Do You Believe in Miracles?

​I can still hear Al Michael's voice asking the question that will live in sports infamy. Michaels counted down and with five seconds remaining asked the viewing audience, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" The unlikely group of US hockey players were about to beat the highly favored Soviet Union team to advance to the gold medal game in the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York. No one gave this ragtag group of unknown college players a chance of winning a medal, let alone gold. I recently watched the movie Miracle starring Kurt Russell again and when I heard Al Michael's call of the final seconds of the game, I had goose-bumps on my arms and tears running down my cheeks.

The "Miracle on Ice" was a spectacular event that will always have a place in sports history. There may be what are considered miracles in sport when a David beats Goliath, but what about real life miracles? I mean like the unexplained remission of cancer or the inexplicable healing of some affliction. Do miracles really happen?

For me the answer is a resounding, "Yes!" If you could have heard the excitement in my dad’s voice talking about his new lease on life at the age of 72, you'd believe too. Just a handful of years prior my father was forced to give up his dental practice after 35+ years. It was discovered in a series of physical exams that a blow to the head in an auto accident several years earlier had left the part of his brain that deals with judgment, impaired.

He was near retirement age when it was discovered but having his great passion taken away and then the resulting bouts with memory lapse left my dad bitter and anger. None of us want to go out in our career on someone else's terms.

In order to really appreciate the gravity of his loss, you have to understand that my dad knew in seventh grade that he wanted to be a dentist. I think the only thing I knew I wanted to do in seventh grade was to be in eighth grade. Not my dad. He just knew. Now it's one thing to know you want to be a dentist. It is quite another to come from a town of about 500 and a father who worked in a blue collar job with no prospects of paying for the 4 years of undergraduate school or the 2 years of dental school and 2 years of intern training required to achieve this goal.

With his goal firmly locked in, my father proceeded to earn a scholarship for undergraduate school. He worked and used his gambling skills to earn his room and board. Most undergraduates take 4 years to finish all the requirements needed for acceptance to dental school. Not my dad. He finished in three. Now this really seemed like a miracle to me.

From undergraduate to dental school and from dental school to practicing in the Air Force, my dad saw his goal to completion. After serving his tour in the service he returned to the central Illinois area of his youth to set up practice. He was not just your average dentist either. He was skilled in the lab fitting dentures and continued his schooling over the years to help those with chronic headaches and pain due to TMJ. He had a passion for his work and a passion for growing in his trade.

In the office he not only eased his patient's in the chair but he had a bedside manner that was unlike any I have ever seen in all my travels to this day. He created an atmosphere where people were not afraid to see go to the dentist. With such antics like dressing in costume for Halloween and dressing as Cupid for Valentine's Day, he created an atmosphere where people stopped by even when they didn't have an appointment. Do you know anyone who goes to the dentist office when they don't have to?

Now you understand why losing something so near and dear to his heart would cause so much anguish. On top of having his career rug pulled from under him, he had to deal with the consequences of some poor financial decisions that left him in need of income. If that wasn't enough, he had to deal with issues of memory loss and confusion from the earlier brain trauma. All tolled, the situation left him nearly suicidal. How could God be so cruel? He felt like God had turned His back on him.

My father went out on a long walk in the woods to make one final plea to God and it hit him like a ton of bricks. At that moment he started on a program reading a book a day and developing brain exercises that would retrain his brain. There was no medical evidence to support his program and no doctor had given him the hope to rejuvenate his brain. He just knew. Just like he knew in seventh grade that he wanted to be a dentist. Over the next few years he could see the improvement. He knew his approach was working.

The final piece (or peace) was getting back what had been taken from him. He never got his license to practice dentistry again, but what he did have was the skill, knowledge and wisdom gained from over 35 years of practicing the discipline he loved. My father worked for a group of dentists doing the lab work and building dentures. He was an artist at the craft and was able to use his God-given gift to ease people's pain and bring smiles to their faces until just before he died.

So now when I hear, "Do you believe in miracles?", I still get goosebumps, but it's for an entirely different reason.

The key to living a fulfilling and meaningful life requires that we work to align our mind, body and spirit with what we love and value most.  This holds true for everyone, but exactly how we create this alignment may be as individual as our grandmother’s secret ingredients for her chocolate chip cookies.  We are all in different places on our journey and have different tastes.  The key is that in order to create the life we want, we must first understand the ingredients we need personally to develop a recipe that suits our taste based on our particular circumstances in the moment.

