Most people have a flawed assumption that their challenges at work and home are so unique that no one else could ever understand. Sure, maybe they’d sympathize but empathize? No way. As a result, they push down their worries, fears, concerns, hopes, dreams, and insights as if it’s their secret burden to bear. Sound familiar?
We never talk to each other about the things that are keeping us up at night and then tell ourselves we’re alone.
In our minds, we convince ourselves that our situations are different, worse, better than everyone else. We isolate ourselves by choice for fear that we’re right and everyone is going to judge us. However, when we finally open up, something remarkable happens, we discover we’re not alone after all.
Just last week a friend shared some of her concerns about her child over lunch. “I can’t believe I’m telling you this especially when it probably isn’t normal,” she said. That’s when the unexpected news came her way… everyone else had been through something similar. We were all nodding because it mirrored our experience too. We discovered at that moment that our children were not flawed beings but simply human beings.
It’s funny how many people fear being vulnerable no matter how times we hear about the power of vulnerability. Why is that? Why do we read the books and watch the TED Talk yet still only show the world that we have our shit together? We’re on the right track. Have the answers. We’re successful, happy and well-adjusted. We got it going on.
It can be terrifying to go first.
Will you share your most vulnerable self only to have everyone blankly stare at you and say, “No. I can’t relate at all.” Unlikely. Still, it takes a moment of bravery to be the one who’s willing to take the risk and share their truth.
Vulnerability takes strength and courage.
When you share your vulnerability with others, it’s courageous. It’s inspiring. It’s what the world needs – people who are unafraid to live a life that’s not bound by constantly projecting the illusion of perfection. Let it be you who leads the way.
Instead of pretending your life is worry-free, will you lead the way with vulnerability? Click To Tweet
Stress and worry are universal.
We live in a world of worriers. No, worry alone can’t change outcomes but it does wear you down. You begin to feel like Atlas bearing the weight of the world. In your sphere of worry, you become so fixated on the weight that you miss opportunities to lighten your load.
Vulnerability creates connection.
Like my friend who shared her truth, she discovered connection and support, and it’s there for you too. No one can empathize or connect with perfection; it only serves to make others go deeper into their own shells, hiding the parts that cause them pain, joy, and fear. Parts of themselves that you know all too well.
Vulnerability isn’t a liability. It’s the way humans create connection. Click To Tweet
You don’t have to get up in front of an auditorium or at the next team meeting and pour your heart out. Grab a coffee with one other person and let your guard down. Say what you’re afraid to say out loud because if you do, then it’s true.
Give your brain a break.
Your brain’s job is to keep you safe, but it doesn’t always make the best choices for you. Your brain may tell you that you really are alone, your issues are extreme, people will scrutinize you and even worse, dismiss you. Not true. You need to make the leap despite the fear response.
If you don’t want to say it, write it.
Looking eye to eye with someone can be enough to make you want to stay quiet, keep your less than perfect bits and doubts to yourself. However, there are people out there longing to hear what you have to share. Write it in a note, a blog, email, by hand, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes the words you need to say flow better from your head to your fingers than to your lips.
We all spend so much time thinking about our own lives and circumstances that we miss the opportunity to connect with people who are going through the same. We need to support each other, not isolate ourselves.
What about you? How has vulnerability changed your life? … or are you still hiding?
Everyone does it. Something happens, it feels like a slight, and you dig into it. Picking at it all day like a scab that’s about to bleed and you know you shouldn’t touch, but you do anyway.
Just the other day, I made an offer to someone who looked like they needed a favor. They declined. I told myself that they hate me. Leap much?
Come on. Think back on your week. How many times did you fill in the gaps with a story that pushed you into the corner? The virtuous person who was snubbed.
What happened: Benji didn’t return my email about finding a time to talk.
The leap: Benji hates me. I should have known. I’m a dumbass. Should have seen it sooner.
What if?: Benji’s on a plane? In the hospital? Was waiting until he was in front of his calendar to respond?
What happened: My client put our work on hold.
The leap: They hate me. I’m doing a terrible job. I probably should never have taken them on in the first place.
What if?: Their circumstances changed? They weren’t ready for the work?
What happened: I got lousy fruit when my groceries were delivered this week.
