Grace, Community, and Lots and Lots of Snow!

We are in the midst of a 3 day snow storm in my town. As the snow continues to fall and the plows get backed up I am finding the grace that comes with slowing down. And it is leading me to find flow in my day.

There is so much snow I have to drive slower. I have to take time to shovel multiple times a day, which means I move my body and feel my strength. I have had to reach out to others and check in. I have laughed more just because things are joyful. I have taken the time to look around and see the beauty that surrounds me, even when my physical visibility is nil.

Today see if you can find your Friday flow by noticing. Pay attention to what is happening around you and take a moment to notice those you are with. See if you can really see them – be present to them without judgment or expectation. Notice something new in your environment you’ve never noticed before. Just slow down, take a breath, and be thankful you were able to breathe. Just notice and see what you find today.

It Takes Courage to Be a Good Leader.

Not only were the leaders who belittled, micromanaged, berated, and bullied rated the least effective, so were those who would not address the conflicts, take the challenge, or stand up for their teams.

Good leaders are not only kind, compassionate, visionary, and willing to do hard work. They also demonstrate courage and accept challenge. They understand the limits and weaknesses of their team and work to get around them. They problem solve well and play to the strengths of each team member, thus balancing out their team skills.

In addition, they address conflict directly, they can say no effectively, and they call out social loafers in kind ways to decrease the possibility of shame and shut down.

Today look at the places you lead in your life. Are you kind, compassionate, and courageous?

Good Leaders Are Kind …

Afraid if you are not “tough” enough people will not follow? Being tough does not mean dominating or bullying. The most effective leaders are those who express compassion. They just know sometimes compassion looks like “no”. They do not berate, belittle, steal ideas, or micromanage their team. They trust them. They get quality followers because they are a quality leader. Go be a great leader today.

What is Good Leadership … and How Does it Effect Us All?

As we stop to celebrate our presidential leaders today, have you ever thought about what makes a good leader? Is it just the people in charge, at the top, or in positions of power? Or do you find leaders all around you? For me, leadership has always been an interesting topic. I was selected at a young age to become a leader, there have been times I succeeded and times I failed. There have also been times I did not want to be the leader, yet was placed in the role anyway. As I have studied being a leader, performed as a leader, and observed others being in leadership roles it always amazes me how many people miss the fundamental idea that leadership is about bringing people together. Not about being powerful. For we are not powerful as a unit of one, the power lies in the numbers. Hitler never would have been what he was if he could not rally the masses. Nor would Jesus have been. As we stop to reflect today on leaders of our country it may be wise to look more closely at what it means to be a leader. It might also behoove us to look at what it means to be a follower, as well.

In an article written by Hogan, Curphy, and Hogan leadership is about “… leadership involves persuading other people to set aside for a period of time their individual concerns and to pursue a common goal that is important for the responsibilities and welfare of a group”. (p. 3, 1994). This is a difficult task as most of us have a hard time putting aside our short-term goals for the benefit of the group unless our group is threatened (Hogan, Curphy, & Hogan, 1994). They go on to say “Leadership is persuasion, not domination; persons who can require others to do their bidding because of their power are not leaders. Leadership only occurs when others willingly adopt, for a period of time, the goals of a group as their own. Thus, leadership concerns building cohesive and goal-oriented teams; there is a causal and definitional link between leadership and team performance”. (p. 3, 1994) 

If this is the case, that a good leader is one who can work with a team of people and help them find purpose, meaning, and commonality within their mission or task – then how many good leaders do you know … even if they are not the identified leader? And as a result of knowing what a good leader is about are you willing to follow just anyone?

A quick review of the literature brings up virtually no studies on what it means to be a follower. We are inundated with what it means to be a leader, but nothing on what it means to be a follower. In a book review on the concept of “followership” Gill (2008) identifies ideas that may constitute a good follower “How about a few of these characteristics: a good follower (I prefer “team member”) will understand and commit to the team’s mission, be loyal to the team, accept personal responsibility, be well-prepared, question authority but be wise about timing and tone, think win-win, step up and lead when called upon, help teammates get better”. To me this sounds a lot like leadership. Know when to jump in and help, suggest, persuade, and participate in her part of something larger than ourselves. However, some of the same problems exist in following as do in leadership. We come to following others for many reasons, however if we follow blindly for our own short – term goals we are hurting us all, ourselves included in the long run.

If these two pieces are so intertwined, it really does not matter where you land on the continuum of leadership to followership. Some of us have personalities that like to be in the spot light, take risks, communicate ideas, visions, and concepts in concrete ways others can “see” them and help achieve. Some of us like to hear what those people have to say and then be part of the team that creates. In the end we need both. We need people who are willing to lead and lead us with integrity, honesty, and with an eye on the long term goals of the entire group. We need followers who are willing to do the step by step work of implementing a vision, stand up and disagree when needed, and be a team member who puts their short term goals aside for the long term benefit of the whole.

