Breath & Growth: Powerful Companions

For many years, I have studied the process of what it takes for us to be our best selves.  I have looked for the most simple and practical ideas that if practiced effectively, would yield the greatest outcomes.  Since humans are so complex, I figured the answer would also be complex and need to be tailored to the uniqueness of each person.

I recently came to terms with what I think the best tool is and it isn’t what I thought it would be. Our breath.

From my research in the field of Psychology, Sports, Spirituality, Religion, Business, Philosophy, the Arts and more, this simple process of inhaling and exhaling is a universal tool for optimizing our ability to be effective and satisfied in our lives.

In my Enneagram studies, my teacher, Helen Palmer, really challenged us to develop a practice for tuning into our breath as a way to work with our personality structures, and relax them so we can be more than the limitations of our type.  It is challenging to remember to use the breath when the way we are wired is to simply react.

I don’t profess to be an expert, but I do believe from now having put a great deal more effort into practicing using my breath as a tool for growth, that it is extremely worthwhile.  I gain greater objectivity, less emotional intensity, expansion of possible ways to look at a situation, increased compassion for others, and an overall sense of calm and well being.  This is cool stuff and it’s accessible to me anywhere, any time. I have a saying I tell myself – Conscious breathing, conscious living!

To learn more about how to work with your specific personality type and breath, check out this great Enneagram teacher, Peter O’Hanrahan.

It turns out, one size really does fit all when it comes to using our breath as a companion in growth!

 

 

 

 

Starting Again

I thought I had a plan for sustaining my journey of growth locked in for a good part of last year, and for about 5 months, I did a great job.  But like many other times in my life, sustaining a rigorous pace of such things as twice daily meditation, the temptation to fall off the wagon got the best of me.

When I went to Paris in October for two weeks, focusing on my personal growth seemed the farthest thing of interest to me.  I had cheese to eat, wine to drink, sights to see and time to spend with my budding opera singer to be daughter.  Meditation seemed so dull in contrast to all of this and who wants dull on a vacation?

It’s now January 4 and just today, I rebooted my daily practice….. I started again. With no drama about why I stopped, or what effort it might take to start back up.  I just decided that having a daily practice to be reflective, empty, peaceful was worth it for 5 months and could even get sweeter over time if I started again.  My yogi teachers say, “there is always more.”

My meditation teacher says we find our path because we are seekers, but we also are finders when we reap the rewards of what put into a daily practice – sometimes slowly, sometimes in big ways.  Mostly it’s slow though, from my personal experience, and those I am on the journey with.

I realize now looking back, I experienced a profound sense of well being when I was doing a daily growth practice.  There were changes going on in my personal and professional life from spring through fall like never before,   Yet, my usual pattern of reacting to the highs and lows of change which are usually like a riding a roller coaster, just wasn’t happening.  I felt steady in the face of challenges like never before in a way that really surprised me.

I kept waiting for the familiar patterns of melancholy over losses, fears about future what ifs, and sporadic sustainability of healthy habits of diet and exercise to overcome me.  But they didn’t.  My buttons just didn’t get pushed as much.  My husband often commented on this observable difference.

Yet, I fell off the wagon.  And now I am climbing back on.  I actually signed up for a 28 day intensive coaching course to support me in developing my daily practice of growth and transformation.  I believe in coaching (of course!) and being the coachee at times in my life has always served me well personally and makes me better at serving my clients.

Day 3 into the process, so far so good!  Feels good to be back on the journey. The sun keeps rising every day and so shall I!

Namaste!

 

 

How Our Customers Help Us Grow

Today I started working with a new client that reminded me of some fantastic basic lessons in how much there is to keep learning from our customers.

The coaching program I designed, and is supported by the client’s boss, includes a 360 degree leadership assessment.  “No big deal” I am thinking.  “Let’s just see how you and others perceive you as a leader”, I say. “And from there, we can set some development goals that make sense for your situation.”  Typically, the clients I use 360 assessments with see them as a positive, enriching and strategic component to supporting leadership development.  But to this client, it was a HUGE big deal.  She was freaking out about having to do a 360 assessment, and her boss and I were clueless until we opened up the conversation about it.

