The Practice of Gratitude

The ChiefOur dog, a three-year-old black lab named Chief, really has lived up to his name. He is dignified, kind, and gracious with all people and with other dogs. At meal time, he sits patiently and watches intently while his food is prepared. When we put his food down, he waits to be invited to eat. But then he does the dearest thing: when he is finished eating, he goes over to whoever put his food down and thanks them by nuzzling the hand. It is truly adorable.

Is there anything more attractive than gratitude? I think not. And guess what? It is as good for the person expressing gratitude as it is for the one receiving it. The research is piling up. Barbara Fredrickson’s research on Positivity shows a significant difference in health indicators, creativity, and resilience in people who practice gratitude among other positive emotions.

Robert A. Emmons and Anjali Mishra, leading researchers on the way gratitude affects health and well-being, define gratitude this way: “Gratitude is an acknowledgment that we have received something of value from others. It arises from a posture of openness to others, where we are able to gladly recognize their benevolence.”

Their work shows that there is evidence to support the notion that gratitude facilitates coping with stress and reduces toxic emotions resulting from self and social comparisons and materialism. Further, experiencing gratitude can make positive memories (as opposed to bad ones) easier to access, helps build community, makes achieving goals more likely, and promotes health.

In the US, we are once again celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. It is not accidental that most cultures have a “gratitude” holiday. It is simply good for us to stop and remember what we are grateful for. Many people “say grace” year round before eating, which is a wonderful way to stay mindful about how fortunate we are to have plentiful food and clean water.

Of course, practicing a form of religion usually involves giving thanks, and The Blue Zones research shows that people who live the longest belong to some kind of religious community. The secular among us can easily reap the same benefits. From a health and well-being standpoint there is ample evidence that practicing gratitude in small ways on a daily basis is a good idea.

Some ideas:

  • When stopped at a traffic light or sitting in traffic, instead of looking at your smartphone, make a list in your head of all of the things you are grateful for. It will lower your blood pressure, release beneficial neurotransmitters and reduce adrenaline and cortisol in your bloodstream.
  • Write a thank-you note or email to someone who has done something nice for you. It will make you smile and it will make the person who receives it smile.
  • As you are falling asleep at night, review your day and come up with one lovely thing you are grateful for. It can be as simple as the hummingbirds who love the tree outside your kitchen window or the fact that you have a job.

Make gratitude a habit. It isn’t that hard to do—and the rewards are immediate and vast.

Refire!…Remotivate!

Boring-Exciting

On a recent plane ride across country, I began to read the book Refire! Make the Rest of Your Life The Best of Your Life by Ken Blanchard and Morton Shaevitz. What stood out for me halfway through the book is refiring is about embracing a different perspective about life or a situation.  At times, we all get into ruts; doing the same thing over and over again.  No excitement!  Auto pilot!  Boringggggg….!!!!

The coaching question that came to mind after reading half the book is what is the spark (small or big) to Refire…to remotivate?  It is about doing something differently, which may mean stepping outside of a comfort zone.

Recently, I coached a client taking on a new program that will expand workforce development opportunities across a large matrix organization.  His primary challenge was how to engage and get buy-in for the new program.  He had difficulty developing an effective action plan that key stakeholders supported.  He was following the normal protocol of presenting his ideas in formal group meetings, which were ineffective.  The client was frustrated and realized he needed another approach.  Our coaching sessions lead him to Refire!  He decided to engage one-on-one with key stakeholders through verbal and written communication.  He knew he had to step outside of his comfort zone to get stakeholder buy-in.  As a result of his one-on-one interactions, he gained a different perspective and was able to meet the needs of each stakeholder.  The client embraced the challenge and saw the personal benefit of building relationships with senior leaders.  By stepping out of his comfort zone, the client built new relationships and was successful in implementing a workforce development program.

Coaches enable clients to Refire!!  It is all about embracing a different perspective and taking the courage to step outside of your comfort zone.

Are you ready to Refire?

Who me…? I don’t need a Coach!!

