Last evening at a dinner party, a friend suggested I check out Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Having now watched it, I am struck again by the power of president Obama’s eloquence. More than a pretty turn of phrase, eloquence is such an important tool to opening us to possibility. The Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary defines it as “fluent and effective use of language.” The effective use of language allows us to articulate, to define perspectives, and to communicate without judgement. In college I read a lot of the romantic authors and can remember that for them, nature presented a beauty beyond words. But I find it sad to give up on words to really express ourselves. To me, communication is at the heart of being ourselves, building relationships, and finding intimacy. It is key to the evolution in relationships between individuals, groups, and for Obama, countries.
What often gets in the way of good communication is the voices of others — parents, teachers, bosses, media, who inadvertently clip our wings. It can be tough to express ourselves openly when we are afraid of being judged or are afraid that our words might have an unintended impact. In coaching, articulation, listening, effective definitions of perspectives, and open communication are key to individuals’ forward movement. When someone feels truly heard, it turns out that they have the resources to answer their own challenges. And when, as with president Obama, a person’s eloquence truly opens up discourse, the possibilities are endless.
This weekend my three year old daughter got a ‘big girl bed’. She’d been anticipating it for weeks, and got in it with her new birthday doll and a huge smile, totally rejecting the baby she’s had for the last year. Of course my emotions were mixed. Alongside my happiness at her joy, I thought, “She’s not a baby any more!”
This week I promised myself I’d find something other to write about than Tiger Woods. Nevertheless, I find myself thinking about it. Specifically, I am intrigued by the notion that women today have to wear so many hats. Many of us, Like Tiger’s wife Elin, are raised to be ‘good girls’. Presentable, sophisticated, good wives, good mothers. Today we find that we also have to be, and I say this euphemistically, an exotic and wild girl.
There are times as a Life Coach when you are your own best case study. Personally, I know that I tend towards being overly ambitious. Knowing that, I thought I’d had a good plan for the months following the birth of our second child. Get lots of babysitter help, take the summer off. Still, within a few weeks I wanted to get back to my clients. I love my work, and missed it. All the while, my sister was telling me, “Slow down. The first six months of having two kids is a total blur.” Now that my son is officially at the six month mark, I realize that she was right. All of a sudden, things are so much easier. The same effort yields more results, I am more focused, less tired. And I anticipate that there will be other corners down the road. The lesson here is to listen and trust. Nature has a way that it works, and sometimes the message of, “Just Do It!” won’t get you ahead any faster. Trust your heart, trust your body, trust yourself. You’ll know when the time is right, and that to me is living organically.
Is it me, or is The Good Wife with Julianna Margulies the new Sex In The City? Maybe it’s because I’ve gone from single girl in NYC to married with children, but for me this show has hit a nerve.
Originally posted 10/13/09
This past June I experienced one of the less pleasant milestones of parenting: Having my perfect child evaluated. It was the end of the scholastic year at the daycare, and I was told that next year they would be keeping an eye out for how her leadership skills would develop.
Leadership? She’s two and a half! After a request for clarification, I learned that in groups, some children tend to decide on the activity and others follow along. Mine appears to be one of the group, not the boss. Fair enough. I can see how knowing this might help understand my child and give her the space to be herself.
Now I am long since over my initial discomfort. Still, I’ve thought a lot about this. There are so many factors making childhood different today than in the 60’s or 70’s. Among them is our society’s need for metrics. We want everything measurable. We want to know with certainty what is likely to happen. And when we don’t like how it’s looking, we adjust. The parents push for it, and the administrators respond, ‘adding value’ so that everyone feels safe.
The problem is that this constant measurement, evaluation and adjustment eventually creates young adults who are like spheres, with all of the rough edges smoothed away. And after so many years of pleasing parents and teachers, these adults often lose their ability to figure out what they want. Worse, by ignoring impulses towards things that are different from the norm, they stifle their creativity. It leaves so many feeling unhappy and not knowing why. How safe is that?
It’s a tough question. For me, I will give my little girl the space to be herself. If that means easy, considerate and diplomatic, so be it. Our society needs that too.
Originally posted 9/30/09
Two weeks ago Guy Trebay wrote an article in the New York Times Style section about the designer Murakami. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/fashion/20diary.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=guy%20trebay&st=cse It’s a very tongue-in-cheek look at the affectations of trendy design world characters and how silly they can be. In fact, it’s a modern day telling of The Emperor’s New Clothes.
Reading the article, my reflections might have ended with a knowing laugh. It’s easy to point at some people and comfort ourselves — after all, we aren’t ridiculous. But, how many of us are driven by our own ‘new clothes’? Maybe it’s the new car, a resume-worthy job, the right husband, the child who says a sweet ‘thank you’ to everyone. It’s tricky…many of these things are “good for us.” So why is it that when we get them, we still don’t feel happy?
