What if it Were Up to You?

My dad was a wise man. Of the many gems he shared over my lifetime, one remains with me clearer than all others. He said, “Your job is not to change the world, only the piece of it you touch.”

That line has been remarkably helpful as I am aware of the extreme number of things in our lives that need attention. Global warming, country unity, personal respect and acceptance, resilience in tough times, racial inequality, political division – the list is overwhelming.

With an agenda this great, it is easy to inspire feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, leading you to throw your hands up in the air and say, “Why bother?” At least until you remember my father’s guidance.

His statement is as much a statement of purpose as it is mindfulness. It is our job to pay attention on purpose, noticing where we are at this moment, and asking the question, “What could I do to make this (whatever is right in front of me) better?” Not the whole world, but just this piece, right here, right now.

Supporting my dad’s perspective is the wisdom of the Chinese Confucian philosopher, Mencius. He shared that we would like the world to be stable and predictable. That good things happen to good people. But in fact, the world is actually more unstable and capricious. Tough things happen. Bad things happen to good people. We can be disappointed by this, or we can realize that in the presence of tough times, there is the opportunity for us to improve what is right in front of us – to continually make things better. Not that we each have to be responsible for making everything better, but rather just the things that cross our paths. And these improvements can activate the performance and commitment of others.

So, improving the world (because there is always something needing improving) is not up to you. However, improving your piece of this world (your relationships with people who don’t agree with you, your use of power and natural resources, your acknowledgement of others’ greatness, your appreciation for others’ diversity) is up to you and can make a profound difference. The goal is not to be discouraged by the lack of large progress, but to focus on consistent, local, small progress. That is yours to see, own and do.

We have a lifetime to stop and notice the things around us and make a commitment to improve them. And, as the flame of one candle can light thousands of other candles, your work to make things better in the piece of the world you touch can activate the same spirit to make the larger and necessary global changes.

Take Action
See the value in doing your part. What can you do today, right now to make the piece of the world you touch better? How will you not look at the massive scope of our challenges and problems and get discouraged?

Stop and notice the areas that you can influence today. Start here. Make a commitment to stop and notice yourself and your world, and continually ask, “What could I do to make this better?” Then go do it.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Make the Most of Tough Situations

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Slow Down So You Can Speed Up

Can you sometimes be too focused? Can you be so fixated on something that you exclude other options and opportunities?

As a Coach, helping people set goals is just part of my day. Clarity about what people want and need in their work and lives is essential for knowing where to head and building a successful plan to get there. As Stephen Covey shared in Habit 2 of his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind.” Great wisdom.

But I have seen this get taken too far. Some people’s stamina and grit to achieve what they have in their sights makes them miss even greater opportunities and options around them. With their eye on the prize, their intense focus makes them blind to all of the information circling around them. In a constantly changing world, it is critical to learn how to slow down, review what is present, adjust as necessary then get back on the road with greater and more effective speed and progress.

My guidance to all of us in this moment when we are regularly encouraged to be resilient, build our stamina and grind our way through tough times is to stop and notice, then consider, choose and act.

Stop means take a breath. Interrupt you habit approach to more intentionally Notice yourself and your world. What has changed in you? Does the goal you’re working toward still have the same meaning? What has changed around you? What new information is worth considering?

Interrupting what we always do allows us to take our blinders off and expose ourselves to a larger view of this moment. From that space, other options and opportunities present themselves. They are there for us to Consider.

Consider means to think about the new information shared with you and what you could do with it. How does it change your goal? How does it offer a new and more efficient approach to the goal? How does it provide something you had not previously thought about? In the moment of taking a breath, the view of the world could change, saving you from a difficult time or offering you something more dynamic. Slow down and let your world talk you.

Now with a greater number of things considered, Choose what you want to do and Act on it. This could look like where you were already headed with a little more clarity or focus, or it could be something entirely new. Regardless, you’ve gained greater clarity as you continue moving down your achievement path.

Take Action
Many of us have learned to just push through hard times. Though stamina and grit are great skills, they can distract you from a mindful and thoughtful approach to a changing world. As the ancient Greek philosophers told us, “nothing too much.” In other words, manage what and how you do things to be your most effective.

