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Is Feedback a Gift or a Curse?

“A curse? Really?”

“I guess I wouldn’t consider ‘feedback’ as a gift either. It just is.”

Feedback is one of those things that someone either craves or they do not look forward to. In a professional setting, feedback can come from our peers, managers, or leadership. It can be structured or unstructured. However it is delivered, it is intended to be a critical evaluation of our work or conduct.

In a non-professional setting, ‘feedback’ is often an opinion being shared.

You’ve likely heard the saying, “Everyone has an opinion.” That’s probably the more PG version of that saying you’ve heard or said before. And it’s true. We all have opinions. Some good. Some bad. Some that we should share with the world to make a better place while others we should keep to ourselves because it serves no one…least not in a positive way.

In either setting, as the deliverers of feedback, the way that we share it determines how it is being received. Believe it or not, providing feedback is a skill. And just like every other skill, we have the ability to master it through practice.

Now, you might be wondering what’s the big deal about feedback or why I would go to such lengths to articulate on the subject.

Remember in the title I asked if it was a gift or a curse? Well, far too many people experience the curse side of feedback instead of the gift side. There is much that goes into why but the area that I want to focus on is the delivery.

Feedback, in many respects, has been to deliver hurt and pain. It may not have started that way, but the end result was a more broken individual.

Do you remember that time you were rejected? It probably wasn’t you..really. It was likely an idea or thought that you shared that was rejected but nevertheless, we take rejection personally.

How about that time where you were the butt of someone’s jokes…where you felt ridiculed?

When it comes to feedback and options, rejection and ridicule are two of the most significant paralyzing emotions that affect receivers. These feelings are cases when feedback becomes weaponized.

Here is what that looks like:

  • Bringing up “old stuff” instead of dealing with the issue at hand.
  • Using words that position the individual as the problem and not the situation or behavior
  • Providing feedback in public while never highlighting the positive often causing humiliation

As the deliverer of feedback and opinion, embracing empathy during your delivery is important, especially if you are giving feedback in an official context like a manager. Why? Because of the way that you deliver results in the way it is received, which determines the receiver’s growth and productivity. And it’s probably a good idea not to be a jerk either.

“Knowing this now, what can we do to make feedback a gift?”

Well, since you asked I have 7 strategies to use feedback as a growth tool.

(1) Evaluate your motives – Even before you begin providing your feedback, ask your self, “What is my motive for doing this?” An honest response will allow you to set the tone for delivering the feedback or not doing so at all.

(2) Be Timely – One of the challenges with feedback in the workplace is that it happens so infrequently. When delivering feedback, make sure that it is within a reasonable timeframe to the situation or behavior.

(3) Declare your Perspective – Too often we say things as facts when they are really just our perspective. When providing feedback, declare your perspective by saying “I felt like…”, “My experience was…”, etc

(4) Praise the Positives – Providing a positive review of others is not only encouraging but it is certainly the right thing to do. Give honor where honor is due by sharing the positives that someone is doing regardless of how big or small.

(5) Reshape the negatives – Negatives do not have to be delivered as such. An error, mistake, or behavior is an opportunity for the person to grow. When we frame it this way, then we arm the receive with a measurable means to see their improvements over time.

(6) Focus on the Situation – Feedback, especially when it is infrequent, can include everything including the kitchen sink. When we focus on specific situations and behaviors then we can focus on improving it.

(7) Provide specific suggestions – The worst feedback are those that are general in nature. You have no idea what you are supposed to do with that feedback. Provide specific recommendations on how to improve.

We have a choice when delivering feedback. We can either weaponize our feedback and cause more damage to another human being or we can employ the 7 strategies I shared here to deliver growth opportunities. The outcome of this choice is drastically different.

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Shining Light on Your Shadow

Literature captures a rich representation of humanity’s struggle. In fact, if you look at literary work as a whole, they fall into three categories: (1) man vs nature (2) man vs man and (3) man vs self.

 

We here at the Plaskett Institute dabble in each of these categories but by far man vs self is our specialty.

 

In the wake of senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless more Americans at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve, there has been a massive public outcry for justice. With that outcry came commentary from just about every element of the spectrum.

 

This article does not seek to debate the human rights issue. Rather, we seek to talk about the shadows that we all possess in our thinking, beliefs, perspectives, etc. We’ll call this our belief system – a complex make up of our thought life that we project into the world formed consciously and subconsciously through direct and indirect learning.

 

Whoa! That definition has some layers!

 

We all possess a belief system and regardless of its makeup, the belief system enables us to make sense of the world that we live in. In fact, it is the lens to which we form our understanding of the world around us. If we are more introspective, then this belief system takes center stage in understanding the world within ourselves.

 

Because of this, beliefs are sacred and when sacred things are challenged, the response is usually defensive. Yet, in everything that we are and everything that we know, there is still much to learn.

 

What’s more, we all possess shadows in our belief system that are often blind to us – for more reason than one (one being that we take our beliefs as facts [statements that can be objectively verified] aka “I’m right”, vs judgments/assessments/a version of a truth).

 

The shadow itself symbolizes our lack of knowledge about a particular subject AND the fact that we don’t realize we don’t know. You see, we are often blind to things that we don’t know or choose not to know because we are steadfast in being “right”.

