Double-edged...

A long-time coaching client recently told me that his biggest peeve about me as a coach is that I don’t ever just let him be where he is if it’s a negative place.  I always have to turn the conversation eventually to movement somehow-  “so now what…” or “let’s talk about what you can DO with that…” when what he really might want in the moment is to just be in it rather than move through it.  Me doing my job or not?

It’s true- I have a propensity for forward motion, getting people on board, steps toward the horizon, no matter what.  It’s in my language, my patterns, my material, my teaching.  It’s gotten me into immense success and trouble throughout my life so far.  It’s definitely what makes me great at what I do, and really challenging to people in my life at the same time.  A true double-edged sword with really sharp blades on both sides.

I’m guessing that you have some strengths like this too, yes?  What is it that makes you great at what you’re great at, yet is maddening to others?

In StrengthFinder, I’ve got:

Activator • Strategic • Ideation • Command • Relator • WOO • Individualization

How it’s been described in feedback I’ve gotten from others…

The upsides:

  • Taking action when everyone else is swirling in the discussion for too long.
  • Facilitating other people’s process quickly to get them to move through it to resolution or breakthrough.
  • Being able to see the path out of the mire as a guide for teams.
  • Having an instinct for the big elephant in the room (or issue/situation), calling it, so all can move on.
  • Energizing rooms full of stuck, bored people to inspired action and change.
  • Taking groups farther than they’ve ever gone before.
  • Getting people to try things they’ve never tried before, and having fun doing it.
  • Creating change and possibility where it was needed for a long time.
  • Empowering people to walk away feeling that it was their idea all along.
  • Turning someone from frustration and stuckness to resourcefulness and excitement about what’s possible.

The downsides:

  • Being too reactive.
  • And impatient.
  • Pushing too hard.
  • Not accepting “no” for an answer.
  • Moving too fast.
  • Being too positive or focusing too much on the positive.
  • Always ending the conversation with what’s possible when someone wants to just stay with what is or what their complaint is.
  • Being too charismatic (really?) and convincing when someone wants to hold their position.
  • Being hard to slow down when I’ve decided to go after something.

Of course I would argue that a lot of those “downsides”-complaints are often exactly what’s needed in a situation, even though they’re uncomfortable for others.  My wiring for unsettledness when I see an opportunity for change I might be able to impact is what drives me. I can’t NOT go there in my head, although I can quell it for short periods of time in my actions or speaking (usually by request of others).  That never lasts very long before I can’t take it anymore, so speak out or take action anyhow.  I also get that this pattern often has clear costs, usually to those around me.

What are your instincts which you can’t turn off, which kick into gear every time?  Have you identified them as strengths? While every trait has an up and downside, finding the way to leverage them as strengths is the key.  

So again, it comes down to balance, intention and acceptance.

I am forever tinkering with the balance of my own actions and patterns.  A self-awareness of my own presence and how it gets on people around me is critical. Some days I’m better at that awareness than others, which has everything to do with my own state management.  Putting the focus back on the others around me and really noticing their responses to my way- both verbal and not (tonality, eyes, facial muscles, blink patterns and movements) helps me to balance my responses.

Are you noticing the responses you’re eliciting all the time, both spoken and unspoken? Choosing next steps based on that response helps

Intention is what I always come back to, in order to make the Why of my course clear.  I often state my authentic intention in conversations explicitly (“…I’m telling you this because I’m committed to your success, and I think this will help…”) so that people can trust where I’m coming from.  While this doesn’t always work (if there’s no trust to begin with), it’s the most honest thing I can do, so I keep putting it out there.

People will always make up your intention in their head unless you state it clearly.  If there’s any tension or mistrust, they’ll assume your intention to be negative. Check yours, make sure it’s pure, and state it.

In the end, I accept that my wiring is what it is.  It brings incredible strength and also thorny challenges. While I have no plans to change who I am, I am learning how to also accept that I must flex more than I might want to when my strengths aren’t working for others, and cultivate more patience.  I trust my coaches, teams and trusted advisors to give me the feedback I need to pivot when necessary (though I need to ask for it more).  I also accept that my every action has ripple effect way beyond what I can see no matter what.

So do yours, by the way. As you trust your instincts and choose your actions, accept that you’re impacting more than you know all the time.  Have your fully accepted both the greatness and challenges of your wiring?  What are both sides, and their impact on your world?  

Intentionally or not, who we are, what we think and how we act in moments and patterns- have impact and influence all the time.  The more we put it out there in the world, the more impact it has, for better or for worse.  Who I am, and who you are is both awesome and troublesome- always.  A true double-edged sword with really sharp blades on both sides.

So really self-mastery means learning then mastering dexterity with both edges of one’s sword.  I’m on it. 

©SarahSinger&Co. 2012

Building Ourselves Out

It's all relative, right?

I sit here on my deck typing, enjoying the view and the space, and can barely remember what it was like a few years ago before we built this deck out, almost doubling its size.  It seems to me now that it used to be soooo small- how did we even fit on it?  Yet at the time, we'd moved from a Chicago city apartment with no outside space- the little deck this once was seemed huge, relatively speaking.  How quickly we forget as we build out...

As a 6-year old, my son’s mad and crying about having to pick up his legos after he plays with them.  There are too many of them, how will I ever do it, it’s too hard…

Ridiculous to an 8-year old.

As an 8-year old girl, my daughter throws a fit over the idea of having to put all her things away when she’s done with them every time.  How can I do all of that all the time, it’s too much, it’s not fair…

Annoying to an 11-year old.

