Impact = Intention

  OK, SWOG Lady...what in heavens name do you mean by that heading?   Well, I'm so glad you asked!! I was sitting in a webinar about a week ago and it was on coaching people in a certain stage of development.  The instructor--a really cool SWOG herself--said that so often our impact does not equal our intention and that is a great area for examination and continued development. I love that equation.  Yes, we're human.  So, this will likely be the case more frequently than we ideally would like.  After all, there aren't many people that circle in our worlds that start out with bad intentions.  Most people don't get up in the morning and say, "How can I really mess up people's days today?"  At least, I would like to hope we all bound out of bed hoping to do more good than harm.  And, yet, there's a lot of difficult stuff happening in our world and our lives. If our intentions are good, the next question becomes, "Do our behaviors and outcomes match or equal our intentions?"  And if they do not equate, then what is getting in the way? I'm spending a lot of time on this one.  It's tricky.  Sometimes you can control your impact and sometimes you can't--after all, how a message from you gets received by the recipient depends so much on their filters at that particular time.  But, I think more often than we suspect possible, we can get our intentions and our impact more closely aligned with one another.

How you ask?

Oh, I'm so very glad you did!! First of all, I'm still working on staying curious not judgmental...so I want to say right up front...I don't have the magic answers but I'm very willing to embark upon the discussion.  Most of you have read that I'm trying to meditate regularly and I've been using Oprah and Deepak Chopra's 21-Meditation series.  I'm almost concluded with one on "Hope," and it has some clues to our question posed above.  Here are some tidbits of wisdom from the series:
  • To reach people to share the energy of HOPE, you have to do more than just listen to them, you have to SEE them.  We all want to be seen and heard.  We all want validation.  When people are validated, they know you see them, you hear them and what they're saying means something to you.  They feel like they're not alone and that they matter.  That is the deepest reality, the deepest desire we all share--is to matter.  That's the way to make HOPE real--for anyone in your world--make them matter.
  • The feeling level is all important.  Just as people detect when they are being judged, they also detect when they are accepted.  Don't try to help someone if you feel you are angry, disappointed or ashamed.  Work on yourself first.
  • Getting to a place where you accept and welcome the other person's existence, then you will create a heart-to-heart bond at the level of feeling.  This bond can work miracles because it takes down barriers of distrust, defensiveness, guilt and shame.
  • Realistically, every relationship gets tangled up in the past, making it hard to relate without judgment toward someone else.  Especially in families--there's a tendency to put people in a box--believing they will never change. But consider how much you want to escape the box you've been put in.  Everyone has that feeling because everyone wants more freedom to be themselves.
  • When you allow that yearning of freedom in someone else, you can recognize how much you feel the same way and then ego doesn't block your view.  You genuinely hope for the best in every situation no matter what happened in the past.
  • Staying in present moment awareness is simply conscious experience without the mind's analysis or conceptualization (or judgment) including thoughts and feelings about the past and the future.  In any situation, allow yourself to be present to the experience without mental analysis and interpretation.  And you will find that you naturally drop the belief that you know what is best for someone else.
When our impact doesn't equal our intentions, so often we missed the mark through our communication.  We pre-judge what someone is going to say or what they should do or what we hope they will do.  We don't meet them with open minds.  We don't stay in the present moment with a spirit of curiosity instead of pre-set expectations.  We don't meet them where they are.  Why are we having difficulty having political discussions?  We're so entrenched in our own views and biases about the "way things should be" we have difficulty listening with an open, non-judgmental mind. And think of all the labels we use to pre-judge others:  Democrats, Liberals, Republicans, Conservatives, Felons, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Refugees, Foreigners, Working Class, College-Educated, Veterans and the list goes on and on. When you hear those labels, can't you just hear your mind beginning it's mental gymnastics and assessments?

I dare you to...!

Here's a challenge for you:  take one day and a piece of notebook paper.  Be an observer of your mind.  Note how many times you pre-judge a situation based on who you're dealing with or who you hear about through the news or conversations.  At the end of the day note how much opportunity you have for changing your impact on people and outcomes.

And when someone doesn't treat you with that same open mind as is bound to happen...well, that's where grace comes in.  :)  
There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.    ~William Shakespeare
   
I have been struggling for a long time with what I perceive as the polarization of America.  It hurts to see us so dug into our convictions and so unwilling to listen to others' points of view. One might argue this time period is no worse than it was in the 1960's during the Vietnam conflict.  I know there are a handful of you who remember more than a few passing perceptions and news stories of that time.  Those who have those vivid memories will often say, in many ways, that conflict was worse.  Or how about Nixon and Watergate.  This was also a very divisive time in our nation's history.  Go back in time even farther and you have the Civil War and the slavery issue.  Talk about divisive--when we had a whole set of states seceding from the Union. Perhaps the difference between Civil War times and now is the accessibility of information through dozens of broadcast media sources as well as explosion of social media outlets.  In addition, I learned something else on Sunday of this week when I listened to a report on CBS Sunday Morning, so I did a bit more research and this is basically what I found:
The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was — in the Commission's view — honest, equitable, and balanced. The FCC, which was believed to have been under pressure from then President Ronald Reagan, eliminated the Doctrine in 1987. The FCC formally removed the language that implemented the Doctrine, in August of 2011. The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented. The demise of this FCC rule has been considered by some to be a contributing factor for the rising level of party polarization in the United States.
