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Archive for the ‘decisions’ Category

Baby Steps: For All Ages and Stages

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

High school seniors are preparing for graduation. Until now their lives have been fairly planned. As summer approaches, they realize they have come to the end of “the plan” and wonder: what’s next?

 

One of my clients graduates from high school in May. Chet’s mother had contacted me about life coaching to help him find direction as he approached this ending point/beginning point. Chet wants to pursue engineering, but he is not exactly sure where he wants to go to school.

 

Chet has no contact with his father, who left when Chet was young. His mother has provided for Chet his entire life and works long hours to make ends meet. Moving away to attend college has been a difficult concept for Chet to contemplate for a couple of reasons.

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First, he is unsure of leaving his mom; it has always been just the two of them. And then there is Ashleigh, his girlfriend of the past two years. She is a couple years older than Chet, has a full time job in her parents’ business and has recently purchased a home. She has no intention of moving and hopes that Chet will attend the local college.

 

“I’m really excited to graduate, but I am dreading the decisions I must make,” he confided.

 

When we talked, I could tell that family and relationships were at the top of his list of values. It was important for Chet to be available for his mother and he concluded that if he moved, he could stay in frequent contact via the phone, email and regular visits. “Who knows? Maybe a bit of separation will be just what each of us needs,” he said.

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Before we moved on to the subject of Ashleigh, Chet told me he had another month before he needed to make the decision about what to do after graduation. When I asked what he needs to make good decisions, he answered, “information and experience.”

 

“How can you gain the information and experience you need to make a good choice in this situation?” I asked. “What is one baby step that you can take towards gaining the information you need to make a decision?”

 

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Chet replied, “The school that I am really interested in is hosting an On Campus day where seniors are invited to visit and stay overnight in the dorms. I’ll go and see what it’s like.” That was a great step towards gaining more information.

 

Sometimes we get so caught up with the BIG picture, goal, or decision (in this case what to do after graduation), that we look for one BIG step to take us “there.” Getting “there” is not usually one large step, but a series of baby steps, which are easier to take and move you toward your goal. Each time you take a baby step, you are given an opportunity to reevaluate how it feels and ask, “Am I still on the right path?” If so, then you can determine what your next step is.

 

If it doesn’t feel right, you are given an opportunity to reevaluate and step forward, sideways or in a completely new direction. There will come a day when Chet will decide what to do after graduation, but by continuing to take baby steps and reevaluating, he can gain the information and experience he needs to make the decisions along the way with confidence.

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Coaching Challenge:

Once you have defined the outcome that you are working towards, brainstorm the steps that will move you towards your goal. Write each baby step on a sticky note. Then place the notes in order of what needs to happen first. If the first step seems overwhelming, see if there is an even smaller step that needs to come first. Then each time you take a step towards your goal, reevaluate to see if you are still on the right track. If so, then take the next step. If not, come up with another step that is more in line with your goals. The key is to continually evaluate where you are and ask, “What is the next right (baby) step?” Keep asking, evaluating and moving forward.

Getting Out of a Harem

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

If two is company and three is a crowd, what are four and five?” This sounds like a riddle with the answer of nine. But in the case of relationships, four and five becomes a harem. People who surround themselves with more than one potential romantic partner seem more comfortable with a harem, and have no deep emotional commitment to any of the people in it. One of my clients recently excused herself from a harem. Let me explain.

 

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One week Janie came into my office with a dreamy expression on her face. “He’s perfect,” she said. “He’s intelligent, funny, and loves the outdoors.” Janie is a smart business woman, divorced for 10+ years, has two teenagers, and began life coaching to focus on the relationship area of her life. She had dated, but longed to be in a relationship. Then Bob came into her life.

 

For several weeks she floated around and was “in love.” Extra time was spent thinking about, talking about or being with Bob. Their relationship was platonic, flirty and fun. Janie wanted more and was sure romance was just around the corner.

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Two weeks later, she expressed frustration. Even though Bob flirted and seemed romantically interested, he was careful not to cross the line between friendship and relationship.

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“He’s been hurt in the past and is cautious,” she explained. Janie also casually mentioned how Bob had recently been in contact with his ex-girlfriend who had called needing his help. She wasn’t upset by it, but more impressed by how caring he was towards his ex.

