More About Impact
More About Impact
Last week I shared some thoughts with you about the concept of impact. In a nutshell, you have a critical responsibility to know the impact you want to have, be aware of the impact you do have, and accept full responsibility for both. My hope is that you were able to play with the information I shared, and implement some of the suggested strategies for doing so.
That being said, I realize that there is a little more for me to share. There’s something about impact that needs to be addressed from another angle. You see, while it’s important for you to take responsibility for the impact you have on others, it’s also vital that you take responsibility for managing the impact that others have on you. Let me explain.
In the same way that you have an impact on others, the people in your world are having an impact on you. Always. Some people raise your spirits, some bring you down. Some make you nervous, some lighten your load. Some cause visceral tension, some bring the equivalent of sunshine into your life. These are all examples of the impact of others, and it’s essential that you pay attention to such impact – ALWAYS.
Your objective is to surround yourself, as much as possible, with those who have a positive impact on you. What you want is to be impacted in such a way that you show up at your very best. This is not to say that you don’t want to be challenged, or angered, or saddened by others. But it’s about noticing impact patterns. Here’s an example:
I have had people in my life who constantly “bring me down”. These are individuals who are caught – or seem committed to being caught – in a negative warp of some sort. Their language reflects this negativity. Perhaps they’re regularly sarcastic, or use put-downs, or mock others, or seem determined to see roadblocks where you would rather explore possibility. As someone who’s aware of the impact of others on my life, and who’s aware of the impact I want to have and experience, it is my responsibility to notice these patterns, and minimize my time with such individuals.
Don’t get me wrong. These people are not to be avoided altogether. These people have a right to their perspective and their impact; what you have to do is determine whether or not you are going to allow their impact to become pervasive and by extension adversely affect your world.
When you look at the relationships in your life – professional, personal, whatever – ask yourself: does this person raise me up? If so, in what way? Does this person bring me down? If so, in what way? Is this a pattern of impact that I’m noticing? Or is it a one-off, situational experience? If it’s a pattern, why do I allow it to continue?
Bottom-line: part of your responsibility around impact includes being accountable for how you allow others to impact your life. When you notice yourself continually feeling drained by another’s presence, ask yourself if it may be time to step away from that dynamic? If stepping away isn’t possible, for whatever reason, ask yourself what you can do to mitigate their impact. When it comes right down to it, it’s all about ensuring that you way you show up is optimal for whatever your intention might be. And taking responsibility for how others affect your way of being, totally matters.
What’s Your Impact?
Several years ago, when I was participating in a powerful leadership program, I had the opportunity to learn about the importance of impact. The nugget of my learning was that we all have an impact, and as leaders we have a responsibility to know what impact we want to have, to be aware of the impact we do have, and moreover to take complete and totally responsibility for the impact we have as it happens.
Since that time, I have had opportunity everyday to play with the concept of impact. I get to notice and play with my own impact. I get to observe and respond to the impact of others. And I have come to understand how powerful a concept this “impact” thing is.
Every single one of us is always having an impact on the world around us. ALWAYS. What we say, what we do, what we don’t say, what we don’t do, how we say things, how we do things – essentially how we show up – leaves a mark on the world around us. This is impact.
So many of us go through life with very little thought to the impact we’re having. We speak and act without paying attention to how our words and actions land out there in the world. We don’t notice when we create waves, or when our words or actions land with a thud. Perhaps more importantly, because we don’t notice, we don’t take responsibility. This is the piece that is so detrimental to the relationships in our lives. This is the piece to which I want to draw your attention.
Now, understand me. I’m not suggesting that you are responsible for the reactions and feelings of others. How people choose to respond to your words and actions is a reflection of who they are and where they’re at. That being said, you do have a responsibility to be aware of the impact you’re striving to create, and to stick around and notice whether or not that is, in fact, what got created. If for any reason it is not what was created, then you have a further responsibility to do what you can to change the impact so that it is what you want to create.
So, here’s how awareness of and accountability for impact can play out. If you’re angry, say something – and notice how it lands. If it lands in such a way as to damage the relationship, take ownership of whatever your piece is in that. If you’re meeting a friend in a coffee shop and your conversation starts to get super-loud to the point that it’s disruptive to others, be aware of that –and shift it. If you walk into a room and the buzz of conversation stops, ask yourself, what is it that just happened? What is your role in creating this silence? Don’t make stuff up; ask others about your impact. Learn about how you’re shaping the world around you.