Ah.  Interesting.  The year 1987 marks the birth of broadcast ideologies without a necessity to present opposing points of view.  So, now I get how the likes of Rush Limbaugh on the right and Rachel Maddow on the left can get away with saying things that seem--to those of us in the relative middle--unbelievably outrageous.  It also explains why polarization is alive and well in these times.  Naturally we all have biases based on a variety of influences in our lives, and you don't have to go too far to find someone in either national media or social media outlets who supports our particular viewpoint.  And we all know that--as a general rule--we tend to be drawn to people like ourselves--who look like us, who sound like us, and who believe like us.  It's harder to be in relationship with people who have divergent points of view.  It's hard to listen to them and open our minds to the views they believe.  It's hard.  Truly hard. And, based on the Adult Stage Development numbers, a majority of Americans don't open our minds to others' perspectives (Skill Centric stage or earlier).  In the old days (my God, I sound like my mother right now!), our elders were story tellers and through their stories they imparted the wisdom and perspectives that they had learned through life.  Our elders' wisdom often came as a result of situations they experienced where their viewpoint was not always the one, the only, and the correct way of looking at things.  And, it usually came when these elders witnessed the youth in their lives experiencing a hurtful situation where the elder could use the story to help the youth learn wonderful life wisdom. Finally, I'm not blaming everyone else for this phenomenon.  I struggle with polarization myself.  I struggle to listen to others who have differing points of view.  I am having to constantly challenge myself, and I often fall short.  But, I'm now one of those elders (eek!)  Don't I have an obligation to push myself to open my mind?  Shouldn't I learn differing ways to look at things?  Shouldn't I refrain from judgment?  Shouldn't I be patient with myself and others?  And, if I'm listening attentively, can I expect--should I expect--the person who is speaking to me will turn around and extend the favor? Hmmm.  Some food for thought and further conversation.      
OK, get out the tissues.  This one was powerful--in many ways.  Because I read slowly, I had trouble reading his whole message while the video was playing.  You might not suffer the same pokiness, but in case you do I'm going to include below, after the video, the exact words written on this gentleman's sign.  As always, I'm interested in your thoughts!   [embed]https://youtu.be/lCy8Cfvoe6g[/embed]  
Hello.  My name is Karim and I am an Arab-American.  Like many people who are black, brown, women, LGBTQIA, Latinx, Muslim, Jewish, Immigrants and Other, I am very scared.  We are anxious and uneasy in our own country and it's difficult to see what lies ahead for us.  But I have HOPE that I am SAFE with YOU.  Together we can build a community of caring rather than one of fear.  You can trust me to care for you no matter who you are, what you look like or where you are from.  ?Will you embrace me as willingly as I embrace you? Will you shake my hand and/or HUG me and/or take a photo with me and post it as a sign that I am safe here with you? I TRUST YOU.  #youaresafewithme    #safetyinnumbers
  There is so much to say and do.  Let's make sure our voices are heard.  Feel free to pass along the video, the post or whatever.  Write your congressmen and women.  We can promote safety and security without promoting racism, hatred and exclusion.  It does not have to be one or the other.  Our policies can protect ALL Americans, no matter what their religious beliefs or skin color, and allow for a reasonable approach to immigration.  It does not have to be dualistic, polarized and all or nothing.  Hatred is not the way, and now is not a good time to be complacent. Please remember, as I know my dear SWOGs and SMOGs you do, that we are ALL descended from immigrants (unless you are 100% Native American).  Irish, English, German, French, Spanish, Greek, African, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, Brazilian, Japanese, Iranian, Israeli, Saudi's, Russian, Eastern European, Scandinavian, and the list goes on and on and on.  We are a melting pot of people.  Our heritage is rich and deep.  And, as one of our greatest Presidents (a Republican, I might add) reminded us in a very famous speech a long time ago:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers bought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal...that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.  And that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth.      ~Abraham Lincoln
One man OR woman should not have the ability to put actions in place that are essential unconstitutional.  And, I know there are friends of mine reading this blog who struggled through the Obama Presidency for the same reason.  So, clearly something has to change with the way Executive Orders work, because it seems to me that EO's have become a way for one individual to circumvent the Constitution and the principles by which we were founded.  In addition and most importantly, those same EO's should not give that President's followers the right or rationale to spew hatred toward our fellow men and women.  THAT is actually the most disturbing part of all of this. OK, that's enough politics for this week.  It's not my intention for this blog to become a voice for one political party over another.  In my heart, I'm an independent anyway.  I subscribe to ideologies from both major political parties.  I was just struck by this video which I actually received via email a few days ago on my Georgetown listserv.  Then came the events of this weekend, and I just had to vocalize my deep concern over what I see happening in a frenzied pace.          
