Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ass U Me

Have you ever met someone, took one look at them, and summed them up instantly. Have you ever immediately labeled someone rich, poor, uneducated, annoying, cynical, optimistic, friendly, mean, spoiled, selfish, smart, leader, follower, stupid or intelligent?

Have you ever walked into a meeting at work and saw two people huddled together and periodically looking at you. What did you think? Did you make up an entire story of what they were talking about? Did you make up an entire story that they were talking about you?

These scenarios highlight the third agreement.

Agreement #3 Don’t Assume Anything!

I can’t tell you how many times I had to pull my foot out of my mouth because I made an assumption. Assumptions can be a dangerous if they are based on first impressions, little data, or prejudices. Actually, making an assumption is a form or prejudice. It’s the act of prejudging without any supporting information.

Ruiz writes: “We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally, and we end up creating a whole big drama for

The biggest challenge in making assumptions is that most of the time we aren’t aware that we are doing it. Our assumptions come from the way we were raised, how we were educated, where we have lived, who is in our circle of influence, and our religion or customs. Because of this - we don't recognize our assumptions and it becomes very hard to correct ourselves.
Assumptions impact our view of society at large:
  • When you see a black man with tattoos and braided hair – what do you think?
  • When you see a thin woman in a Chanel suit with a designer bag – what do you think?
  • When you see a woman in a grocery line with several children, counting her pennies - what do you think?
Assumptions can also impact our relationships:
  • Your spouse or significant other should know what you need and want – you shouldn’t have to tell them.
  • You assume your spouse or significant other will handle money a certain way because that’s they way it was done in your household when you were growing up.
  • You assume your friends will ultimately betray you so you are always guarded - never becoming close to anyone.
Assumptions can also impact your business:
  • You assume the clients that you have today will be your clients tomorrow.
  • You assume that if you do good work, your clients will pay you on time.
  • You assume old clients don’t need to hear from you as often or receive your best customer service.
So, how did I learn to keep my foot out of my mouth?

One of the best ways to get past your assumptions – your prejudices – is to not be afraid to ask questions. To communicate. To look at each situation and each individual with curiosity. To approach each new encounter or relationship with fresh eyes - to ask yourself "what if I am wrong". It’s the only way to get out of assumptions and into truth.

  • Tell you husband or wife what you want and need - don't assume they know.
  • Share your feelings and thoughts with your friends and build a relationship of trust.
  • Make your clients a priority.
By doing so, you can improve your current relationships and open yourself up to more - as your world opens up and you begin to see the world differently when you put aside your assumptions.

Besides, you know what they say when you assume!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Did They Hurt Your Feelings?

When I started working out with my trainer last year, he had me doing sprints on the treadmill. After about 3 minutes, I got a cramp in my side. Seeing me hold it, he said "Your side hurts because you're completely out of shape. Suck it up so you can get in shape and the cramps will go away."

I was sitting in a strategic planning meeting and shared my thoughts of how to proceed with a project. Several people expressed their complete disagreement, stating my ideas were ridiculous and urged the others to go in a different direction.

Has someone ever said something that offended you or got under your skin? Has someone made a comment about your looks, your work or something you did or said? Has someone told you that you wouldn't succeed or that you were wasting your time trying to improve your career, your relationship or yourself. If so, I'm pleased to share the next agreement to make with yourself:

Agreement #2: Don't Take Anything Personally
I've met people that have let one comment (or a slew of comments) from someone ruin their day, their week, and for some people - their life.

"You're not smart enough."
"You're not good enough."
"You're ugly."
"You're stupid."
"No one will love you."

When people come to coaching, one of the areas we focus on is how much power have you given to others because you (1) took something personal (2) internalized it (3) and acted on it in a way that wasn't honoring who you are because you were trying to prove them wrong instead of just being you.

I learned a long time ago that someone else's opinion, attitude, words, or actions have to pass my validity test before I give credence to it. If it's constructive and provides practical feedback, I use that advice to my benefit. However, if it fails the validity test, I completely disregard it. And you know what I've found? When I stopped taking things personally, I experienced a level of freedom that allowed me to focus on the things that were important to me and not on the things that so -and -so said about me!

Taking things personally is emotionally draining. You spend an enormous amount of energy feeling bad, getting mad, or trying to appease others. You are so focused on pleasing the other person - or proving the other person wrong - that you aren't focused on the things that are most important to you.

Check out some things that Ruiz says about the 2nd agreement:

"Taking things personally makes you easy prey for those predators who try to send you emotional poison."

"When you take things personally, you feel offended, and your reaction is to defend your beliefs and create conflicts. You make something big out of something little."

"Nothing people think about me is really about me - it's about them and their issues."

"You have to trust yourself and choose to believe or not believe what someone says about you."

What my trainer said? True. I was out of shape and needed to get more physically fit. No emotions - just a fact.

What the others in that strategic meeting said? Didn't bother me one bit. We didn't agree and it was okay. We made some compromises and moved on. No emotions - just a fact.