On the flip-side, you’ve got to be aware of how you are being impacted by others. If you find yourself in a situation and playing small – what’s that about? If, every time you interact with a particular individual, you come away angry or drained, ask yourself what this person’s impact is on you? And, perhaps more importantly, why you’re allowing that impact to continue? When it comes to impact others have on you, you want to ensure that those who raise you up, challenge you, bring out the best in you, is who you’re allowing to impact you.
Bottom-line: it’s time to stop walking around and acting as if your actions and words, and the actions and words of others, are hanging out in a consequence-free bubble. You are surrounded by others and your presence leaves its mark on those others. Similarly, their presence leaves its mark on you. Know what you want your mark to be and, as corny as it sounds, how you want to be marked. Be aware, and then be accountable, both to others and to yourself. Take responsibility for your place in your world. This is the hallmark of effective human interaction.
When Was the Last Time You Failed?
So, I’m following a gut instinct here. I wasn’t planning to write about failure this week, but something tells me that this message needs to be shared.
Last Monday, I had the opportunity and privilege to speak to a group of graduating college students at Fanshawe College. This group of 18 and 19 year olds are wrapping up their work in broadcast journalism and preparing to embark on the next steps of their professional journey. Their instructor wanted me to come in and share some ideas to help motivate and inspire them as they prepare for whatever’s next. His sense was that many were excited and simultaneously fearful, worried, uncertain about what lay ahead. So, I shared a few pivotal things from my perspective, ideas that I wish people had told me when I was young.
The learning that seemed to evoke the greatest sense of relief was the following: failure is okay. Moreover, failure isn’t something to be feared or avoided it’s something to be celebrated. You could almost feel the tension in the room dissolve as the permission to fail settled in.
Admittedly, some were skeptical of my request that they learn to celebrate failure as much as success. As one lady pointed out, failure feels disappointing, and it can feel disingenuous to ignore that. My response? Celebrating failure isn’t about ignoring the disappointment. It’s about being with that disappointment for as long as necessary, but then challenging yourself to move beyond that. It’s about discovering the learning, celebrating that, and then moving forward knowing that “failure” has informed your journey and helped to lay the foundation for your eventual success.
This particular lesson is one that did not come easily for me. Truthfully, it’s one that I’m still integrating into my life. I’m getting better at it. I’m learning to raise my hands sky-ward and say “ta-da!” when I fail. And what I know, even when I find myself resisting the celebration, is that our relationship to failure is a good indicator of how successful we will be in whatever we endeavor. If you fear failure to the point that you avoid it, you cannot expect to experience success. Because it is extremely rare that you succeed to the degree that you want the first time out of the gate, no matter what you’re tackling.
Bottom-line: if you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough. You’re stuck in a comfort zone. And success never happens in your comfort zone. Sure, it’s comfortable, familiar and even somewhat enjoyable. But true success is experienced on the other side of failure. True success is about stretching beyond your comfort zone. If you haven’t failed lately, it’s time to stretch.
So, You Want Things To Change; Do You Have What It Takes?
Given that we’re smack on the cusp of seasonal change, writing an article dedicated to the topic seems timely and relevant. So many of the clients I’m working with are desiring a change of some sort and simultaneously feeling challenged by the idea. In other words, they’re wanting something different, but they’re scared of something different. Sound familiar? I know I can relate.
You see, paradoxically, change is one of those eternal constants. It has been said that the only thing we can be sure of in this life is that things will change. The world changes, the seasons change, we as a society change and evolve. As human beings, we simultaneously crave and resist change. Change is actually necessary to the fulfilling experience that we all long for. And it’s not always comfortable (hence the resistance).
So, if change is so essential to the human experience, it can be helpful to understand how to bring it about. How do you embark upon change with grace? How do you ensure that the change you experience is the change you want? How do you make change happen?
In short, there’s one secret – or perhaps, pivotal is the more appropriate word – ingredient to make change come about most effectively. That ingredient is commitment.
Commitment is that quality that will allow you to persevere. Commitment to change is what will help you keep your eye on the big picture. Commitment is what will enable you to do the “tough” work, even when you’re not feeling so inclined to do it. Commitment is what will help you find your way around obstacles – perceived and otherwise. Commitment is what will ensure that you do things differently, so that you can experience things differently. This is why, when it comes to change, commitment matters above all else.