I've been thinking about this topic for a long time.  In fact, it's part of what prompted this blog in the first place.  In my "About SWOG BLOG" section, I write about the struggle many women have with being strong, confident and self-assured while maintaining dignity, grace, approachability and humility. Brené Brown talks about this in her book The Power of Vulnerability.  She has worked on this not only through her research but personally, herself, to the point that she uses a mantra to try to combat shame and maintain the delicate balance between strength and grace.  She repeats the following "authenticity mantra" when she finds herself in sensitive situations including when she is triggered by events and people in her life:
Don't shrink; don't puff up; just stay in your sacred ground.            Brené Brown
Humility, I think, is something we develop toward over time.  Rohr said the following in a recent blog post on humility:
Space, time, and patience reveal the patterns of grace.  This is why it takes most of us a long time to be converted.
I am speculating--very unscientifically by the way-- that we go through phases or stages on our way to the potential of humility, and there are a variety of reasons why we struggle to get to a balance of strength with grace.  Let me mention a few here in this post and, as always, I'm interested in your comments and wisdom.  Please keep in mind, I'm reflecting from my own experience and perspective; yours will add to the richness of the post. As women we are notoriously insecure, frequently compare ourselves to others, are more prone to experience shame including body image issues, and we are generally convinced our worth isn't as substantial as that of our male counterparts.  So we somehow end up in an inferior state of mind, in jobs where we don't work to our potential, in unequal pay situations, in a state of burnout from continually trying to prove ourselves to-----well frankly----to ourselves....and so on.  When we are feeling these things, according to Dr. Brown, we tend to "shrink" or move away from the shame we feel. Then somewhere along the way we get angry about all that.  That's when we start to "puff up."  The large chip shows up on our shoulders, and we tell anyone who will listen and a lot of people who don't (listen) that we deserve "more."  More respect; more money; more recognition; more adulation; more proof of love; more, more, more.  At that point the pendulum has swung to the other side, and we are women-- hear us roar.  In this reaction, we're using shame and blame to fight our shame.  We are no closer to the actual issue when we "puff up."  The actual issue is loving ourselves, accepting ourselves and our imperfections, being honest with our shadow sides and understanding what triggers us.  We're just directing our shame outward. Some women never "puff up" but they turn that anger inside and it shows up in a form of depression.  They are convinced they will never be good enough so why even bother to try.  Self-defeating behaviors show up here and the spiral downward only continues.  This is another form of "shrinking." I also think because of this insecurity, we are prone to look for affirmation in not-so-healthy ways.  This is the classic people pleaser.  This is where we fall into relationship traps.  This is where we make job changes for the wrong reasons.  This is where we feel a need to tell people how special we are or celebrate out loud things that may be best absorbed within our spirits.  We crave others recognizing our "superiority," and we do a lot of "resume-sharing" and one-upping during conversations, cocktail parties, and work events. Two other potential threats to leading a humble life are knowledge and experience.  In his book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, Deepak Chopra writes:
The Yoga of Understanding has been referred to...as the razor's edge and we are cautioned to tread carefully on this path.  As we gain understanding about the laws of nature we run the risk of arrogance.  Arrogance inflates the ego and the ego overshadows the spirit.  The original sincere quest for discovery leads to an alienation from the very source which intimacy was sought.  Truly great scientists are known for their humility.  For even as they explore and unravel the secrets of the unknown, the unknown looms larger and becomes evermore mysterious.  Humility leads to wonder which leads to innocence.  The return of innocence invites us to enter the luminous mystery of life and surrender to it.  Yoga of Knowledge can be a wonderful path if we are mature enough to understand that there are seductive temptations that may entrap us for awhile in diversions of the intellect.
Rohr writes:

But the Bible does not make transformation dependent on cleverness at all; rather, transformation is found in one of God’s favorite and most effective hiding places: humility. Read the opening eight Beatitudes in this light (Matthew 5:1-12). Such “poverty of spirit,” Jesus says, is something we seem to lose as we grow into supposed adulthood.

We all need what Jesus described as the mind of a curious child (see Matthew 18:1-5). A “beginner’s mind,” which is truly open and living in the now or in what some call “constantly renewed immediacy,” is the most natural and simple path for all spiritual wisdom.

Experience, knowledge and a degree of "success" in the career world can lull us into "puff-dom" (that just sounds like a cool new word--doesn't it??!!).  We just KNOW what's the right way because it was our way of doing things that reaped rewards.  Judgments and polarizations abound and anything that resembles a different path from ours has to be the WRONG way or at least inferior to our way of thinking or doing.  All or nothing.  Right or wrong.  Good or bad.  My way or the highway.  This can also be disguised more subtly as "counsel," "advice," or "wisdom" from one who "knows the ropes."

