Pause … to Be Still (Volume 1)

How the World’s Big Pause Allowed Us to See Things More Clearly

Pause to be still and see things more clearly.

What a Year It Has Been

So many anniversaries of strange, never before imagined life milestones have been occurring from the events of over a year ago. I have found myself reflecting during these past several weeks on what it has all meant to me when the world hit “pause” and forced us to just … be still.

“It’s in the Pause” ® is about Emotional Intelligence lessons and tips, and I found it ironic that the entire world was put into the very state of PAUSE that I have been focusing on in my business just at the time when I was expecting several aspects of my career to really take off for me. Instead, the opposite happened. Life slowed waaaaaaay down. I was suddenly in a speed that I didn’t recognize, forced into my very own pause. It has been an interesting journey, to say the least

Despite many negative circumstances stemming from 2020, I have tried to view whatever I can as a gift, as I often do in life. I have used the happenings of Times Like These (Foo Fighters song title shout-out there – I highly recommend the pandemic video of that song) to percolate and grow.

As an empath, the past year was incredibly difficult for me on many levels. I absorbed it all. As someone who lives life in the middle in more of a grey area, I found that the negativity, tribalism, and us vs. them of the past year all took its toll on me at an energetic level. We are all energetic beings, after all. I found that it zapped my creativity and shut me down in some capacities. Many times, it felt like it was just all too much to take in … but, I recognized this and accepted all of it, set some healthy boundaries, and then tried to understand how I could use what we were all experiencing to provide insight and push myself forward to be better in the future.

Buckle up … this is a long one. (It’s been a while … surely this is no surprise!)

George Floyd – R.I.P.

There have been so many things I have discovered over the past 13-14 months, yet some lessons are standing out more clearly for me this week than others.

Because the world had paused due to COVID-19, it enabled us all to see and experience the pain and injustice that was inflicted upon George Floyd last year. Distractions were minimized, and attention was easily drawn to this horrific event of 2020. Watching what we now know to be a brutal nine minutes and 29 seconds was a wake-up call for so many. The trial this week had all of us reliving what happened to him in May of last year, wondering if justice would indeed be served.

I want to be very clear. This is NOT a political writing, so please do not infer anything or read it as such –if you tend to view life from that approach, please gently remove those glasses and slip on your humanity spectacles instead. Those who know me realize I am rarely approaching something from that sort of angle. Rather, this is about people, and how we can all learn, grow and live more peacefully together. From an emotional intelligence perspective, we MUST get back to the place where we are able to have respectful conversations, examine issues deeply, listen intently, and explore things together as we look for our common ground as humans working collectively to improve our world.

My heart has been full of so many emotions this past week. Well, for the past several weeks, really, as I have watched the feelings being expressed by some of my black friends and their family members navigating the complexity of what the Derek Chauvin trial brought up for them. I have watched my friends of color feeling exhausted by their ongoing frustration, pain, hope and continuing concern. I have shed tears of sadness, relief and exhaustion with them as results from the trial were released, realizing it is a small step toward accountability and justice.

One of my dear friends said she was, “Tired, angry & mourning our brothers & sisters.” Another said, “If you have a black friend, and you don’t understand their pain right now, you don’t have a black friend, you simply know a black person.” I am grateful that I am blessed with some wonderful friends of color who allow me to see the world through their lenses. While I truly cannot understand the depth of what they experience, I can certainly empathize and stand beside them in their pain, wanting more for our human race.

How Did We Get Here?

Let’s take a step back from the trial to reflect upon the past year. Although it is already April, in many ways it has been difficult for many to embrace the new year because it started out feeling very much like 2020, a year that brought so many unimaginable changes into our lives.

The past year has truly been a year like no other. I had gone into 2020 thinking it was going to be my best year yet! Having just come off a phenomenal 2019, I had very high expectations for 2020. Ha! So ironic, looking back now. Little did I know then that 2020 would sit me down instead and say, “No, girlfriend. Be still. This is your time to learn.”

