Friday, January 8, 2016

Stretch Upon A Star

Starfish are stoically hanging from our small, multi-lighted tree as I sit overlooking the ocean on this foggy day before New Years.    These are not an artist’s rendering in delicate glass or playful plastic.  These are the dried bodies of the once real things, preserved, frozen in time.   I wonder what their journey was to arrive in this immutable state?  It reminds me that closing an old year is a perfect time to get out of a passive state and decide on one thing to wish for in the coming year.  One small change can breathe new life into your outlook, which may have grown a bit brittle after the past year.

Do you wish to be healthier, happier, more popular or more prosperous?   A new year is the time to set one, small, serious goal.  Not too many.  The first step is imagining what you aspire to or hope to gain within 3 to 6 months.  Setting a time limit strengthens the success of your goal.  Forming a new habit takes about 66 days.  Keep your goal simple.  Create a mantra for your goal and write it down.   You are beginning to coach yourself!

Pick one goal that might work for you, e.g., “jog for 30 minutes 5 days a week.  Now what?  Use post-it notes for your mantra, (i.e., “5-alive” on the post-its).  Use a calendar to check off each successful day, or a draw a star!   Small symbols that serve as reminders could work for you.  Like a starfish – don’t get stuck in one position like our passive friend.  Another goal idea might be to “drink 8 glasses of water a day until and beyond April Fool’s.”  A mantra for this might be “8-H20.”  Find fun ways to measure yourself and acknowledge your success.  Stick a chart on your fridge to track your progress, or schedule a massage April 1st on your calendar to celebrate your achievement.  No pressure.  No pronouncements.  Imagine your success.  Be agile.  Be alive.  Be a star by stretching, breaking out of your shell and being mobile this year.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Visioning for Your Year

So, today is the first day of a new year, actually.  It feels energizing after exercising.  Now, time to think about new resolutions.   How can I commit to exercise regularly this year?   Within a few weeks, my resolutions are forgotten.  Let me write them down this time.  So, put the Mozart music on to get into a creative mood and lower the shades.   According to Native American culture, darkness is the place for seeking and finding answers, for accepting healings, and for accessing the hidden light of truth.   Perfect for the first day of a new year.  Suddenly, a surprise email arrives from a friend whom I had not heard from in over a year, responding to my holiday card.  Reminding me of the power of networking at the cost of 50 cents and a few minutes.  She expects to be confirmed by the President for a prestigious position in the new Administration and will be moving back to our area.  Where will this year take us?  How can one set new year’s resolutions when one minute might change our destiny, our priorities, our hopes and dreams?

The sun, surrounded by cues, is brightly shining over the beautiful silver grey ocean waves.  Pelicans are having a field day soaring in the light ocean breeze, around and around in the sky.  As I gaze out of my ocean-facing window, I watch the endless waves crashing against the slowly eroding sand and know that I can always count on their consistent rhythm.   I open the door so I can hear the ocean and pelican sounds, feel a cool breeze, but hide from the glare of the sun to continue my musings.  My bird clock announces another hour.  Mozart ever so lightly plays.

What a year this was – I look at the year as I always do everything – focus on the positives and not the negatives.  Make lemonade out of lemons.  Let’s see, my daughter lost just about everything, sold a beautiful home, pulled out of a swirling transition, and moved back to PA with my mother to care for her in her own home.   Although it was a very painful experience, and it was a close crash, they survived and are starting over.  In addition, my son and his wife are expecting, after quite a journey.   I assisted hundreds of people who lost their jobs suddenly, and most have moved on to new ones.  As a new small business owner, I experienced rejection for several large jobs and one full-time teaching job, but recovered to earn my first profitable business year.   Ups and downs, highs and lows, peaks and valleys, whatever you call it, how can one set resolutions in such a scenario for an entire year?

