Wednesday, September 28, 2005

People Often Become Their Work

I love watching people as they make their way through the chaos of their days. People are such complex creatures. If they weren’t I would be out of a job and even if I weren’t, coaching wouldn’t be anywhere near as fascinating as it is. I watch clients under-utilize talents, downplay strengths and try to fit in to the status quo of an organization for many reasons; some conscious, some not. I created a program around these observations for people to see others….and themselves, and how they live and experience life.

There are no quick fixes or answers for the way people live; rather it’s all about awareness. People are….do….live…..respond, react, are fun-loving, serious, want to belong or be alone. People are complicated.

People are often stuck in jobs too small for them to soar. Why are they stuck? Usually because discontent of the known is far easier to cope with than fear of the ‘what might be’ if they make the move.

People often become their work and lose who they are in the process. People are so busy keeping up, they don’t look at why they’re so busy in the first place. They become the job, losing their identity along the way.

People long for a sense of belonging, thereby doing jobs that go against the grain of who they are just to ‘fit in’. When people show their talents, colleagues can become competitive, angry, envious and territorial. That is one reason why people hide their talents, so they’ll belong and not stand out above the crowd. People want others to think highly of them, yet they’ll do little to self-acknowledge their successes.

Reflect light. Don’t hide from it. "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects the wind; the realist adjusts the sails." – Anonymous

Set yourself free from limitations and then watch yourself soar.

Donna Karlin

*Note: The ‘Perspectives’ subscriber countries have just hit 61! Welcome Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Uruguay and Russian Federation.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

To Know How to Suggest

“To know how to suggest is the great art of teaching. To attain it we must be able to guess what will interest; we must learn to read the childish soul as we might a piece of music. Then, by simply changing the key, we keep up the attraction and vary the song.” - Henri Frederic Amiel

This is one of those rare moments when I come across words of wisdom that combine my ‘two lives’….musician of the past and coach of the present. That’s not to say that my roots as a classical musician aren’t a part of everything I do and how I think, because they are. Music has a way of reaching a person’s soul much faster than any words can. Suggestions of what hadn’t been thought of before is another way to show someone how high they can fly. In music, as we all interpret it differently, connect to music in different ways depending on likes, moods, moments in time, it allows us to bypass all inhibitions and let go in ways known only to us.

David Whyte, the writer and poet has said: “Art is the act of triggering deep memories of what it means to be fully human.” That applies to all the arts….an expression of one’s self without rhyme or reason. It also applies to leaders who teach by inspiring that kind of passion in others. Suggesting a perspective so far out of the realm of what was thought of or possible in the past is one way to stimulate the imagination and allow us to see the depth and breadth of what life can offer us.

One of the suggestions a coach can pose to a client is, “What are you assuming that you’re not aware that you’re assuming?” The question is not that you’re making false assumptions; it’s that you might be making assumptions at all, even if you’re not aware you’re doing so.

Take the well known puzzle challenge….one I’m sure most of you have seen….to connect the 9 dots using 4 lines without lifting your pencil from the paper.

Once you’ve been told or shown the answer you know you were making an assumption…. that being you had to stay within the imaginary box the 9 dots formed. That wasn’t one of the rules. It was assumed.

Years ago, when I was doing a group workshop, the class had homework assignments to do every night that would give them more insight into their behaviour, and/or ‘programming’ or, as coaches love to say, a ‘POS’ ....their personal operating system that is buggy or out of date.

One of those assignments was to journal three full pages in their loose leaf binders, writing about what they became aware of through the day, things they learned, were reminded of, discovered etc. The only instructions given were to write three full, single-spaced pages, filling the pages completely. They were to write from the top down, side to side, filling the pages completely. They had to put the title on each page, the date and page 1 of 3, 2 of 3, etc. Other than that the rest of the page had to be filled completely.

Not one of the attendees heeded those instructions. Each one of them wrote the title on top of the first line and the rest was hand written single spaced from margin to margin. Even though the instructions were explicit, the words ‘filling the pages completely’ repeated with each direction, they ignored them. It was assumed they should write between the margins, even when it went against every instruction. They had a buddy who was to check to make sure the homework was done properly. The buddies didn’t pick it up either. In school, each attendee was trained to always write between margins and leave the white space at the top of the paper empty.

It’s time to change your personal operating system, especially when it no longer applies. A teacher, coach, leader….anyone who asks you to challenge the status quo will do the best teaching when they encourage you to expand your level of thinking to another level….way past the expression “thinking outside of the box”. In this case, there is no box to begin with….no ceiling. The height one can go is infinite.

