"See, Feel, Change": Emotions as the Catalyst for Moving Forward

Although we humans don't like to admit it, we are very emotional creatures. We think that we're logical and rational, but the more you dig into how we really operate, the more you realize that we are driven by our emotions. We then go looking for logic to justify our emotional choices. It's the Rider and the Elephant issue. 

If you're feeling stuck in some aspect of your work or career, rationally knowing that something needs to change, but not getting anywhere with it, it might be because you aren't really feeling the emotional impetus for change. 

I was reminded of this insight while reading Chip and Dan Heath's article on emotions as the catalyst for change. It's focused on creating change within organizations, but I would argue that the same process applies on an individual level. 

The emotional route to change is felt--you see or experience something, it sparks feelings within you, and from that you are motivated to make changes. 

Sometimes the feelings are "bad"--your boss screams at you at a particularly vulnerable moment and you are slammed with shame and/or anger that drives you to start looking for a new job. 

Sometimes the feeling that moves you forward is desire. I've seen many people spend time in a different environment, for example, where they have an opportuntity to experience peace or curiosity or mastery, autonomy and purpose. A spark of desire flickers within them and they realize they need to do something different with their lives. 

One of the problems we experience with our careers, though, is that we often block ourselves from feeling the emotions that would drive us toward needed changes. We stuff the emotions to be more "professional" or we use distractions to avoid having to really feel anything. 

But it's the emotions that would give us the lift we need to move in a different direction. We need to feel if we want to create needed changes in our lives. 

As the Heath's argue, "it takes emotion to bring knowledge to a boil." 

So how does this translate into action? 

First, if you're feeling stuck, don't kid yourself into thinking that more information is what will help you change your mind or make new choices. Most likely there's some emotional switch that hasn't been flipped. 

Explore the feelings that may be holding you back from change--often they are rooted in our tendency as humans to favor the status quo

Then look for ways to activate the emotions that could ignite change. Find ways to experience them, rather than blocking them. For example, if you know that you've been unhappy with your current job, but aren't making the changes, really let yourself FEEL how unhappy you are, rather than trying to explain it all away. This can start to move you forward. 

Or on a more positive note, pay attention to what you want more of in your life. Allow those feelings of desire to stir within you so that they can be really felt. 

I've also found that it helps to create some visualization of the issue. Note that the first part of the change process here is "See" and the Heath brother's article offers several examples of people using visuals to spark the emotions for change. That's why I find the VisualsSpeak process so powerful--it gives you a visual reference point that can fire up the emotions needed for change. 

Motivation for change is not a rational process. It must be deeply emotional to override our status quo bias. So if you want to make real changes, stop looking for "answers" and more information and start looking to FEEL your life more fully. 


Navigating the StartOver Economy

 

Alan Weinkrantz has a series of interesting blog posts over at Chris Brogan's Owner Mag on the idea of the StartOver economy. This is an economy where things are moving quickly and where yesterday's success is no guarantee that tomorrow will bring the same. 

This idea of the StartOver economy should resonate with all of us. Often the StartOver is a result of forces outside of our control--the impact of technology on our jobs or the unrelenting downsizing that is going on world-wide. If we haven't experienced a layoff ourselves, we certainly know plenty of people who have. 

For mid-career professionals, the StartOver can occur when we've reached a pinnacle of success in our field and realize that we're bored with where we're at or that we need to explore a long-deferred dream. We want to re-boot and reconnect with aspects of ourselves that we may have put on hold while we pursued more narrow notions of succcess. 

Most of us will have to master how to navigate the StartOver economy if we hope to have a thriving career that carries us through 40+ years of work. Even if we're convinced that we will not change and want something different, I can assure you that the job market will change and force you into starting over. 

How do you navigate the StartOver economy is the question.

This is where the skills and habits of career resilience come into play. We must develop the patterns of Clarifying, Connecting, Creating and Coping, all of which play a role in supporting our capacity to start over as we need to. 