 

In order to shine a light on our shadows, we must learn how to deconstruct our belief system when it is being challenged. Here are 3 immediate skills you can employ:

 

#1: Embrace Curiosity. 

 

Here is something that is often not said but opens you up to more learning…”I might be wrong…” When you come from a perspective that the truth you hold is not the only truth there is, then you become more curious about other possibilities.

 

There is a concept in Zen Buddhism known as Shoshin or beginner’s mind. This concept means to have an attitude of openness and eagerness to learn as a beginner would. When we can approach life as a forever-student then we can become the master of life.

 

A simple way to activate this in your life is to change your questions. Instead of asking why, learn to ask the same question with “what” or “how”. This shift allows for an exploration of possibilities.

 

If you must use “why” then don’t stop at the first why but go deeper by asking until you can get to the root.

 

#2: Learn to Listen.

 

We all have two ears but that doesn’t mean that we know how to listen. Certainly, we can hear but listening is a skill that takes intent to develop.

 

When hearing we are receiving at the surface level. Have you ever been in an intense conversation and your only purpose for being quiet is listening for your rebuttal? Sure you have. We all have. We are listening for the comeback verse listening to understand; to challenge our own perspectives; to embrace more curiosity.

 

A simple way to activate this in your next conversation is to take deep slow breathes and ask yourself “What am I NOT understanding in what is being said?” This opens you up to actually listen at a deeper level than listening for how you can prove yourself to be right.

 

#3 Adopt Empathy. 

 

The golden rule says, “treat others as you want to be treated.”  This rule assumes the way you treat yourself is the way others want to be treated. To truly be of service to others we want to treat others as THEY want to be treated.

 

This shift takes you out of the driver’s seat and firmly plants others in that position. When you are able to engage with others from THEIR frame of reference then your perspective doesn’t take precedence.

 

A simple way to activate this in your life is to perform a “Day in the life” exercise. You’ll likely need help to do this. Take something that you don’t understand or seek to learn more about and undergo a typical day’s experience. This is such an eye-opening experience that shows like “Undercover Boss” was created.

 

There is much more to these three skills but what was shared here is more than enough for you to get started. As you exercise these three skills you will learn to develop a more empathetic ear and open your belief system to possibilities you were once closed to. There is an entire world rich with perspectives and rich with learning opportunities. Closing yourself off to them only stunts your growth.

 

Take the challenge this week to deconstruct some belief you hold by employing these three strategies. I can’t wait to hear what you’ll learn.

Superhuman Ability of Boundaries

Superman, Spider Gwen, Ironman, Wonder Woman, and every other superhero establishes a practice that helps them stay grounded and allows for normalcy in their lives.

This simple, yet profoundly helpful practice, is called [establishing and maintaining] boundaries. Yes. Boundaries. Imaginary walls around areas of your life that protect your heart, mind, and soul while you pursue your aims.

Establishing Boundaries

The boundaries that we erect in our lives are similar to the ones that we put up in the physical world. They serve the purpose of protecting the things on the inside from the stuff on the outside that may do harm.

As general of a definition, this may be, the goal of the boundaries is to place distinct separation of the various part of our lives. The superheroes that I mentioned earlier wear costumes and masks which are examples of a boundary that separates their personal and public lives.

When we are in complete pursuit of our goals and aspirations, there is often a need to erect boundaries between work and life, side hustle and parenting, public and private. This becomes increasingly muddy in today’s society where the physical separation of these polarities is no longer clear. If it wasn’t difficult enough before, establishing and maintaining boundaries is a skill that we must learn to have healthy relationships.

Here is a bit of a paradox…boundaries are as much for us as it is for others. In other words, they aren’t about simply keeping people out as much as it is to make life more enjoyable. This is done by establishing what is and isn’t acceptable. Boundaries allow you to understand what your limits are which reduces chances of confrontation, frustration, anxiety, and stress. Boundaries support your well-being.

Here are 8 benefits of establishing and maintaining boundaries:

  1. Creates you to be more Self-Aware: Being self-aware is the ultimate superhuman capability that is the art of recognizing your needs and feelings as completely your own and not those tied to another person or your environment. Creating your own boundaries is the manifestation of your self-awareness.
  2. Creates you to have better relationships: Your increased self-awareness creates in you an ability to be more compassionate and empathetic towards others. As a result, you are likely to have better relationships. What’s more, as you set clear boundaries you can have more engaging relations without fear or concern of crossing a boundary.
  3. Creates you to have less stress: When we don’t create boundaries, we inadvertently create conditions that cause more stress. Stress is the foremost enemy of well-being so we must do everything to protect ourselves from situations that cause increased or unnecessary stress.
  4. Creates you to have more Self-Care: The most compassionate people who tend to give of themselves to everyone else often have the lowest self-care practice. When boundaries are established, then there can be more focus on your well being. And here is the best part – when you are taking care of your self, then you are well able to take care of others.
  5. Creates you to be a better communicator: It may seem easy on the surface to say what you want and don’t want but it can be a challenging conversation especially with those who have not respected the little boundaries you may have had in the past. Expressing your needs and wants are powerful declarations that provide unprecedented transparency.
  6. Creates you to be less frustrated: Nothing feels more frustrating than when someone doesn’t respect your boundaries…except, they didn’t know you had any. Establishing boundaries reduces emotions like frustration because of the level of transparency that you provide in how you want and need to be treated.
  7. Creates you to be more assertive: ‘No’ is a small word but can be a powerful boundary. ‘No’ has the ability to shape an environment that allows you to live more fully in your self-expression. And ‘No’ isn’t intended to close you off from life but to open you up to your priorities.
  8. Creates you to be more expressive: Since you are not bogged down with the needs of others, you are liberated to do the things you never had time to do.

