Nov 24, 2010

procrastination offerings

I understand and have come to appreciate to some extent my procrastination tendencies around writing. I have learned to accept that "Procrastination's" purpose is to help me clarify who I'm writing for, ponder what I want to say and define what the best entry point and tone might be. I have 'reframed' procrastination as an important and necessary time for marinading and mulling over. I trust that it will eventually complete its job, usually with the help of a looming deadline. Built up pressure usually works too. 

What I don't understand is why I would procrastinate playing with a new toy?

Last week I happily purchased some simple home recording equipment. I was delighted by the idea of having a device to support and expand my own song and sound creation. All week long new idea's kept popping up around how this new acquisition was going to open doors for me, both personally and professionally. I saw visions of songs I could add my own harmonies to, record improvised moments at afternoon jams, create audio tapes of guided visualizations and visioning exercises for clients. I saw the ease in which I could share and collaborate with others by a simple click of the mouse.

Imagining all of this has been quite exciting and, I now realize, extremely daunting!

My penchant for visioning possibilities has also set up an equally large balloon of overwhelming expectations. I'd say I'm stuck (procrastinating) because my emotions are more aware of the fear that accompanies those expectations than the joys. I can see that I'm afraid of failure, of not being able to adequately learn how to use the tool to manifest those visions. I'm guessing that some part of me is protecting me from that fear - by keeping the dang thing in the box!

The trick is to balance the motivation that imagining the possibilities offers with baby steps that our hesitation teaches us we need to address in order to get where we want to go.

One of those baby steps is to get find the appropriate support. In this case it's time to call a knowledgeable friend to hold my hand when I do open up the box. And to set a date for this to happen (read: deadline). Then I can to begin to actually sow the seeds for those possibilities to have a chance to bloom!

Are you procrastinating something these days? How is it serving you?

Nov 17, 2010

the paradox of vulnerability

Most of us don't like uncertainty. We do a lot to try to make things 'certain', attempting to gain some control over a particular outcome, relationship, or habit.  Living with uncertainty seems to conjure up fears - I'm vulnerable, this isn't safe. Our vivid imaginations can build up some pretty drastic assumptions and beliefs about where this uncertainty is bound to lead us.

In fact there is a case for sharing our vulnerability - in appropriate contexts - actually helping us. Exposing our vulnerability can lead to stronger connections and thus increase our sense of safety and protection. Interesting paradox...especially for leaders and colleagues looking for ways to work better, more effectively, together. Discernment plays a key role as to what and when and with whom one shares his or her questions, fears, and wishes.

In this TED talk, Dr. BrenĂ© Brown talks about her research on Wholeheartedness and Connection.  Here are some of the highlights that jumped out for me:

  • Role of connection - gives us purpose and meaning
  • Vulnerability - is about allowing ourselves to be seen; the birth place of wholeheartedness
  • Vulnerability is a crucial, central element in leading our lives, leading others
  • Vulnerability is the element that helps us navigate between shame and empathy - two opposing ends of a continuum
  • Defining shame vs guilt: 
    • Shame - 'I am bad'; not a useful motivator
    • Guilt - "I did a bad thing", something that doesn't fit my own code; could be a useful motivator 
  • We can't selectively numb our emotions; if we numb what we don't like we will also numb those we desire, like joy
When I think back to my own experiences, I find several stories of when I allowed my vulnerability to show and I gained strength and perspective to help me move forward. The energy I was using to hide what was really going on for me was able to be directed to finding new ways. I was able to accept offers of help in whatever form they came. I was more open to connecting with others as well as to my true self. 

I have also observed this happening with folks that I work with. As each person takes baby steps to reveal their vulnerability their colleagues are reminded of the person's - and their own - humanity. This experience often makes all the difference in a team moving forward with energy and passion.

Yes there may be moments when our discernment was off and we didn't get the response we hoped for. These are the risks inherent in learning how to connect, lead, be better together. Chalk it up to learning. 

Does any of this resonate with you in your life as a leader, an employee, a colleague, or perhaps as a parent? What are the conditions that help you discern when it is appropriate to step into your vulnerability?


Nov 10, 2010

back bends

Last Sunday I experienced - consciously - the power of my own thoughts and the role of support.

Our yoga instructor had us doing a back bend with the support of a partner. We were to hold onto their ankles as we pushed our pelvis up to the sky and the top of our heads back onto the mat.

I could feel my excuses rising up as I debated whether or not I would participate. All those years as a child (and adult for that matter) wishing I could master a cartwheel came to mind. "I just don't have the body type for this. I'm not strong or flexible enough. I will look silly (read: fail)."

Then my eyes caught those of my neighbour. We both looked skeptical but sheepishly willing to give it a try. It helped that she wasn't nonchalant about it, that this would be a stretch for her too. It would be alright if either of us didn't manage it...really what was the big deal? With that I decided to change  my internal dialogue too. Instead of 'I can't' my mantra became 'I can do this. I can do this!' And to my surprise and delight, I did!

The next day I was able to do it again - if only for a few seconds - by myself at home. I'd broken the 'I can't' spell on this one! It made me wonder, where else in my life I might want to try breaking it? Home recording popped up instantly.

I've long held a vision of recording my songs, of playing with different beats and harmonies. My few attempts in the past were always aborted relatively quickly. Daunted at the sight and confusion of all those buttons and gadgets "I can't learn this" messages would loop in my head and I'd give up.

Today, propelled by a new song I want to record, and a few other half written ones that I long to finish, my decision (commitment) now has me developing my strategies to forge forward.  I re-discovered a book on my shelf that explains fairly clearly the different devices and the ways they interconnect. I took stock of all the equipment I've assembled over the years. I spent time on the internet researching various products, reading their descriptions, noting my questions. I plan on heading to several music stores to hear what they have to say.  I've written to a few musically minded friends to ask for their advise and guidance.

This time I'm determined to learn, to get past my mental barriers. This time I'm approaching it with a smile and a determined "I can do this!" attitude instead of exasperation. I'm motivated, I'm finding different avenues of support, and I believe I can!

What thought or belief would help you move closer to your dreams? What support do you need to begin?

Nov 3, 2010

elephants on the table

Last week I spent two days with a management team where I witnessed strength, vulnerability and incredible courage. Proverbial elephants were put on the table and real conversations about how to work better together ensued.

It's easy to believe that it's the tasks, our productivity, that gets the job done. But tasks can't get done effectively or sustainably if information is held back out of fear, if minds aren't open to hearing different view points, if relationships aren't created with an eye to mutual learning. If trust isn't cultivated.

Trust and risk are flip sides of the same coin. In order to create, maintain or rebuild trust we have to take risks. To come together, to say what is our truth, to listen to the others' truth. We have to have the courage to show up and participate without knowing for sure if its all going to work out.

This team stepped up to the opportunity and discovered what it feels like to have conversations from their hearts. They co-created the space to be courageous, to be supportive of each other and to learn together about a different way of being.

Hidden elephants absorb and preoccupy a lot of energy - energy and creativity that could be better spent in service of your individual and collective health and dreams. Not easy but definitely worth it.