My last flight of 2020 happened in February, which was on the heels of my last business trip to Atlantic City. It was the last time that year I would be able to see my family in Oklahoma on the way home. Thank goodness my niece had a baby shower so I could celebrate with everyone. Welcoming the impending arrival of her twin babies, I didn’t know then that I would not see my family for another fourteen months (an absence joyfully remedied this month!). We had to protect my sweet mom’s health, so I stayed here in California for the first time ever over Christmas until she could get vaccinated.

Like so many people, I remember the early weeks of the pandemic and how unsettled I felt with everything. My work traditionally had me traveling quite a bit, usually at least once or twice a month. Suddenly I found my business trips being canceled and postponed, week after week after week. With those cancellations were of course the cancellations of the revenue I had planned to receive with those trips. It was all quite unnerving.

I had to spring into action to be the CFO of my small business, trying to figure out what assistance was available and what I could do. I pivoted and offered different types of programs online to try to get exposure through the audiences that were accessible. All of this while trying to figure out what COVID-19 was and how to better protect myself and others. It felt like I was constantly researching!

How Our Nation’s Pause Opened Our Eyes

I found my normally steady emotions were on a bit of a roller coaster at the beginning of the pandemic. About the time I started to adjust and began to settle into the odd quality of being stuck at home, that is when we all saw as Derek Chauvin kneeled on the neck of George Floyd and broke our hearts.

Watching the trial these past few weeks brought it all back anew …

I believe that because our nation was in a unique state of pause due to the pandemic, because we were all still, eyes were clearly opened. With other deaths of black and brown people stemming from non-violent offenses or encounters with police leading up to this event, people everywhere were now fully able to see, receive and process what was undeniable in a way they had perhaps not been able to before.

As confirmed by the jury this week, we had all witnessed a murder that was drawn out for nearly 10 minutes. At the time it happened, and for months thereafter, I was in disbelief and so shaken by what I knew I had seen. When all of the protests sprang up afterward, it seemed we were suddenly thrown back to the 1960s, a time I had thought was simply part of our nation’s past.

While I believed we had made much progress since that time – and of course there has been advancement in many areas – after this there was no denying that additional improvement was still needed. Despite the prior lives lost, many weren’t able to see the desperate need for change so obviously until we all saw what happened to George Floyd. People sprang into action, calling for justice! Our nation’s history has shown that when citizens band together for change, voices are ultimately heard, and action is taken. Many just couldn’t see it all clearly previously.

As a coach of mine once told me, “A blind spot is, by definition, a blind spot.”

What My Black Friends Taught Me Last Year

I had some incredibly meaningful conversations with some of my black friends last year, and I am so grateful to those wonderful, generous friends who opened their hearts to me to share some of their experiences through the years. I cherish those conversations. I wish I’d had some of those talks sooner. After these vulnerable conversations with my friends, I found myself experiencing sadness for not knowing what they had dealt with so frequently in their lives. It truly impacted me, and I have found myself thinking about it all quite often.

I discovered things they have struggled with daily, despite the “progress” in our world – things they have assimilated into their lives as just a normal part of having darker skin. Some things I had known on a general level. There were also experiences they shared that I could not imagine facing, because those types of things simply don’t happen to me … a tall, fair-skinned brunette. Things like being followed around the store by someone fearing theft; being singled out in a traffic stop despite not being the driver; being stopped while walking a bicycle up the hill; being looked at or treated differently in a group; knowing racists were in the room but walking in with head held high and bringing the magic, anyway.

In looking at my wonderful friends with their beautiful black skin, I was not seeing that other layer that was so deeply a part of them yet had been somewhat hidden or invisible to me. After our conversations, I was finally able to see all of it clearly … because I was still. I could pay attention. I could have these talks. I could read important articles. I could watch eye-opening documentaries and movies about black history. I listened to stories I had never heard before. I saw and heard many things for the first time, things that broke my heart. The entire nation – the world, even – could finally see more clearly, because we were all forced to be still due to COVID-19. The pandemic snapped all of us to attention.