Take the time during this quarantine period to discover the boundaries that you need to erect to support your well-being.

Coaches and Educators

Boundaries are increasingly important in this post-COVID-19 world that we find ourselves in. Support your clients and students by ensuring they understand what boundaries are and how they can be used to support their personal mastery and well-being.

The Subtle Power of Detachment

Superhuman means to have skills and abilities that are not common to the majority of the population. Early in our shared history, these were warriors who had an uncanny fighting ability who seemed to win every battle. Today, we find this characteristic in athletics at the top of their sport.

What sets apart the ‘human’ and the ‘superhuman’ isn’t some physical or genetic characteristics and its certainly not some radioactive spider that transforms you into Spider-Man. To be superhuman is a capacity that requires commitment, conviction, dedication, practice, faith, endurance, and resilience. You may notice that these aren’t uncommon traits. They are all capacities, meaning that they are available to anyone who seeks to exercise the development of the needed capacity.

A dear friend of mine shared with me a great reminder that echos the characteristics of being superhuman:

In recent months, we’ve covered a few superhuman capacities like adaptation, transformation, grit, and resilience.  Many of these have the flavor of charging ahead and being on the offensive of change. Today, I want to share with you a defensive characteristic to safeguard your heart and pursuits. 

Detachment

Let’s immediately clear the air. Detachment is not a fancy word for indifference, passivity, or carelessness. In fact, detachment, in its purest sense, supports the connection to positive growth, resilience, integrity, and grace (self and others).


I’ll tell no lie
Detachment is riddled with complexities and paradoxes. For example, the word detach means disconnect yet detachment involves great involvement. The difference is detachment is liberated from the outcome or the paralyzing emotions preventing the pursuit.


Ron W. Rathbun wrote, “True detachment isn’t a separation from life but the absolute freedom within your mind to explore living.”

It is hard to recognize the benefits of detachment when our lives are going well and full of inspiration. Yet, life as it is has its ups and downs. When we are faced with loss, grief, and failure, it becomes difficult to not associate these paralyzing emotions with ourselves. Yet through the practice of detachment, we can learn to not identify ourselves by our emotions and move from suffering to peace.


Detachment is the act of maximum pursuit of life (and the pressures that arise) AND maximum grace.  


Roughly 37 million people have filed
 for unemployment in the United States as a result of the COVID-19. This means that there are 37 million people in the United States alone who are suffering from the stress and anxiety of losing their jobs and its financial implications. Yet, there is a hidden emotional and mental tole of job loss. For many, jobs aren’t just a means of making a living, they influence how we see ourselvesWe associate ourselves with roles and the skills those roles require. As a result, we begin to question our identity. “Who am I if I am not [job role]?”

Attachment and self-identity are deeply intertwined. We associate ourselves with the things that we hold dear, like our jobs or the status they give us, and emotions that we do not know how to process through. In the case of our jobs, it is the identity that these jobs give us. Detachment here looks like separating our identity from the job we once had. This means that we move to a perspective that does not rely on our job/career alone to give us a feeling of fulfillment, purpose, and meaning in life.


A powerful element of a detachment practice is learning to be objective. 
We see this with the best actors who become deeply involved in their role yet they recognize the role as a separate identity than the one they hold when they are not in character. They become fully immersed in the emotions and mindset of the character while able to be objective and detached from the role.

Like many other things, there isn’t some single achievement point where you obtain your Detachment Mastery Badge. Instead, detachment is a moment-by-moment, day-by-day, exercise of accepting what is and doing our best to pivot our next steps towards doing what we think is right…while not being attached to the outcome.

Here are 7 ways to develop your practice of detachment:

  1. Become an Observer – What would it look like if someone else was experiencing your situation? The goal here is to get an objective view of the situation. Attachment, even the slightest, comes with an emotional charge. Observe how your emotions are shifting and determine what is causing the shift. That may be the very thing that you are attached to. The next step would be to determine how to grow into detachment.
  2. Storytime vs Reality – We can create and resonate a negative narrative in our minds when things are not going our way. We must recognize the story we are telling ourselves and compare it to facts of the situation at hand. Going back to the job example, we might tell ourselves that if we don’t get this next job it is going to ruin our career. The reality is there is no loss here. This future outcome is not today’s truth. Focus on the present.
  3. Embrace uncertainty – Certainty is a fleeting concept the more time we spend on this earth. Embracing uncertainty allows us to be flexible and put emerging challenges into a perspective that allows us not to get caught up in the fright of not-knowing.
  4. Embrace Impermanence – Attachment causes us to be fearful of change. When we come to grips with the constancy of change, then we are better able to practice detachment. For example, the person you knew when you were a child is a different person as an adult. To hold on to the notion of who they were means you are unwilling to accept the impermanence of life.
  5. Change what you speak – What we speak shapes who we are. A subtle change in speech can help support your detachment practice. Here is what I mean. Change from “I need to” to “I want to” or “I have to” to “I get to”.
  6. Pause. Meditate. Take action. (PMT) – We can easily get caught up in the circumstances of life and make reaction decisions. Instead, we have the opportunity to pause to gather our composure, use a meditative practice to get grounded, and then respond with the next best action.
  7. Embrace the Journey – Change takes time and it takes work. You will likely fall into old habits and that’s ok. You are right in line with the rest of the world. But to become superhuman you must embrace the journey and continue to pursue of improvements.

