Eyes are Everywhere

There’s a saying, “Dance like no one is watching.” And I love the positive message behind it – that you should be able to do what makes you happy without caring what others think. Beautiful.

But take a step back for a moment. Ask yourself: what is it I love to do that I don’t care if people see? And a follow up question: why would it matter if they see?

These are important questions for a two main reasons.

  1. Someone always sees. Think about the number of surveillance videos that are regularly shared on the news catching someone in the act of doing something. Think about the unintended audience of children who see what you do and often try to mimic it or do it themselves later.
  2. You’re not being true to you. If you’re ashamed to let others see you enjoying something you love to do, there is more work for you to do as it relates to living your true self. Are you hiding something you love to do for fear of criticism? For fear of being cast out? For fear of being made fun of? Or are you hiding something that you love to do because it’s so different from how people know you?

Consider for a moment what life would be like if you were free to be who you really are, the person who loves art, dance, rap or theatre. The person who lives for fitness, sports and competition. The person who loves to make money, share ideas or help others. What if you could know yourself and be yourself. What could your life look like?

Oftentimes, the hardest part to gaining greater clarity of oneself is making the time and the effort to tune in to oneself to see who you really are and what you really want from this one great and amazing life.

Take Action
Take a moment to tune out the world and tune in to yourself. Are you living honestly and authentically? Are you taking advantage of the strengths and talents you have to make your life exactly as you want it to be?

Consider the expectations people have for you. Are these expectations aligned to your values, goals and strengths? Or, do you find yourself making decisions to please others more than to align to who you are and how you can live your best life?

By gaining greater self-awareness, you may find that some expectations just don’t fit you any longer based on your evolution as a person; as you’ve grown, your values have changed. Be open to being who you are at this moment, and go live and be the best version of that person. In doing so, you will be happier, more confident and more capable to live who you are, with or without and audience.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading I Don’t Believe in an Identity Crisis

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Making Memories (and Why Being Present Really Matters)

My mom recently sold our childhood home. It was bittersweet going through boxes of things as my sisters and I helped her pack up the house. Over the course of our time packing things up, we were reminded of so many memories, so many things we did or experienced over the nearly 25 years that this house was our home. Over and over we’d say things like, “oh my God, do you remember this?” and “I can’t believe we survived that!” and “I completely forgot about this…why on earth would we hold on to this?” and “Dear God, burn those pictures… yikes.”

It brought up memories that generated lots of stories and lots of laughs as we relived the experiences we had and shared when we lived in that house.

As I reflect back on that day and the memories it brought back to the surface, I think what was most precious about it was the reminder of how present my mom was in all aspects of our lives. In every one of our stories, my mom played a role. Even in the stories we shared when she wasn’t a key player, she knew about it. She was always there, watching, listening and caring. She was totally present in our lives.

I’m reading a book called Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford and one of the messages the author shares is the importance of being present in everything you do by ridding yourself of distractions. Whether it’s the phone, the TV, challenges at work or something else, forcing yourself to be totally present in the moment is how you make memories. It’s how you build and sustain relationships. It’s how you truly live life.

I often find it easy to zone out and scroll through Facebook or check email at the end of the day as my boys finish dinner and I wait for the next round of dishes to be handed to me, but as they burst into a fit of giggles, I’m quickly reminded that these days of their toddler giggles as they *frustratingly* throw peas across the table at each other won’t last forever. And I’ve put the phone down. I don’t turn on the evening news. I only put some soft background music on that we can listen to, music we all sing along to and dance to together.

Those are the memories I’m making. Those are the memories we’re going to share when we’re uncovering things as we move on to our next adventure. And I’m so excited to relive those memories, and even more excited to be present in each moment so my boys know I’m always there and always listening, despite my repeated reminders to stop throwing food and to stop talking with food in your mouth.

Memories – it’s what makes a most amazing life.

Take Action
What is one thing you can do differently today to ensure you’re fully tuned in to what’s happening in front of you? Don’t miss the opportunity to make memories. They will last a lifetime.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading What Type of Parent are You?

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There are so many places in life where we need to step out of where we are to do, say or be something more or different. When confronted with this exact situation, so many people back down. They turn away. They put up with a situation that needs a change. They settle.

I can do it positive message

Just imagine for a moment that you had an unlimited amount of courage. That this courage comes from deep in you and is available to you in any situation that you call for it. That this courage helps you say or do what you need to do with great respect and care for the other person or the other situation. That this courage is yours to claim and to use whenever and wherever you need it. Imagine that this courage helps you achieve the outcome you want.

With this image, do you now feel even just a bit more courageous?

