Covid 19 has forced us to let go of our way of life. Woven into each changed life circumstance is emotional unrest. My clients reveal that it feels dark, never ending, as if we are free falling into the unknown with no end in sight. What will support us in our lives during Covid 19, Civil Unrest, the Fires, Political Landscape? Tenacity? Determination? Positivity?
In the American culture we are taught to never give up “to achieve” in order to be happy. Determination, tenacity along with positivity are the behaviors used to achieve our goals. Often, it is at the expense of our wellbeing. In todays climate, determination, tenacity, and positivity isn’t enough. Nor are these behaviors the most compassionate way to navigate through today’s circumstances. And, for me, positivity can be a loud cheerleader that can cause me to ignore how I am feeling. I call these behavior traits, “the three amigos”.
The Three Amigos
The behavior traits, the three amigos, became a habit for me. The habit to not “let go” to achieve a goal to be happy began when I was 6 years old when I took waterskiing lessons. As you know, when you fall, you are supposed to let go of the rope. Not me. I held on. As the story goes, the instructor lost count of how many times I fell while being dragged through the water. I remember hanging on with no intention of letting go of the rope. I also remember being terrified to let go. I can still see my waterskiing teacher with her huge green striped straw hat, a cigarette hanging out of her mouth driving the boat beside me, she forcefully implored, “Jeez, doll, for heaven sake, ya gotta let go of the rope!” Despite how much water I got up my nose or in my throat, I never let go of the rope. And, yes, I got up to ski all around the lake.
My waterskiing experience reinforced my behavior to ignore my feelings to achieve my dreams or any goal at any emotional cost. Today, Covid 19 is causing me to reflect to ensure the three amigos do not override how I feel. I am learning “holding on” causes me to suffer as I am unable to accept that it’s in my best interest to let go. Hard to trust that letting go may provide a different opportunity that could be better or space to create something new. For me, acceptance is key. Not easy. Loss is painful. Letting go is what I refer to as the grief equation: Acceptance + Loss + Pain = Grief. There is no way around the emotions, only through them. We need to honor the process.
Compassion, Connection and Life’s Light
Covid 19 is teaching, sometimes forcing me, to let go. When we only focus on our goals we ignore our emotional wellbeing while being unkind to ourselves. As a reformed determined, tenacious positivity person, I am learning to be kinder to myself by honoring my feelings. Yes, the three amigos can be valuable to achieve a goal as long as we remain connected to ourselves. Self-awareness will point to what we need for our wellbeing. When I get out of balance, I slow down, go for a walk, meditate or get feedback from a colleague or friend.
We need to be compassionate with ourselves and to those around us. When life feels overwhelmingly dark, I walk towards life’s light by focusing on the things that are magical in life, nature, listening to my breath or how my heart automatically beats despite my despair. When I can’t find the light in life, I call a friend. We are not meant to do this alone. Let’s walk together during this time. I am here to support you. We are better together.
One of the most invaluable lessons that I am practicing is, no one does anything to me. I suffer when I blame others for how I feel. What people do is about them. How I perceive their actions or how I react, is about me, my lens.
The following statements are client statements when they perceive someone has done something to them. I call them “the how could you do that to me?” accusations.
I can’t believe they did that to me!
How could YOU DO that to me?
If you really cared about me, our friendship, you wouldn’t have done this!
If it were me, I would have done this!
These statements are fully loaded with hurt, blame, assumptions, expectations and should behavior. Sound familiar?
Unpacking these loaded statements takes courage. The outcome will provide new self-awareness, a shift in the lens we view others. Navigating through life situations without blaming others when we are suffering is hard. Yet, for me, reflection, being curious along with a willingness to let go of my beliefs that people need to behave the way I think they should, provides a new insight to myself. The outcome is freedom, inner-peace to be with others in a new way. Some days, I am better at it than others.
Whether interacting with colleagues at work, family members, friends or people in the world, we all react. Sometimes forcefully, other times we are able to let circumstances roll off us. Don’t get me wrong, yes, we do affect others. Here’s the rub, we are responsible for our reactions or responses despite how justified we may feel to be unkind. When we get angry at others, that emotional reaction is about us, our lens and beliefs.
During a team workshop I was facilitating called, Your Brain at Work, I shared that no one does anything to you. The team response was, “Wait a minute, how can that be true? What if someone yelled a provocative slur at me or a colleague was rude or my friend did something hurtful?” I shared, “if we focus on other people’s behavior, we lose an opportunity to learn something new about ourselves while blaming others for how WE feel. The other person is being who they are which actually has nothing to do with you. Yes, we affect others and are responsible for our actions. What I am offering is a new lens to view your beliefs, reactions, with the intention of being free from assigning blame or assumptions while taking responsibility for your own responses.” My mantra, “at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what anyone else does, it matters what I do”.