The reason I speak about all this is because I have struggled with it.  I have lived it.  I seek to develop away from it.  And, I think it's like smokers who quit or try to quit.  Many of them have difficulty being around other smokers.  At first, it tempts them to start smoking again, and they have to guard against being sucked back into the habit.  Self promotion, judgment, finger pointing and competitiveness are very contagious.  Just like gossip, it's easy to get drawn back in.  Then later, the former smokers struggle with being around the smoke.  They are hyper sensitive to it, and it just flat out annoys them.  They become a bit self-righteous about the behavior they used to engage in.  So goes the recovering "puff-upper" (ANOTHER new word!!).  For those of you following the adult stage development reading, this is why the "Individualist" or "Self-Questioning" stage has difficulty with the "Expert" or "Skill-Centric" stage folks.  They are both self-righteous in their meaning making. How to overcome shrinking/moving away, people pleasing and/or puffing up?  Loving and accepting ourselves first--whatever that takes--maybe through coaching, counseling, meditation, spiritual studies & practices, self-improvement reading, Ted Talks by thought leaders like Brené Brown and whatever else works for you.  Taking care of the company you keep because it does impact you.  My coach likes to say, "Keep yourself out of the line of fire."  Try not to subject yourself to people and situations who try to shame you, try to suck you into a competitive relationship, and/or demonstrate the kinds of behavior that you are trying to overcome.  It doesn't mean you can't regard those people with love and compassion, but like the addict, you may not be able to be around them and stay free of the behavior you are trying to change.  And finally, Rohr's quote above is a good source of advice...maintain a "present" focus and approach life with curiosity instead of a knowing certainty. Those are ideas I've pulled from men and women much wiser than me.  What are your ideas? "Don't shrink; don't puff up; just stay in your sacred ground."   IMG_1863  

A funny thing happened when I reached out to friends for help with this loss.  They shared their grief with me and gave me permission to share it with others.  For those not grieving or with other perspectives, they shared too.  I am grateful.

Below and over the next few posts you will see my original email and then the collection of responses I received from several of you. I also pulled out some responses from a similar thread that was started in the Georgetown Leadership Coaching community. Those will come toward the end of this series. Per one wise woman's suggestion, I am numbering the email responses below (I did promise confidentiality so I'm not including names). That way if you want to comment on any particular email, you only have to refer to an email number. I know this is raw for many of us and will continue to be so for some time. Mourning is a process that takes time. One thing that such a divisive campaign can lead to is polarization. A candidate is all right or all wrong. He/she is great for the country or awful for the country. Our strong feelings lead us to opposite poles and any suggestion of compromise or taking good with the bad feels like salt in an open wound. So for some of you, there are a few responses here that do provide an alternative look at the issue(s). I encourage you to breathe deeply, perhaps get a glass of wine, and try to read with a compassionate and open mind. I love you all and appreciate the thoughtful responses, perspectives and suggestions for the way forward. I added my two cents and that perspective will come at the very end of the series, after the wonderful Richard Rohr quote that one of you graciously sent to me. ******************************************************************************* (Original email) Hello Ladies, I have blind copied about 18 women on this email because I truly do want your perspectives on how this election outcome just happened. I think you'll just have the option to reply to me and so, again, it keeps your identity confidential. If you want me to share your thoughts with the rest of the group, I can certainly do that....but, I am truly looking for perspective on this. I know some of you, like myself, are registered Republicans. Some of you may have even voted for Donald Trump. I am sincerely not looking to cast blame...I am looking for thoughts, ideas, and understanding. I am not even listening to the news reports any more because they clearly didn't have a sound understanding of the country's sentiment and what the Donald Trump candidacy meant to the voters in our country. I'm also looking for a way to move forward that honors my own values and respects the values of others. In other words, I truly still believe in civility through this process. I think cooler heads are going to need to prevail. Thank you in advance for your wisdom and thoughts. I value each and every one of you and that's why I'm asking. Peace and blessings to you all! God bless the United States of America. Bev Here are the different responses I have received thus far: ******************************************************************************* #1 Bev I wish I could help you understand my friend, but today I feel rattled to my core. The last time I felt this stressed about the world was 9-11. I literally sit here trying to preserve my personal sense of center and lessen my stress and deep feeling of disappointment in people. We can not control or even really know what is ahead of us so I have decided to assume the best and not the worst. What he does will not change who I am or how I plan to treat others. We need to support each other and hold tight for what be a rocky ride. We are America as a collective, America is not one person, so together we can be strong, divided we will struggle. ******************************************************************************* #2 Hi Bev, How are you feeling? Oh Bev. My children are heartbroken. It is their future we have compromised in fear (of difference) and bitterness (and I truly believe, misogyny). I want to hope that somehow people will rally to support Trump and help him to do the right things in terms of the well-being of humans in our country. For sure we must stick together. I am trying to go high, as Michelle Obama counseled. The supreme court appointments, the energy industry...we all need to pray for Trump to have some sort of perspective and wisdom which he seems to greatly lack. Change is one thing, but this feels kamikaze. I am very uncomfortable at the moment, but I trust we will rebound. I hope the destruction is limited. I will work to focus on gratitude, integrity, using my voice to protect and heal to the best of my ability. Maybe I shouldn't be responding so soon but this is how I feel now. ******************************************************************************* #3 Well Bev. . . You know that I struggled on how to vote and did so up until I voted and even after. It was one of the few times in my life when I didn't know what was the right thing to do. I believe the people spoke very loudly that they wanted change (even willing to overlook "all" his faults), didn't want a "career" politician with