To help you in your process, I will share the 5 ingredients that I was able to write down from my recent coaching session.  Based on my work inside and outside of the coaching room over the past few months, my coach, Alyssa helped me to create a list of ingredients so that I can better understand the priority of my needs and how I am fulfilling them.


The Ingredients for Living a More Fulfilling and Meaningful Life

Acceptance of what is and especially what is NOW in my life. Without first accepting and being aware of where I am today, it makes little sense to determine a destination.  It is like making travel plans for where I want to go but not knowing the airport from which I will depart.  I can’t determine where I want to go until I first accept (though not judge) where I am.

Honor my pace in life today. For where I am today, I need to slow down and honor the season of life I am in.  It is not summer all the time and quite honestly, I would get bored if it were.  As with the changing seasons, so do the seasons of my life change and it is critical to honor the season I am in right now.  As an example, winter is when things slow down.  During this season we spend more time inside.  It is a season to reconnect with ourselves and reflect over the past year.  It is an essential season that requires us to prepare for the elements and also rest for the upcoming season of growth in our life.

Letting go of judgments especially as they relate to my belief systems connected to God. I grew up Catholic.  Very Catholic.  As I moved through life, I realized that religion didn’t serve me and the guilt of the religion I grew up in created a system of beliefs that affected my life from relationships to money to self-love to education to…, well, you get the point, everything.  I gave up religion for a relationship with God but I realized that even though I removed the religion externally, the limiting beliefs were still inside of me, hard wired in my subconscious affecting my everyday behaviors.  In order to re-wire my subconscious so that my behavior no longer created internal conflict, I first had to understand and let go of these judgments that I have clung to so tightly for so long.  As part of this re-wiring process, I had to address the underlying feelings of guilt and shame that began to overwhelm me.  As part of my religious upbringing, I had learned to hold them in so that I appeared to have it all together.  But, the reality is that we don’t connect with others on a meaningful level until we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.   I was able to find real connection by with some long-time friends and have also developed some new friendships through a weekly men’s team.  This was just the connection I needed, which can often be the case with men who tend to focus more on career and family than on meaningful male friendships.  I have been able to come out of the dark and let go of the shame that held me in chains.  I have realized that men will be vulnerable and will share their powerful stories when they feel safe and supported with other men who are there to love and not judge them.  In sharing I discovered that my struggles were not so unique and once in the light, I was able to address them and let go of the limiting beliefs that were holding me back.

Live the truth of the love that I am, also known as acceptance and love of myself independent of what I do. I realize that being and living true to who I am has nothing to do with what I do.  I do not and actually cannot earn my way to love and acceptance by God or others but more importantly I cannot earn my way to love and acceptance of myself.  I am love, just as God created me.  I may have lost sight of this truth for a time but that does not make it any less true.
A return to playfulness and laughter. Somewhere along the way, I began to see what I thought was “the serious nature of life”.  I allowed my ego to create separation as it grew through comparison, blame and judgment.  As my ego grew, I got wrapped up in the outer trappings of the roles I played and the “stuff” of this world losing sight of the playful and childlike nature that still lives in me.  One way I reconnected with this playful nature was to give myself permission to simply laugh out loud.  So, while sitting alone watching a funny video I let go of inhibition and allowed the feeling of laughter to overtake me.  I realized in that moment that playfulness and laughter are the spices of my life and I needed to add more than a pinch.

Remember, the ingredients determine the dish.  This is true in cooking and in life.  I hope this offers a starting point for developing the ingredients you need for the life you crave.  It can be as important to write them down as it is to know what they are.  The act of putting pen to paper allows you to see them in a new light which just may be the catalyst to jump in and start cooking in your life. 

The Reality of My Perception

I pull a pair of glasses from my pocket and see anger, hatred and bitterness.
A shroud of darkness. Enraged faces and hateful eyes of all I encounter.
Hands slam steering wheels, fists shake with fury, threats through clenched teeth.

I reach for another pair, only to see despair, pain and anguish.
Eyes red and tear filled, grief-torn expressions, heads hung in sorrow.
A beggar’s cardboard sign, bruises from abuse, a dejected soul sitting alone.

