Unhinged – How Do You Act When Things Don’t Go Your Way?

Your flight has been delayed. You have a meltdown in the airport and yell at an airline employee. Unhinged.

You and a fellow colleague have a disagreement about how to handle something in the workplace. It escalates into a screaming match, laced with profanities. Unhinged.

Stopped at a light, you look down to check your phone and the light changes from red to green. The driver behind you lays on the horn, flips you a gesture and screams at you. As you start to drive, he passes you, glares at you and mouths some profanities. Unhinged.

Your son was out with a group of his friends and was caught throwing apples from a local apple tree at cars as they drove by. You scream, rant and pace as you address this with your son. Your son yells back. Unhinged.

So many people let the little aggravations, irritations and frustrations of life bring them to a meltdown. They scream, yell, swear, blame, insult and a boatload of other bad behaviors. I call that being unhinged. They haven’t learned how to be calm, respectful, resilient and responsible in a world they have to share with others, a world that sometimes includes things that don’t go as planned. 

There has been much talk of mindfulness in recent years. Good. We need it. Mindfulness is the process of learning to be present to what is going on and then responding (vs reacting) calmly and with intention in a way that makes the next moment, interaction, conversation, response better.

We need mindfulness because most of us are in habit mode – simply reacting to the events of life – and unaware that we are stuck doing the same unproductive behaviors over and over. We can’t even see that we are unhinged. It is important for us to learn how to stop to notice what is going on to then assess what is an effective outcome and how it can be achieved.  

See, until you learn that your responses are always up to you (no one makes you do anything. Things happen and you react or, when things happen, you more mindfully, intentionally and wisely respond). Getting from one to the other is the key to living a happy, successful and responsible life.

So, how do you become more mindful and less unhinged?

First, develop your ability to be aware. You can’t manage what you can’t see. Take a breath in each situation, such as when your flight is delayed, you have a difference of opinion with a colleague, someone is slow to respond to a green light, your kid does something inappropriate. Then, look to understand the situation, your emotions and the outcome you want. In this exact moment, ask yourself this question (a question I ask all CEOs to consider in the situations of their days): Who do I have to be and how do I have to act in this moment to get the outcome I want? It helps you shift from habit to intention. In that moment, you become less reactive. You see you don’t need to lose your cool as it won’t improve the situation or give you the outcome you want. You don’t become unhinged.

Here is the best part. When you are less unhinged and more self-managed, people respond to you differently. Look at those who are routinely unhinged, out of control and self-unmanaged. They aggravate, intimidate and ruin the relationships with those around them. Unhinged parents limit their relationships with their kids. Unhinged managers create disengaged employees who leave when they can. Unhinged spouses and partners end up in dysfunctional relationships or divorces. How likely are you to stay in a relationship with someone who is out of control or continually unhinged?

We see it in life, in the workplace and certainly in the government. Until you take control of yourself to respond differently to the irritations, aggravations and frustrations of work, life and relationships, you will find yourself unhinged, melting down over little things and aggravating yourself and those around you.

Take Action
Stop and notice the last time something got you to scream, rant, yell or be unhinged. Don’t justify your actions, simply understand the situation that inspired your reaction. Now consider, what other responses you could have had in the moment where you focused on the outcome, not on the reaction. For you to get a better outcome, you will need to develop your self-management. See it to start to change it.

Life is as it is – it will always have its challenges. However, if you take the time to choose your response, you will limit the time you feel and act unhinged.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading This Can’t Be It, Right?

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Do Something You Like to Do

“The important thing, kid, is that you’re doing something you like to do.” (American Dreamer, 1984)

One of my good friends turned a hobby into her job, and she loves it. 

One of my sisters changed jobs to do something that was more in line with her natural strengths and passions, and she’s thriving.

My oldest son grabs a few books and his flashlight (whether he needs it or not) to settle in for some reading every day.

In each of these examples, they all have one thing in common: they’re doing something they like to do.

Much of what I see and hear in my reading of what’s happening within the world of coaching revolves around helping people identify passions, talents and strengths. But this is often as far as it goes. Sure, gaining this clarity and wisdom about who you truly are and what makes you happy can be eye-opening and empowering. But then what? Very few people start putting this knowledge into action to create the life they want to live.

