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Living On Purpose

Archive for November, 2009

Thanks and Giving

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

“I stopped by the grocery store and was behind a young mother,” Lana said as we began our coaching session. “I was picking up cupcakes for Tommy’s Thanksgiving party, where I am headed after our coaching session.”

“What about the mother piqued your interest?” I asked.

“I felt uncomfortable watching her dig through her purse trying to muster up money for her groceries,” Lana said. “I overheard her telling her children that she couldn’t afford any pumpkin cookies. There was no irritation in her voice, simply matter-of-fact.”

“As she walked away, I built her story in my mind,” Lana continued. “It included her husband losing his job and taking a lower paying position that only covered the essentials.”

“It’s interesting how our mind fills in the blanks,” I said.

“The clerk rang up the cupcakes and I easily paid for them,” Lana said. “It seemed unfair that I could indulge in something as decadent as cupcakes for a classroom party, where there will be tons of snacks and some food even tossed out in the end ….and this woman could barely buy the basics.”

“Tell me more about those feelings,” I prompted.

“We’re not rich by any means,” Lana began, “but I’m not in the predicament that I assumed this woman was in. During the holidays it seems more prevalent how some families struggle and others don’t. We talk about eating until our buttons pop, sitting on the couch watching football while we drink eggnog, while other families may not have enough money to buy a turkey!”

“I would guess there are many families in each of these categories – some with enough and some without,” I said. “How are you going to spend Thanksgiving this year?”

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“The kids are coming home, and up until now, our plan has been of the ‘button-popping’ variety,” Lana explained.

“You sound disappointed,” I said.

“I’m excited to see the kids, but again, it feels selfish and greedy to sit around and eat. There is a gap between how our family celebrates and how the woman at the grocery may spend her holidays.”

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“What could you do to close the gap?” I asked.

“I’ve heard of people volunteering to serve at the soup kitchen, but I want it to be more personal,” Lana explained. “I’d like to help one family have a nice holiday season. If I could contact that young mother from the grocery store, I would…but that’s impossible.”

“How else could you help a family during the holidays?” I asked.

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“I could ask the principal if he knows of a family who may need and would accept help, anonymously, of course. I’d be happy to buy ingredients so they could celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, I would ask my family to help plan and shop for the food so we could all participate.”

“That sounds like a great idea,” I said. “How can you make this happen?”

“I’ll talk to the principal today,” she said with excitement in her voice. “It’s a win-win-win. I feel I’m helping to close the gap; another family gets to celebrate the holidays, and my kids learn the benefits of helping others. This year I will both give thanks for all of my blessings and enjoy giving to others. Isn’t that what this holiday season is all about?”

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Coaching Challenge:
No matter what your financial situation is, how can you include both “thanks” and “giving” into your holiday celebration?

Re-igniting Passion

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

There are jokes about it, stories you hear, and books on the subject.  But when the passion leaves your marriage or partnership, it can feel downright frustrating and empty.

Kristi told me how wonderful her husband had been on her birthday. She enjoyed breakfast in bed, a bubble bath, an afternoon shopping and then a dinner date at her favorite restaurant. From this and other stories she had told me, Kristi and Marc were still very much in love. There was so much companionship and respect between them.

It shocked me when she said, “Marc and I are great friends, but our passion has dwindled. We are so busy with our careers, the kids, etc. When we do have time alone, there is so much “business” to attend to – who will take Jack to the dentist tomorrow? What should we bring to the office party?” She paused, “After we cover that, we share stories about the kids, plan our schedules for the next day and go to bed. It’s like we have shut down the passionate part of ourselves.”

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“On a scale of 1 to 10, where is your passion level now and where would you like it to be?”

“Right now it’s about a 2; I’d like it to be at least an 8,” she said.

“How did you two meet?”

She told her story with a romantic look in her eyes. “We met at a wedding nine years ago. I didn’t like going to weddings. It was just too much ‘happily ever after’ for me, and I was sure I would never meet my knight in shining armor.”