Bottom-line: if you want things to change, you’ve got to make a commitment. So ask yourself: whatever change you’re facilitating or desiring at the moment, how committed are you to making it happen? How willing are you to take the necessary steps? How dedicated are you to sourcing the energy, enlisting the support, asking for help and doing what needs to be done? Your answer to these questions will tell you how ready you are for change. Commitment. This is the secret to experiencing the change you desire.
Feeling Overwhelmed? These 3 Steps Will Get You Back in the Zone
Over the course of my life – personally and professionally – I’ve learned a lot about self-care. I’ve learned the importance of paying attention to nutrition, activity, and rest. I’ve learned how to draw boundaries and honor them. I’ve learned to pay attention to how I’m feeling and make changes as necessary, in order to stay grounded, healthy and on track.
In spite of all of this learning and knowledge, every so often I find myself smack in the middle of overwhelm. And it would appear that I am not alone in this (big surprise!). In working with various clients this week, I’ve noticed a trend into the land of overwhelm – a trend that seems to run counter to the energy of our much-anticipated spring season. The reasons for such overwhelm are many, and really don’t merit a whole lot of discussion in my opinion. What does merit discussion, however, is how to get out of it. Because if you don’t know how to get out of overwhelm, you’ll find yourself swimming in a murky pool of “yuckiness” for far longer than necessary. And that doesn’t serve anyone well.
From my perspective and in my experience, the process of stepping out of overwhelm is a simple one. That being said, this very simplicity is what gets in the way of its effectiveness. For some reason, we as human beings resist the simple. And it’s time to stop, especially if we want to hang out in an effective, productive zone, more often than not. Here’s the 3-step process for getting out of overwhelm:
- That’s right. When you find yourself in overwhelm, when you recognize the signs (which, admittedly, are different for everyone) take a break, take a breath, force yourself to stop whatever it is you’re doing, even if only for 5 minutes.
- LET GO. More specifically, let go of what isn’t serving you. As the Marcus Buckingham says, ““Many of us feel stress and get overwhelmed not because we’re taking on too much, but because we’re taking on too little of what really strengthens us.” Odds are, when you’re in a state of overwhelm, you’ve taken on stuff that doesn’t align with what matters to you, or what works for you. So take stock of what’s on your plate, determine what you can and should remove, and let it go.
- Ask what? Ask for help, that’s what. So often being in overwhelm is a function of that infernal tendency to try and do things solo. Let me assure you: no successful person ever did things on his or her own, so stop thinking that you will somehow be the exception to that paradigm. Get clear on what help you need and seek it out.
Bottom-line: overwhelm happens to the best of us. Staying in overwhelm for too long, however, can be detrimental. Fortunately, there’s a way out and familiarizing yourself with the process is the key. Stop, let go, and ask for help. That’s all it takes. Get comfortable with the process, and soon you’ll be able to keep overwhelm at bay, more often than not. And that is always a good, good thing.
What’s Stopping Your Success? It’s Probably Not What You Think!
So, here we are, almost ¼ of the way through the year. I’m willing to bet that at the beginning of 2015 you set a goal or two. Hopefully, you’ve been working diligently towards those. Perhaps you’ve already achieved them. If it was a fairly big goal, however, you’re probably still on the path towards it. And maybe, just maybe, you’ve settled into a bit of a rut.
Don’t get me wrong. I know you’re still working towards it. You know that the only way to achieve it is to work towards it. That being said, there’s this trap that you may well have fallen into. It’s the trap that I call, “but it’s not perfect”.
Here’s how it works. Essentially, as big and lofty as your dream is, you begin where you are, by taking small steps. That’s wise, for sure. After all, as the proverb states, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The trap lies in staying in that small step, because you tell yourself that you need to “perfect” whatever is involved here, before you can move on to the next step.
On some level, this feels true, right? And can you possibly progress to B if you haven’t mastered A? And yet, I’m here to challenge that belief. Because what I know for sure is that if you’re waiting to PERFECT this step before you move on, you may well be stuck AND you’ll inadvertently lower your expectations. And when you lower the expectations, you lower your level of achievement.
So, what’s the solution?
You don’t wait for perfect. Instead, you move on once you’ve achieved a reasonable level of success. At the point where you are successful more often than you’re not successful, that is the moment to challenge yourself to try the next level. By raising the stakes, raising the bar, you challenge yourself to step into your potential. As a bonus? Often you’ll end up perfecting that particular skill you were working on, just by virtue of the fact that you set your expectations higher.