I offer to you these 7 detachment practices to support your growth of self-grace and maximum pursuit of your goals. When we can come to a more mature place of detachment, we gain freedom. In this freedom, we gain peace and in this peace we are able to live life more fully, embracing all of its ups and downs assured in its rich and rewarding experience.

Adapting to the Times

Adaptation is one of the great human superpowers.  Everything else on this planet survives off of instinct by design.

Humans, on the other hand, have the fortunate circumstance to leverage three distinct features of our development –  instinct, intuition, and ingenuity. Because of this powerful combination, we have the ability to adapt to situations and circumstances like no other creature on the planet. What’s more, as we build up our experience goldmine we improve in our adaptation capability.

This is why I say that adaptation is a human superpower. There are two types of adaptation that are keen in these times. The first being grit and the second being resilience. Let’s take a look at each:

Grit:

Grit is a powerful adaptation. It allows us to persevere in the midst of a challenge. You’ve heard before that to grit means to be mentally tough in the face of adversity. And as true as that may be, it is not about simply turning on a light switch. It is more about:

  1. Determining what is important and keeping that goal in front of you. It becomes the light at the end of the tunnel that you strive towards.
  2. Establishing daily wins toward the realization of that goal
  3. And building the habits, inspirations, and motivations to keep you going no matter what.

Grit is about driving towards the realization of a passion that you hold dear. In this case, passion serves two functions – it is the goal and the fuel to realize the goal.

Grit is the adaptation to survive the challenges on the road to realizing your goals. In this time of global response to a pandemic, we can all use the characteristic of grit to courageously overcome the challenge on our path so that we can realize our goals.

Yet, as you can imagine, this can only be done for a period of time. Grit isn’t, in my humble opinion, a sustainable psychological state. It is great and useful when we understand what the end goal looks like however in these times where the end goal is so fluid, and the complexity that we must deal with is overwhelming, we must rely on a different adaptation.

Resilience:

Resilience is purpose-built for times like these and frankly every other adversity that we undergo as part of the human experience. Resilience is the capacity for a successful adaptation in the face of stress, challenge, and adversity. In this distinction of successful, we come to understand that there are unsuccessful ways to deal with the challenges of life. If we accomplish the goal while tearing down our relationships and destroying our physical health and mental wellbeing, the goal will be met but the life around it will be in shambles.

Resilience is the adaptation built for thriving through and well beyond the challenging circumstances that we find ourselves in. To accomplish this we must understand the 5 parts of resilience.

  1. Positive Emotions: This isn’t an unrealistic, falsely joyful view of emotions. Rather this is a grounding of the emotions that result in a positive mood, recall of positive memories, and embodiment of positive feelings. Positive emotions are a choice chosen in the moment of difficulty where the emotions provide the grounding to the next response. If you’ve lost someone to COVID-19 or you feel isolated as a result of social distancing, know that it is okay and healthy to deal with the emotion that is coming up for you. Allow it to rise and process through it. Once you’ve successfully dealt with that emotion, realign to the emotions that ground you and helps you move forward such joy, gratitude, serenity, hope, pride, laughter, inspiration, and love.
  2. Social Support: We are social creatures. In these times it is even more important to rely on your support system to speak about the difficulty you are facing. This support system is essential in providing encouragement, guidance, and comfort.
  3. Meaning: Sometimes it is difficult to make sense of the crazy things in this world. Yet, this is an outsider looking in perspective. The opposite, an inside looking out, establishes that our lives are purposeful and seeks to determine how our purpose can be applied to the world.
  4. Coping: We all have our unique makeup of how we cope with distressing situations. In a resilience construct, we must employ productive and empowering coping mechanisms to manage our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.
  5. Physical well-being: This plays a significant part in our mental well-being. Consistent physical exercise, healthy eating habits, and sufficient sleep shape our mood, ability to handle stress, motivations, and overall mental well-being.

As we seek to adapt to the times, we must employ attributes that we may not have relied on before. Grit and resilience are such attributes that are fit for these days. Grit enables us to adapt to survive the challenge while resilience empowers us to thrive through and beyond the challenges we face.

None of the adversity, stress, or challenges we face in life comes easy yet we have a choice in how we deal with it. In that choice, we are either liberated or encaged. We are either empowered by our exploration into the difficult and unknown or disempowered by negative coping mechanisms and limiting beliefs of what is possible. All choice is ours. What will you choose today?

