Surrendering: Weakness or Life Lesson?

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In a recent post, I spoke to one of the Juicy Life Lessons I learned while recovering from an elected surgery.  That post was all about the courage to follow through with a decision even when the going gets tough.  This recent experience created a new self- awareness for me since I thought I was the poster child for pulling up my big girl panties and getting on with whatever decision I had made.

The additional learning I came away with from being on this fitness health journey was that I had a lot to learn about “surrendering.”  The first several weeks of my recovery meant that I had to turn to pain Meds and people to help with my healing.  Preferring not to do too much of either, I ignored the advice at times and paid the price.  Other times I was faced with no choice.  I needed the support of my physical therapist, close friends, my honey and help with things that are part of everyday living (like lifting my legs into bed).  I felt very humbled and realized I could change my resistance mode and instead look to my acceptance as a necessary aspect of gaining internal harmony.

Webster refers to surrender as “give way; yield; concedes; submits” – the last term being one of my least favourite words in the English language. Certainly I had a lot of internal work to do to redefine it as “letting go of resistance and accepting what is.”  Instead of always saying, “I’m sorry” when I needed help, I needed to change my response to that help.  With my honey’s input, I learned to say “I love you!” along with my normal “thank you” to him instead.

Maya Angelou shared the following in one of her books: “At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honourable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.” Since I think she was a very wise woman, I opted to learn from her.

Juicy Morsels:

  • What are you resisting that might stand in your way of a better career or life? If you took the first leap and let go, how might it allow more harmony in your world?
  • Find the support you need to move through difficult moments as they pass.  It could be a coach, a therapist, a group or some type of a support that stands with you, but doesn’t expect to be there forever.  Anne Morrow Lindbergh tells us then “we will live more richly those moments” (like I did)!
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A DIFFERENT KIND OF COURAGE

Korita, Istra 087    My true nature is one of unlimited potential.  I see that in all of the creative options I bring to my work and the challenges that life brings to me.  I also know that processing change always takes commitment to being strong, trusting the process and following through.  Little did I know that a decision of mine might take more courage than I thought it would.

Healing has been the focus of my last few weeks, but even when I was laid low – Juicy Life Lessons popped up!  One lesson I want to share in this post has to do with pulling up courage when needed.  Another lesson I learned going through this process, I’ll share in a follow-up post.

Since I chose to have my knee replaced after many years of living with an injury, I felt confident that all was in order and I would use my determination to move through the required healing process. I had worked out with a trainer in preparation, cooked many meals, let my clients know I needed to focus on my recovery for a few weeks, had my patient advocate in place and loaded up with good books to read.  Instead after many days of unrelenting pain, little sleep and several embarrassing events, I found myself wondering whatever was I thinking in making this decision?!  There were a couple of instances of my feeling like a victim – a rare event for me.  It brought up memories of beginning my employment in Manhattan which required getting up at five am in New Jersey, embracing three forms of travel including walking several long city blocks in all kinds of weather, putting in a full day and then doing the reverse travel home where children, their homework and getting ready to do it all again awaited me.  I loved my new role and had been extremely excited about landing the job, but boy was I exhausted that first week.  I remember so wanting to just lay down on the sidewalk to rest, but knew I’d be arrested for being a “bag lady” if I did so.

Now, many years later, I had to remember that this surgery was my choice and that I just had to live through everything that went along with it so I could benefit when I got to the other side of this healing. I remembered how it took a different kind of courage when I was building my independent business and watching my savings dwindle.  I needed to increase my new brand as a consultant and had to just “show up” confident and strong when networking potential customers.  Some days that took a lot of strength and having courage to continue on my chosen path, especially when headhunters were tempting me to look at lucrative employment some place else.

