Let me tell you a little story. I have this friend Wendy. She's my sister-by-choice and one of our favorite things to do is to grab the golf clubs and walk 18 holes, chit-chatting before, after, and -- occasionally -- during shots. We've solved the global financial crisis, cured cancer and floated solutions to difficult international diplomatic challenges on our rambles down the fairways. I know her daddy, she knows mine, and we mourned the recent loss of her mother. Off the course, we have keys to each others houses.
And my kids call her "Aunt Wendy".
So one day Wendy and I were playing some golf late on an afternoon. As usual, we were walking the course, carrying our clubs over our shoulders. It's a good workout and allows us to play at a steady pace.
Now, one of the things a golfer must do is pay attention to the group ahead of her as well as anyone behind her. Courtesy requires that each group play with pace, so the entire course doesn't slow to a crawl.
On this particular day, the group ahead of us got slower and slower until Wendy and I were waiting in the fairway quite a bit. Soon, we noticed an older couple in a cart behind us playing fairly fast, and coming up quick.
The woman would hit every shot, and the man driving the cart would just get out to putt. Interesting play pattern, but the thing was, they were right on us, and would soon be waiting, too, further gumming up the course.
We we about to tee off on the 18th hole. I turned to Wendy: "I'm going to ask if they want to join us to play in." Wendy agreed, so I turned to call to the cart couple. The woman looked at me from about 25 feet and my heart stopped.
It was the first woman named to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was Sandra Day O'Connor. My voice squeaked when I turned to whisper to Wendy, "It's Justice O'Connor!" Wendy gave me the don't-be-a-wimp look, and I cleared my throat and said, "Would you all like to play up with us?"
She was delighted. Introductions all around. Small talk about the weather, the pace of play, the fiendish 15th hole. Then it was our turn to tee off.
Mr. O'Connor declined to tee off, so it was us gals up on the red tee. I can't recall the order, and it's not important. What's important is this:
Justice O'Connor hit her tee shot and I said, "Nice drive!" And she turned to me, looked directly in my eyes and said, "It was not. It's in the left rough."
And in that moment, she let me know who she is -- grounded, comfortable in her own skin, self-assured. And she let me know that what she expected from me -- truth, honesty, fair play -- was going to be what I would give her. It was pretty clear: Sandra Day O'Connor requires no sucking-up. No ego boosting. No sycophants.
I got the message. Believe me. Felt like a dope. I looked at her directly and said, simply, "Yes, Ma'am." I understood what she wanted from me, and I was going to give it.
I've had the good fortune to have spent plenty of time around famous people throughout my career. And obsequious sucking up does seem to be the lingua franca of celebrity. When Justice O'Connor said, in effect, "Don't play those celebrity games with me," I was relieved and inspired. What a woman.
What I took away from this brief exchange is this: real legends have no need for brainless yes-men or yes-women in their lives. They wouldn't be where they are if they had gathered people around them whose entire life purpose was to suck up to fame.
A few weeks ago I gave a free class for coaches which caused a stir when I suggested that there may be a time in your life when it's appropriate to stop seeking, so you can implement what it is you've found. I said, at some point, you leave the teacher because you are fully taught. That you have the courage to become your own Buddha.
This may be that time for you. If there is someone in your life who you are overly reliant on for your mood, or sense of self-worth -- or if you feel that you are always the one shouting "Good shot" even when the ball lands in the rough...
Maybe it's time to learn a small lesson from my story, and if you're not ready to be your own Buddha, maybe you can be your own Sandra Day O'Connor. And start to call 'em like you see 'em. Authentically. Clearly. Honestly.
I'm an ENTJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator -- my preference is to be an Extraverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judger (that last one means I like to decide, and decide now, thank you very much).
On the Kolbe Conative Strengths Index, I am a natural Fact Finder, followed closely by Quick Start. That means I will do the research but then want to get going (see "Judging" above).
The Clifton Strengths Finder indicates that my top strengths are: Strategic, Ideation, Activator, Communication, Input.
