Recently I had some tough times. Weeks went by and potential clients were not returning my calls and then a big job came up and someone else got it instead of me. I started to question my abilities, doubting myself and wondering who I was to think I could actually help anyone with my coaching. I was in a slump and not at all happy about it.
Enter Bill McRaven, former Commander of Special Forces for the United States Navy. Here’s a guy who can really talk about getting through tough times, having survived Navy SEAL training. In his 2014 Commencement speech at the University of Texas which has been viewed over 2 million times on YouTube, he tells lessons from SEAL basic training. Spending the 20 minutes to view this video altered my perspective.
One thing he said was, “Know that life is not fair and you will fail often.” This is more profound that it might seem; it is an inoculation for the tough times.
When you have tough times, remember these things:
A. It’s not personal: Life isn’t fair and so the tough times might actually not mean anything about you personally.
B. Strengthen your goal: Failure isn’t even a problem unless you are up to something you care about. Remember what that is.
C. Learn from the experience: You can learn more from failing than from succeeding.
D. Don’t give up: The antidote to failure is to keep going.
Of course, you will feel bad sometimes. I know I do. You may feel sorry for yourself, get discouraged or even think about quitting. However, the important thing is: How long will you be let those feelings keep you from doing the next thing?
I appreciated the “toughen up” message from McRaven, who I consider to be an American hero. If you want to not only get through tough times, but also make a difference in the world, you need to find a way to keep going. The sooner you get over yourself, learn what you need to learn and get back into action, the better.
The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall. -- Nelson Mandela
Honoring emotions is an important element in achieving Emotional Intelligence. And our moods – both “good” and “bad” -- are an important part of our emotional being.
Have you noticed that things go more smoothly when you are in the mood to do them? Traffic lights change to green and you find a great parking place when you’re in a good mood. And when you’re in a bad mood, seems like almost everything goes wrong.
Moods come and go in their own timing, so practically speaking, how can you capitalize on the good moods and mitigate the bad moods?
For example, it isn’t always possible to be in the mood to do something you must do. Sometimes you just have do it anyway. So the question becomes, how can you get yourself in the mood to enjoy what you’re going to do? Here are 3 keys that can help:
1. Design rituals
I have a goal of doing yoga every morning. Sometimes I’m not in the mood. To help me start my stretches, I have a ritual. I spread out my yoga mat and put on music that I like. The music is soothing and calming and it reminds me of how good the yoga stretches feel. Pretty soon I find myself happily stretching.
Another simple example of a ritual is one you can do as you start a new project. Clear off your desk and get yourself a cup of coffee. With a clean desk and a cup of coffee, you can imagine yourself making a good start on your new project.
2. Say affirmations
An affirmation is an encouraging phrase that you repeat to yourself. As humans we always have affirmations running -- often the affirmations are not very affirming. So why not try some affirmations that are actually encouraging to you and can help get you in the right mood? You can even combine rituals with affirmations. Here are a few examples of affirmations:
• “This will be fun. I love to [something about the task that you really do like to do].”
• “I am learning a lot!”
• “It is good to enjoy life and take chances.”
3. See the bigger picture
When you need to do something that you are not in the mood to do, take a moment to think about why you might to do it. Ask yourself what you will get ultimately if you do it. Sometimes seeing the big-picture value can make the task itself more appealing to do.
Enjoy your life and your moods. Allow your emotions to enrich your experience of life, but don’t let them stop you from doing things you need to do.
You have decided that it is finally time to deal with that particular person about that particular “thing” that you’ve been putting off. You’ve been dreading it and have decided you will finally address it face to face. This is your Moment of Truth.
First, let me say congratulations! Most people never come to the point of actually addressing directly a difficult situation. It seems easier to sweep it under the carpet and tell yourself it will work itself out without you having to do anything. In the meantime you suffer and your relationship with the person suffers. Getting back into relationship with the person requires action, but the pay off is worth it.
