Perspective

The format of the conversations with clients, friends, and family in the past 22 months changed.

A lot more electronic. A lot less in person. A lot more isolating.

The content of those conversations changed as well.

A lot more struggle. A lot less hope. A lot more isolating.

And something else changed as well.

Perspective.

A lot more emphasis on what is important.

A lot less wasting time on trivial things.

A lot more openness about challenges – internal, relational, and professional.

A lot less pretending that “everything is fine.”

A lot more real.

A lot more open.

A lot more honest.

A lot more wisdom.

One conversation had a nugget of wisdom that I thought I would share. It is profound and open, and inspiring and helped me with perspective. It was during a period of significant struggle.

“No idea what tomorrow has in store. But there is more going well than going badly.”

They laughed when they saw their words on a t-shirt. I had one made for them, and one for me. It was the perspective I needed as well.

Listen closely, there may be some t-shirt worthy wisdom around you as well.

Blue Skies, Clouds, and Flying

A few miles into a guided run on my Nike Run Club app the coach, along with the co-founder of Headspace, started talking about motivation and being enough.

They described us as having enough (motivation, inspiration, or whatever we needed to keep doing this hard thing) but also as being enough. They wanted us to picture that place when we feel motivated, inspired and enough as a blue sky.

That blue sky is always there and beautiful.

But clouds make their way in and cover that sky. Those clouds represent our doubts, fears, feelings of not being enough.

When those feelings come in, they cover the blue sky and become what we focus on.

Those clouds are what stop us from finding the motivation, inspiration, and feeling like we are enough.

But they reminded us that despite the clouds, that blue sky is still there. Sometimes we cannot see it through the clouds, but it still exists.

Even when the clouds break, sometimes we are still so focused on the clouds, we miss the blue sky coming through.

This guided run and approach reminded me of my wife’s grandfather. A grizzly and tough man who flew planes in WWII and went by Gramps but made me call him “Commander.”

I once asked him what he liked the most about flying.

“Every single day is a sunny day with a blue sky if you just fly high enough.”

Gramps (aka Commander)

Will clouds come into our lives?

Yes.

Will those clouds of doubt and fear, and not being enough be our focus?

Maybe we just need to remember to fly high enough to find that blue sky.

P.S. Thanks Commander for the laughs and conversations and for the inspiration to be Captain.

What’s Your Pace?

During a recent dinner with a few friends, the conversation turned towards running. They run. I run. We are all runners. Put a few runners in the same room and talking about running is inevitable.

We started to talk about upcoming runs, past runs, and our favorite routes.

We started to discuss weather and water, getting outside and getting older.

We started, and then the focus shifted.

“What’s your pace?”

Instead of talking about nutrition plans.

“What’s your pace?”

Instead of talking about the mental game of running.

“What’s your pace?”

Instead of talking about why we run and what it means to us.

“What’s your pace?”

Instead of talking about good runs, and bad runs, and the entire running journey.

“What’s your pace?”

It was the narrow and continuous focus that caught my attention. They kept asking, and I kept trying to steer the conversation away. I wanted to know so much more about them and their journey. I wanted to share more about running through my 50’s, trying to remain injury free, and the mental game of running.

Maybe I am the outlier, but I had an advantage that helped me notice what was happening.

Over the past few months, I have been both participating in, and coaching a Mental Fitness program. This program raised my awareness of my own tendency towards an overuse of achievement. This “hyper-achiever” inside me creates a cycle of constant performance and achievement for self-respect and self-validation with a focus on external success.

The conversation’s focus on pace, was triggering this “hyper-achiever” inside me. Combined with my internal narrator (or Judge) who judges myself and others (especially through comparison) wanted to share my pace and talk about my faster runs.

But comparison and competition is not what I want in conversations.

That goes for all conversations, not just the running ones.

What is the alternative?

Recognizing this pattern is the first step. The next step is learning to shift away from these default approaches, and establishing being curious as a practice. This curiosity helps you ask better questions and explore with the other person.

Instead of “What’s your pace?” try a few of these questions:

What are you struggling with?

What have you learned after all these years?

What has been your greatest success?

When do you feel at your best?

How can I help/support you on this journey?

Magic Bonus Question: The AWE question – And what else?

These questions apply to all of our conversations. Being curious and exploring brings us closer instead of creating competition that drives us apart.