We then took a deeper dive into how our brain informs our behavior, how the lens we view others is informed by the files in the brain which contain beliefs. So, when we are offended or angered by another’s actions, we react according to the brain’s data. We are only able to lead with what we know. Yet, if we are willing to be curious, reflect on our beliefs and assumptions when we are challenged, we learn about ourselves. Then we are able to learn why we are attached to how we need other people respond to us. The rich Team discussion provided an opportunity to raise individual awareness while contracting new best practices.
Compassion is Our Freedom
When we adopt the mindset of compassion without judgment we can slow down our thoughts that spin scenarios that blame others for how we feel. I’m learning that what I feel has nothing to do with what the person chose to do. Now, I pay attention when I experience a strong reaction. If I don’t get curious, be compassionate, the end result can put distance between myself and the other person. Plus, trust can be lost along with an opportunity to deepen of my self-awareness.
When experiencing a strong reaction when coaching teams or in my own life, I am learning to pause before I respond. I don’t send that text or email. And, yes, when I am upset, I wait to have the conversation. If, you’ve tried to talk to someone and no equitable outcome is accomplished due to their perception or even yours,ask yourself, what can you learn about yourself from the situation. Then, try to let go with compassion for yourself and the other person. Researchers have found that honing our compassion skills helps us remain calm in the face of difficult people and situations. As management professor Hooria Jazaieri points out, “there are [negative] consequences…when we are…thinking bad thoughts about someone” — compassion “allows us to let them go.”
“As I get older, the more I stay focused on the acceptance of myself and others, and choose compassion over judgment and curiosity over fear.” — Tracee Ellis Ross
We have all been hit hard during Covid 19. As a Learning and Development Coach for Teams, I’m listening to what Leaders need for Team Development. Of late, what I am hearing is, teams and their individual members require more support to manage their well-being. My last few blogs, My Coach is Covid 19, Attachments vs Values and Not All Beliefs Are True provide a foundation for Team members and their Team to raise self-awareness to ensure their well-being.
Two Best Practices To Ensure Teams Success
First step, reframe challenges as opportunities. Our lives are classrooms to learn about ourselves. Then use thoughtful inquiry to increase self-awareness. Self-awareness will shift the lens team members view the world, themselves and others. Without self-awareness, we can spin, blame others, be tough on ourselves while experiencing hopelessness.
Invite All Emotions
Second, welcome all emotions. We are experiencing a storm of emotions. Inviting all emotions during the Pandemic will build emotional capacity and resilience. Resilience is not about being tough by bouncing back without acknowledging how we feel. It’s about being aware of the emotion, feeling it while being in life. If we ignore what we are experiencing we aren’t being compassionate with ourselves and we miss the opportunity to learn about ourselves. Every emotion is a message about who we are, we need to listen. A compassionate best practice is to raise awareness about how we think we “should be” so we can pay attention to who we are in the moment. Knowing who we are is the foundation for our well-being and our team’s success.
Self-awareness and Teaming research is key to ensure team effectiveness. Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson team research offers the groundwork for effective teams. According to professor Amy Edmondson, who coined the term Psychological Safety. Psychological safety is a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes. Effective team behavior includes:
Structure and Clarity
To ensure employee engage in the process they need to develop three characteristics which Professor Edmondson calls The Three Pillars:
Curiosity about the skills and knowledge of other team members
Passion, in order to drive quality work to deadlines
Empathy – to be able to collaborate under pressure
My experience when working with teams has taught me, Professor Edmonson’s guidelines are why and how teams are successful. Yet, even when I Coach teams to implement these guidelines, I have witnessed, at some point, team members will be personally challenged, unless, the individuals increase self-awareness.
Successful Habits of A Team Member
Self-aware team members are able be reflective, curious, unpack where they are the most challenged. Then, have emotional regulation while communicating and collaborating with their team. Self-aware team members are able to be accountable which decreases blame. Their minds don’t spin about their colleagues behavior. They know how to be empathetic and compassion with themselves and others. Which fosters trust to provide effective feedback.
What if, you’re so busy & overwhelmed that raising-awareness is just one more thing to do? Perhaps, what’s needed is the support to become more self-aware. Coaching is a powerful support tool that will raise self-awareness for you and your team. All you have to do is reach out. I am here. Ready to support you. We are better together.