Interrupt your normal approach by implementing a daily or weekly Stop to create the time and space to Notice you and your world. Assess what is new or different. What information does it have for you? From an expanded view, Consider what new options or opportunities are available. Choose what makes sense then ramp back up and go Act to make progress.

Regularly slow down to review so that when you speed up, you are making each forward step count.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Managing Your Self-Talk

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What You Don’t Know About Your Employees is Impacting Your Team’s Performance

The outside world generally knows more about your employees than you do. And realistically, there’s little surprise here. There often isn’t time to just sit and talk with employees during the day about anything other than work-related items, and there seems to be a manager-employee divide where many won’t cross that line and friend/follow each other on social channels. Yet these social channels are where so much of this expanded employee information is so readily available, like individual skills, abilities, interests and work experience.

This is a big obstacle in inspiring and engaging employees to perform at their best. Think about it: as the world moves faster and faster and requires greater performance from your employees in ever-changing roles and environments, how do you know what skills training to provide and who would be a better fit in a different role?

Our answer: an inventory of abilities.

Generally, we develop a clear understanding of what success attributes new employees bring to their workplace on their first day as it relates to performing the role they are hired for. But this is only a snapshot of what they can bring to the table. Each employee is equipped with a more robust set of skills, experiences, interests and core abilities. When you add these to the robust abilities of your existing teams, you gain the information you need to more wisely align, develop and promote employees as your world and workplace continue to evolve.

To most effectively tap into these previously unknown strengths and skills, help each employee create an inventory of abilities. This is best done through activities and assessment tools to help employees articulate their strengths and liabilities, interests, values, communication styles, favorite and least favorite aspects of their role, behavioral triggers and blind spots. When employees have a more complete understanding of their potential and their personal drivers, it helps managers see all they are capable of. Having an expanded awareness of who employees are also helps to see who they can become and how they may fit into a workplace that always needs new and different skills and abilities.

The inventory of abilities can help your organization inspire greater employee performance by greater understanding of each employee in three critical areas.

1. Alignment. Having a clear understanding of who an employee is, what they are capable of and what they are interested in doing helps improve role alignment. Employees who are well aligned to their roles feel more capable and competent which activates engagement; engagement is the driver of productivity, performance and retention. It is difficult to get A-level performance from someone who doesn’t have the ability or interest to do what the job requires.

2. Development. Upskilling or reskilling are new terms that are making their way around the workplace and refer to adding new skills or improving the skills employees have to accommodate the changes in both work and workplace. As required workplace skills and abilities change, do you know who on your team has the abilities to respond to the changes? Without this insight, you will only look to the outside talent pool to address performance needs instead of considering your existing and already familiar inside talent. This also adds time and additional resources to effectively onboard new talent, resources most organizations are already short on.

3. Advancement. Few organizations treat a promotion or advancement the way they do an initial job hire; it’s often not even considered to clearly define the expectations of the role and then assess a candidate’s behaviors, skills, education and experience as right for the role. Think about how many colleagues or employees you’ve known to be promoted even though they weren’t interested in or capable to perform what the next level required. By expanding what you know about each employee, you start to see the opportunities in employees that may not be on a linear trajectory but instead one that uses their abilities in a new and different way. For instance, an installer of a product may make a great customer service or project manager because they are intimate with the product, its applications and success attributes. Or a frontline employee may make a great company educator because of what they know and have experienced firsthand.

Each employee only brings a small portion of who they are to their current role. Help them expand what they know of themselves and learn alongside them so you can also better see who they can become as your work and workplaces changes.

Take Action
Information is power. Make a point of gathering more information about your employees from your employees; they come with greater abilities and skills that you currently know or use. Without this information, you will not be prepared to properly upskill and respond quickly and effectively as work and the workplace change.

And, contact us to learn about our Inventory of Abilities tool and approach that we use in all of our leadership, management and employee education.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Get The People Thing Right for Your Business

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How to Poach-proof Your Organization’s Talent

We are, once again, faced with a war for talent. But this talent war looks a little different now.

Before COVID-19, organizations struggled to get employees to perform at their potential, in an environment that was predictable. In fact, for most of the past 20 years, the Gallup Organization reported in its The State of the American Workplace report that the percentage of engaged employees hovered around only 30% of the workforce.

