dancing

Lead with the Yes

Almost every day, I discuss an upcoming interview with a client. Often the job seeker is concerned they don’t have the skills or experience the employer is looking for and because of this concern, they lead with a negative in their answers. When asked if they have Lotus Notes experience, the candidate might say, “No I don’t.” It really doesn’t matter what they say afterwards because the interviewer has heard “no” and has probably written them off. A better response is, “I have extensive Excel experience which is very close to the Lotus Notes program.” When candidates lead with the no, “I don’t have X” or “it has been a long time since I used Y” employers hear no and move on. What I coach them to do is lead with the “yes.” I help them find the positive truthful statement they can start with to make the “no” a little less impactful.

If you listen to politicians, they are well skilled at this. If the politician doesn’t have a positive response to a question, they are usually very adept at deflecting a question. They will answer with what they want to say or an adjacent positive, before (if ever) addressing the initial question. Over the years, I have become pretty good at coaching others how to lead with the positive because I spent years doing marketing copy. If consumers want what is not the strength of the product, I can spin the marketing copy to promote and focus on what the product can do. I think the first time I learned to deflect and focus on the positive was in the first and only musical I was in. I was supposed to be behind the scenes at a summer stock theatre, but they needed more people in the cast. Choreographed dancing is not my thing. What I learned was to have a huge smile, so the audience was drawn to my face and not my feet.

Photo by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash

What I notice with many job-seeking and other clients, is a tendency to put themselves down. They are focused on the negative; focused on what they don’t have. Focused on where they are lacking. Because they don’t have self-confidence, because they are concerned about their abilities, they can’t see the good and what they bring to the table. In job interviews, this is detrimental because if we can’t speak about how we can help a company, how will the potential employer know? In life, if we only focus on those things we don’t like about ourselves or think are lacking, where is our joy and our drive?

I used to be the queen of self-depreciating humor. I am not sure if it came about because I did not approve of myself or because I didn’t want the attention, but I would jump at the chance to put myself down. The result is that I never felt good about myself and other people never learned about the amazing things that I can do. Leading with the yes, sharing your gifts is not about putting yourself above someone else. It is about keeping you from degrading yourself and your abilities. It is not prideful boasting. It is simply reporting the truth.

As you go about your day, notice where you degrade yourself. Where do you put yourself down? How do you keep from sharing your light from others? How would your day and experience change if you simply accepted and reported how wonderful you are? Can you lead with the yes?

Good versus Evil

Netflix is now showing “The Story of God” a series by National Geographic starring Morgan Freeman. Each episode covers a different aspect of life and belief sharing the doctrines and viewpoint of differing religions. The show does a nice job of showing each viewpoint objectively without attacking any beliefs nor pitting one religion against another. The show explores the mysteries of life and how each culture defines their answers. A recent episode explored how religions explain why bad exists in the world.

The belief which resonated most with me is that we all have the capability of good and bad in us. Every day we have the choice about who we want to be and how we want to act. In writing a post about narcissism recently, I ran across an article with an interesting analogy drawn from comic book heroes and villains: “The supervillain is not part of the community and cannot take their mask off. They have no true friends, only subordinates or superiors. Both superhero and supervillain gain their powers in response to an extraordinary, often traumatic event. It is their response to the event that determines which way they go.” The article basically hints at the same conclusion I drew. We, each and every one of us, has the capability to be good or bad, it is in our choosing that makes it so.

Photo by W A T A R I on Unsplash

I work with some people who have done very bad things. I don’t consider the individual bad. They just made a bad choice. They thought the best option to protect themselves was to choose something that hurt someone else. What they did is bad. Yet that does not make them inherently bad. I explored this a bit last year in my blog inspired by the movie about Tonya Harding. In understanding her backstory, it makes it easier to understand why she made the poor choices she made. Explains them but does not excuse them.  The question is what helps us choose the right, best actions?

“The Story of God” shared a segment on a researcher in New Zealand who is uncovering how a belief in a higher power helps keep us on the straight and narrow. When left in a room alone, many of the children cheated at a game. When told that the invisible Princess Alicia was in the room, the majority of the children played by the rules. Obviously, the invisible princess was made up, so it was not her powers that made a difference. The experiment was more about how with boundaries and awareness we can tap into our natural conscience and make good decisions.

