I’ll post new bits of inspiration here a couple times each month. Expect quotes, links to videos, musings, recipes, and who knows what!

What are you grateful for today?

It’s November and Thanksgiving is around the corner, so it’s time to get your gratitude on!

This week a friend sent me the following challenge: write the 5 things you’re grateful for this morning, 5 fears you have this morning, and the 5 biggest things you’re thinking about today. The cool thing was that what I was grateful for (and made me feel good) had no overlap with my fears; so focusing on gratitude keeps me out of a feapiglet-graitutuderful place. The sad thing was that what I was grateful for had no overlap with what I was thinking about – with one exception: the leftover stew (my grandma’s recipe) that was in my fridge that I was grateful for, and I was thinking about lunch!

Gratitude remains the best practice I know for grounding ourselves in the present and shifting our attitudes. It can be a simple pause to say a silent thank you or a weekly journaling practice or a phone call to someone who deserves to hear how much you appreciate them. Or a quick text to a friend thanking them for inspiring a blog post.

Need even more thoughts on gratitude? Here are my blogs from the last two years:
http://jenfrankcoaching.com/2015/11/grateful/
http://jenfrankcoaching.com/2014/11/gratitude/

What are you most grateful for? How can you remember to keep those thoughts in your mind today?

Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving. I’m grateful for you, today and every day.

p.s. Your comments are most welcome on this post at https://www.facebook.com/jenfrankcoaching

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Getting Outside Your Comfort Zone

I often work with my clients on the importance of cultivating a love of learning, taking a few risks, and getting outside of their comfort zone – keeping their possibilities open and their lives big. Since I like to walk my talk, I recently challenged myself to try something new: hula hooping. It sounded fun and like an appropriate risk since I had a reasonable chance of being embarrassed for an hour by both a lack of coordination and cardio capability. So I looked at the schedule to find the beginners class and put it in my calendar.

The day arrived for the class and I quickly checked the website, but the class was gone! They had moved it to a time I couldn’t attend. No matter, I thought, I would still use the time to challenge myself. So I glanced at the schedule for a yoga studio I haven’t been to before, and set out for a small adventure.

I thought I was attending a gentle yoga class, and things started off nicely enough. It was a different style than I was used to, but seemed all right. And then class just got plain hard. Really hard. I gave it a big effort and adapted the poses I simply couldn’t do or hold. While I actually liked a lot of the class, I can’t tell you how many times I said to myself during it, “And this is the gentle class?!”

Afterwards, while thinking about how sore I would be the next day, I looked at the schedule more closely because I wanted to read the class dcomfort-zoneescription. And I saw that I had read the schedule wrong. I didn’t attend a gentle class, but rather an advanced class that my friend later told me was referred to as “the power hour.” Oops.

So what did this expedition outside of my comfort zone teach me? Well, lots of things! Don’t expect every experiment to go perfectly. Although it was difficult at times, it only lasted 75 minutes and I survived just fine – in fact, I did pretty well and gained some confidence. The class also showed where I have some weaknesses I should work on. (Abdominals, anyone?) I also really liked the studio and plan to return, so my most important lesson is probably to read the schedule more carefully!

What’s something new you could challenge yourself with? Try to pick something that sounds fun or interesting to you. And don’t worry about doing it well – everyone can survive an hour or two of embarrassment. And the truth is, probably no one is looking at you anyway. They are all focused on themselves (and their own aching abs).

Keep pushing on that comfort zone!

p.s. Your comments are most welcome on this post at https://www.facebook.com/jenfrankcoaching

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Are you really helping?

I have the great pleasure of working with many wonderful, caring clients who want to be helpful to the people around them. Often my clients’ friends, family and coworkers come to them and ask for advice. Sometimes my clients are a little too proactive though, stepping in to fix other people’s problems when their assistance hasn’t been requested.

There are downsides to this unsolicited “help.” First, the recipient may get frustrated; maybe they just wanted to vent and be listened to. Second, when we fix the problem, the other person doesn’t gain confidence like they would if they handled the issue themselves. Third, the other person will likely be more committed to a solution that they have come up with themselves, rather than one that you suggest.fb_img_1450493306875-1

So how can you help? Just being there in the moment and listening is probably the best thing you can do if the other person is really upset. Trying to come up with a solution from a negative or low energy place is hard – the person is unlikely to be able to think clearly or creatively.

But if the person does have an issue and needs a sounding board as they think through potential solutions, you can support them in accessing their own resourcefulness by asking some open-ended questions. Here are a few examples. Ideally, what outcome would you like? What has worked for you in the past? What does your intuition say? If you could only focus on one thing, what would it be?

And my favorite question of all? How can I support you?

Now that’s helpful!

p.s. Your comments are most welcome on this post at https://www.facebook.com/jenfrankcoaching

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More Sharing

This summer I spent ten Fridays in Nashville delivering professional development training for fifteen summer interns at the TN Lottery. We covered a wide variety of topics from values to 100% responsibility and networking to presentation skills. It was a terrific group of undergrad and MBA students: bright, engaged, and open.

