Learn the basics of handling challenging transitions. Here’s an inventive look at business and career transition. Managing change requires resilience, just like renovating your home. Come find out why.
Author Archive for: susan
If computers need to be turned off, rebooted or reset from time to time to clear out the junk, then it shouldn’t Surprise us that our husmanbrains need the same. Yet taking a break and clearing our heads appears to make us weak in 21st Century society. Read more →
When we indulge ourselves with a massage, or take a nap in the afternoon, we usually talk about it as “treating ourselves” to a luxury. I would like to look a little deeper into this language of “treating ourselves”.
We have a habit of thinking that taking a break from constant driving is equivalent to overindulging ourselves. Especially when we are going through a transition—from training for a triathlon to changing careers, from going through a divorce to watching the kids leave home—we are in particular need of treating ourselves.
But we continue to think of it as indulgence, rather that seeing the words more clearly for what they describe. Treating ourselves is literally about how we treat ourselves everyday. Why should a massage or a nap be a luxury? The evidence of living proves that each day is an ebb and flow of high and low energy, yet we persist in pretending that we can “give 110%”. Read more →
A very wise mentor (Marvin Weisbord at http://futuresearch.net) reminded me in a recent meeting of this eternal truth—that the future is now. He should know, as the organization he founded, Future Search, is clearly all about the future.
He knows that it is what we say and do today that brings about the desired future. Each step, each word today creates the platform for something that is either growing or decaying. Remember that clincher line from the movie Shawshank Redemption? “You either get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’”.
I sit on my local Y’s strategic planning committee. We want so badly to change, to engage in stronger causes for our community, but we struggle to define them clearly and distinctly from the “gym and swim” services we are known for.
How do we get busy livin’? We kinda sorta know it’s about the steps we take today, but we’re caught in the worries of recessionary times, and the fear of doing something different. We know the community is changing, the needs are changing, yet we grapple with how to hit the right needs and stay solvent as an organization.
Comfort is the enemy of change. Like the frog who is put in a pot of cold water, which is then set to boil, it’s often too late to jump out of the boiling pot, the old comfort, when we finally realize the old comforts aren’t serving us any more.
I ran into this twice today, once on the organizational front, and again in a personal coaching session. The comfort of habit is powerful. For organizations, the addage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is the sinker. For individuals, it’s the devil I know that seduces us, versus the devil I don’t know?the gamble of change, that scares us away. We fool ourselves into thinking that it’s OK, it’s as “good as it gets”. We each ride the sine wave of life, not realizing that we have the power to supercharge it with something more.
And though the answer is easy, it surely isn’t simple to do. It requires us to get up and move, to ask others what they think, to find the common ground between what we can offer, and what the world needs of us. And this requires us to think together, to borrow other’s ideas, to look at the whole picture before we invest in changing a part.
Whether it is individual change or organization change, understanding the whole picture and building bridges that lead us away from comfortable old habits, which threaten to boil us, is the most important place to start. Fear is a pretty ugly four letter word.
The future is now. What are you thinking, what are you saying, and what are you doing, right now? How do you get busy livin’ today?
I have written recently about the triathlon that I am training for these days. It’s a teeny tiny race, just for beginners like me. But it’s not the race that I’m training for. It’s the structure. I suspect this must be the way architects think. While I’m sure they enjoy the end result, what they delight in is the creation of structure that serves a greater purpose. Undergirding, framing, supporting, reaching—these all seem to be great features of the architect’s world. And for those of us who choose change.
Sometimes the structures we create just get us through the day and the week. Why do you think organizations like Weight Watchers and AA stay in business? Because we need external scaffolding to order our lives, especially when it feels like it is in chaos.
Sometimes structure helps us reach beyond the everyday. For me, it is the triathlon training class I attend every Monday. For you it may be the interior design class you enrolled in, the yoga program, or the gardening clinic. Structure and external support do wonders for us, particularly when we have consciously chosen to make a change.
And how great is it when a structure provides multiple benefits? My main reason for triathlon training is to keep my mind occupied and my body busy during my son’s deployment. But I am very excited about how much better my body feels, and the half pound weight loss I’ve been enjoying most weeks for the last month. Slow and steady really feels good.
All this proves to me, yet again, that my belief that Discipline is the price you pay for freedom—is powerful. Every day I look at my training program, and no matter how blue I’m feeling or how busy my day gets, I have this solid commitment that I won’t go to bed before I get in my swim or my run.
Small successes are a great motivator to keep going. Even if I’m slow or out of breath today, I feel so proud of myself for just getting it done, no matter how sloppy it was. The payoff is in the persistence.
What structures are available to you today? What promise can you make yourself that you will keep before you go to bed tonight? Small successes get me through the weeks when I don’t lose that hoped for half pound. I put my swimsuit on and paddle anyway, with the promise that tomorrow will be the day to find my edge.
