The Ass*u*me Trap

The Ass*u*me Trap

My Experience with The Ass*u*me Trap

This first time I remember what it was like to assume something that created discomfort for me (because of my error) and for someone else, I was around twenty years old. I was at an outdoor gathering in the park and encountered friends I hadn’t seen for a while. They were happily married and full of smiles. While he looked no different, she was carrying quite a bit of extra weight in her midsection since the last time I had seen her. Can you guess what I assumed in this scenario? Married, happy and full of smiles and a growing midsection? In our small talk together, I asked when the baby was due. She looked me in the eye and said she wasn’t pregnant – only gained weight. Uh, oh…AWKWARD!

I learned in that moment the meaning of assume – it can make an ‘Ass out of U and Me’. We were both mortified by my assumption. I still feel embarrassed over that – perhaps to remind me from time to time on what assuming can lead to. To this day, I will never ask if someone is pregnant or when the baby is due. That has to come from the person – no more assumptions. I wish I could say I have never made an assumption ever again. That would be WRONG…

I still find times where I ‘assume’ something that may or may not be true. And in the assumption, I really can make an ass of me. And if an assumption about someone is verbalized to that someone, I feel the burn so much more, as does the other person. I’ve worked hard at trying not to assume, but occasionally, I can still catch myself falling into my Ass*U*Me trap that I set for myself. And it rarely works to my benefit regardless of the situation or person I am busy making assumptions about. I’ve had great coach trainers and lots of practice that has helped me keep assumptions out of coaching sessions, but in my personal life I’ve not been as perfect at keeping them out of my interactions with others.

Applying The Ass*u*me Trap in Professional Coaching

Recently this phenomenon of assuming has been cropping up with a few clients that I coach. I thought I’d muse on the topic a bit. I think we all assume things from time to time, and I still think assuming doesn’t usually serve anyone well. Let me give you a couple of examples.

A client loses their job. The hunt for their next new job has been unsuccessful. The client fears their former employer is sharing stories with potential employers and is keeping the client from landing any job. The coach challenges the client by asking, “Is this true?” and “How will you know?”  The best way to know is to go to the person directly that you are making assumptions about and inquire.

This takes a level of courage from the one making the assumption to ask for clarification from someone else, not to mention tact, but it is the best way to shining a light on that dark unknown. We are better served to really dig in, face our fears and learn, in this case, from the potential employer why the client did not get the job.

The client was able to do this and could identify what the real fears were about employment. Turns out the unsuccessful attempts to land a job boiled down to residual fear and some anger about the loss of the job the client once had. Once the client worked through all of that, they got the job they desired. This is a good example as to how Ass*U*Me can be resolved.

Seek First to Understand

Steven Covey wrote about Habit #5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. That habit and other great ones can be found in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. This is a great approach in avoiding the ‘assume’ trap and can spare one embarrassing moments. It moves one from making a judgment to acting in curiosity about what is really going on, rather than making assumptions. When working with my coaching clients, this habit keeps me from making assumptions about my clients or their situations. When we can really understand what might be influencing the current situation (or prevents the desired situation), only then can a good course of action be found and put into action. I have seen how it can be a wonderful key to unlocked doors that are stuck with the gooeyness of assumption.

Thoughts to Ponder

Where in your life might you have felt some frustration? Felt being stuck? What are the stories you might be telling yourself when you consciously or unconsciously assume what is at play in the stuck position one feels they are in. We can start to move forward once we look deep within ourselves and become strong in our curiosity about ourselves, others and/or the situation to see what really is true. It takes patience, strength and courage to stare directly into our assumptions and do the exploration of finding the ‘real’ story behind things.

Hopefully you’ll find this brief article helpful and you can laugh a little at Maureen’s rude awakening with assumptions of someone’s non-pregnancy. I hope you can look at yourself with a bit of a smile for those times that you might have assumed something only to have it proven perhaps uncomfortably wrong. If your doorway seems stuck by the gooeyness of “Ass*U*Me”, try asking yourself if your assumptions are “really true?” Find what really is true and from there you’ll be able to find the right key to open the door you are ready to walk through.

