Compassion is Pragmatic

May 26th, 2015
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This may seem counter-intuitive, but in the sustainable scheme of things, compassion is an extremely pragmatic exercise, despite our culture’s “mushy” associations. First, let’s get on the same page with a fresh definition.

Compassion is a sympathetic awareness of others’ distress and a desire to alleviate it as we would our own. We’re equals in understanding one another’s experience.  This is where the pragmatic part comes in.

Compassion - or the lack of it - is behind virtually every interaction we have. Everyone needs some level of “understanding their experience.” That point of connection and understanding is the fuel that drives interaction. It can be high-octane rocket fuel, or low-octane sludge. Taking it seriously propels success, so if it doesn’t feel built-in, it’s definitely a skill set worth learning.

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All Those Extra Buttons

April 8th, 2015
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A popular myth about our brains says that we only use a small portion of it; and if by virtue of some fantastic drug or mutation we could use all of our brain, look out! Although disproven long ago, the idea keeps popping up, because it’s so attractive.  Who wouldn’t want to have access to all of their potential?  This could be the Holy Grail for our lives. Imagine increasing your I.Q., being able to solve problems in a fraction of the time, be in command of your emotions, and increase your productivity many times over. The possibilities and benefits just go on and on.

What if there’s a piece of that myth that isn’t entirely fantasy? What if you could in effect, increase this kind of functionality in your brain? We can look at the myth with a slightly different filter.  We just need to look more closely at our meaning of the word “use.” From a perspective of looking at the brain from end to end, we do in fact use all of the territory between our ears, but how we use it is another story.

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Why Cognitive Linguistics?

March 2nd, 2015
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Recently I was asked why I emphasize linguistics and communication so much in my work as a coach, and I was struck by how that question hadn’t really occurred to me. When we’ve been at something for decades, we often take certain things for granted and move on. One of the most valuable things about teaching is that it yanks us back to “Beginner’s Mind,” and we’re forced to re-examine our assumptions and ways of explaining things.

This is especially true when we’re working with very different kinds of people with different backgrounds. What both connects and divides us becomes how we say what we say. So why do I emphasize communication? The first thing that comes to me is that language and words are the mortar between the bricks of every interaction we have. This includes the thousands of interactions you have every day with yourself.  Have you ever thought about how much you talk to yourself in your own head?  Have you ever thought about how you talk to yourself?  This incredibly important activity we’re engaged in 24/7 (yes even in our dreams) is described by the study of Cognitive Linguistics.

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Making Champions

February 12th, 2015
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Watching an interview with NFL head coaches Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll, I was extremely inspired by their shared values and methods. They epitomize what exceptional coaching is all about: evoking excellence from your people. This is where coaching is the same on the field or the workplace.

From player to player, or person to person, we have different ways of being motivated, tied to our perspectives which drive our perceptions, which drive how we interface with the world around us. Depending upon whether we have primarily individual or team goals, another layer of coaching enters; a dimension of altitude. What’s useful for us in all this, is that it follows a very natural progression.

Just as ripples emanate from a pebble tossed into still water, individual excellence needs to emanate from the center outward as well. Where these two coaches excel is in how individual excellence can be woven together in a team effort, rather than that team tearing itself apart with individual-centric behavior. The players play for each other, not themselves.

The Coach’s Job
When Belichick and Carroll talked about how they worked with players, certain values and skills came up repeatedly. They’re both highly observant and focused in the moment.

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Be the Cue Stick

January 11th, 2015
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It’s a hard thing to admit – that when we step back and reflect on our lives – we see so much of those lives as bouncing off of events and choices, rather than intentional aims. I’ve heard many descriptions of this dynamic through the years, including “accidental relationships,” and “just finding myself in this job,” or even “what am I doing here? Where do I want to go?”

It seems most of us live our lives much like billiard balls. We’re just minding our own business, and another ball smacks into us, sending us careening off-track. Maybe we’re rolling along until we hit a bumper and bounce off in a new direction until we hit another bumper or ball, and that energy sends us off again.