Clarifying

We must be clear about ourselves--our passions, skills and gifts. How are our values changing? How is our work supporting (or not) our desire to have autonomy, mastery and purpose at work

We must also be clear about what is happening in the larger world. What are the trends and issues that impact our particular occupation and industry? What is happening in other industries that might offer new opportunities? 

The interplay between our self-knowledge and the opportunities around us is where we will find the sweet spot for starting over. But we can only find this spot when we develop the necessary clarity. 

Connecting

Our relationships--both work and personal--play a huge role in the StartOver economy. 

Sometimes they are the catalyst for change. Sometimes they provide avenues to new opportunities that we never considered. And sometimes they are the circle of connections that gives us the strength and guidance we need to navigate the re-boot. 

It can be challenging to maintain healthy connections, but it's so necessary. There's an African proverb that says "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." This should be the mantra of the StartOver economy. 

Change can be isolating, but if we do the work to build and maintain community, we can feel less alone. 

Creating

Action and creating is at the heart of the StartOver economy. As we clarify and connect, how do we then turn to the actions that will best support where we want to go next? How do we translate insight into action

In particular, we should be thinking about creating multiple income streams, moving away from the idea of the full time"job" and into solopreneurship and the soulful side gig. Even if we have a traditional job, we must still develop our capacity to be entrepreneurial and to create stability through diversified opportunities. 

We also need to be more willing to experiment and take risks--to create our futures, rather than sitting back and responding to what comes our way. This is the best way to build the skills we need for the future, as well as to find opportunities we may never have considered.

Our careers are not machines, but gardens we must grow and the act of experimenting is us planting seeds and investing in our own futures. 

Coping

Finally, we must develop our capacity to cope with change. How do we take care of ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally so that we can find the strength and courage we need to start over? Self-care is critical and I find that many of us do a terrible job with it. 

We also have to look at how we frame our experiences. Do we see challenge and obstacles everywhere or do we look for opportunities and learning? The stories we tell ourselves about what's happening in our circumstances and about our own capacity to respond can have huge impacts on our ability to start over. 

And do we persist as we go through change or do we give up and lose ground?

We need to accept that change is a natural part of life and get more comfortable with moving at a slower pace. The world we live in fools us into believing that everything should be "instant" and "on demand." But while the StartOver Economy may thrust us into sudden change, it still takes time for us to absorb and move through it to that next phase. 

What Do You Own? 

In the end, navigating the StartOver Economy is about owning yourself and your choices. Owner Mag says that owners work constantly on the following things: 

  • Core – our responsibility, our self, our dreams and goals going beyond our thoughts and into the world.
  • Structure – without structure, there’s no way for our core to be expressed.
  • Communication – we need to express ourselves, to share, to report, and to create (first thoughts, then words, then deeper communication and understanding.)
  • Capabilities – we work daily to expand our capabilities (personally, professionally, through our network).
  • Opportunities – we train our eye to see opportunities, and we train our hearts to help others find their way to theirs.
  • Community – we work from the mindset that we serve our family, friends, our allies, and those who give us their attention.
  • Worth – we strive to expand our worth and the worth of those around us, in as many facets as that word evokes.
  • Growth – we grow ourselves, our community, our circle, and all we can help in some way.

I agree completely with these ideas and see them as complements to the principles of career resilience that can help us get that much clearer about how we can navigate starting over. 

What are your thoughts on all this? How are you working in the StartOver economy? Leave a comment here or join us over on the Facebook Page


When Toxic Employers Promise They'll Change

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I've been swamped with client work lately, but have not forgotten about you dear readers. I promise!

Today I want to have a chat about toxic employers.  Over the weekend, I got a message through The Bamboo Project  Facebook Page from someone who is struggling with whether or not to leave his current employer.

He writes that for the past four years, the corporate culture has taken a toll on his mental and emotional health and that he had finally made the decision to leave. However, when he told the company about his plans, they began serious efforts to get him to stay, including offering a pay raise. The reader's question is--"What do I do?"

Here's my .02. 

Pay attention to how you've been treated over the past several years, not to how they are treating you when they are afraid you are going to leave.

How they've treated you for years is more indicative of how they will treat you in the future than anything they promise you now. 