The way I was socialized in the American culture formed my beliefs. How I’ve interpreted my learnings often translate to “what I should do”. My beliefs reflect what is true for me. They influence my decisions then inform my actions which I refer to as “shoulds”. My beliefs are the mothership for my learnings which are stored in my brain.
My brain has files and files of my beliefs. These files influence my decisions, how I interact in my life with others and how I treat myself. Here’s the catch, these beliefs are not always true. They manifest in my head as thoughts, stories often framed by guilt or fear. For example, I believe to be a good person or friend, I should put others before me, I should work more be a model employee, I believe people should know “this” already, or I am not good enough or have enough and the list goes on and on. My beliefs can motivate me to take action to ensure the happiness of myself or others, my monetary success or to be a model employee. For me, these beliefs can take me away from myself, it’s been a perfect way to lose who I am.
Magnify Beliefs Though Inquiry
Although inquiry is new for me, I am committed to unpacking what beliefs are not true. The more curious I get, reflect, I learn what “shoulds” are at my own expense. Some of these beliefs have nothing to do with who I am. With the support of my meditation practice and my New Ventures West colleagues, I am slowly unpacking these beliefs. The more I use inquiry to learn about my beliefs, the more freedom I experience to support my wellbeing. The outcome is more peace while making guilt free decisions.
I am a belief catcher. Meaning, I am trying to collect my beliefs in the moment they arise to examine them. The inquiry process raises my awareness about what keeps me connected to myself. The process is not for the faint of heart. The hard moments crack my heart open, revealing old beliefs, pointing to what is true. What I discover is more of myself. A new lens to view others, the world I live in. A new way to be me experiencing more peace, more joy.
When you feel a peaceful joy, that is when you are near truth.Rumi
Covid 19 is my Coach during shelter in place. This is my story or what I refer to as my toboggan ride.
“Burnout” is a phrase I know well. After all, I’m a Learning and Development Coach. Yet, I just didn’t know how burnout I was until the shelter in place mandate was announced in my hometown, San Francisco. My burnout was the result of being the sole care taker for my mom for the last 10 years and then both parents for the past 5 years. My mom lived in Sonoma and my dad lived in San Francisco. Three years ago, I moved them both out of their homes into an Assisted Living in Sonoma. My dad passed away 12/17/19. Yet, I kept going. And, going. I am certain if it wasn’t for my meditation practice, my friends and my New Ventures West coaching colleagues, I would be in a corner rocking myself while loudly singing a bad mantra.
I skipped the part of rocking myself while reciting a mantra. Instead on March 16th, I collapsed from exhaustion. Got sick. Not Covid 19, thankfully. I slept non-stop. When I was awake, I was struck by all the loss. Not just the death of my dad. The loss for all us, our way of life. The loss, the grief overwhelmed me.
My initial reaction to Covid 19 as my coach was to ignore the lessons “the coach” was relentlessly whispering in my ear. Plus, I did not view the time at home as an opportunity to learn. So, I turned away from the opportunity, ignored my feelings. Rather than reflect, I binge watched, baked cookies, exchanged hilarious jokes and participated in Zoom happy hours. Didn’t we all?
I began to realize, Covid 19 was providing a container to heal my burn out. I felt something tugging on my heart between the cookie baking and Netflix marathons. After I recovered from my bug, I had more energy. More time. My meditations and nature hikes got longer and I journaled more. All these practices began to ground me while supporting my wellbeing. I got curious about the loss, my grief. Since I wasn’t working, I had time to reflect on loss.
Over the last several months my practices along with slowing down provided an opportunity to reconnect with myself. Heal. When I look over my shoulder and reflect on this last 10 years, I realize, I was burnout due my belief that I needed to put my parents first in order to be a “good daughter”. I forgot that I am goodness, already a good daughter. And, that I need to care for myself in order to take care of my parents.
The experience at home has provided a time to replenish, develop while noticing the magic in life.
Life is magical. Even when life is hard, I dig deep to find life’s magic when challenged.
I have learned with every loss, I find more of myself. If my job or even my dad remained, what happen next couldn’t.
The new space is where the gifts come in, life’s magic. The key is to accept the loss. Otherwise, I miss the lesson, a new lens to view my life’s magic.
Grief is not my favorite teacher. Yet, I have experienced that grief’s pain fosters my growth. If that loss had not occurred in my life, I would not have grown, evolved as I am today. It’s is not easy for me, it is painful.
For me, Covid 19 is a tough Coach. Yet, it allowed me to slow down, embrace my grief, begin to heal and learn. I am committed to my practices to maintain my wellbeing. I am learning how to breathe through my tough moments. To be with my emotions while discovering the magic of life.
