Hiring a Parenting Coach Doesn’t Mean You’re Failing

You might have read it or heard about it. A New York Times article that ran in early July called attention to the increasing demand for parenting coaches, specifically by parents who want to be better connected to their kids, and to do so with significantly less screen time. The tone of the article, as well as other articles that shared this news, isn’t, what I consider, to be positive, or even neutral. There’s an underlying tone of disapproval.

It got me thinking about our world and how parenting today is very different from the way our parents raised us, and how their parents raised them. The lessons we learned from our parents – whether those lessons were “what to do” or “what not to do” – are simply guidelines. Our world changes so rapidly and frequently without warning that parenting has joined the ranks of professions that are far from exempt from evolution. You need to change in accordance with what’s happening around you – and what’s happening with your kids – to ensure you can be the best parent you can be for them.

So let’s stop judging. Let’s stop pointing fingers, reprimanding or even rolling your eyes at parents who are asking for help. We should be applauding them and helping them. After all, isn’t the first step in making any sort of improvement in your life recognizing there’s something that needs to change and then asking for help to go do it?

So, kudos to the parents who realize change is needed.

Kudos to the parents who want to have real and better relationships with their kids.

And kudos to the parents who realize that sometimes an outside, neutral third party is exactly what is needed. In fact, one of the mothers who was interviewed for the New York Times article said, “…it’s just hearing something that’s so blatantly obvious, but I couldn’t see it.”

And that’s what coaches do: we guide our clients to develop greater self- and world-awareness. To see things and remember things that are otherwise not seen, ignored or forgotten. To remind people how to be tuned in, present and engaged in their moments.

It’s a skill that people have forgotten because our world today requires us to operate in a task-oriented mindset, one that’s dictated by efficiency requirements in both time and energy. Very few people know how to be fully present in each moment, gathering information from each of their senses so they can make a wise and intentional decision on how the next moment will be, because they need to just get it done. They need to move on to the next thing. This is where coaching can significantly help parents, reminding them how to be present to themselves and their families. With this expanded awareness, they have access to important information that can improve their decisions, interactions and approaches with their kids, and help them be more responsive instead of reactive.

Take Action
Take 10 minutes to stop and notice yourself and your world. What is working in how your life is? What isn’t working? What would you like to change? Consider what that change could look like and what you want the outcome to be. You’ll be surprised just how eye-opening spending just a few moments to tune out the world and tune in to yourself can be.

If you find you’re struggling with this, consider engaging a mindfulness coach who can help you develop tools and a practice to tune in to you, your kids and the world you are all part of. From that point, you will have better information that helps you make better decisions everywhere.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading What Type of Parent are You?

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When Too Much is Just Too Much

Overwhelmed. Stressed. Reaching your limit. Frustrated. About to explode. Need a break.

Sound familiar?

I’ll be honest: last week was not a great week for me. Every day, I found myself adding more items to my task list than I was crossing off, and each item seemed more challenging than the rest. It could have been because of the sheer magnitude of my growing list. It could have been because of how little was actually in my control. It could be that I only have so many waking hours to tackle these tasks.

By the end of the week, I felt extremely deflated. I felt like I brought by B-game to all of my tasks, whether it was at work, at home, to my kids, to my husband.

I was overwhelmed. I was tired. I was frustrated.

I felt like this was a good learning experience to share with you. Remember this: feeling these things is not right or wrong, good or bad. You’re allowed to feel and experience every emotion. One of my favorite things Jay says is that “it’s ok to visit these feelings, but don’t move in.”

You’re human and sometimes, life can present you with a slew of challenges that you’re not mentally ready to solve or handle. You can feel overwhelmed. You can feel angry. You can feel sad.

But like Jay says, visit but don’t move in. Let yourself feel and experience the emotion. Venting is not solving, but let yourself vent for a moment and set a timer for yourself if you think you need the extra reminder to stop after, say, 5 minutes. Vent, scream, cry, swear – do whatever you need to do in those 5 minutes. But when the timer goes off, no more venting. It’s time to solve. Refocus. Shift your energy and take control of what you can control.

In fact, all of the experiences of last week served as a good reminder for me to check-in with myself about not only my strengths and talents, but also my triggers and limits.