I regularly share that the most wasted emotion is worry. To worry about things that may never happen ruins the current moment. To worry about things that do actually happen just wears you down and limits your success with the situation because you have used your energy to worry and have less available to respond.

And worry erodes our courage. When we focus instead on what our courage can create for us, we replace worry with possibility. Imagining a successful outcome to a problem or challenge empowers us to try when we may otherwise give up.

Life will always require you to tap into your courage. It is one of the abilities we all have, but one that most of us have not developed. It is there to help us through the situations that feel larger than we think we can handle. It is there to help us face challenges, obstacles and problems with the goal of helping us get to the other side and see how capable we are. In fact, the way to grow courage is to use it. The more you take that courageous first step to doing something difficult, the less self-talk you need to use to get yourself ready for the next one. Soon, you can confidently look at life’s situations and know that you have what it takes to figure them out and successfully deal with them.

Take Action
What is one thing that needs your courage to address, discuss or solve? Image yourself on the other side of it, having had success with it. Stay focused on this image. Now, what is the first thing you need to do to take action?

Remember this quote from A.A. Milne, “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and stronger that you think.” You are capable to create for yourself what you want and need at work and in life. Sometimes, it just takes courage to go get it.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Be Someone’s Hero

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A Tantrum is a Tantrum

I have two little boys, both of whom are right in the middle of the temper-tantrum-response-to-life phase. I’m going to be honest: it can be exhausting. You never know what will set them off, especially when they’re tired. For example, I gave one of the boys another cracker the other night and the other one had a meltdown (he had his own crackers on a plate in front of him, by the way). And by “set off,” I mean he was on the ground, rolling around and screaming.

For the parents out there, I’m sure you’re chuckling as you nod knowingly. We’ve all been there.

And we get through it because we tell ourselves “they’re going to grow out of this.” And we try to not react to the writhing-on-the-floor-despite-not-being-in-any-physical-pain activity.

But, I bet we’ve all encountered an adult who seemed to miss the memo that we’re supposed to grow out of temper tantrums. Adult tantrums can manifest in a variety of ways: road rage, a meltdown because a coffee order was done incorrectly, the quick-to-anger boss when a deadline is missed.

Though a 2 or 3-year old’s tantrum may look a little different, a tantrum is a tantrum, regardless of age, and it’s never pretty. And mostly, it’s completely unproductive.

As a parent, we’re encouraged to “just ignore the tantrum” and let it pass on its own. By not giving the child the attention they’re seeking, they learn that an outburst is not the way to 1) get what you want and 2) a productive way to communicate.

As an adult, however, what do we do when we encounter another adult who is having a tantrum? Do we walk away? Just ignore it? Jump in to assist the victim of the temper? Try to talk to the person having the tantrum to help them become aware of their actions?

I recently read a paper about childhood tantrums and one line really stood out to me: “Frustration is a perplexing foe of learners of all ages…suggestions…won’t help, because the child’s feelings have overwhelmed his ability to think.”

Sound familiar?

Everyone gets frustrated; that’s a normal part of being human. Sometimes being frustrated can be exacerbated by being tired or hungry, (hangry is a real thing in our house), but it’s the response to the frustration you feel that separates the self-aware from the self-unaware. The self-aware person can recognize that they are frustrated and upset. They can determine if it’s a real emotion or one that is enhanced because of being tired or being hungry. They may take a breath, walk away, ask for help, have a snack or try some other calming method.

The self-unaware person reacts, letting emotions take control. They yell, cry, throw things or start fights. They don’t intentionally choose to manage what they’re doing and may, after the fact, lament their behavior.

The self-aware person responds, intentionally choosing what they will do next.

The self-unaware person reacts, losing control and letting their emotions dictate their behavior.

The next time you find yourself on the verge of a tantrum, stop and notice what’s going on with you and what’s happening around you. This is the first step to becoming self-aware, to wisely choose your next action.

Call it what you want, but a tantrum is a tantrum, regardless of the age. Be self-aware. Be-self-managed. Be emotionally intelligent.

Take Action
Stop and notice how you handle aggravation, frustration and disappointment. How will you remember to pause so you can control what you do next? Notice the response from those around you as you do this; it’s an encouraging reminder to keep doing it.

Though this may be a little advanced for a 2-year old to comprehend (remember the meltdown about the extra cracker for his brother?), an adult with the ability to think logically and with reason should remember to have control over their emotions and the ability to act with intention. Consider this before you allow your emotions to take charge.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading That’s Life

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The Imposter in the Room (it’s not you)

Raise your hand if you ever feel like you don’t belong for some reason. You’re not smart enough. You don’t work hard enough. You are just lucky and don’t deserve to be here.