The next pair reveals physical beauty. Radiance, a magnificent glow. So lovely.
Skin, soft as silk. Lustrous, flowing hair and sensual curves.
Glorious features, a confident stride, a glance from across the pool.

Yet another pair shows the material world and its money, power and fame.
The condescension, impatient postures, no gratitude.
Deception can bear but little eye contact, except for the best of liars.
Just cold, calculated, self-serving words.

One last, modest pair shows contentment, peace of mind, a certain calm.
Caring looks, gracious smiles and lovely, tender expressions.
A warm embrace, an open door, a hand reaching out to hold.

A world that is comprised of all things good and evil, seemingly in equal measure.
Each pair of glasses shows the world not necessarily as it is but as I perceive it.
I realize now the glasses I wear each day are of my own choosing.


A Trophy...Just For Showing Up?

If you have read my blog posts, you know that I am a half full person. I believe that opportunity is the flipside of adversity. I know that success tends to hang out around big problems. So believe me, I know the importance of developing positive self-esteem. As a parent of two adult children, I believe that instilling them with a healthy sense of self-esteem was my responsibility.

Oh, you noticed, huh? I said it is important to build a "healthy" sense of self-esteem. Now what can I possibly mean by that? Isn't any self-esteem healthy? There was probably a point in my life where I believed that, but I think as I grow in age and hopefully wisdom, I see some pitfalls in how we reward participation today. I believe that this attempt at self-esteem building may be setting our kids up for great blows to self-esteem down the road.

Woody Allen once said, "80% of success is showing up." I agree that participating in life is a big part of gaining fulfillment but that still leaves 20% for how you perform once you get there.

Both of my kids participated in team activities growing up. As parents, my wife and I felt it was up to us to introduce our kids to as many extracurricular physical activities as possible to: 1) let them find those areas in life where they could fuel there passion and 2) give them some physical activity to encourage healthy life habits.

Each child began participating in sport at the age of 5. I thought it might be a bit early to start organized team sports but everyone seemed to be participating and I certainly didn't want my kids left behind. My daughter started in soccer and my son started in soccer and baseball. Given my love of sports, I would help coach both kids as either head coach or as an assitant.

I liked the fact that in the early years every child played regardless of ability. After all, we were there to encourage participation and exercise for all kids. We cheered for every child and we didn't keep score. This was the case for the first few years of sports. At the end of the season the league provided trophies for every child. Really...we give each one a trophy for just showing up? I struggled with this at the time and do to this day.

Now, I have a box of memorabilia from my childhood. Inside are many pictures, my school yearbooks and my awards. I participated competitively in baseball, basketball, football and golf. I won 7 varsity letters in high school, a trophy for being a member of the team that won the league in baseball at the ages of 8, 12 and 13, a plaque for winning the conference golf meet as a senior in high school and a trophy for scoring a hole-in-one. Each one has great significance for an individual or team effort that resulted in finishing on top.

I have plenty of pictures to remind me of all the teams and sports I was a part of growing up. They were great reminders of the fun I had participating in sports. The trophies, however, have always been special because they marked an achievement. They remind me of the hard work and commitment it took individually and as a team to achieve the hardware reserved for the victor.

Sport has always served as a great analogy for life. It teaches us teamwork and leadership. It also teaches us how to win graciously and how to lose with dignity. It teaches us about focus and commitment. Sports gives us a framework for how the world works. By giving trophies for participation, we set the precedence that participation merits an award. Unfortunately, life is not like that. People don't get promoted for showing up each day. Bonuses are not paid because you got the job. Yearend awards are not given to everyone in the company.

It seems to me that it may be worth reconsidering the award for participation approach. Maybe each child could receive a framed photo of the team at the year-end party. In this way, the picture will serve to remind them of their participation. Let's reserve trophies for those few who have more points on their side when the final whistle in the final game is blown. Let's have awards remind us of our results.

Let's show our kids love and respect. That will build self-esteem. As far as, preparing them for what to expect as they grow up, let's encourage them to participate. Let's acknowledge their effort when they give it their all and let's reward their results when they achieve excellence as an individual or as part of a team.

Leaders Wanted. No Experience Necessary.

