Blog where are you going compass

Can you envision your world after the pandemic?  It’s almost impossible to do because there are so many unknowns, including how to define when it’s “over”.  It’s hard to know where we go from here.  Listening to Brené Brown’s podcast on Grief and Finding Meaning helped me process my feelings about the losses I’ve experienced and reminded me to refocus on my purpose: I make the world a better place by helping people be the best version of themselves.

FINDING MEANING THROUGH PURPOSE

In Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl explained that having a clear purpose helps us avoid feeling that we have suffered in vain.  I went back to this exercise from my training at Six Seconds, the first and largest organization 100% dedicated to the development of emotional intelligence (EQ):

Step One: Create a Mission Statement

Follow the example answers in red through each step.

First write at least three words to answer each of the following questions:

1. In the world I want to see less  (emptiness    judgement    anger)

2. Instead I want more  (caring    compassion    patience)

3. To make this happen people need to  (be healthy    consider others’ perspectives     understand themselves better)

Go back and circle the one answer to each question that jumps out at you.

Next answer this question:

4. What quality do I want to strengthen in myself so I can help make this happen?   (EQ    empathy   self-awareness)

Finally, create a Mission Statement by putting your answers to those four questions together like this: 

I will #4 to help people #3 so the world is more #2 and less #1.

Example Mission Statement:  I will tap into my EQ to help people be healthy so the world is more caring and there is less emptiness. 

Step Two: Define Your Purpose

Consider why that mission is important to you.  What do you want people to say at your funeral?

Example Purpose:  I make the world a better place by helping people be the best version of themselves.

MOVING FORWARD

To move forward we need to make sense of our experience.  Asking these questions can help:

  • What have I learned that makes me feel grateful?
  • How will I apply what I have learned to fulfill my purpose?

With a clear purpose you can now take action, regain some sense of control and reduce stress.  What is one way you will fulfill your purpose in the next week?

Let it out!

Give yourself permission to feel whatever you’re feeling.  Cry because you can’t see your mom in the nursing home.  Admit that things are really scary and you’re afraid of months with no income.  Vent your frustration with being stuck at home.  I’ve done all of those things in just the past few hours.  Sometimes we just need to wallow in our feelings for a little while without being told not to worry and everything will be fine.

Breathe

Sometimes we also need help moving beyond our misery.  Taking a deep breath and reassuring myself that it is perfectly normal to feel this way is a start.  I know my brain is wired to avoid uncertainty and keep me safe.  That statement comes from the rational part of my brain and calms me down.

Choose a Response

Now I’m equipped to choose how to respond to the uncertainty.  Instead of checking the news every 15 minutes and revisiting my worst case scenario plan, I can find ways to be grateful and stay connected.  Reaching out by email or text helps me feel less alone; phone or zoom calls and greeting a neighbor from six feet away are even better.

I want to be like the people who are singing from balconies.  Will you join me?

Urgent or Important?

Coaching clients often say, “I feel like I’m just putting out one fire after another and I never have time to step back and think about the big picture.” A Google search for prioritization generates 51 million results so it’s obviously a common struggle.

Sort Urgent and Important

In the number one most influential business book of the twentieth century, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey described a matrix for sorting urgent and important activities. These quadrants are still relevant today:

1. Do – Important & Urgent: This is fire-fighting mode – dealing with a crisis, meeting a deadline, handling an irate client. Spending too much time here leaves us feeling stressed and burned out but we can get addicted to a temporary sense of accomplishment when we cross things off our list. Covey refers to this as “urgency addiction.” When we recognize what feeds the addiction, we can make a choice to focus on Quadrant 2 instead.

2. Plan – Important & Non-Urgent: Covey calls this the magic quadrant because spending more time planning, preventing problems and building relationships helps us feel calm and reduces the time we spend in Quadrant 1. One strategy I recommend is asking yourself, “Does it have to be me and does it have to be now?”