We each have to bottle enough hope at the end of the day to try again tomorrow.
Bottling hope. It’s what I do everyday now.
Over the past year I have formed a renewed relationship with my cousin Jo. She and I were best buddies growing up, but once we hit adulthood we parted ways for most of the last thirty years. In a phone conversation about a year ago she heard the frustration in my voice and offered to help.
What an amazing ability, to hear a cry for help, even when it isn’t directly articulated in words, and then to respond to it. I’m not particularly good at asking for help, but when she extended a hand, I took it this time.
I think many of us are afraid to take help. Look at the possible consequences. It means you can’t do something by yourself, it means you might owe someone something, it means being tied to a relationship and investing energy into it. Hmmm. Maybe it means looking in the mirror and being a little humble at the same time.
I don’t know about you, but humility is not one of my strong points. So accepting help, even with all those “strings” attached has been the smartest move I made over the last year. And here’s why, the flip side of those consequences.
First, we revitalized and deepened our connection. How especially satisfying since the base we stared with oh so many years ago is rock solid.
Second, I had a learning partner and someone to lean on in a challenging year. She let me lean on her. And it has been so comforting. There is nothing better than knowing you’re not in something alone.
Third, we made business strides together and saw payback from our joint efforts. In fact, it was her support through the year that kept me steady on the blog posting, and continuing to move my business forward in challenging family times.
And now it’s time for a change. She is ready to move on to the next phase of her life, and funny thing, I’m ready to take on more. More, because the brace she provided has encouraged me, and prepared me for the next step.
She put her hand out and held me up this year. Do I owe her? You bet, and I’m glad for it. She now knows with more certitude that when she needs support, I’ll be there for her. That’s an IOU that I can live with and be grateful for.
Go ahead. Ask for some help today. Even if it’s hard, remember that no great deed happens with a singular sweep or singular effort.
This morning in yoga class, which is a small community unto itself, our instructor had us begin with handstands. Usually, as in any kind of fitness class, there is a warm-up period before we jump right into jumping right in. But it was a great reminder of how important play is to work.
We started with running jumps into handstands against the wall. It was so amazing how overrated warming up can be sometimes. We are all pretty experienced yogis in the class, so truth is we could all do this. But we usually don’t. And the playfulness, as well as the challenge got all our juices flowing, and warmed up those big muscles pretty fast.
I needed some help, mostly because as I stepped in to flip up, the muscle in my head held me back—not my physical strength. When we set off on any new project it is that stubborn muscle in our heads that typically holds us back more than our physical strength or our motivational strength. The worst four letter word of all—fear—takes over.
As much as I enjoyed the playfulness of class this morning, no, I didn’t manage to do the running jump up into handstand—yet. What was terrific, though, was how I was helped by the instructor and felt the support of my yoga community. Part of being playful in order to work is using your neighbors for moral support. My teacher, Naime (see http://diggyoga.com) is expert at pushing you towards just the right amount of support, and indeed pushing you to take on the next step. Not there yet, but the play element makes me want to do the work even more.
Play more! Work less! When work is play, we enjoy it so much more. Have you reviewed your attitude lately to the project you have taken on? If you see it as a challenge, as a new game to play, then maybe it will become much more do-able.
There’s a light-hearted movie called Dan in Real Life that has a terrific punch line at the end. The movie is about a widower with kids who finds love in the craziest way, and at the end of the story he talks about all the planning we do in life—for love, career, family and life in general. But the best kind of planning he says, is to plan to be surprised.
Whether you call it serendipity, destiny, good or bad luck, we all know that it’s true. Look at something as simple as a single day in your life. When was the last time everything that happened to you in a day was in your control?
And so how do we think the Japanese are feeling today? Surprise is what every day looks like for many of them right now. And yet, despite total upheaval—right down to the earth’s axis moving—they go on. It’s a fundamental lesson on the axiom be where you are.
After all, there really is nowhere else to be. If today you’re in your comfy home, and tomorrow you’re in a shelter with hundreds of people worrying mostly about where food and water is coming from, well, there you are. Yet how much energy do we put into bemoaning our circumstances, doing the “what ifs” and wishing it were different?
I see this idea of planning to be surprised as just another aspect of Guided Drift. And guided drift, of course, is that philosophy of knowing what you want to make happen in life, being clear about your values, goals, and abilities—all the while keeping yourself open to drift, and whatever comes your way.
Japan is full of Guided Drift right now. While there is an energy of fear and anxiety, we can also see peaking out from under the rubble an energy of newness—a new approach to life and new way of living. Each of us may take a different lesson from Japan’s recent experience with this mind-blowing earthquake. It can range from gratitude to excitement for a new way of living.