Juicy Morsels:  In all these examples,

  • I found ways to remind myself that I am created from a divine pattern of perfect life and wholeness.  I read positive daily meditations, devoured anything by Wayne Dyer, signed up for all the free Oprah/Depak emails and went to spiritual groups that believed as I did even when the evidence was not to be seen.  How can you find things like that to pull into your world and buoy your spirits when you’re down?
  • I constantly reminded myself that I was strong and capable even if no one else seemed to recognized that.  Donating my expertise and finding ways to give back that called for some courage (think acting as if) helped me through some low points. Where can you live your truth even if you might need to pull up some courage to get out there?  Remember:

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. ” – Ambrose Redmoon

 

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Make It a Game!

DSCF0690At the beginning of the new year articles abound with slogans such as Just do it! and Out with the old; in with the new! 

REALLY?!?

Slogans like these assume I do not bring past years’ knowledge and talent to my new endeavors.  While slogans can be temporarily motivating, real change and success requires more. Coaches prefer to look at the gaps between where we are and where we want to be in reaching goals. Then we can use all our self awareness and positive past behavior (the old) to develop strategies to assist us in achieving our goals (the new).

Tony Schwartz, co-author of The Power of Full Engagement and The Energy Project, brings new words of wisdom to the whole concept of achieving goals.  He believes we focus too much on self-discipline as the path to success. So if you’re like many of us and your New Year’s goals are already shaky, you may want to read the full article on my website (link).

In the meantime, consider the following juicy actions that have worked for me and many of my clients:

  • Announce it!  Think back to the tactics you’ve taken in achieving other goals.  I have noticed that when I want to play big (big-a…. goals), I announce it to people that will typically check in with me from time to time to see how I’m doing with that.  This triggers the embarrassment factor for me if I haven’t made any progress at all.
  • Pair up with an expert!  I have also realized that I achieve my goal faster when I pair up with an expert, professional or not.  When I wanted to get back to playing the piano (and it wasn’t happening despite writing out my S.M.A.R.T. Goal), I hire a piano  teacher even though I was formerly an accomplished pianist.  Knowing I needed to practice before my upcoming lesson helped get piano playing on my priority list.
  • Set-up your ritual!  Like many others, I want to be more physically fit this year, but leaving my cozy home (and cup of something hot) to exercise does not come naturally to me… yet. Notice my language allows that this is a new behavior I’m building and guilt is not a part of it. So I keep my sneakers and work-out clothes in my office with my Y membership card on top of them as a visual reminder I am putting in place. This has worked for me before with practicing regular meditation.

Bottom-line: You know where your obstacles lie, so build a plan that is incremental and builds on your self-knowledge for getting past the boulders. Make it a game rather than a struggle!


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THRESHOLD TIMES

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The last month of the year is always an exciting time for me.  The holidays offer an opportunity to entertain and be with family and friends – so important a ritual.  As a friend shared, there is a radiance about this time no matter which holiday you celebrate.

Another vital thing that comes to me towards the end of the holidays is a chance to just “be” – to rest, read, play and most importantly, reflect and collect my thoughts for the coming New Year.

Just like the sunset picture above I took on a winter day, there are periods in our lives when we find ourselves at a threshold…awaiting something.  That may look like waiting for  a New Year’s celebration, a promotion, or even what some of us call “getting back to normal” after the holidays.  Rather than keeping busy or ignoring this time, I like to lean into it and ponder on what has come before and what I want to bring into this new day that is almost here.

We get one chance at life and NOTHING is more important than living it well – a juicy life lesson I took a while to learn.  Choose wisely. Think wisely. Then, go out and seize the moment that is yours to own!

Here are a few questions to ask yourself if you want to join me and envision the future you want:

  • What excited and stretched me this past year?
  • What choices did I make that I don’t want to repeat?
  • What lessons do I most want to take with me into this new time in my life?
  • How am I wiser, more skilled, more mature and more productive now?
  • What do I want to do to stretch myself, enrich my experience and become more like the person I want to be?

Here’s to your amazing new year!

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Relationships and Feedback

In a previous post, I shared some “Delicious Morsels” designed to elicit feedback at work. Yet how many of us apply those same communication strategies to our committed relationships? Not very many! Instead we bumble along until someone gets in our face and the old “flight or fight” kicks in. Just like at work, many of us bring the no news is good news philosophy into our relationships.

