Monthly Archives: June 2017

Transparency

Nicole Christie, Director of Executive Communications at Microsoft and Friend of Simple Intentions

062917_TransparencyTransparency is a raging buzzword in the corporate world. It’s all about telling it like it is, not sugarcoating the story, sharing the whole truth. It’s sometimes half-assed or disingenuous, but as a corporate communications consultant, I appreciate the effort, especially since I’m often the one crafting the message.

Yet transparency in business is an interesting juxtaposition to how we tell our personal stories—namely on social media, where painstaking effort is made to share the highlights, shape the narrative, and filter the photos. No wonder so many of us feel we pale in comparison to what we see online. No one’s sharing the whole truth—the dirty, depressing, ugly side of life.

And don’t we need to hear that?

We all have some level of discord—and dysfunction—in our lives. And when we don’t share this with each other, we feel isolated. Whether we’re sparring with a spouse, miserable in our jobs, questioning our life decisions, feeling disenchanted with the well-touted “wonders” of pregnancy and parenthood, we all experience dissatisfaction and disillusion. And while no one wants to be an online Debbie Downer, if we don’t share the shit, we aren’t truly connecting with anyone.

Mother Teresa said, “Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” So let’s all lose the filter. Let’s share our messy homes, messy lives, messy brains—not to complain, but to connect. Show us your unshowered, unkempt self, working from home and wondering if you’ve become a social misfit after 11 years of this arrangement (hand raised). Show us not your shiny, happy, well-dressed baby, but the one who’s red-faced, wet-eyelashed, and finally asleep after an epic wail-a-thon. Show us the downside of the perfect job we all think you have, whether that’s boredom, volatility, or all-out stress.

This is transparency.

This is truth.

This is vulnerability—and there’s strength in being real. Or as Brene Brown reminds us, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.”

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The Real Problem With E-mail

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

062017_EmailDespite what you may think, the real problem with e-mail has nothing to do with e-mail. The problem is not the volume of e-mail you receive. Nor is it that messages are poorly crafted, often lacking details and specific requests. The issue isn’t that subject lines are misleading and your peers don’t understand the difference between CC, BCC and TO fields. These are all annoying and unproductive aspects related to e-mail. However, “fixing”, even eliminating, these aspects won’t solve the main, mostly unspoken issue with e-mail.

The real problem with e-mail is we have forgotten there is a human being on the other side of the message. A human being seeking connection, making a request, asking for help or in some cases offering help. In our hurry to slam through our inbox and knock it off our “to do” list, the bid for human connection has become a casualty of the exchange.

E-mail has evolved into a powerful tactical and transactional tool, yet at the same time, it’s also the primary business communication tool. Which is why it makes sense that e-mail has become such a pain point — as the speed at which most people “attack” their inbox leaves plenty of missed opportunity to understand what is a transactional message and what is a bid for relationship building.

Hence the disconnect — we keep trying to solve our e-mail problems with productivity tips; when instead of color-coding, flagging or filing in folders a slew of half-way communicated messages, we could choose instead to craft a few carefully, intentionally worded communications with the purpose to connect and be of service to those on the receiving end. Sure, your inbox may be at zero, but was the information you wanted to share complete and more so, how did your message make the person/people on the other end feel?

When listening to people talk about their relationship with e-mail, many people hold a belief that e-mail isn’t part of “work”. How can it not be part of work? E-mail isn’t just something you do — it’s a chance each day, with each e-mail you write, to be the person you want to be. Each communication you craft is an opportunity to reflect what you really want to say and how you really want to show up and who you are.

What if instead of focusing on the next ten e-mails you have to “pound through”, you became fully present on the one in front of you? What if you imagined the face of the person or people on the other end of the communication looking to you for a response, guidance or acknowledgement? What if you slowed down your inbox time and really read the message and looked for the request for understanding, approval or connection?

With each e-mail you send, you have the power to make someone feel important, acknowledged, respected or heard. You also have the same power to make someone feel dismissed, disrespected or unimportant. The choice is yours for how to be in relationship with your e-mail, and with each message you send you get to make that choice again and again.

 

[Note: This post originally appeared in Thrive Global]

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How Far Are You Willing To Go?

