Bubble Moments

“Keep in mind… for everyone else in your life, these last two days have just been Thursday and Friday,” I said to a group of twenty-four people last Friday afternoon. They laughed, but then went a little silent as they wrapped their heads around that, realizing that the time they’d just experienced was different than normal- like in a bubble.

We’d just finished an intense workshop I taught, during which 24 people in the room experienced some huge personal and professional shifts in their awareness and realities. Their own possibility opened, they connected with people in ways they hadn’t before, and they got perspective on themselves at an a-ha level.  Several described themselves as “different people” by the end from how they walked in. It seemed like several days if not more in some ways, it was so significant.

Awesome.  And yet- we really only spent about a day and a half together.

There are some moments, hours or days that truly seem to be metaphysically different than the others- as if the moments of time themselves are somehow altered, stretched or suspended. Like in a bubble.

…A conversation in which everything seems to finally line up, insights build on one another and generate new ideas, and the electricity and magic of true connection is tangible.

…The last night with best college friends, connecting at a deeper level, creating epic memories and savoring each moment before you all disperse for months apart.

…An experience of transformative impact shared with another… in which your collective eyes are opened to something new, which changes how you see the world forever.

…The moment you got the news which changed everything…?

Most of these seem longer or shorter somehow than normal.  In the experience of them, it’s as if time is truly suspended, and you’re able to live and stretch each moment out more. Like a scene from a Matrix movie, the moments seem to take on another dimension, separate from the flow of time and incident the rest of the world’s experiencing. Like a protected bubble floating through the rest of the air, which is all the same. These “bubble” experiences also seem more intense than others in the moment. Senses become more acute, colors more vivid, emotions more raw, connection more amplified. The rest of the world falls away, and our normally scattered attention zooms into focus- on another person, an idea, a feeling or the shared experience itself. The self-consciousness of monitoring oneself against time, other things/people outside the bubble, responsibility, or the swirl of activity marching along outside it just melts away.

So purely what’s left, finally possible… is to just be there fully in the moment, wide awake and aware, allowing ourselves to think, feel and respond without inhibition or distraction. Presence.  This is when true creativity occurs in its rawest form and connection feels charged in a way that it generates something palpable.  Flow. It’s real, there’s great research to support it, and creatives have spent generations trying to perfect the ways back into it after those moments are gone.

The classic sign coming out of one of these experiences- getting that feeling of disorientation (like a bubble popping), looking at one’s watch and realizing how much time has passed…

“It seemed like twenty minutes- how could it have been four hours?” or                              
“It seemed like an hour- how could it have been only ten minutes?” or                          
“We’ve really only known one another for a week?  Seems like years.” or                           
“It’s only been two days? Feels like at least a week.”

In our memory, they become etched deeply and clearly, touchstones we replay over and over. If you have experienced a bubble moment like this, you might be silently waiting/seeking the next, and replaying the last in your mind for inspiration. If you haven’t, stay open, get present and tune in.

So… Are some moments actually longer or shorter than others in our experience of them? Like separated from the rest in a bubble? Perhaps.

One thing is certain… in every one of these instances, there’s a huge difference which allows the magic to occur.  WE are different in them than we are otherwise.               
Whether triggered by another person, a situation, or our own choosing in these rare and indelible moments… we got and allowed ourselves to be fully and completely present, awake and engaged.

The biggest question is this- how do we increase the frequency of these moments?      
While they are rare for most of us, we can have more of them. The more we allow the distractions to fall away, the more we choose to step in, lean in, open in… to moments, conversations, people and experiences the more they’ll occur, because we’ll create space for them to occur.  For example, I always get closer to people just before the window of opportunity closes because it pushes me to act- someone moving away, a project ending, someone quitting the team. There’s something about that “last call” push, which forces us to say things we’d normally wordsmith to death in our heads, express feelings that show some vulnerability, step out and seize the moment to connect.                                        
…And these amazing bubble moments of connection occur.

Since noticing this pattern, I’ve made a more conscious effort to initiate moments as “this is IT” instead of waiting for that last call. This is one reframe, but we can create the space in many ways. Seems simple in theory to just put the phone away and be here now, right? But we know it’s not really…

Out of sight, open mind.                                                                                                     
You may have become one of those people who sits at a restaurant dinner or team meeting looking at your phone’s screen instead of the people you’re with. Rather than just turning your ringer off and keeping the phone nearby- actually leave it in another location completely, and watch what happens. The last time I did this (accidentally), I panicked for the first few minutes, but then felt freer, more aware and more present than I had in weeks. One leader I know has everyone at any restaurant get-together put all phones in the center of the table, ringers off. If anyone picks up their phone, they buy for everyone.                   
In your moments, initiate it, and give yourself the space.                                            
Unplugged and undistracted, your brain will reorient to the moment in a powerful way.