As an 11-year old, my other daughter gets overwhelmed by a book report she has to write.  Will it be good enough, can I do it, it’s so big, 2 pages is so long, it’s too hard…

Laughable to a teenager.

As a teenager, I was confronted by all of my homework, being prepared for testing and school, doing (or choosing not do do) all that my parents asked me to do, keeping track of my friends and relationships, meeting obligations to teams and extra-curricular organizations. How can I manage it all, be good at it all, be liked and hold it together, it’s too hard…

Piece of cake to a college student.

As a college student mostly supported by my parents, pulling all-nighters to get projects done, balancing my social life with studying, budgeting to make spending money last a little longer, completely stressed about a big test, paper or project due.  It’s hard, will I be able to pull it all off, this is so huge and all on me…

Enviable to a professional.

When I started out as a professional, it was a new list: hitting deadlines, managing someone else’s expectations, taking on my own growth path to advance, having to initiate, find a partner, have a life outside of work, pay my bills, create a voice in the world.  So big, so much to manage, how can I do it all well and maintain any balance…

Easy to a parent.

We can keep going with these ever-expanding layers.  We could just follow the professional layers. Or the personal layers.  Or the relationship layers.  Or the multiple-roles-in-multiple-circles-of-our-lives-layers that build as we progress in life (professional, personal, family, community, world).  The point is that we’re always building ourselves out further.  With each addition, it’s hard for us to remember how big that former version of our lives felt even though we see clearly with hindsight how much simpler it was!  As we break through to each level, we learn through the challenges of it, expand into it and ultimately end up able to handle more, gaining a wider perspective and ready to move on again.

Is this about Comfort Zone, and expanding it?  Yes.

Is it about Perturbation, and learning through it?  Yes.

Is it all about perspective?  Always.

©SarahSinger&Co. 2011

Airways

It’s all about getting perspective.

This is most obvious to me in looking at the world through airplane windows for many continuous minutes on end, like the one in this picture, somewhere above the clouds between Ohio and California.

Sometimes the rhythm of a day or week or couple of months feels labored, like a sprint within a marathon… and at the same time fleeting- like “where did that month go?”  It’s a strange sensation in time, and unsettling.

I’ve found myself more and more saying things like, “How did it get to be July- wasn’t it just fall?” or (to one of my three quickly growing kids) “How did you get to be so big all of the sudden?”  These are the kinds of statements I used to hear adults say when I was little, and thought to myself how old and out of touch with reality they were.

I don’t think I’m that old or out of touch with reality- even proud that I’m not, yet…

Yet, one of the challenges for me is the balance of being completely present in the moment- with my work, my family or in those rare moments by myself- and keeping perspective on where it all fits (strategically or organically) in time and space and reality, then negotiating those tensions.

The #1 reason I’ve had for a long time for not doing most of the things I know I should in my life (from sleeping as much as I should to putting laundry away to creating baby photo albums for my now-big kids) and in my business (from getting an assistant to handling expense reports to training someone to teach my programs) has been that “I don’t have time.”

From clients, friends and family, I hear this reason of not enough time for not doing things, taking action or just taking a breath from people all the time, and I get it.  I do. 

Yet…

I’m realizing that it’s less about making time for things, and more about creating AIRWAYS.

I was in a coaching conversation recently with someone who was going that direction… “I don’t have time to…”  The description was one I understood well- feeling like it’s getting harder and harder to breathe because there’s no space in this current self-created reality to even do that- and I found myself coaching, “…exactly why you need to do it anyway- youneed to create an airway!”  It was one of those coaching moments I was proud of, because it connected… it was true for this person, and is true for me a lot of the time, too.  It opened up some possibility all the way around. Maybe for you, too?

In that sprint-within-the-marathon cadence of my life sometimes, the only way to get more air into my lungs is to go find it. Like someone crashing on an ER cart who can’t ask for the air because they can’t get enough of it to speak the words, I too often go into autopilot of shallow breathing stress without reaching out for an airway, and these are the very days and weeks I find myself missing in my perspective of time- hence, “How did it get to be July?”

So I’ve been on a personal campaign of finding my airways and using them consciously.  It’s interesting to note, that the more I seek them out and choose them, the more I use them unconsciously, too.

Some of my current airways:

Jumping on the trampoline, listening to a great song, singing in the band I don’t have time to be in, calling and talking to a loved long-distance friend for even five minutes, working out to that point when my brain shifts from physical work to release, writing like this, looking up at the sky or trees for several minutes, holding hands with my son, reading books with my girls, saying the words, “energy, easy,” making my husband or one of my kids laugh really hard, looking out an airplane window down at the Earth, working with teenagers despite any other work I'm doing, sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night to play the piano while everyone's sleeping, getting regular coaching myself, going on real dates with my husband, photographing nature, watching a TED talk, doing or creating or learning anything new.

I now understand that these things are not just bonus “nice-to-have-if-I-have-time-after-what-I really-need-to-get-done”, which is how I’ve always looked at them.  They’re actually essential for me to be complete, vital and the person I want to be. If I don’t have a good dose of them mixed into my daily life, everything else I do gets compromised- including my work, my impact, my patience, my ability to be present, my relationships and absolutely my perspective on it all.

So... what are your airways?

Hint: they're those things that fill you up every time, change your State in a great way, and leave your overall capacity for everything else you do better and bigger, breathing more fully (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually).

Find those airways, note them, then wedge them in. Especially when you don't have time. That's when they bring the most oxygen.

©SarahSinger&Co. 2010