Family is a state of mind

It's Family Day long weekend in Toronto, and it's the day after Valentine's Day.

When I ask my international students about holidays, they often imagine connecting with family. They are often a very long way from home, and they imagine time spent with family as if they live in a greeting-card: parents are wise and siblings are fun and the world is a safe place.

My grandson is growing up in that kind of a family. His parents are smart and kind and love him with all their being. He is surrounded by grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins who play with him and wonder at him and want the best for him. He is blessed.

People say that you can choose family, but I wonder. I think family are the people we do not get to choose. They are the people who show up and who make us admit, more often than not, that being human is very different than being perfect. Family sometimes gives us a wonderful boost (which we did not deserve) and sometimes are the crabs in the bucket, clawing …

When did you become two people?

When I look at this picture, I see one speaker. It's me. I don't see a personal me and a work me. I don't see the brave me and the hidden me. I see me.

I know you've read that you should have boundaries between your work life and your private life. There is wisdom in allowing yourself to experience all of yourself and that can mean creating time and space to be present wherever you are. There is no wisdom in sending a version of yourself to work and keeping a different version at home.

What do you see when you look at a picture of you at work? People often call me at NLP Canada Training and say something like "It's just for me." or "I'm interested for work." The problem is there is no such thing. You are one person and who you are changes your influence on the people who connect with you. The reverse is also true. If you don't change your own thinking or responses, you are unlikely to make change in the way you lead and influence.

When …

Managing through confusion, chaos and January

How's your new year going? Mine is starting with chaos. Family situations that take endless energy and tons of time. A big month for training combined with the need to upgrade bookkeeping and phone systems. The software I use to manage my website just crashed: possibly permanently.

Of course, I'm frazzled. But I'm optimistic. Deliberately optimistic. I keep refocusing on what I have and figuring out how to handle what I need. I take my vitamins and get some sleep and start again. This is not because I'm smart and strong. It's because I have been deliberately building resilience for the past 17 years.

If you feel overwhelmed, know that you can learn to manage what you need to manage. Life happens to all of us, even when we're well-prepared. When we practice managing frustration and fatigue and too many emotions, we don't avoid them. We just deal with them. The people who study with me at NLP Canada Training want more satisfying lives. They have been through …

Hope is in the detail

I love the Christmas I imagine, full of laughter and conversation, of time to play games and munch chocolate and eat freshly baked cinnamon buns. That Christmas lives in my head and my heart, made up of bits and pieces that have happened over many, many years.

The reality of Christmas is, of course, much different. For many years, it has involved rush and working in the kitchen until I hurt and lots of adaptation and negotiation. It's hard to find words like "peace" and "joy" in the midst of so much chaos and stress.  It would be popular to advocate opting out, but that's like opting out of family. It comes with low benefits and a high cost.

So here's my word for Christmas: hope. Hope is not the absence of chaos or pain, and it's not a guarantee that anything will get better. It's just the small thing left at the bottom of Pandora's box that allows us to do the right thing or take the next step. Hope is less about changing the world, and mor…

To pay better attention, be a better mirror

Much of the NLP (neurolinguistic programming) course I teach is about how we pay better attention to get better results. This is most important when your results include cooperation or influence. Whether you want to be a better parent or reach your next career goal, the way you pay attention will make the biggest difference to your success.
But what do we mean by paying attention? Our natural attention is fickle: it bounces quickly from what is in front of us to other situations (past and present) to what we want to make happen next. It's hard for us to stay present to what someone else is experiencing because our natural mode is to process what they are expressing in terms of what it might mean for us. This reinforces our beliefs and our current skills at the expense of growing to connect with new information and abilities. It also interferes with our ability to comfort, collaborate or lead.
We can't see attention, but we can see signs of it. In the picture above, you can se…

Just say yes to grow agreement


The point is to know where you are and where to go next

As John Lennon once wrote, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." What he leaves out is that making plans, making choices, is a necessary part of the process (even when they don't work out the way we expect). We have to keep moving as if we know where we are going, even knowing we will also have to course correct as we go.

That's why we need a compass. A compass has four points, but the point of the compass is to allow us to make better choices for our next step. Someone who is not moving does not need a compass. The compass is a tool for people on the move.

What are the points on the compass that guides you through life. The first, your north star, is health and well-being. Movement (even metaphorical movement) requires that we have the energy, strength, flexibility and balance to take the next step. Health of mind and health of body is the power source that drives all our movement.

What we do with that health and well-being has an i…