My leap: I’ll bet they’re told to pick up the bad stuff for the deliveries, so the better fruit is left in store. It’s a terrible way to manage stock – stick online orders with the bad stuff.
What if?: The person who picked my order was zoned out, or just didn’t care, and there was no conspiracy?
What happened: The kids down the street walked past my car as I was waiting in line to pick up my children. I waved; they gave me the cold shoulder.
My leap: They hate me too! It’s not just Benji or my client! On top of it, it’s so rude… they’re so rude…
What if?: They didn’t see me? They’re shy? Simply didn’t want to pressure me to offer them a ride if they caught my eye?
The worst part is, I think about Benji for days, kick myself over the lost client, grimace every time I walk past the crappy fruit in my fruit basket and stop waving at the neighborhood kids since they hate me so freakin’ much.
Ok. Here’s the test part. Good news, it’s multiple choice.
When you start going to that dark place, sure that the world scheming against you, what else can you do?
a) Drink heavily
b) Get back in bed and cry
c) Break the Frame
Feel like a trick question? In truth, it’s the only choice worth making.
When I was in high school, my boyfriend introduced me to one of my all-time favorite words: solipsism. One definition for solipsism is that the only thing you know that exists for sure is your own mind.
Freud wrote: “Without any special reflection we attribute to everyone else our own constitution and therefore our consciousness as well, and that this identification is a sine qua non of understanding.”
It’s a very self-centered way to live. As if the way you see the world is the only way the world, and the people in it, operate. It’s also very human.
In the leadership program I run for primary school students, I not only teach them leadership tools but also share concepts to live their best life.
It may seem silly, but many of the ideas that resonate with these young people also resonate with seasoned leaders who are struggling to fit living in with their overflowing bucket of work and stress that leaves room for little else.
These affirmations are not hard to remember, nor are they hard to understand, but they are definitely powerful.
Four Affirmations to Live Your Best Life Be the Remote (not the TV)
The average American household has access to nearly 200 TV channels. When you sit down in front of the TV and turn it on, you’re not at the mercy of whatever’s on the screen, right? If your child was watching SpongeBob earlier and then left the room, what do you do? You pick up the remote and change the channel.
If you’re the TV, you’re at the mercy of whatever’s on the screen. In your life that could mean staying in a soul-sucking job, sticking with a partner who treats you poorly, or keeping your dreams on the back burner until you magically have time for them.
When you’re the remote, you’re in control. In life that means you get to take action to change your story. You can start a job search, a side hustle, hang out with new people or whatever you want.
Be the remote.
Take off the Lid
Bullies and others try to shove you and squeeze you into boxes, and you willingly jump into many more on your own – especially the “victim” box. The worst is when you get stuck in there and start to believe the hurtful words that you hear from yourself and others.
You get criticized, so you hop into the “I suck” box.
Passed over for promotion and it’s the “I’m a loser” box.
Your teen screams at you about how you’re the worst, so you get into the “worst” box.
On and on.
It’s time to take off the lid and step out.
You decide who you are. You don’t suck, are not a loser and are not the worst.
Taking the lid off is more than thinking out of the box – it’s standing up for yourself and standing strong in your personal leadership.
It’s a concept that too many miss. We’re taught that other people should respect us or make us happy, but that’s not all there is to it. We expect other people to do for us, but we forget our end of the bargain.
A mirror reflects, and if you want a happy, connected, robust life, you need to be a mirror.
The more you show respect, the more you get it.
The more you’re angry or yell, the more you’ll get that back too.
The more you’re joyful, the people around you will be too.
Be mindful of what you’re putting out in the world and make sure it’s what you want to experience in return.
Never forget, you are the mirror.
The Force is Within Me
I can remember seeing Star Wars when it came out in the theaters in 1977. Of course, we all know the quote, “Luke, use the Force.”
Instead of simply using the force, what Obi-Wan taught Luke was “The Force is within you.” Imagine that your lightsaber is there for you 24/7 but here’s the catch, only you know it’s there. You don’t use it to take out the bad guys but to create the life you want.
John came to talk with me because he was frustrated and wanted to quit his job. He’s smart, driven, creative, and as far as he’s concerned, doing crap work. It felt more like he was tasked with burning a budget instead of making a difference.
