Posts Tagged ‘Emotional Intelligence’

Adjusting Expectations

July 23, 2010

This was to be my summer.  I had spent several years meticulously re-habbing several nagging injuries.  I had gained strength and set ambitious goals for climbing, biking and mountaineering.  Then one little moment changed that.  I was on a climb in Squamish when I pulled and twisted in an awkward movement.  At that moment my summer, and my plans, were changed.

The injury isn’t severe, but enough so that I was in bed for a week and now slowly nursing myself back to health.  At first I was really bummed.  What about all my goals?  I had worked so hard…blah, blah, blah.  I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and rather depressed.  Then it hit me.  The source of my suffering lay in my expectations.  If I had different expectations then I would have a different experience.

So, I have adjusted my expectations.  I have set more modest goals and I am choosing to see this as an opportunity to become more at home in my body, to learn to listen to the signs/symptoms of what it is telling me.  I am still disappointed by what I won’t be doing this summer, but the sting of those disappointments is greatly reduced.  And I am welcoming the opportunity to achieve some of my other goals…like learning to slow down and enjoy relaxing in the hammock and reading a good book!

This reminds me of a quote that I have on my wall….

This is the way to your inner most home:

Close your eyes

And surrender.

~ Jalalludin Rumi

Questions: What expectations (explicit or implicit) do you have that are creating suffering for you?  What/who is the source of those expectations?  Are those expectations serving you?  What do they produce?

Laughing While Falling

March 4, 2010

I just returned from my annual ski trip with some buddies.  We had a few days of skiing in beautiful Telluride, CO.

the boyz in Telluride

My objectives when skiing are generally to: Have fun and enjoy my friends.

When I take a closer look, however, I see that I am also trying to:

1) Look good, and…

2) Avoid falling down

When I do fall I tend to get frustrated.  I try to analyze what I did wrong, I make excuses to myself, or think “I should ski something easier so I don’t fall.”

JK having fun, falling or not!

This changed, at one point during our trip, when I took a minute to watch my friend and colleague Johnny K as he skis.  I noticed something really strange.  HE LAUGHS WHILE HE FALLS DOWN!  He is actually having fun in the midst of crashing!  Check him out in this picture…he hasn’t even finished crashing and he is looking up and laughing!  And then it struck me — this is consistent with how he lives his life.

Seeing him laugh while crashing — he really goes for it when he skis — opened up a whole new possibility for me.  First, I saw that if I wasn’t falling I wasn’t going for it.  Second, I saw that in trying to look good and not fall I was undermining my ability to ski at my best — trying NOT to do something makes me tense, tight and fearful.  Most importantly, skiing this way is less fun.

So, in the spirit of a good Johnny K head-over-heels crash, I ask you:

1) where are you taking yourself too seriously?

2) where are you trying to look good or not fail, at the expense of achieving your dreams, goals and aspirations?

3) what could you gain if you brought a focus of fun, laughter and learning to what you are doing?

Have fun…and go for it!

John M finally having fun in the midst of a wipeout.

Human DOING

December 10, 2009

[Post by John McConnell]

I have been going full tilt now for several months.  Really fully engaged in my work, my play, my family, my life.  It feels really good.

Yesterday I was scrambling to pull together the final details for our first newsletter, while packing for a trip to California, while attending to few client needs, while planning my holiday gift buying, while…. you get the picture.  Sound familiar?

On the one hand I love it.  I am so plugged in right now.  Generating, learning, sharing, doing, checking things off the list….  On the other hand, I think I lost the OFF switch.  As I boarded the plane I pulled out my laptop thinking “if I can just get one more thing done…”  And then I stopped.  And I FELT IT.  That state of being where I am no longer BEING, but rather stuck in the DOING mode.  I am a HUMAN DOING!

So what did I do?  I finished that one thing.  I kept pushing, even though some part of me was saying, “whoa, its time to slow down for bit.”  And I’m doing it right now.  Posting this blog as my last action before going into a 3-day training to continue my own personal and professional development.  I am choosing that.  Given what I am committed to right now it feels right to me.

That said, I know I am close to the point where I will lose the ability to CHOOSE.  I’ll be stuck in GO/GO/GO mode.  Historically I know that I’ll do that until something makes me stop.  Usually for me that involves getting hurt or sick.  So, I take a moment to breathe.  Stretch my shoulders.  Soften my eyes and brow.

Doing is so seductive.  Yet whatever I get done there will be another thing to do.  Fortunately, the training I am going into will help me slow down.  I am committed to slow down.  Do a Sudoku, take a nap, take a walk, take a bath.  Call my wife and tell her I love her.  It is time for me to bring my BEING self back to life.