This is the dynamic of all abusive relationships. You treat someone poorly until they protest and say they are going to leave. You promise all kinds of things to get them to stay. Once they agree, you are on your best behavior for a period of time, but eventually (and probably sooner rather than later), you relax back into the old ways. 

This is especially true in organizations, where the culture is probably a big reason for the behavior in the first place. Changing the habits of one person is hard enough. Changing the habits of a bunch of people is exponentially harder. 

For those of us on the receiving end of toxic behavior, we always want to believe that the company is going to change. We think "Oh--they behaved that way because they didn't realize and now that they do, they will drop all the negative stuff." I wish this were true, but in my experience it isn't. It's usually larger, more invisible forces that are at work and it's very easy to slip back into the old behaviors. 

Another clue that there won't be lasting change in this particular case is the offer of a raise. Although more money is nice, in most situations, it isn't the issue. If someone tells me that they're emotionally and mentally drained from work, a bigger paycheck isn't going to change that. It may make you more willing to put up with bad conditions for a while longer, but eventually you'll be back where you started.  At some point, money just doesn't cut it. 

So, if you know in your gut that you are working in a place that is taking a mental, physical and/or emotional toll and it is ingrained in the culture, not just because you're working on a particular project, my best advice to you is to look for ways to get out. 

If they promise to change when you give your notice, don't let that sway you. Keep going. It takes years to fix a toxic culture and dedication to addressing the underlying issues that created it in the first place. Do you really have time for that? 


Three Questions for Taking Stock of Your Career

 

One of the career books I've been reading recently is Business Model You: A One Page Method for Re-Inventing Your Career. It offers an interesting template for evaluating your career aspirations and looking at them in light of the different ways you can bring value based on your various assets and resources. 

I signed up for their email newsletter and this morning received an update on their latest European workshops that included the three questions they use to start their sessions. I think they're excellent ways to stop and take stock of your career, so wanted to share them here.

Three Questions for Taking Stock

1. Is it time to move up? 

This is a pretty obvious question and one that I think a lot of younger people in particular start asking themselves--are they ready (and willing) to move to another level?

This isn't just about hierarchy. It's also about scope. Are you ready to assume more responsibilty? Do you want to leave a bigger mark on the world? If you're self-employed, is it time to expand or to work with a different level of clients? 

2. Is it time to move out?

This is the question to ask when you are feeling antsy or angry all the time. I talk to many people who feel like they've hit a brick wall with their current employer and find themselves in the same stale situations with colleagues and work scenarios. When you feel like you've "been there, done that, have the t-shirt," then it may be time to move on. 

Same thing for self-employed folks. I've discovered this year, for example, that I needed to "fire" certain types of clients. Life is too short and my energy is too precious to spend it on people who don't really want to make changes. There are some markets that just aren't worth it, so it's time to move out of them. 

3. Is it time to adapt your style? 

This is an interesting one. Often what we find is that work has changed, but we have not changed with it. This is especially true in this era of constant turmoil, where uncertainty is the one thing of which we can be certain. 

We may have developed a particular style or approach that made us successful in previous contexts, but that may no longer be working for us. We may be caught up in our old "frames" or stories, making it difficult for us to recognize that the situation has changed and we must change with it. 

This style question also has resonance if our role has recently changed at work. For example, I often see that moving from individual contributor to team leader can cause a "style crisis." Moving from "employee" to "freelancer" creates a similar situation. 

Taking a step back and looking at how you might need to adapt yourself to new situations is helpful. It can allow you to rejuvenate and renew your commitment to your work. 

How do these three questions resonate for you? Can you use them to take stock of your current career situation? Drop me a line in comments or let us know over on Facebook


Three Tips for Getting Better Feedback

While many of us understand the need for feedback to improve ourselves personally and professionally, we often don't understand the best ways to get it.

We can tend to ask too generically ("what feedback do you have for me?") or maybe we don't ask at all!

 

Often we will get unsolicited feedback from supervisors or colleagues, under the guise of "constructive criticism," but this is not always the feedback that is really most helpful and necessary for our own personal and professional growth. As much as we may need that kind of information to do our current jobs, we also need good information that helps us grow and prepare for the future. 

