Now let’s say you’ve done the hard work of dismantling these negative thoughts patterns. What now? A good next step is to start articulating the things you’re the best at. I’m not talking about the things you WISH you were the best at or feel like you SHOULD be the best at. I mean the things in your life that you do instinctively well.
Getting clear about who you are and who you are not, is hard work. That’s why I recommend using the CliftonStrengths Assessment as a way to help my clients understand and communicate the unique strengths that they have. This also gives them a way to focus their hard work in a way the plays to their strengths and sets them up for success.
If you want to make a meaningful impact on the people around you, the place you work, the city you live in, or the entire world, then you owe it to yourself to discover your areas of strength and let go of trying to turn weakness into strength. Exponential growth is a byproduct of living and working in your sweet spot.
If you haven’t been coached through your CliftonStrengths Assessment, I want to share a simple tool that will help you recognize if you’re working in an area of strength. It’s called the 4 Es, and they are: Energizing, Enjoyable, Easy, Effective.
When you’re using your strengths (even if you can’t fully articulate them), you’ll feel energized. It’ll be enjoyable. Even if you’re working hard, there will still be a sense of ease in using your strengths. Finally, you’ll be effective in what you’re doing. This isn’t to say that once you know your strengths you won’t have any more learning to do or that life will always be easy.
The major takeaway here is that applying hard work to areas where all four Es are present will set you up for exponential growth. You’d never be able to gain and maintain that growth if you focused on areas that are energy draining, unenjoyable, overly difficult, and that you lack effectiveness in.
Take a moment to think honestly about where you devote most of your time. Are the 4 Es present? If not, what needs to change? It could be that you’re in a role that doesn’t fit you. Or maybe the entire industry is a bad fit. It could be, that you’re in the right industry but the wrong department. Whatever your situation is, this simple tool could help you honestly assess your situation and determine if anything needs to change.
If you’re overwhelmed and not sure where to start, working with a professional coach could be the best investment you make in yourself. You never know what kind of contribution you could be making if you properly align yourself with your strengths.
A few months ago, I was driving to work and I kept hearing a thud on my starts and stops. Now I’m no mechanic, but I knew that my car shouldn’t be making that sound.
I dropped my car off and walked to one of my favorite coffee shops nearby. 45 minutes later I got a text message from the shop saying they were finished inspecting my car. As I packed up my computer and walked back to the shop, I couldn’t help but wonder what was causing the noise and how expensive it was going to be to repair it.
When I asked the front desk what the problem was they told me, “it was a bowling ball…”. You heard me right, it was my new bowling ball rolling around in the back. I’m a bowler and had put it there the night before because it needed to have the holes drilled and I didn’t want to forget to drop it off. I can’t remember a time when I was more embarrassed.
Luckily, the shop didn’t charge me anything and I was on my way, my ego deflating as I tried to laugh it off. While driving back to the office I couldn’t help but see this story as a metaphor for all the times I assumed something was wrong with me, when in reality, my own expectations were rolling around in my head and convincing me of a problem.
The first time I realized the powerful effect of expectations was when I was coached through my CliftonStrengths Assessment. As we dug into my top 5 talents, I was able to give voice to areas of strength that I hadn’t been able to describe before. I could finally articulate who I really was and what areas I needed to focus on if I wanted to experience exponential growth.
As my coach and I got to the end of my assessment, particularly my bottom 5 talents, I realized that I had wrongly believed that I could turn these weaknesses into strengths. This insight was hands-down the most liberating part of being coached through my assessment.
Even though I stubbornly tried to play to my strengths I was still expecting myself to be good at things that were weaknesses. And the most sinister thing about it was that I had no idea the crippling effect it was having on me. Without the self-awareness I gained through coaching, I would still be carrying that weight around with me, thinking something was wrong, when in reality it was simply a bowling ball rolling around in the back of my car.
What expectations of yourself do you need to let go? You might find that exponential growth is waiting for you if you stop trying to be something you’re not.
My friend, business genius William Arruda and I sat down recently to talk about why coaching matters so much–even, perhaps MORE–during this Covid-19 crisis. Here are the top ten reasons we came up with:
Many tools and techniques of professional coaching are scientifically proven to reduce stress. When we are stressed, it is much more difficult to have empathy, think creatively, control impulses, and make effective plans. When stress is reduced through coaching, people have more access to creativity, empathy, and resilience, all of which are critical right now.