How about you? Are you choosing your pace of doing or is it choosing you?  What are the unintended consequences your current pace?  How are you balancing the doing with the being?  What action or inaction might you do for a few minutes or a day to slow down, recharge, renew?  What little actions can you take in the midst of the doing?  My favorite on-the-fly techniques are: pause and take a deep breath; soften my eyes/brow; smile; think about something or someone I love; remind myself that I really do have all the time I need.

By the way, the project I was working so hard to push forward is our announcement of our new website and our latest offerings.  You can check it out here: http://www.ascentinstitute.com/news/ascent-news-2009-dec.html

We invite you to join us!

Astronauts

December 5, 2009

[Post by John Kanengieter]

“So this Russian Cosmonaut, and an Italian and American astronauts go into a bar…..”   Sounds like the start of a bad joke, right?

I’m writing this while on a flight home to Wyoming from Houston where I just spent 2 days in quarantine at NASA’s Johnson Space Center with an International Space Station crew.  I enjoy working with leadership teams in high-risk environments. The four of us engaged in an intensive team development and leadership session.  I laughed, commenting that living with them sounded much like the start of a bad bar joke as they were representing the afore mentioned countries.  It was a great experience and we all gained from working with each other on the dynamics of creating great teams.

One of the aspects we talked about was leadership practices while under stress. We discussed how they tend to react and communicate under stress and crisis.  I observed them as they prepared for an emergency crisis simulation that they would be put through by NASA later in the day.  I reminded them of the importance of calming oneself by slowing down and creating a stillness in the mind.

At the Ascent Institute, we work to teach this as a ‘leadership practice’.  It’s important to consistently practice this skill-whether you call it meditation, sitting, deep relaxation, etc- so that when your body and emotions hit the stress redline you can focus on what’s important and not react and be controlled by fear and aggression. Leaders especially need this focus and centeredness as they move through adversity.

…..

Now..…I mentioned I’m writing this on a plane.  Just an hour ago an alarm sounded and the pilot mentioned that we were diverting to another airport in Cheyenne in order to land as quickly as possible and get this checked out.  Apparently a sensor went off indicating that the door could open and lose pressure and that’s evidently not a good thing on a plane.  It didn’t help that two passengers near the front said they heard a bump just prior to the alarm.

While making the quick descent I noticed our small cabin went quiet and I started to see some white knuckles.  I felt my own breath quicken.  It was at this moment that I was reminded of the words that I spoke to my astronaut friends.  I shut my eyes, started focusing on my breathing and noticed my anxiousness literally flying out of my body.  We landed, smart guys fixed the light, and we’re now on our way.  By the time you read this I’ll have already been home in front of my fireplace, enjoying the stillness of the Wyoming winter.

Take a minute and create your own moment of stillness. Refocus on what you want to accomplish today. Be thankful for this wonderful life that you have.  Let whatever stresses you presently are feeling be put into perspective.  Try to do this on a daily basis and watch what happens!

Happy flights!

Johnny K

Johnny K back in his office in Lander, WY.

Declaration in Action

November 2, 2009

Arriving at the rock climbing gym a few days ago I found myself wondering what role fear would play in my climbing on this night.  Fear is a relevant and necessary part of climbing for all climbers.  At times it takes center stage and limits my ability to climb at my best.  Other times I am able to center myself such that the fear is simply in the background helping me stay alert to risks, neither limiting my abilities nor my enjoyment of the experience.

As I walked into the gym on this particular evening a crystal clear thought popped into my head.  “Tonight, I will climb without fear.”  This simple commitment set the stage for my evening of climbing.  At the beginning of each climb I repeated this mantra in my mind.

From this commitment I noticed that I moved more gracefully, breathed more freely, and remained relaxed in the midst of the efforting.

At one particular junction I was faced with a move that felt a little dicey.  A fall from here would be a bit scary and the holds felt tentative and difficult.  Typically at a spot like this my attention would go to my fear (“this hold doesn’t feel too good…a fall from here could be bad…I could just stop and rest on the rope…”).  Instead, the commitment “I will climb without fear” rang in my mind and I returned my attention to making the move.  Absent the hesitation and “monkey mind” that happen when I focus on my fears I moved decisively upward, easily making the move.

After I lowered off the climb both my climbing partner and I noticed that I had climbed with unusual grace and power.  The big grin on my face said it.

A simple declaration.  A powerful result.

Question: What simple declaration will call forth your best self and focus your attention on what you are committed to?  This could be a larger commitment like “I am a commitment to being an extraordinary leader.”  It could be very concrete: “I am a commitment to doubling my gross income.”  Or it could be something simple like “I am a commitment to having fun and laughing today.”

Banks Lake DWS

Deep water soloing (climbing over water), Banks Lake, WA.