status quo continuing and some may have voted for what they thought was the lesser of the two evils. Will we ever truly know?? Major wakeup call for Washington and our overly liberal media. Economics/finance is always my go to for voting purposes, but did extend my voting thought process due to a bi-partisan article I recently read, which did not tell you who to vote for (believe it or not), but stated that you should look at the candidates on their policies (overlook who they are), because they will dictate who will be on the supreme court and the direction of our country for the next 20/30 years or more. Gave details on the aging of the Supreme Court, etc. and stated that this was a much bigger issue than a 4 year term president. My thoughts are, we are a great, strong and resilient country that will survive this presidency. Sort of like family, we may fight amongst ourselves, but an outside party says or does something and we have each other's backs. I hope, pray and am trying to believe (based on him being a successful businessman) that he will surround himself with competent, knowledgeable people that will help guide him through the next four years. While I may not like The Donald as our president, I love the USA and will support my country and their leadership. My true thought is: BALL IS IN YOUR COURT DONALD TRUMP ******************************************************************************* #4 Hi Bev, What a thoughtful email. I rallied my little team this morning as they are shocked and frightened. We talked about the power of social media and the anonymity it provides that allow people to say hateful, racists, bigoted statements. But to your bigger question of how do we move forward, I really feel like it is time for all of us to stand up to hateful speech and to put out our own messages of hope and faith instead of just turning our heads and ignoring it. I also think we all need to communicate more with our politicians so that they do not operate in a bubble but understand more. Thanks for asking. I look forward to all the answers you receive. I hope you will post them in your blog which I used as an example of positive, powerful speech! ****************************************************************************** #5 God help us ****************************************************************************** #6 Hey Bev, I am baffled. Pretty much speechless. I'm trying to find the positive but unable right now. How did we get here? My refuge is always prayer. There are just somethings that only God can fix. God help us all!!! Sorrowfully submitted and your friend, ******************************************************************************* #7 Thought I’d send this along to you as we grasp for a way to comprehend and respond (forwarded email from a close family member): To some family and friends: attached are some examples of grace in politics -- the very model of humility and faith operating in public arena. The country is going to need a lot of this, coming from all corners. http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/442008/may-god-bless-president-trump http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/10/opinion/erick-erickson-eating-crow-on-donald-trump.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=span-abc-region&region=span-abc-region&WT.nav=span-abc-region   More in the next few days.  Peace be with you.   img_1708      
Well, some of my followers heard from me this week as I struggled to make sense of Tuesday's election.  It will probably not come as a surprise to you that the author of a blog with the concept "grace" as its cornerstone, as well as an ardent student of "servant" types of leadership, would not be a huge proponent of Donald Trump's.  So when Tuesday's election results became a reality in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, I was stunned and downtrodden. What I have learned through the help of life's losses, good friends, and wonderful coaches is when you feel most vulnerable, reach out for help.  So I did that. So, this is a repeat for some of you, but over the course of the next few days, I will post the email I sent to approximately 18 of my girlfriends/colleagues and the thoughtful responses they returned to me.  In addition, I am now a part of a Georgetown email community and a similar thread was started by one of the community members.  I will include a few of those responses. I know some of you who follow this blog are Trump supporters.  I congratulate you on the win, and I hope you take these blog posts in the spirit they are meant.  This blog is about grace in all its many forms.  It is about my journey and the lessons I learn in trying to find grace.  I lay open my vulnerabilities and ask you to accept them even if you don't agree with my viewpoints.  I welcome, as always, your comments and insights. I will pray for our President elect and hope that he finds wisdom and grace in dealing with the diverse issues that face our American people.  So many are counting on him and his leadership.  Likewise, I will pray for all of us as leaders--and we are all leaders in one form or another--that we have the grace of forgiveness, open-mindedness, tolerance, and wisdom to hold productive conversations and the steadfastness to stand up for the values that mean so much to us. I will send out the email and some of the responses tomorrow, and I will trickle the rest of the responses out over the next few posts. As I hope you know, I love and appreciate my followers and am glad to bring you the thoughts and reflections of so many strong women of grace.   fullsizerender  
One of my loyal followers asked me the following question recently, "Aren't you contradicting yourself in these recent posts?  You spoke back in March about "Death of Self" and now you're talking about Ruiz's Toltec Wisdom of "Finding Yourself."  What's up with that? First of all, thank you for the question--it's a great one! Secondly, this is where reading the books yourself is probably important--you can do your own exploration and interpretation.  After all, your story is your story and my story is my story.  Your and my "truths" may be quite different. Finally, however, let me attempt to answer the question from my vantage point and from my very humble and novice perspective. I actually think that Ruiz's works, which are based from a foundation of Toltec Wisdom, actually reinforce the "death of self" concept discussed in both Wisdom Jesus and Falling Upward.  Here's why:
  • I think the "Agreements," "Voice of Knowledge," "Lies," "Prince of Lies," "The Parasite," that Ruiz talks about is the same as the "Egoic Operating System" from Bourgeault and the "First Half of Life" madness that Rohr discusses.
  • We get so caught up in our own "lies" (agreements) that we fail to LIVE and LOVE!
  • These "right versus wrong" agreements have been built up in our heads for years.  We have massive "to do" lists because of these agreements.  We try to "keep up with the Joneses" because of these agreements.  We judge people by our agreements.  We judge ourselves by these agreements.  Ruiz is saying to understand that those agreements are not necessarily "The Truth;" they are not necessarily the persons we were born to be but rather years of conditioning by parents, society, teachers, friends, etc.