Here’s what that means: only 30% of employees were engaged in their work. They brought their A-game and were connected to making a difference.

That also means that approximately 70% of the workforce was in some form of disengagement; they did just enough to not get fired, or they did even less.

Now, in a COVID-19 workplace, disengagement is amplified by epic worry and anxiety. Employees now worry about foreclosures or evictions, access to food, having the proper cleaning supplies, having and using the right safety equipment, feeling safe in and out of the workplace, feeling disconnected from their teams and friends, struggling to feel successful working from home and feeling uncertain that their job will still exist. Without some assistance from their managers – to feel heard, supported and helped through these tough times – employees’ disengagement rises. Couple this disengagement with employees working from home (not under the scrutiny of management) and the fact that many organizations are actively looking to expand their talent base, and you may discover that your best employees are considering other opportunities with organizations that do a better job engaging their teams.

Consider what your organization does to encourage your employees to stay, regardless of any enticing offer that may come their way. Is there a protective forcefield around your talent to ensure your great employees say no when they’re approached by others?

Here are 3 commitments organizations must make to keep employees engaged and happily saying ‘no’ to job offers that come their way:

  1. A commitment to job alignment. Employees need to feel capable and competent in their roles to build their energy to deal with some of the other pandemic-inspired challenges. Feeling like you make a difference (because you are effective at your job) is an important element in helping you feel grounded and engaged. No one would feel engaged, passionate or committed to their job if they don’t have the talents, skills or interest needed to do the job well. To ensure job alignment, take the time to clearly define the tasks of each job and the attributes needed to do these tasks well in your workplace (i.e. the talents, skills, education and experience). Once that’s clear, ensure your hiring, development and promotion processes accurately assess candidates’ and existing employees’ required abilities. Consider including prove-it-to-me activities and behavioral-based questions to ensure you are getting the full picture of their abilities before you bring them on board.
  2. A commitment to providing an employee-focused workplace. Getting employees to want to stay is directly related to the quality of the work environment the organization provides. Employees today routinely insist on working for a company that values them as people, encourages their performance and continually develops them. It seems obvious, but employees who have the tools and equipment they need to do their jobs well will be more engaged in their workplace. Note, however, that this doesn’t mean just the physical tools or supplies to get the job done. It could include things like doing purposeful work, having clear performance expectations, participating in skills and career development, receiving regular supportive and corrective feedback and seeing that the organization shares and lives its beliefs and values. Providing these tools and support activates employee performance, ownership and loyalty, making them more poach-proof. An added bonus: it holds even greater weight when employees are working remotely or in some hybrid remote approach.
  3. A commitment to building successful manager / employee relationships. Relationships are the drivers of performance and loyalty. Consider this: workplaces that manage in the outdated method of command-and-control actually push their talent into the arms of poachers. The Gallup Organization stated that the shift from managing to coaching is the single most important talent retention initiative every organization should be focused on. By helping managers learn how to think and act as workplace coaches, managers shift from directing, controlling and telling to guiding, supporting and asking. The result is a more personal and accountability-based relationship where managers make time for employees to help them in their growth, performance and self-belief. This also encourages employees to open up about their worries, anxieties and needs in this pandemic moment. It’s only with this additional communication that managers can wisely decide who and how to be with their employees, and, more specifically, how to help them manage the challenging moments and get back on stable ground. This intentional awareness from managers helps employees show up more focused. Though shifting from managing to coaching is critical, the Gallup Organization shares that only approximately 20% of managers instinctively know how to coach. That means a core engagement strategy will require you to train your managers to think and act as workplace coaches.

By creating dream jobs for your employees (even during COVID-19), you’re creating an environment where they get to be their best, and are honestly and openly cared for, valued, respected, all while having the opportunity to learn and grow from their managers. With an environment like that, they won’t have the need to look elsewhere. After all, great employees want to work in great organizations.

And when your organization hires wisely, builds an employee-focused workplace and helps managers think and act as coaches, you create an exceptional employee experience. This results in your best employees not only refusing the advances of aggressive poachers, but they will become talent magnets, attracting other great talent to your organization, even if they’re working from home.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Ways to Help Your Team Start 2021 Strong and Focused

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How Managers and Leaders Can Create [Workplace] Calm After the Storm

There is no doubt that this past election created a storm. Raging tempers, severed relationships and extreme emotions have marked this period both in and out of the workplace. Add to it the tensions around protests for racial equality, a raging coronavirus and the destructive impact of nature’s storms and wildfires and it’s easy to see that anyone – regardless of their level at your organization – is at their breaking point.