“Your assumptions are windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” Isaac Asimov

Resilience – The Power You Have to Overcome Adversity

Resilience – The Power You Have to Overcome Adversity

We all face hard times sooner or later in our lives.

When these times come, what can make us or break us is the amount of resilience we have despite our circumstances.

Some of the hard times in my life have been:

  • Job loss
  • Moving to unfamiliar surroundings
  • Divorce
  • Financial crisis
  • Illness
  • Death of a family member

I can remember in those times that life seemed bleak, and there was a limit to how much additional stress I could bear. I couldn’t see the end in sight, let alone imagine a better life for me down the road. Yet, each hard or stressful time did pass. What have you experienced in your life in hard times?

Over time, I have learned that change is constant in all of life. Nothing lasts forever while we walk on this earth. Even knowing this, for me, it hasn’t always been reassuring. When I was in the throes of a crisis, it wasn’t enough to know that it would pass. At some point, I stumbled on the topic of resiliency. The more I explored what resiliency was, the more I found it a useful concept and a powerful tool to wield. Sometimes I need reminders when I find myself stressed, but once I remember and practice ways to build resiliency, I always feel much better.

What is resilience exactly?

I envision it as our ability to stretch, like a rubber band, without snapping when times get tough. We are all unique and differ in our abilities to stretch. Some of us stretch more easily than others; some might find themselves stretched to the point of breaking under whatever conditions have caused us stress. Regardless of our current state of resilience or non-resilience, there is always room to grow and become pliable (resilient) in those times when the gale winds of life seem to be blowing hard all around you.

Here are some things I have learned to help me build my resiliency. I learned a lot of them when I was going through my SCUBA Instructor training. Ironically enough, these things helped when I got stressed over the SCUBA skills demonstration process – and they worked like a charm. I became a certified SCUBA instructor.

  1. STOP – take a moment to pause. Focus on the moment – for it is where you are now.
  2. Take a deep breath. Deep breathing, where you focus on the exhaling part of the process that helps rid your body of carbon dioxide, is incredibly calming. Physiologically, you slow down the Flight or Fight response that gets triggered in times of high stress.
  3. Once you have calmed down, identify what is in your control to change.
  4. Choose a course of action. Even inaction is a course of action.
  5. You cannot save others unless you first save yourself.

There have been a few other things that have also helped me.

  • Nothing lasts forever.
  • If your choices aren’t working, they can always be changed.
  • Keep your end goal in mind but be flexible in how it shows up – it may not show up exactly as you imagined.
  • Make every day meaningful – every day is a gift that can’t be regained once it has passed.
  • Reach out to others for support during your hard times.
  • Find joy in the small things, no matter how small.
Flowers blooming from the ground that is covered in ash.

If you’d like to read more about this, there are lots of websites out there. An easy to understand article by Positive Psychology is at https://positivepsychology.com/what-is-resilience/

Know that when you face hard times, you are stronger than you may know. Resilience is a muscle you strengthen every time you use it. Be curious of the unknown, the stresses you may feel, and your reactions to it. I hope there is something here that is helpful to you. I’d love to know when resilience assisted you through a difficult time. Please share your thoughts and strategies below.

“It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop.” ― Dieter F. Uchtdorf

How to ‘Walk Off’ the Anxiety with Labyrinths

How to ‘Walk Off’ the Anxiety with Labyrinths

These are turbulent times in general, aren’t they?

With the emergence of a new coronavirus and the physical, mental, and fiscal challenges of the yo-yo financial marketplace, there can be a lot of anxiety.  There are so many unknowns as to how we, collectively, will move beyond the current times, and about the overall costs to us collectively and individually we will bear in our futures.  We have lost what is usual and customary in our lives, and it creates unsettled feelings.

Perhaps you feel like so much in life is not in your control.  Perhaps the loss of daily freedoms and interactions are starting to weigh heavily on your emotions.  What can bring your attention away from the media, which can alarm and focus only on the down sides to what is occurring, as you deal with these times? How can you look within to find your inner wisdom when the speculations and models of experts ‘might’ happen, not happen, or doesn’t fit with your current situation?