Whatever the religion, I believe being raised with some guidelines help to give that awareness of good behavior. Even without a religion, parents have the ability to instill right and wrong into the minds of their children. For those I know who are most apt to steal or worse, they were normally raised in a household where the parents were absent, abusive, or simply poor role models. Not to blame the parents, because we also have the ability to either follow our parents lead or rebel against it, which takes me full circle. If you are raised with a clear sense of right and wrong or if you were raised in an environment where adults portrayed poor behavior and ethics, you still have the choice in how you react and how you choose to be.

No matter what you have gone through, you have a choice. A choice in how you view life, view your past, and view your options for the future. Choose wisely.

journal

Dishonest Thinking

Lately I have been digging into the concept of “dishonest thinking.” Dishonest thinking is the playlist of thoughts that we cycle through daily and think are true, but are not. Dishonest thinking is the mental monkey chatter which says we are not good enough. Dishonest thinking is judging others based on our own assumptions, beliefs and desires for conduct. Dishonest thinking holds us back with limiting beliefs of who we are and what we can accomplish. Dishonest thinking is the computer program of our brain running in the background keeping us from living fully and enjoying life.

Maybe we are born with some of this programming. Perhaps it is in our ancestral DNA making us relive the thoughts of scarcity our grandparents had during the Great Depression. Perhaps we incorporate the dishonest thinking of our parents when we learn to navigate through their well-meaning guidance. Our dishonest thinking can also be the result of a traumatic event changing the way we see people or life. Where these dishonest thoughts come from is not as important as identifying and replacing them with more beneficial thinking.

journal
Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

Journaling is a great way to expose our thinking. When you are triggered, fill up the page with your version of the event. Don’t hold back. Don’t sugar coat it. Let your inner child throw a tantrum. Scream and yell on the page. Take the gloves off and let us know how you really feel. Pour out your assumptions and expectations. Explain how the other person or the situation are not acceptable. Then walk away.

Come back after an hour, a day, or a week. Read what you wrote. Then read between the lines. What rules of life do you live by? What expectations for you have for yourself or others? What fears do you have? How do you see relationships and how people should relate to each other? Be an anthropologist and dig deep into the underlying beliefs. Let go of the specific incident and identify the rules of life you live by. If this is difficult, ask a coach, counselor, or trusted friend to help you.

Next look at what you uncovered. How do you see life and how to live it? What, if anything, is serving you? What is based in reality? What expectations do you have which never have the possibility of coming through? How is what you wrote holding you back and making you unhappy?

Finally, take your dishonest thoughts and make them honest. Change “I am worthless if I am not perfect,” to “I am imperfect and that’s ok” or “My worth is inherent.” Reverse all of your dishonest thoughts to be honest, helpful, positive statements. Read these new honest beliefs daily so you can begin to create new positive grooves in your brain. Watch yourself throughout the day. Catch and release any dishonest thoughts that come to the surface. Watch how your new honest thinking begins to change your actions, your reactions, and your experience of life. You have the power to create a new amazing life, one new thought at a time.

Second Thought, First Action

I am so glad I found Cine Club Los Cabos. Every Thursday they show movies for free at the local high school. This month will be French films with Spanish subtitles, which will be a fun language lesson for me. Last month they showed movies about and created by women. “BrØdre” or Brothers was one of the movies shown. Although it centered around two men, it was a film written and directed by Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier. The film shows the progression of the no-good alcoholic brother becoming a standup man, and his brother falling into violence and lies after being an upstanding citizen, good husband, and esteemed military leader.

The start of the fall begins when the older “good” brother has to make a life or death decision in wartime. He may not have made the choice we would hope he would, but it was during a war and he was going to die otherwise. I couldn’t really fault him for what he did. What did become difficult to watch was how he lied about the incident again, and again, and again. In one scene, he goes to visit the family of the man he killed. If ever there was a chance to redeem oneself, this would be it. But instead of telling the whole truth or at least that her husband is dead, he tells a massive lie which gives the spouse hope of her diseased husband coming home with no potential of it ever occurring. As I shook my head and sighed, I noticed the woman in front of me doing the same.