What we all desperately need is calm after all this turbulence. Our best thinking leads to our best solutions, but we can only get there when we are calm. Being calm unclouds the mind, which lets us be present enough to wisely understand our situations and identify meaningful responses. Most often, this is done by engaging productively with others. After all, raised tempers encourage reacting not responding.

Creating organizational calm may seem foreign or even out of reach at the moment. But we can’t just wish for calm or less turbulence; we need to create an intentional plan to get ourselves free of the heaviness of this past year, and it starts from the top down. Today’s leaders can be ready to help their organizations successfully learn to access a place of calm once they figure out how to do it for themselves, first. Here are some ideas how:

  1. Be a role model. Your teams watch you and how you respond. As you go, so do they. Use this moment to develop your mindfulness practice, a way to stay calm on the inside regardless of the noise and distractions on the outside. Developing a mindfulness practice includes making time each day to calm your body, quiet your mind and open your heart. This can include taking time to meditate, reflect, journal or just sit quietly. When this becomes part of your day, it inspires a greater sense of inner calm. Without making the intentional effort to develop the internal stamina to show up wisely, compassionately and intentionally, it’s easy to get caught in the emotional reactions of today’s challenging situations. When you do this, you miss the opportunity to engage and inspire others to work toward successful outcomes.
  2. Understand your employees’ stress level. As with any change or period of stress, it is important to be more tuned in to what is going on with your employees. Consider increasing the frequency and type of contact you have with each employee to better understand what is going on with each of them. During these touch points, ask more direct questions about their stress and anxiety levels, and watch and listen for challenging, distracted or destructive behaviors. This type of connection plays a critical role in giving you accurate insight into where your employees are and it will therefore guide you in knowing how to help (or if you need to get them help). This might seem like something else added to your plate, but when you make this an intentional practice, it becomes second nature and helps you become a better manager, too.
  3. Help or get them help. Offer some of your own experiences in your efforts to stay calm to help guide them in a direction that works best for them. It could be taking a greater number of short breaks, writing lines in a gratitude journal, increasing exercise or staying in touch with people they care about. Sharing your approach can give your team ideas to consider and try. After all, the ability to be responsive instead of reactive is their responsibility. Separately, be aware of what mental health support options are available if any of your team needs professional help to handle today’s storms. Ensure that you support their self-care and respect that this moment in history is exceptionally demanding.

Though storms will always be part of our days, this seems to be a particularly complicated moment. For many, this may be what tips them over the edge, amplifying their feelings of anxiety, fear, concern and distress.

Take Action
So ask yourself: what can you do as a leader at your organization to ensure the wellbeing of each of your employees is met? Consider how you can help them help themselves to stay calm in any storm, whether it’s personal or professional.

A little calm goes a long way.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 4 Things Managers Can Do to Help their WFH Employees Celebrate the Holidays

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3 Ways to Help Your Team Start 2021 Strong and Focused

A new year is associated with so many good things. It’s a chance to start fresh. It’s a chance to try something new. It’s a chance to identify what could be better and create a plan to make it happen. And that’s what so many of us will be doing as we approach the countdown on December 31, ready to ring in 2021 with welcome arms.

After all, 2020 was certainly filled with some unique challenges. A variety of natural disasters, weather, a hostile election year and, to top it all off, COVID-19, which was not only a challenge in itself, but the ramifications it created sent many companies reeling.

So how can you inspire the fresh start feeling of a new year with your employees when 2021 will still reek of the challenges from 2020?

It’s actually pretty easy: relationships.

Relationships are the driver of employee engagement as employees want and need connection, support and guidance from their managers and their peers. If you could only focus on one thing in 2021, make it relationships.

So, as a new year welcomes you and your team to the workplace – in whatever way work is done – here are three relationship-focused things you can do to help your employees (and you) start your year off strong, focused and engaged.

