Infinite Blog

Career/Life Tips, Reflections & Questions

Thanksgiving: a practice, not just a holiday.

pumpkin

There’s a lot to love about Thanksgiving: the opportunity to spend time with family and friends, the endless meal and its leftovers, football, pumpkin pie, and – in my book – the act of giving thanks. I love that there’s an entire holiday dedicated to this idea!

There are many forms a gratitude practice can take. For me, it’s as simple as listing five things I’m grateful for before going to bed each night. They can be big (the health of my family and friends) or small (getting to turn off my alarm clock the next morning). Either way, it’s a nice way to bookend a day and jar myself out of simple mindless contentment. I highly recommend it.

Now if you really want to get bang for your buck, though, don’t stop there. Move past gratitude to truly giving thanks. What’s the difference, you might ask? A gratitude practice does a wonderful job reminding you how full and fortunate your life is. Giving thanks provides expression to that gratitude. It’s one thing for me to end my day grateful to have a supportive partner, an amazing mentor, generous friends and lovely clients. It’s another thing entirely to share this with them.

It reminds me of that folk song we were taught as children: Love is something if you give it away… you end up having more! The same goes for gratitude. Sure, it can make your life rich to reflect on what you have – and it can make MULTIPLE lives rich by sharing it.

This Thanksgiving, I’m going to focus on truly giving thanks. And I’ll start with you: THANK YOU for reading my posts, for sharing them with friends, and for generally supporting my journey. It means the world to me to know that other people are chewing on the same ideas I am – and are listening to what I have to say. You get me, and I dig it.

What to play along, but not sure where to start? Here we go: 

  • Who makes your life easier?
  • Who always brings a smile to your face?
  • Who handles the details you miss?
  • Who helps pull you out of the weeds?
  • Who challenges you to be your best self?
  • Whose shoulder do you know you can cry on?
  • Who has seen you at your worst – and stayed?
  • Who tells you the truth – even when it hurts?
  • Who changed the trajectory of your life?
  • Who helps care for your children/pet/parents? 

You get the idea. Now go tell them. And Happy Thanksgiving! 

 

 

Career/Life Tips, leadership, Reflections & Questions

Guess what? It’s OK to be human.

Image source: Porapak Apichodilok

When you’re a leader – or a parent, for that matter! – the job comes with plenty of stress. And yet, every day I see people ADDING to it by holding themselves to standards that are pretty demanding. My advice to you: STOP IT!

I started to write a “Top Ten” list of bad habits that will rachet up your stress level, but I decided to take my own advice (Bad Habit #4: Overcomplicating Things) and keep it simple. Here’s the advice, as succinctly as I can make it:

No matter how hard you try, you cannot have every answer, you won’t always get it right, and your actions won’t always match your intentions. And that doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad leader. Because – and here’s the thing – YOU ARE HUMAN. Just because you’re the boss (or the parent), no one expects you to be perfect. Don’t waste precious time and emotional energy pressuring yourself to have all answers and make only the right decisions. You can’t and you won’t.

Instead, get comfortable taking criticism, be humble enough to admit your mistakes, and learn how to make a heartfelt apology. Not only will this save you a ton of angst, but it will also make you something more worthy of following: a human. 

If you’d like to see a wonderful example of this in the real world, check out this note, recently posted by the owner of a small business (Glen’s Market) that I frequent in DC. After reading it, ask yourself: would I want to shop or eat here? My guess is your answer is YES.

And your reasons (if they’re at all like mine): Because it’s obvious she cares, takes feedback seriously, and is personally connected to the business. She took something that could’ve been harmful to her business and has used it to engage with her customers and further cement their loyalty. Don’t believe me? Read the comments.

So the next time you find yourself losing sleep over work, consider the pressure you’re putting on yourself and remember: You’re human. As some wise person said, “You don’t inspire people by being perfect. You inspire them by how you deal with your imperfections.”

 

Career/Life Tips, Reflections & Questions, tips

Want less stress? Choose your words carefully.

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 9.57.45 AM

In a recent phone call with a friend, I asked how she was doing.

“STRESSED,” was her emphatic one-word answer.

“Oh yeah?” I asked. “What has you all stressed out?”

She then rattled off an impressive list of projects she was working on. As she talked about them, I could hear a smile creeping into her voice.

I asked about it and she admitted that she was feeling pretty good about all the work she had in motion – it was all positive stuff that could have a great impact to her business’s bottom-line, and she was proud to see her team stepping up to the challenge.

Because coaching practices die hard, I asked if I could share an observation. And because she’s my friend, she humored me and said I could. My observation was this: She didn’t actually SOUND stressed to me.

After a long pause, she said, “That’s actually right. I’m not stressed – I’m excited.”

As we continued the conversation, we talked about how it’s easy to develop verbal crutches – things we throw out without really thinking, like, “I’m so busy,” or “I’m stressed,” because they’re socially acceptable – without realizing what impact they have on us. And just like anything else – if you say it enough, you’ll start to believe it.

“So what’s something else you could say when people ask how you’re doing?” I prompted her, continuing in coach-mode for another minute. “Something that is accurate but doesn’t suck all the energy out of you?”

She came up with an answer fast: “We have a lot of great things going on!”

She liked it so much that she wrote it on a Post-It note and stuck it on her desk to help her break the habit, which was a brilliant move on her part.

When I talked with her a couple weeks later, I asked how things were going. Without missing a beat, she said, “So good! You’re going to think I’m just humoring you, but we have a lot of great things going on!”

The best part: I could hear her smiling.


How might your language choices be holding you back? Ask yourself:

  • What small stories am I telling myself and others repeatedly through my language?
  • Am I telling myself the whole story or only part of it through my language? (For example, it’s easy to tell people you’re working 60 hour weeks – but are you also mentioning that you get to choose your hours and you enjoy what you’re working on?)   
  • When someone asks how I’m doing, what is my typical response – and does it position me as owning my circumstances or a victim of them?
  • Chicken and the egg – am I actually stressed/frustrated/overwhelmed or am I feeling that way because I’m saying it so often?
  • What are other language choices I can make that will help remind me of the positive side of my circumstances?