So, whether you’re a team working on the development of a project, an artist looking to finish a work, an athlete aiming to reach a milestone, or anyone else who’s working towards something specific, it’s time to raise the bar. Rather than telling yourself that you’ll try something once you’ve mastered this stage, let go of the need to be perfect, allow yourself to be good, and then take the next step.
Bottom-line: your human nature is always to rise to the level of the bar. If you’re truly committed to reaching your goal, stop focusing on perfecting the step you’re on. Instead, raise the bar and you’ll raise your level of success.
How Well Do You T.H.I.N.K.?
Last week, I talked about the importance of listening. This week, despite what this article’s title might have you believe, I’m actually going to share some thoughts about speaking. More specifically, I’m going to challenge you to consider the filters you use (or don’t) when you decide to speak.
So often, the things you choose to say are articulated in response to something, without a whole lot of thought to the impact of those words. In other words, you speak without thinking. The words come out of your mouth without having first been put through a filter of any sort. As a result, you say what you didn’t mean to say, or what you say isn’t actually necessary to the relationship or circumstance in any way.
So how do you avoid the hazards of speaking in such a fashion? You follow the adage to “think before you speak”, AND you use “think” as an acronym for the filters required. In this context, whatever you’re about to say, you want to ask yourself:
- Is it TRUE?
- Is it HELPFUL?
- Is it INSPIRING?
- Is it NECESSARY?
- Is it KIND?
Using the word “Think” in this way is not mine. I saw it online somewhere – I believe on a facebook feed, although I’m not sure of the exact source. What I like about it is that it provides a really concrete way to apply the whole “think before you speak” ideal. It tells you exactly what you need to be thinking about, in order to determine whether or not something is worthy of speaking.
Ideally, as you apply these filters to your words – whether spoken, or written (e.g., email or text) – you’ll pass all 5 filters. That being said, the challenge lies in the fact that things like “kindness” can be subjective. So the question to ask in that case is, is it your intention to be kind? Or are you speaking to be mean, malicious or otherwise hurtful? If it’s the latter, then whatever you want to say should probably find another outlet – like your journal.
The other filter that can pose a challenge, is that of “inspiring”. I’m not sure that everything that is articulated can be – or should be – inspiring. But perhaps, if it passes though all of the other filters (true, helpful, necessary and kind) then it becomes inspiring. Something to think about.
Bottom-line: as a leader in any context – professional or personal – when you model the appropriate use of filters of this sort, you help to build a safe container in which your group can interact. You set the stage and create the space for meaningful, helpful dialogue to transpire. Think before you speak; this age-old wisdom has survived the test of time for a reason.
Are You Sure You’re Listening?
To be a truly effective communicator, you’ve got to stop talking. Yes, you read that correctly. Too many of us – myself included – talk too much. Our collective reasons for talking are many and varied – to convey information, to make ourselves heard, to appear knowledgeable, to feel understood. Whatever the reason might be, our need to talk is getting in the way of effective communication. Why? Because listening – not talking – is the skill that holds the key to understanding; and understanding is at the heart of meaningful communication.
So, what stops you from listening effectively? The fact that you confuse LISTENING with HEARING. They’re not the same thing. When you hear what’s been said, you may well be able to regurgitate what you’ve heard, sometimes flawlessly. When you LISTEN, however, you can do so much more than that. Not only can you repeat the words that have been articulated, you can connect with another person, you can feel what they’re feeling, you engage in a meaningful, fully present way. When you truly listen, there’s a way that you absorb what isn’t actually said, and sometimes, what isn’t said is of more importance than what is.
Body language, voice tone, silence – these are the subtleties that give a simple sentence so much meaning. If all you’re doing is hearing, then you’re going to miss those pieces – and you’re going to miss the heart of the matter, more often than not.
In recent weeks I’ve come to believe that many of us crave that sense of being understood. In an effort to experience this understanding, we explain, we defend, we elaborate – in short, we talk. Because we’re talking, we’re not listening. And because we’re not listening, others are not listening to us. It’s a cyclical, reciprocal thing.
So, how do we stop the cycle? Well, we stop talking. Moreover, we start listening. We make a conscious effort to let go of the need to explain, elaborate, and defend. We commit to really hearing what’s underneath the words that are coming at us, and we open ourselves to that space of being fully present and engaged. When we’re in that space, then we’re listening. And when those around us feel really listened to, then we in turn will be given space to be heard.