  • "Be impeccable with your word," is his first agreement in which he encourages us to stop judging, stop controlling, stop playing the victim and return to who we were born to be.  Let the agreements die or at least recognize that your truths may not be other people's truths.  Let it go!  Let it be.
  • He talks about returning to your integrity, to the person you were born to be.  So "death of self" is death of the agreements that you hold to be universal truths.  This frees you to stop judging yourself and others so harshly --which is the same as Bourgeault's "unitive operating system" or Rohr's "second half of life wisdom."
I think this is why I started to find it difficult to blog a few months ago.  I hadn't read Ruiz's books yet, but I was feeling like my posts were sounding preachy or advice laden.  Who am I to give anyone out there in cyber space advice?  My story is my story--not yours.  Then my dear friend and blog follower extraordinaire, Pam, recommended Ruiz's The Four Agreements and his work and passion really resonated with me. I have a professional colleague that went to The Four Agreements workshop in Mexico a few months ago and I'm having drinks with her in the beginning of June.  I can't wait to hear more about it. By the way, there's one of those workshops in Tuscany in October.  Anyone up for a road trip???!!!
My posts have been a bit all over the place lately.  I find myself pondering that this morning as I was about to shift gears again on you after my last post was about women and the glass ceiling.  So before I make the hard left turn I need to remind myself as well as my readers where I'm coming from. Again, this blog is about women finding, exploring, discovering, and celebrating their strength.  We do this over time.  We do this by trial and error.  We make mistakes and we hopefully learn from those mistakes and it makes us stronger.  We learn to let go of things and pick and choose our battles.  That makes us wiser....stronger.  We find our voices-- no longer content to sit on the sidelines of life--but rather we want to be a full participant.  This blog is also about grace.  Finding our strength but not abusing it or others as we find it.  Allowing others to retain their dignity and find their own path to wisdom--realizing that our way may not be theirs and that's OK. There are so many topics to talk about--work--personal--faith--spirituality--health--children--families--passions--mistakes--careers--death--letting go--making changes--finding peace.  You name it, it likely has an impact on strength with grace.  When you combine that with the fact that I've been negligent in my "at least four posts a week" goal, then it does seem like I move all over the place with my thoughts.  Which those of you who know me know that...I MOVE ALL OVER THE PLACE WITH MY THOUGHTS  :) Anyway, here I go again.  I find myself feeling restless--AGAIN.  Maybe that's another reason I'm shifting gears.  The last week or so, I've been waking up restless.  I found myself reflecting on it this morning and that movie Chocolat came to mind.  Have you seen it?  If not, I highly, highly recommend it.  Here's a youtube video that gives you a little taste (pardon the pun):  Chocolat video clip The female lead moves her and her daughter around when the "winds come  from the North" and off she goes to another new town to set up shop and try to fit in.  I'm feeling like that woman right now...like the winds are blowing out of the north and I'm not sure where I'm going.  I find myself examining why.  I think there are multiple causes.  The Penn State situation is a big deal to me.  Penn State--not only where I got an education, but where I met friends who I still cherish to this day.  Not only where I studied Business Administration, but where I expanded on leadership experience by being a Resident Assistant.  Not only where I got an undergraduate education but where I returned a few years after graduation to obtain a graduate degree.  Not only where I attended countless football games, but where I studied my butt off to finish with a respectable GPA.  Not only where I worked a lot of hours on classes and the RA job, but where I partied till the wee hours of the morning, exercised, played intramural sports, attended movies, plays, musicals.  Not only where I took all that Penn State had to give me, but where I gave back through fund raisers, supporting THON dancers, conducting developmental programs for my fellow dorm house mates, serving on an advisory board currently...and so on.  Penn State IS and always HAS BEEN more than a football school.   To see it so royally abused by the media and the NCAA is almost too much to take. Yep, there was significant wrongdoing.  SIGNIFICANT.  To expect not to have attention called to the situation would be as bad as the initial crimes that took place.  But, it feels like the pendulum has swung too far.  To read in the alumni magazine about people getting abused in other parts of the country for wearing their Penn State gear is not only unjust, but it's a symptom of a bigger societal problem.  We are too quick to judge; too quick to believe media soundbites as gospel; too quick to condemn anyone affiliated with a school, or a political party, or a cause that we hear has done wrong in someway.  We look to blame...we have to have someone to hold responsible.  We do not allow that hindsight provides much more opportunity to understand than what the initial situation may have provided.  We judge. That doesn't feel very grace-filled to me.  I want to do something about it...but I'm not sure what other than reflect my thoughts here (and of course continue to attend the football games and cheer the players who are INNOCENT in this situation, even though we're likely to have a pretty poor program for the foreseeable years to come).  I also hope this situation has taught me not to be one of those people that listen to the news soundbites...the broad and sometimes downright inaccurate representations of a situation...and believe them as the ultimate truth.  That I can do. There are other reasons for my unrest...but perhaps they will wait for another day.  This entry is already pretty long.  I hope this Labor Day post finds you rested and relaxed and ready to continue in your personal journey of strength with grace.  Be well!!!    
