Precious Moments of Presence
It's easy to get caught up in the hustle of our lives. Our days can pass in a blur at times causing us to be everywhere else but the present moment.
I have a lot of gratitude right now as I'm on vacation in Scotland with my wife, Neila Steele. Scotland is a very special place to us. On our walk today, we passed by a bench and I noticed some writing on it. We sat down and read the quote. Such beautiful words:
"Pause awhile and connect the landscape to the quiet of the sky"
This quote made me reflect on how easy it is to lose sight of the present moment. It reminded me how lucky I am to have such a great partner in my life. A person that not only means the world to me but has been there for me through some very difficult times. To Neila Steele, I adore you and am so happy you married me 23 years ago this week. You have been my shining star and you have such a kind, caring, and compassionate heart within you.
As Neila and I sat on the bench looking out at the sea, the quote devoted to the memory of Nicola Marshall made so much sense. I hope she spent many days on this bench looking at the beautiful view seen in the photo below.
And to all of you reading this, how does this quote resonate with you? How present are you to the beauty that exists in many different forms in your own life? Do you pause and connect enough? Do you express enough gratitude for the good things in your life? I hope Nicola's quote moves you to take action on being more present to the beauty in your life. Thanks for reading.
The People in Your Life
Only you know your lived experience each day and the narrative through which you create your own story. Who are the people that add to that story? Are they people that buoy you up or pull you down? Or are they people who have minimal impact in your life?
Do these people want to know about your dreams, hopes, and aspirations? Do they invest their time and energy into helping you be your best self? Or push you on to do great things in your life? Do they show they care?
I once heard the expression, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I didn’t really get it at the time or care to understand what this quote actually meant. Or how it applied in my life.
I now get it and it matters more than ever. I want to surround myself with people who matter. People who make a genuine difference in my life. This means I do have to give up some relationships in the process.
What about you? Who do you surround yourself with? Thanks for reading.
A person’s core values are a fundamental set of principles that help to guide their thoughts, words, and actions throughout life. It takes a lot of deep internal work and sincere reflection to be able to zero in on what these core values are, but it’s well worth the process.
As a performance coach, I have many conversations with clients aimed at helping them go through a process of identifying their own core values. Often times, people can throw out a long list of things that are important to them, but the challenge is to filter that list down to a handful of core values that they deeply connect with in their life.
Our core values help us to stay aligned in life. They also serve as a guide post when making important decisions in our life or when we are faced with very difficult times.
I’ve coached a number of different leaders around their core values and many of them admit that they are often misaligned. When we go through a process to get them realigned, it always helps them to make better decisions, especially during times of conflict and challenge.
Sir Winston Churchill’s quote above is a wonderful reminder that when times are tough, we need to always return back to first principles or our core values. Doing so helps to get realigned and to stay aligned with more consistency.
So, if you have not thought deeply about what your core values are, try this out. Look at the list below. Out of all the words in the list, select the top 8-10 words that stand out the most to you. Which ones are most relevant to you and your life? Once you have selected your 8-10 words, cut the list in half. No easy task, but do this.
Adaptability, Adventurous Spirit, Affection, Ambition, Authenticity, Compassion, Competitiveness, Confidence, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Curiosity, Decisiveness, Dependability, Determination (grit, persistence), Discernment, Empathy, Engagement with Others, Focus, Forgiveness, Fortitude, Generosity, Gratitude, Honor, Humility, Humor, Justice, Kindness (love, caring), Love of Learning, Loyalty, Moral Courage, Moral Integrity, Motivation, Open-Mindedness, Optimism, Organization, Patience, Personal Courage, Positivity, Prudence, Punctuality, Resiliency, Respect, Seeking Challenges, Self-Awareness, Self-Control(willpower), Tough-Mindedness, Trust, Truthfulness, Vitality, Wisdom
List of words above taken from Jim Loehr's work around Leading with Character (click any of the words to go directly to his work)
Now, write your 4-5 words on a piece of paper and tape it to your door. For the next 10 days, when you leave your house in the morning look at the list. When you return home later in the day, reflect on the list and to what extent your thoughts, words, and actions aligned with your list of core values.