How easy it is to see what someone should do and how difficult it is for us to do it in our own life.

angry action
Photo by Heather M. Edwards on Unsplash

I have been doing a lot of personal work lately (again, still) and one of the things I am focusing on are my thoughts and reactions to situations.  I am noticing how my first thoughts when I am triggered are to blame the other person. I can put together a laundry list of how they are a bad person and how what they did is inexcusable. My first desire is then to attack them for how bad they are. Instead, now I try to stop and to look at my part. Once I can see how my words and actions caused or inflated the situation or maybe how I would act the same as they did if the roles were reversed, I can find empathy for the other person and find the right words to make it a growth experience for both of us.

It is not easy, or even commonplace, to not act rashly out of anger. Go on social media for 10 seconds and you can find 50 people who are more than happy to blame the other for the ills of the world. The other political party, the other race, the other gender, the other baseball team. Someone can always be found to blame for the bad in our lives. As a society we thrive off being justified in our anger, outraged, and attacks on the “bad guy.” What we are not good at is taking personal responsibility. I am certainly not perfect at this either. A concept I heard that helps me and has become my mantra in contentious situations is, “I am responsible for my second thought and my first action.”

Second Thought

We are human. More times than not our first thought will be self-serving. Our first thought will be anger. Our first thought will be attacking others. Our first thought will be self-protecting. Our first thought will be based on the fears we learned in our childhood. We are not bad people because we have that first thought. We all do and that is ok. Where the power and freedom and strength come in is when we pause and allow ourselves to have that second thought. When we can look past ourselves to what the other may be experiencing. When we can find empathy and understanding for their situation. This second thought frees us from how we always react. It frees us from mental pain and anguish. This second thought opens up better ways for us to approach our lives and our relationships.

First Action

Most of us tend to live life using knee-jerk reactions. We get cut off in traffic, think the guy is a jerk, and find ourselves flipping him the bird before we consciously choose to. Much of the actions we do during the day are done unconsciously and based on our first, not-so-ideal thoughts. When we take the time to stop and think a second thought, and have the courage to wait for that second thought before we act, we can create a brand new life.

As you go about your week, be aware of your first thoughts. Can you pause long enough to have second thought before you act?

baby shark

Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Do-ing

Baby Shark overtook our household for a while. Everything got the Baby Shark treatment. Baby spinach doo doo doo doo doo doo. Gato Blanco doo doo doo doo doo doo. It was silly and fun. When I started to write this post, I thought of a new variation, Stressy Me doo doo doo doo doo doo. When I was younger, stress was a way of life. I always overcommitted and put my work above my relationships and my health. I was always doing, doo doo doo doo doo do-ing. I thought stress was normal. It was what life was all about, right?


Thankfully through my awakening in Peru, I started to see that there was more to life than stress and that there were ways to minimize the amount a stress I experienced, such as practicing patience. This brought a brand new world to me. A world where I could choose what I committed to and what I didn’t. A world where I had the right and the responsibility to put myself first. I began to live and not to do. Instead of being a victim of stress, I used tools to minimize and prevent it. Life was wonderful. My belief became that stress is part of life, but we don’t have to let it overtake our life.

This new way of being has served me for about the last decade and my life has changed because of it. I left a high-pressure career (or what I made a high-pressure career) for one that fits my outlook on life. I simplified my life and moved to a country that moves at the speed I want to live. I thought I had made it. This was great. Then I learned that I can even go deeper. I am now learning how to stop creating any painful negative stress in my life.

I may experience the positive stress of an upcoming event like a trip or a birthday; to me this should really be called excitement not stress. And yes, there will be negative stress events in my life like deadlines, losses, and accidents. But I don’t need to make these negative stress events into more than they are. The event is stressful. My thoughts about the event are what makes it painful.

Brené Brown reminded me of this in her book, Rising Strong. The stressful event itself is not what causes the pain. What really causes the pain of negative stress is our thought or our story about the event. It is not that there is a deadline. It is the thought that if we don’t meet the deadline we are imperfect and unlovable. It is not that we lost a loved one. It is that we didn’t do enough for them when they were alive which makes us a horrible person. It is not that there was an accident. Our story tells us that we were a worthless stupid idiot and that is why there was an accident. When we can keep our stories at bay, the pain of stress naturally minimizes.