Sound familiar?

This is called Imposter Syndrome. It is strikingly powerful and very real. I can recall a few instances in my life when I thought, “this was just luck; it has nothing to do with me.”

I watched a TED-Ed video recently about Imposter Syndrome and the closing line was, in my opinion, the most powerful and should become everyone’s mantra: “you have talent, you are capable, and you belong.”

As coaches, we work with clients to build confidence, to realize that life is what it is and it’s up to you to make it what you want it to be. Many times, the lack of confidence or self-doubt our clients experience is rooted in the Imposter Syndrome, frequently the result of their individual performance blocks.

Feeling like an imposter is real, but it can be quickly managed when you do the following two things:

  1. Check in on your abilities. Stop and notice three things that you are good at in whatever it is that is challenging you. With this awareness, you can negate the feeling of being an imposter when you see how capable you are.
  2. Stop comparing yourself to others. If you spend your life comparing, you will reach for things that are the gifts of others, causing you to look past your own gifts. The only thing you should ever compare is your current performance to your potential.

The next time you feel yourself questioning whether you’re worth it, or if you belong, Stop and Notice. Consider why you feel this way. Is it rooted in truth? Or is it your belief? You may find that one of the most frequent reasons why you feel like an imposter is because you’re comparing yourself to others.

Take Action
If you have 15 minutes to spare, I strongly encourage you to watch the TEDtalk “Do you ever feel like you’re not enough?” It is a thought-provoking presentation that brings up things we encourage our clients to think about, as well. And when it’s done, Stop and Notice. What’s working in your life and where is change or improvement needed? Consider the actions you can take to make a change and choose one – just one – action you can start to implement to move toward your change.

Having some trouble getting started? Contact us.

Still not convinced it’s not something everyone experiences? Check out this article by Beth Monaghan, CEO and Co-Founder of Inkhouse, an integrated PR firm, in which she shares her own experience with Imposter Syndrome.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider watching Being Uniquely You

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Give Me Clarity – and Courage

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Though this quote by Reinhold Niebuhr is used in both serious and funny scenarios, I think it perfectly sums up a good coaching session. Coaching is focused on guiding you to gain clarity of yourself and your world so you can wisely choose an intentional or productive direction for you in work, relationships and life.

A coaching session calls a lot of things into perspective, whether you want to hear it or not. You gain clarity to see things with greater understanding. This lets you more clearly see your own goals, directions and personal expectations and learn how to align them to who you are and to what is possible.

Many times, you may enter a coaching relationship with a particular outcome or goal in mind, but through greater clarity, you realize the goal was more for others than for you. Does that sound familiar?

Keep in mind that coaching is not mentoring. Mentors give suggestions and advice. They accelerate learning in particular areas. Coaching, instead, guides you to see what is, solve your challenges and learn to identify, accept and work with what cannot be changed. You decide what success is and what it looks like for you. You, with guidance, consider your options to achieve your goals, then choose and act. Your coach is your clarity and accountability partner, helping you stay focused, clear and true to the goals you’ve defined for yourself.

Through coaching, you see, define and develop realistic, practical and achievable outcomes. That is being your life’s owner. That is being intentional in your decisions because you are clear about what is possible.

As poet e.e. cummings says, “It takes courage to grow up and be who you really are.”

Courage and clarity through some assistance and guidance. That is how a coach can help you grow up to be who you really are.

Take Action
It’s up to you how you want your coaching relationship to look, what goals you want to be accountable for, and how you define and strive to reach those goals. Contact us to schedule a free 15-minute introductory conversation to see if coaching, and our style of coaching, is the right fit for you.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Bad Days Don’t Have to be Bad

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Be On the Disengagement Hunt

There are things in your workplace and life that disengage the people around you.

It could be meetings that run long, have no agenda and don’t seem to get things accomplished. Or working for a manager who has never learned how to be self-managed so they make everything urgent and operate in react mode.

It could be outdated household rules that used to make sense but now don’t. Or it could be conflict between two siblings who just haven’t learned how to respect and honor the feelings of each other.

Regardless, there are things in our days that make work and life disengaging, things that take the wind out of us, tax our energy, challenge our emotions and encourage a feeling to either do just enough or to check out.

Can you think of one of these going on right now?

In these situations, work and life don’t seem either great or productive.

What to do?

Amp up your vision and become more intentionally aware of those things that you and others say and do that deactivate, depress or stress others. Pay attention on purpose to not only what is said and done but how it happens. These moments have information for you from which you can start to make small changes that result in raising the energy and engagement in your situations.