Coaching helps people process what is going on. This is an unprecedented time—the very fact that we have little to compare it to makes it exceptionally difficult to process and make sense of. Without processing during the time we are in the experience, we run a high probability of either crashing when it is over, or sublimating our worry, fear and stress into health issues, low energy, and other negative impacts. When we notice and allow our true feelings and concerns, we move the energy through and stay steadier and more able to cope both during and after. Many people need the support of coaching in order to do this effectively.
Coaching helps people find their own resilience and capacity, even when we can’t change the external landscape. Any coach worth their salt knows to focus on the client, not the issue. When people are what we might call, “returned to themselves” through coaching, they see more possibility and find more internal resilience. This restores some sense of control in what feels like an uncontrollable world.
The small amount invested in coaching during a crisis will pay off in terms of larger gains. The companies and individuals that will get through this time are those that maintain a fair amount of calm center, limit the toxic impact of stress, are flexible and agile, and truly “think outside the box.” Given the impact of the circumstances we find ourselves in, it is highly unlikely that people will find their way there without the kind of support coaching provides.
Giving managers and leaders coaching provides a noticeable ripple effect. Research shows that leaders have a potent impact on the “weather” of their organization. When they are calm, emotionally regulated, thoughtful, and patient, those around them feel more able to respond more thoughtfully as well. (Same is true for parents and children.)
This will most likely lead to permanent changes for individuals and orgs. We know coaching is one of the most effective ways to help people navigate change. We’re not going back to “business as usual” after this. Coaching helps us know and express our own needs, desires and boundaries as things change so we can be active “co-creators” in what is to come.
It is more critical than ever to retain and develop top talent. We’re going to need extraordinary thinking and performance to help any enterprise—whether it is a business, a school, or even a family—get through this. As things are pointing to different structures in how we do business, all enterprises are going to need to rely more on multiple layers of leadership. Coaching helps develop people’s leadership strengths and confidence, and is also a proven retention strategy.
Coaches help people get unstuck and move out of fixed patterns or mindsets. Surviving and thriving in this time requires an adaptable brain that can respond with flexibility and creativity, while still being thoughtful and applying logic. Coaching helps people identify limiting beliefs and move into more open and responsive mindsets.
People are thinking about purpose and meaning as a result of this crisis. Without support in terms of surfacing and focusing on questions of meaning, life purpose, and important values, all too often the things we learn in crisis are lost. Coaching can help us powerfully reflect on what we are learning about ourselves.
People will be using this opportunity to make major life and work changes and will need a coach to help navigate this change. Our old patterns and habits are well-wired into our brains. Making real change is disruptive to the system, and we need support to make major changes. Coaching is all about the reflection-action-reflection cycle of learning. A coach helps us identify what we want, try some things to put it into action, reflect on what we learned, and then continue this positive cycle as we move into new ways of being and therefore new results in our lives.
Ann Betz consults on the science of coaching for the ICF education department, and served as provocateur for the online learning ICF Advance in 2018 and will again in 2020. She is the author of This Is Your Brain on Coaching, the science of the ICF competencies, and has been a professional coach since 2001. She is the co-founder of BEabove Leadership, offering advanced coach training on neuroscience for the experienced and curious coach. She is a sought-after international speaker on the intersection of neuroscience, coaching, and human development, and works with many global brands and coaching organizations.
William Arruda is an entrepreneur, motivational speaker and the world’s leading authority on the topic of personal branding. He’s the bestselling author of the definitive books on the topic: Career Distinction and Ditch. Dare. Do! His latest book, Digital YOU helps readers translate their real-world brands for the virtual world. William is the CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) of Reach Personal Branding and the co-founder of CareerBlast.TV – a personal and digital branding video learning platform for innovative organizations. His products have been used by over a million people across the globe. William is honored to work with many of the world’s most revered brands, including 20% of the Fortune 100. He regularly shares his thoughts on workplace trends and branding in his Forbes column. In 2015, he was awarded the ICF Chair’s Award for his contributions to the field of coaching.
The store was eerily quiet and yet I was far from alone. People were bustling past me to grab their groceries, but no one was talking. I was standing there with a bandana covering my face, hand sanitizer in my shirt pocket and scanning my personal space for intruders.