 

Feedback is important. It helps us to get clarity about our gifts and areas where we need more development. It helps us refine our creative projects and beef up our skills. 

Feedback can also be a great way to build our circles of connection. By engaging in more robust feedback conversations, we strengthen our relationships with people in our networks and can even be led to new connections. 

So how can we do a better job of getting important feedback? 

1. Create a structure for requesting feedback.

You need to start the feedback process by making it an intentional part of your schedule that is connected to your personal and professional goals. 

You could try looking at each day's events and considering where you might request feedback on a particular project or professional development goal you may have. 

Or make it a weekly goal to get substantive feedback on at least one area of focus. 

The idea here is to tie your feedback requests to your personal and professional goals and then to intentionally build those request into your life. 

2. Get specific.

As this Fast Company article points out, going around asking for general feedback won't get you very far. It's not another person's job to know where you want or need input on something. 

Further, when you ask for general feedback, you are most likely to get information that's related to the other person's agenda, as opposed to information that is useful for what you want to achieve.  

Instead, be prepared to ask specific questions:

  • I'm trying to improve my listening skills in meetings. How do you think I did in that last session? 
  • I'm working on this project and I'm trying to find the best ways to get buy-in from people in your department. What thoughts do you have about how I could do that?
  • One area I want to develop in this year is in presentation skills. What do you think are my strengths and weaknesses in presentations? What advice or resources do you have that you think would be helpful for me?

Giving people an area of focus helps guide them toward what you're looking for and gives them something meatier to connect to. It also ensures that feedback will be related to the areas you are trying to develop. When you are specific in your questioning, it helps everyone.

3. Act and report back.

If someone has taken the time to give you feedback, I think it's also important to let them know how you acted on their advice and the results. This helps strengthen relationships and also gives you another opportunity to deepen your knowledge and understanding. 

The report back needn't be long or complicated. If someone gave you a piece of advice on how to improve your presentation skills, then the next time you see them you can tell them that you tried it, that it worked and that you appreciate their help. Closing that loop is critical.

It's easy to get lost in the day-to-day and only receive feedback when someone else has decided you need it. But to grow and develop in our work and personal lives, we need to get more intentional and focused in connecting to the constructive criticism that will be most beneficial to us in meeting our own goals. 

Getting good feedback is an important tool for building your career resilience. How are you regularly plugging into the great advice and knowledge around you? 


Do You Cultivate Being Kind at Work?

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Today is Martin Luther King Day here in the U.S. and it has me thinking about what role being of service to others plays in people's thinking about their professional development and career. 

In this case, I'm thinking less about whether or not your job is about service--for example, you work for a nonprofit--and more about the extent to which you incorporate workplace altruism into your daily life. How is doing for others freely and without expectation of something in return a career practice to which you aspire? 

University of Pennsylvania Professor Adam Grant is perhaps the most advanced practitioner of the art of workplace altruism and this New York Times article does a nice job of explaining how this works for him:

Helpfulness is Grant’s credo. He is the colleague who is always nominating another for an award or taking the time to offer a thoughtful critique or writing a lengthy letter of recommendation for a student — something he does approximately 100 times a year. His largess extends to people he doesn’t even know. A student at Warwick Business School in England recently wrote to express his admiration and to ask Grant how he manages to publish so often, and in such top-tier journals. Grant did not think, upon reading that e-mail, I cannot possibly answer in full every such query and still publish so often, and in such top-tier journals. Instead, Grant, who often returns home after a day of teaching to an in-box of 200 e-mails, responded, “I’m happy to set up a phone call if you want to discuss!” He attached handouts and slides from the presentation on productivity he gave to the Academy of Management annual conference a few years earlier.

 

Grant's research and his own experiences have shown that the greatest untapped source of motivation is serving others--that we are more creative and productive when we focus on helping others rather than thinking about helping ourselves. 

Louise Altman at The Intentional Workplace blog brings additional perspective, pointing out that acts of kindness at work relieve stress and activate the pleasure centers in our brain. Doing something kind for a co-worker can also benefit our own emotional health and well-being. 

