Monthly Archives: March 2015

To find options ask “What If”

When faced with a decision or to overcome an issue, we need to be able to see options and to explore them.  We need to be able to ask ourselves and others the appropriate question.   One powerful question you can ask yourself is “What If?”.

What If question allows you to think outside of the box.  It allows for “crazy” options and no boundaries to what you can and cannot do.  Allow yourself the option to break through your current thought process and think about the possibilities.

For example, you are feeling that you are not moving forward in a certain project, too many stumbling blocks or resistance, ask yourself the following:

  • What If I approached the challenge differently, what would that look like?
  • What If I could do this or that to overcome the barrier?
  • What If I could re-frame the issue?
  • What if I reached out to someone else to help me figure the issue out?

There is no limit to the possibilities or options once you can the brainstorming hat on.  Your mind will automatically help you generate all sort of scenarios and options and therefore  help you to see beyond the issue to a possible solution.

Let’s take a look at how you might want to use the “What If”:

  • Faced with Fear :  Ask Yourself:
    • What if my worst fear is not that bad?  What if I did not let my fear stop me from doing A or B?
    • What if I broke down the fear to smaller bits?  Is it still as daunting?
  • Faced with a decision:  Ask yourself:
    • What if I did A or B or C?
    • What if I re-frame the challenge?
    • What if I did not make a decision?
    • What if the decision I made is wrong?
    • What if I made the right decision?

You can use this technique in any situation to see other possibilities and to test out options in your mind.  Once you have different options, it is always a good idea to talk it through a friend just to check and balance the ideas.  Remember that its beneficial for the thought process to think of the “What If” scenario in the moving forward or positive path.

Receiving Feedback: Scary?

One of the hardest aspect of communication is feedback.  Whether it’s giving or receiving feedback, it’s scary.  There are many reasons for what makes feedback daunting and in general it lies with fear.  Fear that the feedback is too harsh, not effective, not well received and so on.  However, it is essential for us if we want to grow and improve, to have feedback.  Feedback from people around us whether it’s at the workplace or at home.    It is widely perceived that receiving feedback is scarier than giving feedback.  After all, this has to do with me or you.

From my personal experience, the more specific and detailed the feedback that is given to me, the more “credible” is the feedback and therefore the open I am to receiving the feedback.  It also meant that I would spend a lot of thought process cycles to figure out what to do with the feedback.  I would encourage you to ask questions and probe deeper for specifics so that you are clear on what it is that needs to be different or changed.  Feedback that is generally not well-received are those that are emotional, not specific or detailed around a behaviour or action and not well thought out.  But let’s assume that in this situation the feedback was well thought out and well intentioned.

The best way to handle receiving feedback is to remember these 3 key principles:

1.  Intention or Purpose of the feedback.  If the intent is to help you reinforce or rectify a behaviour or action, then embrace the feedback as an area of improvement.  You don’t have to accept the feedback but you should give it a good thought or two for it might uncover a blind spot in your actions.

2.  Be open and honest with yourself.  It’s hard when we have to be self-critical but in order to grow as a person, we do need to have a good look at ourselves once in a while.  It has been said that it’s of no use to look at oneself in the mirror and the next minute forget all about it.

3.  It takes care and courage for a person to give you feedback.  It is just as scary for a person to give you feedback as it is for you to receive the feedback.  If a person cares enough about you to give you feedback, it is worth taking the time to process the feedback.

You have every right to accept or not the feedback that is given.  If it’s off the mark then ignore it and move on.  If it is somewhat on the mark, then it is worth the time and effort for you to think through it.

Think about:

1.  If the feedback is important to you, what could you do to make a change?

2.  What aspect of the feedback is something that you would make an effort towards?

3.  How would you response if the feedback is off the mark?  Hint:  Retaliating is not a smart move.

Feedback whether it was asked for or not, can be daunting but it can also be powerful element for growth and development.  Don’t shy away from it.

Human “Being” or “Doing” – Who am I?

A lot of people have asked me with shocked and puzzled look when I would tell them that I am retired and have been for a few years.  I am not sure if its because I don’t look like I have reached the acceptable age of retirement or if it’s because I am so comfortable with the word “retired”.

I should start with the definition of the word “retire”.  According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, one of the definition is “to stop a job or career because you have reached the age when you are not allowed to work any more or do not need or want to work any more.”  The next word to define is “work”.  Work to me sounds a look like labour and toil.  Therefore my definition of “retire” is to stop work (labour and toil) because I can and I want to pursue my passion which aligns with my purpose.  I knew that I wanted a change when work became more toiling than enjoyable.  I knew that if I did not make a change when I did, I would end up being someone I didn’t want to be, just drudging along life as life is short and precious.  I made the move in the traditional sense and wanted to see what the next stage of life has to offer.  So now I am in the midst of aligning and re-creating my vocation – I am a coach.  I am a coach because I want to inspire growth in others, to help them achieve their goals, to put into practical steps what they can do to break through barriers and to fulfil their potential.  So yes to me I am retired.  Retired from the labour and toil to aligning with my passion and purpose.