Wake up.                                                                                                                              
It’s amazing how we don’t even notice how often we’re physically in a moment, yet somewhere else completely emotionally and mentally. We get through entire days unable to recall individual interactions or moments (because we weren’t really paying attention), pride ourselves on “multitasking” (trendy word for not being present), and spend a lot of time in auto-pilot, half-listening to the people in our lives but not really hearing them with any intent, empathy or connection at all.  We let ourselves to do this because it’s easy- most others are right there with us, casually disconnected right next to us. Enough. Instead, pay attention in a way you haven’t before- to what their face and eyes are telling you behind their words, to the one thing they said in the middle of that sentence that had more emotion behind it than everything else, to what they didn’t even know they cared about until you asked.                                                                                                                    
Get interestED instead of being so interestING, and notice how much there is to build on, learn into and open up when you’re actually looking, listening and feeling for it.

Go there.                                                                                                                           
Sadly, most people have a pretty low shared standard of interaction with one another. We don’t insist on one another’s attention, rarely push one another to engage, and don’t call out the missed opportunities for connection. You can try those, but I’ve found from experience that it’s much more effective to just be the one in the room to create it, rather than call it out. Just go there- ask the big question, probe a level deeper, lean in to make eye contact as you really listen between their words, and lead off the connecting with your own sharing to open it up. People are truly starved for real contact, yet they don’t even realize it, and definitely don’t know what to do about it. You do.                                      
They’ll follow your lead and then create it with you…but they need you to go first.  

The greatest thing I did for the 24 people in that room last week was create space and a way for them to be present, be engaged in the inquiry of what’s possible, and give them a process to GO there.  I’ll keep doing that, because it’s just what I bring wherever I go.  Meanwhile, in the moments we’re with one another, let’s really make it mean something. We can be present, our attention fully with the ones we’re with in the moment we’re in, creating our own bubble away from the fray.  Let’s go…

 

©SarahSinger&Co. 2013

What it Stirs in Us…

While crisis stirs fear and all that goes with that, it can also bring out some important things in people.  We suddenly look at our lives and see what really matters- what we’ve got which really counts and what we can give to help others who really need it.

Gratitude…

Tragedy can bring out amazing Gratitude in us. We suddenly take stock, and get how lucky we really are in the great scheme of things. For the last couple of months I’ve been doing a gratitude exercise, in which I reflect and take a minute to capture all that I value and am grateful for… every day. It’s one thing to do this as an isolated reflection or in the wake of a tragedy as many are doing right now – but doing this every day really shifts something about how one sees the world. I highly recommend it. As part of the process, I make a list of ten things I value and am grateful for right now. Two of the things I wrote today were “waking up this morning in health and strength” and “the opportunity to make a difference in the world.” These seem especially poignant today.

Try completing this every day for the next 10 days, and your view of the world will shift, guaranteed. From Alan Walter:

  • Goal for today… 
  • What am I willing to give to others today?
  • What 10 things do I value that I am grateful for right now? 
  • What do I value that another does for me that I am grateful for right now? 
  • What am I happy about right now?

Empathy…

Yesterday shook up our world again, as Boston went from a scene of celebration to tragedy in a second. The fear of that struck me hard.  In looking at the footage (like other similar events) we see people flee in fear. Yet we also see people who run IN to help, which is inspiring, and something I spend a lot of time thinking about how to tap. People responding with empathy, care and support for one another in complete humanity. Maybe I’m just seeing it more because that’s my filter, yet it seems to me that the more we get pushed and tested, the more we’re supporting and stepping up rather than retreating or just protecting ourselves. For the first time it seems that the stories of people helping in this crisis are overshadowing the stories of shock. We’re becoming more resilient and more united in spirit.  There’s much work to do for this to translate into everyday empathy for one another in normal times, but let’s start here.