So you feel that you are ready now. Question is, how do you proceed? This Moment of Truth conversation deserves focused preparation. It will help to take time to answer these questions:
1. What happened?
Answer like a scientist who is observing and not ‘getting inside anyone’s head.’
On New Year’s Eve, you and three younger people used chalk to write words and draw on my car. You said it was meant as a joke. You did not offer to clean my car afterwards. I went to the car wash, but the writing/pictures damaged the paint job. The specialist said my car would have to be buffed which costs $150.
2. Remember how you felt when this happened.
Were you angry? Embarrassed? Disappointed? Write down your feelings. You will want to tell the person how you felt -- not as an emotional weapon, but as information. The person needs to know the emotional cost of his actions.
I was angry that you would mess with my car and also disappointed that you didn't offer to pay for the cleaning when it became obvious that the chalk had damaged the paint.
3. What specifically do you want?
I’d like for you to pay to have my car buffed. And I’d like you to apologize.
4. Write down notes for the conversation.
Make notes for the conversation. Keep the ending in mind and get yourself ready to listen to his side of the story. Your notes will help you stay on track and stick to your guns when it comes to asking for what you want.
5. Consider when to have the conversation and then schedule it.
When is the best time to talk to him? You may need to set an appointment so there is adequate time to talk (yes, even if he is a family member). If possible, meet with him face to face in a private place. If you can't meet face to face, then talk with him on the phone. In a situation like this, email and texting are not good options.
Remember that the goal is to get back into relationship with the person. It will probably be a relief not to have to step over this anymore and be on the way to regaining the trust that was lost.
Diane was new to the job and was having a problem with a co-worker named Matt. The team that Diane was leading needed Matt’s expertise for their health-care project, but he didn't show up for team meetings. He would miss one team meeting after another, always for seemingly good reasons. Diane heard from others on the team that Matt was arrogant, anti-social and notoriously difficult to work with. Diane and her boss met with Matt and talked to him directly about the advantages of his participating on the team, but nothing changed.
During a coaching session, I asked Diane to answer these questions about Matt:
• What is he committed to? What motivates him?
• What do you have in common with him?
• In what ways do you respect him?
From her answers to these questions, she realized that Matt was very committed to making things right for the patients, above all else. She remembered meeting him when she worked at another facility and admiring how dedicated he was. She felt that the two of them shared that dedication and simply had different ways of showing it. Lastly, she realized that maybe not everyone has to be a team player. She decided to meet with Matt and find out more about him and what was important to him. She also thought of ways to include Matt independently without having to insist that he attend team meetings.
As a result of changing her "story" about Matt, her experience of him changed drastically. She has been able to establish a strong partnership with him. He calls her with his input and they are now able to work productively together.
Stories Shape Our Lives
Stories like the one Diane had are the fabric of life. We weave stories together together to explain things that happen in our lives and in the lives of others. Then we believe our own stories. In fact, our belief in the stories we make up are so ingrained, that we generally think of the stories as facts and might even say, “That’s not a story, that’s my life!” or, as Diane had done, “That’s no story, that’s what he’s like!”
Our stories shape reality. They can empower or discourage us, set our feet forward or stop us cold in our tracks.
What stories do you tell?
Start to listen to your own stories about yourself, your co-workers, spouse, friends and family. Listen to what you say and start to observe the effect your stories have on you and others.
Are your stories serving you? If not, then get some help from a coach or from a good friend who won’t simply agree with you. Ask the questions that will help you find a different story so you can see things differently. When you can see things differently, you will be able to find new, more empowering possibilities for action. Just by changing your story, you can change everything.
If you are going to tell a story, make it an empowering one.
One of the complaints I often hear in companies sounds like this: “So-and-so does not respond to my emails.” My question back is, “What is your agreement with So-and-so about responding to emails?” Invariably I’m told that there is no actual agreement in place.
As much as one might assume that people should respond to emails in a timely manner, that doesn’t mean that they will…unless there is an agreement in place. If not, then your options are to complain, hope the person gets the hint, nag him or try to work around the unworkable situation.