So today, take a moment to consider how you might be more intentional in incorporating kindness into your life. How can you become more altruistic at work and how can regular kindness help you grow professionally and personally? 

Here are a few ways you could get started:

  • Compliment a colleague.
  • Listen with intention when a colleague shares a story or problem. 
  • Offer to help on a project.
  • Buy a cup of coffee or pick up the lunch tab for a colleague.
  • Share an interesting article or resource that you know would be helpful to a co-worker.
  • Talk to someone about their personal or professional dreams and then find a way to help

There are tons of ways to start being more altruistic--feel free to share in comments what you're doing to brighten someone's day and how you plan to continue this is as part of your career practice. 


What Seeds Are You Planting for 2014?

Hands-Holding-Seeds

 

After much reflection on my Word of the Year for 2014 (Juicy Question #4), I came up with three of them. I'm following Chris Brogan's advice here and the words I chose are interconnected in important ways for me. 

The first word for me is "Seed." A word that may seem strange at first, but let me explain. . . 

I have spent a lifetime operating within mechanical frames of thinking, where I'm "building" things--building a career, building a life. Everything has been about "building" and "constructing" things. 

In the past few years,  though, I've come to realize how that metaphor no longer serves me. 

We can only "build" something if we know exactly what we're creating. There are no blueprints or instructions I can follow to create a career or life for myself. That's one of the problems we have in our lives, particularly with our careers. There is no instruction manual that is going to guarantee success if only we follow the rules. Yet we continue to operate as though this is true. 

"Seed" reminds me that life (and careers) are more organic than mechanical. We can nurture the soil and plant seeds. We can tend to the garden, pulling weeds, and watering the growing plants, but for the most part, we must plant the seeds and then let go.

There is no "building" a plant. You put seeds in the ground, you nurture them and then you harvest when the time comes. 

That's another thing--"Seed" reminds me that things happen in their right time. I am impatient and often want to pull up the plants to see how things are progressing. This does nothing but kill (or at least weaken) what I have planted.

I must trust in the process and focus on what I can do to nurture the new plant. I have to let go of being able to control outcomes or even know what is happening beneath the  surface of things. 

Related to this, I'm realizing, is that not all seeds will grow. Sometimes the conditions aren't right or the seed was just a dud.

This means I need to be OK with letting go of seeds that don't germinate right now. I can spend far too much time trying to bring a dying plant back to life. I need to remember that not all seeds will make it to the harvest. And that's OK. 

Ultimately I chose "seed" as a way to take action in my life and in my work. 

Each morning I am thinking first about what seeds I want to plant that day. What experiences do I want to have? What types of relationships do I want to grow? What small steps forward can I take to seed  greater possibilities on down the road? 

I also have to ask myself how I need to tend to the seeds I've already planted. What in my garden needs attention today? And what sort of attention? Is it water? Or plant food? Or do I need to remove the weeds that may be encroaching into my space? 

So what seeds are you planting in 2014? What do you want to grow as you move through the year and what do you need to do to tend more carefully to your garden? 

Feel free to share your answers in comments or over on The Bamboo Project Facebook page.  


5 Career Goals You Should Set for 2014 And Some Resources For Getting There

Welcome to 2014! 

Last month I shared a series of 30 Juicy Questions to help you grow your life in 2014. They were designed to get you thinking about what you want and how you want to experience your life and career in the coming year. 

Now that you're ready for action, I wanted to pull together some resources to keep the momentum going.

First, some of my suggestions of career goals for you to consider setting in 2014. Then some resources to help you set and achieve your goals. 

 

Some Smart Career Goals to Set

Make 2014 your year to . . . 

1. Maintain a Career Journal--People who use career journals tend to be more successful, happier in their careers and better able to think about and work toward their desired futures. At a minimum, consider logging your small wins 

2. Develop multiple income streams-- Smart careerists don't rely on a single source of income, especially in today's economy. Find a way to start working on another income stream so that you can build financial stability and expand your talents through diversification. Consider a soulful sidegig. Believe me, you will learn SO much from the entrenpreneurial experience!