Impact…

Even though these incidents of crisis are happening more and more, I believe that the world can change with the choices we make and the ripples we cause toward good. A week ago, a very special project I’ve been involved with for the last two years about the possibility and coming together toward a world without hate, delivered its message to 10,0000 people at once at a ceremony in Birkenau, the biggest extermination camp of the Holocaust. It’s a project of light, hope and creating the world we want rather than staying stuck in the pattern of darkness we’ve had. As my partners and I watched it livestreamed from the other side of the world, it was an amazing moment which blew me away in significance, connection, pride and hope. We can create the world we believe is possible.

Significance…

In a few days, my oldest daughter will become a Bat Mitzvah.  This is a big deal, and signifies the end of a long, intense process for her and for our family. I’ve been immersed in big conversations daily with her about the meaning of life, her purpose and how we choose our paths… a lot for anyone to wrap their head around, let alone a thirteen year old with a coach like me for a mom. Yesterday’s events put a particularly focused point on our discussion about people and how every choice impacts so much more than we think.

Inspiration…

Finally, there’s this candle you see on the page. It’s a memorial candle sitting here next to me, and it’s lit because it’s the third anniversary of my dad’s death- his Yartzeit, as it’s called in my religion. People light these candles when someone dies, but also every year on a person’s Yartzeit-so today in the wake of Boston’s tragedy, it has even more meaning.  One of the ways I process, reflect and summon my energy is through running. Even before yesterday’s events, I knew that today’s run would be significant, with my dad fueling it. He was an avid runner who protected that time as his solo space to connect with himself and sort out the world. While I didn’t really get that or get into it until a few years ago, I now I hold that time as sacred much like he did, and he’s my inspiration for every run.  He used to say that running was his time to pray. Personally, I’ve never really been a big pray-er. I reflect, I think deeply about things, I have frequent moments of true spiritual connection, but not in the form of direct praying to God. And yet, without intending it, all week a little tune from my childhood has been playing in my head… It’s the Modeh Ani prayer, which we used to sing as kids and my dad loved. He sang it while he ran each morning. The translation: “I am thankful to God for allowing me to awaken to another day…” In the wake of this week, yesterday and what we’re all causing in the world with each choice, this couldn’t be any more meaningful.

Forward…

So today I started my run with tears.  I believe that tears are the literal overflow of emotions (any kind) that have hit or filled us so much that they need a spillway, so no surprise today, as gratitude, empathy, loss, inspiration and my dad both filled and fueled me.

My dad, who taught me to question everything, think and feel deeply about things, make impact in the world every day, come together with support when someone needs it and share what you’ve got to make a difference in the world…is present. If he were physically here, this week he’d pull us together into the kitchen for a family meeting in which he’d remind us about sticking together, supporting one another, reaching out to those who need it and being proud of what we’re able to impact, despite the circumstances.

And so we are

©SarahSinger&Co. 2013

Add Water

We all have elements which act as triggers for particular states.  There are particular songs which fire us up, foods that comfort us, outfits that give us confidence, photos that make us smile every time.  It’s key to know what your best triggers are, and be able to access them when needed.  Having the right playlists on your iPhone, the right visuals in your workspace and the right clothes for your power presentations are important.

Then there are other triggers which are less accessible, less portable, more experiential and episodic. Yesterday, I was struck by one of the most powerful triggers I have in the world, which I’ve been missing and didn’t even realize it.  Water.

There’s something about water that calms me.  The sound of it lapping, the view of it meeting the horizon, the feel of it surrounding me- all give me peace like nothing else.   Growing up in a lake family, I have had strong and layered associations with water throughout my life. I learned both independence and team, discipline and open exploration, outlet and competition, solo space and family connection… all on and around the water.

Yesterday we arrived to the first day of my family’s annual lake reunion yesterday, and the second I came to the water to greet my siblings, it hit me.  In that moment, my breathing slowed down, the wrinkles in my forehead smoothed, and I felt all the muscles in my body relax.

The crazy thing about it, is that most of the time I’m nowhere near water, and hadn’t even realized that I miss it.  While I’ll always prefer a warm vacation on the water to a cold vacation with snow, but never really got the importance of water for me until yesterday.  As I write this now, I’m listening to the waves, glancing up at an expanse of lake stretching to Canada, and soaking it all up as fuel to use later.  I’m capturing the sounds and images to call back up when I need them.  While the stored versions will never be as powerful as being here now, they might serve in combination with some well-placed visits throughout the year to recharge.

So- what are your most powerful, positive triggers which ground you, focus you, calm you or psych you up? Certain songs, places, mementos, photos... the ones that transport you to a great place mentally & emotionally are anchors for productive, great states. 

