Tag Archives: courage

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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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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Three Steps To Internal Activism

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

Internal Activism ess051817_InternalActivismentially means being the change you wish to see in the world. It is a concept that Mahatma Gandhi became known for and a teaching that Martin Luther King Jr. carried forward.   Before one can be the change they wish to see in the world, they need to understand truly what the change is they wish to be.

Sounds logical and simple, however simple doesn’t mean easy and even the logical can become confusing when the volume of information and data becomes too much to discern.  Our world is becoming increasingly more complex and there is a common desire for many things to change (and change all at once). It’s easy to become either demoralized or paralyzed with where to best focus energy and attention to be the change you wish to see.

When feeling overwhelmed, it’s tempting to get angry at people and situations and cast blame outward.  The pull toward trying to change others behavior, to get them to act or do certain things, is a powerful one, one that can lead you to use manipulative behaviors that only compound your feelings of powerlessness.  A more powerful and impactful action is to choose to change what you can change about yourself when you are engaged in situations where you desire an alternative outcome.  It is through trusting the process of taking internal, thoughtful, individual action that lasting activism is born.

Internal Activism is a process that uses the skill of awareness to help people identify the change they wish to see in the world. When individual action is created around that change, it can transform singular effort into community or global activism and shift the environments in which we live and work.  There are 3 steps to discover your path to Internal Activism.

Define It. 

What is the change you want to see in the world? Your world can be defined as your family, your work, your community, your country or even yourself.  Where do you desire a shift, a change, a new direction? In what way would you like to see your world different?  Notice the articles you read, the shows you watch, the people you talk to. What is stirring you up and making you uncomfortable? What is it that you are avoiding or ignoring? What is it that gets under your skin?  What are you ready to stop tolerating or accepting?

If you are like most people, you’ll notice more than one thing you want to change.  Start simple and pick one issue or trigger to focus on for now.  (Don’t worry about picking the “right” thing – if you care about it, it’s right for you.) For example, you might be bothered by bullying behavior at work, issues around diversity and inclusion, or people obsessed with their devices.  The size and scale of the issue doesn’t matter – only that you care about it and wish to see a different outcome.

Discern it.

Take the trigger/issue you picked and isolate it from all the others. For right now make this your focus for action.  Consider the issue from all sides.  What is it about this issue that triggers you?  How does it make you feel?  How often do you see it and where do you see it?  How do you currently respond and show up when it occurs?  Consider the desired end state for the change you wish to see. What do you want to be different?  Now make a list of the behaviors you can take to support that outcome.  What role can you play?

For example, if you picked workplace bullying, start by creating awareness around your own behaviors to determine if any of your actions could be considered bullying by other people. Perhaps some can and you were previously unaware of it. Next, notice how often it happens, where, when, who and what meetings do bullying patterns emerge?  Finally, decide the behavior you wish to model when you witness bullying in a meeting occur.  Perhaps you have a go-to phrase, “I’m interested to learn your thoughts/feelings, however, I’m not comfortable with that language in this meeting, in the future talk like that (give example) isn’t acceptable.”

Do It.

Now the hard part – putting it in action.  It’s much easier to contemplate being the change than it is to actually do it.  Being the change means you will likely upset your world in some way. Setting a boundary or addressing unacceptable behavior will cause some discomfort and maybe even some tension at the start.  The same is true with learning to undo something that you’ve noticed is a behavior that you no longer wish to do – it’s common to feel exposed at the start of being the change.

Behavior change takes time.  It also takes courage no matter how big or small the change is you wish to see – you will likely feel vulnerable at first.  Stay with it and trust that over time, the more deeply connected you are to your action, the more confidence and empowerment you will feel each time you witness yourself being the change.

The key to successfully living a life of Internal Activism is consistency in your behavior (words and actions).  Stick with the behaviors you’ve chosen and at every opportunity, be the change – offer others an example, become the presence of the possibility until it becomes as natural as breathing. Then begin again to become the next change you wish to see in the world.

[Note: This was originally published in HuffPost]

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The Power of “No”

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder and CEO

[Note: This post originally appeared in Mindful Magazine]

Have you ever said yes to a request at work when you knew deep down you had no intention of doing it? Maybe you said you’d meet a colleague for coffee, take someone to lunch, or participate on a committee, but you really didn’t have the time or desire to follow through. That’s okay. We’ve all said yes to things we knew weren’t really going to happen. In fact, this happens a lot, all over the world, in both personal and professional life. Why do we do this, and how can we shift our responses so they reflect our true intention and capacity?

The behavior of saying yes to things we know we either don’t want to or are unable to do is called “hedging.” It consists of using phrases like “I don’t know,” “maybe,” and “we’ll see,” when really your answer is, unequivocally, no.

When we hedge, our intentions (most times) are good. At work, we hedge to avoid disappointing others—like our customers, our managers, and our coworkers. It’s easy to feel that if you say no to a request at work you’ll be perceived as selfish or rude, or that it might impact your performance review. It’s natural to want to be liked and accepted, and to be considered a team player. That said, hedging can have many negative impacts.

For instance, when we commit to too many projects, assignments, and “five-minute favors” and we know we will be unable to complete them, we wind up creating false expectations, and can become the bottleneck in the system—which is the exact opposite of what most people intend when they say yes. Hedging also tends to create more work (that may or may not be part of your role), causing stress, resentment, and frustration. At the team level, hedging erodes trust, damages reputations, and can cause widespread role confusion.

