Saturday, April 25, 2009

Staying with the Question

Human beings tend to be very impatient. We take a look at an issue and want to jump straight to the solution or answer – especially when it comes to our personal lives – to minimize the pain and difficulty as much as we can. However, as many of us have noticed, these often don’t provide adequate resolution, because we didn’t stick long enough with the analysis phase to really get to the core of what is going on.

There is an approach from design thinking that focuses on questioning the question – taking a look at all sides, and even pondering whether we are asking the right question to begin with. By staying with the question, we open up space for innovation, reflection, and even for the answers to reveal themselves serendipitously (Einstein, among many others, have done this).

I was talking with a friend today about some significant life events and issues that we have in common. I tend to be rational and logical up-front, and have to allow some time to allow the emotions to process themselves out; in contrast, she tends to have a much more emotional response up-front, and must allow her mind to process and discover the connections over time.

As uncomfortable as it can be at times, we both know from experience that there is value in sitting in ambiguity for some time to allow for the whole picture (both internal and external) to reveal itself. If we rush too quickly to a resolution, we will most definitely have to revisit the issues over and over until we identify and deal with the many facets (mental, emotional, relational, practical, tactical, etc.) we probably glossed over.

This concept reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from Postcards from the Edge, the movie based on the Carrie Fisher novel about her and her mother, Debbie Reynolds. The scene involves Gene Hackman (playing a film director, Lowell) and Meryl Streep (playing Suzanne, an actress dealing with some tough life questions).

Lowell: Growing up isn't like in a movie where you have a realization and life changes. In life, you have a realization and your life changes a month or so later.

Suzanne: [sarcastically] So I just have to wait a month?

Lowell: It depends on the realization. Some of them you only wait a couple weeks.

Stay with the question. Don’t rush straight to easy and quick answers, as you are doing yourself a disservice. While we all want solutions and resolution right NOW, it is the question that holds much of the power. The process can be just as, if not more important than the result (a related blog entry HERE).

Offer it up to the universe; open your eyes, heart, and mind; and pay attention. Pray, journal, talk to friends, give yourself permission to be okay with the confusion and ambiguity, and most importantly, be kind to yourself. All the components of the multi-dimensional answer will reveal themselves when you allow space for them to show up.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An Honest Self-Assessment – Being Proactive Versus Reactive

Having feedback on how you are seen by others will provide you some great information, but only to a point. It is important to then take stock on your own experience to really catapult those insights to the next level. As a continuation of the previous entry on collecting 360 feedback from people in your life, consider who you are, what you want, and how satisfied you are with how you are experiencing your life.
1. Start with the Wheel of Life assessment and print it out for your own reference. Follow it up with the questions from the Results section. That could be enough to get you started.

2. Then sit down and write out at least 10 responses to complete each of these sentences. They are simply rough cuts. Don’t censor yourself – just put it all down and you can refine later. Refer to the Wheel categories to help you to think about all areas of your life.
Part A. One of my strengths is that…
Part B. Things don’t work well when…
3. Once done, take a break and allow yourself to digest what you’ve done so far. Take a walk, or even sleep on it. Celebrate that even getting this far will spark some new thoughts. It is a major achievement for you to be honest with yourself and to take a direct look at what’s going on with you.

4. Return to your Wheel and lists. Review what you have created; toss out those statements that don’t seem to fit or make sense, revise where appropriate, and add anything new that comes to mind.

5. Review your strengths from Part A regularly, especially when you are feeling stuck or discouraged. Add to your list as you realize additional ones. Ideally, your list will grow and grow over time as you become more conscious of what you bring to the table of life.

6. Look again at the list from Part B. Rewrite your most limiting problems as goals (HERE is a post that can help). It is possible to transform these problems into possible solutions. For example, the statement, “I tend to overdraw my checking account every month” could become a goal of, “I will monitor my account balances daily and decrease my spending so that I do not overdraw my checking account.”

7. Finally, do what you say you’re going to do. Take action and celebrate the results. Return to this exercise regularly so you can keep things in check.
Take stock and regain your power. By being honest with yourself and acknowledging both your strengths and areas you'd like to transform, you are placing yourself in the position to make some choices that will best serve you. In life, being proactive and not just reactive opens up so many possibilities.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

360 Feedback from People in Your Life

So many of us have received 360 feedback from colleagues at work, but imagine what could be gained from getting feedback from people in our lives?

I contend that it is rare that we actually talk about who we are to them, and who they are for us. Many of us are so scared of vulnerability (see HERE), we miss out on some of those amazing moments and incredible exchanges that can truly deepen the relationship.

Consider seeking out a 360 by interviewing people in your life. Take on a mix of some easy ones and hard ones. I have done an exercise like this before, and was shocked by some of the amazing responses I got from people I didn’t expect. From the positive and complimentary, to the zingers and stingers – it was all very valuable information. And in every case, I opened up a new level of relatedness to the person that allowed future such dialogue to be much easier to initiate.

Set up the conversation (or email if you aren’t ready for something “live”) by expressing your interest in gaining insight from the people who are important to you, whose opinions you respect. Ask them to be straight-forward, and that you won’t hold anything against them. Tell them you will only need about 15 minutes of their time. Write some questions ahead of time, or use a few of these:

  • What do you see as my strengths?
  • What do you see as my weaknesses?
  • What works in our relationship?
  • What doesn’t work in our relationship?
  • If I were meeting you for the first time, how would you like me to see you?
  • Is there anything I’ve said or done that left you (or others) upset?
  • Is there any place you feel incomplete with me? Any place you don’t feel acknowledged?
  • What talents/skills do you feel I could develop more fully?
  • Where do you see me in 5 years?

What is available here is a chance to open up a conversation, to rid the room of white elephants, to refresh the friendship, to create a stronger bond through transparency, and the list goes on. You might actually get some amazing insight and praise to boot!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Focus on the Process, NOT the Result

I am as guilty as anyone of getting wrapped up in the future and losing sight of the present. However, when I do become conscious of what I’m doing – robbing myself and my experience – I take a step back and say: “Hold up a minute! My life is happening right now!”

I have shared before the idea of the Be-Do-Have Model. We often get so wrapped up in the go-go-go (the do-do-do) and what we are trying to have on the other end, that we forget who we are being in the moment and what/who we want to be to create our lives and experience. We can even forget the reasons why we were pursuing all we are up to in the first place.

There is something really wonderful (and liberating) about letting go of the results-focus and recognizing that we are on a journey. There is a point to the process – to learn, to grow, to travel a path, to live in this very point in time. And when we can recognize that process as the actual objective (dare I say the real result), we open ourselves up to a whole new perspective.

Keep yourself inspired by releasing the grip on the future, and settling into the ride as what it’s all really about – the journey, not the destination. In that space, many more options may open up – even better ones that you could not have noticed in your single-mindedness – that may blow the result you were originally trying to achieve out of the water!