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Ending Well

With December around the corner, I’m reminded of conversations with coaching clients about ending well.  At the end of a coaching engagement, we look back to where we started and review progress toward the objectives that were identified.  We also recall lessons learned and how to apply those going forward.  Then, we celebrate successes.

As you reflect on this past year, consider whether any of these questions could help you end well:

  • Whom do you need to forgive (including yourself)?
  • What conversation could clear the air and improve a relationship?
  • How can you take the high road?

I invite you to take action on at least one thing that will give you a reason to celebrate a success and end your year on a positive note.

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I Feel Your Pain

Are you the person everyone comes to see when they need to vent?  Do you spend a lot of time comforting colleagues, friends and family members and then find yourself depressed and exhausted?

We are told that empathy is important in understanding how others feel, and yet it can drain us if we take on too many of someone else’s negative emotions.  Practicing compassion along with empathy enables us to relate to others who are suffering without becoming too distressed.  Taking actions such as avoiding blame, encouraging cooperation and giving to charitable causes helps us feel that we can make a difference and gives us strength to resist the temptation to wallow in someone else’s misery.

If you are a naturally empathetic person, I invite you to consider approaching the other person’s pain from your point of view rather than trying to mirror their feelings, and notice the impact on your mental health.

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Real Mom vs. Super Mom

I love it when a client wants to share her insight from a coaching session.  One of my clients recently identified the pitfalls of trying to be a Super Mom and decided to be a Real Mom instead.

She defined a Real Mom this way:

  • Acknowledges she needs help
  • Asks for what she needs
  • Is resourceful
  • Focuses on what is important to her kids
  • Makes them part of the solution
  • Lets go of being needed

It was great to see my client redefine her priorities by getting out of her own way and getting clear about her ultimate goal:  teaching her children how to be whole and healthy.

This works for dads too!

Is There a Monster in Your Head?

What do you do when that voice in your head is saying, “You aren’t good enough”?

If you try to ignore it does it just get louder and more persistent?

Psychologist Carl Jung said, “What you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.”  When my clients need to tame that mean little monster who wants them to fail, we focus first on understanding and accepting where the monster comes from.  Then we identify some possible responses to it.

A very powerful response is a short, positive mantra in the present tense that you can repeat whenever you hear the monster’s voice.  If the monster says, “You’ll look stupid in that meeting with your boss if you don’t have all the answers,” your mantra might be, “I know everything I need to know.”  That enables you to say with confidence, “I don’t know but I will find out.”

What might be different if you respond rather than resist that monster in your head?

The Art of Disagreement

If you have been to a wedding recently, you might have been asked to write a note of advice for the newlyweds.  Mine is always the same – master the art of disagreement.  Agreeing to disagree is an important skill in any relationship, personal or professional.  There are times when we need to listen to the other person’s opinion, respectfully express our own, and recognize when the discussion is not going to change anyone’s mind.

This can be a challenge for those of us who are able to use our powers of persuasion quite effectively most of the time.  It might be worth considering a different approach when:

  • The issues aren’t black or white – exploring the gray area requires seeing the other person’s perspective
  • Emotions are strong – calling a truce when things get heated can help us avoid saying things we will regret later
  • The stakes are high – instead of creating a win/lose situation, honoring both sides can help maintain the relationship

That is the secret to the art of disagreement:  focusing on the relationship instead of winning the argument.  Let’s try that for a change!

Who Defines You?

Have you ever been told, “You shouldn’t care so much what other people think”?  Caring what others think can come from wanting respect or trust, both of which are reasonable unless we let someone else decide whether we deserve them.

In her book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown says that we don’t need to stop caring about what other people think of us, but we don’t have to be defined by them.  What would you need to define yourself as someone who respects your own judgment and trusts your own instincts?

Listen to yourself first – and last.  Seeking other opinions can be valuable in thinking through your options and validating your instincts but you’re the one who has to live with your decisions.  Try keeping track of your success rate for three months and be the one to identify what defines you.