Someone bumped into me and what normally would have been a simple accident, felt like an unforgivable insult. It was like Dr. Jekyll had become Mr. Hyde and I didn’t like it. I was experiencing a stress response and wasn’t handling it well.
If you can relate to this in any way, keep reading.
The human brain is well equipped to handle stress and actively responds chemically in stressful situations in order to help you survive. These stress responses have ensured the survival of the human race since time immemorial. The problem is that today, we aren’t typically faced with life or death situations and yet we still have stress responses regularly.
Everyone has disagreements and misunderstandings with other people. So being able to stay relational and keep from getting stuck in negative emotions is critical if we’re going to have healthy relationships and less stress.
When we experience any kind of negative stress, we can easily slip into our fight, flight, freeze or appease response and this directly impacts our ability to make decisions and focus on the relationship with the person. Whether it’s a spouse, child, friend, coworker, or employee, we will experience better conflict resolution and deeper relationships when we aren’t being ruled by negative emotions.
Here are six statements that can help you recognize when your decision making and relationship building skills are being impacted by negative emotions. If any of these are true in a situation, then you’re most likely experiencing a stress response and not keeping the relationship bigger than the problem.
1. I just want to make a problem, person or feeling go away.
2. I don’t want to listen to what others feels or say.
3. My mind is “locked onto” something upsetting.
4. I don’t want to be connected to ____. Someone I usually like.
5. I just want to get away, fight, flight, freeze or appease.
6. I more aggressively interrogate, judge and fix others.
*Based on the work of Karl Lehman M.D. http://www.kclehman.com
If you’re experiencing these, then your ability to creatively problem solve while keeping the other person’s best interest at heart will be hindered. So, what can you do to change the situation? Here are couple of tips that will help you keep the relationship bigger than the problem:
1: Spend 3-5 minutes deep breathing
Doing deep breathing exercises for 3-5 minutes causes our brains to secrete serotonin which naturally helps our bodies to calm down. Our brain’s naturally do this, but we can help it along through deep breathing. That’s pretty amazing in my opinion!
Here’s an easy to remember deep breathing exercise: 4 second inhale, then hold for 4 seconds at the top of your inhale, then 4 second exhale, and hold for 4 seconds at the bottom of your exhale. Continue for 3-5 minutes or until you feel calm.
2: Focus on Appreciations
Start counting all the things for which you’re grateful. When we remember all the good things in our lives, it can have a serotonin-inducing effect as well. You could even keep a list of appreciations handy that you can focus on when you realize that you aren’t acting relationally.
I want to share a story about a recent time when I used these tips
It was bath time, which is typically happy, but this time it was irritating me. The silliness and giggling that usually brings me joy was causing me to want to yell at my kids to be quiet. After a few minutes of suppressing this urge I recognized that I was having a stress response. I asked myself why and remembered that I had read a frustrating work email right before helping my kids get in the bath.
I immediately called for my wife, Roxanne and let her know what was going on and that I needed a few minutes. She graciously took over and I went to my room (my closet to be exact), and did some deep breathing, while quoting scripture and focusing on an appreciation. I quickly started feeling a sense of calm returning and after five minutes I was able to reengage with my kids, their giggling and silliness bringing me joy once again.
So, next time you recognize the effects of stress, take a breather (literally) and focus on appreciations. I think you’ll be surprised at how effective they are in helping you keep the relationship bigger than the problem.
Give them a try and let me know how it works for you!
After a short errand one day last week I returned to my workstation and noticed that my heart rate was elevated. It was the end of the third week working from home during this COVID-19 pandemic.
After many years with the military, this current operation reminded me of the urgency and heavy weight of responsibility I felt when we helped in many other crisis situations in the past. We responded to Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti Earthquake, Super Storm Sandy, the Ebola epidemic, and other military training exercises – too many to count.
While at my workstation, I soon realized I was in a STRESS RESPONSE. This was caused by trying to quickly support my team and our mission and the worry about the unknown nature of COVID-19 and how it spreads. I also had the personal concern that I could bring the virus home and infect a loved one. As I resumed work, I began to feel overwhelmed and my heart rate still did not lower.
What do you do when that happens? I used to just keep working and hope that somewhere down the road it would subside. But this time that approach didn’t help.
I have learned that when our bodies respond to stress, they produce stress hormones preparing us for action. When these stress hormones are surging, the relational side of our brain is shutting down. When that happens, we lose the ability to be creative, and to stay open to the people around us. As for me, I can become fixated on solving the problem, fixing the problem person, or escaping the danger. But, this time I tried a different approach.