It makes me think of the movie American Dreamer (I’m dating myself… or at least my parents… with this reference). A bored housewife decides to enter a writing contest because she enjoys both reading and writing; it is, from the viewer’s perspective, her escape. After winning the contest, she’s whisked away to Paris for a luncheon in her honor, but she instead winds up with amnesia and embarks on an epic adventure thinking she’s the character in the book. It’s a hilarious movie with incredibly realistic scenes (the kitchen scene at the beginning is always my favorite), but it also goes to show that when you don’t let the world dictate who you are supposed to be, when you let your talents, strengths and passions lead you and define you, you can do incredible things. You can be exactly who you want to be. You get to define your identify and determine your legacy.

“So the important thing, kid, is that you’re doing something that you like to do.” 

Take Action
At the end of your life, will you say, “What a ride!” Or will you be more aware of the regret and a lot of “what ifs”?

Understand what makes you happy and make time for it. The reason why you like these things is they bring you joy. If you don’t add joy to your work and life, no one else will. You’ll notice a big difference in how you show up to your world and how others respond to you.

So ask yourself: if you could do anything right now, what would it be? Why?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Is “Follow Your Passion” Bad Advice?

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When “I Quit” is the Best Thing to Do

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” But sometimes, a situation operates firmly in the gray area; you’re not sure what the “right” thing to do is because it’s not as clear cut as you would hope it to be. So, you may find yourself hanging on to a situation because of a promise you made, fear of letting go, fear of failure, or the nagging memory of the phrase “quitters never win.”

And this is a mentality taught to young kids, too. Though done with good intention, kids are often taught not to quit when things get tough, to stay focused and work through frustrations – but the lesson often stops there. There’s often little discussion, if any, about what is too hard, too frustrating, too damaging. Of what comes after the line has been crossed. When it’s ok to say “I quit.”

There’s lots to unwrap here, but I want to focus primarily on the action of letting go because this is an important distinction. I think many of us believe “I quit” translates to “I give up.” But I think it also lends itself to mean “this is enough” or “I’m letting go now.”

I came across a powerful image that really resonated with me (see right). Can you relate? I certainly could. There have been more than a few situations in my life where letting go was the better decision, even though it took a lot of strength and confidence to first admit it to myself before I could make that move. For example, I took a job that was not directly aligned to my abilities thinking it would be an opportunity to grow and try new things. It was, however, the opposite. With little guidance and a challenging management system, I was looking for a way out after just three months. But, I convinced myself that leaving a job after three months would reflect poorly on me and my career history; no one would take me seriously if I left a job after just 90 days – that’s barely enough time for the traditional three-month review for new employees!

So, I stuck it out. And got sick. Very sick. The stress of the job did some significant damage both mentally and physically. The final straw came on Thanksgiving Eve, approximately nine months after I took the job. And that’s when I quit. Within 1 week, I felt better. And 1 month after that, I was back to my normal self.

Think about the thankless and unhealthy relationships you have been in, and how long it took to finally quit. Think about the workplace when you held onto a low performing employee, who, after much coaching and a lot of support time, still choose to do as little as possible in the job. Think about the unprofessional or inappropriate advances that another person makes toward you and you just think it’s part of how things are done.

In the end, quitting the job, the relationship, the workplace may be the best thing for you. But to get there, you have to first allow yourself to realize that there’s a line between giving up and letting go. You have to decide where that line is.

Take Action
Think about a situation you are currently in that you may find frustrating or challenging. Imagine how you want things to be instead. Now, how will you get from where you are to where you want to be? What action(s) will be required to make that dream a reality?

Parents – consider talking to your children about what is too hard, too frustrating or too damaging. Help them understand when quitting is ok and not ok. Help them define their line between giving up and letting go.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Learning How to Be Self-Managed

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Life would be easier if…

Have you ever thought to yourself, “life would just be so much easier if [insert event, complication, person, etc.] weren’t around?”

But would it? What would life be like without person/event/complication? In most situations, those very obstacles make us the people we are capable of being. The real trick is learning how to be more present in those moments to judge them less and understand them more, to respond and not react. Consider the person who regrets something they’ve said as soon as the words leave their mouth. Reaction. Consider the person who hits instead of talks. Reaction.

Now consider the consequences of those actions.

But what if instead of reacting, of saying something you didn’t mean or doing something you didn’t mean to do, you let yourself take a moment to observe, consider the information available and choose how to use what you now know to respond with intention?

Consider the person who thinks about what they want to say before they say it, letting them process the real message they want to share. Response. Consider the person who thinks about being physical before actually hitting someone, and instead uses words or chooses another action, like walking away. Response. 

