Her point was clear and I had a choice to make. Do I acquiesce and revise the survey with no further questions, or do I push to share what I know is a better way? I chose to speak what I saw.

“Jenny, did you want me to create a survey with items where we would only get good ratings? I can’t do that. Our team is responsible for all the communication on this massive change and 6 months in we are not doing a good job. This organization is not good at communication and we are supposed to be helping them improve.”

I was asked to revise the survey as requested and the very next week I was removed from the project for “not being a good fit with the culture.”  I knew, and my boss knew, that I was removed because I spoke to the truth I observed, and it wasn’t welcomed.

Sometimes people say they want to hear the “truth” and then when we share what we see, they’re not happy. They only want to hear the things that help them stay the same instead of change. I believe in change. I believe it is a lifelong process. I believe that others see things I don’t. I believe that if I am hired to help you change or get unstuck or see a better way forward that you need me to share my perspective.

By the way, this experience was 18 years ago, and while I still speak truth to what I see, I do it with more grace and sensitivity these days. 

4) I can make complicated things simple. I can’t quite explain how I do this, but I know I do. Throughout my professional life, I have had people tell me how much they appreciate my ability to take complicated or lengthy concepts and synthesize them into a simple statement or two.  You have sat in meetings where an idea is batted around and around right? People keep trying to explain it so that others get it, and it just gets more twisted. I am the person that can listen to the messfest and say “I think what we are dealing with is this.” And people say “YES! That’s it.” That is a desirable skill, whether in a group setting or listening to a coaching client try to articulate their problem.

5) I have the ability to broaden and deepen the meaning of almost anything. I just told you how I have the gift to simplify (and clarify) messy, complicated, twisted things.  This trait or gift or habit may seem to be the complete opposite and maybe it is! There are times when people gloss over something that really has deeper meaning – hidden treasures of understanding – if we pause long enough to get curious about it. The teacher in me looks for any opportunity to learn, and our every day lives are filled with those opportunities if we are interested in learning. Oftentimes, I initiate the deeper meaning by simply asking a question.  As the person (or team) I am working with wrestles with the question, they begin to have deeper understanding and gain new clarity about whatever the issue is.

Questions such as,

“What is most important here?”

 “What are you trying to teach your team (family, child) with this decision?”

“What is another perspective you could explore?”  

As I ask these questions, others begin to look inside and find answers that they didn’t even know were there. I know I have struck gold when I hear, “Oh my gosh, I would have never looked at it that way.” Or “I never thought of that before.” I don’t really have any skin in the game other than my desire for others to deepen their understanding and explore other perspectives because it expands our options or choices, and as a good friend of mine says, “The person with the broadest view wins.” 

6) I understand the process of transition better than anyone I know. This isn’t just because I am the author of a doctoral dissertation on transitions, but that is a pretty big deal. Before I could conduct my own research, I had to conduct a literature review of everything I could find on the topic of transition. For 6 months, I read. Books. Articles. Studies. Dissertations. The stack of what I read was amazing. Yet, I found a hole in the research. I found a question that hadn’t been answered, and I was determined to look for the answer. This isn’t the place to share findings from a doctoral dissertation (Are you kidding me? This is a blog post!). But I can tell you that I found answers. I learned things that I have put to use in my own life as well as in the lives of my clients, friends and family. If you are trying to define a change, navigate a change, lead a change or be the change, I know how to help you do it with more ease.

7) I can train your brain to work for you instead of against you. The brain is complex! There is a lot that is still mystery to us, but we have learned many things that can help us in our everyday lives, and those things don’t involve supplements or yoga (nothing against yoga). You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to grasp some of the simple concepts I will share with you! I know it works because I walked out of a neuroscience coaching workshop five years ago and have never been the same (by the way, I went through a rigorous 12 month certification program to earn the title Certified NeuroTransformational Coach)!

Here are a few changes I’ve been able to make in my life because of what I know AND I can help you do it, too!

·       I manage my emotions instead of letting them manage me

·       I can unstick myself

·       I know what to do when I feel like I’m overwhelmed

·       I can look underneath my frustration to see what is really going on

·       I know how to pull myself out of any negative mindset – immediately

·       I am more productive

·       I can let things go with ease

·       I understand how my language influences my thoughts

·       I can shift the energy in a conversation

·       I listen to the messages my body has for me (hint: your body always knows first – your brain is playing catch up)

So, like I said at the beginning, it’s pretty important to know a bit more about someone who is going to intervene in your life or the life of your team or organization. If you get ripped off when you buy a bad bunch of bananas, it doesn’t cost you much. You and the people you are in relationship with, however, are priceless, so take time to understand who you are inviting in to help with things you value!