Month: April 2013

The Power of the “Space for Grace” Banner

“Who is that man?” my friend asked, after speaking with my husband. She marveled at how relaxed he has become. 

Late last year, Bob’s intensity was getting to him. I watched helplessly as he pushed himself further. I could talk about it with him, but his business was running him, and he was constantly “chasing time.” What’s a girl to do?

Change herself. I wasn’t all about work the way he was, but I could benefit from cutting back, too. So I “stopped starting and started finishing” and committed to “create space for grace” in my life, both in my physical world (our shared spaces included) and in my schedule. I was doing it for myself, but part of my motivation was to model and catalyze a different way of living. 

Bob latched on to the phrase “space for grace,” and now, now, not a single day goes by without his mentioning it. He changed his scheduling to allow for how long things actually take rather than how long he would like them to take. He cut back on client appointments.

The transformation is dramatic. My friend confirmed that today by admiring how calm he is. Of course, he was ready for a change. But the phrase “space for grace” gave him focus for his efforts – as it has me. (Interesting. As I suspected, his income hasn’t dropped even though he’s actually taking weekends and evenings off now.)

The change in me and the environment has surely contributed as well. Things are in order, and my priority is to be a joy to live with. Now, that’s an objective worth striving toward. 

 

It is Foolish, They Say

Last week I exchanged emails with a colleague who is doing what I’m doing – exploring Personal Lean – simplifying and organizing his life in alliance with lean manufacturing principles. I suspected we were going at it very differently, and I was right. He sent me his PowerPoint for a presentation he gave, and it’s excellent. Very polished, well done and interesting. In contrast, I have much less to show for my efforts. But that doesn’t mean nothing is happening here.

I attended a poetry class on Saturday, and a poem about my approach emerged. There wasn’t much to the class – it was simple, and that made it great. They gave us “prompts” to write quick poems which we shared with the group. It was fascinating! We surprised each other, and we surprised ourselves. My poem about my approach helped me clarify where I am with my process.

My colleague completely respects my approach to personal transformation, as I do his. This poem is really mainly a personal reminder. Perhaps you can relate.

Foolish

It is foolish, they say, to do it this way
When it all can be done from a script.
It takes so damn long to sing your own song,
And albums are easy to rip.

They tell me to look through a best-selling book,
And to follow steps A, B and C.
They think it a waste to not copy and paste,
And there’s no need for learning to see.

It is foolish, they claim, to play your own game,
When games can be bought in a store.
Why make it so hard and mine my own yard?
Is my own gold so worth digging for?

It is foolish, I’m told, to let things unfold
They said I should follow a plan!
So the plan that I chose is to follow my nose
My nose knows to start where I am.

My Lean2Life First Trimester in Review

Yesterday was the first day in the second trimester of my Lean2Life Quest/experiment. December 24th 2012, Christmas Eve Day, I began my year-long mission to restructure and redesign my life from the inside out. My goals were vague. My plan was to let a plan unfold. An important guiding principle was to stop starting and start finishing.

I knew I aspired to create space for grace, ease and flow in my life. I knew I aspired to be able to enjoy my weekends and evenings with the sense of completion. I knew I wanted to tend to neglected areas of my world, solve ongoing problems, and build strong foundations for future endeavors. I was struck by the dream theme Marion Woodmen shares: “Your hymns will never make it to heaven until you clean up the mess in your basement.” If she/you/I want to aim high, we need strong, stable foundations.

It’s hard to believe I’m a third through the process already. There is so much left to do that it’s easy to overlook what I’ve achieved so far. So I made a list. You can read about it here.

http://www.speakstrong.com/resources/how-to/111-lean2life/818-my-lean2life-first-trimester

I wasn’t sure I wanted to do a review, because I don’t want to put any pressure on myself to show results at this point. That’s a little like assessing a garden soon after it’s planted. I want to be true to my process.

But it did feel good to see what has happened. It has been a very powerful four months, and I trust the results will continue exponentially. 

So yay to me, and all of you who have shared with me that you are on a similar journey. It’s exciting to anticipate who we are becoming.

Now that this is written, I feel a desire to clean a closet or something. That will make me happy. So will your sharing your own tales of transformation with me. 

My Lean2Life First Trimester

Today is the first day in the second trimester of my Lean2Life Quest/experiment. December 24th 2012, Christmas Eve Day, was the first day of my year-long mission to restructure and redesign my life from the inside out. My goals were vague. My plan was to let a plan unfold. An important guiding principle was to stop starting and start finishing.

I knew I aspired to create space for grace, ease and flow in my life. I knew I aspired to be able to enjoy my weekends and evenings with the sense of completion. I knew I wanted to tend to neglected areas of my world, solve ongoing problems, and build strong foundations for future endeavors. I was struck by the dream theme Marion Woodmen shares: “Your hymns will never make it to heaven until you clean up the mess in your basement.” If she/you/I want to aim high, we need strong, stable foundations.

It’s hard to believe I’m a third through the process already. There is so much left to do that it’s easy to overlook what I’ve achieved so far. So I’m making a list.