Coaches and Educators:

Grit and Resilience are essential instructional points for your clients and students. This provides the foundation for them to build on. Utilize this article or others to engage with your clients and students in building their grit and resilience capacities and understanding the difference between the two.

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Exploring Beyond The Comfort Zone

Without question, there has been a lot of discomforts that we’ve all experienced in 2020. And the recovery from COVID-19 will be an uphill battle that we will all have to learn to navigate.


So why
 would I suggest that you should explore beyond our comfort zone when all we want now is to be comfortable?

Simple. I want to prepare you for what’s to come. The recovery from COVID-19 will not  be back to a familiar reality. Instead, we will emerge from this crisis into a new normal that will continue to challenge our comfort zones. In the coming weeks, months, and years ahead we will need to depend on a fortified resilience that enables us to thrive throughout this new experience.

Experience, the teacher


What if I told you that we all live in our own personal bubble? 
And that the bubbles are made up of our limiting beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. And that our ability to fully embrace and engage in this world is based on the size of that bubble. This bubble is our comfort zone. We all have them yet some are more constricted than others.

In order to expand our comfort zone, we must learn to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. This doesn’t mean we no longer have fear, anxiety, or a lack of self-confidence. This means that we’ve determined that on the other side of those paralyzing emotions, there is something worth pursuing so we face our constraints in hopes of liberation.

The absolutely best way to achieve this liberation is through new learned experiences. I’m making the distinction of learned experiences versus lived experiences because the former requires reflection on the experience while reflection may not occur in lived experiences.


Reflection is the key component that makes the shift 
between experiencing something new and assimilating the doing and being learning opportunities of that experience. Otherwise, we go through life in a zombie state of existence, repeating the same destructive habits and becoming no wiser.

Novelty is also key for learning to take place. Without it, the experience would not wake us up out of our routine view of life. Novelty allows us to go through the entire experience eyes wide open, seeking, and consuming the new.

Consider these two examples. In the first, you drive along the route to work that you habitually travel but instead you are the passenger. This is a first for you so you take in all of the sights, discover new things along the route you’ve never noticed before, and realized the tree line is vibrant with life.


Sticking with the travel theme,
 you travel to a new country. Upon landing, you start to take in all of the differences. Your ears hear a different language, your eyes admire the architecture, your nose delights in the spices being used to cook the food that your taste buds are about to consume.

In these two experiences, you take the opportunity to reflect through journaling and discovered how you were, what you felt, and what you learned through these novel experiences. The fears that you had were found not to be true. The anxiety you felt was replaced by excitement and anticipation. Your self-confidence was bolstered by having accomplished something new.

So as you can see, experience becomes the best teacher you’ve ever had because it opened you up to possibilities that you thought were not available to you. These possibilities were outside of your reach largely because of the bubble that constrained your experiences…the comfort zone that limited you.


Experiences are a powerhouse of personal and professional development
 that allows you to embody learning like nothing else. Especially as we ensure that these experiences include:

  • Novelty to wake us up for the mundane of doing and being
  • Reflection to embody the learning
  • Noticing to take in the new
  • Vulnerability to allow ourselves a moment of insecurity so that we can take part in a perspective-shifting experience.

In this trying time, it may seem impossible to engage in such an experience that would yield this benefit. I’ll offer that this thought is only part of the story. There are a number of innovative ways that you can undergo transformative experiences that shape and develop you…while having fun.

Coaches and Educators

An aspect of supporting your clients and students means to support their development through learned experiences. We at the Plaskett Institute, believe that transformative experiences have the ability to wake up our clients to the reality they have the power to shape and grow deeper in their understanding of themselves and the world around them.

Our new course, Architecting Transformations, is a comprehensive master course that teaches you the levels of facilitating experiences that can result in a more open, inclusive, liberated, and purposeful individual that show up to life fully present. This course is coming in Summer 2020. 

On the Road to Mastery

I haven’t come across too many people who aren’t doing something that interest them but does not come naturally. Frankly, even if the thing does come naturally, there are still new heights to learn and develop. Practice is something that we all engage in no matter what stage we are in our development.

Your practice could be just about anything including going to the gym, practicing yoga, cooking, martial arts, writing, coding, gardening, and so much more. Anything that is of interest to you that you seek to get better at becomes fair game for establishing a practice.

And there you have it…“Establishing a practice”. The very definition of the word “practice” means to rehearse a behavior or activity consistently in order to improve and eventually master. We cultivate the very thing that is important to us so that we can reap the benefits of the practice (e.g. better-tasting food or error-free code).

For many of us, including myself, we have a troubling relationship with practice. Sometimes we are doing great and having a great time. Then there are times where we are avoiding practice by cheating on her with other more important things like [fill in the blank]. Our relationship with practice has various ups and downs. When we are up we are loving life but when we are down, the guilt of avoiding practice eats us up.

How to solve the drop-offs in our practice:

The valley can be a dangerous place for many reasons but the most important among them is it can lead to the abandonment of your practice. Remember, we are engaging in this practice because we find fulfillment in the activity or its outcome. To abandon this would mean we are giving up on our aspirations, hopes, and dreams. And a heart without hope comes a dark and cold place, void of the beauty of life.

So for this reason, we must learn to turn the valley from a negative into a positive by employing the following three-part strategy.