“I had to attend because I was a bridesmaid. Marc and I met at the reception. He was easy to talk to and there was an instant attraction. We danced and talked all evening. Our first date was the 4th of July festival the following weekend. We had dinner and just enjoyed each other. We waited to become intimate, but when we did, it was so romantic.”

“What keeps you from being intimate now?”

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“Between our careers and the family obligations, we run out of time and energy. Plus I don’t really see him as a lover; I see him as a father and as my partner.”

“How could you begin to see him more through the eyes of a lover?”

She paused. “Wow! I haven’t done that in a long time!”

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“What is the most romantic moment you can remember with Marc?” I asked.

“I had finished my finals during my senior year. Marc knew how stressed I had been so he greeted me as I left my last test with a rose in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other. He drove me to a beautiful canyon and we sat on the rock and celebrated, drinking champagne, eating a picnic lunch and talking about the future. It was very romantic.”
“How can you re-capture those romantic feelings and bring them our more frequently?”

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“Just recalling that memory helps me remember and see him more romantically. In fact, I have several romantic memories. Maybe I could write a couple of my memories in a journal to give him on Father’s Day. I will get the kids taken care of so we can have time to ourselves. It’s not that I’m not attracted to Marc; it’s that I don’t take the time to think about him romantically.”

“Will you get the journal, write the story and make the arrangements in the next two weeks?”

“Yes. I’m excited to do this. Just thinking about it reminds me of when we were first dating. I’ll get right on it. What a great Father’s Day present; Marc didn’t become a father without a little romance between us!”

Coaching Challenge: If you are in a romantic relationship where you are still in love, but the dynamics have become routine or passionless, remember a romantic time you have shared. Recall as many details as possible – where you were, the weather, what you were wearing, any other sensations, etc. Talk to your partner about your desire to increase the passion between you and share your memory, “Do you remember when we…?” Ask your partner what memories he or she has and together recall the details.

Nurturing Friendships

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Being busy and feeling lonely can often go hand-in-hand. In an effort to avoid feelings of isolation, we may become “joiners.” Soon we find that adding activities decreases the time we devote to friendships, leaving us feeling even lonelier. It becomes an exhausting cycle.

Cyndi is an outgoing woman who thrives on being busy. Her time is divided between her career, her family, and volunteer commitments. Because she is surrounded by so many people, it’s difficult to see how she might feel lonely, but she does.

When I asked what she wanted to coach about today, she said, “I know a lot of people, but I don’t have any close friends.”

“You sound lonely and disconnected,” I said. “What may have contributed to you feeling this way?”

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“Last week I had a terrible day at work. I had presented a report to my boss that I had been working on for two months. A lot of time and energy went into researching and preparing the report. As he read the executive summary, he said, ‘You must have misunderstood the project.’ He then explained what he wanted. He wasn’t mean, but I felt embarrassed and rejected.”

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Cyndi continued, “The worst part was when I left his office, I didn’t feel I had anyone to talk to about how I was feeling. Several people popped into my mind, but I hadn’t been in contact with them in so long, that calling to get emotional support felt uncomfortable. It made me realize that I have let many of my friendships dwindle. I don’t have any close friends…and I feel it’s probably my fault.”

“How would you describe a ‘close friendship’?” I asked.

“When I moved here, I met Marcia at the health club. We had a lot in common and never ran out of things to talk about. We spent a lot of time together, talked on the phone daily and really understood each other.  It was an equal partnership between listening, talking, laughing and enjoying each other’s company.” She paused, “When I started to work, I didn’t spend as much time with Marcia and our friendship faded. We are friendly now, but the closeness is gone.”

“What got in the way of you nurturing that friendship or developing others?”

“I’m busy. Between work, my family and their schedules, life seems full. I don’t usually call a friend to ‘hang out.’ I don’t have time,” she explained.

“How would you like your friendships to look and feel, and how would you keep them alive?”

“I long for a friend like Marcia. We had such a close connection.”

I challenged her, “Think of an analogy that would symbolize you nurturing your friendships. What other things do you nurture in order for them to grow?”

“I think of the rose bushes in front of our house. When I pay attention to them, they grow beautiful roses.”

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“How do you nurture the roses?” I asked.

