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.

Emotional Baggage Check

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(Image courtesy of Pixabay.com)

A few of us were talking about how to best prepare for an upcoming event.

You know the type of event: the one with lots of people getting together, both family and friends.

As fun as these events can be, stress and other pressures seem to also arrive whenever lot of people gather in one place.

Half joking, we developed a plan.

“What if we created an emotional baggage check. You know, when people arrive, we could have them check their emotional baggage at the door.”

We all laughed, but then it hit us. What if we really did this? What if this emotional baggage check worked?

How could it work?

  1. When you arrive at the event, you are given a card, and numbered envelope, and a pen.
  2. You write down on the card any difficult or hard emotions that you are carrying into the event.
  3. You place the card in the envelope and exchange it for a corresponding numbered ticket.
  4. You attend the event emotional baggage free.
  5. When the event ends, you have the choice of claiming your emotional baggage, or leaving it behind. (Any envelopes left behind are burned and buried.)
  6. Repeat steps one through three as many times as needed.

We are emotional creatures. Those emotions sometimes disrupt events and relationships, even when we try to keep these emotions to ourselves.

Instead of keeping those emotions bottled up, perhaps the physical act of writing down and checking the emotional baggage is enough to give us a needed break from those challenging or difficult emotions.

And who knows? Once we experience events without those emotional responses, it may feel good enough that we won’t pick them back up.

Conversations and How to Have Them

Together we discussed friendship, which was one of my favorite experiences. But recently I have noticed that friendship (or relationships in general) are built and fueled by conversations.

Over the past few months I have been observing conversations.

But conversations are weird.

Some are like duels.

Some are like speeches.

Some are veiled.

Some are superficial.

Only a few are deep and memorable.

I recently shared some of these conversation observations with a class. Not just any class, but the last class of the year. This particular class has become a yearly tradition and it isn’t lost on me that the final chapter of the year (right before the Holiday Season) is a class on Emotional Intelligence.

Before I shared, I asked.

“What does it take to have a good conversation?”

The answers came.

“Listening. Letting other people speak. Making eye contact. Not being distracted. Not looking at your phone. Asking questions.”

Great answers. Great advice.

It was the last one that really resonated with me. It is what I have been observing.

Asking questions.

You need all of the first things, but it is the last part that may make the real difference.

Asking questions.

Demonstrates that you are interested in others and not just about yourself. (I have a friend who has made extreme strides in this area, and jokes about how they used to be as a reminder. During a conversation they will jump in with “Enough about me, now I want to hear what you think about me.”

Asking questions.

Questions help you to learn about others.

My assignment to this class was to spend the Holiday Season practicing having conversations. This practice starts with asking questions. It may be helpful to try out a few of these questions over your Holiday Season as well.

  1. How are you? (And listen to the reply. Wait for a reply beyond “I’m good” or “Fine” and maybe ask a second time. Really, how are you?
  2. What is going well?
  3. What are you most excited for in 2017?
  4. What are three things that you would most like to accomplish in the next year?
  5. What is the last book you read?
  6. How are you balancing your multiple roles?
  7. Can you tell me a little more about what you do? What most excites you about what you do?

And the list goes on.

Be careful about asking a question, then jumping in with your own answers to each of these questions. Remember my friend’s quote, this is about them, not you.

Asking questions.

Go try it out and let us know how it goes.

P.S. Sometimes conversations drift towards things that are not as important (Politics, Sports, the Weather) and I have a fun trigger phrase with a few friends when we drift off. Whenever one of us dwells too much on the latest game stats or news story, one of us remembers to say, “Are you Sad?” (Because we must be avoiding real conversation out of sadness…) We all chuckle and get back to focusing on things that matter most.

The Attempted Compliment

Sometimes we become hardened towards those around us, even our customers.

Prior interactions, prior conflicts, or prior assumptions cloud our current view.

They complained, they were unhappy, they were…[insert specifics here].

Now we see them and the world through a tainted lens.

I heard a story the other day.

A customer complained. They needed some assistance. They needed something corrected.

A small team was mobilized to respond.

This team was on-site to solve the issue.

The customer approached this team at the end.

The customer began to speak.

The team responded first.

“Are you here to complain again, about something else?”

But, the customer was not there to complain.

The customer was attempting to compliment the response, the team, and the work.

The attempted compliment was shut down before it could happen.

Hardness had set in.

Where have we become hardened?

Where have we missed the attempted compliments?

Take a moment today and think about what you are holding onto, and against others (including your customers), that may be getting in the way of what they deserve.