Let’s Face It, You’re Stuck

aubrey-rose-odom-T1L9Q5g7eIQ-unsplashby Jonathan Woolridge, WeAlign Certified Coach

Have You Ditched Your New Year’s Resolutions Yet? I didn’t make any, but I am making bite-sized changes that will compound over time. If you’re tired of beating your head against the wall every winter as you rely solely on will power to make positive change in your life, then I’d encourage you to keep reading!

The other day I was standing by the copier, scanning a bunch of documents, and I heard a buzzing noise. After a second of looking around, I noticed that a fly had gotten stuck in the blinds. I decided to free this fly from it’s impending doom, but immediately after it was free, the fly took a hard-right turn into another set of blinds. In that moment, I thought about all the times I set out to make meaningful change in my life only to lose steam and divert back to familiar struggles. Since it’s that time of year, I decided to focus on the fact that New Year’s resolutions don’t work, but bite-sized, “you know you’ll do it”, changes produce extraordinary results over time.

I know some of you might be thinking of the rare individual who actually sticks to their resolutions, but the majority of human beings struggle every year to make significant improvements to their lives. You know what I’m talking about. For some of you, 2019 might have felt like a rinse and repeat cycle of getting stuck, then getting unstuck, only to get stuck again. This could be for a number of valid reasons, but at the end of the day, stuck is just stuck.

Whether your decisions led you to this predicament or circumstances out of your control trapped you there, you can decide how to respond. Whether you wallow in self-pity or stand up and take the next right step is completely up to you. This could look like forming good habits or dismantling bad ones. It might be a simple change in perspective. The point is to TAKE THE NEXT RIGHT STEP. President Harry S. Truman once said, “Imperfect action beats perfect inaction every time”. Making lasting change in your life begins by taking imperfect action regularly over long periods of time. Don’t let perfectionism or impatience keep you from moving forward.

If you want to exercise more in 2020, don’t start by going to the gym 2 hours a day, 6 days a week. If you want to read more books in 2020, don’t expect yourself to be able to read 3 hours a day, 5 days a week. If you want to succeed in making a change, start with bite-sized steps. Even if you have to break it down to reading 5 minutes a day, that’s better than setting yourself up for disappointment on February 1st when you look back and realize you successfully completed 4 days of your new resolution before taking a hard right turn back into old habits.

Taking small consistent steps is not a small achievement! Working out for 15 minutes a day consistently, when you normally don’t work out at all, isn’t a waste of time! 2020 will be wasted if a year from now, you look back and realize that you haven’t made any progress at all. 2020 will be wasted if you keep being all or nothing. 2020 will be wasted if keep believing the self-imposed lies that you can’t do it when in reality you set yourself up for failure on January 1st.

What if I told you that this year, you could break the cycle? What if I told you that many of the answers to escaping your dilemma are floating in your head right now? What if I told you that 2020 could be a year of break-through? All it will take is consistent imperfect action, one day at a time. If you’ve already ditched your resolutions, you’re in good company. Start taking small, attainable steps today, so you can look back on a years-worth of progress on January 13th, 2021.

What imperfect bite-sized action are you committed to taking consistently in 2020? Take it one day at a time and you’ll be surprised what you can achieve!

The Power of Knowing My Limitations

man-2037255_1920The Power of Knowing My Limitations

by Jonathan Woolridge, WeAlign Certified Coach

“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

Have you ever had a moment when you felt completely inadequate? For me it had to do with songwriting. I’m a musician and I’ve been playing guitar and singing for 16 years. Even though I’ve written some songs along the way, the process has felt like trying to climb a tree with fins.

Several years ago, I took part in a Facebook songwriting challenge. We were supposed to write and record 1 song a month for 6 months. This seemed like a low bar, so I decided to give it a shot. After a month and a half of songwriting at an agonizingly slow pace, I finally had a mostly finished draft and a recording. We were required to post our songs to the Facebook group, so I did.