How different might it be if we set apart time to ask the important people in our lives for feedback. My husband and I do this once a quarter, usually over a glass of wine, and we do what we call “a check-in.” Sometimes we do it very formally following a set of questions designed to give important input. Other times we individually create a list around a set topic and then compare them to decide if we want to continue “operating” that same way.

Below are a couple of Delicious Morsels to help ask for feedback. You might be surprised by what you hear.

  • Ask: “What rules are we living our lives by/operating our business by?” I have applied this question to both my team as well as my spouse. In my personal relationship, we each created our own list and then compared them. As two first borns, we both had the rule “you don’t play until your work is done” in a top category. We discussed and decided that we didn’t want to live by that “rule” any more and set out to break our habit. It was kind of like “eating desert first” as we looked for ways we could act differently.
  • Play “Stop, Start and Continue.” Each person lists all the things they appreciate that their teammate or partner is doing well (these are the “Continues”). Then, each person shares something that they would like to see the other person “Stop” doing. Surprises can surface with this information, especially if you think you’re contributing something that is helpful. Together, you can define the “Start” actions that are desired and if required, ask for the support you will need to follow-through.

I regularly implement both of these morsels to ensure a productive workplace and a happy marriage. Try it…you may like it!

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Work or Journey?

“Life isn’t about finding yourself…life is about creating yourself!”  – E.W. Wilcox

The Journey

Most of us have “worked” in some way since we were toddlers helping Mom or Dad set the table. And when we were older we were excited to get an allowance for doing our chores. We remained just as pleased when we got that first real job after high school, college, technical training or some other preparation. After that the bubble burst and we joined the collective mindset that says work is a necessity. The initial excitement was gone!

That shift in perception often led to dreams of marrying rich or winning the lottery, either of which we believe will allow us to stop working and live the life of our dreams. But what if the life of our dreams included “work?” What if “creating ourselves” includes the “work piece” and the journey along the way?!

In my next few posts, I’ll share a few helpful strategies, but here is the most important lesson to take in:

Many people think all they have to do is work hard and respond to job offers, and the perfect job will magically appear. While that occasionally happens, statistically only 36% of applicants get their job that way. “Getting in” is all about contacts, and contacts are all about networking. Now don’t turn up your nose at the thought of endless breakfasts with boring strangers. Networking doesn’t have to be like that!

We’ve all heard of six degrees of separation. It simply means that you can reach anyone through only six other people. I believe we’re down to three or four degrees of separation these days thanks to the Net, but making these connections does require reaching out. Most people don’t realize how big their networks are…family, teachers, friends, parents of friends, friends of friends…well, you get the picture. Start there when looking for your dream job. Don’t wait until you need a support network to get one…build it now!

Delicious Morsels:
1. Get super clear and succinct about your unique contributions. I tell all my coaching clients to come up with three or four things that they want to share with their network.

2. Playing Big is not always comfortable. Channel your courage and show up confident (even when you’re quaking within). Be ready to change directions if needed (more about that in a future post).

So are you ready? How can you be more strategic in your networking? Stay open to all opportunities and remember to have fun along the way!

 

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Looking For Work

Closeup of message stones on white background.

“If you can dream it, it will come… but be ready for it to look a little different that you thought it would!”

When life dealt us a major challenge and I had to leave Grad School (without my degree), I was absolutely clueless about what kind of job I might look for given my background. At this point, it was a combination of teaching, counseling, sales and business (throw in a little experience in health care and piano playing and you’ve got the idea of how diverse my resume looked). Then I remembered that I knew a lot of business people who were in an organization (Tres Dias) that I belonged to at the time. Taking a big gulp, I started asking questions: “How does someone with a background like mine get into a company? What kind of a career path do you think this fits? What companies have positions like that? What do I need to know that I don’t know now? Where might I volunteer or network if I want to do this?”