#1 – We must commit to the practice itself.

When tough times arise, usually the first thing to go are the expendables. This usually ends up being your practice.

Your practice is not expendable. 

It is essential to your emotional, physical, and social well-being. So instead of abandoning your practice, you can employ the minimum practice that you need to continue your development and achieve fulfillment.

This means you are still consistent in your practice because you’ve made a commitment to yourself and we honor all commitments we make, especially those we make to and for ourselves.


#2 – We must plan for the valley by establishing a minimum practice.

The absolute truth that we must face is that life is anything but predictable. Things happen all of the time that causes our plans to change. Current world events – COVID-19 – is a prime example of this truth.

Yet, since we know this, we have the ability to plan for when things are not optimal. When they are optimal, we can engage in our practice without issues, for the length or quantity that we need. However, when life shares with us challenges and circumstances that require more of us, then we must have a minimum practice that we can engage in to continue our pursuits.

The benefits of establishing a minimum practice are:

  • We don’t abandon the development and fulfillment that the practice gives us
  • We are able to combat against the limiting beliefs that are revealed in difficult situations
  • We are able to focus on the quality of our practice vs the length of time
  • Our practice meets us where we are physically and emotionally

The intent around a minimum practice is to continue our practices that bring forth attributes of being that out weights the attributes of doing. Which, by the way, actually strengthens the results of our practice. So, even though a minimum practice isn’t the full expression of your practice is focuses on the key component which is the way of being.


#3 – We must establish a way into your practice

Sustaining a practice means that we must learn to face ourselves – good, bad, and ugly…especially the bad and ugly. 

The difficult part of any practice is actually getting started. It’s not the middle and certainly not the end of the practice but determining in your mind and heart to start the practice. And this doesn’t happen only when we are beginning a new practice but every time we are about to engage in our established practice.

Like everything else, we have a choice. We can choose to lean into or away from our practice (remember when I talked about our relationship with practice above?) We can choose to listen to the voice that makes the practice a grandiose task or belittles its importance…or we can listen to the empowering voice that supports our fulfillment.


In order to lean in we must find a way in.
 This could be anything that catapults us into our practice. This may be a somatic gesture like clapping your hands or bouncing up and down. It could be turning on your favorite song that puts you into the mood. It could be the battle cry that you bellow from the depts of your lungs.

Whatever it may be, find and use it as your way into your practice. 

Your practice is an expression of who you are and what brings you fulfillment and joy. Your practice leads to mastery and it is on this road where you find joy, gratitude, self-express, resilience, and faith.

These discoveries should never be compromised when life becomes difficult. On this road and through life’s difficulties is where we learn to face ourselves to become better versions of ourselves.

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Surrender Yourself To A World Of Possibilities

You would be hard-pressed to find another word in the English Language that causes people to sink in their feet, embody a defensive stance, and bellow “NO!” from the depths of their soul like the word “surrender.”

A word like “surrender” carries with it significant meaning, biases, emotions, memories, hopes, fears, and so much more. Its weight is heavy and because of that, its potential as a personal development aid is not realized.

In western society, surrender means to give up, to give in, or to submit to the authority of an opponent. The very word is a point of contention. No one in their right mind wants to surrender. If anything, surrender means that we must fight and fight to the bitter end.

This notion is valid and admirable in the context of overcoming a physical threat or oppressor. God knows this is true across our unified histories, especially in civil and gender rights. AND, we must consider that our transitional response to surrender is applicable to every other circumstance that, at first glance, provides the appearance of a threat.

Most will agree that we are a culture that craves control – some might even say obsessed with the need for control. And what’s interesting is that this isn’t a new phenomenon brought about by the dawn of the digital age. Sure, during this period of history we have the ability to control more aspects of our lives than ever before, yet as a species have always sought to control the uncontrollable.

Strength in Surrender

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” – American Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, “Serenity Prayer”

Many of us avoid conflict at all cost. It’s part of our instinct. We avoid things that will cause us pain. Unfortunately, the avoidance of pain, in many cases, is what diminishes our lives. Plowing through the pain or hiding behind every corner when the pain appears does more harm than good.

How?

Avoiding pain may feel good at the moment, but it will surely play havoc with the future. Facing our challenges equips us with the experiences that allow us to successfully deal with the next event that will surely come.

Yet, there is extraordinary wisdom, clarity, and strength that emerges when we adopt surrender to the challenge instead of avoiding it. We become better versions of ourselves who are more equipped to continue our journey through life and its various challenges.

Given this context, let’s consider another definition of surrender that is more natural in meaning: to not resist. If we could take away the notions of oppression and subjugation from our consciousness, what would it mean to not resist the uncontrollable aspects of our life?

The coronavirus (aka COVID-19) has created an event in world history that many of us could not have imagined outside of science fiction. Overnight, our worlds were turned unrecognizable and we needed to learn how to respond in very short order. We lost complete control as we defend against an invisible threat.

For many, this change is very difficult to deal with. We would rather that things never changed or that they would go back to normal sooner rather than later. As such, we put up a fight against the new reality that we face.

When we fight we exert alot of energy. We often believe that the fight is the only option that we have. But what if we took a fighting stance of surrender instead?