After posting my first song, I saw that a high school student that I had mentored from church was also in the challenge and had already posted his first 2 songs. As I listened to his first one, I felt a pit form in my stomach, my heart rate went up, and I felt jealousy rising in me. And then I was angry. I turned his song off after 30 seconds because I couldn’t take how good it was. Here was another musician, 10+ years my junior, with more natural writing ability in his pinky, than I had in my entire body. I felt so small. I felt small, because I was basing my identity on an area of weakness and not strength.

These kinds of realizations happen for people all the time in every industry. I’m sure you’ve experienced something like this and probably have someone in mind who picked up a skill or job task so quickly it seemed like they had been doing it their whole life. When I heard this student’s music, it showed me, in bright neon letters, that my natural talents didn’t lie in songwriting.

To cheer me up, some people might say, “That’s alright, if it’s your dream keep at it! If you work hard enough, you can be as good as Bono or Paul McCartney! After all, they had to start somewhere didn’t they?” While this is an encouraging sentiment, there is an unintended lie at its center. The lie is this, “Anyone can do anything. All it takes is hard work.” It might be insulting that I would be bold enough to call that a lie, but please hear me out. Donald Clifton, the father of strengths psychology and creator of the CliftonStrengths Assessment, said in his book Soar With Your Strengths, “To theorize that ‘anyone can do anything’ assumes that all people are clones, possessing an identical set of talents. This, of course, is false. We are each one of a kind, with a unique set of strengths.” You see, if each of us is truly unique, then some of us must have a propensity for certain things over others.

Now I’m not saying we should never focus on areas of weakness, but if that’s the ONLY areas we focus on, then we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. Even worse, focusing solely on improving our limitations may cause us to never discover the natural talents within us. We all have genius in one area or another, but the problem is that most people focus on what they think they should be good at rather than the areas that they could be best at. If we try to force our way to excellence, chances are, we will arrive at mediocrity. When we know who we are and can unleash our strengths exponential growth will occur!

What natural talent have you been ignoring in your life? What areas of weakness have you tried to turn into strength? As 2019 comes to a close and we look forward to new things in 2020, I challenge you to let yourself off the hook! I challenge you to discover your natural talents and hone them! I challenge you to step into the recognition that who you are isn’t mediocre. You are a genius and exponential growth is waiting for you if you focus on your strengths!

My Journey with CliftonStrengths®

shoes-1245920_1920Knowing My Strengths Wasn’t Enough

I first took the Clifton StrengthsFinder® assessment, now called CliftonStrengths® in 2011. At the time I was empty. I was at the end of a multiyear project that took everything out of me. A friend, mentor, and personal coach suggested that I take a sabbatical in order to rest, renew, and reimagine what the next phase of life would look like. As I prepared for the sabbatical, he also suggested I take the StrengthsFinder.

I purchased the book Discover Your Strengths: StrengthsFinder 2.0 and used the code that came with it to find out my top 5 strengths.  I was surprised at the results. They were me! As far as I could tell they were spot on. They suggested action steps were encouraging, inspiring, and invigorating.

I would love to say that I implemented every step, and developed action plans in line with my new awareness. Nope. Instead, I returned from my sabbatical and immediately buried myself in work. Within months, I had forgotten the talent themes that described me. I didn’t forget everything, but since I didn’t know what to do with this newfound knowledge, the assessment ended up in a file that is likely still buried in my desk. My conclusion: knowing your strengths is not enough! You have to do something with that knowledge.

I had forgotten the talent themes that described me and the report ended up in a file buried in my desk.

Experience Greater Clarity

Later on, I surfaced the long-buried assessment, but I didn’t realize that the Top 5 assessment was just the introduction.  So, I ordered the Full 34 report from the Gallup website, and then hired a WeAlign coach to walk me through a full Strengths Alignment.

The result has been greater clarity.  Now I have a much better sense of my unique design and how my talents are deeply woven into who I am.

