2021 passed so fast, and with COVID ups and downs, my memories are blurred – I don’t remember what happened and when.
If you remember at the beginning of the year, my word for 2021 was “FLOW” – and having this word front-of-mind has really helped me. I have been “Flowing” – accepting the need for quiet and recharging (and maybe even a little bit of NETFLIX) when I feel drained. It also means that I have given myself permission to not be super regular with my newsletters these last few months. 😊
I know that so many of my clients and friends are also wrestling with staying energised and emotionally stable. We are great over-thinkers and over-planners – as though that will erase the tiredness.
So for the holiday season, my gift to you is this lovely poem by Mary Oliver that really resonated for me.
“I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers flow in the right direction, will the earth turn as it was taught, and if not how shall I correct it? Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven, can I do better? Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows can do it and I am, well, hopeless. Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it, am I going to get rheumatism, lockjaw, dementia? Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing. And gave it up. And took my old body and went out into the morning, and sang.”
I wish you all lots of physical and mental “singing” this holiday season. May you connect with yourselves and with loved ones, and may we all have some respite from worrying.
The world seems to be opening back up today and we are all trying to figure out what we’re comfortable with. We’re figuring out where, how, and when to emerge from being “locked down” with a feeling of security and safety – in this sense, a physical safety.
What has become increasingly acute to me, however, is the concept of psychological safety. In a fractured world with hair-trigger reactivity, how do we allow people to feel that they can say/do/be their truths without feeling attacked, embarrassed or insecure in any way?
For corporations this is a big issue, getting their employees to work at peak performance requires them to create an environment where it is easy for employees to bring the full breadth of their perspectives and ideas without feeling at risk. A study conducted by Google found that psychological safety was the most important contributor to high performing teams, along with dependability, clarity, meaning, and impact.
And I think this is true for all of us – humans in a fractious world socially, politically, and economically, but also as parents and family members trying to raise and grow grounded children.
At its core, psychological safety is “a condition in which human beings feel (1) included, (2) safe to learn, (3) safe to contribute, and (4) safe to challenge the status quo — all without fear of being embarrassed, marginalized, or punished in some way.”
Don’t we all want this for ourselves?
What are you doing to create psychological safety for yourself and those around you?
Even though I have written about exhaustion recently, it continues to persistently turn up in my conversations with organizations and their leaders. And just in time, here’s a fantastic article from Harvard Business Review that does a thorough, but efficient, deep dive into the issue as well as give lots of practical tips and insights which I thought you might find useful.
What was most interesting to me, was that having an empathetic managerwas the second-most-cited need by respondents to a survey, just a touch behind manageable workloads. Those of you who follow the leadership space and have worked with me, know how central this notion is to my work.
Check out this excerpt from the article:
“According to Harvard Medical School’s Helen Riess, who is also the cofounder and chief scientist of Empathetics, communicating empathically increases job satisfaction, reduces burnout, and is highly correlated with enhanced well-being. It is perhaps the most critical skill in a crisis and something that we can all improve on.
Empathetic leadership requires three things: acknowledging and overcoming any personal biases and privileges you might have; actively listening to your people; and taking action. I want to focus on the second — active listening — as something that’s particularly important today. It involves giving people a safe place to share and demonstrating that you’ve heard them by acting on their words. You can do this one-on-one or set up open forums through Slack or Teams or any other workplace social collaboration tool, where good ideas can proliferate. You may also want to create the opportunity to provide anonymous feedback; there are survey tools out there that make it easy to do that.”
The start of every new year gives me hope and excitement. Of course I know that there is very little difference between December 31st and January 1st. But, nonetheless, the idea of closing one cylce and starting another reminds me of the pacing, the rhythm and dance of life. And this gives me hope.
I have never been a resolutions person. I find they are too easy to break as your life and needs play out. I find they are often made by a sense of “what I should do (but don’t really want to)” rather than intentional, excited, hopeful creation of the the kind of world/future I want to build for myself.
But for over thirty years, since my early twenties, I have been picking a one or two word “focus of the year”. This word serves as a sort of mantra, a theme for the next big direction I want my life to take in the coming year. Having to choose my word has always been a clarifying exercise for me, forcing me to focus and get to the very essence of what I want.
Through the years my words have included “let go”, “thrive”, “streamline”, “ignite” and “go big”. This year my word is “flow”. As often is the case, there can be several meanings or ways these words play out. Flow, to me, means not fighting events. But it also means moving with ease and grace. To be in the flow is to enter a state of being rather than doing. I chose a word that will guide me in all its meanings – and will most likely help me to see and be in different ways.
I love hearing my clients’ and friends’ words – each as individual as they each are. Last year many focused on “listen” while others on “speak up”. One chose “seminare” (Italian for “sow” – as in plant seeds), another “shine” and yet another “laugh”. We are all at different points in our lives and our words reflect our different hopes, goals, aspirations for that moment in time.