We talk a lot about responding vs. reacting because it requires significant self-awareness to act with intention. Reacting is programmed in our heads; it is part of our fight, flight or freeze survival instinct. Sometimes, it’s what is needed to keep us safe. But in most cases, responding, or acting with intention, provides a more successful outcome. Think about a difficult situation you were faced with. Consider your actions:

  • Did you respond?– You see where you are and you see where you want to be. You start to consider how to close the gap between the two to get to your desired outcome.
  • Did you react? – You see where you are. You ruminate on what has happened, unable to look ahead or gain control of your emotions, making it hard to take thoughtful actions toward achieving what you want.

I recently came across a great reminder about the power of looking forward: “There’s a reason the windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror; where you’re going is so much better then where you’ve been.”

Take Action
If you find yourself wondering what life could or would have been like, take a moment to stop and notice what’s happening around you and to reflect on your reaction. What situation caused you to think of what could have been? Is it fact or is it something you believe to be true?

Instead of saying “what could have been,” how can you change the question to an actionable statement: “I wonder what would be if I…”

See things clearly. Choose wisely.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading That’s Life

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This Can’t Be It, Right?

Not sure about where your life is right now? It’s ok, we’ve all been there. We start to question if we made the right choice in jobs or careers. If we made the right choice in our partner. If we made the right choice to become a parent. To buy a house, get the dog, move to a new place entirely.

Life is full of choices, and sometimes, we can find ourselves getting so caught up in the pace of our everyday life that we forget to check in with ourselves to ask: Is this what I want? Or is this what others are telling me I want?

Sometimes, that check-in happens before making big decisions. Sometimes, it comes after a big decision has been made.

If you find yourself asking, “how did I get here? or “this can’t be it, right?” then this program is for you.

Join us for a 4-week program to learn how to ask yourself the tough questions – and be honest enough to get real answers. Take the time to get to know the real you and how to connect that you to the opportunities in work and life that fit, whomever you may be.

Sign up here.

Disclaimer: This program is designed as a coaching program. Participants will be given access to proprietary tools and a thought process created by The Forte Factor, but these tools do not provide the solution to your question. You are responsible for identifying your goal and working on achieving it. You define success. As a coach, I am here to be your accountability partner. I’ll help you stick to your action plan to work toward your goal, but I will not tell you if your goal is right or wrong, good or bad, productive or unproductive. That is for you to decide.

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The Imagine Game

My (almost) 3-year old loves to make inferences, to guess why something is happening the way it’s happening. And his younger brother gets equally excited to hear all the ideas and to jump in when he can.

For example, our dog could start barking. It immediately results in a flurry of questions about why she’s barking so I’ll turn the question around: “Why do you guys think she’s barking?” Their eyes light up – especially my 3-year old who is so excited to share his ideas with me – and the reasons come pouring out.

“Maybe there’s another dog out there! Maybe it’s a cat? Maybe it’s the wild turkeys again! Maybe it’s nothing… she barks at nothing sometimes. Is it a truck? A car? Did a tree fall down…?”

Regardless of the question, the ideas go on and on until he either finds one that suits him or he and his brother end in a fit of giggles.

They love this “game” so much, I created the “Imagine Game.” The rules are simple: notice something about your surroundings and ask why it is the way it is.

Why do you think that dump truck drove by so fast?

Why do you think it’s so windy?

What do you think we’ll find over there?

It’s a fun game that gets the kids’ creative juices flowing and gives me a little insight into what they’re thinking and feeling that day.

But it’s more than just a fun game to play with my kids. It got me thinking about our behavior as adults. Why don’t we play the “Imagine Game” when we grow up? Because we spend most of our time in habit and react mode. We’re so busy moving through the motions of the day that we forget to make time to notice what’s happening right in front of us, to give it some thought and see where those thoughts take us. It might end nowhere; it also might lead to an idea or thought that may otherwise have been unreached.

Imagine is one of the coaching tools we use at The Forte Factor to encourage our clients to take a step beyond their limits for just a moment to imagine the achievement of a goal or what could be possible.

By allowing yourself to imagine and hold a different outcome in your view, you open up possibilities that a mind in react mode can’t access. 

Taking a few minutes of the day to imagine something without restrictions can not only get the creative juices flowing, but it also allows you to see what could be. And you just may discover that your first step to reaching your goal(s) is to imagine getting there.