When we are still, we can open our eyes and be aware of the things we may have missed beforehand, or we may find ourselves able to notice things that were perhaps unseen or buried from us. I am grateful for expanded vision, because it creates more compassion and empathy.

Moving Toward Change – The Importance of Accountability

The initial and misleading police report was titled, “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.” The report read, “Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.”

Well, that’s one view, I suppose. It was, however, obviously not an accurate report as proven in the trial. These things unfortunately make people doubt police accounts, attempting to paint a picture that is different or more “acceptable” from what actually happened. Thanks to young Darnella Frazier, who had the bravery and strength to record the video on her cell phone, along with other multiple witnesses, the truth was discovered and available for others to see. While the guilty verdict on three counts in Chauvin’s trial does not bring back George Floyd or others who have been lost unnecessarily at the hands of violent or careless police officers, it does create accountability and offers hope that perhaps change is finally on the horizon.

The beauty of accountability in this scenario is that it calls out those in law enforcement who are not doing their jobs properly, which will allow the principled officers out there like those who testified against Chauvin to lead and hopefully be more effective in their jobs. This is the change people are crying out for, because accountability is important. Training is important. Self-management skills are important. Being proactive and not reactive is important. Listening is important. Empathy is important. Yes, there are life or death situations that officers will unfortunately find themselves in due to the high-risk nature of their jobs, but this incident was certainly not one of those.

There have been justifiable calls to action because these types of senseless deaths resulting from use of deadly force by police officers against people of color must stop. I heard it recently said that “people should be able to survive their stupid mistakes.” Each one of us should be able to trust in those who are there to protect us, regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability (these are the federally protected classes under fair housing laws in case you were wondering – one of the many reasons I am always focused on equity, given my exposure to the law through years in the multifamily industry).

But What About “Them”?

Things get more complicated when we label people. When we lump people into an “us” vs. a “them” – as unfortunately many people are prone to do these days – it can make the pathway to workable solutions more difficult. Seeing several sides to a situation allows for the evolution of progress. One of my COVID-19 binge shows has been Madam Secretary. In one episode, Tea Leoni’s character said, “When only one truth prevails, everything is broken.”

We should try to see all truths, even when they are different from our own. Do you attempt to see more truths, or do you typically just stick to one view? I try to look at many angles, which allows me to see multiple viewpoints, therefore opening more possibilities for communication or resolution.

In addition to talking with my friends of color, I have also been having some thoughtful conversations with law enforcement friends recently regarding types of force used, how and when they are applied, other alternatives available, and specific communication that might help prevent negative or lethal outcomes. We talked about the unfortunate reality that when they or others are in dangerous situations, officers are sometimes literally forced to protect themselves and/or others with a split-second decision that could potentially lead to a lethal outcome. Critical thinking, training, muscle memory and the emotional intelligence skill of self-management are of particular importance during these complex circumstances.

An officer friend of mine and his colleagues mourned the loss of a friend on the force last year in my hometown after the shooting of two officers during an early morning traffic stop. The first officer had tried to use his taser before the assailant grabbed it, upon which the officer pepper-sprayed him while trying to get him out of the car. He was not using his gun. The man then reached under his seat for a gun and fired at the officer and his partner. The first officer was shot in his head and body, and he died from his injuries. The second officer was shot in his head, upper body, and lower body, and last I heard he was still recovering from the gunshot wound to the head. Like what happened to George Floyd, this was horrific.

This officer was doing everything “right.” It was a traffic stop for a paper tag on a car that had expired. The man shot them to avoid being arrested, and then even pled not guilty. There are many brave law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day, and there are good police officers in communities nationwide who deserve our support. At the same time, we have seen some non-violent offenses evolve into unthinkable situations, often involving people of color. So where does all of that leave us?

It is disheartening to me that so many people resort to the “us” vs. “them” mentality, thinking that if an individual wants accountability and positive change in policing, then it must certainly mean that person doesn’t support the police. Or that if someone wants to see Black Lives Matter, that they surely must not believe in policing. While that may be the case for some people, nothing could be further from the truth for the majority of people I know. It is often BOTH … NOT one or the other.

