Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Questions, Questions, Questions

There is power in questions.  Often, the answer we need is driven only by our ability to question, to seek out the answer in the first place.  Is our lack of answers then a result of not having asked the right questions or is it more a reflection of not having asked enough?

As children we are full of questions; ongoing, ever-ending questions.  There is no thought about whether the question is good or bad, smart or insightful, interesting or thought-provoking, worthwhile or boring.  It was simply enough that we didn't know something and wanted to.  As we grew though, we started to become more self-conscious about what our questions might say about us to others.  We didn't want others to know that we didn't know something, that we didn't understand.  We became worried about what others might think of us and we started to filter our questions.

As adults, we ask fewer questions.  We try to find more information out on our own than simply asking someone to share their insights and knowledge.  Typically because we don't want to look dumb.  There's a risk in asking and so, we don't.

Asking fewer questions though means that not only do we often fail to take in all of the information that we want and need, it also means that we tend to lose our questioning skills.  We ask fewer questions, often of a poorer quality.  We stop refining our questioning skills which results in a drop in the quality of the questions we do ask.  The true result?  We stop getting quality answers. 
The Quality of our Answers is Driven by the Quality of our Questions
The bottom line is this.  If you don't have answers in your life...  start asking more questions.  And I mean MORE!  Don't stop.  The more questions the better, because at this stage you don't know what the 'right' question is!   The more questions you ask, whether of yourself or others, the more answers you will get.  The more answers, the more insight and, ultimately, the greater the clarity of your final 'answer', the choice you make. 

Choose now to enhance the quality of the choices you make in the upcoming year by asking more and better questions. 
“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” — Anthony Robbins
Don't filter your life by filtering your questions.  Likely the very questions you are afraid to ask are those that contain the answers that you need.  Make this upcoming year one in which you truly embrace the Art of Asking Questions, starting with yourself.  If you refuse to ask yourself the tough questions, you might want to start with the following question...

Why?  What am I afraid of uncovering/discovering by avoiding asking that?

A good question to use when trying to determine why we're afraid of asking questions!  A child's favourite question - Why?  Make it yours.  Simple, yet effective, it can help you to uncover your barriers, challenge your beliefs, question the seemingly obvious and uncover the non-so-obvious truths.  When you feel resistance, your fallback question should always be 'Why'. 

Make this upcoming year one in which you embrace the Art and Practice of Questioning.  More answers lead to better choices, which lead to greater growth.  The life you want starts with a question.  Are you ready to ask yours?

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Art of Giving... Up!

At this time of year, much of our time and attention is taken up with preparing for the holidays; in buying and wrapping that special gift, in donating our time and/or money to support others in need, in spending time with family and friends, gifting them with our attention and love.  It is truly a time in which we are focused on giving openly and readily to others.

However, as much as there is often talk and direction offered concerning how to GIVE; how to give bigger, better and more, rarely are we given instruction on the need to develop our skills in Giving Up.  In fact, much of the push from society at large, and even well-meaning family and friends, is to strive harder and do more, all in the name of success. 

This constant focus and emphasis today on being 'Successful' comes at a cost, one which is rarely expressed.  We continue to often unknowingly and unwittingly pay the price for succeeding, without ever questioning whether it is a price we are truly interested in paying.  Studies are now showing that even our children are leading overcrowded, over structured and overwhelmed lives, resulting in them losing out on much-needed relaxation time and sleep.  This pattern results in a loss of focus, a drop in their productivity and a stronger push and urge for them to 'try harder', all of which serves to strengthen the downward spiral.

We often hear that to be more successful takes willpower.  However, our willpower is not unlimited.  We do not have an infinite capacity to push and focus.  Therefore, as we strive and push in one area of our lives, we might overuse our willpower and lack the willpower that we need in other areas.  Therefore, if we are depleting all of our willpower resources in our drive and push to succeed in business, we might find that we lack the willpower we need to say 'no' to that second dessert, or to get out of a toxic relationship. 

Now, those that know me will understand that I believe in defining and going after your goals.  However, you also know that I believe in balance.  There is a price and cost associated with any action that we take in our lives, which is why I always emphasize the concept of 'choice' with my clients.  I urge them to ensure that any action they decide to take is one they have chosen, after having recognised and accepted the impact on the availability of other choices. 