3. Start Experimenting With Your Career--I'm a big believer in taking an experimental approach to your career. Many of my best projects have started with "What happens if I do this?" Your experiments don't have to be huge--shifting your thinking to be more experimental and starting to try out some different things can often create big results. Or start with a 30-Day Trial. This keeps things short and sweet. 

4. Get Intentional About Building Your Circles of Connection--Most of us hate "networking"--believe me, I hate it too. But I'm with Jefferey Davis that we should be thinking more about the DIT (Do it Together) economy, rather than the DIY economy. And the best relationships and connections don't just happen by accident. We need to be a little strategic if we want to make new connections and develop our existing relationships. 

5. Stop Doing Some Things--Sometimes goal setting and progress is about what we STOP doing, rather than what we start doing. What can you put on your "stop doing" list to make room for healthier habits and goals? 

 

Resources for Setting and Achieving Your Goals

Here are some great links to get you started on setting and achieving your 2014 goals: 

How to Actually Be Successful in Achieving Your 2014 Goals–Achieving goals is really about changing your daily habits. The best strategy for changing your habits is to form a new identity as a person who does certain things. This post walks you through the process.

Change Your Life by Setting Goals with Soul–Danielle LaPorte writes about how goal-setting is really about chasing particular feelings–we set goals because we want to have certain experiences or feel a certain way.  Her suggestion is that you start with the feelings you want to have and go from there. 

Find a Word of the Year–Christine Kane suggests that rather than setting specific goals, you find a “word of the year” to focus on.  Then all of your goals flow from there. 

Achieve Your Goals in 2014: Here’s Research that Can Help–From the Harvard Business Review, links to a number of different articles to support goal-setting and setting yourself up for success.

How to Use If/Then Planning to Achieve Any Goal–A strategy to help deal with distractions in achieving your goals.

 

What career goals are you setting for yourself in 2014? Let me know in comments or over on the Bamboo Project Facebook page


30 Juicy Questions to Grow Your Life in 2014--Day Thirty!

Throughout December, I asked a juicy question each day to help you plan for a healthy, resilient 2014. You can see all the questions for the month here.

We've reached the last day, so it seems appropriate to ask this one:

Next steps

After 30 days of questions meant to help you reflect on so many things, at this point you're ready to be thinking about next steps. What do you want to DO in 2014?

One thing that is important about this questions is the issue of readiness--what are you ready to do? 

In coaching, I will ask people "What next steps could you take?"  This is a brainstorming question. What are the possibilities before you? 

I follow it up with "What next steps will you take?" This is the readiness question. Of all the choices, what will you actually commit to doing? 

What is also important is to think of "next steps." Steps are one foot in front of the other. They are not leaping or plunging ahead. They are small and manageable. 

So . . . what next steps are you ready to take into 2014? 

Happy New Year! And thank you for playing along this month!

 


30 Juicy Questions to Grow Your Life in 2014--Day Twenty Nine

Each day in December, I'm asking a juicy question to help you plan for a healthy, resilient 2014. The questions are in no particular order--just meant to provoke some thinking and get you moving in fresh directions. You can see previous questions here

  Fail

This question asks you to go out on a limb and to accept that big rewards in your life only come when you're willing to risk failure. 

We are often kept small because we want to stay in the comfort zone of perfectionism. We see failure as something to avoid, rather than as something embrace as part of the journey. 

As you think about your life in 2014, how can you invite in more opportunities to fail? And how can you change your relationship with "failure," so that it becomes a necessary by-product of risk-taking, rather than something to avoid at all costs? 

Of course, to fail more, you must also be willing to learn from your failures. This is part of the experimental approach to life where we try things out and learn from what happens as a result. Failure that we don't learn from isn't helpful. 

So, where in your life do you need to fail more? How can you make friends with failure and enjoy its rewards? 

As always, feel free to share your answers in comments or over on The Bamboo Project Facebook page. I'd love to hear from you!

And if you want to try out the VisualsSpeak Image Center to explore one of these Juicy Questions, check out my free holiday gift to you!