A few years back, John, a good friend from childhood, apparently tired of “old school” leadership, posted the following on Facebook: "Why is it that in today's corporate America, 'Toughness' is measured by a person's ability to sit and take an ass ripping - justified or not - without a peep, while standing up for yourself is equated with being emotional and immature? We have degenerated into a bunch of yes men, scared to even defend ourselves, and that, my friends, is why we're losing."

Through effective Executive and Business Coaching, much has changed for the good when it comes to developing true leaders over the past decade.  I acknowledge those who are taking the lead and I also realize there is still a long way to go when it comes to building true coaching culture in organizations. As we embark on a new election where we will have a new leader for our country, I have thought of my own role as a leader in my family and in my career. Have I made a difference? Have I been part of the solution or have I just been perpetuating the problem? Have I even leading at all or have I just been managing?

Maybe these are questions we should all be asking and right now more than ever. It seems we are all searching for leaders to get us to a better place. We want heroes that will step up and show us the way out of life’s messes or better yet, how to avoid them altogether. The problem is that, as we search for leaders, leadership opportunities are all around us just begging us to jump into the fray.

As I have thought about leadership, my mind was drawn back about 10 years ago when I had the opportunity to see it in a whole new light. At the time, I worked for The Timberland Company and we had a sales meeting in New Orleans just months after Hurricane Katrina hit. I went a day early to view the hurricane's path of destruction through New Orleans, including the 9th ward which was right where the levy broke. What had was once been the site for miles of neighborhoods that housed 30,000 people was reduced to a seemingly endless stretch of empty lots, piles of rubble or quarantined structures that barely stood, awaiting demolition. So many different human lives were affected; the destruction did not discriminate by race or social class.

Later during the trip, we had the chance to speak to some courageous people who had lived in the 9th ward. All felt tremendous loss and some even buried neighbors and loved ones. Needless to say, they were devastated. For people like Rodney and Alice, a brother and sister in their 50s, the event left them with no plan for where to go. All their lives, this was the only neighborhood they had ever known. Reverend Malcolm Collins showed us the church that he had preached in for the past 20 years. He showed us the water line on the steeple that indicated water has risen over 25 feet above the ground. The stories were heart wrenching and the outlook seemed so bleak at the time.

The truly amazing part of the trip was learning that out of the shadows of adversity stepped everyday heroes. Most of these people had never been leaders but they knew something needed to be done. And there was no time to sit around and wait for someone else to do it. Arleta, who had been an office administrator prior to the hurricane, worked with local authorities to set up a medical clinic in her home with donated equipment and funds. People were being turned away from hospitals that were undermanned and overrun. Arleta did not know how to be a leader but she knew she was not going to sit by and watch. Instead, she stepped up to lead. Mardelle was a young principal of a small school that was shut down due to the flooding. She was told she would have to wait for the government to get involved and it could be a year or more before the school would reopen. Mardelle did not know how soon the government would respond but she knew she wasn’t going to wait a year. Even though her house was gutted and she had to live in six different places in six months, she knew it was time to step up and lead. She had plenty of good excuses to give up, but her priority was the kids at her school. She worked for six months with no pay and no health insurance. She acted as the custodian for three months, putting in 14-18 hour days. She worked with local authorities, politicians and anyone who would listen and help. The school reopened in just three months.

Mardelle knew that it was up to her to bring some normalcy back to the kids’ lives; kids whose worlds had been turned upside down. Like Mardelle, there was a woman named Mel who stepped up to lead at a food bank that helped bring meals to people who were homeless and struggling to get back on their feet. She wasn’t a cook or a leader before this but she worked tirelessly for months as a volunteer, working over 70 hours a week. Her new challenge was to lead a team to deliver over 15,000 tons of food in six months to those in need. And lead she did.

Few of the people I met that day would have considered themselves leaders prior to the disaster. They were ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances, stepping up to meet the challenge with which they were presented; just "regular Joes and Josephines” taking on new roles as leaders. They were thrust into these roles without training or warning. Most said it was an inner voice - God’s calling. The voice was loud and clear that said something needed to be done and they were the ones to do it. They are true heroes!

Look around you today at the hurricane-force dynamics that are devastating the world, the economy, our families, small businesses and everyday-people's lives. If you haven’t seen a homeless person recently, you haven’t driven by a street corner. Maybe it is time for us to stop looking for someone else to step up and search our own souls. We need heroes. We need dads to be heroes to kids instead of having our kids look to athletes and superstars for direction. When I was a kid growing up, my brother was my hero. He still is, in fact. He was real and reachable and just a bed’s length away. We need real and reachable heroes!

