The power problem

There's a power problem in self development circles. The problem is this: powerful experiences (experiences that make a strong impact on you) are not always experiences that give you power (the ability to do something or to influence others to do something). In the heat of an experience, it is too easy to believe that feeling power is the same as having power. It's not.

What does give you power? It begins with purpose. People who know what they are trying to accomplish have more power than people who don't know what they want. That seems obvious. What is less obvious is that people may know what they want in a given situation without necessarily knowing what they want in other situations. Purpose is less a thing and more a process of continually evaluating your situation against your values and deciding on how your big-picture goals guide your behaviour over and over again.
Next, power requires skill: people who have developed a skill have more power (they can do more unde…

You have to connect the dots

Wouldn't it be nice if life came with hints? If the dots in the big picture all came with numbers to tell you that they definitely fit and how to move from one to the next?

I just finished reading The CEO Next Door and what jumped out at me was the phrase "connect the dots." It's a sample of language that is so clear and simple we often skip over the complex situation it describes. CEOs need to 'connect the dots.' So do you. And here's the catch, whether you're an intern or a CEO: your dots don't come with instructions.

Here's what will help when you are trying to make sense of what seems like random information:

Know that your brain doesn't do random. It connects information to existing information, usually guided by priorities like intention (what you want) and safety. Most of the time, this works. It helps you understand complicated situations quickly. But you do it by seeing what you expect to see. This can also work against you if you …

The answer is in your past: dig deeper

Does it sound easy? Coaching often starts with the idea that you already have what you need. You just need to bring it to the surface. We give this names like 'strengths-based coaching' and 'positive psychology' and it can sound both impossible and impossibly easy.
It's easy like coal mining is easy.  I'm writing this from the Maritimes, just across the Strait from Cape Breton Island.  Maybe you've heard this anthem for coal miners, Working Man, by Rita McNeill. It's a great song anywhere but it means a little more out here.
It's true that committing to your goals means committing to finding the strengths and resources that will allow you to achieve them. Digging for resources gets great results: but it's not always easy. Sometimes it is back-breaking, frightening, risky work. The best resources are often attached to your darkest experiences (the ones you overcame so that you can set goals today).

If you expect that looking for your strengths wi…

Is tasting the best way to make a choice?

I really enjoy sitting down with a flight of beverages and doing a tasting. It doesn’t matter to me if I’m tasting wine or beer or scotch. I love the activity of responding and balancing choices and noticing how what comes before or after changes my perception of a particular sip. But knowing what I know from both research and personal experience, I am cautious about generalizing my evaluation based on just a small sample.

Once we needed to buy new chairs for the boardroom at our office. We put a line of about ten different chairs out and people sat in each one in turn and voted on their favourites. We bought the favourites and discovered that sitting in a chair for just a few minutes is very different than sitting in the same chair for several hours. We tested, but we didn’t get a reliable result.
When I was in grade 1, I took some tests as a demo for teachers who had to learn to administer them. They asked me what I would like to do while the rest of the class took the tests later. I …

How to take control of your energy budget

You might not think that you have an energy budget, but you do. Whether you call it energy or willpower or discipline or motivation, something drives you and sometimes, you run out of it. Whatever you call it, energy is both a physical reality and an emotional one. And either you manage it, or it will manage you.

Here are three ways to think about your day:

I do things when they are scheduled.I do things when I feel up to them.I go with the flow. Which of these does the best job of matching your energy to meeting your goals for the day? Probably none of them work very well. You're using energy but not necessarily generating enough so that you have the supply you need when you need it. You're probably either putting off stuff that needs to be done, or frustrated by having more energy than you need for some kinds of tasks.

Here's a better idea. Think about your day and ask these three questions: When do I have the most energy?What takes the most energy?How can I recharge when …

Do You Have to Ask For Help?

Most people ask for help when they see no other choice. They ask when the price of helping is likely to be the highest, and when the skill of the helper needs to be the strongest. What happens is often that the help they find is too little, too late. That's hard on the person who needs the help and it's also hard on the helper. They might be reluctant to volunteer next time.
People have three obstacles to overcome before they ask for help. One is the fear that no one will want to help them. Two is the fear that no one will be able to help them. Three is the fear that they will be judged (and there will be repercussions) as incapable or weak. Let's take these one at a time, from the point of view of the person you will ask for help.
One: the fear that people won't want to help you.  The reality from the point of view of the people around you is likely to be that watching you struggle is painful. They might not want to help you, but they would probably rather help you t…

What does it take to stay committed to your goals?

Many people believe that all they really need is to get clear about what they want. They believe in the Law of Attraction. They're sure that if they have a clear vision, they will naturally make it happen.

In my experience, they are skipping a few steps.

It's possible to get clear and get stuck. Clear is good, but it's not enough.

You need to commit to what you want and stay committed through distraction, disruption and obstacles.  That's why so many people want to hire an accountability coach: they know that knowing what they want isn't enough to get them there.

In my experience, you can't delegate accountability. It's up to you to be accountable for your actions. What you can do is seek out people (who might be coaches) who do two things: 1) remind you to look at your goals within the big picture and to "re-center your map" when you have been pulled away from your vision and 2) remind you to look back into your own experience for the skills, str…