After taking the CliftonStrengths® assessment and getting coached through the Strengths Alignment process with a WeAlign coach, I decided to become a WeAlign Coach myself – it was that transformative for me!

5 Benefits of a Strengths Alignment

  1. When your life is aligned with your strengths, you have greater clarity.
  2. You have a better idea of your purpose, calling, and how to spend your time.
  3. You have a new language for describing the power you bring to your life and work.
  4. You can better discern how to go about your life and work using your strengths.
  5. You even have greater energy and passion! Strengths are a foundation that you can build on.

If you haven’t yet experienced a Strengths Alignment or would like to know more about our services, contact us.

THE POWER OF AFFIRMATION

Affirmation…so powerful yet so underestimated.

I remember the day when my daughter made a dramatic change, all because of three short words. We were living in France, and she was going to the Maternelle (kindergarten).   At a parent-teacher meeting, the teacher smiled as she exclaimed, “Elle est vite!” (she is fast). Our daughter heard and immediately embraced this affirmation. For the next two years she ran everywhere as fast as she could! “I am fast. I am fast. I am fast…just watch me!” as those words of truth propelled each step forward.

My daughter didn’t realize that her teacher was affirming her mental agility (quickly learning the French language and culture), not her physical prowess. Yet, a compliment put wings on her shoes.

Affirmation turned on a switch in my daughter, just like how Clark Kent taking off his glasses and ripping open his shirt reveals the “S”—his true identity as Superman. We all have “Super” within us, but it usually takes something external to draw it out of us. Many times we may have a hunch or a feeling that something is true about us, but it’s confirmed and brought alive when others call it out. It’s the power of affirmation!

Affirming someone is simply calling out a truth of their authentic design. It’s truly who they are at their core identity. “I appreciate that you have enduring, rock-solid values” or “I love how you always love to learn” are great examples of calling out an identity truth in someone. Complimenting others is a great start too, but slightly different. A compliment is a positive statement referring to a task done or trait possessed. “Thank you for cleaning up the dishes tonight” or “that shirt looks great on you”. They both trigger the production of oxytocin, the “happy” hormone in our brains which results in smiles and warmth.

Here’s a little experiment for you this week: It’ll be easy, simple, and free. Do you want to dramatically change a relationship or your work environment? Start affirming others, and often. Find those characteristics in others that you can call out and affirm in them.  If that seems too difficult to start with, then begin with a smile and a compliment. But flattery is different, and doesn’t count. Flattery is actually focused on elevating the speaker, not the receiver. It highlights a situational non-truth about the other. For example, “I loved your keynote speech” (but you weren’t there and didn’t hear it) or “I’m grateful for your leadership” (but secretly you neither respect nor trust the leader). Affirmation and compliments are a gift to the receiver, because it can produce change in the person’s self-esteem.

Affirmation will put an “S” on your chest…because we all have Super within!  Let WeAlign help you discover your greatness- your true authentic design.

(By the way, we affirm a lot)!

-Dave

Align with Your Design

Align design generic
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Q: At WeAlign, you talk about being my authentic self, but I’ve been so programmed by other people’s expectations that I no longer know who I really am.  How can I recover the real me?

A: That’s a great question, and you’re not alone.  I’ve been going through this journey to “re-humanize” myself as well.  Here are five helpful sources that I’ve discovered along the way.

1) ASK THOSE WHO KNOW YOU

Ask close family members, coworkers, and friends to honestly tell you what your strengths and weaknesses are. They can point out your good and bad blind spots, and be a great “mirror” for you. Note: pay special attention if more than one person points out the same thing.

2) ASK YOUR HISTORY

Take some time to reflect on the accomplishments in your life and note the times you felt successful, fully alive, or in your “zone.”  It’s a big help if you write these down. For each scenario, ask yourself:

  • What was the setting?

  • What skills and talents did you use?

  • What roles did you serve?

