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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follow your passions by starting your future

Is “Follow Your Passion” Bad Advice?

A recent study at Stanford explored the difference between finding your passion and developing your passion. The research examined how people may succeed or fail at developing their interests based on their beliefs and mindsets and why “finding” or “following” your passion may actually be unintentionally bad advice.

This research sparked an interesting conversation, especially among parents, about whether or not it’s good advice to tell your children to “follow their passion.”

Girl standing in spotlight on stage; following your passions

In one article, billionaire Mark Cuban was quoted as saying, “Don’t follow your passions, follow your effort.”

The author of that same article also wrote that we (i.e. parents) need to be aware that turning a passion into a career can backfire and it might be better to encourage kids to think in terms of meaningful work, instead.

It might sound like this is completely against what we do at The Forte Factor but it actually supports our coaching style 100%.

Instead of guiding people down a path they believe to be a specific goal or direction for them, we first take the time to help them tune in, to better understand why that path or direction is a goal for them. Sometimes, they’ll discover that it was actually someone else’s goal and not their own. Sometimes they’ll gain clarity about what’s possible (right now) and may need to adjust expectations and goals.

The key to your greatest happiness, engagement and performance in both work and life is your ability to know yourself – what you are good at, passionate about and what matters to you – and to align yourself to the places that need what you do and like best. You need to choose this – on purpose.

It’s not enough to say you’re following your passion; you also need to understand yourself and your world to know how you can leverage your passions, as well as your strengths, talents and values, to provide what the world needs. It’s why we do the work we do with our clients to help each of them discover, develop and live their strengths, based on what their local and larger worlds need today.

Take Action
Inventor and visionary Buckminster Fuller said, “What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know something about that probably won’t happen unless I take responsibility for it?”

Take a moment to reflect on that quote. And the next time you hear someone say, “follow your passion,” realize a second part of their guiding advice was left unspoken. What they’re really saying is, “follow your passion. Define what the world needs that you can provide based on your own unique talents, strengths and passions, then go do it.”

Struggling to see where your passions and talents can lead you in today’s world? Contact us to learn how to pair your strengths, talents and passions with what your world needs today, and how to define your success based on that clarity.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Committing to More Effective Communication

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What Type of Parent Are You? Learning about Productive and Unproductive Parenting Styles

Somewhere along the way, you learned how to be a parent. Maybe your own parents served as guidance for what to do or not do with your own kids. Maybe you looked to other parenting styles from those you found yourself spending time with. Maybe you were an avid reader as a new parent, taking in all of the best ideas you could find. Or, maybe you default into it based on your personality.

Regardless of your role models or guidance, and regardless of what your best intentions are, the world has a lot to say about whether parenting today is productive or unproductive. Parents have been assigned some pretty interesting titles – helicopters, lawnmowers, bulldozers. None of these have a particularly warm and fuzzy feeling associated with them.

In the wake of the troubling college admissions scandals, I decided to revisit my list of parenting styles, a list I devised after the years of work I’ve done with parents and their children.

Important to note: though society may say some parenting styles are “good” or “bad,” I prefer the terms “productive” or “unproductive” because I believe parenting should be measured based on the impact on the kids, not how the parents view themselves.

In other words, productive parenting types encourage kids to discover who they are, learn about their talents, passions and values, start to get clear about what opportunities in work, school and life fit them, learn to accept, value and treasure who they authentically are all while building a trusting and loving lifetime relationship with the parent. Unproductive types interrupt building a bond as well as the encouragement of a child’s awareness and development of his or her talents, strengths, passions and interests.

In my list of parenting styles below, notice that most of the unproductive parenting styles are fear-based. Notice that most of the productive parenting styles are love-based. As you read through this list, stop and notice when a parenting style sounds like you. Don’t judge. Don’t criticize or justify. Just acknowledge that you now have more information to help you wisely decide what you could do next.