Locate and strategically place portable anchors (playlists labeled on your phone by energy, photos as wallpaper on your phone, memento from last huge win, kept on your desk), to set yourself up for success all the time. 

Then also look for the big permanent experiential ones too (like this lake for me right now), which you may need to plan for as strategic, regular fill-ups on your path.  They set your state, your mindset and your orientation to the world instantly, so... place them well.   

©SarahSinger&Co. 2012

Talent vs. Strength

Strengths and Talent are two different things.  Strengths are what you do easily and regularly, without thinking about it.  These usually come from talent.  Yet we all have talent that isn’t necessarily manifesting as strength.  It may come out in moments or episodes of brilliance, but isn’t reliably consistent yet. While a lot of my work is in the former, what I’m most interested in is the latter.

Strengths.

In some ways, strengths are the low-hanging fruit of my coaching work.  Most people don’t truly realize what their strengths are, or why they’re so amazing.  We’re all too close to have any perspective on it.  Someone with a strength like being able to establish instant rapport and agreement with others doesn’t really acknowledge it as a strength, because it’s as instinctive as breathing for him or her, yet enviable, difficult and a mystery to another person watching. The groundbreaking work of Clifton and Buckingham in this realm has been a gamechanger for millions- so much so that I require groups and teams to take StrengthFinder as a prerequisite for any work I do with them.  We have to at least surface, understand and leverage what we all do well without effort before we start working on how we can grow in new ways.  Simply getting people to be more conscious of what they already do well as their unique and important contribution, and to confidently leverage it as such is groundbreaking for most people.  That’s also telling about our society-  that this initial work (which seems like it would be quick and easy) is huge all by itself for people.  For adults, some of this is from becoming desensitized to our own strengths. Our instinct, common sense and lens through which we see the world becomes as invisible to us as the air we breathe, and we accept it as “normal” (and therefore not anything worthy of leveraging). Meanwhile, our personal set of strengths is unique from everyone around us (and could be genius to them).  It also has a lot to do with our pre-occupation with what we’re not, and what we should be (“Yeah, but if only I were more X…”), rather than an ownership and confidence in what we are, and how we’re uniquely brilliant- and the value of either. The a-ha that people and teams have when they suddenly see their own talent-strength that’s been there all along under those layers is awesome and empowering.

I do love coaching strengths, yet secretly love and crave more, as all coaches do.

Talent.

Great movies love to depict the classic inspirational story of the semi-retired coach or trainer who comes back into the game to develop a wild, raw undeveloped talent into something solid, something strong.  Million Dollar Baby, The Karate Kid, Rocky, Any Given Sunday, Tin Cup, A League of Their Own, The Replacements, even Star Wars

There’s something different there- much more intriguing, exciting and possible.  This is why my favorite work is with youth vs. adults- it’s much more about working with the talent itself and honing while exploding it vs. working to clear away the layers of stuff on top of it.

Raw talent all by itself is a different thing- it’s trickier.  It’s less predictable and a little rougher around the edges than a bona-fide strength.  Talents can absolutely develop into strengths through deliberate or naturally occurring practice and investment- think Tiger Woods spending more practice time than those with half his talent, because he gets the deliberate path.  How that talent gets developed is one of my favorite topics to think about, coach and experiment with.  Different personalities need to approach it different ways. An awesome article today powerfully shows how even at the top- among the best of the best of the best in a particular field of talent, this happens differently.

But it starts with one thing, which is the most important part… realizing that you have the talent, then deciding that you want more and are ready to explode it into a strength. Maybe it’s just manifesting as an unsettledness now- pay attention to that feeling, and dig into it a little further. Then find the coach, the environment, the team, the training to shape it.  You can do this, and you should, only because you know deep-down that you can, and if you don’t you’ll be forever haunted by “what if I had…”

There’s one more piece in the getting-your-own-talent puzzle, even though it deserves its own day and post.  Personally, I always come back to the most basic piece in developing talent and reaching mastery in any arena- surround yourself with those who ask more of you than you do of yourself.  That means people who challenge you to not just be happy with what you’ve always done, but pushing you to get better, go farther, dig deeper- all from a true commitment to what’s possible in you because they get your talent.  Of course having a good coach or mentor is important, but it’s just as important to look at who else you’re surrounding yourself with.

Pay attention to your unsettledness, consider your own level of talent and mastery, check out who you’re surrounding yourself with, and start building your strength. It’s time.

©SarahSinger&Co. 2012

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