Rank yourself out of ten. Ten being demonstrated the core value with depth and consistency. One means you didn’t even come close to demonstrating the core value.
This thought exercise may give you that little push or spark needed to better align your thoughts, words and actions to your core values. You might find that after ten days, your list needs to change. Who knows? This exercise is well worth your effort.
I challenge you to complete this activity and would love for you to share with me how it went. Thanks for reading.
Not sure what I believe, but I know that I’ve made it through some very tough times in the past. Call it God looking over me or the universe, not sure. Maybe it was just a sense of deep inner belief. Who knows?
My latest podcast guest, the inspiring Cal Fussman, once spent a week with Mohammad Ali to prepare for a cover story he was writing for Esquire magazine.
At the end of the week, Mohammad, placed in front of Cal a piece of paper with some notes he had written. When trying to summarize his own life, the struggles, the ups, the downs, and everything he had been through, Mohammad pointed to one particular line:
“God will not place a burden on a man’s shoulders knowing that he cannot carry it.”
When I heard Cal tell this story, I was deeply moved. It made me think of the difficult times I’ve had to face, but more so the gratitude I have for my present life.
What about you? What about your tough times? What have you had to carry in your life? What have you learned about yourself through it all? And how have you come out better on the other side for having gone through it?
To listen to my discussion with Cal Fussman, please click the photo below.
Thanks for reading.
How intentional are you with your thoughts, words, and actions? To what extent are your daily, weekly, and monthly goals aligned to the bigger vision you have for your life? Living with more intentionality takes practice. We can bounce around from project to project in our life and put in our best effort, but how connected is this work to the bigger purpose of our life?
To what extent do you think deeply about these things?
Is life happening to you or are you consciously choosing to be intentional about the life you have been given? As I write these questions, I am also trying to answer them with sincerity and authenticity in my own life. There are days I wake up and feel completely on track with my own life, my goals, dreams, and hopes. There are other days I feel I am completely misaligned.
When I'm feeling like this and honestly reflect, I quickly realize that I have dropped the ball on intentionality. Kind of lost sight of what I feel my bigger purpose is and the steps needed to continue moving myself in that direction.
This blog post is as much for me as I hope it is for you. I hope you can all reflect on intentionality, alignment and purpose in your life with more consistency. Doing so always leads to new discoveries. Thanks for reading folks.
Fear is a Thief
As humans, we are neurologically wired to respond with fear when we feel a sense of danger or when our physical, mental, or emotional safety is threatened. Fear is our protector and has always been there to keep us safe from harm.
Fear shows up in many different ways in our life. From an evolutionary perspective, the purpose of fear was always to promote survival. When people learned to fear the right things, they survived and were able to pass on their genes. Therefore, our fear response was always a necessary part of our evolution.
In a wonderful commencement speech given by Jim Carrey in 2014, he stated that one of the big wins in his life was being able to conquer unnecessary fears in his own mind. Although he was infusing humor into his speech, his message was very clear and intentional.
He said that through the deep practice of mindfulness and meditation, he was able to understand the difference between real and perceived fear and this was a game changer for him in his own life. Perceived fear can be paralyzing and holds us back from what we are truly capable of achieving.
What Jim said was this:
“Mindfulness and meditation allows you to separate who you truly are and what’s real from the stories that run through your head. It allows you to walk behind the mind’s elaborate set decoration and to see that there’s a huge difference between a dog that is going to eat you in your mind and an actual dog that is going to eat you. That may sound like no big deal, but many never learn that distinction and they spend a great deal of lives in fight or flight response.”
What role does fear play in your life? Are you able to distinguish between real versus perceived fear? In the words of Jewel, ‘Fear is a thief and it takes the past and projects it into the future. And it robs you of the only opportunity you have to create change’.
Learning to sit with our fears can help us to see our inner terrain differently and better understand what our fears might be trying to communicate to us. And through this discourse with ourselves, we may be able to see how irrational some of our fears are.
Life is certainly not about living fearlessly. It’s not about thinking that we can control every fear. But looking at our fears through a different lens might soften them over time. Taking on a different relationship with fear can lead to exploring more possibilities in our lives and with this may come greater purpose and fulfillment.