This is a story of reaction. It’s a perfectly reasonable story, if you don’t have an alternative. That’s where we can flip this whole thing on its head.

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Letting Go of What Doesn’t Serve Us

December 22nd, 2014
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There comes a time when we need to look at our “tenacity,” and ask ourselves if it’s really serving us. We hold on to stuff for a lot of reasons. If all these reasons weren’t tangled up in each other, it’d be far easier to see our path, and whether or not our current trajectory makes sense. Unfortunately very little in life is that simple, especially when we look at our emotional involvement.

Emotional processing rarely has much to do with logic. We casually dismiss this as “the heart wants what the heart wants,” thinking with our hearts rather than our heads, and so forth. When we examine more deeply,

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the Tortoise, the Hare, and the 3 Bears

November 2nd, 2014
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Let’s lay out an action plan for increased productivity and less stress; more substantial, quality work done in less time. We try lots of strategies to this end; some more effective than others. One of the least effective and most used is Multitasking.  My book, “Kind Ambition” devoted a whole chapter to this. Despite the studies proving the ineffectiveness of multitasking, the emotional “sense” of busyness is a kind of soothing drug that lulls us into believing we’re getting more done.  We’re not.

Although it might seem as though we’re doing several things simultaneously, the brain actually flips back and forth through each thing, and requires time to gear up and gear down between each task. That gearing up and gearing down may happen quickly, but all those shifts cumulatively add up to a significant amount of time wasted by the end of the day. 

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Starting with Goals = Fail

October 5th, 2014
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Provocative, but true.  I’m not saying don’t make goals or work toward them.  I am saying it’s absolutely not the first step. 

In every long-term endeavor, there’s an incredibly important step that comes first.  In aviation it’s called a pre-flight check.  When you’re going on a road trip,  you don’t just hop in the car and go.  First, you make sure the tires are properly inflated, there’s fuel in the tank, and so on.

Here, we need to look at our goal-setting mechanism, before we start using it.  Remember the Einstein quote: “you can’t solve problems using the same thinking that created them?”  Setting goals with your current mindset usually results in difficulties in achieving them.  For one thing, you’re going to 

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Boundaries Revisited

September 6th, 2014
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Rule #1: Consistency
Boundaries are very often a source of confusion and stress. We know we need them and yet have a hard time making them, or holding them once we do. Our difficulties stem from how we perceive the world around us.

For some of us, the world is dangerous. Our mind’s threat model leans toward hard boundaries at a distance from our hearts.  This makes getting to know one another difficult.  Even when we think we’re all happiness and love, that subconscious threat model creates detachment and push-back we may not realize is happening.  The subconscious says if you don’t know me, you can’t hurt me.

For others, the world is all about connection, and that brings up issues around rejection. We don’t want to be rejected or reject others.  If we feel that boundaries will do this, we resist making them. Then we get hurt or walked on and suddenly make big boundaries out of nowhere. The inconsistency of this undermines those boundaries, and we’re in trouble. Ironically, boundaries can be a place of connection when they’re clearly communicated and reasonable.

The earlier you establish clear boundaries, the less conflict later on.  Another rule of thumb is

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Brain Draining or Brain Training?

August 2nd, 2014
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Best Tool Ever
“Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” We’ve got the power to make that a great starting point.  We can sharpen knives.  Peak performance starts in the brain, and the brain can be sharpened like a knife.  Neuroplasticity opens the door to our capacity for change.  Harnessing this, and using it to sharpen and hone our brain is the key to making everything else we do more effective.

Do you ever get frustrated by how easily you get distracted or taken “off track” by someone saying or doing something, then losing valuable time and productivity?  Do you ever wish you could manage your reactivity and emotions better?  Ever wish you could retain information more easily?  Ever wish you could catch yourself before you said something you wish you didn’t?

All of this and more is within your grasp; nestled in that complex set of organs called a brain.  Focus, Problem-Solving, and Willpower aren’t just

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