1. Reconnect personally with your team. Make it a point to really get to know your employees. To effectively manage and coach your employees, it is important to know their strengths, interests and values. It is important to know what engages and disengages them about their jobs and the organization. It is critical to know how they best communicate and learn, and what are their most and least favorite aspects of their jobs.

Another element is to get to know them outside of work – what are their hobbies? How is their family? Is there anything they’re worried about? Are they struggling with anything? Is there anything you can do to help? Though some employees may prefer not to share too much personal information, the fact that you asked goes a long way, especially now when so many people may be grappling with challenges of COVID-19, like foreclosures, concern for high-risk family members or access to enough food, to name a few. Gather important information about each of your employees to understand them better and to know how to best connect with them and coach them. Employees want time with their managers – use this increased time to get to know them and to develop a plan to connect with them more effectively going forward.

Remember: people quit people before they quite companies.

2. Include your team in creating shared goals. Goals are important. They provide direction, clarity and focus. And by including employees in the creation of goals, or more specifically team goals, they feel more included, valued and part of the organization. They know you are interested in what they think. A workplace culture that asks employees for input not only benefits from greater employee loyalty, but also from expanded ideas that come from empowering and expecting employees to actively think throughout their days. An added bonus: those employees share their working experience with others, attracting other top talent and top performers to join your team (a huge benefit since networking will look drastically different as we all navigate the continued effects of COVID-19 on how we do business).

3. Commit to sharing more performance information. You want your employees to be more focused and engaged, but few feel that way when they work in the dark. They can’t connect their work to its impact or value with information about why they’re doing what they’re doing isn’t made clear. By improving your relationship with your employees, you create the space to have more candid and honest conversations about performance. Now, feedback is welcomed as it is delivered from a place of care, support and guidance, instead of reprimand. Invoive employees in creating their own performance expectations that help them amplify their strengths and connect with areas that interest and excite them. Again, these are things you don’t know if you have not first taken the time or made the effort to better understand each employee. An added bonus: employees take ownership of things that benefit them and the organization. They learn and grow and the organization improves.

A recap:

  1. Reconnect personally with your team: What is one thing you can do to connect more personally with each member of your team?
  2. Include your team in creating shared goals for 2021: How will you involve your team in the creation of shared goals?
  3. Commit to sharing more performance information: What information will you share in 2021 and how will you share it?

Take Action
As the New Year approaches, commit to enhancing the relationships with your employees. It really all comes down to communication – both listening and talking. Ask questions, be supportive, engage them in organizational goals and share performance feedback more regularly. Observe, ask, listen and guide. That is what employees want from you. And, in return, they work hard, bring their best performance and stay loyal to the organization.

Start the new year off strong. Make relationships your priority.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How To Keep Your Team Energized When Some Now Work Remotely

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How to Be Okay When You Are Not Okay

The holiday season brings out great emotions. The ones it is associated with most are joy and excitement. We see it in commercials and on ads, and we see it in our neighborhoods as people decorate their homes with festive lights. We hear it in the way people talk about their plans and activities. And we feel it when we see the first snow of the season, when we walk through a walkway that is perfectly lit with Christmas lights, when we hear about family celebrations and when your company starts decorating and planning events to celebrate the season (and the end of the year) with their employees.

But these are the productive emotions. The holiday season also brings out other emotions, like stress, sadness and loneliness.

Let me tell you a secret: it’s okay to not be okay.

Say that again, nice and loud: its ok to not be okay.

This year, it’s possible the unproductive emotions will impact the holidays. And it will be very easy to let those unproductive emotions move right in. After all, with COVID-19 completely changing our world over the past year, it’s hard not to throw your hands in the air when presented with something else that has (or will) change and screaming, “why not!?”

Holiday traditions, family gatherings, office parties, networking events, trips to visit Santa; it will be different, or may not happen at all.

I know many people are feeling sad or hurt or lonely. I know many people are upset about the changes to the holiday season this year. The traditions we’ve enjoyed in previous years, the feelings of comfort and security when surrounded by friends and family, the fun and excitement that radiates off kids who are visiting Santa – it will all change.

Things will feel different because it will be different.

Guidance we share with our clients is to feel every feeling and be intentional in WHY you feel it. This mindful approach helps you understand your feelings so you can more successfully deal with them. When you stay in hurt or tough feelings, they can take you down. Something we share with our clients is, “visit but don’t move in.”