If you want to hear Jewel’s amazing podcast with Dr. Michael Gervais, please click on the link below. In this conversation, Jewel deeply unpacks the ways that she has learned to better cope with fear in her life and impact that this has had on her career. Thanks for reading.
Expansion VS Constriction
My blog post yesterday focused on the the importance of being more aware of our own inner dialogue. As a follow up to that blog post yesterday, I want to share a message I received from someone in Canada. They read the post and it got them thinking about their own inner dialogue or 'self-talk' and they sent me a message sharing their thoughts. I've included their thoughts in the photo above.
With their permission, I am using their own words as a starting point for today's blog post. As a performance coach, I have had the chance to work 1-1 with many different individuals who have very diverse backgrounds and experiences. Some of these people have admitted to having a pretty harsh inner voice that can be very judgmental at times. But, they feel that this voice has served them well and gets them to take action in positive ways in their life.
Although each person has a unique way in which they navigate their own life, I do want to unpack the idea of expansion versus constriction, as it relates to our own thoughts and self-talk. That is the purpose of today's blog post.
If I'm thinking or speaking to myself in an expansive way, it means there is an openness there. Openness can be revealed in many different ways, but it usually falls under the themes of kindness, compassion, curiosity, and hope. There is a deeper sense of support that comes from within when we are speaking to ourselves in an expansive way.
Constriction is quite the opposite. Constriction implies a sense of being closed down which means that we shut ourselves off from future possibility. No longer are we being curious, kind, supportive and compassionate with ourselves. Our thoughts and words become suffocating and constrict us in many ways.
Well-known high performance psychologist, Dr. Michael Gervais, states that "confidence comes from one place and one place only- our self-talk". This statement is a result of working within the high performance field for more than 2 decades. Michael's work clearly shows that there is a direct correlation between our self-talk and how well we perform.
Taking more action to speak to ourselves in empowering and supportive ways requires that we take control of our own inner dialogue. Rather than taking on a passive approach and just going along for the ride, we can take the steps needed to be the driver of our own thoughts and words with greater consistency in our lives.
If a person feels the thoughts that they have should be there and that trying to have purposeful self talk seems like they are lying to themselves, I would ask them to bring even more curiosity to why they are feeling this way.
I would ask them to reflect on the following questions:
1) To what extent are you surrendering control to your own mind?
2) To what extent do you feel these thoughts are serving you well?
3) To what extent do you believe that you can build the skills necessary to reshape your own inner dialogue?
I'd like the thank JB from Canada for sharing their thoughts as I guarantee they are not the only person who has difficulty using a kind, caring and supportive inner voice with themselves. Many people struggle with this. Opening the doors to deeper conversation can only lead to more growth and learning about optimizing our own performance and living with greater fulfillment.
Please share your thoughts in the comment box below to help continue this discussion. Thanks for reading.
William James, an American philosopher, historian, and psychologist, was the first educator to offer psychology courses in the United States. He is considered to be the founding father of psychology and was a thought-leader who was well ahead of his time.
The quote in the photo above is well known in the field of psychology. However, there is another one of James' quotes that I want to share below:
“Most unhappiness is caused by people listening to themselves instead of talking to themselves”.
Think about this quote for a moment......"most unhappiness is caused by people listening to themselves instead of talking to themselves". This quote challenged people, way back in the day, to become more aware of their own habitual ways of thinking. He challenged people to think about their thinking so to speak. Did they gravitate more toward always listening to their internal voice or did they habitually take control of their internal voice and choose their words carefully when speaking to themselves?
According to James, people who chose to listen to and be controlled by their own critical, harsh inner voice were the ones that experienced more unhappiness, anxiety, and worry in life. As opposed to people who took control of their inner voice and spoke to themselves in empowering ways. Rather than letting themselves be controlled by their negative inner voice, they took action to speak to themselves in more productive ways.
Over the decades, psychologists from far and wide have studied the concept of ‘inner dialogue’ and they now know that how inner voice manifests itself in a person’s life can vary dramatically from individual to individual for a number of reasons. However, there are things that people can do to begin the process of building a more empowering inner voice and it all begins with self-awareness.