In his book, Tribes, Seth Godin speaks of the need for people to step up and lead from where they are. He says that managers can lead from the middle and anyone can lead from anywhere if they just have courage, passion and purpose driving them.

Leadership must be different today than in years gone by. We need people who will stand up and lead by example with encouragement from the front rather than those who lead with whips from the rear. The days of leaders who still ascribe to the carrot and stick approach - giving small carrots and carrying big sticks - have got to end.

It seems there is still too much of the "bully pulpit" that leads organizations. They are managed through intimidation, and if you speak up you get cracked back down and made an example of. We can’t be afraid to speak up if we see an injustice or a lack of accountability. I look forward to the day that leaders take the responsibility to share their vision and convince people to follow by leading through their actions and not simply through their words of intimidation.

Many old-school leaders become indignant and want to blame those under them for not following or being loyal. They use anger and fear to get action. They think by virtue of position, people have to follow. That’s dictatorship, not leadership. People will follow in a work setting but remember peer leadership can destroy the bigger plan if those beneath the leader stand still. If they just go through the motions with no investment in the bigger picture, the leader will get output, but hardly what is required to win in today’s economic times. Apathy and cynicism are cancers that eat away the heart and soul of a company as controlling leaders crack the whip. The vocal few who spread the cancer laterally can keep the cogs in the wheel from moving toward the desired goal even as they collect a paycheck.

To lead and move forward, we must communicate clearly and "walk the walk." Fear-based leadership may gain short-term results but it won’t be sustained. Today’s leaders need to influence their teams.  Through influence and service, leaders will show that the path for the future is the right path. We need to let go of control and learn to empower people. Empowered employees will work to earn greater trust from an empowering leader. And it is empowerment that develops stronger leaders throughout the organization. We must not just stand by and watch or relegate ourselves to being "yes men/women." We need to find people to step up to be the new breed of servant leaders, and true heroes!

So, where should we look to find this new breed of leader and coach? Where are the new leaders who will get us from where we are now to a better place? Don’t look to Hollywood, Washington DC, sports or reality TV. Look in the town where you live, on your block or, better yet, look in the mirror!


How the Speed of Technology is Leading to Confusion

Life is moving quickly.  What used to take decades for transition is now happening in years or months.  According to an article in the Harvard Business Review by Rita Gunther McGrath, product introduction and adoption rates are speeding up dramatically.  The design cycle for automobiles was 60 months in 2008 and today is 24 to 36 months according to one auto industry trade consultant.  It took decades for the telephone to reach 50% of households beginning in 1900.  It only took about 5 years for cell phones to reach the same level of penetration in 1990. 

Technology is moving at an accelerated pace and therefore we feel that we need to speed up in order to keep up.  To make this even more complicated, because of the internet, there has never been more information at our fingertips.  On top of that, “social” noise and sensory stimulation are increasing at significant rates as well.  There is so much positive about having accessible information and accessible technology to help create efficiency in our lives, but with all of the upside, we must recognize one great downside: confusion.

The confusion has crept up on us and tricked us into thinking that we are speeding up, keeping up and evolving; however in many ways we are just moving faster and don’t realize that we are on a treadmill and are not really making progress.

So what is it that we are confusing? 

I have compiled a list below.  Though extensive, this list is not exhaustive and maybe it will trigger additional areas of confusion in your work and personal life.   

Busyness with Productivity

Urgency with Importance

Speed with Progress

Change with Progress

Communication with Connection

Goals with Purpose

Hearing with Listening

Multi-Tasking with Effectiveness

Knowledge with Understanding

Excuses with Reasons

So now that we are aware of what we are confusing, what can we do about it?

Ironically, with all the tools and technology we have to speed up, the antidote to understanding and eliminating the confusion is to slow down.  This may seem counterintuitive, but when we slow things down and become more aware, we are able to gain greater clarity.  With clarity we can clear up the confusion and focus our efforts in more efficient and effective ways. 