As the end of our ten meetings approached, I set a little time aside so we could discuss as a group which topics had been most meaningful and what might need to be added or dropped. And we talked about what worked well and what might be improved.

interns 8_16

The 2016 TN Education Lottery Summer Interns – & me!

Their feedback boiled down to three main things: they wanted more exercises, they wanted more of my personal stories, and they wanted me to curse more(!). What they were asking for was more sharing. They wanted to share more with each other, and they wanted me to share more of myself. They’d gotten glimpses of me, but wanted to know me at a deeper personal level.

I like to think I do a pretty good job being authentic, but what wonderful encouragement to be more vulnerable. Being vulnerable can be scary, but it isn’t a weakness; it’s a strength. Our willingness to be vulnerable determines the level to which others can connect with us. People share with us at the level that we share with them.

I’m grateful to have shared my summer with this fantastic group of young adults. Who can you share with today? Where could you be more vulnerable?

Share away!

p.s. Your comments are most welcome on this post at https://www.facebook.com/jenfrankcoaching

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Choosing Kindness

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’ve been contemplating taking a break from the news and from Facebook; the ongoing violence and loss in our country is heartbreaking – and this last week, unbearable. The anger, sadness and divisiveness are overwhelming, and my instinct has largely been to withdraw from the conversation. Here’s what I would like to share…

Several years ago, I had the privilege of seeing the Dalai Lama speak. He said that we must love our enemies because otherwise they may never witness love or know what it looks like. We have to model the behavior we want. We have to give what we want to get – even though we may never get it.

This is one of the essential concepts in coaching: 100% responsibility. It says “I have 0% control over you; I have 100% control over how I choose respond to you.” I am always at choice, and I am always entirely responsible for my behavior. (Although sometimes I may need to take a little time before I respond, so that I have a response I will be proud of.)

FB_IMG_1456677786554I choose to respond to recent events with love and kindness. I empathize with people’s sadness and loss. I try not to judge others if my views differ from theirs; I don’t accept bigotry or hatred in any form, but I understand that people are more than just how they act out their fear. And some days, in order to show love and kindness to myself, I may need to take a break from the news. These are my choices. What are yours?

I send my loving energy and prayers to everyone, especially those who are coming together to participate in a peaceful, thoughtful conversation about how to make the positive changes our country needs to make. I am hopeful that our collective kindness will be greater than our fear.

xoxo

p.s. Your comments are most welcome on this post at https://www.facebook.com/jenfrankcoaching

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Taking Care of Yourself (i.e., Being Selfish)

It’s time to change the negative way we use the word “selfish.” It’s a rare person who is truly selfish all of the time: one who always takes and never gives. Not even one of my clients is selfish, but many of them worry about it.

The truth is that people who are a bit selfish are happier, healthier, and have better careers. And here’s the big surprise: they also have better relationships. That’s because they are taking care of themselves and meeting their own needs instead of relying on others. Being selfish isn’t being mean or bad or neglectful of others; it’s being a mature adult.
selfish
This comes up with my clients all of the time, and I ask them to answer the following questions. “What do you need right now? Can you give it to yourself? If not, who can you ask for help?” For example, maybe I need a break; then it’s time to go for a walk or head to the movies. Parents with small children may have to take the kids along or ask someone to watch them.

What if you need a little appreciation? If you find that you are stewing about other people not acknowledging your efforts, ask if you’ve already acknowledged yourself. Additionally, acknowledging you is a skill the other person may not have. You may have to tell that person what you need. For example, “It means a lot to me when my efforts are recognized. I would really appreciate hearing how you felt about my contribution with regards to Project X.”

Identifying what you need in the moment, meeting your own “selfish” needs, and/or asking for help is a skill set. You build it over time and should expect to do it imperfectly at first. And if someone notices you taking great care of yourself and calls you selfish, be sure to thank them!

What do you need? Where can you be more selfish?

Here’s to choosing you!

p.s. Your comments/likes are most welcome on this post at https://www.facebook.com/jenfrankcoaching

 

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But I don’t have an hour!

Several weeks ago I was conducting a workshop on values (i.e., what’s most important to you) and noted that we shouldn’t expect to fully meet all of our values at our jobs. Some of our values may need to be expressed outside the workplace.

One participant had a value of freedom, but he didn’t feel he was currently honoring that value due to his job and busy schedule. I asked where he might carve out just one hour of free time for himself during the next couple weeks. He said that wasn’t possible. I often hear this from clients, too – especially from working Moms with young children. First, we need to shift the limiting belief of “I don’t have an hour” to an empThe-time-to-relax-564x564owering question of “how can I clear an hour for myself in my calendar?”

Need a little motivation? Envision yourself with some free time. What would you do? Call a friend, get a pedicure, take a walk – or a nap? How would you feel? Hang onto that; it’s those feelings that will help motivate you.

So, how will you create that hour? Is it time to call in reinforcements and ask for help? Can you delegate? Can you give up something else or perhaps do just an adequate job on something? Maybe it’s time to hire a baby-sitter or trade baby-sitting or carpooling duties? (Perfectionist alert: you may have more limiting beliefs to deal with here, too, so you can let go of some things in order to make more space for yourself!)