3. Delegate – Urgent & Not Important: When we allow ourselves to be constantly interrupted by texts, hallway conversations and responding to other people’s priorities, we can feel stuck and frustrated. Saying no can help us minimize the time we spend in this quadrant and give us more time for Quadrant 2.

4. Eliminate – Not Urgent & Not Important: These are the distractions that provide an escape when our brains are overloaded. It’s OK to take an occasional break to check social media or do a little online shopping as long as we don’t overdo it. Setting a timer is a good solution for this.

Prioritize

Answering these questions can help you determine whether you’re operating from a paradigm of urgency or importance:

  • What one thing could you do on a regular basis that would have significant positive results in your personal life?
  • What one thing in your professional life would bring similar results?

Most likely your answers will be in Quadrant 2 – Important & Non-Urgent. If you know these things would make a significant difference, how will you start prioritizing them now?

Why is it that every time my laptop acts up, the IT expert says, “have you tried rebooting it?” Because it works! It cleans up the junk and gives me fresh start. That sounds like a great way to start off a new year.

What to do With the Junk

Here is some junk that a reboot might clear out of our minds:
• Old grievances – imagine how energizing it would feel to let go and forgive
• Self-doubt – envision what could be possible if you move forward with confidence
• Ruminating thoughts – consider what inspiration could occur if you get off the gerbil wheel

Write it Down

A good way to get things out of your mind is to write them down, preferably on paper. Research tells us that handwriting increases neural activity in the brain, similar to meditation, but use your keyboard if that’s the best option to get you moving forward.

I invite you to take a deep breath and visualize rebooting your mind, then commit to taking action today.

In a recent coaching session a client shared a secret:  “I realized that the reason I haven’t been very productive since my move is that I don’t have anyone I can really talk to,” she said.  “I have work friends and attend networking events, but I don’t feel a deep connection to anyone.”

All the Lonely People

Loneliness is officially a public health crisis.  According to a 2018 survey, 22% of adults in the US and 23% in the UK say they always or often feel lonely, lack companionship, feel left out or isolated.  The number of single-occupant households is growing in Denmark, Germany and Canada.  Britain was the first nation in history to appoint a minister for loneliness.

As technology continues to make it easier to do things without interacting with each other, why should we make the effort?  Humans have survived because our brains are wired for connection.  There are serious physical and emotional consequences to spending too much time in isolation.

Less Judgement, More Listening

What should we do?  As Amy Banks points out in Four Ways to Click: Rewire Your Brain for Stronger, More Rewarding Relationship, “when you’re judging, you’re not listening… if you’re not judging, you can listen more and feel calmer,” which makes interacting with others much easier.  The author of Cracking the Code of Sustained Collaboration in Harvard Business Review recommends teaching people to listen so that judgment can give way to curiosity and people can value others’ perspectives as much as their own.  Brené Brown challenges us to “listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.”

Listening is the secret to the deep connection that creates nourishing relationships.  How can you claim this for yourself or offer it to someone else today?

A very results-oriented CEO, frustrated with what she perceived as a direct report’s lack of commitment, felt she had to choose between empathy and effectiveness.  This CEO has been working hard to embrace the concepts in Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead™ , especially the idea that people are doing the best they can.

What Does That Really Mean?

We went back to the source for clarification: “Assuming positive intent does not mean that we stop helping people set goals or that we stop expecting people to grow and change.  It’s a commitment to stop respecting and evaluating people based solely on what we think they should accomplish, and start respecting them for who they are and holding them accountable for what they’re actually doing.”

Set Boundaries for Ourselves First

If a team member isn’t meeting expectations, it’s the leader’s job to have the tough conversation and hold that person accountable.  It is possible to do that with empathy but here’s the surprise – we have to set appropriate boundaries for ourselves first.  When the CEO acknowledged that her direct report’s best wasn’t good enough, she made the decision to let him go.  Defining that clear boundary for herself meant she didn’t have to choose between empathy and effectiveness.

What boundary do you need to strengthen to be both empathetic and effective?