Unproductive Parenting

  • Lawnmower Parent – You are ready to mow anyone down who gets in the way of your kids’ achievement, success or happiness.
  • Helicopter Parent – You constantly hover over your kids, ensuring you’re involved in all decisions, choices and directions. You assist them on everything, from homework to hobbies to life skills, because you don’t trust them and/or you don’t trust the world.
  • Blackhawk Parent – You come to all situations with guns blazing and demanding action. You take control of your kids’ situations, challenges and obstacles. This often happens in conjunction with the Drill Sargent Parent.
  • Fairytale Parent – You only see the good in your kids. You are not realistic about their abilities, interests or behaviors. This can often happen in conjunction with the Cinderella Parent.
  • Google Parent – You have the answer for everything. You act as a definitive source about everything and rarely, if ever, let your kids discover, learn or try things on their own.
  • Cinderella Parent – You allow yourself to be treated like the hired help. You jump and respond to the whims and wishes of your kids as if they were royalty. This often happens in conjunction with the Fairytale Parent.
  • Tiffany Parent – You are convinced that giving gifts equals love. You have few, if any, limits with regard to material gifts given to a point where your kids have no concept of value.
  • Thunderstorm Parent – You are the rain on your kid’s parade. You are constantly critical and lead with what is what is wrong, not good or disappointing about them.
  • Crystal Ball Parent – You tell your kids how to live, who to be, what life and work should be like and what will make them happy without consideration of their own talents, interests and passions. This is often seen in conjunction with the Google Parent.
  • Drill Sargent Parent – You take control of every situation, barking orders, demanding, confronting and challenging. Your child has no ability to have a perspective, voice or to respond back because you are the boss. You are the one in control. This is often seen in conjunction with the Blackhawk Parent.
  • Pageant Parent – You make everything in life a competition or a comparison, often using words like worst, best, richer, nicer, smarter, better. You always talk about winners and losers and constantly compare your kids to others, both positively and negatively.
  • Secret Agent Parent – You are always checking up on your kids, monitoring their social media activities, what’s happening with their friends, grades and homework. You’re often searching their room and/or phone for clues to support your suspicion that something is amiss. You are not good at giving or allowing privacy in the home.
  • Prosecutor Parent – You interrogate your kids with no boundaries on the type or amount of questions. You want to know everything and in great detail.
  • Parrot Parent – You constantly repeat what your parents said or what you’ve read from parenting books as your way of parenting, whether meaningful or not.
  • Mouthpiece Parent – You constantly answer for and make decisions for your kids. Can happen in conjunction with Drill Sargent Parent and Google Parent.

We all have traces of these, especially when certain events call for a little more hands-on involvement, but are there some that really frame your parenting approach? Can you see it in you and how each of these takes away some authenticity, independence and clarity from your child? Our kids can’t be ready for life if our parenting does all their thinking and living for them.

Productive parenting types, on the other hand, are motivated by helping kids discover and be who they really are, not who parents need or want them to be. These parenting types believe the greatest way for a child to be happy and successful in life is to be authentic, aware and supported in making meaningful choices. You’ll notice there are far fewer of these types of parents because each type is so much more expansive.

Productive Parenting

  • Scaffolding Parent – You encourage your kids to try things on their own and let them know it’s ok to fail; it’s what you do next that matters. This encourages kids to become more resilient and self-reliant because you give them the room to try things on their own, supporting them when they need it.
  • Improv Parent – You are able to find something good in or make a success out of any situation and are able to be fully present to deal with whatever comes in a calm, sane and solutions-minded way.
  • Coaching Parent – You regularly use questions to get your kids thinking and owning their choices, decisions and directions.  You tune in and listen carefully to the responses before re-engaging.
  • Zen Parent – You manage your emotions to focus on what is happening. You have the ability to separate your child from his or her actions to address behaviors and maintain affection for each child.
  • Professor Parent – You encourage your kids to constantly learn, think and grow. You introduce them to their world, ideas and opportunities. You like to discuss new things and share ideas.
  • Internship Parent – You encourage and support your kids to go out in the world and try new things to discover their abilities and interests, and to help them discover and embrace what matters most to them.

Realize that your parenting style tells a lot about what you believe and know about yourself. The clearer you are of your greatest abilities, the more confidently you can show up to your parenting, and the more significantly you focus on providing loving support and guidance instead of fear-based directing and controlling.

It’s true. You may know more than your kids about a lot of things, but they know more about themselves than you ever will. Including them, encouraging them, coaching them and guiding them helps them tap into their own minds to see what unique abilities they came packaged with that will help them not only find their way in life, but to determine how to succeed, be happy and be responsible in life.

By Jay Forte

Learn more about our Get Your Kids Ready for Life program.

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Defining Success on Your Own Terms

By Kristin Allaben  

As a parent, I’m consistently inundated with advice and parenting do’s and don’ts. Don’t give them too much sugar. Put them to bed at the same time every night. Don’t let them watch too much TV. Be sure they play outside and get dirty. Do more of this. Don’t do that, ever.