Break the Hedging Cycle

Start by paying attention to when you hedge and get clear on what you really can, and cannot, do. “No” doesn’t have to be dismissive. A strategic no can, in fact, be a powerful productivity tool and a way to set clear priorities. It can mark the beginning of a thoughtful, intentional conversation about workload, role definition, and office dynamics. When you give a mindful no, you contribute even more to your team by being clear about what is realistic, which allows the organization to better understand needs, plan for resources, and set priorities. This is especially important for companies operating with limited resources.

Say It Right

It’s not all about just saying no—the way you say no is also important. Use a respectful tone and provide as much context as possible to the person making the request. Explaining why you’re unable to oblige a coworker’s request can go a long way—not just in increasing efficiency, but also in building trust. A phrase to experiment with is “that’s not going to work for me, because….”

If you know you can get to the request, but just not right now, set expectations up front on timeframe. “That’s not going to work for me right now, can we talk again in three weeks?” Another option is to offer help in whatever way you can: “I know this is important to you, but right now the core priorities for my job are x, y, and z, and I’m not able to support this request. Can I help you find someone else who might be able to help?”

Most times, when people feel respected, they are willing to work together to find a solution that is realistic and supports the team and organization—even if the conversation begins with “no.”

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What If Uncertainty Is Really Possibility?

By Nicole Christie, Principal + Creative Director of NICO, Inc. and Friend of Simple Intentions

NicoleChristie_UncertaintyisPossibility_Image

No matter what we want to believe, nothing is ever certain, nailed down, or set in stone. Nearly half the population is divorced. Job security is non-existent (if it was ever a thing anyway). And let’s not even get into technology, our economy, or the climate.

Ah, the times—they’re always a-changin’.

Yet we all want stability, certainty, answers. We want a crystal ball to tell us when our misery will stop, when the good times will start, when we’ll get what we’re after. But even in those moments when something finally arrives, there’s still uncertainty, worry, and fear. When will the other shoe drop? What now? What’s next?

Oh, friends. We’re never satisfied.

So we have no choice but to snuggle up with uncertainty and use it to our advantage. Instead of seeing it as a dust cloud, we can see it as possibility. As long as something has yet to happen, anything can happen. In the meantime, we can keep our eyes open and entertain other options. Instead of staring at a closed door, we’re free to roam the hallways, wandering into other rooms and knocking on different doors. The roaming is often far more enlightening—and definitely more fun. (“Hey, there’s wine and cheese hour down the hall!”)

That’s what we stumble on during times of uncertainty—if we let ourselves stumble. We avail ourselves to new information, new experiences, potentially a whole new life. One we wouldn’t have known was a possibility had we not aimlessly wandered and roamed. So let’s walk past the closed door, the one we believe has certainty behind it. We can always come back later. In the meantime, let’s keep our minds open. And help ourselves to the wine and cheese.

 

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Saying Yes to No

By Chelsea Elkins, Program & Marketing Manager

Crossroads

I am a yes-man. Or, rather, I am a yes-man in recovery.

What can I say? I really thought I loved Yes. It is the great unifier, the unapologetic people pleaser, the limitless connector of any language. So you can imagine my discomfort when I found myself abruptly thrust into an alien world of No when I was diagnosed with a fatigue-inducing health condition earlier this year.

I have to admit I was a bit surprised by my own explosive reaction to having to say no more often than I could say yes (courtesy of my tired and protesting body). But when I thought about it, it made sense how I got there. The culture and mindset among my peers and social circle has largely been one of Yes (my generation coining the terms FOMO and YOLO into modern vernacular), so it seemed logical how Yes became so deeply saturated into my being.

My debut with No was not an easy one. My biggest challenge came with having to turn down things I genuinely wanted to do. Having to decline or cancel brunches and Star Wars-themed parties was amazingly difficult even when my body was begging for sleep.

The true trouble came from my over-active mind, imagining that whoever extended the invite would start questioning if I even wanted to be invited at all. Perhaps they felt I was making excuses or no longer shared their interest in French food or outdoor concerts. “They probably won’t be inviting you in the future!” my delirious brain cried.

And voilà, we reached the root of my problem with Yes. Why, for years, I over-extended and stretched myself thin as paper, both with things I wanted to do and things I did not.

For me, what it really boiled down to was fear. Fear that if I said no x amount of times, I’d stop being asked. Fear that if I’m not the one constantly organizing hang outs, I’d never hear from anyone. Fear that I’d offend. Fear that once I finally emerge on the other side, healthy and shiny and new, I’ll find that all my friends and friendly acquaintances have moved to Mallorca and failed to invite me.

Ultimately, fear that I am not enough.

Quite a pill to swallow.

The positive thing was I was not alone with this issue and could access an abundance of wisdom on the matter. Lena Dunham and Whitney Cummings both shared their intimate histories with No, and Shonda Rhimes started a beautiful and intentional relationship with Yes. I was inspired to start to restructure my own relationship with my decisions, and slowly I began to find strength and even delight in my no’s. Gradually, I found I was taking control of my life and health.

I still think Yes is great. Yes can lead to new connections and unforgettable experiences. The trick, as with everything, is to find balance. Saying yes enough to lead a wondrous, joyful existence but not so much that you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of commitments, whether desirable or not.

In this way I’m carrying on, bravely owning my answers, whatever they may be, and remembering that a resounding No will always be more beneficial to my relationships than a reluctant Yes.

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