I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, but I do like to choose a word of the year. When you have your word, it helps you to make choices and let go of stuff that isn’t going to get you more of what you want – or how you want to feel.
To figure out your word for the year, just sit quietly, close your eyes, and let your mind drift. Let positive words float through your mind. One of them should feel extra good to you. That’s your word. Simple, right?
When I did this during the past week, some of the words that came up for me were courage, trust, adventure, self-care, gratitude, openness, generosity… But when “acceptance” drifted by, I knew from the tingle it was my word for 2020!
So when I don’t like my circumstances, I will remind myself to practice acceptance and notice that I’m still ok. And when good things come my way like interesting projects, compliments and sweet surprises, I will accept those, too, reminding myself that I am deserving of goodness.
And when I have choices to make this year, I will make the ones that move me towards acceptance. Because that’s where the peace and relaxation is – and all the other good feels. Bonus: acceptance is a judgment free zone!
Once you have your word, sit with it. What feelings come up for you? How will you get more of that for yourself in your everyday life?
Best wishes for 2020 and finding your word of the year!
One of my small career coaching groups started this month. We began by doing some foundational work, raising each person’s self awareness. Last week, we used the Keirsey temperament assessment (i.e., a more robust and accurate version of Myers Briggs) to show each participant how they fit in the context of the other temperaments. A lot of a-ha moments happened for folks.
The next morning, I had thank you notes from 2 of my 5 participants. Here are a couple of brief excerpts: “Thank you so much for the discussion last night. It really helped me to learn more about my previous work situation… A lot of light-bulbs came on for me and that is extremely reassuring and comforting. Again, thank you!” And “Jen, I am getting so much from the coaching. Thank you for putting together a program that is so holistic. I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner…”
I am so grateful all year long to do the work I do, whether it’s in groups or one-on-one. I know coaching makes an impact on folks – even when I don’t know how or how much! But getting detailed thank you notes from people is really meaningful. When someone takes the time to specify what was helpful, that’s high-quality feedback that is usable and creates lasting good feelings. (For more on the power of a thank you, see: https://jenfrankcoaching.com/2017/05/send-a-card-part-2-the-power-of-a-thank-you/)
This past week I was also working with a team at a local organization that serves children. We talked about the skill of giving positive acknowledgement. Here’s the exercise they did: on a note-card, write a thank you to someone you know personally or professionally. Include what they did AND the strengths/skills/characteristics they used to do it. They had a lot of great examples of colleagues and family members going above and beyond, being helpful, and having a great attitude while doing so. The participants all agreed – and were even eager – to give the person their thank you.
When you thank someone (i.e., give them specific, positive acknowledgment/feedback), it creates good feelings in them. There are additional benefits though. Positive acknowledgement is one of the ways that we teach others to treat us. If someone does something you like and you thank them with specifics, it makes it more likely they will repeat that behavior. And it creates good feelings in the giver, too!
Who deserves a thank you from you during this season of gratitude? Please take time to tell them what they did and how they did it. They’ll thank you for it!
I’ve been thinking a lot about courage and confidence lately – two favorite themes of mine – and coincidentally had two smart, powerful women clients the same day where these topics came up. It’s funny how issues that are on my mind, like the confidence gap between the genders, are often highlighted by the challenges my clients face.
One of the reasons I’ve been thinking about courage (aka girl power) the past couple months is the eloquence of 16-year-old activist’s Greta Thunberg as she has spoken out in defense of the environment. When I was a young girl, I was expected to behave, be quiet, and respect my elders – even when their behavior might not have deserved my respect. Greta’s independence, spunk and sureness in her cause are inspiring. It’s unlikely she always feels confident, but clearly she cares enough to do her important work anyway. (Here’s her speech to world leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAJsdgTPJpU)
My own clients continue to impress and inspire me with their courage as they speak up in their careers. One noted that things changed for her dramatically when she stopped worrying about disappointing her boss and instead said she didn’t wanted to to disappoint herself. When her true priorities became clear (e.g., her daughter and her health), it became easier to say “no” to a culture of over-working.
Another client, who works in international childrens’ rights, has recently become more willing to say what needs to be said – even if it’s to powerful funders and the message isn’t popular. When I asked her what the worst thing was that might happen, her answer was perfect. She said, “I don’t care.” What she does care about is serving children who don’t have a voice.
When we get clearer about what our priorities are and what we truly care about, it becomes easier to be courageous and to stand up to authority. Of course, there’s space here for the men to be courageous, too, perhaps even just in supporting the women around them. Something as simple as saying in a meeting, “Bob, before we move on to your comment, I’d like to hear more about the idea Sally just mentioned” can make a huge difference in an organization’s culture.
Where could you be more courageous? Which of your personal priorities might make that easier? Where can you support those who might have less power than you?
In the last “Watch your language” blog, I talked about “I have to” and “I can’t.” Now let’s take a look at the S word: Should.
“Should” is a red flag when my clients (or I) say it. It really ought to read “I should do ____, BUT I DON’T WANT TO.” If you don’t want to or aren’t going to, simply own it. “I don’t want to do this right now. I will forgo the benefit it would give me in favor of the benefit I receive for not doing the thing.”
For example, I may say “I should do yoga” and then sit and read a book instead. I’ve exchanged the health benefits of yoga for the immediate pleasure and relaxation of reading. On some days, that is actually the better choice and the thing that takes care of me the most. And if I balance the reading days with the yoga days, it all works out. Some days, I may even do both.
What doesn’t work so well is when I make a lot of judgments about why I’m bad or wrong for not doing what “I should.” These are just choices. When I’m ready to make a different choice, I will. Bullying myself or giving myself a guilt trip doesn’t really work with me; it just makes me feel down – and less inspired to do the thing “I should!”
Where are you telling yourself “I should do ____,” but the truth is you don’t want to? Will you want to do it later – or at least be willing to? Do you need to come up with an entirely different action? Is the thing you are choosing to do instead of what you “should” do actually what you need right now?
Remember, you are always at choice, and each choice comes with benefits (and consequences). If you don’t like your current choices, find some new ones. Get honest with yourself about what you really want and what it takes to get it. And to get started…