It's not easy, but it's necessary: Don't Take Anything Personally!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thank You, Jackie

Thank you Jackie Lesser.

We met during our coaching training program at the Coaches Training Institute. She then became my first life coach. One of the characteristics I loved about Jackie was her seemingly always calm demeanor. She had a peace about her that fascinated me.

During our first session, I got an idea of where some of that calmness came from when she gave me a book and told me it was required reading. Of course, I followed her instructions and have been grateful every since.

The principles taught in this book allowed me to approach situations at work, with my husband, with my family and with my business in a whole new light. By applying these principles, it was as if a weight was lifted off of me that I didn’t realize I was carrying around.

Since that session over 4 years ago, I have not only embraced the mantras shared in the book, I have reread it several times and have shared it with family and friends. And of course, I want to share it with you! It’s The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

The next couple of posts from me will take you through the 4 agreements outlined in the book – agreements you make with yourself. So, let’s start with number one.

Agreement #1: Be Impeccable with Your Word

I don’t know what has happened to integrity in this world, but being honest and being a person of your word should be your top priority 100% of the time. Whether you give your word at work, with your spouse or with your children, the respect you want, the authority you think you deserve, and the admiration that should be yours only comes when people can trust you.

That’s why you should always choose your words carefully. Refrain from gossip, refrain from putting others down, and refrain from saying one thing but really meaning another.

When you said “I love you.” Was that the complete sentence or did you really mean “I love you when you do what I want” or “I love you as long as our finances are stable.”

When you said “You are not allowed any extra activities until you bring your grades up.” Was that the complete sentence or did you really mean “You are not allowed any extra activities until you bring your grades up unless you are getting on my nerves and I want you to go play somewhere" or “You are not allowed any extra activities until you bring you grades up unless you cry, plead, and make me feel guilty for being a parent.”

When you said “I’ll have that report to you on Monday.” Was that the complete sentence or did you really mean “I’ll have that report to you on Monday unless I have to work late to get it done” or "I’ll have that report to you on Monday unless 'so and so' doesn’t do their report.” (Because why should you be the only one working hard?)

And let's not forget that we need to be impeccable with the words we tell ourselves. Do you love and respect yourself enough to keep your word to you? What about when you say things like:

"I will eat right and exercise to lose weight and be healthier."
"I will no longer allow this person to bring me down."
"I will finish writing that book."
"I will go back to school."
"I will not let my children run my household."
"I will get out of debt this year."

Be impeccable with your word - to yourself and others.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dreamer or Doer?

I'm a HUGE believer in dreams. And not just any old dream. BIG dreams. Dreams that can fundamentally change yourself, 1 person or 1 million people. A dream that gives you hope and a reason to wake up everyday. So, if you're not dreaming - now is a good a time as any to start. Why? Simple.
  • No one can tell you what to dream.
  • It doesn't cost you anything to dream.
  • It's the first step in actually making what you want a reality.

I have a good friend who often reminds me of something I told her years ago about dreams: "If you tell someone your dream and they don't laugh - it's not big enough." Now she's dreaming bigger than ever - and yes, people are doubled over, holding their sides, laughing at her.

Perhaps you've experienced the same thing. Have you ever said you were going back to school, starting your own business, going for a promotion, writing a book, competing on American Idol, starting a non-profit, adopting a child, becoming an Olympic champion, getting drafted by the NBA, NFL, MLB, or WNBA, winning Miss America, winning Mrs. America, or making it work with your spouse and all you got was a snide remark, lack of support or the advice to not waste your time? It takes a strong person to ignore the naysayers and refuse to let go of the dream.

But the one thing you have to remember about dreams is that they reside in the realm of possibility. It lives in the area of what could be. It reminds us that more is available to us. However, you have to be prepared to pull your dream out of the realm of possibility and into the realm of reality. How do you do that? By taking action. By becoming a DOER.

I've met many dreamers. They are family, friends, clients, previous co-workers, and casual acquaintances. Actually, there's no lack of dreamers. However, there is a shortage of doers. These are the people that actually work to make their dreams a reality.

So go ahead, dream - and make sure people are laughing at you. But don't forget to get busy - doing what it takes to make your dream a reality.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Black, White and Shades of Gray

One of my favorite television shows is Scrubs. I think I've seen every episode at least 3 times (my hubby would say more like 10 times!!). The writing is incredible and if you pay attention, they will give you some interesting perspectives and things to think about.

As a college professor, one of the classes I teach is Business Ethics. This class never fails to spark animated discussions, as students quickly realize that there are two sides to every story and all things aren't always black and white. They are usually shades of gray.

Executive Pay - Shades of Gray
Bailouts - Shades of Gray
Taxcuts - Shades of Gray
Government Spending - Shades of Gray

To highlight this to the students, I always show them a clip from Scrubs. The clip is about an uninsured patient that needs a procedure done. My question to the students? Who is right - the doctor or the Chief of Medicine.

Do you think everything is black and white? I invite you to view the clip (it's less than 2 minutes long) and let me know: Who is right?