By Melisa Portela, Simple Intentions Lead Consultant: LATAM Region

061517_LimitsWe live in a society that tells us: there are no limits, you can always go for more, you can always achieve more, you can always produce more, you can get more “likes” on social media, you can lose more weight, you can have a better job, you can have a more loving partner, and the list goes on and on… And this is what I want to reflect on today: How far are you willing to go?

Sometimes we find ourselves stretching far beyond our limits and well-being, reaching a point where our relationships and health start to deteriorate. We begin to lose some quality in our lives the moment we start to race to the end of our limits – And there are many consequences along the way, our health often being one of them.

Sometimes we push ourselves beyond our limits because we might feel there is a sense of freedom associated with breaking out of the box. However, when we ignore our limits, too often we end up completely exhausted and suffering from burnout. And, by the time we realize the cost, it is sometimes already too late to prevent a significant impact.

This is why it is so important to set limits in our lives. When we don’t set appropriate boundaries for ourselves, it often may feel that others are (unintentionally) disrespecting us. When we do not know when and how to say “ENOUGH”, we feel at the mercy of others or even things (like material possessions, jobs, unhealthy routines, etc.). A lack of boundaries means we are often unable to take accountability for the events that happen in our lives. We might try to find an external cause or justification for our suffering, which sometimes leads us to resignation (ultimately, reinforcing our lack of boundaries and creating a vicious circle).

Before we can communicate boundaries to those closest to us (such as friends, family, partner/spouse, boss, coworkers, etc.), it is important to figure out for ourselves what they are. Most of us do not pay conscious attention to how, why and what boundaries we must set in order to lead the life we wish. Once you are clear on what your boundaries are, then it is time that you clearly communicate them with the people you share your life with. Remember that if those around you do not know what your needs and limits are, it gets harder for them to support you in what you seek by respecting those limits.

A boundary is like an instructional manual that you can give to yourself and to others that clearly informs what your limits are. Once you’ve done that, it becomes easy to say how far you’re willing to go – in any situation.

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I Will Turn on the Light

By Chelsea Elkins, Simple Intentions Marketing & Program Manager

060917_TurnontheLightFear can do strange things. With an electric power, it can alter reality, shift perspective, and make the strongest of us tremble. Fear can be gripping, all encompassing, and can make you feel certain of something that is just not true. Fears might be passed down from those who raised us, conditioned into us by society, or sparked by an insecurity.

The great thing is that not everything we think is true – and that includes our fears.

The tricky thing about fear is it feeds. It can feed on someone’s opinion of you, the evening news, or often your own thoughts. When someone says something unsavory about you (that some small part of you, in the back of your mind, also fears is true), does that mean it’s fact? Is your fear validated? It often feels this way, but in many ways this naysayer is simply turning on a light for you. Illuminating a negative belief you have about yourself, so that you can see it in the light for what it is. So that you can decide if it is something you truly believe.

When we shine a light on our fears, we witness them for what they are – and that can be scary. But what we end up seeing is often smaller, uglier, and much less frightening than what we once perceived (think the Harry Potter Limbo train scene). It may invoke pity or even compassion, for self or others, but it does not wield the same power. Turning on the light eradicates the uncertainty of what a fear consists of – and eliminating uncertainty itself helps diminish fear.

This is also true for someone else’s fear or anger or doubt – even if it’s aimed directly at you. Turning on the light means having the clarity of mind and self-possession to observe an emotion or fear trying to cling to you and to say “that isn’t mine” – and mean it. Even if that feeling or belief was “yours” yesterday or 5 minutes ago, you can drop it at any time. Shining a light means creating depersonalization around others’ thoughts and emotions. When someone doubts us – instead of feeding on that doubt and making it our own – remember that it does not belong to us, it is not ours, and we do not have to pick it up.

I recently learned an exercise to help me with this.

The Whiteboard Meeting.

Pick a fear or an unpleasant thought about yourself, sit down and have a meeting about it. Actually.

Visualize the uncomfortable chairs, clicky pens, stuffy conference room, the whole shebang. The exercise is to fill a whiteboard about a specific fear with your members of the board. Each board member stands for a unique belief you have about that fear, representing the diversity of thought we all have in our minds even about a single subject. (Stay with me.) Have each “board member” write on the whiteboard a unique thought related to that fear. Be specific. What is it exactly you are afraid of? At first, some of your more outspoken and historically negative board members will clamor for attention. You might be barraged with things like “I’ll fail at this because…”; “I’m not good enough”; “If I do X, I’ll lose Y”. Write them all down without judgement until these “fear thoughts” eventually run out of steam, leaving only half the whiteboard filled.