Man ThinkingLet’s be real… Coaching is not for everyone! AND…I challenge anyone who believes he or she will not receive any value by working with a Professional Coach by answering the following questions:

  • Do you feel stagnant in your role?
  • Have you thought about how to get to the next level in your career?
  • Do you know how to increase your effectiveness as a ______________?
  • Do you know your greater potential and purpose?

If you answer yes to any of the above questions, I strongly believe you will benefit from partnering with a Professional Coach. A coach is skilled at creating a safe and confidential environment so you can fully discuss your goals and aspirations. A coach will help you uncover what is needed to make a change and move forward.

How often does someone take time out to work with a “thought-partner” in moving towards accomplishing personal and professional goals?

Since I am keeping it real…You will be doing the work in a coaching relationship. Self reflection is key. Being truthful with yourself (and your coach) about your behaviors and the effectiveness of them will move you toward your goals. You will experience some “aha” moments as well as some unpleasant awareness with your Coach. The ultimate goal is to increase self-awareness and intentionally decide how to move forward.

Below are questions to consider to get the most value from partnering with a coach:

  • Are you ready to self-reflect and look in the mirror?
  • Are you ready to be open and truthful?
  • Are you ready to do the work to accomplish your goals?
  • Are you ready to take the time to uncover the answers for yourself (A coach does not have the answers. A coach helps you uncover the answers.)?
  • Is the timing right for coaching?

The benefits of partnering with a coach can be very impactful and rewarding. Some benefits may be experienced several months after the coaching has ended. As stated on the International Coach Federation website (http://www.coachfederation.org/need/landing.cfm?ItemNumber=747&navItemNumber=565),

Professional coaching brings many wonderful benefits: fresh perspectives on personal challenges, enhanced decision-making skills, greater interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence. And, the list does not end there. Those who undertake coaching also can expect appreciable improvement in productivity, satisfaction with life and work, and the attainment of relevant goals.”

I challenge you to partner with a Coach to move toward reaching your full potential!

 

Veterans Need Coaching Too…!

Memorial Day is a holiday in which we honor our service men and women who have given ultimate sacrifice. This day is also a great time to honor those who continue to serve.  Memorial Day-american-soldier-saluting

As veterans transition from years of armed conflict, many of them are pursuing civilian careers. Coaching is one of the professional services provided to veterans during this transition period. Coaching services include specific focus areas such as financial, educational, family dynamics, career, and health. Professional coaches are assisting service members in their transition by helping them identify and achieve their personal and professional goals. Many coaches volunteer their time to support veterans through group and one-on-one coaching.

I was contacted earlier this year to coach veteran women on transitioning back into the civilian workforce. I am looking forward to donating my time to support women veterans in identifying their career and life goals as well as creating action plans that move them toward accomplishing their goals.

Military service men and women have paved the way for our freedom.

What ways can you support our service men and women?

I salute all veterans and active service members!

Be Big!

I took on the challenge to complete my first Half Marathon. The other day during my training as I struggled to run the next mile, the words that came to mind were “Be Big…BeFemale Runner Big!” I thought what caused me to think of these words? What does it mean to “Be Big?” In other words, what is it going to take for me to accomplish this goal? I was now focused on this question as I continued running. I came up with the following:

  • Envisioning the journey and destination: Running with ease and crossing over the finish line.
  • Being Honest and Clear about my Motivation: Competitiveness (I want to say I ran a “Half Marathon!”), proving to myself I have what it takes to accomplish the goal, knowing it will build my confidence and discipline that will transition into other professional and personal goals.
  • Maintaining Positivity: Being positive about training even on tough days that I fall short of my training goal.
  • Being Confident: Believing in my abilities and strength even if I do not see it right away.
  • Being Discipline: Sticking to the training plan even when I don’t feel like working out; pushing myself.
  • Acknowledging What I Need: Rest-no late nights; diet-specific foods that work for me not against me; the time of day to get the most from my workout.

