Sunday, November 12, 2017

How do you play a waiting game?

© Can Stock Photo / Evgeniy_p
When we had small children and busy schedules, my husband would say "cherish dull moments."

But moments can stretch and become uncomfortably long. I teach in a system that has been on strike for about 5 weeks. The end may or may not be in sight, and even if it is, the results of the waiting are unpredictable. For me, it is not a matter of life or death, but it does impact my ability to plan for my business and my life. I don't know if I'll get paid again or when. I don't know how I will manage a too-heavy schedule with few breaks. I don't know when I will decide it's time to make a change, since life is risky either way.

Does this sound familiar? On any given day, many of the people you encounter are playing a waiting game for something not quite predictable and possibly unpleasant. While I've been waiting out the strike, I've been observing the way waiting influences my states and choices. Here are three things I have been doing to stay focused on what I want while trapped in the hallway of life:
  1. Make tangible progress where you can. I've set up a plan for new programs, scheduled the first of them, and gone through them with my team. Whatever does or does not happen, I can point to these courses as things that started while I was waiting. I've also cleaned and reorganized all my kitchen cupboards.
  2. Be mindful of your state. Notice the signs of stress as they show up in your thoughts and your body (especially when you would rather be sleeping). Label these as signals that waiting is stressful. Accept and be gentle with yourself (and maybe with the people around you).
  3. Create interruptions by connecting deeply with other people. There's nothing that uses so much of your brain as being fully present and engaged with others. When you dive into a connection with all your best stuff, you create a break in the endless internal dialogue about what comes next.
  4. When in doubt, watch a good video, listen to a podcast, or read a good book. Learning makes everything better.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Pick five words that describe the way you want to experience your life

The people who study emotions tell us that there are six basic emotions: joy, surprise, fear, anger, sadness and disgust.  If you believe them, then most of your emotions are unpleasant.  This is how people have written about emotions for hundreds of years: as if they pull us down into the mud. The better way to live, the reasoning went, was like Spock in Star Trek. All decisions would be made better by reason alone.

Now we know that people with no access to emotions have a hard time making any decisions at all. It turns out that emotions are a complex signalling system that allow us to know very quickly that our brains have recognized a pattern that might help us or harm us. You can see how all those negative emotions might be useful in this way: they are an early warning system that might allow us to avoid danger, or at least to recognize it when it's all around us.

This is important if you believe that the goal of the human being is to persist, to stay alive. It's certainly a key to understanding how much of our automatic responses work. But that's not the whole story. We don't want to just stay alive; we want to experience our lives as joyful, satisfying, challenging.

© Can Stock Photo / osons

So this week, pick five words that describe how you want to feel. In addition to joy, what words describe the way you want to experience your life? What words describe the way you want to feel?

I guarantee, that after you pick your five words, you'll be more sensitive to how and when those emotions show up in your day.  We don't always get what we aim for. But aiming for a destination makes it much more likely we'll end up there.

Monday, October 30, 2017

How to keep your head

© Can Stock Photo / wtamas

We're one day away from Halloween and you're probably surrounded by images of heads that have become separated from bodies. If you're lucky, you're not also surrounded by coworkers who are losing their heads.

Since you probably already know how to lose your head (at least under pressure), here are three reminders of how to keep it:
  1. Your head should be continuous with your body. That means staying aware of your physical needs for food, rest, exercise and touch (yes - I said touch. People are social creatures and a hug will often reconnect a lost head).
  2. Your  body and your head should be moving in the same direction. You need to walk your talk when you want to keep your head. Integrity is a sure way to reconnect the head you are afraid you are losing.
  3. Phone a friend. Better yet, go find a friend and talk in person. Putting your concerns into words will stabilize them and telling them to a friend will add both comfort and perspective.
When you're losing your head, it's hard to keep it together. You'll be tempted to avoid real connection (you'll talk at people instead of with them) and to avoid your body (sleep deprivation makes it easier to pretend that your mind and body can function separately). People who have lost their heads are also separated from their strong memory of what they value, so it's harder for them to walk their talk. 

The best way to ensure that you can keep your head is to keep it. Stay connected to your body, to your values and to your friends in good times, and you'll find that you are able to stay connected during catastrophes and other distractions.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Don't Trust Your Gut: Respect It

Today is the day after a very full weekend of NLP training. In the world of NLP and self development, lots of people will tell you to "trust your gut," as if we all know all the right answers but somehow fail to listen to ourselves.

© Can Stock Photo / lkeskinen

My training is a little different. I teach people to respect their gut. Your gut is a good teacher. Good teachers expect you to listen to what they say (it's based on expertise developed over time) and then to question it. A good teacher expects you to test what they teach.

Your "gut" will sometimes provide you with good counsel, and sometimes it will mislead you because the experience that has shaped your 'gut' reaction is not typical of the situation you're in now.  Your gut can be wrong. You know this. There are times in all our lives when we listened to our gut and really wish we had thought things through instead.

Most of the processing power of your mind/brain/body system is outside your conscious awareness. It is responsible (among other things) for making use of your previous experience so that you are more likely to be more successful with less effort in the future (you only need to learn to tie your shoes once; after that you can tie your shoes without thinking about it).

When thinking is too complicated, you might as well trust your gut. If you've gathered all available new information and one answer is not rationally better than another, trust your gut. If you're in danger, trust your gut (it thinks faster than your mind and it's much better to be more safe than not safe enough).

At all other times, respect your gut. That funny feeling is the result of your past experiences, and it will often give you good advice. And sometimes, it will choose the wrong experience to apply to a situation, and you'll be stuck in the past instead of moving forward. Respect means noticing what your gut is telling you and testing it out as a theory.

Your reasoning mind is the part of you that you know best. It's only the opposite of your gut in the sense that the heads side of a coin is the opposite of the tails side (they are both part of the same coin). When your head and your gut move together, you'll find yourself moving in the right direction more often.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Don't Miss It! (How Negatives Build Rapport and Engagement)

I used the phrases "Don't Miss It"  and " Don't start" in an ad, and someone made a comment about my "interesting" language. I don't know for sure that what interested that person was the use of negatives, but it made me think about the way people get hung up on a formula for what they should or should not say.

Once someone challenged me on the use of the word 'problem.' He felt that it was inappropriate in the work I was doing. I felt it was inappropriate to tell people that the things that troubled them were not problems or to hide from problems or to overlook them.

In fact, "negatives" can be a strong opening. We all know that: it's not an unusual strategy to catch people's attention with a warning or to motivate people by giving them a problem to solve. They are strong because they connect with people where they live: that ad was written to catch the attention of the people who were so tired of their baggage and mistakes, they would be ready to make a change.

"Don't miss it" is particularly interesting because it is a double negative. You have to see something you want, then miss it, then decide not to miss it. It's a lot of work to decode three short words. I used them because they were also a pretty exact fit for the people whose attention I wanted: they are the people who suspect that there's something they want but are prepared to put it off. . . unless someone calls them to take another look.

So yes, I think my language was interesting (I almost always find language interesting). Language is an expression of a mind/brain/body system that is so rich and complex that it's hard to comprehend. I won't give up any of it: I think it all does the work we need it to do some of the time. The trick is in knowing what connection you want to make and then choosing from the whole of the toolkit so that you have the best words for what you want to do with them.

And I do like encouraging people to catch something sliding by and slow it down so they can take another look.