That’s when it’s time to hear from the rest of the room. What about your thoughts that stem from a place of courage, trust, empowerment? How does that change the tone of the board? Fill the rest of your whiteboard and notice the diversity of thought. The other side of the room might say things like, “I already have most of the tools and resources I need to be successful”; “My family and friends support me”; “I am enough”; “If I do X, I might lose Y but I’ll gain Z”.

When the whiteboard is filled, step back and look at everything together. This is it. All your thoughts on the matter. And, without shame or judgement, observe which thoughts have gaps in logic, which thoughts are empowering, which thoughts are operating from a place of insecurity. What on the board, after seeing it in the light, do you genuinely believe? What do you want to be true? Through observing the many realities your mind sees as possible, you will discover that while the fear thoughts can often feel like the only reality or truth, there are actually many truths to choose from. And you have the power to do just that, choose. To say thanks but no thanks to the fear thoughts and say yes to what’s on the other side.

This exercise can be as literal or figurative as you want. Use post-its and fill up a wall. Write in a journal. Use your imagination. Where different tiny hats and talk in accents. This is your party, as they say. The Whiteboard Meeting can help answer the question of what beliefs about yourself you want to let go – and which you need to actively choose again and again.

The saying “if you’re not scared then your goals are not big enough” has long intrigued me. But I realize now that the phrase is only half complete. Because for every part of you that is scared, there is another that is thrilled, delighted to rise up to the challenge. To truly complete the phrase, I know I must only turn on the light.

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Are You Done Yet?

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

060117_areyoudoneyetWe’ve all been there. The moment you realize that you’re doing something that is not in your best interest — and then continue to do it, over and over again, sometimes for weeks, other times for years. Until one day you reach your breaking point and feel you have no other option than to make a radically different choice to end the unpleasantness you are experiencing. (Many times, this process is rather dramatic and can be also known as a breakdown, meltdown, burnout, depression or in some cases a mid-life crisis.)

If you are like most people, there is normally a huge time gap between having the awareness that what you are choosing/doing isn’t working for you, and acting to alter or stop it in order to create a future that is different from the past. And for most people, there really isn’t much in-between, it’s an all or nothing pattern: Do it until it becomes unbearable.

We are not always talking huge life issues either. It could be eating a food you know won’t agree with your belly, staying up late to watch one more episode of your new favorite show, being absorbed in your mobile device when you’re with loved ones, not expressing yourself, or staying in relationship with a toxic person or work team. The list of examples is endless.

The point is each day everyone makes a few choices that sabotage their desired outcomes. (Even the most awake, balanced people do this.) And each day you watch yourself over and over again make the same choices and have the same conversation in your head about it, “I can’t believe I ate that”, “I should have gone to bed earlier”, “Why did I keep my phone out for that”, “I wish I would have said that instead”, “I let him/her talk to me that way again”.

Then the next day, you do it all over again. Until you have a health issue, a resentment issue, a relationship issue, or until the work team dynamic becomes so bad you are driven to leave. What if it were possible to be “done” without high drama or need for drastic action? What if you could decide in advance what your breaking point is, so rather than being surprised when you reach it, you see it coming and even plan for its arrival?

What if it were as simple as asking yourself this powerful question: “Am I done yet?”

What if you could define that limit before you get there and ask yourself — what does being done look like? “I will continue to eat this until my cholesterol reaches a certain level”, “When I need 4 cups of coffee to wake up — that’s how I’ll know I stayed up too late”, “I will withhold my emotion only 100 more times”.

You know you are done when the unpleasantness of what you are experiencing is beyond tolerable. Most people fear being done, because they don’t know what’s next. The great news is that there are very few truly unique problems in this world and the odds are highly likely you are not alone being done with whatever it is you’re done with — a few conversations with others, and an internet search will likely turn up more resources to support you than feels possible. It’s like when you decide to buy a car, and then you start to see that car everywhere. When you’ve decided you’re done, resources will line your path.

A future that is different from the past starts with a single question: Are you done yet?

[Note: This post originally appeared in HuffPost]

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