The problems arise when we reference the outside world — parents, teachers, bosses, media — without checking in with our own values. Something may be great, but not for us, or not at the right time. Going ahead in spite of a conflicted inner voice tramples our values. That leaves us unhappy.
Like diet and exercise, knowing the values that make us happy day in and day out takes a lot of work. It’s not something we decide once and stay with for the rest of our lives. It takes discipline, awareness and occasional updating. But in this version, the nakedness is welcome.
Originally posted 9/19/09
What working mom wasn’t fascinated by Kim Clijsters’ beating Venus Williams last weekend? As for me, I said, “YES!” with such a feeling of vindication. Having felt guilty for a year and a half as a working mom in corporate America, it was so validating to see that a new mom can actually defy everyone’s expectations.
Later, I read an article in the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/15/nyregion/15bigcity.html?_r=1 that offered a very different perspective, and reminded me of one of the quiet battles that women face in corporate America today…the singles versus the marrieds. It’s hard for married women not to get frustrated at being sidelined once they have kids, considering that their newfound focus and efficiency makes them highly effective in the workplace. On the other hand, single women often get stuck cleaning up after the marrieds are gone for the day. After all, not everything important at work happens between nine and five.
How is it that after all the efforts made so that women can do and have whatever they want, we are still struggling to find our right balance? For me, it is in the power of focus. It doesn’t matter that Kim Clijsters had a child, or that Venus Williams hasn’t. What matters is that Kim Clijsters saw what she wanted and went after it. As a top seeded tennis player having a child, I can only imagine the gremlins in her head…”You’ll never get back in shape….You’ll never be on top again…”
Dreams don’t come true all at once; it’s a process. When we move forward with our dreams in spite of gremlins, each small victory along the way empowers us and propels us forward. Each small success convinces us that we are on the right track and brings us closer to being our most authentic self. From that place, it’s easy to live and let live; to be OK with others’ having the things they have, and to support them in pursuit of their own dreams. We all gotta be ourselves.
Originally posted 9/11/09
Wow. This year, the return to the scholastic year surrounds me in a way that it hasn’t since I left for college. In my family, my daughter moved up to a new class at daycare and her three month old brother began as well. My husband began a new project at work. And professionally, this month marks the first anniversary of Clear Strategy Coaching, plus I began the six month process for coaching certification!
Something about the cooling weather and the approaching harvest season makes me think about what the year has meant, and what’s been accomplished. In the last 12 months I worked with over 20 clients, developed and facilitated two six-week courses, and know that I helped a lot of people. But most importantly, I became a coach. Not because I went to City Hall to register my business, or that I read about coaching in my textbook. This year, I stopped being afraid and stepped into myself.
Michelangelo said, “I saw an angel in the block of marble and I just chiseled ‘til I set him free.” Somewhere, I was always a coach. Helping friends, listening. But the fear stopped me. Now, not only am I doing a job that I love, but there is a completeness about me that I carry each and every day. This year I stepped into living my life from a place of fulfillment, pleasure and satisfaction. It’s not that every day is seamless. But I find it almost impossible to describe the feeling of completeness, fearlessness and wonder that is in me each and every day. The frustration and confusion are replaced by fearlessness, openness and kindness.
My advice to those thinking of pursuing your dream…it is so worth it.
This past July my husband, children and I spent two days at a farm in NY state where we slept in a luxury lean-to/tent. Because I have been thinking a lot about authenticity and its importance in coaching, spending a weekend in nature seemed like a dream. I had visions of my daughter giving a milk bottle to a lamb, sharing a family bed, and breast feeding my son while watching my husband cook on the outdoor grill. I was convinced that I’d come home revitalized by nature’s horn of plenty, and ready to give it all up to join on as full-time farm hand.
Here’s how it really went: We were exhausted. The running water and luxury tent raised the bar high. No pb&j and chili around the campfire. Instead, fresh salad with homemade dressing, grilled meats, warm bread, wine, fully and elegantly set table. And all of the hand-washed dishes, in water we heated ourselves, to last a lifetime. The farmers were lovely – organic pioneers who gave up corporate life to be a living example to the world about the benefits of organic living. In truth, so many of the small farms have been absorbed by large-scale farms, that only ‘gentleman’ farms of this size remain. Either way, life on a farm is hard. There are no luxuries, and a lot of the fantasy is quashed by the relentlessness of the work.
I realized that weekend, perhaps disappointingly, that my own authenticity can be found in something much more bourgeois. Give me a day visit to the farm. Give me the organic section at Fairway. And, give me a long, beautiful hike in the woods followed by a warm bath in a large porcelain tub. For me, authenticity is knowing what you can tolerate and then tossing away that internal voice that judges you. And the work of authenticity is in remaining vigilant about which voices are yours and which crept in from the outside.