It’s a lot to sift through, especially when some well-intentioned advice goes against your beliefs as a parent. Now add to that your adult to-do list, comprised of work responsibilities, household responsibilities and general responsibilities to ensure your own well-being, and it’s easy to see how parents can feel overwhelmed and unsuccessful. I admit there have been more than a few nights when I finally sit down after the kids are in bed and think, “Dishes are done and lunches are ready for tomorrow, but I still haven’t swept. The playroom needs to be picked up. The dog needs to go out and the cat’s food has to be refilled. I wanted to go for a run… I’m failing me and I’m failing them.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s your decision how you want to feel. It’s your decision how you will proceed. It really just requires a change in mindset.

Consider this: ask yourself what a happy and successful life looks like, knowing that it is healthy for this to evolve over time. What was a happy and successful life to your 18 year old self may not be realistic or relevant to your 40 year old self. Keep in mind that as a parent, you’re no longer responsible for just yourself. Your day-to-day has changed drastically as a result of your kids who rely on you for so much more than food, shelter and clothing; they need you to guide them as they start to develop their own sense of self. Remember this as you make the intentional effort to define your happy and successful life. Maybe your career goals have changed. Maybe you’re finding new ways to interact with your kids’ school. There are no boundaries; invent! It is up to you to decide what this looks like for you.

I recently read a profound article, “What if All I want is a Mediocre Life?” and it really gave me pause. I found myself nodding in agreement to much of what the writer said, though I think she limits herself – and her readers – by saying she wants a “mediocre life.”

Who decides what’s mediocre vs. successful, happy and perfect? You do.

“Mediocre” doesn’t have to be the word you assign to it. Success to you could be the “slow, simple life” the writer describes as mediocre. For some, that is perfection. For others, there’s more to do. Why assign a word like “mediocre” to what you define as your perfect life?

Many people refer to engagement in the workplace as the result of intentional alignment. It is the same in life – how well does your life align to what you feel to be important?

The next time you catch yourself feeling like you’re failing, check in with yourself. Why do you feel this way? Have you set unattainable standards for yourself? Are you living and acting on someone else’s definition of a great life?

Ultimately, you have to ask yourself how you define success. Start small, like identifying what a good day looks like. And then go from there.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. What does a good day look like for you?
  2. What situations or events lead you to feel like you are failing or not enough?
  3. What is one thing you can do today to feel successful or enough?
  4. What does a happy and successful life look like to you?


Consider reading Creating Goals: Start with “Be Better”

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There is More Than One Way to Do Most Anything

By Kristin Allaben

I call myself a “new mom.” My oldest is about 1.5 years old and the youngest was born in December. I’m still new to this and have a lot to learn. I solicit advice when I need it and try to tune out the unwanted advice when I don’t want to hear it. But that gets hard, especially when those voices – combined with your committee of internal voices – tell you you’re not doing it right.

First of all, what is “it”?

A few years ago, there was a great video campaign that shared the different types of parents we find in today’s world. The video primarily focuses on the types of mothers – the working moms, “breastfeed from the source” moms, the helicopter moms – but also gives a nod to the dads who serve as primary caregivers.

The video is creative and entertaining because it so accurately points out biases and judgements from parents – “What’s it like to be a part time mom?” the stay-at-home moms say to the working moms. And they fire back, “Oh, stay-at-home moms; I wonder what they do all day?”

The quips continue about diaper preferences, bonding and baby-holding preferences and feeding preferences, until one of the strollers starts to roll down a hill. Suddenly, all judgements go out the window and everyone focuses on one goal: make sure the baby is safe.

As I mentioned, it’s an entertaining watch and, I admit, eye-opening at just how many judgements and criticisms we as parents have toward other parents (and we do this everywhere in our lives). At the end of the day, we’re all working toward the same goal: to raise strong, independent and (hopefully) well-adjusted kids who live a happy, meaningful and successful life (or as my husband says, “keep the tiny humans alive!”).

So why all the judging? Why all the comparing and critiquing?

There’s no single right way to parent, just like there is no single right way to do just about anything. Sure, there are guidelines and things you probably shouldn’t do (remember, “back is best!”), but let’s be real. We’re all working toward a common goal and there are many ways to get there.

Rather than criticize, let’s refocus and learn to praise and recognize.

Let’s cheer those parents on who tackle a feat many may feel only gods can conquer.

Let’s pat the parent on the back who looks like they need to be reminded there are going to be some tough days and tell them we’ve all been there and it will all be fine.

Let’s all remember we were “new moms” (or dads) at some point and sometimes just saying “you’re doing great” is all we want or need to hear.