Life’s magic is present in my life, it’s in every breath I take, my nature hikes, the loving gestures from my friends & coaching colleagues.
And, now, since my burnout is diminishing, I realize the magic is the love in my mom’s voice, I see it in her eyes through the glass window when I visit.
Attachment My first attachment experience was in my childhood with a yellow blanket, named Blankey. A gift from my Nana for my third birthday. For me to go to sleep, feel good, safe, happy, I needed Blankey, or so I thought. My 4th birthday passed, then my 5th. When I reached the ripe old age of 6, my dad drew a line, “No more Blankley”. My dad thought if he cut my beloved Blankey up into small pieces, my attachment would shrink along with the blanket size. Although, blankey did get smaller, my attachment remained. As Blankey shrunk, I could hardly hold on to it. I would rub it between my thumb and my pointer finger while I sucked my thumb. Pure heaven. Then one day, while my dad was driving down the 101 freeway, mini- Blankey flew out of the car window. I am certain people four states away heard my blood curdling screams.
We’ve all have had attachments. A favorite pair of jeans, a pillow, t-shirt. I imagine someone is still hanging on to a favorite childhood treasure. Why do we require these attachments to feel good, safe or even happy? What if we got curious about why we are attached? Identifying our beliefs, emotions often reveals why we are attached. Then we are able to build capacity, resilience to be compassionate with ourselves, practice what we need for our wellbeing.
Attachment Today When I am attached to something I am unable to be with “what is”, be present, trust or curious about the attachment’s importance. For me, attachment’s bestie is fear. Fear whispers in my ear, “You won’t be okay or comfortable without it”. My thoughts go back and forth as I try to make a decision. My mind spins new scenarios, strategies. It feels like a nightmare marathon tennis match. My thoughts are like a spinning tennis ball. It’s as if fear and attachment relentlessly volley my thoughts and emotions back and forth in search of the best scenario. The perfect self-torture.
Signs of Attachment Initially, I wrestle with my attachment and fear as I attempt to unpack my thoughts, free myself long enough to discover “the why” I am attached and begin to name my values. Three signs that I am attached to a present circumstance is when “I need it” to be comfortable. The second is when my thoughts serve up why I need this to happen, over and over and over. Third, I’m unable to accept I don’t need these attachments to be okay, happy. I have felt the emotional attachment to my job, my mom’s house along with needing things to be a certain way because I believe then I will be happy, more comfortable, safe. No job, house, or situation has the ability to be the source of my comfort, peace or safety forever. Believing that I need a promotion, home or relationship to be happy takes me away from being present, my gratitude, ultimately, my inner peace, wisdom and myself.
Values vs Attachment Discovering what I value helps me to understand the difference between my values and attachments. Attachment keeps me in fear’s grasp. Plus, I hang on, tightly to the belief that if I let go of what I am attached to, the outcome is negative. Fear blinds me from seeing what is possible.
Reflecting helps me, name my values. Meaning, my standards of behavior, what is important to me in life. Naming what I value, for example, being truthful and compassionate, meditating, a nature hike. These values, and practices connect me to myself. Whereas attachment pulls me out of myself as my thoughts provide evidence to hold on to “that something” that I believe I need to be comfortable, happy or even safe. I am not free. Attachment doesn’t allow me to explore the possibility of what could be. Sound familiar?
Realization Goggles Realizing what I value, frees me to be curious, begin to unhitch myself from the attachment. The lens I view the world, shifts, is renewed. Which I fondly referred to as “my realization goggles”. When I am unclear about the difference between what I value and what I am attached to I ask myself three questions.
Why do I believe I need this to happy, comfortable or safe?
What beliefs foster fear, stop me from freely living my life filled with love, joy and gratitude?
What practices will support my well-being?
The answers lead me to myself while building capacity and resilience, my wellbeing. It’s not about getting rid of emotional attachments. It’s about learning about them, ourselves and our values. So, get curious about an attachment. Try on your new realization goggles. Freedom comes from within. Enjoy being free.
“Attachment is the strongest block to realization.” Neem Karoli Baba
Who I am: I am a happiness junkie. Being unhappy is not an option. So, if you told me putting on a purple Barney suit (from Barney & Friends) and doing cartwheels while singing “A Christmas Carol” would magically make me happy, I would.
The goal to be happy motivated my research to discover how to sustain my happiness. The research revealed that Meditation provided a sense of well being. I thought, I am in. It appeared that meditation was the perfect solution to provide consistent happiness: No long process. Instant happiness. Boom.