Do you see patterns of traits that show up multiple times?  Those are aspects of your core design shining through. When you align with your design, you get the best results.

3) ASK SCIENCE

We live in a time where the science of personality development is exploding. It’s worth your time and expense to take an assessment or two to better understand how you’re wired.

I’ve seen huge results as I’ve coached clients through the WeAlign Strengths Alignment Package. I also like gifttest.org, and DISC, and I know people who prefer MBTI, the Enneagram, Colors, and many others. The key is to know what the assessment is attempting to measure as well as its limitations.

4) ASK A PROFESSIONAL

A qualified coach is trained to help you get clarity on your life purpose and calling.  As an objective sounding board, your coach can often accelerate the process and get you results much faster than going it on your own.

5) ASK YOUR CREATOR

Last, but certainly not least, if you want to know your design it makes sense to consult The Designer.

You may have heard it said that your talents are God’s gift to you, but what you do with them is your gift to God.  So it’s logical that God is biased toward helping you understand your design so that you can make a difference in the world. Ask for guidance and understanding in your prayers, and try some spiritual journaling. Ephesians 2:10

SUMMARY

Each of these factors contribute a part of the whole – the bigger picture of your unique design. Be intentional in your discovery, but remember it’s a process that never completely ends, so be patient with yourself.

Do you need help sorting things out? Let’s have a no-obligation call and see if we can move you forward.

The Joy-Driven Life

We are created to be relational beings, joyfully living integrated lives within community. However, it’s my observation that few of us actually do it, and the results are painful—rampant immaturity, dysfunction, and addictions.

Dr. Jim Wilder, founder of Life Model Works,  has made it one of his life missions to help men and women grow up, into emotional maturity. He estimates that 75 percent of men function at an infant maturity level—able to receive but not give. He’s often called the “Neuroscience Theologian,” and his way forward is unique, unusual, simple, and profound. It all starts with the brain and joy.

You’re likely aware that there are two sides to the brain. The left side operates cognitively and responds to duty, beliefs, and discipline. The right side is relational and fueled by joy. Dr. Wilder observes that the answer to developing maturity lies in the relational right side of the brain through the emotion of joy.

Extensive scientific studies show that the brain is developed relationally and is driven by joy. According to Dr. Wilder, joy means that I am glad to be with you. UCLA neuroscientist and pioneer in this field, Dr. Allan Shore, concluded, “To develop a human identity we must be the ‘sparkle in someone’s eyes.’ ” It is this special sparkle, being genuinely glad to be with someone, that opens the relational side of our brains. It’s much more important that we’re together than how it’s going to turn out. The problem ought never trump the relationship.Sharing Joy

I’m very encouraged to see that a joy-filled, relational movement is gaining momentum in families, neighborhoods, and workplaces. Many are turning on and tuning the right side of their brains. I am among them. As I coach others in living fearlessly, I amazed by the immediate results.

Last spring, I saw this happen in a large non-profit organization. During laborious meetings of budget building and planning, I introduced simple brain exercise before the “grind” part of the meeting. Incredibly, their time stayed relational, with tasks being accomplished faster and better, more efficiently, energetically, and joyfully. The team has continued to transform through these simple relational exercises, and are still learning, growing, and developing their brains through joy. We are seeing lives change!

It all starts with joy. Life Model Works has developed 19 brain skills that build joyful communities. The first skill is “Share Joy.” Facial expressions and voice tones say, “We’re glad to be together!” So, here’s a quick application: Look for opportunities to be glad to be with people. I smile and focus on good things as much as I can. So practice your smile!

And, by the way, keep in mind that ‘We are glad to be with you!’ Now pass on the joy!

 

CliftonStrengths® Changed My Life

By Debbie Fawcett, CCPC
(note: this post first appeared in the Spring 2019 edition of Christian Coaching Magazine)

Screen Shot 2019-06-26 at 3.05.08 PM

I have taken many different types of assessments throughout the years but taking the CliftonStrengths® assessment has really changed my life! That may sound over dramatic but let me highlight a few ways this has helped me grow personally and professionally.