Understand the emotions so you can deal with them. Then focus on the good, the great and the amazing that are also available when you choose to see it.

Visit your disappointment, frustration or aggravation with today’s situations, then move past them. Visit but don’t move in. I believe this is a mantra everyone should adopt when they feel strong unproductive emotions like sadness or frustration, and not just around the holidays.

So, be ok knowing you’re not ok this year. Give yourself some grace to feel the big emotions. Give yourself permission to be sad or lonely. Be intentional in your decision to be ok not being ok.

Then take a deep breath, find the good and make an intentional decision about what comes next.

Take Action
When you find yourself experiencing big emotions this year, remind yourself it’s ok to visit but don’t move in. Try setting a timer if you find it hard to get out of a funk. Let yourself feel the emotions, be present in them, but then challenge yourself to see the good.

After all, some days are great, others are not, but each one gives you the unique opportunity to make the next one better. When you take advantage of this, you not only benefit from making things better, but you are happier in whatever life sends your way because you intentionally focus on the positive instead of the negative. When you find yourself in negative emotions, remember, visit, but don’t move in.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Why Things Don’t Always Work Out

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Why Presence Really Matters Most This Year

Have you asked your kids what they want for Christmas yet? I admit, I started asking before Halloween. A part of me doesn’t want to worry about not getting something in time. But a big part of me used it as a distraction. When that Amazon holiday wish book arrived, I told my boys “Santa’s magazine is here!” and set them off to circle the things they wanted. It gave me 30 minutes of quiet without leaning on screen time.

Though they may have a wish list that is about 10 pages long, they know that Santa will only be able to bring them one thing. To my (honest) surprise, my boys didn’t argue or get upset. They sat quietly for a minute flipping through the pages, picked up a different color marker and circled one or two toys saying, “I’ll give mine to my brother instead… I think he’ll like this the best.”

Queue the proud mom moment.

I share this story with you because I think it illustrates a very important concept: presence is more valuable than presents.

This year, I think a lot of parents and grandparents and caregivers will feel a little guilty for not spending enough time with their kids. Trying to juggle all the responsibilities of life while also playing primary caregiver 24/7 is exhausting and, honestly, impossible. It’s hard not to feel like you haven’t done enough in some area of life as you finally lay down at night. So, I think people will spend big this year, giving kids exactly what they’ve asked for and then some. It will alleviate some of the guilt we feel that life has been so weird this year. So unpredictable. So, different.

But instead of worrying about the money, or worrying about buying the exact right gift, what if, instead, you created a gift of presence? Maybe it’s a movie night and you wrap a box of popcorn and a new DVD (or a picture of a new digital version of the movie). Maybe it’s a family campout and you wrap up the ingredients for smores. Maybe it’s a sleepover night and you create a pillow / blanket fort to sleep in.

In each of these gifts, you’re giving the gift of [your] presence. To be fully and completely tuned in to your kids. Whether it’s a group event or a single event for each kid to experience your presence individually, these are the things they’ll remember. They won’t remember the toy that broke on Christmas Day night, or the toys that didn’t have the batteries they needed when they unwrapped them.

They will remember how you showed up in a big way to make it the best holiday ever.

So how will you give the gift of presence this year?

Take Action
As you’re scouring the wish lists from your kids, try getting a little creative. If they ask for movies or books, how could you make it something you can do together? For example, if they ask for books, maybe you write and illustrate one together.

And get others involved! Ask friends and family members for their ideas to find ways to be more engaged and present in your kids’ lives without giving more toys and stuff.

Remember where the memories are made and traditions start.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading I’m Thankful For…

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I’m Thankful For…

Did your family have a tradition of sharing something they were thankful for before dinner was served on Thanksgiving? Mine did. As everyone got older, the things we were thankful for shifted. I remember as a young kid, I never knew what was the right thing to say, so I often just reiterated what people said before me. Thankful for family. Thankful for friends. Thankful for this wonderful meal we were about to eat.

As an adult, I find it hard to pick just one thing to share as my item I’m most thankful for, especially this year. My family. My family’s health. My health. Our home. The ability to put food on the table. The list goes on.

But my kids? They had no problem picking one thing.