Never stop learning

August 11, 2009

Learning is life.  Aliveness.  We are either learning, growing, evolving….or contracting, decaying, withering.  I’m not talking about learning a new tidbit while watching TV.  I am talking about stepping into discomfort, doing something you aren’t (yet) good, developing some new perspective or capacity.  All for the pure joy of feeling alive and thriving.  Draw a picture, learn an instrument, walk in your back yard and pay attention to the birds that live there, pick up a few words of your neighbors primary language, research something interesting on the web, learn to juggle.  It doesn’t matter what it is so long as you are learning.

When I was a kid one of my idols was Ringo Starr of the Beatles.  I wanted to play drums like I wanted to breathe.  I just had to.  For my 8th birthday my parents bought me a real snare drum.  They hired a college kid to give me lessons.  And guess what?  I discovered I have no natural sense of rhythm (something my wife will attest to when we hit the dance floor to this day!)  Learning felt painful, I wasn’t going to be the next Ringo Starr.  So I quit.  As I quit many other things that didn’t come easily or naturally.  Learning can be hard, scary, embarrassing or just plain boring at times.

But here is the thing.  All the research into brain development says that learning is critical for our health, joy, vitality, and overall well being.  Not long ago it was thought that the brain stops developing once we reach adulthood.  Now we know that simply is not true.  Our brains and bodies, our hands and our feet, they are all just longing to develop new neural pathways.  The process of learning keeps us young and vital.  And in order to learn we must develop our commitment and ability to step into the discomfort of doing something we aren’t already good at.

Learning is life.  Aliveness.  Just do it.

Questions:  What have you always wanted to learn?  What skill, language, idea or arena of knowledge have you thought would be fun or interesting?  For the sake of what would you continue to learn and grow?  How would you assess your ability to step into discomfort for the sake of learning something new?

Less BRAKING, more TRUSTING

August 5, 2009

The Tour De France, the most grueling event in sports (2241 miles ridden over 3 weeks), completed last week with an exciting finish in Paris.  The British sprinter Mark Cavendish had won some sprint stages but had never won the final sprint into Paris.  He wanted it BAD!  As they riders approached the last corner before the final straightaway Cavendish was in a virtual tie with the other top sprinters.  Coming out of that turn, however, he launched into the lead and ended up winning by 20 yards — in a race where the victor usually wins by inches.

How did he do this?

Looking at the video it becomes clear.  Cavendish did not touch his brakes as he rounded that final corner while his competitors lightly touched their brakes to maintain a feeling of safety and to hedge their bets against crashing.  This reflects a commitment to win and a willingness to live with potentially negative consequences.  By not braking he ran a higher risk of crashing and losing, not to mention possible injury.

After watching this race I went mountain biking.  As I was riding, I noticed how often I was touching my brakes as I went into corners.  Occasionally this was a necessary check on my speed, but often this was merely a way to FEEL more comfortable.  So I began to experiment.  To my amazement I found that on about 75% of the corners I was braking unnecessarily.  Better yet, this resulted in greater speed, fluidity and JOY in the experience of riding!  Paradoxically, this did not make me more scared, it made me less scared.  Why?  Because less of my focus went into focusing on my fears.  Thoughts like: “oh boy, be careful here, you might be going to fast, look out for that obstacle…”  Instead, I placed my attention on trusting my body’s ability to set up for each corner with the appropriate speed.  As a general rule, we have more wisdom, knowledge, and capacity in our body than we tend to trust.

Questions: Where do you see that you are riding the brakes in your life?  Where are you playing it safe rather than playing to win?  What result do you stand for with such conviction that you would be willing to go for it rather than hedge your bets?  What would you be doing if you believed that you couldn’t fail and/or were willing to live with a few bruises?

I AM a blogger…now

July 27, 2009

I have been thinking about blogging for awhile now.  I kept thinking, “I would like to write a blog.”  And, “I should really write a blog.”  And then there was “I’m really going to try and blog.”

But the fact is, I had never written a real blog, so it was just an idea.  It wasn’t who I AM.  The words in my head were a combination of “wish-ing” and “should-ing.”

While trying to get myself to write today, I had an epiphany.  My story of who I AM in this world includes “not a blogger.”  And that story creates my reality.  And I can change that.

Then I remembered why I want to blog.  To be known, to share who I am and what I am up to.  To inspire, to listen, to learn, to move and be moved.  That sounds fun.  Less like work…more like play.

So, now I AM a blogger.  Expect to hear from me.  From the heart.  Sharing what I’m learning and experiencing.

My Question: Who are YOU?  What is your story about who you are and who you aren’t?  Is that story serving you?  If not, what story would you write about yourself?  If you “want to run more” consider changing your story from “I am someone who struggles to stay in shape” to “I AM a runner.”