The last set of interview questions on "Why there are too few women leaders?"   Why don’t women believe in themselves? I want to say, I truly think this has gotten better over the years.  I think having more women in the workplace in leadership positions…their children seeing their mothers in responsible positions; girls having more opportunities to compete in sports, school events, more girls in college than boys…I do think this has made a difference. I’ve been so impressed with the young women I see in our companies and on community boards…they are reflecting a more confident demeanor and approach and I think they are getting more and more opportunities to shine and be successful.  So I am quite optimistic that this is changing over time.  We are still hard on ourselves and tend to look at others and compare ourselves unfavorably.  But, we’re getting better. What can we do about it? Reframe our thoughts; be thankful and grateful for the gifts we have and not compare ourselves to other people; take more risks and embrace making mistakes instead of fearing them.  Use our natural people skills to collaboratively ask for more income and better positions…instead of getting passive/aggressive about it.  Realize the likability factor and continue to hone our people skills, because for us it’s not only about what we do it’s also about how we do it.  I’d like to say this has changed over the years I’ve been in the workplace, but it hasn’t changed that much.  Hearing Sheryl talk about it in her Ted Talk helps to reinforce that.  We can rail and claim “unfair,” or we can utilize our people skills to influence a different outcome.  I like to call it strength with grace. How do we change the numbers at the top? As with any major societal change, I think it will take time and multiple influences to change this.  But, here are the things I hope will happen:
  1. First, it has to start at home.  I was so lucky.  I was brought up by parents who were way ahead of their time.  I had an older brother and my parents did not treat us differently in terms of duties, opportunities, education, etc.  And, unfortunately, I had older female cousins whose parents       wouldn’t send them to college because they thought it was a waste of money.  I owe everything to my parents and how they raised me.  I mowed lawn  rather than cooked and cleaned.  I got rewarded for good grades and extra-curricular achievements.  My mother and father both worked outside the home, and my mother was a department manager where she worked (and my father was not).  They worked together to get stuff done and Dad did most of the cooking since he was home during the dinner prep time and Mom was not.  So, I really didn’t know traditional roles.  I would encourage parents  to mix things up for their kids.  One of my colleagues on a board I serve on does all the cooking in his family and he’s good at it (and proud of it).  So as parents, we need to look beyond  traditional roles and consider raising our kids with gender neutrality.
  2. Secondly, it has to start with enlightened organizations who realize that women’s development needs are a bit different than men’s and they should commit energy and resources to developing women in the ways that work the best for those women.  Assigning mentors, getting women into       project teams, identifying high potential women and making extra efforts  to get them coached and developed is important.  Sheryl Sandberg has a great article in Forbes that can be found at the following link: Sheryl Sandberg Article in Forbes .  In it she talks about the stock performance of companies that have women on their boards outperforming that of those who do not.  Diversity leads you away from groupthink and allows companies to glean valuable perspectives that ultimately help the company perform.
  3. Finally, it starts with us.  We have to have dreams and goals.  We have to pick organizations that have a track record of developing and promoting women.  We have to continue to develop ourselves by understanding what our organizations expect and learning skills and developing approaches to exceed their expectations.  We have to be willing to give up perfection and delegate duties that others can do for us (at home and at work) in order to maximize our impact.  We have to tell ourselves that we can do it and not have to sacrifice things that are important to us outside of work.  We have to stay at the table and not leave before we may need to leave.  And finally, when we’ve achieve some success, we need to reach our hand back to our sisters and help them navigate these waters as well.
How can we encourage women to stay in the workforce?  I would encourage them to do a couple things:
  1. Get help.  Don’t  be afraid to ask for it both at work and at home.  Find creative ways to do tasks more efficiently or prioritize tasks and let the low ones go or find someone  else to do them.
  2. Get yourself an external coach and an internal  mentor.  Both these individuals should be people you can talk to and brainstorm difficult organizational issues.  They should be people who can teach you how to navigate politics and handle people situations with strength and grace.
  3. Sheryl discusses this:  Work with your partner to truly be a partner.  Many women don’t realize until they get  to the upper levels of management that a large percentage of their male colleagues at their level and higher have wives that don’t work outside the home.  All of a sudden you’re invited away on a retreat with spouses, and you’re one of the only ones there with a non-traditional partner.  And the activities planned for significant others are things like shopping trips and tours of museums.  How are you going to handle that?  How is your significant other going to handle that?  How can you influence your company to handle it differently?   These are all things to work with your partner on.
  4. Maybe most importantly--define what success looks like for you.  Don’t let society dictate what success is for you.  Each of us is unique and what success means to each one of us during various stages of our lives will be different.   Be willing to be flexible with that definition as life presents you challenges and opportunities.   Maybe there is a time when you need to take a fork in your career road to fulfill care giving responsibilities, but stay engaged.  Do meaningful part time work; stay involved in the community; enroll in part time education or develop some skills you haven’t had the time to develop.  Stay relevant and engaged to the level that creates the successful balance for you and your family.  And remember your life experiences—negative or positive— all go into making you a unique contributor.  Embrace them and let them help you to grow.