It could be something as seemingly small as saying a positive comment to a coworker on their way into a meeting. It could be sharing how to have a productive argument with your two teens so they learn how to solve problems instead of just aggravating each other. It could be being aware and mindful enough to not say that sarcastic or biting comment because you know the effect it will have on the recipient.

Ask yourself: are you watching, considering and choosing (on purpose) what and how you do things to raise the engagement and make the outcome better?

Take Action
Place a Post-It note in a place you will see it frequently with a message like “make things better” or “engage don’t disengage.” Create whatever word or phrase will remind you to watch for the events, circumstances and things that disengage the people around you, then choose to change what and how you do things to change the mood, energy and engagement level. The change will impress you.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Thank You For What Didn’t Happen

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See the Bigger Picture

Most of us have tunnel vision. We primarily focus on what is right in front of us, if we even really focus at all. We get caught up in the pace of the day and the moments blur one into another. Soon, we look at our watch and the day has passed. Did we make progress on things that matter or did another day just make us run in place? We miss seeing that this moment is always part of something larger.

Blinders up so you can't see what's happening around you.

You can only change what you notice. It requires awareness, attention and intention to step back and  gather the expanded perspective to ensure you are moving forward in a way and in a direction that matters.

Author Stephen Covey reminds us in Habit #2 of his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, to “begin with the end in mind.”

Start by getting clear of the goal or direction. Then stand back. See the big picture. Stepping back and allowing yourself to see the full landscape helps you see what things will encourage or interrupt what you want to achieve. Though it is good to really focus on achieving a goal, many talented people get blindsided by the things they didn’t take the time to notice that could affect their direction or plan. Their success gets interrupted by something that was completely manageable – if they had learned to step back and make time to see the bigger picture.

Here are some bigger picture questions to reflect on:

  1. What is one thing I need to work on to help me be more effective at work, in my relationships, etc.?
  2. What would make this year happy and successful for me?
  3. Who has left a great impression on me and why?
  4. What is one thing that could interrupt my progress on a specific goal?
  5. What am I not asking or seeing that I should focus on?
  6. How am I making a difference with the people in my life?
  7. How am I developing gratitude and appreciation for my successes?
Habit #2 from Stephen Covey's book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Begin with the end in mind

Stop and notice if you make time to see the larger view of things. Stop and notice if you go through work and life more reactive than responsive, jumping into decisions instead of taking the time to better understand the situation and see it from multiple perspectives before choosing how to move forward to improve your outcomes.

Take Action
What areas in work and life would benefit from a larger view? Create context to minimize an issue or raise it in importance because of the expanded perspective. This requires you to step back to expand your view in order to gather information. Make the time to get more information so you can make your best and wisest decision. See the full picture.   

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Something Just Happened and You Asked, “Now What?”

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Caregiver, learning self-management to be better

Learning How to be Self-Managed

Do you have an epic nickname from when you were younger? Mine was Mom. I was the mom of the soccer team, the mom of the friends, I was/am the mom among siblings (to their chagrin), and now the “real” mom to my own kids. I have always gravitated toward the caretaker role so the nickname came naturally. Epic, right?

Super Mom, Caregiver

I learned to embrace the nickname because it meant people trusted me. They knew they could depend on me for whatever they needed. But because of that, it was confusing and frustrating to me from a young age that the people I cared so much for would frequently do so many dumb things and, as a result, lean even more on me. Sometimes, I felt the need to fix things that probably didn’t need fixing (cue the fights with sisters). Sometimes, I felt tired and burned out and would often remove myself from social situations to just avoid having to care for someone else. But in this situation, I’d feel immensely guilty and selfish and would go out of my way to make it up to whomever I let down (according to my own belief, of course).

This was my normal until I became a Life Coach and learned about a self-management tool that we call the Energy Funnel. Basically, the Energy Funnel illustrates that there are six different ways to respond to any situation, some catabolic (limiting) and some anabolic (growing). One of the anabolic or big energy levels is the caregiver. This is a response that is helping, healing, supporting, loving or nurturing others.

Notice, however, that there is no mention of “self” in that description. It can be a wonderful thing to be known as reliable and dependent, to be the trusted one in the group. But it can be exhausting.

This is why being self-managed is so important. Just like with other levels on the Energy Funnel, the benefits are also coupled with liabilities. Sometimes, you can care too much at the risk of forgetting to care for yourself. Sometimes, you can care so much that people will feel like you’re smothering them.

I recently read a fantastic blog on Scary Mommy about being the natural caretaker. Blogger Wendy Wisner wrote, “…I know there is beauty in stepping up to the role of nurturer, of being willing to put your own feelings and needs aside to serve others in your life…But therein lies the rub – and that’s where things can get dangerous. You see, there is dark side to being a natural caretaker. Natural caretakers want to jump in and cure everyone and everything, which is actually impossible. They want to take away everyone else’s problems, sometimes without recognizing that other people’s problems are primarily their own responsibility.”