For me, pace doesn’t matter, exploring and getting to really know other people brings the real magic.

Interested in improving your Mental Fitness? I have a few spaces remaining for the next group program. Contact me for details.

Who Gives a Sh!t

I’ve been on a bit of a creative hiatus.

The past year has been full of stress, survival, and isolation.

Writing has been the furthest thing from my mind.

Most weeks are filled with solving new problems and trying to achieve goals while feeling like I am treading water to stay afloat.

To help come up for air (and rest my tired limbs apparently), I recently embarked on a mental fitness journey that helps to provide relief from those parts of us that become overextended through fear and anxiety.

The program includes meeting with fellow coaches weekly to discuss our collective journey.

During a call last night with these amazing coaches we were reviewing when achievement is an insatiable burden where we seek validation, competition, and comparison instead of being self-directed and satisfying.

Our conversation drifted to how this overextension impacts our weekends, and our ability to rest or take time for ourselves.

“I cannot believe I slept in until 10 AM on Saturday. I kept thinking about it and how I was not going to be able to get my stuff done.”

“I make a list of all the things I need to get accomplished each weekend, and if I don’t get it all done, I feel bad.”

As we each shared our own version of this “hyper-achievement” we saw the pattern. The ugly self-judgement that comes from pushing hard without taking a break.

It was that very moment that Tammy, one of the coaches provided the Sage-like words of wisdom for all of us. While pondering if it was okay to rest a little or if we had permission to not accomplish every single thing on that list.

“Who Gives a Sh!t”

Wise advice.

Who Gives a Sh!t if all your stuff gets done when you are tired and worn out all the time.

Who Gives a Sh!t: It’s okay to take care of yourself.

Who Gives a Sh!t: Sleep in if your body and mind are tired.

Who Gives a Sh!t: Rest when you need it (let’s hear it for naps!)

Who Gives a Sh!t: Stop making so many lists.

Who Gives a Sh!t: Go do something fun.

What fun thing will you do this week/weekend?

As for my never-ending weekend list – Who Gives a Sh!t: I’m going to get some Gelato.

Tell Them

There are people around us that make our lives better.

The friend who reaches out at the right moment.

The coach who notices something is off and offers an encouraging word.

The partner who makes your favorite meal when you arrive home after a long day.

The running friend who drops you off on the route and carries all your stuff and periodically shows up on the route to offer a “you’ve got this!”

The person who pauses and asks us again, “no really, how are you doing?”

The friend who calls and says “hey I miss you” let’s connect.

The one who reminds you that you are enough, you are special, and you matter.

They are around us.

They make our lives better.

They make a positive impact in our lives.

Sometimes in the midst of our own journey we forget to tell them the impact they have on us.

Sometimes we forget to tell them how important that small gesture was to us.

Sometimes we get so used to their actions that we forget to tell them that they matter.

So as you reflect on those that make such an impact, let’s tell them today.

Pause right now and picture their face and send a text, or make that call, or (even better) write a card or letter and tell them.

Tell them.

Amy the Phlebotomist

6:15 AM and an empty parking lot.

No lines, no waiting. Just a quick blood draw for that annual event.

Smiles behind masks and a friendly greeting.

Sign in and I get to keep the pen.

“Which arm do you prefer? And is there a vein they typically use?”

I offered my left arm and pointed out the visible vein on my inside elbow.

“Oh, that’s the easy one, but I prefer to use another one. It is on the outside and a little harder to find, but there are less nerves there so you will experience less pain afterwards. It’s a little harder for me. But this isn’t about me, it’s about making you have a good experience.”

As the blood flowed into those tubes with little to no pain, I learned a little more about this Phlebotomist. This was not Amy’s first career.

Hospitality, bartending, and customer service built her foundation. She spoke about how these skills shaped her perspective and how she does her Phlebotomist job now. The lessons simply flowed from her conversation.

Customer Service Lessons from Amy the Phlebotomist:

It is not about you.

It may be more effort on your part.

It is about making and/or creating a good experience for your customers.

Thanks Amy.

What a great reminder to close out this year and start the new year fresh. Imagine the difference when we make these small efforts that create a better experience for our customers, our coworkers, our family, our friends, and others around us.

Who’s ready to apply these lessons today?

Here’s to applying Amy the Phlebotomist’s lessons in the year to come!