And what about our friends who ARE both. Our black law enforcement officers have been dealing with a lot this year. My heart goes out to them as they navigate these complex times.

I am grateful for the officers I know in my own life and the things I have learned from them. The last thing they want is to be put in a difficult life or death situation, yet they are required to protect and serve in ways I cannot conceive that could result in demanding, life-changing decisions. Many of these officers want to continue to train and try to do things in the best ways possible, and they are open to conversations and change that can help. Of course, as we saw with Derek Chauvin, there are also some who do not have those intentions. The hope for so many is that some clarifications in policy and accountability can identify any disparities and hold people to a higher standard.

It’s important to keep in mind that when a difficult circumstance or event initially occurs, we should try to avoid drawing immediate conclusions. Look first for all of the facts to fully understand any actions. With emotional intelligence and self-management skills, we try to focus on facts vs. feelings first, as much as those feelings try to lead.

As citizens, we can approach things from an observer perspective, understanding one another and working together to make things better instead of vilifying each other and creating further division. That will allow progress to surface. I have found that when we can have actual thoughtful and (here’s the key!) respectful conversations – when we look at things through a bigger lens with a focus on solutions – people have little choice but to listen and learn while opening themselves to new possibilities.

Law enforcement and the community will need to come together, not as an “us” or a “them,” but as a “we” with everyone accountable to one another as we move forward into a new era. My hope is that everything we encountered in 2020 will ultimately help us rise together.

Building a Foundation of Change

Many other lessons were gleaned from the past year of stillness, but given the close of the trial this week my mind has been here. The gift of stillness can help bring clarity. 12 people were very still these past few weeks as they listened openly to testimony after testimony. With their unanimous verdict they brought peace to a heart wrenching situation.

It is not the end, but it will perhaps allow for the building of a foundation of justice. As Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, said, “This is what justice feels like: gut-wrenching relief, exhaustion. It’s not sweet or satisfying. It’s necessary, important, maybe even historic.”

What can we all do during these times to make things better? Ensure you’re not speaking into an echo chamber made up only of people who think and look like you. Be part of groups and have friendships where you can hear different voices and perspectives. Those voices should not be “yelling” their position to you on your (or their) timeline, but should instead be heard through thoughtful, respectful conversations. Pose questions. Be curious. Don’t judge. Be open to ideas that aren’t the same as yours. Interact with those who are different from you, but respectful of those differences. Grow. Engage. Watch. Learn. Love.

Equality and Accountability go hand in hand, and they are part of a greater cultural change. My friend Kelly Ingersol, whom I have known since junior high, is a minister these days. I thought he summed everything up well with what he had written this week. I share his words with permission:

“No group of people can be all right and good. It is time for us to move beyond blanket acceptance. It is time to honor those who do well and live right–even if they are part of ‘them’. It is time to hold accountable those who mess up and live poorly–even if they are part of ‘us’. Us is not always right and Them is not always wrong. Let’s widen our perspectives.”

Tonight at the Academy Awards, Tyler Perry won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. During his acceptance speech, Perry told a story about helping a woman in need who just needed some shoes, and the lesson and gift of withholding judgement. He said something that resonated with me and completely complements this post.

Perry stated, “I want to take this Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and dedicate it to anyone who wants to stand in the middle,” concluding, “… because that’s where healing happens, that’s where conversation happens, that’s where change happens. It happens in the middle. So anyone who wants to meet me in the middle, to refuse hate, to refuse blanket judgment, and help lift someone’s feet off the ground, this one’s for you, too.”

Thank you, Tyler. I’m with you. I hope many of the rest of you reading this will join us here in the middle. Let’s all be a force of good in the world.

Until next time in Volume 2, when we will deal with self-care, mindfulness and healthy boundaries … Sending peace and love to you all.