Here is what billionaire business icon Warren Buffet does. He books a meeting with himself at the end of every day, where he goes for a walk and thinks about how he has reacted or responded to issues during the day. Buffet reflects on the points in his day where thinking or confusion may have caused him stress.  He then identifies any underlying disempowering belief, behavior or habit that he needs to change to eliminate the stress.

This daily review process with the CEO of our life works best when we find a peaceful place that is free from distractions; allowing us to be very present and our minds to be very still.  Once still, we can tap into our inner intelligence for the solutions that will help eliminate the confusion.  


6 Ways to Develop a Habit of Effective Listening

If we want to learn to listen and not just hear, it requires using more of our faculties.  When we listen it means we both hear and understand.  In order to listen, it requires the use of our ears, but we must also engage our eyes, our mind and our heart.  Empathic listening requires us to engage our being.  This means we need to be completely present and focused on the here and now.  Our minds can wander easily so it will require practice in your conversations to be fully present in mind, body and spirit. 

Once the faculties are prepared to engage, we can move to a new level of communication skill by adopting win/win thinking.  If we can engage others with a desire for a win/win outcome at the outset of every conversation or communication, this will set the stage for both parties to listen and not just hear. 

When we engage in this way, any change in thinking on either side will come through the power of influence and not the power of persuasion.  Influence has its roots in a foundation of redeeming character and values.  Persuasion has its roots in techniques and manipulation.  Influence creates partnerships and long term relationships while persuasion can often leads to buyer’s remorse and tension even if we are able to change another’s point of view.  Influence comes from a place of giving; a service mentality, while persuasion comes from a place of getting; a desperation mentality.

It is critical to establish upfront that our goal is to completely understand where the other person is and where they are coming from emotionally.  Our number one goal of listening is to have understanding for the other’s position, reasoning and point of view.  This creates a foundation of trust and lowers defenses.  Each communication would be more impactful if we started with win/win intention and we share this intention openly. 

6 ways to develop the habit of effective listening

1.  Make direct eye contact as you speak.  Eye contact is critical as it shows you are attentive, but we can also use our eyes to convey understanding and empathy. 
2.  Avoid all distractions.  Turn off the T.V., put down cell phones and close the laptop.  Create an environment where focus is encouraged and both parties have the best opportunity to be completely present. 
3.  Be present and keep your energy focused on what they are saying.  The average person talks at a rate of about 125 – 175 words per minute, while we can listen at a rate of up to 450 words per minute (Carver, Johnson, & Friedman, 1970).  Based on this difference in rates of listening to speaking it is easy for our minds to wander and often we move our thought to what we will say next.  If, instead, we can use the energy we have to think more deeply about what they are saying, we can keep our attention focused and we can avoid our minds tendency to wander.  
4.  Listen empathically by also hearing the emotion and potential hidden meaning behind the words.  Try to understand why the other person feels so passionately about what they are saying.  What are the feelings this topic brings up inside?  If we can set aside our own prejudices about the topic and listen with an open mind putting ourselves in the others shoes while they are talking, we may just learn something.
5.  Watch for non-verbal cues through body language and use your body language to show your interest and engagement.  We shouldn’t force gestures but as we become more present and fully engaged our natural body language will manifest itself. 
6.  Do not interrupt.  Again, because we listen at a faster rate than others speak, we can get ahead of the conversation.  We may start thinking we know where this conversation is going and interrupt which will just make the other person defensive and frustrated.  Ask questions only to clarify.  This way, you are working harder for understanding rather than judgment.

In The 7 Habits of Highly Successfully People, Stephen Covey said that a habit is the intersection of knowledge, skill and attitude.  In order to make a habit of listening effectively, we must have the knowledge of what listening requires, we must develop the skill by practicing what we know and we must have the desire to become a more effective listener.  


4 Steps for Developing Win/Win Resolutions in Any Conflict                       

Have you ever noticed that the things we resist in our life persist in our life?  This is because whatever we fight in life becomes stronger.  If you take a step back and think about it for just a second, it makes perfect sense. How do prize fighters get better? They fight with a sparring partner and with each bout they learn something new that makes them a stronger fighter. The same is true with regard to building your muscles. It is actually the resistance of lifting weights that creates the conditions that allow muscles to grow. How about an example that we can all relate to? Have you ever tried to remember a name or a phone number and the harder you fought to remember, the further away it seemed to get and the more frustrated you became.