Looking for a job is challenging and it takes a full frontal attack. Talking with your network and learning about the organizations that might be a fit is only the beginning. Next you have to reach into your network to find contacts who might know someone working within a target organization. Then ask them to introduce you to the person within the company either through email or with a phone call – this is referred to as a “warm introduction.” But the work does not stop there. You will also need to scan the online job listings, apply for some of them and follow up on them as well – all taking usually a minimum of two hours a day. Smart candidates (that’s you!) also need to have a couple of resumes ready that would position you well (with action verbs, please) should you get called for an interview. Find someone you can trust to role play with you so you can practice being interviewed and increase your awareness of how others might perceive you.

My first corporate job came as a result of all the above. Through an ad in a paper I rarely read, I saw a job for a training coordinator (I had been told that the training field might be a good career path for me). I called a woman with whom I had volunteered on a community project almost a year earlier and who worked for that organization to see what she might be able to do to help me get an interview. I knew that I would have a better chance of getting in the door to sell myself if I was presented by an internal person. As they say: the rest was history and I was hired within a week. I knew that if I could just “get in,” I could prove myself and my career would take care of itself.

Delicious Morsels:

1. Be strategic! Develop a plan that will support you in accomplishing all that you will need to do on a regular basis. Think about what might keep you motivated and on target. Get someone – a friend or a coach – to support and challenge you along the way.

2. Join a group or club that does things you enjoy. Some of the best networks are established organically, such as when you watch your kids play sports – many of those parents on the side-lines have fulfilling careers. Building relationships now may help you in the future.

Bottom line – it’s up to you to do the work! Winners keep on going until they succeed!

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Just Show Up: At Work, In Bed, For Life

A very wise person once said, “Showing up is 90% of success!” As I look back (or get more mindful on a daily basis), I realize that my success in life has been due to my belief that “showing up” was not optional. That belief has led to a successful career as a management consultant and executive coach, a knock-your-socks-off teenage marriage that “made it,” wonderful kids, and a better me. Less you think that came smoothly, I want to share pieces of my story, hoping my bumps along the way and the lessons I’ve learned may smooth your path and give you more to consider as you create the life that you deserve.
My name is Pat White, and this is my first post to my blog. Juicy Life Lessons is all about the courage to show up and hold a vision that your life will work out. So here’s a little bit about me and how this blog and its title came to be.
I met my honey when I was fifteen and we got married a few years later. Crazy, right? The freedom from parents was intoxicating and the idea of going to college while my man started his career seemed like having an ice cream soda every day (we liked them). Then two months later, reality set-in – I was pregnant. College quickly dropped by the wayside and in a nano-second, I was a Mom of two worrying about stretching our bi-monthly checks to feed us all. We had cast-off furniture, other necessary household goods donated by parents or found on the street, and I was convinced that my dream of extending the honeymoon period and being a college educated woman was ruined! I was scared to death as I had not benefited from a Mom teaching me household and childcare skills.

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I only look calm and serene – I was really drowning!

Enter the good man I married. Seeing his wife coping, but unhappy, he encouraged me to get out for fun once in a while and to start taking at least one course at night. He knew I was drowning.

Fast forward many years: When I first thought of sharing my wisdom – garnered from years of being a corporate executive – I was sure it had to be a book on leadership. At the same time, that idea scared the socks off me as I was bright enough to know that a new book on leadership came to the market every 15 seconds (or so it appeared since I bought most of them). Most of the authors were brilliant people, who danced with research as easily as I danced with my favorite partner – my husband. I would ponder this decision as I sat on our deck and looked at what we called our “dancing tree.”