“I water them, weed out the beds, fertilize and trim them,” she answered.

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“And when you do that, the roses blossom, right? How could you nurture your friendships in order to help them to blossom?”

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“I could call my friend regularly to spend time together, letting her know I care. Listening, caring and sharing would all be part of how I would nurture our friendship.”

“What relationship would like to nurture and what is your first step?” I asked.

“I’d like to re-connect with Marcia. My first step could be to invite her to lunch. My goals would be to talk once a week and go to lunch at least once a month.”

“When will you take these steps?”

“I’ll call today to schedule lunch.”

“How will you remember to keep your friendships a priority?”

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“I have a photo of Marcia and me at Lake Powell. I’ll keep it in my planner to remind me.”

It’s amazing how quickly roses and friendships blossom with just a little nurturing, intent and energy.

Coaching Challenge: If you’d like to deepen a friendship, consciously decide to prioritize this relationship. Decide and commit to how you can best nurture this relationship. Take one step towards this goal by the end of the week. Be diligent to prioritize these relationships into your life; nurture them and watch them grow.

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I've Had Enough!

Monday, November 9th, 2009

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Our nurturing instinct can sometimes go on overdrive. We become a walking caretaker, unable to let anyone need anything.  This works fine until you run out of patience, energy or become downright resentful.

“I’ve had it!” Angela said. “I am so busy taking care of everyone else’s needs that I neglect my own.”

Angela is married to Brent and has two kids, one in middle school and one in high school. Although trained as a paralegal, she has not worked outside of the home since her youngest was in Kindergarten. Angela’s full time job is managing her family. Her husband’s career requires long hours and some travel, which gives Angela even more responsibility with the family.

She continued, “The other day Brent came home and wondered why dinner wasn’t on the table; Sue wanted help with her homework and Sam needed help finding his book report form. My temper was up that day. Sue had called from school; she had forgotten her science project. It took me 45 minutes to take it to her.”

“Then I raced home because Sam’s uniform was in the wash and he needed it for a game that night. And, to top it all off, I needed to stop by the place my mom is living to sign some paperwork. Just when I think I can’t do one more thing, each member of my family needs something more from me!”

Usually even-tempered, I could see Angela was at her boiling point.

“As I do more for them, they expect more. Just because I don’t work outside of the home, people assume that I have an open schedule. I’d like to challenge them to live in my shoes for a day. I guarantee they would change their tunes.”

“You sound frustrated and unappreciated,” I said.

“If it doesn’t change, I’m moving to Mexico and they can all fend for themselves!” she joked.

“What would their lives be like if they did fend for themselves? What are some tasks that you are performing that they could do themselves?” I asked.

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She immediately listed duties that she had been doing that they could easily assume. “Brent could make lunches. Each of them could collect their own laundry.” The list easily came together. It even included people outside of her family, situations where Angela’s tendency to say “yes” had gotten her over-committed.

“How will you communicate this shift of responsibility to the people who need to know?” I asked.

“I will talk to my husband and ask for his support. At our next family dinner, I will talk to the kids about how the household responsibilities are changing.” Angela added, “For people outside of the family, I will call to let them know. I’ll give enough notice so they can find someone else.”

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“That sounds great!” I said. “Is there anything else that will make this situation better?”

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“Since I have given up a lot of my time, I will add in two hours a week to do something for me.”

“Let’s check in at our next coaching session to see how the conversations go and how well you are doing taking time for yourself,” I suggested.

“Maybe now I’ll have time to get in my workouts and finally lose the extra ten pounds I’ve been carrying.”

“Perhaps once you release all of this extra responsibility, you will feel as though you’ve lost ten pounds,” I said smiling.

Coaching Challenge:  If you are overwhelmed by tasks you do for other people, make a list of your major responsibilities. Review the list to see what you are doing that someone else could do. If he/she is unable to complete the entire task, possibly he/she can do part of it. For example, a young son may not be able to do laundry, but he can get the clothes to the laundry room. Once you have created your list, communicate to each person which tasks you are giving back. Explain why you have made this decision and be open to teaching them about how to complete the task.  Enjoy your new freedom!