"Bunch of assessments, bunch of results. So what?" Hear this a lot from people. "Yeah, yeah. But just tell me what it is I'm supposed to do with my life."
Look, these assessments do serve to tell me more about you -- but, really... they're designed to tell you more about you.
Because one thing I know for sure: the more you know about yourself and your innate preferences, the more clear you are. When you are clear, you make better decisions. When you make better decisions, you're happier and more successful.
And who doesn't want that?
Some people resist assessments because they don't like being "put in a box" or "labelled". These people probably have very high preference toward Perceiving and I love them for sticking to their type. (That's a Myers-Briggs reference -- Perceivers just want to keep all of their options open. In the trade we call this their P-ness, which is a little Myers-Briggs joke. OK, a stupid Myers-Briggs joke, but there you have it.)
But when I see the lightbulb go off over someone's head when they realize they aren't wrong and they don't need to be fixed -- that, instead, they need to play to their innate preferences and solid strengths -- it's a highlight of my work.
I'm talking about the woman who berated herself for years for having to talk to think, until she realized that's the way she's wired. Or the man who shifted his continual "loser" self-talk as he realized that he just liked to be flexible and keep his options open (got in touch with his P-ness, yuk, yuk). Or the woman who, for the first time, figured out why she was so frustrated working for other people -- she has all the attributes of a CEO and needs to move toward that kind of role.
Accepting your preferences, strengths and talents, and then aligning your actions with what it is you do best, naturally, is the easiest and most efficient way toward success.
And when it comes down to it, knowing yourself -- inside and out -- and living authentically, P-ness and all (I couldn't help myself), will make you not only successful, but happy. And you'll do it the easy way -- by just being yourself.
I've been thinking about story telling as I continue work on my forthcoming book. Stories are such powerful things. People certainly love listening to stories being told and telling stories themselves.
Most of all, folks seem to adore telling stories about themselves, which I find very revealing.
When someone tells me a story that goes something like this: "I can't _____ because _____," or "I'm not _____ because _____," I know they're stuck. They're probably telling a story about themselves that once may have been true but no longer really works. The old story holds them back, yet a new story seems unwritten and, perhaps, unwritable.
Hey, want to look at your personal narrative and figure out if the story you're telling about yourself is actually moving you toward something, or holding you back?
I sure do. Ready?
So what is the story you tell about yourself? [reader does a spewing spit take] "I don't tell a story, I just live my life," the reader says with indignation.
Take out a piece of paper and make two columns. Title the first column: Now Words. In that column write words to describe your life as it is right now.
Write as many describing words as you'd like. Then, title the second column, "Future Words" and start writing words that describe the life you want to have. You may carry Now Words into the Future Words column. For instance:
Now, here's where you change your personal narrative. Start consciously using your Future Words in your day-to-day life, and start taking actions that bring those words to life. So, if "creative" is a part of your future, what can you do today to create? Be very specific: "I can write 10 pages. I can solve a problem. I can work in my garden. I can throw a pot. I can paint." Name your creative thing, then go ahead and do it.
We can all make lists, friends. But not all of us are adept at putting our energy in the game and actually doing. All it takes to re-write your personal narrative is awareness of what you want, backed up by purposeful action.
When you pair that up, you'll find -- pretty soon -- that you're telling a new, happier story. I promise you, it will be one you'll enjoy telling so much more than the old version. Oh, and you'll be living a happier, more successful life.
That's my story, and I'm... well, you know the rest.
You want to know how to serve your priorities and your values.
You want to know how to do stuff differently.
I know you want this, because you've told me. You say, "Why do I keep facing the same stuff all the time? Why can't I do things differently?"
Well, how about this: When normal's not working for you, just make a new normal.
Meredith is unhappy in her work. She has a boss who says one thing and does another, and the ground is always shifting beneath her feet. Her normal is stressful, unpleasant, unhappy and needs to change. She knows this.