These are all big questions in their own right, which don’t always have quick answers. I recalled recently a period in my life when I felt life was way out of my control. I was socially isolated. I wasn’t sure of what the future held for me.  There was one afternoon when my perspective totally shifted.  I found solace in walking a labyrinth.  It allowed me to have the experience of moving forward, toward the heart of my issues in baby steps.  It showed me how there can be beauty and merit in taking a journey forward when I could not readily see ahead to all of the twists, turns, and even joy of traversing a nonlinear path that a labyrinth brings. I felt the anxiety float away as I walked and allowed for me to continue to move forward when I headed home.

A labyrinth as a metaphor allows us to see our journey and situation in a different, very visual way.

A labyrinth shouldn’t be confused with a maze. Both are similar, but the experience is somewhat different. Both start at point A and end at a new destination.  Neither provides a direct, linear path to the end destination, which is where we want to be.  Both have dead ends that cause us to sometimes double-back and make different choices.  The differences between the two are the actual experience, and to me, the value.  Mazes often have high walls and require a bit of problem-solving to navigate a bit blindly.  Labyrinths are circular in nature that (which) draw(s) you to their centers then reverses you back out to where you started.  Mazes offer a starting point but end on the other side of the maze.  A labyrinth is constructed to draw you inside to the center, which I deem a metaphor to your inner self and your inner wisdom.

Why do I suggest using a labyrinth?

I learned the following about myself and my situation that afternoon when I walked the labyrinth. 
Here are some snippets of what I learned:

  1. Shutting out the surrounding noise of the world, I could give myself space to think and feel what was causing me angst.
  2. By moving slowly along the labyrinth, I saw the value of going to the center of looking within to what I needed for me.
  3. Because I was focused on one step at a time within my experience, I could see multiple perspectives of what was around me and within me.
  4.  I learned to relax and just trust the flow and my ability to work through the process.

The metaphor of the labyrinth is a way of walking through change one step at a time, gaining clarity along the way, and finding the patience and trust you will get to the heart of what is stressing you.  From there, you will know how to find your way out of what you wish to change. Along the way, you’ll see rich landscapes and experiences that would have been missed had the path been a direct line to the goal. In many ways, it really is about the journey, not the end goal.  But it takes the goal to move that journey forward with conscious intent.

Have you ever had the experience of walking in a labyrinth?  One can do so physically if there is one close by.  It can be done in ways that honor social distancing.  But one may not be able to travel and physically walk a labyrinth.  If that is the case, there are several ways to experience a virtual walk-through of a labyrinth.

Try it out – walk a labyrinth and reflect upon your journey of change.  Nearby labyrinths can be located using a website:  http://labyrinthlocator.com/.   Can’t find a labyrinth or get to one, did you know there are virtual labyrinths out there?  The Labyrinth Society has posted a virtual walk for you at https://labyrinthsociety.org/virtual-labyrinth-walk.  They let you choose the center icon, whether you want it to be controlled by your mouse or is self-guided.  It can come with music or not – all your choice.  There is even a free app in the Apple Store (sorry, I’m an Apple person) called Maze Walk VR – Virtual Reality.

For me, the most challenging part is to TRUST, trust that all roads lead to home.  The labyrinth is a visual that will get you to the heart of your anxiety and give you the space to resolve it.  When I walked the labyrinth that day, I really let go and trusted the outcome of my personal challenges in addressing my world of crazy change and the anxiety I had been holding.  I found by letting go and trusting, it made the path forward so much easier for me. And quite importantly it allowed me to gain clarity on what steps to take.

Trust is handled differently by each individual.  Some have strong faith that guides them, some naturally relax and enjoy the journey, while some rely on guidance with the help of others in the form of coaching, mentoring, or consulting.  What do you need to trust that all you need is within you to address whatever might be causing you anxious moments? Discover your own way of navigating your changes and stressors at hand and I invite you to try using the labyrinth metaphor to move you through.  Happy Travels!