At 30-weeks pregnant in the thick of the summer with two toddlers who like to test their limits, my fuse is a little shorter (though I would like it to be different, for now it just isn’t). What I can realistically accomplish during the waking hours of the day isn’t the same as what it was even four weeks ago. The workouts and sleep patterns I was previously able to hold myself accountable to are no longer feasible. There. I said it out loud.

This was my stop and notice moment. This is when I realized that the reason I felt overwhelmed, tired and frustrated for most of the previous week was because I hit my task threshold long before I realized I did.

Your task threshold is what you can realistically achieve based on who you are in this exact moment and in this exact situation. It changes because you change and your situations change. One week, you may find yourself able to tackle significant items without batting an eye. Another week, you may find yourself saying “no” more than “yes” to keep your task threshold to the smallest number of items as possible.

When you are aware enough to notice when you need to adjust your task threshold to ensure your mental well-being, you’ll find you don’t spend as much time feeling frustrated, angry and sad, because you understand how to be in this moment. You can therefore move to a higher and more productive energy level.

Take Action
Remember to check-in with yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed, tired or stressed. Sometimes it is just you. Sometimes you are over-committed – you’ve hit your task threshold without realizing it. Be committed to your own mental well-being by checking in and being kind with yourself. Remember, experiencing your emotions is great. Just limit how much time you spend with the negative emotions. They can wear you out and help you miss the many great things going on in this moment of life.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading When “I Quit” is the Best Thing to Do

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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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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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Thank You For What Didn’t Happen

Sometimes we are grateful for what happens. A beautiful day. A flight with no delays. A quiet and relaxing evening. A holiday with friends and family. A plate of great mac and cheese.

And sometimes we are grateful for what didn’t happen. The change to your schedule that kept you off a highway with an 8-mile backup. The party that was rescheduled to a Saturday with perfect weather. The stomach bug that got everyone in the office or your school except for you and your family.

But is it possible to be grateful for something you wanted to happen that didn’t? You wanted the job promotion, but they chose someone else. You wanted to play piano but there wasn’t the money for lessons when you were younger. You wanted to leave early to avoid the traffic but didn’t. You want your manager to be supportive and encouraging but he isn’t. You want your kids to get along better but they don’t.

It may be easier to say “thank you” when things go our way than when they don’t. But, in the moment of having something happen that you identify as not wanted or unfavorable, could you find something in it that is worthy of gratitude? Could it bring you a lesson you need, a new perspective or just the awareness that you choose to be happy or unhappy in your moments, regardless of what is going on? Consider this: the events of life are neutral – we are the ones that add the value to them.

I am not a believer in the phrase “things happen for a reason.” Instead, I believe it is up to each of us to create value in what happens. Whether things go or don’t go our way, it is up to us to remember that life is this way. You take the good, you take the bad; this is the only time you have.

So, in each moment, stop and notice what is worthy of appreciating because there is something there if you really look. Sometimes it will be easy to find; other times you will really have to search. Both make you better. Both remind you that this moment is up to you to decide how to be in it, whether things go your way or not.

Take Action
How can you develop gratitude in any moment – the ones that go your way and the ones that don’t? How can you train yourself to be grateful, happy and content no matter what?

We get to decide how to be in each moment. Our habits may need some redirecting, but we do have the ability to be grateful for whatever happens, whether it is for the good things that happen, or for the things you wanted to happen but didn’t. Opportunities and greatness exist everywhere.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How Your Memories of Childhood Can Improve Your Future

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Are You Rigid or Flexible?

By Jay Forte

Do you remember Aesop’s fable “The Oak and the Reed”? It goes like this.

There once was a mighty oak who shared the bank of a river with a reed. The oak, proud of its strength and ability to stand up to the wind, critiques the reed as weak as even the slightest wind or the weight of a small bird can make it bend. The reed responds that it is not afraid of the wind because it has the ability to bend but not break. The mighty oak dismisses and praises its rigidity just as a strong wind comes and uproots the oak. The reed continues to bend and lives another day. The moral: Those who know how to bend and yield, succeed in life.

