Monday, March 29, 2010

Setting Intentions: Choosing Versus Reacting

I am huge on choice, as anyone who has worked with me knows. I believe that it is important to slow the do-do-do action down and look at what we are doing and why. When we are present and paying attention, we are better able to make a choice in the moment that is in closer alignment with what’s important to us. Or not. In either case, it is important to notice when we are choosing (consciously) or reacting (unconsciously). While you won’t ever really have control over the world around you, you do have the ability to control how you choose to respond to any given situation… with practice.

Setting intentions, without being attached to the outcome, puts you in a position to consciously choose who you are going to be and what actions you are going to take. Further, you are more likely to achieve whatever it is you are setting out to do with clarity and focus.

Ask yourself these questions:
  1. Who do I want to be in this situation?
  2. What actions am I willing to take to help this be a win-win for everyone involved?
  3. If there is to be an ideal outcome, what would it look like?
  4. Am I attached to the outcome? If so, how might I let that attachment go?
An Example:

When I am faced with calling someone to have a difficult conversation, I write down my intentions before I pick up the phone. I put down a few bullet points of what I want to discuss to keep me focused. I write who I want to be in the conversation, such as: generosity, honesty, patience, or listening – depending on what’s needed for this particular situation. And I create a vision in my mind of what an ideal outcome would look like (i.e., we both walk away feeling respected and honored, we have a new opening in our communication, etc.).

I also let go of my attachment to that outcome, so I can be present and open to the conversation going wherever it needs to go. I keep that sheet in front of me so that I can continually bring myself back to my intentions and commitment to who I want to be.

This works for all sorts of situations – not just difficult ones. I set intentions for who I want to be before I have a meeting with someone, give a presentation to a group, go on a date (with caution!), and even when traveling to visit family or friends.

Give it a try. Rather than just reacting with a knee-jerk, you’ll find yourself consciously choosing what you want to create and how you want to respond. If you take the time to practice being clear, present, and intentional, you may just turn an exercise into a habit that can serve you well throughout your life.

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." ~Aristotle

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What Are You Tolerating?

When we get busy and we have a lot on our plates, it’s easy to watch things slide. Unreturned emails and phone calls, an unclean bathroom, an unpaid bill, a long overdue apology, eating for convenience versus health – these things pile up over time. We become accustomed to tolerating clutter, distraction, and places where we are out of integrity because the pile seems unwieldy and we get overwhelmed.

We make many commitments and some are easier to keep than others. Some are to the people in our lives, where we try to be good friends, partners, family members, employees, citizens. Some are to ourselves, as we strive to be happy, healthy and responsible. When we are not honoring our commitments, there are a number of costs associated:
  • We feel bad about ourselves.
  • We create a space for others to be out of integrity with us.
  • We add to the physical and mental clutter that distracts us.
  • We sap our power and energy.
  • We feed our anxiety and stress.
In my life, I have struggled (as many do!) with procrastination. I have come a long way, but I still inflict it on myself now and again – particularly when the task is challenging, ambiguous, or is simply not urgent. I continually do this with filing personal paperwork. When I find myself procrastinating, it usually looks like this: I write it on my daily action list, put it off, then go to bed knowing I did not complete it. I wake the next day and repeat the process over again. This can go on for days or weeks as I suffer a little bit every day with this mental clutter. When I finally do bite the bullet and do the filing, it usually only takes about 20 minutes to complete it. I not only feel a sense of relief and satisfaction that I can finally cross it off my list, but I find myself saying: “Why did I suffer over this for so long?”