The long term benefits of the whole may include all sorts of things – better relationships, health, wealth, comfort, success of the majority. However, we often see each other as competition. When we operate from a place of lack we end up tearing each other down, thus our team goes from being something greater than the sum of our 2 parts to being less than 2. I see this a lot in family systems, couples, and business relationships. People are working to build something, however are doing so from a fear based, lack of mentality with inability for vulnerability (thus authenticity to build team trust). The impact is destruction of the project rather than building something great.

As you look around your life today, which are you? Are you a follower today? A leader? Are you a follower in some roles and a leader in others? These are key components to feeling confident and engaged in our lives, as well as feeling a sense of belonging. If you are being too much of a follower, following blindly after someone else you may feel taken advantage of, run down, powerless. If you are a leader who is acting from a fear base and authoritarian style you are probably stressed, paranoid, and often responding to your team in abusive ways. This breaks down the needed relationships little by little and eventually your team will not perform, and your paranoia may become real life experience. Hogan, Curphy, and Hogan (1994) reported in a review of the literature that those leaders who tended to rate themselves overly high were actually the worst ones. So if you are thinking “it is not me, these people just can not get it together”, you may want to engage in coaching or therapy to help you identify and create an effective leadership style because being a good leader and being a good follower is about empowerment.

Empowerment of the self and empowerment of the other. Good leadership looks at the whole, sets aside short – term selfish goals for the long term benefit of the group because the good leader knows that power comes in numbers, that benefiting the group in the long run benefits the self, too. A good follower knows that no one person knows it all, has everything figured out, or is good at everything and following blindly is not a good idea. The group is stronger than the sum of its parts and together we achieve great things. Honoring your gifts and mine. We all matter and we all have something to contribute. Today go out and lead!

References: 

Gill, D. W. (2008). Followership: How followers are creating change and changing leaders. [Review of the book Follwership: How followers are creating change and changing leaders, By Barbara Kellerman]. Harvard Business Press (2008). 

Hogan, R., Curphy, G. J., and Hogan, J. (1994). What we know about leadership: Effectiveness and personality. American Psychologist 49(6), 493-504.

13 Ways to Give … The Spiritual Side of Service

Want to know the secret to happiness? Get outside of yourself. When we reach out to others and help make someone else’s life better we actually help ourselves. Acts of service help you stay healthy – mentally and physically. Get out there and help today.

Many religious and spiritual practices speak of service. Service is a key piece of 12 step programs and many say they didn’t really get sober until they were able to give back. It was the act of service that helped them realize the bigger picture and reason for sobriety. Most of us talk a good game regarding service, however many of us do not perform much service.

One reason we do not offer acts of service as much as we might like is because we haven’t set our lives up to give back. It takes time more than anything and it’s much easier to write a check than it is to spend the day working with someone who needs help. Work to structure time to give back into your life. It will make your life more purposeful and help fight diseases, depression, anxiety, and stress in your own life.

Another reason we skip the service aspect is because we do not know what to do. We feel that it must be BIG to be any good, and the opposite is really true. It is the small, everyday acts of grace and kindness that make the greatest differences in our lives and those we reach out to. These small acts help us realize we are not alone. They help us feel connected and part of something larger than ourselves. Again, keeping us more healthy over the long haul.

Today challenge yourself to perform as many acts of service to another as you can. A little secret is … when you work to make others happy, you actually make yourself happy. The Dali Lama says “if you want others to be happy, be compassionate. If you want to be happy, be compassionate”. Today make your goal to give as much as you can. See how happy you can make yourself by helping others. Notice how doing nice things for other people changes you, gives you different perspective, or helps you see something you hadn’t noticed before. When we give to others we begin to see how similar we are, not how different. We are more the same than not. It’s hard to hate others when you realize this. When you hate less or fear others ideas, actions, and motivations less your life gets better. You start to see the beauty that surrounds you instead of all the things you negatively judge.

Here are some ideas to get out there, get connected, and offer help:

  1. Hold the door open for someone
  2. Smile at everyone you meet
  3. Give the driver in front of you the benefit of the doubt.
  4. Listen. Really listen as your partner, kids, or co-worker talks to you – without coming up with your response while they speak.
  5. Shovel, cut the grass, rake, sweep the sidewalk for your neighbor. You are already doing your own, just go a little farther.
  6. Teach something to someone who wants to learn what you already know how to do. Be patient and let them learn at their own pace. Work to enjoy watching their progress as a support person not the director.
  7. Play with your dog, your kid, your friend … go out have a good time and laugh and laugh and laugh.
  8. Tell your family and friends how much they mean to you. Maybe even send them a handwritten note, flowers, or let them know in another way that would be special to them.
  9. Offer to help with the car pool, cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc for a group you are a part of, a friend, neighbor, or your family member who usually does those tasks.
  10. Read to someone – a kid, a person who can no longer read for themselves due to failing eyesight or other disease, or someone who never learned to read.
  11. Volunteer in your community. Many communities have a volunteer listing where organizations list what they need help with. Look it up and volunteer your skill set to help them out.
  12. Help set up a fundraising event for a group you are interested in. Big commitment, but it sure feels good when you come together with a team of people and accomplish something for the greater good.
  13. Do something nice for yourself. You can’t take care of anyone, if you haven’t taken care of you first. Make sure to include yourself on your acts of service list. It helps you be a better person, less stressed, and ready to help others if you have been taken care of too. Do not forget about you.