“If you practice turning your attention inwards again and again, then you can find peace – no matter how turbulent
the outside is.” – Johanna Schuh Naikan

 Cheers, Maureen

As we try to navigate the many roads of what we call life, sometimes we get off the beaten path, make a wrong turn or simply end up in a place that doesn’t seem safe, secure or familiar.  It is at times like these, that I have found coaching to be invaluable.  Maureen has guided me to a road that has allowed me to continue on life’s journey with renewed energy and focus.  Through gentle guidance, questions, pondering, challenging and goal setting, I have found my path, not anyone else’s.  I am confident and energized by the possibilities of my current and future life!
Kris

H.R. Manager

Is Your Purpose Guiding and Shaping Your Best Life?

Is Your Purpose Guiding and Shaping Your Best Life?

Does One Have Only One Purpose in Life, and Does It Hold for a Lifetime?

As a coach, mother, and mentor, I’ve been asked this question several times and I’ve lived enough years now to know that the best answer is, “It Depends.”  I have a daughter who drew houses from the time she could hold paper and pen and is fulfilling her purpose by being an architect.  Another daughter, as a child, loved to play, “Let’s Go Shopping,” where she set up a cardboard box to ‘sell’ select goods to her customer (her sister).  This daughter has spent many years in retail stores, from managing stores to managing their accounting books.  In that way, they found purpose at work which was not far from their playtimes.  As a child, I often played “School” with the kids in the neighborhood where we took turns playing teacher and students.  My purpose became a lifelong fascination with learning as well as teaching.  Yet, these were not the only things in our lives that gave us purpose.  I have also seen that our definitions of purpose can also change and give way to new dreams as we move through the stages of our lives.

My Experience:

My experience with ‘purpose’ is that it can become a guiding light in times of difficulty, in times of change, and in times of feeling lost or of no value to others.  I have had to visit it more than once in my life and yet there have been some strong themes that run central to my definition of purpose.  For me, those themes are family, service to others, and lifelong learning.  Those themes to my purpose have never changed, yet what I do in work or life has varied.  That’s the “It Depends” part of purpose in life.

What Gives You Purpose?

How do you explore your purpose and what contributes to a purposeful, soulful life for you? Below are thought-provoking questions to ponder if you are eager to put on your explorer persona to dig a little deeper into your purpose in work and life.  How will you answer these?  If you feel a little daunted, I follow the questions with a few activities that can help you with your journey of exploration.

  1. If I could, I’d like to make the world a better place by…?
  2. I’d jump right out of bed every morning with excitement if I knew I could get up and …?
  3. My fondest memories in childhood involved…?
  4. What would I regret not fully doing, being or having in my life?
  5. When I am active and lose all sense of time, what am I usually doing?
Suggested Activities to Discover Purpose

  • Meditate
  • Journal
  • Autobiography: Write a short story about your life. Play with the past, present, and future.
  • Interview those who knew you at different stages in your life and ask what gifts of yours seemed most apparent to them.
  • Build a collage of images that represent what you’d like in your life.

I’m hoping you’ll have fun using a few of these as you take a journey to deepen your understanding of yourself and how to live a memorable and meaningful life.  Nothing is set in stone in your life, so make choices according to what you feel you are meant to do. The Universe is quick to show you when a path is closed or if you need to navigate around what seem to be obstacles. And lastly, believe in yourself and in what is possible.

Feel free to reach out to me with your comments or a quick question. Enjoy your journey!