Perseverance is required for breaking through barriers, for overcoming obstacles.  Not everything worthwhile in life comes easily or the first time we strive for it.  However, if you have goals that are truly unobtainable, that are causing you undo stress, frustration and angst, that are negatively impacting your health, then it might be time for you to Give Up.  Despite the negative stigma that others often attach to 'quitting' or 'giving up', we need to recognise that they serve a very useful purpose. 

There are times that we work toward a goal because of what it can do for us in the long run.  However, once started on a given path we may find that it doesn't lead us in the direction we wanted, or that it satisfied our need sooner than we thought.  We must reserve the right to then readjust, to abandon that goal sooner than anticipated. 

Very early in my career I was working in social work.  However, I recognised a need and desire to do something other than that.  In order to transition into 'business' I decided to pursue an MBA.  I wanted my applications to be taken seriously and therefore the MBA appeared to be an option that would get me the recognition I desired.  Once hired into a company though, I was faced with the fact that I couldn't continue to do both well.  My work travel schedule prevented me from participating in the group activities required by my MBA program, I was not 'learning' the material so much as squeezing in moments to satisfy the requirements of the professors.  The dilemma therefore was...
  • My career was growing but my time and attention on my MBA was suffering. 
  • I could certainly focus more on the MBA to get better grades and more learning from the program, but I would need to slow my career path.
As I really sat down to assess and analyze my options I found that I kept coming back to one key issue.  I was having trouble considering quitting the MBA program as a legitimate option... because it meant QUITTING.  I was taught you don't quit something you start.  If you quit, you were a loser.  There were no in-between options. 'Just suck it up and get it done!' was the phrase that kept running through my head.

However, whenever I thought about why I was doing my MBA, what I wanted to get out of it, all I came up with was the fact that I wanted to use it to get 'business' to take me seriously, and help make my transition from social work into the business sphere.  In short... the MBA had already done what I needed it to do.  I then questioned... if I finished the program, what more would I get from the time, money and effort? 

The bottom line...  I consciously made the decision to Give Up.  I left the program, determining that the additional time would be better spent redirected toward my career and leisure/personal life.  Quite honestly, a decision once made that I never regretted.  I had seven increasingly responsible roles in the 6 years that I was employed with that company, none of which I would have been able to create had my focus been split.  I got married and was able to enjoy my new husband and two wonderful stepchildren.

The biggest lesson of course was in learning to recognise the difference between when to push through a barrier and when to give up on something.  This represents a lesson that many of my clients struggle with continuously.  When faced with the possible need to Give Up on a Goal of your own, consider using some of the following thoughts and questions to help you clarify your decision.
  • What exactly is the purpose of the goal you have set?
  • What have you already achieved in its pursuit and is that enough?
  • What values of yours does it satisfy?
  • Are there alternative ways of satisfying those values?
  • Is this a goal you are pursuing for yourself or for others?
  • How much stress is the pursuit of this goal causing you? 
  • Is the price of pursuit one you are willing and able to continue to pay?
  • What is the impact of pursuit on other areas of your life?
  • What really is the impact of disengaging from the pursuit of the goal?
Use any, or all, of the above to help you assess whether the goal is one that should be continued or set aside.  Use the questions to help you make that determination consciously.  Studies by Wrosch and his associates found that overall, people who were able to disengage from 'unobtainable' goals were far happier than those who continued to pursue them. 

In the end, the decision needs to rest with you as only you can determine the true value and meaning of a goal to you and your life.  Just bear in mind that the Art of learning when to Give Up may be the very lesson you need to learn to free your time and focus to achieving want you truly want in life.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Be the Change...

We're at that time of year when people's minds start to naturally think about the New Year and everything that they hope and wish it will bring them.  As we have been taught, everyone tends to dream big.  the bigger the better... right?  Unfortunately, Big dreams also tend to mean big plans which can often seem overwhelming for many to get started with

This year, I invite you to take those dreams and break them down into much smaller steps.  Even one small action can have an overwhelming ripple effect in your life, giving you the impetus and courage to take another.  At the end of the day, you are the source of the Change you want to see in your life, your career and your relationships.  It all starts with one small step.  Don't minimize or denigrate the power of the small... the cumulative effect of a series of small actions can have a tremendously huge impact.  On yourself, and on others. 