The Foot Only Went Half-way In

My chiropractor operates on a walk-in basis, and offers yearly plans for unlimited services. So I go fairly often – especially since he is so close by.

I used to have trouble with my feet – which is pretty foundational. I credit my stretches, dance and his regular adjustments for the fact that my feet are happy now. However, despite regular visits, there is a catch in my neck that persists. We had focused on it previously, but I hadn’t brought it up for months. This week, I decided I’m ready to take that on.

I entered his office yesterday and told him, “We haven’t made much progress on the tightness in my neck on the right side.”

It wasn’t a mean, nasty, horrible, evil way to raise the issue. My foot only went half-way in my mouth. But it it wasn’t gracious or fair, either. Yes, he adjusts my neck every time I come. But it has been months since I mentioned this particular obstruction. We’ve been more focused on overall ease of movement, plus my feet and hands. The fact is, I feel like those challenges are taken care of enough that now we can shift the main focus of our efforts to the obstruction in my neck, (which is in no way debilitating and has been with me for ages.)

What would have been a better way to say it? How about:

  • I have a mobility limit on the right side of my neck that I’d like us to unravel.

That wording speaks to our next focus and future opportunities instead of implying existing failure. My chiropractor invited me to remind him of this focus every time I come, and he gave me a stretch to support his efforts. I will remind him as requested – and I will be gracious and fair when I do it.

Or maybe I won’t. Perhaps next time my foot will go a just quarter of the way in. Unravelling the obstructions in my spine and joints is a process – and so is learning how to introduce a new area of focus with graceful assertiveness. 

 

Simply Brilliant – and Handy

My Physical Therapist put medicine patches on my hands. Look at the picture and guess what time I can remove them!* 

handI told her I think her method is brilliant. Simply brilliant. She said she used to put the time on the handouts she sent back with people, but they would forget that the info was there, or where they put the papers. 

Not a problem with this method. I remember where my hands are – especially when I think it might be time to remove the patches. This is visual communication at the point of use. 

Where can you adapt this idea in your life? Where are you already doing this? What example of your own visual communication brilliance have you overlooked? 

*(If you read my posts in a format that excludes pictures, you can see the image by clicking on the title. That will take you to my site. And I will tell you, the picture is of my patches with this written on them: 2:00.)

I just let him get mad at me

“Keep on walking until someone tells you to stop.” Ever since an admin told me that was her policy, I’ve been sharing that advice with other admins, following it up with, “If no one has ever told you that you’ve overstepped your boundaries, you are probably playing it way too safe.” We don’t know what the boundaries are until we test them. We don’t know how we can best serve someone (or love someone) until we get in close enough to see their world, and that runs the risk of feeling intrusive.

This advice applies to elderly parents as well. I am supporting my father in new ways, and that means getting much closer and more personal than we’ve ever been before. Of course, there are times where I tread in areas he does not welcome me. That’s how I find out how I can help – and where the boundaries are. If I feel the need and benefits are strong enough, I will continue until I’m sure he understands what I’m telling him – which can take some doing. 

Recently, a colleague of my father visited him. This man was full of useful ideas for my father. He also was wary of intruding, even though he felt that my father needed the help he could offer. I was surprised with what came out of my mouth. I said,

  • I got over that. I just let him get mad at me.

I spoke these words because I knew their time together was limited and precious. I wanted to encourage him to do what he could rather than tiptoe around the truth as he saw it. But I also heard my own words as instructive and affirming.

It affirmed that I no longer avoid angering people at all cost. I don’t enjoy triggering anger, but if a higher motive guides me, I will risk crossing the boundary. It also affirmed that I don’t feel a requirement to control anger in others. I don’t need to try to change his reaction. We go through it and then decide where to go next.

I can’t say letting someone get mad is fun. But it has preceded some major breakthroughs. So I just keep on walking toward our shared vision until someone tells me to stop. But even then, if I deem it necessary, I will stand up for my efforts to provide the help I was asked to offer. 

Two Post Scripts:

1. While some of my father’s concern about boundaries and privacy might be unwarranted and/or an obstacle to achieving what I have been tasked with, I was reminded that it is easy to innocently trample over legitimate boundaries. I had suggested to my father’s colleague that I could give him the information to log in to my father’s computer so he could print things on my father’s printer as I do. Only after we had agreed to that idea (but before I shared the log in info,) it occurred to me that before I give anyone complete access to my dad’s computer, I just might want to run the idea past him.

2. While there have been uncomfortable moments in this process, by being more open with each other than ever before, I have discovered that my father is one of my favorite people in the whole world. He is interesting, bright and playful. Despite his linear nature (in contrast to my constellar approach to life,) my father “gets me” in ways others don’t. What a great discovery!

Indirectly Graceful Can Sound a Lot Like Sarcasm and Manipulation

“I should have put the open creamer in front of the new one,” Bob noted.

“Oh, did I open a new one when there was one already open?” I asked. Yes, I had, and that actually was the main point of Bob’s comment. I appreciated the reminder to check for open cartons before opening a new one. I welcomed Bob’s words as indirectly graceful.