I think it’s pretty obvious that most of us are like the oak tree: rigid. Though there are benefits to this, it’s important to recognize that there are also some challenges. For example, when we are rigid, we hold on tightly to things we believe, even if we don’t know why we believe them. If a belief stops you from being your greatest self, or living authentically, or inhibits another person from doing the same, it is defined as a limiting belief.

Before you claim you don’t have any limiting beliefs, take a moment to reflect on this statement: we all have limiting beliefs. Many come from the way we were raised, what we were taught or who we spent (or spend) time with. Without recognizing limiting beliefs, you can find yourself remaining rigid in most situations when being flexible would allow you to accept new information, think more creatively and openly on your feet, update your beliefs and show up more successfully to each moment.

Let’s take a look at some powerful examples.

  1. Think about your political beliefs. How rigid are you in your beliefs about our current situation and your affiliation with one political party or another? How could you be open and flexible to define what you believe and not let others dictate this for you?
  2. Think about your role in the workplace. Where are you rigid in a way that does not serve you? How could being more flexible – more open, more creative, more supportive – to better encourage your performance and effectiveness? How could you encourage and support the ideas and perspectives of others, even if they may be contrary to yours?
  3. Think about your role as a parent. How rigid or flexible are you? How do you create and support meaningful rules for your kids but allow them change as your kids change? How do you involve your kids in establishing family rules and values to [appropriately] accommodate a variety of perspectives? How are you supporting your kids to be the best version of themselves, even if it isn’t in line with what you have planned for them?
  4. Think about your role as a person, in general. Where are you rigid in a way that alienates others? How could you be more flexible to allow others to be who they are instead of who you need or require them to be?

There isn’t one way to do anything; there are a lot of ways. Being rigid just rules out options and results in missing out on the great value others have to offer. To be successful in anything today, it requires you to be agile, flexible and responsive. It’s only with this perspective that you can truly benefit from the value in each moment.

When you stop and notice you, are you like the oak – standing rigid all the time – or are you more like the reed – flexible to accommodate life on life’s terms?

How you live is up to you. Rigid or flexible. It’s your choice.

Important Questions from a Coach:

1. Stop and notice. Are you more rigid in the most important aspects of your life or flexible?
2. What is something you can do today to become more flexible in one area of life that is of particular importance to you (work, relationships, etc.)?
3. What lessons do you need to learn to make each day happier, more successful and more loving?

 

Consider reading Are You a Life Owner or a Life Blamer?

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Life’s Little Gifts

By Jay Forte

I got off a plane, just coming home from a week of travel, and the first person I see in the terminal ready to board my plane on the way out, was a high school friend I haven’t seen in 30 years. What a great gift.

I checked into my hotel and discovered they had just updated and modernized all the rooms, and I had the first completed room – everything was brand new. Another great little gift.

Life’s little gifts are like the frosting on the cake. By itself, the cake is good. But cake with frosting is better. A little gift of frosting can completely change the experience.

Life’s little gifts can take on a variety of forms. A little gift could be the spectacular double rainbow after a storm, a highway with no traffic, the scent of the jasmine as the evening approaches, the smell of fried onions as the local steakhouse gets ready for the dinner crowd, the sound of kids laughing in a playground, the empty seat next to you on your crowded flight, or your favorite food for dinner.

Imagine with me for a minute. What little gifts has life shared with you lately? What things have you noticed that have added just a bit more, a little something extra to your day, your work or to a relationship? And how many more are there to see?

Most of the time we are in “do, achieve and get done” mode, moving through life as something to complete instead of to experience. Life becomes a destination, not a journey. See, the greatest thing about the journey part of life is that is where the value in life is. It is in experiencing the people, the places, the things and the world. It is in the little gifts that make each day and each moment just a bit better.

Most of us put the blinders on and plow forward. We say that makes us focused. Life is serious. We have things to do and places to go. We have people who need us to get things done. I have met countless people in my travel and my coaching who cannot remember one thing about their previous week other than they got their work done. No awareness of life’s little extras, little gifts or extra value. Life was something to check off as done, not as experienced. There was no connection to something extraordinary that made their moment wiser, greater, happier – better. That is what life’s little gifts are here for – to make things better.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. What is the most recent life’s little gift you noticed and celebrated?
  2. In what way can you be life’s little gift to someone else?
  3. How will you make time in your day to stop and notice life’s little gifts?