 

At our next session, Janie was upset. Bob was backing away. He had met a co-worker’s sister who had recently moved to town. Explaining how he wanted to be honest with Janie, he said he wanted to get to know this woman. Janie appreciated his honesty and wanted to be there for him. Plus, she didn’t want to give up their friendship. “He never said we were more than friends. Maybe I read more into it,” she said. “And, I really enjoy his company.”

 

Janie’s frustration level continued to rise. Now he was spending time with his ex-girlfriend, his co-worker’s sister, and his ex-wife had called needing his help moving. “Now I am now one of four women in his life. We were getting closer but now I feel like I am part of a harem.”

 

She vacillated from trying to understand his needs to saying that she would not tolerate being part of a crowd. She talked to him a couple of times, trying to express how she felt. “Each time he charms me right back into the fold. If I continue to communicate and be there for him, maybe he’ll figure out that he truly wants to be with me,” her voice trailed off.

 

Her homework was to describe what she wanted in a romantic relationship. She made a list of what was negotiable and what was non-negotiable. Bob passed all of the non-negotiable items, except for one – being emotionally available. Janie explained, “He keeps several women around him and is not close, intimate or vulnerable to anyone. This helps him feel safe.” Once this became clear and she saw that it didn’t align with what she really wanted, she decided to drop out of the harem. She would talk to him the next day.

 

Although sad that Bob wasn’t “it,” through the process, she became clearer on what “it” was and what “it” wasn’t. In the end she said, “I realized that I was compromising my needs for the comfort of staying in the relationship and I am no longer willing to do that.” This clarity will help her make better decisions in the future.

 

Coaching Challenge: When evaluating a relationship – romantic, friendship, or career –be clear about your standards and expectations. Create a list of negotiable and non-negotiable items to evaluate each relationship. If the criteria are not met, clearly communicate what you need. What that person then says and does is crucial in your decision on whether to stay or go. If you leave, it doesn’t make him or her a bad person; it simply means that your criteria are not being met. As painful as it is, it may be time to break up and move on.

Changing Priorities

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

Kayla and I met for our seventh and last coaching session. She originally contacted me wanting to reach a specific career objective. Kayla wasn’t the type of person who needed help setting goals or in determining how to reach them. Although quite young, Kayla had been successful in school and in her career.

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Reflecting back to our first session, her appearance, energy, and clothing were different than today. Kayla was always very professional– a suit or skirt, her make-up perfect, and she was always “on.” Today she looked comfortable, relaxed and full of life. What originally brought her to coaching took a back seat to what we discovered was really important to her. Here’s what happened:

 

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Eight months ago, Kayla’s boss had challenged her to take the next step in her career. Coaching was to help her to stay on track. Up to this point, Kayla had successfully balanced her career with the needs of her family and of herself. She had been married 5 years and had an energetic 18-month old son.

 

We initially looked for ways to gain the time she needed to reach her goals. Since her most productive time was in the mornings before Anthony woke up, she decided to get up two hours early. For accountability and to establish the habit, she would email me at 5 a.m. for the first two weeks.

 

The next day her email came at 5:05 a.m. I smiled, knowing she had met her goal. Over the next two weeks, I only received two more 5 a.m. emails.

 

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“It’s too much!” she said at our next session. “I’m trying to stay present for my family; I’ve been so irritated with Anthony; and my team members are struggling and I can’t help them. I can’t do this.”

 

I listened with compassion. We talked about her emotions and re-visited her goals, trying to determine what her priorities were now. She explained, “In the past, I would keep my eyes on the goal until I got there. Now it seems like the goal is changing. I thought I wanted this promotion, but I am not willing to pay the price.”

 

It didn’t sound like a cop-out. It was an honest realization.

 

How do you know when to keep moving forward and when to acknowledge that your goals have changed? It’s a fine line. Growing up, many of us learned that when you want something, you move forward until you get there.

 

As you grow and change, your goals may need to shift. It may be necessary to revisit your values and true priorities. The real measure is how much passion do you still have for the prize? Over time, with more tools, knowledge and evidence, you can make a better decision about which goals to keep and how to get there. Don’t let old priorities prevent you from moving towards what’s important today. That is how years and decades can slip by.