Take the time to get to know yourself, your strengths and liabilities, so you can know the whole you.

Learning how to be self-managed, to recognize when to reign in the natural tendencies to care and love and heal, is critical to any natural caretaker’s well-being. But this goes for everyone, regardless of how you identify yourself. Learning and understanding that your strengths, when left unchecked, can become a liability is key. As we share in our coaching, your strengths and your energetic response shouldn’t be considered as an on-off switch. It should be more like a dimmer. Slide it up when the situations warrant it; slide it down when it doesn’t. The more aware and mindful you are, the more you will see that one-size-fits-all never works. Instead, know yourself and manage yourself. Just because it comes naturally doesn’t mean the situation you are in needs it.

Wendy closes her blog with some guidance to her natural caretaker readers: “The only way that you can continue to bring that incredible light and love to others – the light and love you’ve been blessed with always – is if you are health[y] and happy. And sometimes that means learning the fine art of saying no, holding your ground, and putting your own needs first.”

Take Action
Take the time to understand your strengths and your liabilities. When you gain greater awareness and clarity around what activates and inspires you, and areas where you don’t feel you shine as bright, you can become a more well-rounded person. And this is the ultimate goal: to become a complete version of yourself. To recognize your strengths and use them, but to also manage them based on what any situation calls for.

Take 10-15 minutes today to ask yourself what your strengths are. Now ask a friend or family member. Do the same for your liabilities. You might find some eye-opening opportunities to make your next moment better.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading It’s Just Another Manic Monday

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Managing Your Self-Talk

A big part of who we are at The Forte Factor is dedicated to helping our clients be the best version of themselves. To discover, develop and live their strengths. To work toward their definition of happy and successful.

To do all this requires you to be aware of your world, aware of yourself and, perhaps most importantly, being self-managed, recognizing that sometimes your strengths may be too strong for a specific situation, and your liabilities may be unchecked.

In a recent article by psychologist Joan Rosenberg, she talked about five irrational thinking patterns that can negatively impact how you think and feel about yourself. Reading through these thinking patterns, it reminded me of the importance of self-talk. Tuning in to who you are is a challenging first step to the coaching experience. It requires you to tune out the rest of the world and be completely honest with yourself to identify your strengths, your liabilities and what makes you happy.

For those of you who take the time out of your day to tune in to your self-talk, how much of it is negative?

Your negative self talk is that sneaky voice seems to come from nowhere, challenging your confidence and making you think twice about something you’re about to do. “You’ll never be able to make that sale.” “You don’t belong here.” “You are not good enough.” “You are completely out of your realm here. You don’t even have a senior title.”

At The Forte Factor, we call this your Super-Committee – the negative, critical and unproductive self-talk our inner critic is all too eager to share. Our Super-Committee challenges our confidence and competence, reminding us of the times we’ve failed in the past. Though its motivation is positive (it really just wants to protect us from things that didn’t work in our past), it can keep us small, stuck and afraid to go for the things we want in work and life if left unchecked and unmanaged.

So how do you manage the Super-Committee? It’s all about your self-talk.

Everyone has had some failure in life. Whether big or small, it can elicit the same uncomfortable feeling every time you think of it. So, embrace the failure. Recognize what happened and own the mistake (this is part of being human). Work through your feeling of discomfort. Ask yourself: what can this experience teach me? And how can I be better next time? Challenge yourself to be completely honest and identify what worked and what didn’t work. Don’t judge it. Simply notice and learn from it.

You’ll find your Super-Committee can be a bully. Similar to not giving bullies any ammo to make you feel bad about yourself, working through uncomfortable emotions and situations allows you to shift your self-talk from negative to positive. You can’t feel like a failure if you see yourself rebounding from the situation bigger and better.

One thing I love that Joan Rosenberg says is that it’s your decision how you think about yourself and how to you talk to yourself. You always have the choice to make life what you want it to be. If you choose to be happy, you have the ability to make that happen. Take control of your life. Start with how you talk to yourself.

Take Action
Think of something that happened to you recently that made you particularly uncomfortable. Think about that event and focus on the emotion(s) you felt. Take a few moments to reflect. What happened? Why did it elicit the type of emotions you felt? What did you learn from the event? How could your Super-Committee try to use this event against you in the future?

Manage your self-talk and your Super-Committee by being self-aware. Nothing can quiet the loud inner critic more than being confident and clear about who you are.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Value of Setbacks

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