 

Consider reading Life’s Little Moments

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Small Actions Lead to Big Results

By Jay Forte

I remember when I was younger and felt like I struggled to make a difference in my work and company. I shared this feeling with my dad – a true philosopher. He reminded me that my role in life – both at home and at work – is not to improve everything. Rather, my role is to improve the things I touch.

What does this mean? Small things done consistently yield great results.

To start, practice tuning in to what is in front of you. Be present to gather information in each moment. This helps you develop a greater awareness of how this specific moment can benefit from what you do and love best.

So challenge yourself. What small thing can you do today, right now, that will improve something?

Consider these examples:

  • You are at the dinner table. You stop and notice that dinner tonight includes a couple of your favorite foods. A sincere thank you to the cook makes a big difference.
  • You are meeting with a customer and notice the customer’s phone continues to ring. You interrupt the meeting to allow the customer to take the call and deal with whatever seems urgent. Once completed, the customer now shows up more present to your meeting, making it more successful.
  • Your teen seems anxious about something at school. Instead of settling down in front of the TV to catch up on Netflix, you ask your teen to go for a ride to get a coffee, ice cream or something from a bakery to create the space and the time to talk. This allows your relationship to continue to grow while, in the short term, giving them the validation that they are heard and valued.
  • You are rushing to grab your coffee on the way to the office. A car is trying to get into the same parking lot as you. You stop and let the car in, something others haven’t done. The driver of the other car gets in line in front of you when ordering coffee and pays for yours for the courtesy.

Small things done consistently yield great results.

Each moment of every day presents us with ways to show up larger, bolder and more connected to others, all of which allows us to improve things in work and life. To have a meaningful impact doesn’t mean you have to do everything; there is always a small something that can be done. Watch for it. Act on it. Everything about work and life will improve as a result.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. How will you watch for a way to improve something at home?
  2. How will you watch for a way to improve something at work?
  3. Notice how you feel when you improve something. How will this to encourage you to keep it going?

 

Consider reading Creating Goals: Start with “Be Better”

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People Are Like M&Ms

By Jay Forte

Each of us is a uniquely capable, talented and amazing person who may experience rejection or dismissal because of how we appear on the outside. A great analogy I like to use is to think of people like M&Ms. On the outside, we all seem so different, but on the inside, we have so many similarities. Our “candy coating” is most often what we notice and comment on – not the remarkable inner “filling.”

I regularly speak to CEO groups about hiring the right employee based on fit. I stress that today’s interviews should be about looking past the “candy coating” of a candidate and instead focusing on the candidate’s “filling” – their thinking, talents, strengths and values. It is these attributes that allow us to see what makes people unique and remarkable, while also better equipping us to assess their fit for the available position.  

Here is a challenge. Stop and notice when you judge another based on their exterior before giving them a chance to show how remarkable and amazing their insides are. Catch how many times you do this and for today, make a conscious effort to notice your judgement and steer away from it. Consider how amazing this person may be. Consider what talents, strengths and values you share.

We respond better to those we feel are similar. So take the time to stop and notice the similarities.

I am constantly learning this lesson as I travel. I see people who look different everywhere. But now I find myself remembering M&Ms. By engaging these fellow travelers in a conversation to get to know their “filling,” I overcome the instinct to judge or make inferences about their “candy coating.” I simply ask them, “What is something great that has happened in your day today?” Their answers remind me that they are just like me – they are working on discovering how to do life, how to be happy, how to [better] care about the people they love, how to achieve their definition of success, how to make some sort of difference in their world. Being open and interested helps them share how remarkable they are, something I would miss if I let my judgments and limiting beliefs take over.

So, remember M&Ms – the different candy coatings mask the remarkable human filling. Ask and listen and you will discover that you are actually quite similar to those who may look the most different from you.

Make time. Care. Be interested. Reach out. You will be more impressed than you think.

Important Questions from a Coach:

  1. How often do you tune in to your thoughts and comments about others?
  2. What is one thing you can do today to be less judgmental of others?
  3. How will you make time to see another’s inner greatness instead of focusing on their external differences?

 

Consider reading What Mask Are You Wearing Today?

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