But indirectly graceful communication can sound the same as sarcasm and manipulation. What makes the difference?

I believe two things.

  1. Bob meant what he said, even if he had another point beyond the one he made. The goal of the observation was to reduce the occurrences of having two identical items open at once. In fact, when he puts the groceries away, if he puts the open one in front, it will help us achieve that target – a shared target. Yes, he wanted me to note my omission, but he was sincere in his comment about his.
  2. His comment didn’t veil a plethora of unspoken resentments. It really was about the need to use up the open items first, not about 17 years of umbrage about my lack of attentiveness.

I responded with appreciation. But what if I had sensed an undercurrent? I might have responded with,

  • Wow. Is my inattentiveness getting to you? Would you like to talk about it? I could use your help with it.

Either way, his words provided an opportunity to flip the conversation forward toward continuously improving our life together.

Guiding Vision

Yesterday I posted about how guiding visions provide context that changes the way our words are heard. Today I have an example.

Feeling let down

Angela is my assistant, and she proofs my blog. But she’s much more than that. She is one of two people on the planet who have a deep understanding of what I’m up to, what I aspire to, and how I operate. Plus, she lives in her heart. She is my traveling buddy. I am blessed to have her.

So why was I disappointed in her last night?

Because she proofed a blog post without a comment. Horrors! 😉 

Conflicting realities

Now, when I say I was disappointed in her, that sounds critical. It sounds like I think she did something wrong. It sounds like she let me down. Yes, I FELT let down. That was my experiential reality. Yet I knew without question that in objective reality, she hadn’t actually let me down.

We all have experiential and objective realities coexisting in us. That can make conversations about interpersonal issues challenging. What do you do when you feel disappointed, offended, angry, and/or a myriad of other emotions and yet you also know the other person did nothing wrong?

Confessions of a recovering passive

As a recovering passive, I am also a recovering victim and recovering passive-aggressive. So I’m a bit of an expert on victim mindsets and behaviors and passive-aggressive behaviors. Victim thinking nurtures wounds and builds self-righteous cases against perceived villains for their imagined (or exaggerated) wrongs. Passive-aggressive punish others indirectly, in ways where the aggressor can hide behind a posture of innocence. By doing that, they protect themselves from facing the smallness of their story, BUT they also miss the opportunity to transform an immature reaction into an opportunity to reach higher levels. 

As a recovering passive, I am reluctant to admit when I still feel the residuals of this kind of thinking – but choose to feed the larger story. I am also reluctant to admit those feelings to my readers – you. I’m doing it anyway, because I believe my process here is actually both normal, and the way, or a way, that transformation happens.

I saw my psychological/experienced reality as a signal that I had a desire that wasn’t being met. I turned it into an opportunity to figure out what I wanted so Angela and I could set a target together. My disappointment was a small story which opened the door to find the bigger story.

The bigger reality

Half the population can correct typos. Only Angela can bring out the best in me and my writing as she does. Only Angela can mirror where I am in a way that helps me move closer to where I’m going. Only Angela can remind me of the bigger context of what I’m working on when I falter in my own vision of it. So only Angela can review my blog posts with her eye and ear and catalyze my excellence like she does. 

What would be likely to happen, if, consciously or unconsciously, I ask Angela to review my posts wanting her to bring out the best in me, and she thinks I’m inviting her mainly to correct typos?

Disappointment. Not because Angela is deficient, but because she is so important to me. And that speaks to her gifts. That is what we needed to talk about. We needed a shared vision of her role. Then, we could consider options to facilitate her newly defined role, like my creating posts with a longer lead time, or structuring discussion of them into our morning meetings.

We could have created those options without the shared vision. But it’s much more rewarding this way.

Some Boats Need to be Rocked

“I learned a lot in your session,” an attendee told me.

“Can you share something specific?” I asked. He did, and his words were music to my ears. What he noted was something I had just added.

He said, “I liked the part about being willing to put my foot in my mouth.”

In the past, my presentation emphasized the end result – what excellent communication looks like. This time I spoke a lot more about the path to Speaking Strong. The two are not the same. Sometimes we need to speak up before we feel ready, and our words won’t be as polished as we’d like. Sometimes we need to speak before we have a deep understanding of what we think, feel and want. We might have a one-sided view of things, and know it. Sometimes fumbling authentically through a conversation is what it takes to get to clarity.

Sometimes we serve the situation best by risking putting our feet in our mouths. This attendee who thanked me yesterday does that already and appreciated understanding how that is part of the path to communication excellence.

I used many of my same old examples in my presentation yesterday. But they were fresh, new and alive with insight about the steps from conflict and confusion to greater understanding. I also found myself emphasizing the transformative role a compelling guiding vision played in my examples. Knowing why you’re sifting through stuckness, issues and differences – knowing why it’s worth it – changes everything.

The exciting thing is, more often than not, we rock boats because we care about the person in it, and because we strive to acheive something of value.

Otherwise, why would we risk rocking our own boat by speaking up when we’d rather not?