What have you been assuming that you aren’t aware you’re assuming when it comes to ideas, work, life, experiencing, concepts, relationships….all that programming you’ve had over the years that is no longer serving you well?

No ceiling….no sky…..just endless possibilities.

Donna Karlin

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Safety in Mediocrity

"Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down." - Ray Bradbury

Every time you stop and look fear or indecision in the face, you gain strength and confidence. One doesn’t become great by avoiding what isn’t comfortable. If you want to be safe and not rock the boat, you will never achieve greatness because you won’t step up and be noticed. Safety in business often means mediocrity. Safety in your profession will mean you stand in line with the ranks of many just like you….cookie cutters of the same…. a sea of faces from which a company or organization has to choose. It’s the unique individual, the one willing to take a risk who will be noticed and snapped up.

"Progress always involves risk; you can't steal second base and keep your foot on first." - Frederick Wilcox

Living an average life might be a good one, but you’ll rarely have that feeling of elation, of realisation (that lightbulb going off)….or of personal wonder.

What are you betting on? Who can you count on if not yourself? Or, in this case, the question is what in yourself can you absolutely count on? What talents do you have that you are under utilizing? Why? What is holding you back?

Many hide what they think is most unique about themselves. They share their everyday selves with the world. It’s easy. It’s safe. It’s superficial. Yet it is just that uniqueness….and taking that risk to show and capitalize on it that becomes one’s greatest potential. In sharing our uniqueness we discover the common thread of what is great in everyone on this planet.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Welcome subscriber from Iceland. 57 countries and counting!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Hitting the Floor Running...

This is the time of year when vacations have come to an end, kids go back to school and at work, many of us hit the floor running. It’s a time to build, to grow, to get as much ‘in’ as one can before the holiday season is upon us. It’s time to clear away the mental clutter and focus on what you want to accomplish. This is the time of year when I am the most creative. After a quiet summer (well it’s all relative : ) lots of writing, creating concepts, programs, material to use in my practice, it’s time to put it all to the test. It’s also the time of year when I make the most changes in my life.

A man must be able to cut a knot, for everything cannot be untied; he must know how to disengage what is essential from the detail in which it is enwrapped, for everything cannot be equally considered; in a word, he must be able to simplify his duties, his business and his life. - Henri Frederic Amiel

A beautiful way for saying “Simplify your life” …a catch phrase many coaches use with clients who are wound so tight, have so many responsibilities and stressors (many self-imposed) personally and professionally, that they only way they can slow down to the speed of life is to cut knots, or, as I often say let go of the rope in a tug of war. The most damaging kind of tug of war is warring within yourself. “I could have done it better” “I should have made another choice” “Why didn’t I listen when everybody told me not to…..” "How stupid could I have been?" etc etc.

Then the war begins, paralyzing….making one stay stagnant in a time or situation that brought them down, not helped them soar. From that point on the spiral downwards continues until one hits rock bottom.

Choices come into play. Choices as to what we do, what we want, how we think, remember what it was that worked not dwell on what didn’t; learning from past mistakes not living among them. And then slowly but surely growth begins. Life is simpler….living in the present gives focus and energy. Using the past as a compass helps guide people to where they want to go instead of going backwards into an abyss.

I remember speaking at a conference when the discussion turned to being successful and self-sabotage. One of the attendees spoke about watching her once successful practice go down the tubes and she couldn’t figure out why. Well, being in a room filled with coaches, the questions started flying. It turned out that her whole family had failed in their perspective careers, businesses etc and once she became successful she was ashamed that she was doing so well when other members of her family were losing their homes, possessions and were out of work. Instead of inspiring them by example, she was on her way to joining their ranks.

Self-sabotage. We often hear how we are our own best enemies. Once things start going well we find fault, instead of looking for the next level to climb in the scheme of things, it’s anticipating the fall and in subtle ways making sure we eventually do fall.

People can grow as high as they reach, go as far as their choices take them and live their dreams when they take the time to acknowledge them.

Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. - Gloria Steinem

Set your sights on the possibilities and reach for them. Cut the knot that binds you to a place you know is toxic and reach for one the rope that will pull you up and out of the ditch. Thomas Leonard used to say “Ceiling? What ceiling?” There is no end to what you can live if you design it, reach for it and begin to live it.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Here are a few pictures to share with you from this past of calm, peace and beauty....