You are the source of the difference you want to see in your life, so go out and do something different... today!          Cindy Dachuk

Monday, December 5, 2011

Don't Worry... Be Happy!

I have clients that are worriers.  I have family that are worriers.  I have friends that are worriers.  I worry about them!

In all seriousness though, worrying is seemingly becoming a very pervasive emotion.  Now, perhaps it is more simply a reflection of my coaching profession, but there seems to be an upsurge in the number of worriers that I am encountering.  An impact of our economic times?  Perhaps.  But it does seem that more people are worried about their futures than ever before, in recent times.  However, the act of worrying itself does nothing to improve their state but, it can very well have a significant impact on making things worse.

Worrying is like sitting on a rocking horse, it gives you something to do but you don't get anywhere doing it.                   Tony Robbins

 Worrying itself is neither a proactive or effective emotion.  Certainly worrying about a problem or situation in no way improves or changes it.  However, the effects of worry are much more negatively insidious than may be immediately apparent.
  1. A key implication of worry is that things will not turn out well. Let's face it, we don't worry about things turning out well, just that they might turn out poorly for us.  The focus of worrying is all negative.  I won't get that promotion... I might lose my job... What if I fail at my task?... I might get hurt...  These are all what-if scenarios that lead us to inaction, rather than risking the possibility that they may occur.
  2. The energy of worry is a heavy burden for us to carry.  It has a physical impact on us and can prove very debilitating for us over the long term.  Just as we know that carrying an extra 100 pounds of excess weight will have a physical impact on our body, causing early wear and tear and strain on our muscles, organs and heart... so too with worry.
  3. Worry is not just physically debilitating but mentally debilitating as well.  We create worry loops in our mind that play endlessly, preventing us from engaging in the very thoughts that would lead us to the solution we desire or the action we need to take.
  4. Worry expands.  It ripples out beyond us.  Even as we worry about ourselves, we also worry about others in our lives that we care for.  Although this is done out of love and concern for them, we slowly begin to push that negative energy onto them, forcing them to also begin to carry the worry load.  The more they begin to assume and duplicate our burden, the more self-doubt begins to creep into their perspective, thus limiting their growth and potential. Not our intention, surely!
Worrying can be a healthy response to life when it is realistic in its frequency, strength and duration.  When it becomes extreme though, it becomes almost addictive.  We have all heard of adrenalin junkies, those extreme athletes perhaps that pursue the next big adventure that provides them with that adrenalin high.  The truth about worrying though is that it also causes a release of adrenalin into the body, which can prove just as addictive.  We now become worry-junkies, constantly finding something new, something more, to worry about, thus getting our adrenalin fix.  We might get the immediate reinforcement of that adrenalin, but our worry and fears will keep us from going after what it is we want from our life and leave us with nothing but our worries to show for it.

Instead, we need to take control of our thoughts and redirect them in more positive ways.  When we are worrying, we are thinking about the possibility of negative outcomes.  We fear the 'what ifs'.  This is all thinking about the future though.  We are projecting outward the possible negative outcomes of a particular action.  Instead, we need to become more fully present in and focused on the present.  The more we maintain our focus on today, the less we have to worry about.  Every time you find yourself thinking the 'what ifs' or 'yes buts', redirect your thoughts back to the problem at hand and the actions you can take now.

Worry, like fear, is all in the mind.  We are afraid of the possibilities that may potentially exist for us and it paralyzes our actions.  Instead, consider all possibilities.  Nature likes balance... why not you?  Every time you find yourself thinking of  a negative possibility, balance it with its positive counterpart.  Break the negative worry-loop by disrupting the pattern and inserting a potentially positive outcome.  Just beginning to recognise that there are outcomes that may prove helpful and beneficial can go a long way to reducing your anxiety.

Show yourself, and others, your support.  Say... 'I know I (you) will get through this - what can I do now to support it?'  This will prove more helpful to everyone than pointing out every potential pitfall.  And... in the end, adopting the attitude of Bobby McFarren (the title of this blog post) or a mantra from Disney's Lion King... Hakuna Matata...  couldn't hurt either!