The simple fact is, agreements up front can solve problems before they arise and make interacting with others a lot easier.
Why don’t we make agreements?
Because it seems like too much trouble
Because it’s easier to just complain and feel like a victim
Because we don’t know what to do when an agreement is broken, so why bother making one
As an alternative to complaining or feeling victimized, try this experiment:
Think about something that’s keeping you from your goals. Ask the person(s) involved if he will make an agreement with you that will help you reach your goals.
3 Steps to Making Agreements
Note: These steps work with both teams and individuals.
1. Figure out what agreements you want.
• Propose an agreement such as, “Let’s agree to respond to emails from each other within 24 hours.”
• If your partner says okay, write the agreement down.
• If he says no, then negotiate. For example, “Okay then, let’s say that within 24 hours we will respond even if it’s to say, ‘I’m really busy now, but will answer you soon.’”
• Keep making agreements with him until the two of you can’t think of any more.
2. When the list is done, send it to him so you both have a copy.
• You want the agreements in writing so you can refer to them and change them as necessary as time goes on. Agreements are not written in stone.
3. If one of you breaks an agreement, the other one needs to “call it” as soon as possible.
“You haven’t answered my email from 2 days ago. We agreed to answer within 24 hours. Do we need to change our agreement?”
It is well worth the effort to set up agreements. So much time is wasted in the drama of being upset about someone else’s behavior. Imagine your life being focused on how well you keep your agreements and hold others to theirs, rather than on wondering why people won’t stop doing things that drive you crazy.
Make agreements and you will notice that your life just works better.
Life works to the degree that you keep your agreements.
-- Werner Erhard
Communication, true communication, is almost impossible in the best of circumstances. It takes a ‘perfect storm’ to bring together these three necessary things:
• Your clear, concise message
• The other person’s receptivity & ability to listen
The obstacles are many. They include faulty listening filters, cultural differences, stress & hurry, moods, and – a big one -- not being sure yourself exactly what you want to communicate. How, then, is true communication possible?
Start with the main Ingredient: RESPECT.
Definition of respect: Esteem & admiration, an act of giving particular attention, willingness to show consideration or appreciation
Respect leads to the possibility of actually getting your message across by opening up the other person’s receptivity and ability to listen. In fact, if you respect the other person, you will have a natural connection with her. Your message will automatically become clearer, she will be more open to what you have to say and you will sense when the right time to talk to her is.
If you truly want to communicate with someone and do not have much respect for him, you can look deeper for what you CAN genuinely respect about him. To find respect, you first have to let go of assumptions, judgments, negativity and drama. These things kill respect and letting go of them is worth practicing.
Maybe he’s a lousy boss, but a good father, skilled businessman or powerful negotiator. Once you find the respect, you can connect with him. This is not manipulation, but truly the art of connecting with another person. Warning: If you are not genuine, your communication will fall short. Guaranteed.
You can influence the ‘perfect storm’ necessary for true communication with respect. It is ‘sweeter than honey,’ sings Aretha Franklin in the Otis Redding song, “Respect.” And it is worth finding. The other person becomes better and so do you.
You will want to read The Gifts of Imperfection if you are:
• Tired of living your life from "should" and are ready to live from your heart
• Interested in research-based information that includes the word "wholehearted"
• Done with trying to live up to the expectations of others
• Ready to follow that age-old advice: "Just be yourself"
The Gifts of Imperfection by Dr. Brené Brown is a guide to wholehearted living. The book is surprisingly un-sentimental, action-oriented and just plain true. The kind of true that will have you shaking your head yes while you are reading. From her research and her personal journey into wholeheartedness, Brown lifts up the very real possibility of actually living as yourself with no apologies.
“Worthiness doesn't have prerequisites.”
― Brené Brown
For over 20 years Susan has been a coach, consultant and corporate trainer. She is the co-founder of the Coach Group of Switzerland.