Recently I had an off week. I really didn’t know why but I felt anxious, tired, and worried. Yes, I was having a busy week but I have had busy weeks before and I didn’t feel this poorly. What I realized was the story I was telling myself about my busy week was what was causing me pain. I felt I had to take on more clients at work or I would be seen as unproductive and maybe lose my job. I felt I had to put my needs to the side to take care of others or I would be a failure. I believed I had to do everything myself and not ask for help or I was not doing my share and was unworthy of love. Once I identified and released the stories I had made up, it was easy to look at my week, schedule in downtime/self-care, and approach my work from a space of giving instead of being taken from. And the pain was gone. Painful negative stress is caused by our thoughts and beliefs around issues. I was stressed because I had poor boundaries and was choosing to take too much on because I thought I had to or I was worthless. Once I removed this dishonest thinking, I moved forward to solve problems without the crippling effects of stress.

Where are you feeling stress right now? How much of it is fact? How much is it a story you have made about yourself or other people? If you release your false story, how much stress do you feel?

computer code

What’s Your Glitch?

I have been burning through the latest offerings from Netflix including Russian Doll which explores choices, redemption, and the meaning of life.  In one episode, Nadia is called into work to fix a bug. Somewhere in all the code for a computer game, there was a glitch, some poorly-written code. Nadia reprogrammed the code, and all was well with the game.  What I have realized is we can all fix our lives with a bit of reprogramming.

We all run on code. Some of the code we are born with, like how our lungs and heart know how to automatically breath. Some code we consciously or unconsciously write ourselves. We learn from our parents, our teachers, our friends, society, and our own experience how to live. We learn something once or twice and then we write our internal code as to how to respond. We don’t have to relearn every day that a stove is hot. We learn it once and then it becomes programmed in our mental database along with the appropriate response (don’t touch). Much of our programming is done in the first seven years of our lives (based on current scientific thinking). Therefore, much of how we live our life at 30, 40, or 50 is based on programming decades old. Sometimes that old programming has glitches. What we have internalized as truth worked in one specific situation years ago, but it is not the best choice nor should be applied to current situations. We need to reprogram our outdated thinking.

computer code
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I am aware of many of my glitches or character defects, and I am sure there are many unconscious glitches yet to be brought to the surface. Here are some of my currently recognized defects/glitches. I react to strong egos and the greedy. I react to those who are “too pretty.” I react to what I deem is injustice. I react to the need to label and create exclusive groups. I react to those whose desire for money supersedes the welfare of the many. I react to those who appear to have had an easy life and expect everything to be handed to them on a silver platter. Because of these preprogrammed thoughts, I sometimes react to people and situations based on these beliefs and not by the real situation at hand.

Much of our life we live on autopilot. We react to current situations based on the code we created decades ago. We are not in the moment analyzing and acting based on current data. We are usually unconsciously reacting based on something that happened to us when we were five. And it can get us into trouble.

I have addressed many glitches already like the belief that it is good to put work above the welfare of those I love, and have hopefully reprogrammed the ones that were causing the most frequent and damaging harm to me and those around me. Currently I am digging deeper and working through more of my programming with the goal of living every day from a place of in-the-moment conscious action versus living-in-the-past unconscious reaction. Here are the steps I am taking:

Uncover

I am taking a fearless inventory of my past and am being aware in the moment of the contentious situations in my life. Analyzing each situation, I uncover the glitches in my thoughts and the unconscious programming which are causing harm.

Be Here Now

If your mind is like mine, it goes a mile a minute. And unfortunately, my mind is usually replaying again and again something that has already happened or playing out fifty different what-if scenarios for the future. We can not change the past nor accurately predict the future. What we can do is affect the present. To help me as Ram Dass suggests to Be Here Now, I do my best to meditate every day. I find that even spending five minutes a day can disconnect me from the busy-ness of life, turn off the useless monkey-chatter of my mind, and help me center so I can make conscious decisions.

Reprogram

Using the knowledge of my defects and doing my best to be present, I can consciously choose differently in the moment. Instead of being on autopilot, I have the power to make rational and better choices acting on clear thought versus reacting from poorly-written programming. And every time I make a new, healthier choice, I am creating new programming for the future.

What are your glitches? How do you work around them? How has your life improved when you remove poorly-written programming?