One of the tricky if not hardest question to answer when you are not “working” is “What do you do?”.  This is because for such a long time, I had defined who I was by what I was doing.  So I would say I am the Marketing and Business Operation Director at Microsoft.  Wow, sounds really fanciful and maybe even important.  But really what did it mean?  What do you do?  I am responsible for all the marketing activities and blah blah blah.  All of which made me think about a more important question that I needed to answer and  be clear about which was “Who AM I?”.

The “Who AM I?” question is one that goes to the heart of knowing and being confident and comfortable about being you, not being defined by what you do but for just being you.  To know the answer requires that one be honest about yourself, your strengths, your dreams, your passions and your goals in life.  To get to know yourself in a deeper way and imagine if everything is stripped away, who are you?  If you don’t define yourself with what you are doing, with what job title you hold, and how much things you possess, how would you answer the question.

I have the great blessings of having a number of Christian friends and one of the common attribute that they have is they would answer the question “Who are you?” with the first sentence as “I am a child of God.” followed by their personalities or what they are passionate about and so on.  That’s a great way to be rooted in belief.

Ask yourself:

  • What am I passionate about?
  • What are my values?
  • What’s my life purpose?  Can I describe in one or two words?
  • Is my work aligned my values and life purpose?

Just remember we are human beings and not human doings.  The heart of Human Being vs. Human Doing is to answer the question “Who Am I?”.

Underlying belief holding you back?

The question that is most often asked during a coaching session is “What is holding you back?”.  What is the barrier to change and to move forward?  The most frequent answer is Fear.  It’s either fear of failure or fear of success.  To unpack fear, the next question is “What is the cause of this fear?”  This will lead to the unpacking of the underlying beliefs that each individual possesses.

For example, I would like to establish a new habit and routine for a healthier lifestyle, I know that I need to eat better and exercise.  What is holding me back from doing what is seemingly 2 very easy things?  To eat better would entail substituting a Big Mac with Grass-fed beef salad and to exercise would just require me to walk/run for 30 mins a day.  I am sure that I can make those adjustments.  The underlying beliefs that are holding me back would be “comfort zone”, “laziness”, “not an athlete” and so on.  These negative underlying beliefs would effectively stop what my rationale mind would think as beneficial to “it’s too much work and hard.”  On the flip side, there are positive underlying beliefs that I can start to establish, for example “no pain no gain”.  This underlying belief basically says to you that you can do it and everything good comes from hard work and pain.

Where do these underlying beliefs come from?  They are certainly an accumulation of our past experiences and our value system.   By knowing and being self aware of your underlying beliefs, you are able to then decide what changes you might need to make.

For example, I have an underlying belief of “no pain no gain”.  I will work hard at work, push through the hours, take on more commitments than time permits, pile on the stress and so on.  After all, no pain no gain, right?  All underlying belief can serve you well or taken to the extreme can have a negative impact.  To be able to discern the impact of an underlying belief, I need to be self-aware of the limits of its usefulness and know when to stop.

Ask yourself:

  • What beliefs are helping you to move forward?
  • What beliefs are holding you back?
  • When is a certain belief useful and when does it become not useful?
  • What are the signs that an underlying belief needs to be changed?
  • What steps can you take to create a new belief?

Underlying beliefs determines your actions and decisions hence taking a step back to know what they are can be useful to help you to move forward.

To move forward: Out with the Old, In with the New

One of the great things about having 4 seasons in a year is that nature forces me to change.  The changes of the season from summer to autumn, requires me to change the type of clothing I would wear, the fruits that I would eat, the amount of daylight I would enjoy and when I can exercise and so much more.  Like the leaves of trees that falls during autumn, it begs the question, is there anything that I need to let go off in order for me to be ready to usher in the new?

To remove what’s old and not needed is part of making room for something new and exciting.  Too often we keep and store so much junk from tangible things (clothes, gadgets, shoes etc) to intangibles (hurt, pain, forgiveness, anger, bitterness, etc) that it weights us down.  The more significant aspect of this is that it leaves us with no room to take in the new.  The new learnings, growth and experiences that is in front of us is hindered as we can’t let go of the old.   To move forward is not about carrying as much as we can but to enjoy the experience and release it in order to enjoy new experiences.

What can we do to let go of the old and embrace the new?  Ask yourself:

  • What I am holding on to?  Is it holding me back or not?
  • What do I need?  Hint:  the answer is not everything.
  • What am I looking forward to?  What do I want to achieve next?
  • What steps do I need to take to leave behind the old?
  • What steps do I need to take to accept the new?

It is useful once you have completed all the “self talk” that you share it with someone.  Talk through it, get feedback and take steps to achieve it.  Looking back is great to learn from mistakes, feel good about what was accomplished but life is about moving forward.  To move forward require that you look forward and not look back.  You can’t change the past but you are certainly in control of changing your future.  Start by releasing the old and letting in the new.  Enjoy the new season of life.