What is the CliftonStrengths® Assessment?

Gallup CliftonStrengths®, formerly known as Clifton Strengthsfinder®, is a powerful tool that I would recommend for any person, especially coaches. It looks at 34 specific strengths and ranks them in a list that is unique to the individual. The strengths are grouped into four categories or “Theme Domains”: 1) Executing 2) Influencing 3) Relationship Building and 4) Strategic Thinking. Many people only learn their top five strengths, but there is so much more value when you do the complete assessment and get all 34 strengths.

When I took the assessment, I learned that I had seven of the nine relationship themes in my signature strengths. This means that I lead with my relationship building themes. This was a game changer for me as I saw how all the pieces of my life started to fit together. Have you ever wondered why certain tasks drain your energy? You were probably not working in your strengths. I’ve never had an assessment resonate so deeply.

Personal Growth and Awareness

Another area that changed for me was in my relationships. My husband took the assessment and we discovered that his top strengths were at the bottom of my list and my top strengths were at the bottom of his list. We were complete opposites of each other! I always knew that but now we have a common language to work through those differences. We can also celebrate how God has uniquely designed each one of us. There’s power in a family unit taking the assessment together.

When taking assessments, it is important to figure out how to use the information you gain to impact your everyday life. If it doesn’t help you in the long run, then it’s just a test. That’s one reason that coaching after taking the assessment is so valuable.

Using CliftonStrengths® in Coaching

For me, learning about my strengths has opened doors for me to grow in so many ways. I have become more confident in who God made me to be. My number one strength is Leaner so learning will always be a major part of my life. But Learner combined with my Developer prompts me to do everything I can to help develop my client’s potential. Every coaching session becomes an opportunity to learn and be curious about my client.

Another insight that has come out of knowing my strengths is the language that I use when coaching. Empathy is very high for me so before I might say something like, “How do you feel about….?”. Now I am more intentional with my words because my client that is high in Analytical would be better served by using “thinking” words and phrases, not “feeling”. Keeping the client’s language and natural bent in mind makes a big difference.

Working with Others Who Value Strengths

I joined a new strengths-based coaching company called WeAlign Coaching so I could be part of a tribe of like-minded coaches that value the unique strengths and talents in each individual and organization (see www.wealigncoaching.com for more information). They have great tools and resources to help individuals and teams to dig deeper into their strengths. One of the questions we try to ask in our coaching process is, “How have you been affirmed in this strength?” Sometimes certain strengths have not been affirmed. For example, a woman who is strong in Command may feel that Command doesn’t fit in her work environment. That individual needs to learn how to use her Command and not tone it down. She’s a natural leader.

Strengths in the Workplace

I’ve seen how this tool can help in business too. If an employee has strong Deliberative, as an example, they will need time to think before a decision is made. Rushing an employee with Deliberative may cause stress. But after the decision has been made, the leaders can trust that the issue has been well thought through. WeAlign Coaching has a system to help teams work better together. Businesses that have gone through the process as a team have reported that employees are happier and more productive when they are working in their strengths.

If you have the opportunity, I would highly encourage you to take the CliftonStrengths® assessment but also to get coaching on what these strengths mean for you and how you can use this information. The Gallup website is a wealth of information and also where you can take the assessment (see www.gallupstrengthscenter.com).

For those who are curious, here are my signature strengths: 1) Learner 2) Empathy 3) Intellection 4) Developer 5) Input 6) Includer 7) Connectedness 8) Relator 9) Adaptability 10) Belief 11) Positivity and 12) Responsibility.

What would it do for you if you discovered your strengths? What if taking this assessment changed your life too? The test is available for anyone to take. Why wait?