Take Action
Take five minutes today to notice something about your world and imagine why it is like it is. What’s the weather like? What is traffic like? What do you hear when you stop and notice? Pick something and focus on it. Ask yourself why it is the way it is. Allow yourself to imagine the scenario playing out.

Now, think of a goal you’ve set for yourself. Imagine yourself achieving that goal. What does success look like to you? How did you get there? Use this exercise if you find yourself getting stuck and needing an extra push to keep working toward your goal(s).

Find three places to use the Imagination Game in work or life this week. See how things change.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Be On the Disengagement Hunt

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Experiencing Emotions

Sometimes, you feel angry and you can’t seem to get out of the downward spiral; everything just makes your mood worse. Sometimes, you just need to cry and can’t stop. Sometimes, you’re so contagiously happy you seem to be operating in your own world.

I can guarantee that as a human, you regularly experience these emotions. We all do.

Experiencing any of those emotions is not good or bad, right or wrong. It’s what you do when you experience them that determines your degree of happiness or suffering as you go through life. Remember, life and its events are neutral. We add the meaning. Each emotion we experience is telling us something about us and our world. Sometimes we like it; sometimes we don’t. But when we really tune in, we get to experience all of life.

Consider how you would fully experience these events.

  • You wake up happy, rested and excited about the day. The sun is out, the sky has no clouds. There is the smell of coffee coming from the kitchen. Spend a moment with this.
  • You wake up upset and tired. You have a headache. You spilled breakfast on your work clothes and need to change, which got you caught up in traffic and made you late for work. Spend a moment with this.
  • You received some tough health news. More tests are needed but your next appointment is not for two weeks. You will have to distract yourself while you wait for the additional tests. Spend a moment with this.

I’m the first to raise my hand to say “been there!” Whether happy, nervous or sad, our emotions help us make sense of our world. So, consider how you can choose to experience and learn from your emotions – to help you either focus on the joy or the lesson in each moment? Feel, then manage your emotions to help you wisely, successfully and productively show up fully present, aware and authentic in life.

Take Action
The next time you find yourself experiencing an excess of a specific emotion, take a deep breath. Allow yourself the time to fully experience it – what it feels like to be happy, relaxed, worried or upset.

Then ask yourself: what emotion(s) do I want to stay in and what do I want to learn from then move away from? Hold on to those that bring you joy, happiness and contentment. Learn from, then let go of, the others.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Are You Putting Bricks in Your Backpack?

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Are you Ready to Act Like a Manager?

Being human means that sometimes our emotions get the best of us. Consider whether you would react or respond to the following situations.

  • Your best employee just gave her notice.
  • An employee has been late to work twice this week.
  • Your department is over budget in its spending for the month.
  • An important email was sent to a customer with typos and inaccurate information.
  • Two employees argue in front of the customer.
  • The office gossips about an employee who is having a personal problem.

You can vent. You can rant. You can react. But if you do, what is likely to happen is that you may not solve the situation but rather aggravate your team or customers in the process.

Instead, you could respond with intention. When responding, you allow yourself to see the situation from external and internal perspectives.

External. Stop and notice what is creating the situation. What information do you need to fully understand the situation to be able to handle it effectively? What are the circumstances, personalities and details affecting the situation? What is working and not working in this moment that is creating this?

Internal. Stop and notice you. What is your emotional state? What of your strengths will help you here? What triggers have been activated that you will need to manage? What situations or events of the past are you bringing forward?

The guidance I share with the executives I coach – and that has direct application for all managers – is to pause for a moment in any of these situations to get informed about the internal and the external. Once you fully understand the situation, the reason for it and what is going on with you, ask yourself this question: “Who do I need to be in this moment to create the outcome I want?”

It is in this moment that you can see your habit to vent, rant and overreact, or to wisely and calmly review and manage yourself, will affect the outcome and results you want. To be an effective manager requires that you act with intention, to respond instead of react.

Effective managers and leaders are present to both their situations and themselves. By stopping and noticing both the external and internal, they can more wisely and more intentionally respond instead of react. Relationships improve. Productivity and performance improve. Results improve.

Take Action
Stop and notice a challenging situation happening in your workplace. Take the time to gather the information you need – the external and the internal –  to be ready and able to solve it. With the information about the situation and your own review of yourself, ask yourself Who do I need to be in this moment to create the outcome I want? With the information you have, choose with intention what you do next.