As a result, I gained clarity and ran the furthest and longest since I began training!! Realizing what it means to “Be Big” are key factors for me to successfully accomplish goals. Of course, it is not always easy! I believe it begins with envisioning and being honest and clear on what will keep me motivated.

What does it mean for you to “Be Big?” What do you need to “Be Big” professionally and personally? What do you envision? What are your motivators?

Get Your Needs Met

What is the benefit in the need to pretend that one has no needs? Huh? The energy spent in pretending we have no needs is astonishing. But, sadly, it can be seen every day at work and at home. Let’s just cut to the core of the matter:

  • All humans have needs (ask Abraham Maslow if you don’t believe me)
  • The idea of being called “needy” is terrifying to most adults
  •  Many of us were raised to be embarrassed by our needs, so therefore we may deny their very existence
  •  Even if we have denied the needs, our unconscious will drive our behavior to get them met…and this wreaks havoc—on us, and those around us
  •  Guess what? Everyone else can see our needs anyway!
  •  It’s “cleaner” to identify each need and get it met appropriately, than to deny it

Since we were little, all of us have had encounters with rude, whiny, and demanding people. Our parents and teachers have pronounced that these folks are SELFISH. The lesson? “I don’t want to ever be talked about like that.” So, we proceed through life, ignoring, denying and dismissing our needs.
The punch line, though, is the needs do not go away. Psychologist Linda Berens notes that when needs are not met, an “individual is drained of energy and suffers dissatisfaction or stress.”  Taking the responsibility to get one’s own needs identified and then satisfied is the opposite of being needy!  It will renew your energy and remove your stress.

Here’s just such an example:
I coached a vice president of sales who had been enjoying great success in attaining her sales goals, but found herself feeling increasingly fussy and uninspired. Her frustrations were spilling out in work meetings and around her kitchen table, too. In questioning her about her activities, I learned that she is a master gardener. However, over the years, she had pruned back her time in the garden because of the demands from work. A-ha! In our coaching work, we were able to identify her unmet needs: to create beauty, order, and to be a master. She realized that returning to the garden would meet those needs in a more satisfactory way than expecting her sales force or children to meet them for her. Within weeks, her team noted that she was less prickly and more developmental in her leadership.
Returning to the garden suitably met a number of her needs…but she deserved to have ALL of her needs met. I asked her to consider where else her need for order could be satisfied. So, she decided to institute a family calendar in the kitchen, and the children chose their own color for the markers which would signify their disparate activities. She also concluded that the need to be a master is more graciously attained in the garden than in her book club.

How about you?
Think about a recent time when you found yourself behaving in a way you really can’t explain or disregard. Now, grab your pencil and start answering the following questions:

  • What was your behavior?
  • What need was not getting met?
  • What did it cost you in the eyes of others?
  • If this need were met, how would you conduct yourself?
  • Who can help you to get this need met?

Back to School – 5 Stress Reducing Tips

I liken this time of year to that of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in the United States.  With kids going back to school and families ending their summer vacations, it’s back to a busier schedule.  Sometimes the by-product of a busier schedule can be added stress to your life.
Stress
I’d like to share five quick and simple techniques I’ve used lately to decrease my own stress.  Maybe some of these techniques can also be useful to you or helpful to your own coaching clients.

1. Learn to say “no” occasionally.  In looking at why I may have some added stress in my life, it may be that I’ve said “yes” too many times that I’ve overextended myself.  Say “yes” to saying “no.”

2. Take a short break.  Take a 20-minute break in the morning and afternoon to walk the dog, read an article in the paper, or get some fresh air. 

3. Add humor to your day.  Read a joke, tell a joke of your own to someone else, or watch a comedy.

4. Smile!  It takes less muscles to smile than not and smiling can help change your mood all on its own.  Try it!

5. Talk to family and friends.  If you need help or simply want to talk about things, turn to those closest to you.

6. Take a vacation.  If you’re thinking about taking one, then you probably need it.  If you can’t afford to take a traditional vacation, then take a “staycation” at home and do the things you enjoy the most.

What are some of your own stress relief tips?  Please share them  in the comments section below.  Thanks!