Numerous books and experts will tell you that you need to set goals and if they are in writing, even better.  My philosophy is to write down a vision statement for the year.  Work backwards and then write down 3 to 5 “visions” as a part of your Vision Statement.  For example, I want to be no more than ____ pounds by the end of the year will be my first vision.  Some say that a vision can be more lofty, like, “To be healthy, fit and energetic so that I can enjoy life and have the energy to pursue all of my goals.  I will do this by following a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and  improve the habits that impact my health.”  Whatever works for you.  My second vision is to spend ______% of my time with family and friends and ____% of my time with my business.  My third vision is to make $________profit in my business.  My fourth vision is to write ____ articles in preparation for writing a book.   Not many visions, just a few, maybe one stretch vision and one vision that you know you will achieve easily, such as I hope to earn my Professional level of coaching in International Coach Federation.   Together, they make-up your New Year Vision Statement.

Vision Statements clear the air and make it clear what you wish for by the end of  the year.  A fresh slate, if you will, so, yes, goals or objectives need to be SMART, as they say, specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and timely.  Well, I agree with this premise for new year’s resolutions but if I focus on exercising for 3 times a week for at least 20 minutes, the first few times that I do not make this goal, I slowly acquiesced in my mind and my new years resolutions eroded, as they have every year.  

Focusing on the big picture of a year, my emotionally intelligent mind will know what I have to do and allow the inevitable ups and downs and highs and lows, unforeseen happenings, positives and negatives that are a welcome part of living.   Yes, you can break down each part of your vision statement and so, if I want to weigh so many pounds by year-end, I will have to lose so many pounds each month.  This makes it more real to me, but what I set and write down is a vision. 

The next step in writing those resolution visions down is to talk about them, share with others and make them a reality.  Yes, I would love that piece of chocolate, but to get to my _________ pounds at year’s end, I will pass on the chocolate this time.   This way, you are working with a vision, you are sharing with others that you have a commitment and it becomes easier.   You are telling the universe what your vision is and asking others to help you in your quest.   It just reverses the logic, removes the guilt and shame, and tells others how they can help you.   Simply note your resolutions on your computer calendar – 1,2,3 – on December 31, ____, as I have.  Quoting from Jack Welch,  “Create a vision, articulate it, own it, and let it drive your career (and life) choices.”

The magic of vision statements is your believing in them.  My philosophy is to have a five-year vision statement, so this is also a good time to update or start one.  When you are going through a career or life transition, vision statements become a priority.  Why not have one ready when you are in a relaxed, comfortable state?  Where do you want to be in 5 (or 10) years?  Where will you be living?  At the beach?  What does it look like?  Who are you with?  What are you doing?  Where are you?  What have you achieved or are achieving?  What three words do people think of when they hear your name?  If you have any hesitation, ask yourself, if you won a huge lottery, what are your responses to the same questions?  For a vision statement template, email me at for a template.   May you have a healthy, fun and prosperous new year and may all your visions come true.

I wrote this a few years ago and never published, so happy 2016.  The ocean is still the same….so are the ups and downs, with more ups.  I have a beautiful grandson.  My Mom is passed, but we were able to keep our promise to her - to return and live in her home.  Sometimes it is fun just to breathe and to use your energy to help others reach their vision.

Application of Time to Think book by author Nancy Kline with ICF Core Competency of Coaching Presence:

This applies the ICF (International Coach Federation) core competency, Coaching Presence, to the premises of the Time to Think book.

First, the definition of Coaching Presence: According to ICF, after a Coach ‘Sets the relationship with a client’, the next core competency step is Co-Creating the Relationship. Co-creating involves Coaching Presence or theAbility to be fully conscious and create a spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident.  ICF is explicit in explaining how a coach co-creates:

1      Is present and flexible, dancing in the moment
2      Accesses own intuition and trusts one's inner knowing, "goes with the gut."
3      Is open to not knowing and takes risks. 
4      Sees many ways to work with the client and chooses in the moment what is most effective. 
5      Uses humor effectively to create lightness and energy. 
6      Confidently shifts perspectives and experiments with new possibilities for own action. 
7      Demonstrates confidence in working with strong emotions and can self-manage and not be overpowered or enmeshed by client's emotions.

Second, the premise for the Time to Think book: 
Everything we do depends, for its quality, on the thinking we do first.
Every action we take is only as good as the idea behind it.
Thinking comes first.
To improve action, we have to first improve our thinking.
IQ, age, background, gender experience – have little to do with how we think
Most important factor in whether people can think for themselves is ‘how they are being treated by the people with them’.
When someone in your presence is trying to think, much of what you are hearing and seeing is your effect on them.