This doesn’t mean you won’t raise your voice or get angry in a challenging situation. It just means that you choose that response after consideration of the situation, rather than default to an old habit. And when you take the time to consider what to do, you will likely find that the raised voice or anger, though a possible solution, may likely be an infrequent option in favor of a calm, sane and methodical response.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading A Tantrum is a Tantrum

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Out of Your Clouds

Flying has great wisdom to share.

When you are in the clouds, you can’t see anything. Your view is limited. You feel closed in. You feel restricted.

Rising above the clouds expands your view in every direction. There are no limits. Opportunities can happen. Things feel possible.

In work and life, where are you in the clouds? Where is your view limited and restricted?

How will you get yourself out of your clouds so you can consider new opportunities and make big things happen?

Take Action
When you find yourself stuck or in a challenging situation, ask yourself these two questions to help get yourself out of your clouds:

  1. What is another way to look at [this situation] that will give me a better outcome?
  2. What am I not seeing that I should see or consider that will help me see things differently?

Consider this: when you think you’re not as great as someone else, or lack a certain talent or ability, maybe all that is going on is you are stuck in the clouds. 

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Give Me Clarity – and Courage

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Managers: How to Identify and Correct your Blind Spots

You are a great manager, at least most of the time. But like every other human, some of your behaviors are actually unproductive. This holds significant unintended consequences for a manager. For example, being unaware of an unproductive behavior can lead to disengaged employees, lost opportunities or missed results.

These unproductive behaviors are your blind spots.

So, how do you see what gets in your way (your blind spots) and, more importantly, how do you correct them?

We are creatures of habit, and we are all pretty mindless. This is not a criticism or judgment; it is an observation. We do so much in our day out of habit that we are not mindful and intentional in some of our choices and actions. And the more mindless we are, the more our unproductive behaviors (blind spots) show up in our days, negatively affecting our results.

A blind spot for a manager could be any of the following:

  • Always telling employees what to do instead of asking, guiding and supporting.
  • Watching for what’s not working with employees instead of what is working.
  • Being cheap with praise for work well done.
  • Being overly compassionate where others don’t see you as a leader, or overly dogmatic where others don’t want to work with you.
  • Holding others to behaviors that you don’t maintain for yourself.
  • Communicating in one method with everyone, regardless of its ineffectiveness.
  • Fear of confrontation or conflict.
  • Arrogance and disconnection from others.

Since blind spots are unproductive behaviors that you cannot see, the first step to improving your performance is to identify your blind spots so you can work on them. To do this requires intentional and focused work on yourself to increase your self-awareness.

Here are two things you can do now to identify your blind spots.

  • Self-evaluation. Make time without any interruptions. Focus on how you manage others and your work. To summarize what you notice, draw a line down the middle of a page. The left column is for you to summarize what works in the way you manage. The right column is for you to summarize what doesn’t work in the way you manage. The list of what’s not working will help you see your blind spots.
  • Ask others. Using the same what works and what doesn’t work format, ask several of your peers, direct reports or others to honestly share their perspectives. With their results, simply ask what the results share about your habits. Highlight any needing attention.

Being aware of your blind spots is good. It provides you with the information you need to improve on what’s not working in your management style. To make those improvements, consider how you can mindfully address and correct a blind spot. Consider these two ways to act on your intention to make improvements.

  • Rank your unproductive behaviors as most urgent / important to correct to the least urgent / important. With this awareness, consider ways to improve it. Work with a peer, your manager or with a coach to brainstorm ways to make improvements. From the list of ideas, select the best idea(s) and build and implement a plan to improve. Ensure your plan includes improvement metrics. You must be able to see and measure progress to eliminate the blind spot.
  • Engage an accountability partner. We all know we have things to work on to improve our performance, but we don’t do them. This is why some people go to a gym instead of working out at home, or walk with a friend instead of walking alone. We frequently need to be accountable to another to keep us on track. Identify a peer, colleague or coach who can help you stay on track by regular check-ins as well as monitoring progress.

We are all human. We each have habits that get in the way of what we want to achieve. This is particularly obvious when we manage others. Tune in to identify your blind spots. Build and implement a plan, and work with a partner to make improvements. For every blind spot you eliminate, you improve your impact and performance.

Take Action
Take 10 minutes today to ask yourself – honestly – what’s working and not working in the way you manage others. What do you need to see in your approach that you are not currently seeing? Then ask a colleague to give you honest and productive feedback. Uncover your blind spots so you can shine light on them to correct them.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Reasons Why Your Best Employees Will Leave You in 2019 (and What to Do About it)

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