No one knows what it feels like to be in the shoes of another. What we all can remember is that sometimes we should appreciate them for walking in whatever shoes they have.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. As a parent, what criticisms or judgements do you have toward other parents who may choose a different parenting style from you?
  2. What can you do differently to better understand why that decision works for them?
  3. What can you do today to stop the criticisms and judgements you have of other parents (and going larger – of other people)?


Consider reading Are You Putting Bricks in Your Backpack?

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Finding Your Quiet

By Kristin Allaben

“I can’t hear myself think!”

How many times have you thought this – or yelled this at your kids – when the noise gets too loud?

Jay has talked a lot about tuning out to tune in. In today’s busy and noisy world, that can be a big ask, especially for parents. I can personally attest to this. After a busy day, the first time I find I have the time to really tune in to myself is around 9 or 10 p.m. This is right around the time my brain starts to run on autopilot as I work on getting lunches ready for the next day, clean up from dinner, do laundry – the admin tasks of running a household that I can tackle uninterrupted once the kids are in bed.

So I have to make time to tune out to tune in during the day. I have to find my own quiet.

My quiet may look different from yours. Sometimes, it’s in my car when I intentionally choose to turn off the radio. Sometimes, it’s intentionally turning down a longer street when I’m out on a run to extend my quiet time. Sometimes, I zone out while making dinner when I know my husband is keeping the kids occupied.

By making time to find my quiet, I give myself the opportunity to tune out the noise of the world so I can tune in to what happened that day. And the truth is, when I find my quiet, I can more efficiently focus on a specific challenge or situation, allowing me to work through it in a more productive and positive manner. I gain clarity, focus and understanding.

You may have noticed two important themes here when it comes to finding my quiet: I’m alone and my actions are intentional.

I’ve heard some parents joke their alone time is hiding in the basement or a closet after dinner, or hiding in the bathroom trying to ignore the little hands that reach under the door.

Regardless of where you find your alone time, make an intentional effort to find your quiet. By doing so, you’ll enable yourself to be more aware of your emotions and responses to what happened during the day and this, in turn, allows you to be more present in each moment life brings you.

Your quiet time is valuable. Make it happen. And in that time, get comfortable being with yourself and your thoughts. You will discover that by finding your quiet, you gain access to great insights that will guide you wisely through your day.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. What is preventing you from tuning out the noise of the world to tune in to yourself?
  2. How can you be more intentional in your actions to make time to find your quiet so you can tune out to tune it?
  3. How will you leverage this new awareness to be present in life’s moments?


Consider reading How to Learn from Any Event

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3 Tips to Improve Any Relationship

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

Whether in the workplace or at home, our lives are significantly affected by the quality of our relationships. We are in constant contact with people all the time, so why do we struggle most in our relationships?

Here are three things you can do to significantly improve your relationships, both personal and professional.

1. Let people be who they are. We already know that every one of us is unique. The more we insist people look, live and act like we do – or like we think they should – the more hostility and frustration we create in the relationship. Whether it’s in a marriage or in a manager/employee relationship, consider the impact of trying to change someone to become who you want them to be. Put yourself in their shoes. How do you feel when people in your life try to change who you are?

Ask yourself: how can you better understand who the other person is and allow them to be who they are?

2. Ask more than tell. The initial reaction is to get defensive when you tell others what to do. They raise their shield and tune you out. Asking, however, engages, involves and includes people, all critical components of any healthy relationship.

Note the difference in telling vs. asking in each of the following:

Statement: Call the customer back and tell them ….
Question: How do you think you should handle your next call with the customer?

Statement: Get your homework done.
Question: What is the consequence of not turning your homework in complete and on time?

Statement: You should stop talking about politics with your family.
Question: How do you feel after your conversations with your family about politics?

3. Commit to “care-isms.” A “care-ism” is something small that shows you appreciate and value each other. Relationships thrive on feeling valued and important, so consider incorporating care-isms like a quick email, phone call, card, favorite snack or even just making eye contact when they speak to you (i.e. put your phone down). Notice how it feels when others do this for you and build a habit to do more care-isms each day.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. What do others do that make you feel valuable?
  2. How much intention do you give to your relationships?
  3. What is one thing you can do today to improve your relationship with one key person at work or in your life?

The best way to improve your relationships is to allow people to be who they are. Ask more than tell. Do things that show them you care. These three simple things can have a profound impact on your personal and professional relationships.

Need help building stronger relationships at work or at home? Consider talking with a coach to help you develop better self-awareness and relationships skills.


Consider reading Try This Instead

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