Stop for a moment and reflect on what this experience the Japanese people are having is teaching or reminding you. Gratitude? Amazement at the human spirit? Connectedness? Or maybe even a willingness to let go, to see the toggle between effort and surrender move a bit more towards surrender, and just being where you are, fully and completely accepting what is, and making a choice to work with that, as you take your next step.
Fear of bicycles is something you have to overcome if you’re going to do a triathlon. There’s that little bike ride right in the middle of it. So this week I’m face to face with bicycle. After many years of not riding after my big fall, I’ve conjured up all kinds of images that seem to repeatedly end up in disaster. It’s like one of those corny slow motion scenes in a movie. I see myself hitting the rut in the road, turning and falling, yelling “Oh no!” in that slow, painful voice.
I don’t know how other people get over this kind of stuff, but I put myself on retreat for a couple of days and brought my bike along. I’m spending two days away from friends and family, TV and internet, and other distractions. I’m spending my days walking and thinking, slowing things down. And part of this slowing down is coming face to face with bicycle.
The room I’m staying in has a long driveway leading up to it. It’s my pathway back. I thought it would be too much pressure to take my bike out on the road when I was still afraid of just getting on, stopping and starting again. So I set myself up a little biking rehab course. Twice a day I get on the bike and just practice getting on and off, using my breaks, starting and stopping. It sounds a little like I’m five again, but I don’t care.
After all, when you’re in rehab—learning how to walk or talk again, you start over, don’t you? So I’ve started over. And it feels so great!! I have applauded myself for little accomplishments along the way. Things like leaning more fluidly into the turn, stopping nice and easy, and easing myself off the saddle. I’ve avoided using the toe straps for now—no restrictions that will make me feel more nervous.
Each day I see progress, to the point where I finally got on the road and biked the six miles my training schedule asked of me. I didn’t care if there was a twist in the road that made me nervous and I decided to walk my bike for a bit. I didn’t care if I braked more than most sane people would on a small hill. I’m taking it at a pace I can handle emotionally, because that is where the repair must be made.
How freeing it is to overcome a fear like this! How wonderful to allow myself the luxury of taking it at my own pace. It won’t be long now, I can feel it. The ease will return, the joy of riding again. And if I can do it on my bicycle, I am now ready to face other fears.
What one tangible fear can you take steps to overcome? Start with something concrete, something that you can easily see your progress—like riding a bike. The boost of seratonin it will give you will lead you to the next important task of your life. Guaranteed.
How does a reasonable adult become afraid of bicycles? The same way we all become afraid of anything in life—we have a bad experience with something, and then hide behind our favorite way of coping with fear.
I have done just this. Six years ago, while on a biking trek with my husband, I took a nasty fall. With face swollen for days, major bruises on legs and arms and a thoroughly engulfing headache, I had good reason to stay off my bike for a couple of weeks. But something bigger than aches and pains took over. I lost my confidence and I became afraid. And when I’m afraid, I freeze.
And that’s where I’ve been for these last years. Frozen, static, like an ice cube in the Yukon in January. Fear is such a strange thing. It has nothing to do with reason or logic, it emanates completely from our base brain—the part that takes care of emotions and sense of safety. Once that has been rocked, it takes concerted effort to break out of jail.
So, as I’ve written about in the past month, I decided to sign up for a triathlon. I did this knowing that I was afraid to get back on my bike. As I started training I focused on walking, jogging and swimming. No biking in sight. Then I stared down the calendar a few weeks ago, and realized I only had three months to train for this thing. The blessed deadline was staring me in the face.
Funny thing happened on my way to getting back on my bike. About two weeks ago I got injured, and had to take almost a week off. While I was recovering I realized that a bike I hadn’t ridden in over five years was going to need some rehabilitating. So step one was to take it into the bike shop for maintenance. Phew. That bought me a week, while it was in the shop.
Now I’m a week behind in my training, and I still haven’t gotten on the bike. Isn’t it an amazing coincidence that I became injured just as I had to face getting back on the bike? Ha! No coincidence. The reality of facing my fear had set in. Could I delay facing the inevitable through injury and waiting for my bike to get a facelift?
Sure. But now I’m face to face with that deadline, and my choice to put myself back in the rider’s seat. So how does a freezer like me deal with her fear? She structures an occasion that requires unfreezing. So I am now facing my mental ice cube by facing my bike. Step one in dealing with my fear is to step into that bike pedal.
What are you willing to structure for yourself to allow you to face your fear? We all have a favorite way of dealing with fear—freezing, fleeing or fighting. What do you need to face? Thawing out your fear, standing still long enough to face it, or calming yourself down to deal with it? Think about it. Facing fear can be the most freeing experience of your life.