Here are THREE steps of my STRESS RESPONSE that helped:
ONE. I took a break. I left my workstation and sat down in a chair. I closed my eyes and emptied my hands. I began to do box breathing (a deep belly breath for 4 seconds in, a 4 second hold, a 4 second exhale, and a 4 second pause). I did this many times over several minutes. Normally when I do the 4 second exhale, I usually recite a positive saying. For you it could be a mantra; for me it is always a Scripture. Any positive saying will do. After a while, I felt my heart rate begin to stabilize.
TWO. I began to remember a joy-filled memory. As I pondered a fun encounter I had with someone special to me, I noticed that I felt more peaceful.
THREE. I did some spiritual grounding exercises that always help me stay centered in my spiritual life. I prayed. I listened. I waited in the quiet. After these three steps, I felt peaceful, engaged in my work, and my heart rate HAD indeed returned to normal.
These steps only took about five minutes, and I did them in a chair in my office. I could have done them in my car, or on a walk, or anywhere. What do you do when you feel the stress of your mission, your relationships, or life in general? Give these three steps a try and see if they help you to have a different STRESS RESPONSE.
Have you ever wanted to move to a new stage of life, a new career, get into shape, lose a few pounds, have a better relationship with a friend, spouse, or loved one? What is holding you back? I believe our greatest enemy is: Inertia!
This inertia comes in many forms: the status quo, almost good enough, I will wait till the perfect timing, I am not smart enough, I am not talented enough, if only. These are all excuses and lies that we all believe and tell ourselves daily. What if we could overcome this inertia and move forward with our decisions with one simple new one-/hour monthly thing we do?
Sounds too good to be true? It could be, but I have found that having an Executive Coach has been a key to overcoming this problem in my life. Here are some examples of how my coach has helped me in practical ways.
In many decisions I let fear keep me from moving. An acronym for fear that I like is FEAR: False, Evidence, Appearing, Real. When I become anxious or fearful, my mind starts to race 100 miles an hour, and I struggle to shut it off. It runs towards the cliffs that are imaginary in my mind! At least 90 percent of the fears that I have never come to pass. So most of that emotional energy is wasted on nothing! Fear also kills my desire for fulfillment. We have a bias that causes us to fear loss more than we want fulfillment. If I focus on fear, I will not reach fulfillment in my life. My coach has helped me by allowing me to voice these fears, hit them head-on, and replace my fears with my long term desires. My goals become my compass and true north for my brain’s activities, allowing my mind a positive fuel to move me forward, rather than the negative fears that keep me afraid and overwhelmed by the negative outcome possibilities.
Another truth I have come to realize is that living reactively does not meet our deepest needs. As we go about our daily lives, we rush from one thing to another and look back after yet another week and think, “Have I really accomplished anything this week?!” This can lead a deep-seated dissonance between what I am doing, what I value, and what I want out of life long term.
As I process these feelings with my coach, simple questions, without judgement, have been very helpful. Questions like: What makes this worth pursuing? What is causing you to feel stuck? How does this align with who you are, and who you want to be? If you look back in 20 years, what advice would you give yourself? Who are you becoming through this decision? These questions help me to process why I feel this dissonance and how to say “No” to the urgent activities that pop up every day.” This allows me margin to say “Yes” to what I value most, health, fitness, relationships, and other deep-seated life-bringing values.
Sometimes I get stuck because I try to make a decision through one frame of reference or decision-making strategy. Since I cannot find a path using this strategy, I stay immobilized by it. Having another person asking me questions from another strategy has been of great value to me as well. A few examples of strategies that we use are:
Rationale: “What are the pros and cons of pursuing each option?”
Relational: “How will this course of action affect those around me? Family, Co-workers, friends?
Alignment: “How well does this decision align with my passions, values, calling?
Spiritual: “What decision would best align with my faith? What is God saying to me on this?
Cost: “What would it cost you in terms of time and resources to do this? What would it cost me if I do NOT do this? What cost is there to me if I do nothing and make no choice?
Risk/Reward: “What is the payoff for each opportunity? What is the opportunity cost of each? What is the risk? What steps could minimize the risk involved?