However, there's this issue of the economy, and her deep-seated belief that she should be able to turn the situation around, and that she shouldn't walk away from a challenge, and that maybe she's doing something really, really wrong and there's no job that would be any different.
Her normal sucks.
But the way she's looking at the prospect of a new normal equally sucks.
Unless she can change just one thing. One tiny little thing. Toward a new way of being. Toward a new perspective. Toward a new normal.
Like, maybe, starting with a difficult conversation with her mercurial boss. Maybe, just maybe, calling him out on his inconsistencies. In a productive and collegial way, of course. By doing this one little thing, she'll shift her quiet, don't rock the boat, please-please-like-me normal into something a little stronger, a little prouder, a little better.
A new, happier, normal.
One area many clients have difficulty with is having difficult conversations. Does just reading that make your teeth grind? OK, difficult conversations are... difficult. Speaking up can be hard. Saying something that might, possibly hurt someone's feelings is so scary that many of us avoid saying anything.
And we internalize those icky emotions and end up all sick and unhappy and psychically smoooshed.
But when we create a new normal -- a normal where we say what's hard when it's just a little bit hard, rather than waiting until until it's big time hard -- we break the old patterns and create a new way of handling "hard".
Habits are tough to break, mostly because they feel so known and, therefore, feel rather safe. A new normal can seem impossible to get, because we're so familiar with what we've got.
Got to open your eyes to the possibilities, darlings, and dare to live a new normal. Because the payoff is big. The payoff is a life of your own design, doing things you like doing, with people you enjoy.
Change is possible, and good. Happiness is attainable. Hey, happiness -- it's your new normal.
I am having a great time giving stuff away. Last March you told me you wanted free stuff, so I started offering a free coaching class every month. And it's been so energizing for me! (I 'get' by giving -- pretty cool.) Last Friday, I talked about one of my favorite topics, "Do Less, Get More". Through the magic of modern technology, you can listen to the recording here:
Something interesting came up in the class, and I want to elaborate on it. We've always been told that "to make sound decisions, people must consciously, deliberately, weigh their options", but, surprisingly, that strategy only works with the simplest problems. Tough choices -- you need to go with your gut, and be less conscious. For more on this interesting concept, read this new study from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
It's weird to think that big decisions need the least deliberation, isn't it? But, it's all about where you're putting your time and energy. You may know that I have the 100 Units of Energy Theory -- you have 100 units of energy to spend each day. No more, no less. Can't use yesterday's because they're gone, and you can't borrow from tomorrow's because they belong to tomorrow.
You got 100. How you use them is up to you.
And here's how you do less and get more: if you're agonizing over a complex decision -- using, say 75 units of energy a day on it... for weeks -- then shift into unconscious thought and just make a choice. The research shows that you'll likely make an excellent decision, and you'll free up tons of energy to do other things.
Do (worry) less, get more done.
What about the office? How do you do less when there's so much to do?
This is going to sound counter-intuitive, I admit it. But to be more effective at work, you also need to be less conscious. In fact, what you need to do is care less.
The odd paradox is that when people have a crisis like an illness, or an outside interest like a fundraiser, sports tournament, or college search, their performance at work often improves. It's in these periods that we use our time wisely, meet our objectives and serve our priorities.
We allocate our energy units effectively.
And feel really good about our lives.
So, if you are swamped and feel like there is too much to do and not enough time... focus on your priorities, make good, unconscious decisions, and you will find that you are able to do less, and get much, much more.
I'm a writer and master certified life coach. I help individuals and businesses manage transition, and achieve clarity of purpose. I offer a committed coaching partnership designed to improve efficiency and meaning in both work and personal lives.
I write an advice column for BettyConfidential.com, and published a funny book of essays called Lose Weight, Find Love, De-clutter & Save Money: Essays on Happier Living. Available at Amazon.com and fabulous retailers nationwide.
I've been a successful executive in corporate marketing, lobbying, strategic planning and public relations, and have helped numerous businesses get off the ground. I can help you, too! Let's create the work/life you want.