 

In leaving that session, Kayla came up with two brilliant action steps. First, she would tell her manager that her career goals had changed. Second, she would take time for herself and her family.

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This brings me to our closing session. Kayla walked in wearing jeans and a sweatshirt and plopped in my chair. She was back to being herself and she was radiating with life! When Kayla and I embarked on this journey, we both thought we were heading in a completely different direction. Our closing session was not about her career at all. It was about discovering what her true priorities and values were, acknowledging that and moving forward.

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Keep your eye on the prize, but be open to the prize changing.

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Coaching Challenge: Write your top five priorities in life including any of the eight areas of life: family & friends, career, significant other, fun & recreation, health, money, personal growth, physical environment. List your top five priorities in order. What is most important to you? Use that same list to prioritize how you spend your time. Review the list to see if you are spending time in the areas that are most important to you. Review the list every month to see if anything has shifted. By simply being aware of your priorities, you can more clearly make choices as to how you spend your time and energy.

 

 

I Can’t Decide!

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

“I have no idea what to do,” my client Suzanne said as she put her head in her hands. The decision she was facing was between moving to take a new job or staying here to live closer to family. Her grandmother had recently been moved into assisted living and Suzanne had been helping her mother take care of the endless arrangements, medications, transportation, etc.

 

“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” she said. I could feel the pain she had surrounding making this decision. Having worked with her for over six months, we had focused on moving her career forward, including updating her resume and cover letter, sharpening her networking skills and setting intentions around her career.

 

This opportunity seemed like a dream come true. It would propel her career forward. The compensation was higher than she expected and there were several perks. The deal could not have been any sweeter…which made her predicament even more difficult.

 

As the deadline approached, Suzanne found herself vacillating. “I should stay and help my family…” and just minutes later, “I cannot pass this up.” I listened to her mental gyrations, trying to understand and see what stood out as more important to her.

 

To find clarity and make decisions, it is helpful for clients to look at various viewpoints. Simply stepping outside of the normal perspective can define what is really important. We stood up for this exercise. Physically moving around helps us to talk about and feel the change in each perspective.

 

We put the decision to take the job in the center of a large circle on the floor. I asked Suzanne, “What is the perspective you are in right now?”

 

“This job is perfect,” she said. We named this wedge of the circle, “WOW! I can’t believe it!” I had her describe the mood in this wedge of the circle, the color, the theme song, the temperature and how this resonated in her body…anything to help us embody and feel this perspective. She described the mood as enthusiastic, came up with the color magenta, theme song Rocky, temperature was 95 degrees and she felt like she was floating.

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“But I just can’t imagine leaving my mom,” she said. Her perspective had noticeably changed, so we literally stepped to another wedge of the circle. She labeled it, “Dedication.” The mood here was overwhelming, theme song was, I Just Can’t Give Enough, temperature was 35 degrees and she felt tightness in her chest.

 

“What would your friends say?” I asked as we moved to another wedge. Again, I had her label and describe this perspective. This wedge was labeled, “Do It.” The mood was, You Only Live Once; theme song, Seize the Moment, temperature was 80 degrees and she felt her head swirling around.

 

“Tell me what your grandmother would say,” I asked as we moved to the next imaginary wedge on the floor. The name of this perspective was “Wisdom.” The mood was thoughtful; theme song was, Listen to your Heart, temperature was 65 degrees and breezy, and she felt this as sweetness in her heart.

 

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We walked around the circle, discovering and describing new perspectives. I then asked her which one resonated with her. She answered, “Wow! I Can’t Believe it!” We stepped into the perspective and brainstormed her next steps. Once we had the list, we narrowed it down. She then agreed to specific steps and timelines.

 

As we closed the session, she had moved from a point of indecision to action. She had consciously chosen not to stay stuck and is moving in a direction that resonates with her and helps her to move forward. There is so much power in that!

 

Coaching Challenge: When faced with a decision, look at four different perspectives. Draw a circle and label each wedge. Describe each perspective/wedge with a color, temperature, theme song and mood. Really embody each perspective – what does it feel like to stand in each one? Look at the decisions from multiple sides and then select the one that resonates in your heart. From here, create action steps to move forward from this perspective. Make yourself accountable by setting goals, timeframes, etc. To consciously decide is very powerful.