We were reminded that there are bosses and HR professionals who don’t use 360 assessments constructively – specifically her past bosses.   They called in the Executive Coach to bring their 360 feedback assessments to sort out problem people and try to fix them. Most of the time, these situations turned out in terminations.  Yikes!! The problem is, what is broken is not usually the person.  It’s the way the company manages performance, or the way the boss handles developing their people.  In those cases, 360 degree feedback gets a bad rap.

So we pulled back today and decided not to send the leader into the fray where she would have to prove to those she asked to participate that she isn’t in hot water or one foot out the door.

The bummer is, she will have to wait a lot longer to get some really rich feedback about what she does really well and should keep doing – something she could use a good dose of right now after having weathered a tough company acquisition.

That’s OK and we will figure out other ways to support her growth.  But………..what a great wake up call for me about a few things that I think apply to many situations.

1. Never assume you understand the reality someone else is living.  Take the time to ask good questions early in a relationship and often as you go.  Things change fast, and history has a lot of force.

2. Be prepared to change direction from your “ideal” solution to one that makes the most sense for those you are serving

3. Be patient and creative.  There are many ways to get to the same outcome.

I’m sure there are more, but was told once that 3 is a good number to start with. Things don’t always turn out how you think they will.  Glad today we were all open to doing things differently.  Here’s to learning from our customers!

Can I Coach Myself?

Sure!

It can happen all the time if you work on it, and it’s actually a great skill to learn.  Here is a simple technique to try the next time you want to do or say something to get the best outcome .

In the simplest terms, we have what the personality experts refer to as 3 Centers of Intelligence.  (Refer to my Enneagram  page for my favorite personality tool that provides more detail about this!)

Our Centers of Intelligence can be thought of as our central operating system – how we process information.  The three centers are the head center or intellectual center, the heart center or the emotional center and the body center or the physical center.  Most of us operate with one Center of Intelligence more dominantly and then the others follow in priority to some degree of intensity, or in some cases, are considered very little.

Think of yourself like a tripod.  If we prefer to use our head or thoughts to solve a problem, then that is the longest leg on our tripod.  We think our way through a situation first and foremost.  That leaves the other two legs shorter and typically one is the shortest.  What happens when your tripod has differing length of legs?  Not such a secure place for our camera!

For example, someone operating foremost from their Head Center, can collect so much information from so many perspectives that they become confused as to which information is the most relevant or important. Someone operating foremost from their Heart Center, can be over-empathic with people or with themselves so they lost objectivity about the situation. Someone operating foremost from their  Body Center, can become overly stubborn when they perceive another as trying to control them or extremely quick to act without thinking through the implications of their actions.

This may sound frightfully simplistic.  The take away is this.  If you were to give consideration to all 3 Centers of Intelligence when trying to perform at your best, what would that do for the outcome you are trying to create?  Most personality experts agree, that to be centered and balanced, we need to access all 3 Centers of Intelligence in a productive way if we want to operate to our full potential.

So next time you are trying to solve a problem ask yourself:  What do I think?  How do I feel ?  What do I do?  See if your solution reflects the best version of yourself and let me know!

Aside

Today, while practicing yoga, I was thinking what a great world of business we would create if the top executives of every company practiced yoga.

Current estimates suggest there are up to 20 million Yoga practitioners in the United States, yet in my travels, I haven’t come across too many top executives who admit to practicing yoga.  Yoga has been rated as a highly beneficial practice on multiple levels of body, mind and spirit.  I have been practicing yoga for the past five years, and given the many benefits I have experienced,  I am convinced we could use more executive yogi’s in the business world.