My 4-year old shared he’s most thankful for “dump trucks!”

My almost 3-year old shared he’s most thankful for “the roaring T-rex!” (note: he doesn’t have this toy yet; he asked Santa for it).

And my 1-year old smiled at me and pointed to his truck. And a Mickey book. And his airplane. And then walked away with some Mega Blocks.

When I asked them again the next day, their answers changed: “my dolphin toy because they are so cool when they splash.” “My t-rex Halloween costume!”

And their answers changed again later that afternoon: “TV time!” “A new book from Mommy.”

The moral here is to keep it simple. Life is hard and challenging and can throw us curve balls, usually when we least expect it (or when we’re already feeling pretty run-down).

So when you’re asked what you’re thankful for, be present in that moment and answer truthfully.

As I write this post, I’m thankful for a lazy afternoon when the entire house settled for just long enough that I was able to sit with my kids and read an article in a magazine I had wanted to read for the past 2 weeks.

That was enough.

Take Action
Don’t overthink what you’re thankful for this year. Be present in the moment. What makes you smile? What makes you feel happy?

What are you thankful for?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Rethinking the Holidays

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Navigating Family Events

Last year, we shared guidance on how to navigate family events when some family members may feel it’s their job to ask you all the uncomfortable questions in a judgy way. Though that guidance still applies to the upcoming holiday season, there’s a new factor we need to consider: the impact of COVID-19.

Family events will take on a whole new look and feel this year. For some of you, this may be a gift. You don’t have to find an excuse to get out of a family function, or be worried about finding yourself stuck at the dessert table with creepy Uncle Bob, or find yourself stuck answering questions about why you’ve changed jobs three times in the last 3 years from your self-righteous Aunt Sally. These see-you-twice-a-year family members are likely not going to make the cut for many of the family functions that do still happen.

But for the family that is still gathering, there is almost undoubtedly going to be some tension about how each person interprets COVID-19 guidelines. For example, you may feel it’s important to always wear a mask, practice social distancing and stay outside as much as possible. Your mother may think masks are ridiculous but she practices social distancing and your brother may think the entire thing is a farce.

How do you navigate a family function when you all disagree on what the proper protocol should look like?

Here are our three tips to help you navigate family events in the time of COVID holiday:

1. Define your limits. We talked about this in another post about rethinking the holidays. Defining your limits is about creating rules for you and your family, and knowing how much you’re willing (or not willing) to budge. Though family members are often our toughest critics, it frequently comes from a place of love, so though you may not all agree all the time, they should be open to hearing and respecting what you are and are not comfortable with as it relates to how you want to celebrate the holidays this year. After all, your limits are for you to define, not them. Be able to explain why you have created your limits. This will help you and them better appreciate the thought behind your choices. So, define your limits and share them so everyone can be on the same page.

2. Control what you can control. You’ve shared your limits and you’ve been told the event will happen within those limits. But when you arrive, you realize it’s far from what you’ve been promised. A small gathering of 10 has turned into a party of 50. No one has masks and the party is inside a small house where social distancing is not possible. What do you do? You have two choices: 1) go to the party and operate within your limits (wear your mask, keep your distance as best as possible, stay outside as much as you can) or 2) you can respectfully let the host know you aren’t comfortable staying but you’ll be in touch to reconnect at another time.

Both of these options has the potential to be calm and thoughtful or loud and angry. It’s your choice. You control what you can control.

3. Accept that things will be different. Yes, you may get challenged on what you decide for yourself or how you may need to respond to the situation in the moment. I have always found that approaching any situation from a positive and grateful way gives you more options to consider, and helps you deliver your comment or actions with grace and care. You may not agree with the rules of the family for the holiday and therefore decide not to attend, but you can appreciate that you differ, respect their perspectives and hold fast to your own while still caring, loving and supporting each other.

Take Action
Holidays can be tough because of the magnitude of traditions and expectations, but remember this: we have seen how adaptive and flexible we have been this year. So many things this past year have made us rethink what we do. It is time to apply this approach to our holidays with a commitment to first stay safe and keep the people we love safe, then to celebrate the things we celebrate at this time of year. Let people know your rules for yourself and others and be respectful of others’ rules for themselves.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Little Moments of Remarkable

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