The way you give attention to people helps them think better, to think for themselves.
In sum, the quality of a person’s attention determines the quality of other people’s thinking.   Thus, everything we do depends on the thinking we do first.  When we are free to think for ourselves, our dreams are free to unfold.

How can we create a thinking environment for others, namely, our coaching clients? 

1.     Attention – listening with respect, interest and fascination – not multi-tasking, not daydreaming; not interrupting. 
2.     Incisive questions – removing assumptions that limit ideas; frees the mind to think afresh.
3.     Equality – treating each other as thinking peers
4.     Appreciation – everyone has a turn; 5 to 1 ratio of appreciation to criticism
5.     Ease – offering freedom from rush or urgency.  Ease creates, urgency destroys.  Balance agenda with thinking time.  Thinking time – everything else depends on.
6.     Encouragement – Moving beyond competition with each other.
7.     Feelings – Allowing sufficient emotional release to restore thinking.  We all avoid conflict and anger is especially tough for us to deal with….avoid other’s anger making you angry.
8.     Information – providing a full and accurate picture of reality.  After listening, full honesty, especially when requested.  Information should help us think for ourselves.
9.     Place – Creating a physical environment that says back to people, “you matter.”
10.  Diversity – Adding quality because of the differences between us.  Diversity raises the intelligence of groups and enhances thinking.  No group is dominant nor should it hold power over the others, assumptions that could be limiting.

I believe the ICF definition of coaching presence reflects all of the 10 Time to Think components of a thinking environment.  For example, Incisive Questions, according to the author,  (a) Helps create a thinking environment for others  (b) Helps individuals and teams be thinking partners for each other (c) Sets up the right conditions for others to think for themselves and think well together (d) Focuses on What does the client really think? (Versus learning how to fit in).  The ICF definition captures Incisive Questioning, i.e., being present, flexible, using intuition, being open to not knowing and confidently shifting perspectives in the moment to what works best for the client spontaneously.

The author further dissects each of the ICF coaching presence elements in more detail.  For example, a thinking team.  “Organizations can be taught to master all 10 components of a Thinking Environment and to use them together.  Teams are the primary force of organizations and their core is the mind of each team member.  The most powerful vehicle for team thinking is the team meeting and the manager’s ability to turn meetings into Thinking Environments is probably the Organization’s greatest asset.”  Among the nine meeting guidelines the author suggests is:  At the beginning of a meeting, ask everyone to say what is going well in their work or in the group’s work.  Throughout the meeting, besides following the 10 components, divide into Thinking Partnerships when thinking stalls and give each person 5 minutes to think out loud without interruption, as well as other suggestions.  At the end of the meeting, ask everyone what they thought went well in the meeting and what they respect in each other.  This coaching of teams requires confidence and risk in asking these incisive questions but the quality of thinking rises the more you do.

The author proceeds to explain the structure of how a typical meeting would follow above the guidelines.  After time and practice, everyone understands that they will have a turn to speak, that they will be expected to say what is going well in their work and the group’s work, they will be expected to have input into agenda items, they will be able to speak without interruption even during fiery discussions, they will be expected to be truthful and share information and to express feelings, and they will be expected to reflect positively on the meeting and appreciate each other.

In sum, the author makes room for both the extroverts and the introverts in a work environment and tackles such things as change, peer mentoring, prizing the minds of everyone and a special relation to health.  Thinking that you are healthy and believing it deep down, talking about it, being positive about it, imagining it so.  The author shared a very moving story of her own experience with overcoming all odds against ovarian cancer. She is 27 years beyond what doctors predicted what she would live.   In other words, having a Thinking Partnership with ourselves, of creating a Thinking Partnership between mind and body.  Asking ourselves questions such as, What am I assuming that may be hurting my body?  Are you assuming that you are not worth the trouble of taking care of it?   If you knew that you are worth the trouble to care for your body, what would you change about your life right now?  After thinking about this, I decided to enjoy this beautiful day at the beach and with my supportive husband.  A good time to think about my new year’s resolutions and act upon them.  Coaching presence begins with the coach.