Bottom-line: it’s time to stop talking and start listening. As Simon Sinek says, “there’s a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak.” Don’t worry about getting your turn at the metaphorical microphone. Instead, focus on understanding the one who’s doing the talking in the moment. And then, you will find that you are given space to speak, based on what you UNDERSTAND, not on what you HEAR.
How Are You Measuring Success?
Sometimes, I glean the greatest knowledge and wisdom from my kids.
This past week, my daughter had a dress rehearsal for her competitive dance team. By the time you read this, she and her teammates will actually have completed their first competition. This time in dance season is always busy, fun and filled with a range of emotions. There are feelings of fear, doubt, happiness, excitement, joy and exhilaration – and everything else you can imagine. The dancers work hard, they put themselves out there, they set goals and they strive to achieve them.
The nature of these events is competitive. That’s why they are called competitions. They’re not festivals, not recitals, but competitions. Dancers and groups of dancers square off against others, each trying to deliver their best performance in the hopes that the judges will come out in their favour. Sometimes, there are multiple numbers in a category. Sometimes there’s just one. Regardless, there is anxiety married with a desire to just enjoy the moment.
My daughter has been dancing competitively since the age of 6 – so for 7 years now. In the last few years, she has danced several group numbers, a duet or trio and a solo. As her mom, my nerves ride high for all of these numbers – I want her to do well and, moreover to FEEL like she’s done well. This is somewhat challenging, because I’m not always sure what “doing well” looks like for her. Where does she have to place to feel like she’s “done well”? How does she have to perform? Well, this weekend, I got my answer.
After dress rehearsal, Liv and I were talking about her goals, her desires for the coming season. It’s kind of a ritual that we engage in. As we talked about what a successful season would look like for her, she articulated these words: “I used to care about where I placed. Now I care about what mark I get.”
I confess, I had to smile.
I realized that my daughter had hit on the key to success in competition of any sort, and it’s a bit of a paradox. You see, as much as you are competing against others – and you are, there’s no denying that – the true measure of your success lies in how well you do in relation to yourself.
When I asked her to explain, she elaborated by saying this: “I used to worry about where I placed. I didn’t want to place last. And I see that others are really worried about where they place. But I just want to do well. So long as I get the mark I want, then it doesn’t matter so much where I place.”
Now, understand, I’m fairly convinced that Liv loves to come first in any category. Actually, I know this, because I’ve seen the glow when she and her teammates accomplish this. That being said, she’s learned – or perhaps, she’s realized – the wisdom of not being attached to where she places. In other words, her sense of success is not based on a measure of how she does relative to others; it’s about how she does relative to herself.
This is one heck of a powerful life and leadership lesson.
Too often, we compare ourselves to others, we gauge our success by others, or (to quote a colleague) we compare the inside of us to the outside of others. We see what THEY have accomplished, achieved or acquired and we hold ourselves to that outside standard.
While there might be value in seeing what the external competition is like, I believe that there’s more value in taking a look at the internal completion. What are YOU capable of? How are you moving forward? How do your actions and achievements today measure up against your actions and achievements of yesterday? Are you further ahead? Stuck in a rut? Moving backwards? These are the measures that matter.
Bottom-line: while competing against others, in any setting, can be exhilarating and even fun, you tread a dangerous path when you gauge your sense of self worth by measuring up against others. Competition isn’t really about how you do against everyone else. It’s about how you do against you. And that’s a lesson worth holding on to.
Pivotal Life Lessons from My Own Experience
- One of the greatest gifts you can ever give to someone is your time.
- Truly great communicators are those who know how to listen.
- Saying “no” to someone can enable them to find their own strength.
- Viewing failure as something celebration-worthy opens up a whole host of opportunities.
- Learning how to fail is as important (maybe even more) as learning how to succeed.
- Mindfulness enriches life immensely.
- Knowing who you are and what you stand for matters.
- The concept of perfection is a misnomer; true perfection is found in the supposed flaws.
- Routines are great until they become ruts.
- All your ducks will never be in a row; sometimes you just have to go for it.
- Meditation is actually very, very simple.
- The answers you seek are always within.
- Taking care of yourself allows you to care for others.
- There’s always a positive way to view something.
- Allowing yourself to stand in awe, makes life feel awesome.
- There’s something great about a family pet.
- Dancing, singing and skipping are totally energizing J
- Nothing beats fresh, homemade food.
- Talking and laughing with good friends is the best therapy on the planet.
- If you really, truly want something, you’ll find a way. Guaranteed.