How do I use this word? Well first of all, it is my screen saver – so that it always top of mind. And whenever I have to make a decision, I think of how my word would impact the big decisions. For example, how would I think differently if I were “in the flow” or “letting things just flow”. This will help me push myself not to overthink, second-guess or stress about every detail, but to show up in a different way. Of course, that doesn’t mean I abandon strategic thinking, it’s just a way of refocusing my energy to what really matters at this point to me.
For those of you who are results oriented, I cannot say that finding your word will give you easy, peaceful achievement. But I will say that every year, by focusing on my intention, my word, I have always managed to “fulfill” my words – regardless of how the year went. That, in turn, always helped me to grow deeper roots, self knowledge and the satisfaction of having managed to move in the direction I wanted regardless of external events. And then, for the new year I am always ready to think about and take the next, best direction for myself.
What is your word?
P.S. If you are interested, the internet is filled with great prompts and processes to help you think through and find your word…and of course, you can always call me, and I’d be happy to share with you the process I have always used 😊.
As we all go into the end-of-year holiday season, tiredness and fatigue are setting in. Referring to this feeling, last week I heard someone say that they felt as though their surge capacity had been depleted. And that resonated with me. Our “surge capacity” – our ability to put in that extra energy to move forward – allowed us to be able to rally and adapt to the uncertainty and stress the pandemic caused, and to push ourselves forward – mentally and physically.
But now, months later, the tiredness kicks in and may seem to overshadow everything else in our lives. So how can we deal with this? An electrician would tell you that when there’s a power surge, it can cause a power outage and shut everything down. To re-establish electricity, you would first need to unplug all devices and then you would need to reset and repower.
So how do you unplug? Long walk? Unscheduled naps? Baking? Not only is it OK to be tired, it’s completely normal and human. What is important is figuring out what you need to do to unplug – and then going and doing it. As often happens, just “unplugging” makes things magically work again.
What are ways you reset and repower? Each of us has our own way; here are some of my favourites:
Share your feelings with those to whom you are close. We tend not to share the burden. Opening up not only diffuses the emotional charge and sense of loneliness, but showing vulnerability allows you to connect on a deeper level with those around you. Often, these conversations fill you up and have the power to help you re-savour and reconnect with the world.
Move! Go for a walk, do yoga, dance, whatever might help you change perspective and literally shake things up – and if you can do it outside, all the better; we all know the benefits of a change of scenery and fresh air.
Seek out people who inspire you, who give you energy. Studies show that the people you interact with daily impact your worldview and your sense of possibility and potential. Expand yours.
Reach out to those who may be lonely. Many might be grateful that someone made an effort to listen to them, and you might also benefit from the connection.
My friend Mauro, who is a marathon runner, uses a trick that he learned through his races to help him get through these times. Often in the middle of a race he becomes very tired but still has miles to go. So he changes his focus from where he is at the moment (exhausted, tired) to where he wants to go (successfully finishing the race). I find this big-picture mentality very useful. How can we “zoom out” our attention to get a broader view? Maybe we should focus on the longer term: on the summer, when we will all (hopefully) be out and about in a much safer world.
Until then, all the very best for a restful, peaceful holiday season. May the new year be fruitful and bountiful for us all!
In the hopes of repowering both myself and you, I send you a huge virtual hug – and now I’m going unplug by having a glass of wine and watching Netflix.
I’m having work done in my house. Workmen everywhere. My beautiful, peaceful home has become a series of discontinuous and disharmonious hammering sprinkled generously with dust. It coats everything: the walls, the paintings, our mouths, nose and ears. We cannot get away.
But as I’m thinking about the discomfort and annoyance, I am also excited about my new bathrooms and my new balconies. I can imagine peaceful oases of candle light, calm and positive vibes.
Isn’t most change like this?
The confusion, misplacement of normality and normal things, your space.
The clogging up and difficulty of even basic functions – breathing, moving. Everything is touched, despite all best efforts to contain the dust and damage.
The instability of living in a space that, though is yours, is so upended. You’re not in control. You have to rely on others, the system.
BUT. What makes this worthwhile?
The vision: I know what things will look like, what I’m going for. I have a clear picture in my head. Even as the little glitches, delays, re-routing comes up. I know how to make my decisions, because I know where I’m trying to get to.
Being surrounded by the right people – both to get the job done as well as to help you through it.
Change is uncomfortable. It is often messy and can clog up every aspect of your life. But people really only change for two reasons:
They hate where they are so much that want to get out.
They have a clear vision of where they want to be – one that excites and propels them; one that allows them to overcome even the worst obstacles. One that allows them to put into perspective the pain they feel today.