Get clear, commit to regaining your power, and get in action:
  1. Start by taking the Wheel of Life assessment.
  2. For each category, list every item that is sapping your power. Get clear about what you are tolerating, where your integrity is out, and what clutter is in your way. Include everything – big and small.
  3. Commit to tackling the list, one action at a time. Recognize that the return on investment is huge, yielding you more time, energy, and peace of mind. You will also open up space for what you really want to show up and breathe.
  4. Create support structures where you need them. Block out time in your calendar so you create the opportunity. Partner with others or ask for help – you don’t have to do it alone. Hire a coach.
  5. Start with the easy stuff and cross them off your list. For the more challenging ones, you may want to commit to taking on ONE action every day.
As you begin whittling down your list, you’ll find yourself compelled to keep your toleration list small. You’ll want to return email and phone calls right away. You’ll keep your work and living spaces more clutter-free – either on your own or with the support of others. You’ll be more cautious about what you say “yes” and “no” to, so you can be sure you can honor your commitments (and not over commit). Eliminate physical and mental distractions, open up space, and regain your power.

"As long as a man stands in his own way, everything seems to be in his way." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Integrity: Honoring Your Word As Yourself

“We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot.” ~Abraham Lincoln

The word “integrity” has a lot of weight to it, particularly as we continue to hear of political scandals, shady business practices, and hypocrisy among people. There are many meanings and perspectives that are associated with integrity, but broadly speaking it is about honoring your word as yourself. It is about following through on what you say you’ll be (values) or do (commitments).

Integrity itself is subjective. It is a code of conduct that we define for ourselves, created from our own personal beliefs and the adopted beliefs of our social systems. We know for ourselves when we have it or not by looking to how much our actions align with our words. When we are “in integrity,” we are honoring our promises to ourselves and others. When we are “out of integrity,” we are failing to stick to what we said we’d be/do.

Ultimately, integrity is neither good nor bad. It is just an evaluation of “what’s so” -- of whether or not we have fulfilled upon what we committed to. More often than not, well intentioned people fall out of integrity simply because they did not have adequate structures in place to support them in following-through on their commitments.

4 Steps to Regaining Your Integrity:
  1. Reflect on what happened on your part that led to you being out of integrity
  2. Clean it up by getting in communication and saying what’s so
  3. Create a new commitment or terminate the agreement
  4. Follow-through and keep in communication as issues arise

What You Said You’d Do: Complete a project for your client by February 28.

What Happened: You got really slammed and you missed your deadline. You’re scrambling to pull it together as soon as you can. It’s March 11 and you have been afraid to contact your client because you feel bad, you’re embarrassed, and you want to have it “more than perfect” now that you are late.

What’s So: You are neither good nor bad. You are simply out of communication and did not complete the work by the date you said you would. You are committed to the work and you want to clean up your integrity.

Following the 4 Steps:
  1. Consider for yourself what happened that had your integrity go out. Be objective and honest with yourself, and don’t make yourself wrong. Were you biting off more than you could chew? Did you plan poorly? Did you commit to a date that wasn’t feasible? Did you fail to create adequate structures (i.e., time/energy management, scheduling, resources, support, manpower, etc.) to achieve your commitment?
  2. Contact your client and own where you are out of integrity. Keep it simple. Apologize, don’t make excuses, and do not lie about your reasons. Provide whatever pertinent details are important to them, but don’t overdo it.
  3. Make a new commitment. This may be on the same terms or may be an altered version of the project. It will have a new deadline. Or it may be a termination of the commitment altogether. But most importantly, make a promise (to them and to yourself) to follow-through on your commitments and be in full communication as issues arise.
  4. Move heaven and earth to honor your commitment. Create the structures you need to follow through. Ask for help if you need it. Communicate well in advance if issues arise that may get in the way of you not being able to keep your word.
Your client may or may not be okay with what transpired. Your client may even fire you. But the most important part is: you got in communication, you cleaned up your integrity, and learned something valuable for the future about yourself and how best to follow-through on your commitments. The key will be to keep your commitment to yourself to honor your word as yourself.

If you cannot or don’t intend to fulfill upon what you say you’ll be/do, then don’t make that commitment.

“Promise only what you can deliver. Then deliver more than you promise.” ~Author Unknown