So really, we shouldn't be surprised that when we engage in conflict of any kind, whether with our fears, negative thoughts, a spouse, a child, a friend, a co-worker or a boss, we actually make our foe stronger in the battle against us. Those things we resist in our life will grow stronger and more often than not they will just hold firmer to their view. Our thoughts and the energy we give in the fight become the pumice stones that sharpen the blade of our foe be it internal or external. 

When it comes down to it, fighting is a zero-sum game; somebody wins and somebody loses.  The outcome is all that matters in fighting when we come from a place of ego.  The winner is determined by who is strongest, who is in authority or who is most stubborn and not what is right for the relationship or the business.  The only way to really achieve an optimal outcome lies in letting go of our ego and focusing on the greater good. Go back to the example of trying to remember a name. Once we let go and stop fighting to remember, the name usually pops into our mind with ease.

In any conflict where we struggle either within ourselves or with someone else, we need to slow down and think about what we are fighting for.  Are we looking for a new behavior, a new way of communicating, or to persuade our boss to adopt a new approach?  What is it we desire?  Do we want a new outlook, a better understanding of our needs in a relationship or maybe a better way to serve our business and our customers’ needs?  Fighting from a place of ego comes from a place of desperation and fear. 

When we are willing to dig a bit deeper and understand the ramifications of this independent approach to conflict, we are able to question our motives and why we hold so tightly.  The starting point of our questioning is for us to better understand why we are really fighting.  What do we hope to gain or maybe more importantly what are we afraid to lose?  Are we afraid of losing self-respect, love, respect of another, our livelihood, our position in line, or our dignity?  If we are willing to open our mind and understand the reasons for our fear of losing, the solution, the courage, the insight will come to us.  The less we fight, the less we will strengthen the opposition. What will our life look like without the obsessive or destructive behavior? What will our home feel like if we look for solutions that benefit the team; the family.  If we are calm, maybe we will better understand where our spouse is coming from and get to a place of benefit for you both.  

We need to allow our feelings and listen to what is really at the root of the fight. We tend to deny them or suppress feelings or just elevate to frustration or even anger. If instead of digging our heels in for a knockdown/drag out, we think that a fight will never persuade or create unity, it will only create separation and distance. If we can allow humility and open-mindedness to solutions that serve the greater good, then the awareness and desire for understanding will lead to solutions that benefit all involved.   Instead of focusing our attention on fighting back or fighting for the object of our obsession, maybe we can focus on why we feel the need to win so badly.

We may be able to win conflicts with intimidation based on our size or authority over others but in a family or a business, these wins are short lived and one-sided.  If we want to persuade others to a new point of view, that is done through understanding and trust not through force.  If we truly feel we have a better way or an approach that will improve the relationship or business dynamics, then we should not feel defensive but rather open to build trust so that we can convey the benefits.  It is not about giving in but about gaining better understanding of results that benefit all parties. 

We can give our energy to the conflict or we can give our energy to the resolution.  Whether fighting our own destructive thoughts and urges or the beliefs and behaviors of a spouse or co-worker, fighting may produce a winner but if our life, our business or our marriage are team sports, then if one wins, the team loses.  The only success in these situations is found in a win/win resolution.  The only way to get to this outcome is through understanding and working together for solutions that benefit the team not just one individual.

4 steps to developing a win/win resolution in any conflict:

1.  Keep win/win at the forefront of your mind.  Anything less than a win/win solution will cause pain and not benefit you or the personal/business relationship in the long run.
2.  Listen for understanding.  Our first desire is to share our side of the story or sell our idea.  Focus on really hearing what the thoughts and concerns are of the other party first.  This will build trust and lower defenses which can open the door for positive change.  Don’t interrupt unless it is a question to clarify to better understand their issues and concerns.  Really focus on what they are saying and why they are so emotional rather than just focusing on what you have to say.
3.  Speak the Truth in Love.  Share your issues and concerns from a place of love and caring for the improvement of the situation and a win/win resolution.
4.  Engage in a creative problem solving session where all sides of the issue are considered and the focus is on a solution that is better than either side may have originally desired.  This is not about compromise but about creating a solution that is better for both given the sense of teamwork and open-mindedness for win/win.