Did you see what I just did there? I took what is typically looked at as a weakness, and I gave it power and a sense of control by using the word and imagery of a defiant, confident, stance.

But what would happen if we were to truly take a stance of surrender? Instead of working against the energy, what if we flowed with it? What if we harmonized our efforts with the energy?

Imagine that you are in a long hallway filled with a hundred open doors. When you walk through them you are met with no resistance. But what happens when you approach a closed door?

You have two choices: fight to open the door or pause, reflect, and respond to what is unfolding in a controlled manner. To surrender means to relax our rigid agendas. It is an act of self-realization in the moment.

This doesn’t change your identity or your goals. If you are an activist, visionary, teacher, or change agent, you are still those identities; and with humility, you will begin to understand you have little control in the enormity of your efforts.

By surrendering to this realization, you free up energy otherwise used to fight against the uncontrollable. That energy can then be used to further the efforts of your agenda, like discovering new ways to achieve your goals. Or how to make the best use of social distancing amidst our COVID-19 response.

Funny enough, this puts you back in control.

For many of you who read this, it sounds impossible to do. “It might work for some but it won’t work for me!” What’s interesting is in order to be truly human and have real human relationships means you have encountered surrender more often than you realize.

Everything that truly matters in life, like inspiring relationships, requires leaps of faith and surrender. In fact, faith is another word for surrender. Without leaps of surrender, there would be no love. There would be no creativity, learning, the accomplishment of our goals, and there would be no connection to God.

Surrender is more common than we recognize.

As we embark on this next week, take a moment to think about what you are currently resisting that, if you surrendered instead, might open up a world of opportunity for you. Consider what fighting is costing you in terms of time, energy, relationship, and opportunities.

5 Strategies for Surviving Social Distancing

We are social beings. We thrive better together than when we are apart. This is why civilizations have flourished since Mesopotamia.

With many governments across the globe instituting actions like social distancing as a means of combatting the spread of the coronavirus, there is a major shock for all of us to adjust to.

The better we are able to adjust in the short term will determine our ability to embrace the changes that are sure to come as a result of this pandemic. The most significant of these short term adjustments is social distancing.

Overnight, we’ve been thrown into a whirlwind of change that has many scrambling to understand how to cope. We here at the Plaskett Institute want to do our part to help combat the effects of the coronavirus.

Surviving Social Distancing

You might think that introverts may have it easier during this time but introverts and extroverts alike all need some level of social interaction.

Social distancing can cause boredom, anxiety, depression, stress, excessive eating, etc. So what are we to do while reducing our interaction with others and canceling plans to goto Disney World for my son’s birthday (ok so I’m a little bitter…).

Here are 5 strategies for surviving social distancing:

1️⃣Make a Plan – When our plans are thrown off, we tend not to go back to the drawing board and make a plan given the lastest conditions. Don’t just go into social distancing…make a plan that allows you stay productive and engaged. Oh, and call that person you’ve been avoiding. The conversation might surprise you!

2️⃣Keep Productive – If your plan is to binge-watch Netflix for the foreseeable future, you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll become bored and even more socially disengaged. What’s worse – the effects on your health are serious – e.g. increase chances of heart disease, issues sleeping, etc

You’ve just been forced to reduce your social interactions. This is a good time to catch-up on that productive work that you’ve been avoiding.

3️⃣Stay Active – Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. Listen to the recommendations of the CDC and your local government AND make sure you stay active – engage with nature; meet up with a (non-infected) friend for coffee; make a goal to lose 5lbs instead of gaining 5lbs.

4️⃣Quality Time – Unfortunate circumstances can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. Although some of our travel plans and major meetings have been canceled, we have a new opportunity to spend quality time with our love ones. This is a great time for family games, great conversations, and yes, even ‘Netflix and Chill‘.

5️⃣Rest + Reflection – First introduced in my Combating Comfort and Challenge video  I reimagined ‘R&R’ to be more empowering. It is essential for our health and wellbeing to have consistent, scheduled periods of rest. During these times of rest, it is a great opportunity to reflect on past successes and failures so that we can learn how to improve.

There you have it. Some of these strategies might seem simple…ok, well they are…but if we are not intentional (wait, that could be #6️⃣) the opportunity will pass us by repeatedly.

Oh, wait…did you know that there is an acronym for POOR? It is Pass Over Opportunity Repeatedly. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Take advantage of this social distancing for your benefit.

Self-Love is…

This month is February. And here’s the thing, February, to me, automatically triggers one important thing, right? And that’s Valentine’s day, I consider February to be the love month. Yeah, it has President’s Day in there but it’s really all about the hearts. And I thought it was pretty important to have a conversation about love. 

 

And this isn’t going to be a mushy kind of conversation, but it’s something that we ‘ought to have because we don’t necessarily learn about it in a context for us to have healthy relationships. But I don’t want to have a conversation about a two-person relationship, whatever type of relationship that may be. Rather, I want to have a conversation about the relationship with yourself. 

 

Self-love. 

 

This type of relationship with yourself is something that is critically important. We don’t give enough credence to it. And here’s the reason why I believe this is. My running theory of why we do not put enough emphasis on self-love or “self-” anything, really, is that as children we’re taught not to be selfish. We were told that we have to share; we have to give; we have to do all of these things that are not for ourselves. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. These instructions are great and necessary as we sure up an inclusive culture. 