Debbie Fawcett, CCPC is a WeAlign Associate Coach

How Comparison Steals Your Joy

By Pete Cafarchio, ACC.

compare mirrorPhoto by Fares Hamouche on Unsplash

I was reflecting about how I tend to despise my natural limitations instead of accepting them, and this graphic representation came to mind.  I hope you can gain some personal insights from it.

How it works

When I accurately see myself the way I am, with a realistic view of my strengths and limitations, I can have self-respect and a healthy appreciation for myself.

The problem comes when I get fixated on a fantasy version of who I think I should be.  In that version, my strengths are exaggerated, and my weaknesses are ignored or hidden.  It’s unrealistic, but I’m more attracted to that version.  And then when I see my Real Self in comparison to my Fantasy Self, I wind up disliking myself because I don’t measure up.  The result is deep-seated unhappiness with my core identity.

Entire industries spend multiple billions of dollars each year to convince you that you don’t yet measure up to the Fantasy Self.  They don’t mind damaging your self-esteem just so you’ll buy their products to improve yourself.  Pretty sick, huh?

Social media makes it even worse by broadcasting images that only show our best moments and hide our real struggles.

And if you’re a high-achiever, you might be naturally prone to setting unrealistic expectations for yourself and others.

What can you do?

One plan of attack is to identify the sources that contribute to your Fantasy Self.  A short list might include: entertainment, advertisements, past messages from your family of origin, condescending friends, certain corporate cultures, and your social media feed.

Ask yourself if these influencers are making you feel better or worse about your Real Self, and then manage or eliminate them. It’s not easy because we’re barraged every day, but a few key choices can make a big difference.

The second approach is to get a good understanding of who you really are – self-awareness.  Do the work using the Strengths Alignment, a coach, and feedback from friends and coworkers to get an accurate view of your strengths and limitations.  And then learn to love and accept yourself for who you are.

What’s interesting is that the better you know your Real Self, the easier it becomes to see (and reject) your Fantasy Self.

I’ve heard it said that when currency experts are trained to identify counterfeit money, they don’t study the infinite ways the money can be imitated. Instead, they study the unique characteristics (paper type, colors, inks, images, etc.) of legitimate currency. Then if they see that one aspect is altered, they know the bill in question isn’t authentic.

The same principle applies here.  Get to know the real, legitimate you, and it becomes easier to spot the voices trying to make you into a phony.

How about you? What’s one comparison you can eliminate to increase your joy level?

Pete Cafarchio, ACC, is a WeAlign Executive Coach and partner.  

WHO ARE YOU?…I REALLY WANNA KNOW…

Who are you?… 

This is a huge universal question, and made, also,  for some pretty good lyrics by Peter Townshend of The Who. I clearly remember the day when my 10 year old brain first encountered this great query. My teacher, Miss Franklin, wrote three simple words on the blackboard that began a four decade journey for me:

Who Am I?

These three words linked together make it one of the most challenging, complex, even intimidating questions of all time. It forces us to go beyond the surface and plunge into the depth of our soul. It leads us to our identity.

Many of us, unfortunately, don’t like who we are, but worse, many of us don’t even have a clue of who we are. We are beaten down by an unforgiving world which is inhabited by people who tend to exploit weaknesses and criticize strengths. As a result, many of us have become zombie-like—half dead, half alive, aimlessly wandering around, looking to devour another’s flesh…and identity. OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but you know where I am going.   

The good news is that we can become fully alive again. We can find our design, fit, purpose…and flourish. In future blogs, we’ll look at three factors to help us find or rediscover our identity (not unlike a paleontologist gently brushing the dirt off of buried bones. Together we’ll gently brush off fabrications in order to reveal the talents and traits that are true):

  • Affirmation leads to our identity
  • Rest clarifies our identity
  • Joy and appreciation creates our identity

So let’s get into our special chair and relax & dream and just “be”. With WeAlign (aligning design with destiny), your wonderful journey is about to begin!

Dave Mead

StrengthsFinder Executive Life Coach

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