A thought activity I encourage anyone reading this to try out is to draw more attention to their own habitual ways of thinking. When you catch yourself in thought over the next week you can:
Try this activity for one straight week without any self-judgment. If you are experiencing more negative thoughts on a daily basis, it's OK because you are just beginning the process of bringing more self-awareness to your habitual ways of thinking. If your thoughts are mostly positive, great! Keep on doing whatever you are doing.
Next week, I will do a part two to this blog post to give people specific strategies that they can apply to begin the process of building a much more empowering personal narrative. However, genuine curiosity is the first step in this process, so I encourage you to take on this challenge and let me know how it goes. Thanks for reading.
Most people understand the importance of trust and the role it plays in building strong relationships in both their personal and professional lives. Trust is the basis for almost everything we do and it's the foundation on which the relationships in our lives thrive or not.
As for the workplace, constructing a culture of trust, with consistency over time, is what makes a meaningful difference in the lives of the people who show up every day to do work that matters.
I recently had world renowned trust researcher and author, Charles Feltman, on my podcast. He wrote a fantastic book called the Thin Book of Trust that all leaders should get their hands on.
Charles' work emphasizes that trust is an essential aspect of strong, authentic and productive working relationships. But that it doesn't just happen. He firmly believes that we must all pay close attention to the words and behaviors that affect trust.
Trust is reinforced and strengthened by using specific language, stating our own needs, but also consistently checking in with the needs of others.
Charles states that reflection plays a pivotal role in assessing to what extent our words and actions align with building the culture of trust we want in our organization. Not only do individuals within the workplace have a responsibility to reflect on their own words and actions, but leaders also need to help facilitate important check ins, for their teams, to see whether or not they are on track.
If you are interested in learning more about Charles' work, you can get your hands on a copy of his book here. As well, you can hear more by listening to the podcast I recorded with him. Simply click the photo below to access our episode. I hope that either of these resources help you better unpack the role of trust and provide you with the necessary tools to build a stronger foundation of trust in your own workplace. Thanks for reading.
If you were to project forward ten, twenty or even thirty years from now, what are some of the things you will have achieved in your life?
Conversely, if you were to reflect back, what might some of your regrets be? Certain areas of your life that, had you had a second chance, you might approach differently?
Here's a short story for you to get you thinking about the points above.
At 27 years old, Andrea Proske was a hotel manager. Although she had been physically active in her life, she had never pursued anything of deep meaning or significance. She had never really pushed herself in any way.
Feeling bored with life, she knew she needed more, so she took the chance to join her first Spartan race. It was this event that inspired her to make change in her life. After this race, she thought to herself, what's next?
Within a few months, she began rowing and fell in love with it. She realized, "I'm pretty good at this" and began dreaming of taking it further.
Because of her natural abilities and dedication, she was offered a training spot at a local club. The catch was, she needed to train full time. She told her parents that this was what she wanted but she was afraid to quit her job.
This is when her father told her to think about the 'What ifs' at the end of her life. What if she never tried, what regrets would she have?
Andrea decided then and there to devote her life to rowing.
By 30, she made the Canadian women's Olympic rowing team. At 35 years old, she represented her country and went on to win gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics.
She is now a recognized speaker who brings a very important message to audiences across Canada. Her message isn't about being the best or winning gold medals. It's about taking the chances needed to pursue the things that matter most in our life.
In looking back on life one day, never have 'What ifs or I wish I would haves'
What if I actually ran that marathon instead of quitting my training because it was too hard.
What if I actually switched careers when I had the chance? What would have become of my life?
What if I actually tried to rebuild the relationship I have with my sibling (or parent or child). How would this have changed my life?
The what ifs could go on and on, but the point is clear. We always have the chance to avoid 'what ifs' in our life by taking action in the present, when it matters most.
What are some potential 'what if' areas of your life? What action can you take now to create positive change in your life? How will taking action now make you proud or yourself years from now when you look back at your life? Things to think about for sure.
If interested in hearing more of Andrea Proske's amazing story, click the link below to hear a recent podcast we recorded. Her story is sure to inspire you to think differently about the 'what ifs' in your life. Thanks for reading.
KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.