 

Given this context then, the concept of self-love causes many to hear their parents’ voices saying self-love is being selfish. As a result, there is a huge challenge for people to take grasp of self-love. 

 

But I want to turn that around. I want to have a conversation on how we can turn that around and embrace self-love as a critical component of a healthy relationship with yourself.

 

I often coach people on this topic as many of my clients tend to be givers. And when you are a ‘giver’ you tend to give to others and rarely to yourself. So the concept of self-love becomes difficult for them, yet, the four points that I am going to cover is going to make it easier for even the most giving of givers to change their relationship with self-love. 

 

So let’s dig into it. 

 

The first one, of course, is: Self-love is not selfish. 

 

When you are prioritizing yourself to be of importance, to love yourself as you love someone else, therefore you are doing something that is healthy for you to be able to provide your best in this life. 

 

Here’s what I mean by that. You are no good to yourself if you are helping everyone else. You’re making sure that everything is taken care of for everyone else and everything for you is in disarray. 

 

How can you then progress yourself or anyone else forward if you can’t take care of yourself? 

 

You see, the concept of being selfish has construed the way that we think about self-love/self-care and the way that reflects on others. I can’t be a great parent if I don’t take care of myself and learn how to best parent my children. I cannot be an awesome husband unless I figure out how to best love myself so I know how to love my wife.

I can’t do anything in this world well unless I understand my self first. 

 

Look, relationships are hard. They’re hard for various reasons. Communication, understanding, empathy, so on and so forth, right? But there is a relationship with one’s self that we have to have an understanding of. We must learn how to communicate with ourselves meaning understanding our inner workings. Because until we do so, we cannot expect other people to understand us. 

 

If I don’t do the introspective exercises to really dig in deep to who I am (good, bad or indifferent), then I can’t reflect back on someone else how I want to be best-loved, for example. So this why self-love is not selfish. 

 

Self-love enables you to love others.

 

In order for me to love you, I need to first understand how I love myself. So then I understand what love really looks like and then I can reflect that back to you genuine love. Without this, we are all faced with challenging relationships because we do not understand how we should receive love and therefore we accept anything that may resemble love. 

 

One of the most rewarding experiences of developing self-love is asking yourself what love really means. Through those answers, you have the standard of what it means to express and receive love. 

 

This opens up the opportunity and realization that if you asked yourself, therefore, you should probably ask others what love really means to them. This allows you to understand if you can or are willing to meet that standard of their definition of love. 

 

You see there are too many assumptions that occur in relationships. We are literally in a relationship with ourselves and certainly with others. Until we are able to have the conversation, with self and with others, then we can’t demystify these assumptions that we have about ourselves and each other.

 

If I do this exercise, if I do the work to understand yourself and have a love of yourself, then you can have a better relation of that love to others. I can know how to better love someone else. 

 

This is why self-love is not selfish. 

 

Alright, number three: Self-love means you put yourself as a priority.

 

Moms…[really this is for any parent] You can’t be great moms if you are not putting yourself as a priority. Now, that doesn’t mean that every single day that you neglect your children so that you could put yourself as a priority. What this means is that as a mom, you need your time. You need your ‘me’ time. This is time away from the kids and from your spouse / significant other.

 

You need your ‘me’ time so you can sit back and rest and reflect. I introduced the concept of Rest+Reflection in my previous video, Combating Comfort and Challenge. For this to be effective, you need to have your periods of rest and reflection built into your schedule. 

 

I know things are going a hundred miles per hour. 

 

I know there’s a lot on your plate. 

 

But unless you put in your periods of rest and reflection, then you’re going to run yourself ragged. You’re going to lose your self-identity. And certainly if you lose your self-identity, you don’t know how to love yourself and all the other things that I said earlier still apply. 

 

Self-love means that you got to put yourself as a priority. 

 

That means it is on the calendar. There’s no other way that I know how to think about this. Things will always come up where you are tempted to put yourself on the backburner. You must stay committed to the practices that are healthy for you and support your wellbeing. That means you must schedule on your calendar your periods of rest and reflection. 

 

I don’t know what that would look like for you. It may be a ‘staycation’ that you have every couple of months. It might mean every two weeks you have a movie night or our book that you read in a bathtub full of water and candles. Self-love means that you put yourself as a priority. 

 

And the last one: self-love establishes healthy relationships. 

 

If you don’t know how to love yourself, again, you cannot love someone else.

 

And I don’t mean romantic relationship perse. I’m also talking about platonic relationships. How are you truly going to love your best friend? If you don’t have a true understanding of love for yourself your relationship is going to be shortsighted somewhere. You are not going to give your best nor are you going to be able to receive your best because you don’t have an understanding of what your best for yourself is because you have not prioritized self-love. 

 

So healthy relationships enable you to love others better

 

Self-love is certainly not selfish and love means that you put yourself as a priority.

 

It’s critically important that we take this and really understand it. We need to move from the space of this simplistic understanding of selfishness and move to a more complex appreciation for what self-love really means. 

 

So if I put anything into practice today, I suggest that you make yourself a priority.