Here is my vision of what yoga-practicing executives would inspire in their employees and businesses:

  1. Discipline to work at being our best selves and companies
  2. Positive intent and commitment to unlocking our full human and business potential
  3. Union with ourselves and each other; no silos; together we support each other’s evolution in a balanced way
  4. Rigor to work and grow; to find our optimum performance edge that working towards can be uncomfortable, but won’t hurt us or be more than we can handle and leads us to exceed our expectations of what is possible
  5. Individuality in self expression of the flow, that is also guided by a shared framework and goal within a community
  6. A “mindful state” where one recognizes distractions and attachments, acknowledges them and then returns to being fully present in the moment.  Yogi’s turn off cell phones, lap tops, and thoughts about past and future and focus on RIGHT NOW and doing the best you can at that very task
  7. Calmness of mind that inspires confidence in times of change
  8. Clarity of mind and enables us to see things more clearly to inspire creative and strategic solutions to complex problems
  9. Emotional and physical strength to face difficult situations and people
  10. Stress management techniques for facing outdated habits, new challenges and other stressed out people or customers

Wow, just listing these benefits makes me want to get to the yoga studio.  The funny thing is, yoga can be as simple as taking time to sit with your eyes closed and breathe deeply for 5-10 minutes.  Clearly, if we are all breathing, we can all practice yoga no matter how busy – even executives.

What do you say?

Companies Led By Yogi’s – Wouldn’t that be cool?

Living The Dream!

I stumbled upon this blog today and couldn’t resist adding it the collection of inspirational blogs for those of us working on building a life we could never have imagined!  http://everywhereonce.com/2011/04/27/7-lessons-from-a-year-on-the-road/

We learn so much by experiencing things directly, yet much can be gleaned from the experience of others as you will see from this couple’s reflection on living their dream life traveling the world for a year.

We all have the key to unlocking our dreams!  I’m inspired to go work on mine.

Rejuvenation

Having just spent two weeks in Paris totally unplugged from work and responsibility in general, I have new inspiration for getting focused again on blogging. It’s really the re-entry part that catalyzed me into action. As is typical, getting ready to go away and returning are two intense weeks that we double up our efforts so that our time away can be freely enjoyed.

The length of this trip, allowed me to immerse myself into the French culture, a culture that does not rush typically. I liked that although, I must admit, it took a while and some coaching from my daughter to relax when I first sat down and wanted service immediately. I spent many rides on the Metro observing people at all times of day. I was impressed with how few people pushed their way around the stations and trains.

Most people were not even on their phones while riding, another amazing contrast to our culture where most drivers are on the phone. People savored the time in the cafes over their coffees or wine. Small shop keepers took their time to help you and took long lunch breaks that included shutting their store during the break. It seemed so civil, sane and a much more graceful way to go about daily living.

I spoke with a lot of clients, colleagues and friends this week and the universal response I got to “How are you?” included some form of how busy they were, mostly in a matter of fact way, not complaining.

That’s when I realized how much we Americans have normalized busyness and how much I don’t want to return to that. I attempted this week to bring that measured pace into my reentry. It mostly worked even though I don’t feel like I’ve really caught up yet and some unexpected new business projects are growing bigger than I had planned. I am not choosing to let that bother me and I am working this weekend on reclaiming rejuvenation. I intend to keep an eye on my pace and see how I can keep it to a low roar and explore the benefits the Parisians know very well. And I will use this blog to help keep me focused on ways to walk the talk of my commitment to helping people THRIVE, and flourish, including myself.

Lastly, check out this website http://www.revolutionaryact.com for some ideas to help you “thrive in a mixed up world” as they say.

Finally, Someone Who Sees Organization the Way I Do!

If you looked at my desk many days, it would look like the photo on this blog post at Lateral Action.com. That’s what drew me in.  I was sure I would be vindicated that spending my time doing other things than filing would be appreciated.  I am working hard on improving how I keep the many plates of my work and life spinning and not dropping one.  I actually adopted some of these same strategies in the past few years – specifically, the pile method and onenote book for all of my to-do lists, conversations, thoughts of the day, etc.  I can almost always find what I need, when I need it.

See what you think at this blog Get Organized, But Not Too Much.  And by the way, if you are a creative type – you will love more of these blog posts!