John: “I’m creating spreadsheets all day.”
Alli: “Not my favorite either. What are they for?”
John: “I know what I’m analyzing, but I have no idea how they’re used. I’ll bet nobody even looks at them.”
Alli: “Let’s hope that’s not the case…”
John was stuck in his perspective that the work he was doing didn’t matter. The deeper we got into it, it became clear that he thought everyone else was making a difference but him. He was bored; bordering on angry.
This weekend, my daughter reminded me of John.
We bought a new lounge chair and when we opened the box, discovered we had to put it together. My daughter decided that she wanted to help us by putting it together on her own. She dragged it out of the box, spread out all the parts and realized that it wasn’t a solo endeavor.
Fast forward thirty minutes and my husband joined the chair-making party. He read the directions, rummaged through all the parts and finally asked her to hold the back of the chair steady while he tried to attach it to the base.
She was frustrated, bored, and willing to do more. Unfortunately for her, she was stuck holding the back. However, without her, putting it all together would have been impossible. On the surface, it looked like meaningless work, but she was making a difference – a big one.
I chimed in and helped her to understand why her job mattered and how much we appreciated her help. It helped shift her perspective, and it changed her attitude; in addition to the overall experience for everyone involved.
Back to John. Nobody proactively told him how his spreadsheet made a difference and where it fits into the bigger picture. Also, just as important, nobody took the time to recognize his effort and appreciate it. He felt like his work didn’t matter because nobody told him that it did.
Everyone wants to feel like their effort isn’t wasted and they’re making a difference. Click To Tweet
Wondering if You’re Making a Difference?
1) Schedule a 1×1.
Set up a time to talk about how the work is progressing but also your contribution. Share your concerns and ask about how your effort is influencing the success of the team or program.
Be brave and ask how you can expand the work that you’re doing even as a special project.
Ensure that you’re clear on the vision and overall path. When you know where you’re headed, it’s easier to understand where you fit and where you’re making a difference or just keeping busy. (PS. Most companies don’t want to simply keep employees busy.)
4) Shift your perspective.
Like John, if you’re in the mindset that nothing you do matters you’re probably angry and frustrated too. What if you had the mindset that you’re playing an important part in the overall program? How would that change your day-to-day happiness and energy at work?
It’s impossible to change the way you see your contribution and how you’re making a difference without shifting your perspective. Think of your perspective as your “way of seeing.” It’s like when you go to the eye doctor and you think your current eyeglass prescription is fine until you realize that everything’s been a little blurry. A new prescription not only makes things sharper but also brings what was previously invisible into focus.
Feeling stuck, frustrated and angry? Start to get unstuck by changing your perspective. Click To Tweet
The bottom line is that while you may not be doing the “sexy” work, you may be making a bigger difference than you think. When you can only see one piece of the puzzle, it’s impossible to see how it all fits together. However, without all of the pieces, it will never be finished successfully. Take the time to understand your piece of the puzzle and the big picture too.
BREAK THE FRAME ACTION:
Want to shift your perspective? I use several techniques with my clients to help them shift their perspectives. Here’s a quick and dirty version of one of them that will work for you.
Try this easy activity:
1) Write down your current perspective on your issue – Name it. (John’s original perspective was: “Crap work.”)
2) Take 60 seconds and jot down what it’s like to show up day after day with the perspective you’re currently holding. (John’s words were angry, uninspired, bored…)
3) Pick another perspective – an opposite perspective to your first. (John’s was “The Hub” i.e. the center of a wheel)
4) Take 60 seconds to fully step into your new (opposite) perspective and jot down what it would be like to show up day after day if it were your reality.
5) Pick a third perspective and name it.
6) Step into this perspective and jot down what it would be like to show up in this perspective.
7) Pick one and make the conscious choice to hold this as your fresh “way of seeing” and way of being. (hint: probably not the first one that’s keeping you stuck and dragging you down).
What have you done when you’ve felt like you weren’t making a difference to change your thoughts and circumstances?
The competition was high, and I wasn’t feeling lucky. A rousing game of Exploding Kittens was nearing its conclusion, and then it happened. My husband got a steal, reached into my hand, and put his fingers on the card that I needed to stay in the game. What happened next shocked everyone at the table.