“Whenever you become anxious or stressed, outer purpose has taken over, and you lost sight of your inner purpose. You have forgotten that your state of consciousness is primary, all else secondary.” 
Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

 Cheers, Maureen

As we try to navigate the many roads of what we call life, sometimes we get off the beaten path, make a wrong turn or simply end up in a place that doesn’t seem safe, secure or familiar.  It is at times like these, that I have found coaching to be invaluable.  Maureen has guided me to a road that has allowed me to continue on life’s journey with renewed energy and focus.  Through gentle guidance, questions, pondering, challenging and goal setting, I have found my path, not anyone else’s.  I am confident and energized by the possibilities of my current and future life!
Kris

H.R. Manager

The Business of You

The Business of You

Why the World of Full Time Freelancing Is Growing

History of downsizings, mergers, bankruptcies, offshoring of jobs, a growing international marketplace, and technology changes have all brought dramatic and relatively fast changes to the world of employment. While the economy is stable with a low employment rate right now, there is always the possibility for future economic downturns that can affect our world of work.  Current examples of how quickly the shifts can occur are the business impacts of COVID-19 and the resulting dramatic ups and downs in the U.S. stock market. 

We experienced the second most dramatic economic downturn in U.S. history, which started in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.  [Note: the first being the Great Depression in the 1929.]  In that recent period, many were impacted either by loss of jobs or doing more with less with a loss of savings. Loyalty to corporations that existed in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s have long come and gone.  What we are living in is a massive shift in how we think of work.

We are growing a Free Agent Nation where the individual must now think of themselves as being in the business for themselves – I call it The Business of You.

Free Agent Nation:

Daniel Pink wrote a great book, ­Free Agent Nation in 2001, where he talks about the death of the “Organization Guy.”  He claims the shift from the “Organization Guy” to the “Free Agent” is a shift from twentieth-century economics to a new economy that focuses on the individual.  

Who is a free agent?

  1. The unemployed
  2. Jobseeker – underemployed or merely seeking change
  3. The solopreneur – aka freelancer
  4. Temps – may be working on a project basis for a firm
  5. Small business owners – Pink calls them microbusinesses of fewer than 20 employees

In 2001 Pink indicates there approximately 33 million or 1 in 4 workers in America who consider themselves free agents.  That was when the unemployment rate was 4.7%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

 Why Do People Need to Think Like a Free Agent?

Mergers/bankruptcies, layoffs, the fast pace of technology changes, the shifting international economy continue – all contribute to the dissolving of jobs as we know them today and create new ones that were unthinkable in years past.   Tom Peters, in his 2007 article in Fast Company called “The Brand Called You” says it well when he writes,

“It’s over. No more vertical. No more ladder. That’s not the way careers work anymore. Linearity is out. A career is now a checkerboard. Or even a maze. It’s full of moves that go sideways, forward, slide on the diagonal, even go backward when that makes sense. (It often does.)  A career is a portfolio of projects that teach you new skills, gain you new expertise, develop new capabilities, grow your colleague set, and constantly reinvent you as a brand.”

The Business of You – Why Should You Care?

If you are fortunate to be working today and love what you are doing, Congratulations!

If you are not fulfilled, not engaged, or not employed, you are ripe and may be ready for developing the Business of You if you have not done so yet.

In the October 2019 Forbes article, Full-time Freelancing Lures More Americans, Elaine Pofeldt indicates the share of freelancers who work full time rose 11 points since 2014, from 17 – 28%.  As of 2019, 35% of U.S. workers are now freelancing, representing 5% of the GDP, which is nearly a $1 trillion impact.

I would encourage all those who are or wish to be working to ponder deeply on who they are and what they want to be in the world of work. And then to run it like a business.  You can only change the things under your control, and that is you, for better or for worse.  While you can influence others, you can’t change them.  Take a peek within to where you are in your Business of You.  If you haven’t done that before, now is the perfect time to start, and it is never too late.

“Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other opinions drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become.” – Steve Jobs

 Cheers, Maureen

 

As we try to navigate the many roads of what we call life, sometimes we get off the beaten path, make a wrong turn or simply end up in a place that doesn’t seem safe, secure or familiar.  It is at times like these, that I have found coaching to be invaluable.  Maureen has guided me to a road that has allowed me to continue on life’s journey with renewed energy and focus.  Through gentle guidance, questions, pondering, challenging and goal setting, I have found my path, not anyone else’s.  I am confident and energized by the possibilities of my current and future life!

Kris

H.R. Manager