When we realize that we are part of a team, then we will look through a different set of eyes.  By employing this four step process, we can achieve a richer and fuller life as we move away from the ego driven sense of in-dependency and work toward greater inter-dependency. 


16 Ways to Become More Childlike and Grow as Adults

As toddlers no one really needs to teach us to play, learn and create.  We do it naturally for all of our waking hours unless eating, sleeping or bathing (and that, only when necessary).  We wake up ready to face the day and never dread getting out of bed.  Each day is a blessing and has the potential to be amazing.  We move through the day with our hearts and minds open to whatever is next.  We live with passion whether playing in a sandbox or melting down in the grocery store because we NEED candy.

If you’re like me, something happened to squelch this childlike enthusiasm when the competitive pressures hit.  I felt that I had to perform to get the approval I so desired from my dad, so I got serious about the pursuit of perfection at a very young age.  I got straight A’s throughout school, getting my first B in a class as a sophomore in college.  I traded in the passion for learning for the passion for performing.  This seemed to be the same in all areas whether in academics, relationships, hobbies or sports.  I became very focused and shied away from many new activities due to the fear of potential failure.  This all or nothing approach had my stomach in knots, often pulling my knees into the fetal position to relieve the cramps in my stomach from stress by the age of 14. 

It’s even tougher today than it was 40 years ago.  Now it is parents that begin worrying about what college their child will be able to attend when considering pre-schools and, believe me, the kids feel the pressure.  Many young athletes are told to choose the sport or extracurricular activity to which they will devote themselves.  This can mean that fun hobbies don’t get air to breathe, as kids focus on an area to specialize and excel.  There are fewer multi-sport athletes because to get ahead in this competitive world, it means getting focused.  The pressure to mature and get serious about life happens younger and younger each year it seems.  Unfortunately, in the process the passion to pursue fun, leisure activities can get squelched as the pressure to “grow up” and achieve at an earlier age becomes the most important thing in life.  

This also means we have to grow up faster emotionally too.   Kids are often pushed to keep their emotions in check early on.  Now we all know that lashing out emotionally or having tantrums is not healthy, but unfortunately, the pendulum often swings too far, too fast and we learn to suppress rather than express emotions appropriately into adulthood. 

In my case, the pursuit of perfection took its toll in my youth and it was all over in my mid to late twenties when marriage, career and parenthood took over.  At this point, any fun-loving kidlike remnants were put in a box with my old yearbooks, pictures and sports memorabilia.  I know that when we had my daughter Hannah in 1993, I thought, ok, it’s time to get really serious about life.  I felt that business required this all-consuming approach and that meant letting go of any fun and playful part of me that remained.  It was time to dress, act and interact as a serious adult.  I still had a passion to learn but everything I read was to improve myself in my career.  I gave up playing sports with the boys because that felt like it would take away from my ability to develop as the serious businessman I desired to be.

Career, family and adult responsibilities are very important, but at what cost?  For many of us, when we lose the playfulness, it hides a part of our genuine self that stays inside, yearning to come out and play until we listen to that small voice inside and recognize that this is a part of our true nature. 

So what can we do to rediscover this playful child who got lost in the shuffle?

Here are 16 things we can do to embrace those childlike ways that will bring us back some of the joy that growing up too fast may have stolen.

1.   Play every day.
2.   Giggle when something tickles you (literally or figuratively).
3.   Cry when you hurt or feel sad.
4.  ,Ask a lot of questions without worrying if they are dumb.
5.   Discover new things.
6.   Allow yourself to feel amazed.
7.   Explore and look at everything like you have never seen it before.
8.   Take a nap or at least lay down and close your eyes for 20 minutes.
9.   Forgive and forget quickly.

10. Spend as much time as possible around to those who make you feel loved.
11. Use your words when you want something, especially please and thank you.
12. Be wide eyed and curious.
13. Do what you love to do whenever possible.
14. Know that you are creative.
15. Know that you are wonderful and wonder-filled.
16. On the 4th of July, lay on your back and watch the fireworks in complete awe.

We can learn a great deal from kids about living with passion and a zest for life.  We can be mature and still have a childlike way of living, loving, laughing and learning.  Though we let go of childish behavior, we can hold on to some of our childlike spirit to keep that playful smile in our heart.    

Now go outside and play!

One New Thought Can Change Your Life

performance coaching & leadership development

scott chantos