I pulled my cards back and said, “No. Please. I had the worst day. I need a win.”
He laughed and reached again, going for the same card. (In all fairness, he thought I cheated and moved the card while my hand was under the table. I didn’t.)
I said it a little louder and quite frankly, crazier, “I need a win. No way. Pick. Another. Card.”
The third time he went for another card, which was a good one by the way, and we moved on from my moment of poor sportsmanship and temporary insanity.
The fact that he left the card in my hand wasn’t the clincher, but I did happen to win the overall game. I’ll say it was my stellar strategy, but it was likely luck.
What I do know is that in that moment, I needed that card no matter how irrational it seemed. Sometimes you just need a small win even if it’s not the big win of winning the entire game. Just a moment where you can breathe and remind yourself, “Things will be okay after all.”
Yes, I had a lousy, stressful, don’t ever want to repeat it kind of day and somehow holding on to that one tiny thing (my card) was a sign that I was back on track. Have you been there too? Maybe not with Exploding Kittens, but wanting that one little thing to go your way as a sign from the universe that the bigger stuff will eventually go your way again too?
There are days you just need a win. Instead of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, there are things you can do to help the universe along. No need for your good juju, or ESP to go into overdrive when you can take action.
Five Things You Can Do When You Just Need a WinBe honest and ask for what you need.
I’m not suggesting that you complain and moan in an entitled whiny voice and ask for what you need but instead, do it with confidence. If this one thing will make a huge difference and have a meaningful impact, ask for it. What’s the worst that can happen? You get a “no.”
It’s like when you go to the counter at a restaurant to order from their glass case of ready-made items. You really want the sandwich in the front of the case, but they go to grab the one from the back. Be clear, ask calmly and kindly too; you may get it.
You know what they say… You don’t know the answer until you ask. Click To Tweet
You got to learn to see wins no matter how small. Stop waiting for the big kahuna.
Often, we overlook the small wins that pile up all day because we have our eye on the destination. Your end goal isn’t meant to obscure your vision or joy of the day-to-day.
Stop for a second and ask yourself what wins you may have missed. Sometimes you have to look at a more granular level than you’d like but they’re there.
Keep going. Stumbles are not the same as stops.
You may think to yourself that if you don’t get this win, this one thing, all is lost. It’s not true. I know I held onto my card earlier as if it was true, but it’s not. So you don’t get this win? It’s okay. When you keep going, the next one does come. I promise.
Get your win on another path.
My bad day had nothing to do with losing at Exploding Kittens, but that’s where my desire manifested itself. You can create small wins in your day by going to the gym, getting some writing done, calling an old friend who you’ve been putting off calling unit you find the time, cooking a favorite meal, you name it.
If you are aching for a win at work and it’s not happening, you still need to feed your wellbeing. When you go into the darkest of dark places and cut yourself off from everything, that’s when the wins start to fade away.
Do you use a planner to keep track of your life? It makes sense. Meetings, appointments, kids activities, birthdays, anniversaries and everything else you’re supposed to remember needs someplace to live other than in your already overloaded brain.
If you have one, and you should, chances are you’re not unleashing the potential of that bad boy. Most people don’t. There is more to using your planner effectively than juggling your packed days and trying not to forget what you need to do. It doesn’t matter if it’s paper-based or electronic, most people don’t know how to use their planner beyond, well, planning.
Recently a client told me he took my advice and bought a planner. This year, instead of juggling Outlook, Google Calendar and the other places he tracked his schedule and to-dos including a scratch pad by his phone, he agreed to give a paper-based planner a go.
The problem was that he bought it but never opened it, ever. It was sitting in the box it was delivered in and slowly but surely getting covered with the clutter of daily life. Soon enough, it would be nothing more than a waste of money.
I’ve been there in the past and bet you have too. I had best intentions to use my planner daily, and I do… for like a week or two and then not so much. When I finally figured out how to use my planner effectively, not only was I more productive but also began to make steady progress on goals that were previously nothing more than hopes and wishes.
You don’t need to hire me as a coach to get my best tips on how to use your planner. Here they are; I promise you, they work if you put them to work.