The truth is, great time managers don’t have more hours in their days. They set priorities, don’t do their best work on unimportant tasks, and discard other tasks completely. This is all about choices, and you get to choose your priorities.

Where could you do less? Who can you ask for help? How will you create an hour for yourself?

Carry on!

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Do you have a personal support system?

In my last blog, I asked if you have a strong professional support system for the challenges you may face in your career. But what about your personal support system for the struggles of everyday life? Who is in your inner circle: friends, family, your significant other?

I encourage my clients who rely solely on their significant other to broaden their circle of support and friendship. This is important for a number of reasons. First, your significant other, especially if they are your spouse, should be allowed to play their appropriate roles of partner, helpmate, lover and friend. Over-relying on them for too much or for other roles can cause imbalance in the relationship.

Second, I especially encourage my younger clients to invest in their same-sex friendships and not abandon those friends when they have a new boyfriend or girlfriend. The truth ifriendships that boyfriends and girlfriends often come and go, but your close friends stay with you throughout your lifetime. Do friendships change over time? Of course! Not every friendship is meant to last, and they also go through seasons. But your closest friends deserve your attention summer, fall, winter and spring.

So you have 1,000 friends on social media? Good for you! That’s a great way to stay in touch with people you don’t see often. But it’s not real support or intimacy. Real-time conversations with people you enjoy, trust, and can rely on is what’s needed when times get tough – and the special people in our lives need to know we’re there for them, too.

Sometimes when we are struggling with something big (or ongoing) we worry about being a burden to our friends and family. Or we’re just plain scared to be vulnerable about something painful to us. However, a good friend will make it seem like you’ve given them a gift when you share your difficulties. But if you are tired of complaining to the same friends or need an objective sounding board, don’t be afraid to reach out to a therapist or coach to get back on track. A professional can be an important part of your personal support network as you sort through feelings or decisions and move past obstacles.

So think about who is in your personal support system. Who do you need to stay in touch with, check in with for no reason, or tell how much you value their friendship? Do you need to add people to your inner circle and cultivate some new friendships? Do you need a professional in your list of contacts, just in case? Give to and invest in your personal network now, and trust it will be there when you need it.

Three cheers for friendship and support!

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Do you have a professional peer support system?

In my work with clients, especially those at the top of organizations, I am often surprised by how little professional peer support people have. They have networks of people they know, but not folks they can confide in – objective folks they can bounce ideas off of and share their challenges with.

mentorI encourage everyone to develop their peer networks, both inside their industry and out. It can be as simple as asking one person or a small group if they’d be interested in having coffee. Tell them your purpose; for example, to discuss professional challenges and career issues while maintaining a positive, solutions-based focus. It’s a bit like dating: keep it casual at first and see who you click with and would like to see again. Then ask those folks if they’d be interested in meeting more regularly.

In addition to not having peer networks, my clients often don’t have mentors either. I can’t overstate the value of having mentors. And yes, you can have more than one, and they don’t have to be in your industry. My mentor, who is now a dear friend, has helped me in countless ways, but the first was to accept me as a peer – even though I was new in the field at the time. Her belief in me was a priceless gift that increased my confidence.

I recently asked a client to formalize a mentor relationship that he has. Doing this alerts the other person that you value their opinion and want to talk regularly – and may contact them with an occasional emergency question! My client reported that when he asked, the man was incredibly honored to be his mentor. Remember, the giver (mentor) gets something out of giving, so let them feel great about it. You are not a burden; being a mentor is a powerful experience, and you are providing that person with the opportunity to share their wisdom as they help support your development and success.

If it feels a little uncomfortable to create your professional network, do it anyway – that discomfort just means you are growing! And it’s a lot better than being uncomfortable all on your own with no one to talk to about the challenges you face.

Who can you ask to be part of your regular peer support network? Who might be a good mentor for you?

Start asking now!

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Are you asking the right questions?

Last month I was presenting Authentic Networking: Working a Room at a branding conference to two different groups. I got a really similar question twice – once during each session. The participants asked, “What do I do if I am at an event, and I don’t have anything in common with anyone in the room?”

I told both folks the same thing: I think you are asking the wrong question. You are going to get a really different answer if you go into a room and ask yourself “How am I different from everyone here?” versus “What do I have in common with the person I am speaking with?” or “What interesting thing could I learn about this person in the next few minutes?”

Herglass half fulle’s another example: “What’s wrong right now?” versus “What’s right right now?” Again, you’re going to get a very different answer based on the question you ask.

This is what the concept of Appreciative Inquiry is all about. It says wherever I put my attention grows. So be intentional about keeping your attention on the positive. This isn’t about seeing the glass as full if it isn’t, but look at the half-full version and focus on the potential in the situation – rather than focusing on the negative (i.e., half-empty).

Have you been asking the right questions? Are they focused on the positive? What’s a new question you could ask?

Ask away!

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