Happy V-Day. The Emotion of Love

Are you operating out of love or out of fear? Can you tune into your capacity for connection, compassion, and acceptance by loving others deeply … even those who are not like you? Even those you do not like? Even yourself?

Many people love today, many people hate today. Today is the day we celebrate the concept of “being in love”.

Love is our most powerful emotion. It has the highest vibration and is the most talked about in all spiritual cultures. It is the emotional state we are aiming to get. This does not mean we are all working to get to intimate sexual love – but to the power of compassion, connection, and recognition of self in other.

Being in a state of compassion, connection, and acceptance allows us to integrate a number of our systems for optimal function. A healthy human is one who is integrated and has flexibility in response options to both mental and physical health issues. The emotion of love brings our systems into integration with self, others, environment. This integration impacts our physical system and moves our tissues toward physical health. It aligns our mental health with openness for experience which allows us to be flexible in our choices – thus choosing the best option for the moment we are in right now.

The difficult part … most of us have been hurt after expressing the emotion of love. We’ve been hurt by those who have pledged to love us, those who care for us, and ourselves. We have extended our precious heart only to have it smashed to smithereens (I know I’m being a bit dramatic, but that’s what it feels like to a lot of us).

As a result of this hurt, we extend our love conditionally. We open up in limited ways. We fear those who are different than us. We hold back and judge instead of open up into compassion and acceptance. We do not accept others and we do not accept ourselves.

We close ourselves off to love and its benefits out of fear. Fear and hate lay at the lower end of vibrational measurements. They constrict our physicality and mental abilities. In efforts to stay safe we rally and protect our own, cut ourselves off from others, and stay small. The energy of this constriction leads to more fear, more constriction, and more physical health problems. The way to combat loving others fully when it is scary it to begin by loving ourselves fully.

As you contemplate what love means in your life today … make sure you reach out and pay attention to yourself. Love yourself … fully … completely … and honestly.

If you are having trouble loving yourself, you will have trouble fully loving others unconditionally. If you cannot love yourself fully it may be time to do some therapy around the topic. For many of us, we cannot fully embrace the greatness that is us. In my office I ask, “what’s so great about you”? About 75% of the time people look up confused and unable to answer the question. As therapy unfolds they begin to have less problems with this question, and can answer with confidence about the greatness within.

Two things are true – you are good enough and there is always room to grow. Love yourself fully today.

The Spiritual Side of Cleaning House

Ever thought about finding the spiritual all around you? I’m sure you’ve heard that before … but what about when you clean house?

I bet you often do not think of cleaning house as a spiritual event. Sometimes I don’t either. More and more I do and here’s why.

Three years ago we decided we wanted to downsize. We were tired of vacuuming spaces no one walked on because the hallway was bigger than it needed to be, the bedroom was larger than we really used, and we preferred to hangout together in the upstairs living room, so the downstairs one often sat empty. We were tired of worrying about a yard bigger than we could keep and gardens that brought joy but could be condensed. So we decided to take on the challenge of creating a space that fit our family of 5 (3 growing teenagers and 2 labs) and allowed us to downsize into a space we used. As a result we found the joy that comes with cultivating the space you are in.

Every corner, nook, and cranny were considered so we could fit into the space comfortably. We got rid of extra bedsheets, towels, and clothing so what we have – we use. We created storage systems to maximize space to store all of our gear and got rid of what we no longer use. We are an active family in the growing stage of life. Every 6 months someone outgrows a pair of boots, a bike, a set of skis. We can now see and timely rotate it out. This house was a labor of love. Lots of light and functional flow created a home we love to care for.

Even if you can’t build a new house or remodel your existing structure, cultivate a space you love. Curate every item. Only buy what you want to clean and maintain. Trinkets and decor become dusty. It takes energy to keep them. Pay attention to what you really like. Purge the rest. Decide what it means to have things. What kind of things bring you great joy – cheap and easy often replaced or selective items you keep forever because they were made to last? It doesn’t matter as long as they bring you joy and you want to care for them.

As you purge what you do not use, do not need, and do not want to spend energy cleaning you end up with a home you love to clean. Each item you dust, vacuum around, and wipe down becomes something you take pride in. It feels good to take care of it. It feels good to pick it up, remember why you own it, and remember where it came from.

Cleaning becomes spiritual. The care you give to the space that reflects you and your personality brings you closer to yourself. Closer to things that have made your life worth living as you enjoy the pieces you’ve curated, and closer to the connections that bind us all. Maybe you remember the person who made the item you bought or delivered it. Maybe you remember the unique place you bought it or the people you were with.

As you methodically move through your space dusting, tidying, and cleaning you begin to enjoy it as a journey through special moments in your life. As this experience unfolds gratitude follows … and before you know it you are feeling the flow of something larger than yourself all while you toil away at the mundane task of cleaning house. The spiritual side of housekeeping.