Dancing Tree

My Dancing Tree

This huge tree – with its two enormous limbs that stretched out and lifted up like someone throwing themselves into the music without inhibition – seemed to always draw my attention. Mostly, I just gazed on it without taking any action – not typical for someone whose email address contains the word “results.” Then, driving home from a Barnes & Nobles visit and chastising myself for not stepping up to the challenge I had laid on myself, I had a sudden inspiration. I DID have wisdom I wanted to share, but it wasn’t only about leadership – it was about thriving in business, life and yes, even in the bedroom. It had everything to do with showing up and needed to be about the Juicy Life Lessons I had learned through a successful career (both in and out of an organization), while being married and raising a family. So the idea for “the book” was finally born, but the baby had ideas of her own. Instead of a book, she wanted to be interactive, hence this blog.
I hope you’ll join me and will have a sense of anticipation whenever you see this blog. I know you will get some ideas from it that will make you smarter at work, better at relationships and hopefully make you smile as you read it!

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Do you fit in?

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Keeping a job is often dependent on how well you fit in with the culture of the organization. We make the mistake of thinking that “we’ve arrived,” but just as with a new President – your first 100 days are critical. How successful you are is based on whether you are:

1) A good fit with the organization’s culture
2) A good team member
3) Meeting the expectations for the role

I have experience with all three of these issues. When I finally got my first corporate job (through networking and staying on top of advertised positions), I thought I had it made. So you can imagine how surprised I was when one Friday – 90 days later – I was called into a conference room and put on probation. You see, I had joined a very entrepreneurial company that expected me to push the envelope of my role at all times. Instead, I was being a “good girl” and doing just what I was told. That wasn’t enough for them! As soon as I understood the corporate culture, I became a highly successful employee and advanced faster than anyone else in the department.

As an Executive Coach, I run into this issue when I’m called in to “fix” a new hire that isn’t working out. It usually has nothing to do with their expertise, but much more about how they go about doing their job: they thought they would succeed in just the same way they did at their previous company. NOT! The dance a new hire must do when on-boarding with an organization is to discover the company’s hidden expectations.

A great example of this is a client I’ll call Anne. She was the top legal advisor and everyone in her company hung on her “yay or nay” opinion. Then she accepted a position with a new organization that was world-wide with many legal minds involved in day-to-day decisions. She worked hard and did everything she always did before, but her internal clients didn’t like the way she delivered her decisions (and sent that feedback to her boss). What Anne didn’t know was that the Regional Vice Presidents that she had to interact with didn’t like being told “no” by anyone…much less a woman. Once we discovered what the obstacle really was, Anne practiced using a light-hearted way of conveying her legal assessment and had them laughing with her instead of grumbling and shooting the messenger.

Delicious Morsels

1. Ask people you work with, including your boss, “What helps people to be successful here at XYZ Company?”

2. Don’t wait to be told what you could be doing better…no news may NOT be good news. Wise people ask: “What could I be doing better? What should I be doing more of? Less of?

The “work” doesn’t stop when you get the new position or find a new relationship. It’s all about “self-awareness” and that doesn’t come effortlessly. As Marshall Goldsmith likes to say, “Leadership is a contact sport!”

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First Appetizer

In my last post, I shared a bit about me. Today I’d like to share a few ideas that may get you birthing your own unique “baby.”
Delicious Morsels:

1. Spend some time dreaming about what your “baby” might look like. If you can’t visualize it, do some research. For instance, if it’s about your ideal job, investigate what it takes to qualify for a position like that, and if possible, interview someone who has accomplished what you’re setting out to do. Don’t hold back because you’re thinking of all the obstacles you would have to overcome. Focusing on obstacles is the biggest mistake we can make – they can be addressed later once we know the direction we want to go.

2. Write down what you consider to be your greatest accomplishment (and why) for each decade of your life. Be sure to identify how each accomplishment made you feel. One rule: you can’t write about getting married or having kids (sorry…it’s the only rule!). This will build your self-awareness about the strengths you bring to the table.

3. Come up with a metaphor for what you want to accomplish or “be.” If you don’t have one right away, think of how my dancing tree – strong, sturdy, and now losing a few branches – could be inspiration for your idea.

If you think this feels like too much work, just think about how long a baby takes to form. You’ll be living with your results for a long time.

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