In many decisions, we face fears, both known and unknown. To overcome this inertia we feel (which causes us to avoid people, places, decisions, or actions) hiring a coach that you can trust and act as a sounding board is one of the greatest investments in your life you can make! Hire a coach today!
Who doesn’t love being comfortable? Hopping on the couch and turning on Netflix, is probably one of my favorite things to do. The pursuit of living comfortable lives drives most of our career and family decisions and we all can benefit from relaxation. But comfort, or at least making comfort and being comfortable our chief aim, can be detrimental. Like a slow-acting poison, if left unchecked, it can cripple your ability to pursue your passions and get in the way of good decision-making.
I live in Colorado and our weather can be very unpredictable. A few weeks back, as I was driving home from work, a cold front was moving in and brought with it freezing rain. I really didn’t want to turn the heat up on the defroster because I was bundled up and preferred that it didn’t feel like I was driving a sauna on wheels. Instead I chose to keep my windshield wipers working feverishly. After a few minutes, my windshield was becoming more and more obscured and I had to say goodbye to being comfortable so I wouldn’t die in a fiery car crash.
This perfectly normal, everyday experience actually led me to a somewhat profound conclusion; making the right decision often requires accepting some level of discomfort. While I was fixated on being comfortable, the only solution that made sense was the ineffective use of my wiper-blades. No matter how fast they moved, they couldn’t keep the ice at bay, and for a few moments, I felt like there wasn’t another solution.
While the idea of being comfortable sat on the throne of my decision making, I was temporarily paralyzed. This realization happened in a split second, but it made me think, “What other areas of my life had I abdicated control to the allure of living comfortably?” As I kept driving, a little warmer than I wanted to be but finally with a perfectly clear windshield, I started thinking about the territories in my life that comfort was threatening to overcome. I quickly realized that over-prioritizing comfort was negatively impacting some of my parenting, professional development, hobbies, chores, and relationships.
Whether we admit it or not, comfort keeps us on the couch when we could be running. Comfort keeps us scrolling through our phones when we could have been reading. Now I’m not saying that being comfortable is wrong (all things in moderation right?), but I am saying that if you only ever make decisions with comfort as your chief aim, then you’ll probably experience life at half (or a lot less) of what it could be. The problem is when we spend too much time protecting our comfort.
Making lasting change in your life will be uncomfortable. In fact, all good things in life come with challenges. The dream job you finally landed will have its fair share of frustrations. Your soulmate won’t always understand you. The beauty and joy of a newborn child will also bring sleep deprivation and poopy diapers. The best things in life require effort and so will making positive change.
I would venture to guess that most of us (if not all of us) have areas in our lives that we want to change or improve. And since you’re human, I bet comfort gets the better of you from time to time. Comfort gets the better of me more than I care to admit (does this count as admitting it?). But if you recognize the issue, you can start to change your response.
So, if you aren’t satisfied with some area of your life, or you’re not reaching your goals, I want you to ask yourself a couple of questions. First, “Am I unsatisfied with ______ because I’m prioritizing comfort over taking action? If the answer is yes, then ask, “What realistic step can I take today that will move me in the right direction?”. You might find that you couldn’t imagine a different way of approaching the problem all because you were too focused on being comfortable. Making progress and good decisions will bring with it discomfort, but it’s through discomfort that exponential growth occurs!
“When people start operating in their Strengths instead of overcompensating for their weaknesses, that’s when the magic happens.” – SAM Morrison
At the beginning of 2019, SAM owned her own business as a publisher of a local neighborhood magazine, which she loved. However, she was feeling exhausted, overworked and underpaid. She knew that God had something different for her but was not sure what that was. She wanted a company where she could have significance in other people’s lives, but she also wanted to work from home and help others do the same.
Things took a big turn for her after she went through the WeAlign Strengths Alignment Package with Coach Dale. The powerful insights she got motivated her to take action to better align her work with her strengths.
She shut down her work with the magazine
She created a new company “Your Admin Ninja” to do Virtual Administration
Your Admin Ninja opened for business on April 1st, 2019
One month later SAM was fully booked
The company has continued to grow
As of February, 2019, she is employing seven (7) other Ninja’s part-time
SAM says that she learned several things while getting coached through her strengths:
About who she truly is and what she is naturally good at.
She had been trying to fit in a box based on other people’s expectations of her.
While she thought she was good at some things, they really didn’t come natural.
By focusing on what she is naturally good at, she can be exponentially better at what she does.