How to Use Your Planner Effectively 1) Pick a Master
We have so many choices to track our schedules at work and home it’s easy not to have a master planner. A master planner is an at glance source that shows you your entire schedule and more. When you’re home, you should have access to it and at the office too. No more “let me get back to you. I need to check my other schedule.”
2) Use it
Seems silly but your planner is just a waste of space if you don’t use it if not daily (which I recommend) then at least weekly. Your planner is more than your work calendar where people can request meetings and block up all your time. It’s YOUR TIME don’t be a victim of all of the time suckers out there – be proactive.
Your planner helps you get control of your time. Don’t be at the mercy of meetings. Click To Tweet
3) Block Out Whitespace
You need time to think about what’s next not only tackle everything on today’s to-do list. Block out regular time slots for your whitespace and use it not as catch up, but as learning, looking-forward time and looking inward time.
4) Have Sacred Time
Block out time that cannot be booked. (If you’re doing it in your paper planner, don’t forget to block your time in your online tool too.) Do not let yourself give away all of your time to back to back meetings. Sacred time could be you-time to relax and recharge or team-time to reconnect and engage with your team. Not everything that isn’t a specific meeting should be easily booked over.
I’m not a big journal person, but I do love to use my planner to jot down daily points of gratitude. It takes minimal time and changes your outlook on even the worst of days. Don’t just think about it. Write it down. There’s something about looking back on the good stuff that’s too easily forgotten when things get crazy.
Jot down three things you’re grateful for each day. It will change your life. Click To Tweet
6) Habit building
When you use your planner effectively, you should be planning good habits, not only filling time slots. For example, gym time, reading, blog writing, grocery lists, etc. Look at your week in advance and create targets. Make commitments to yourself about what’s important to you and your well-being. Write it in your planner.
7) Create a Record of Success
This is one of my favorites things about using a planner effectively. Every time I go to the gym, I write “Gym!” and what I did for my workout. Yes, I have days planned, but there’s something motivating about seeing days string together to create real progress. Look back over your week and month to see how far you’ve come.
8) Revisit It
It’s easy to get busy, most of us wear busy like a badge of honor, but your planner is there to support your productivity, not be another to-do on your already long task list. If you want your planner to increase your effectiveness, you have to commit to using it. Make changes instead of planning and then winging it.
9) Pencil in for a Month at a Time but Don’t Etch it in Stone
When you use your planner to look ahead, some of what’s on there are best guesses and good intentions. Not everything is set in stone. Use your planning time to get mentally prepared for what’s next but remain open to flexing as the unexpected happens.
There are tons of planners on the market that will give you all the views you could ever want or need. Month on two pages, daily pages, weekly – you name it. I’ve tried them all and a lot of the popular brands on the market. Eventually, I found the one that works for me. Personally, I love to use my monthly view in addition to week-at-a-glance because it’s where I can see progress most easily and not only appointments. Find what works for you.
11) Running Lists
Your planner should be something you bring to meetings, take home, and use beyond time tracking. I love a paper-based planner that has room to write on the sides, margins or at the bottom of the day to capture lists, ideas, and insights that would be otherwise lost. My favorite planners have notes pages and blank pages. Don’t be afraid to use it for more than you’d typically use Outlook.
12) If You Go Paper-Based, Make it Yours
You don’t need to go all out with the pretty stickers and fancy scrapbook-like designs that some people like to do. Smiley faces, fancy or plain – make it a reflection of you – you’re capturing a lot of your life in there.
13) Color Coding Works
In my paper-based planner, I use different colors for different types of events so I can see it all at a glance. Online, in my Google Calendar, I do the same. (Yes, I use both, but my master is my paper-based planner) I’ve encouraged my clients to use either different colored pens or stickers to easily and quickly categorize their plans and progress.
14) There’s Not One Right Way
You don’t have to have lists on the left, gratitude at the bottom and appointments in the middle. There’s no right layout or way to use a planner effectively that works for every individual. As you get going, you’ll figure out what works for you.
15) Save It
At the end of the year, some people never look back and toss their planner. For those people who are committed to using online tools for their planning, they keep on trucking forward too. There’s something special about looking back. Save your planners. It tells a story about you, your life, what you value and what you’ve accomplished.
What are your tips on how to use your planner effectively? What have you learned over time that you can share here?