  Sheryl Sandberg, Ted Talk, Why There Are Too Few Women Leaders, December 21, 2010 Women Don’t Ask, Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, Princeton University Press, 2003
The next questions from my interview with the local chamber magazine:   Why do women undervalue their work and their intelligence? We engage in a lot of negative self talk and I think men aren’t as prone to do this. Sheryl tells a funny story about how her brother, a girlfriend of hers and she took a course in college and how her girlfriend and she went to most of the classes, read most of the books and how her brother went to few classes and read one of the books. When it came to the final exam he needed tutoring the night before, but walking out of the exam, he thought he aced it, and the girls thought they bombed. It’s a classic example and pretty typical of the way I see men and women thinking. Plus our society and workplaces punish women for behaving outside the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable. Typically competitive, assertive behavior is frowned upon coming from women and rewarded coming from men. That’s what gets played out in the Heidi Roizen case. The only word in the case study that was changed between two groups reading it and responding to questions was Heidi was changed to Howard. Heidi is a successful venture capitalist from the Silicon Valley. When Heidi was Heidi in the case, the groups weren’t sure how they felt about her as a person. When Heidi was Howard, they liked him…wanted to hang out with him, get a beer with him. Not so much with Heidi. Women learn this lesson early and are conditioned to behave differently. I shared with the interviewer a personal story about when I was a Resident Assistant (RA) in college. When I first started the job, I tried behaving the way my boyfriend, also an RA with two terms more experience than me, behaved. He was a 6’4” imposing guy with a strong disciplinarian approach, and he had been very successful. Big mistake. I was absolutely hated my first year. My senior year, I moved dorm houses, approached the job with a balance of kindness and friendly assertiveness and was measurably more successful in my evaluations and outcomes. Voila--we have to behave differently to achieve similar success outcomes. There’s also some interesting research in the book Women Don’t Ask. In a pay allocation study, men and women were instructed to work on a task until they had “earned” four dollars. Although women worked longer and harder than men in the private unobserved condition (22% longer), they worked even longer if the amount of time they worked was monitored by the experimenter (52% longer than men). Men did not work longer when they were observed. This tells us that women have learned that they must pay more attention than men to the impressions they make on others, presumably because they fear the penalties for counter-stereotypical behavior. Why don’t women negeotiate for themselves? Again this research is taken from the book, Woman Don’t Ask. The whole book focuses on gender negotiating tendencies, and I encourage women to read it. As a broad generalization, we are told and believe that if we work hard, our efforts will get recognized, while men aren’t afraid to proactively seek what they want. The book starts with research that has been done about starting salaries for men and women coming out of school. In the specific research cited, the starting salaries for men were 7.6% higher because only 7% of the female students had negotiated but 57% of the men had asked for more money. Interestingly, of those who negotiated, they were able to raise their salaries by 7.4% almost the exact difference in the pay or $4,053. The book goes on to cite the following reasons we don’t ask: 1. We expect less 2. Women historically have been in “undervalued” occupations; that is “undervalued by society” 3. Again, historically, boys labored for money and girls labored for love 4. We historically compare ourselves to the wrong people when figuring out whether we’re paid enough; i.e. men compare themselves to other men while women compare themselves to other women 5. Gender roles—it’s widely believed that women tend to be “communal” or less concerned with their own needs and more focused on the welfare of others. Men, in contrast, are thought to be “agentic” an awkward term that means focused on their own aims and interests and more likely to act independent of others’ needs or desires. In common language, the author says, women are thought to be more “other-oriented” and men are thought to be more “self-oriented.” Being “other-oriented” we accept what someone is willing to pay us and are just glad we have a job, where men feel they are worth more. Why do women attribute their success to outside factors instead of their own hard work? Simple answer, again it’s our “others focus” versus “self-focus.” Gender assimilation and differentiation of outcomes starts right out of the womb. The research is eye opening. Peggy Orenstein, in her book Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self- Esteem, and the Confidence Gap, describes observing a sixth grade classroom in which the teacher asked her students to think about how their lives would be different if they’d been born the opposite gender. Boys lists included: 1. I’d have to help my mom cook 2. I’d have to stand around at recess instead of getting to play basketball 3. I’d worry about getting pregnant Girls lists included: 1. I could stay out later 2. I’d get to play more sports 3. I wouldn’t care how I look or if my clothes matched Almost all the boys observations about gender swapping involve disparaging “have to’s” whereas the girs seem wistful with longing. By sixth grade, it is clear that both girls and boys have learned to equate maleness with opportunity and femininity with constraint.   And then there's this research:  Management Professor Lisa Barron carried out detailed discussion interviews with business students who categorized themselves in one of two groups: 1. The first group assumed that they determined their own worth and that it was up to them to make sure the company paid them what they were worth. 2. The second group felt that their worth was determined by what the company would pay them. In a striking disparity, 85% of the male participants but only 17% of the women in the study fell into the first group. In direct contrast, only 15% of the men, but 83% of the women fell into the second group, the group that believed their worth was determined by others. Clearly the perspective held by most of the men reveals their confidence in their own talents as well as their strong belief that it is their responsibility to make sure that they get what they deserve (they believe that they can exert some control over what they are paid). The perspective held by most of the women reveals their expectation that others will decide what they are worth and determine what they are offered (they assume they have no control over what they are paid).   Let's continue the dialogue.  What do you think about these questions?  What has been your experience?