Pause … to Write About It

Pause to Write About It

Transforming Stress into Understanding

Are you dealing with a stressful situation? Do you have a difficult relationship at work that you have been trying to determine how to handle? Or perhaps you are feeling a low level of anxiety about something, but can’t quite put your finger on it? Taking the time to put words to what you are feeling can be very useful in working through these types of instances where our emotions bubble to the surface.

As many of you know, I returned to my writing again recently after taking a pause to focus on other things. As I begin to make it a practice again, I am reminded of the emotional benefits of writing. Writing helps us to explore things in a different sphere. We can take the emotions we feel as data to help us get to the deeper level of a problem, writing about them as a way to develop potential solutions or simply process through things. I often advise my EQ Executive Coaching clients to keep an emotions journal where they can track the different emotions that come up for them during our work together.

How Can You Incorporate This?

Ask yourself more questions, and good ones at that. Questions like:
“What exactly am I feeling right now, at this moment?”
“Where is this coming from?”
“Have I felt this way before?”
When was the last time I experienced this?”
“Do I have this feeling often?”

One feeling may be springing from several different emotions, and those emotions may be rising up from something separate than the current situation that you haven’t yet identified … it may even be something from a subconscious place you are unaware of and you don’t even realize. If you haven’t correctly identified what is truly bothering you, you could find yourself reacting inappropriately.

For instance, let’s say that darn Margaret at work said something that just set you off, and you were instantly angry – how dare she?! If you took the time to look into it at a deeper level through some exploratory writing, you might find that, yes, you were angry … but it was anger that sprang from embarrassment. Judy made her comment in front of two other colleagues you had really been working to impress. And as you continued your writing, you might recall that time that a high school coach had called you out for your lack of performance on your sports team, right in front of your other teammates – what may be a motivator for some shuts down others. So you discover that it was the long-seeded embarrassment that contributed to your anger, as it was from a deeper wound and perhaps an ongoing trigger for you. That insight can definitely help you the next time you feel something similar.

Practice Non-Judgment

As you start writing about these things, you may be surprised at what comes up for you. It is often easy for us to buy into our self-talk, which is really at the heart of much of our emotional distress. Whatever is happening, we are constantly assessing it and applying our own meaning to it. That voice inside our head stays very busy with its incessant chatter, quantifying and qualifying everything you see and encounter! As you start to write, you may even start judging yourself, thinking, “I’m awful – I shouldn’t be saying this!”

Instead, accept that you are experiencing whatever emotions and thoughts you are having, and trust that you have a handy paper shredder or trash bin button nearby if necessary once you have fully processed and are no longer in need of those nasty thoughts!

Learn From It

As you complete your exploration, identify whatever insights you may have had or lessons you learned that can be applied the next time. From there, don’t dwell on it! One of the biggest lessons we can learn in life is to LET GO. If it is not serving you, don’t keep it in your thoughts. Develop a strategy for how you want to handle the current or similar situations and move along, stronger and more knowledgeable going forward.

Valerie M. Sargent is a dynamic speaker, trainer, consultant and executive coach. A natural and engaging motivator, Valerie is a Level I and Level II TalentSmart Emotional Intelligence Certified Trainer and President of Yvette Poole & Associates. She helps individuals and organizations increase their EQ, managing emotions and relationships better on the job for maximum performance. Her signature message, “It’s in the Pause”® focuses on the need for Self-Management skills to preserve positive relationships in the workplace and beyond – follow her blog: https://itsinthepause.com/). For more information: http://ypooleandassoc.com/  or http://valeriemsargent.com/.

Sometimes You Need to Hit Pause …

What have you paused on that you need to start again?

Sometimes You Need to Hit Pause

I took a pause. In a world where life seems too busy … in a career where I wear many hats … in a life where I serve many roles … I took a pause. I stepped forward toward some things, and away from others. That’s just life, isn’t it? Or is it?

Have you ever noticed that the longer you stay away from something, the easier it becomes to stay away from? Think about after a breakup. You go through the stages of grief, and you continue to miss the person (or I’ve seen some people be elated! LOL). However, not seeing the person helps you process through everything, and it continues to get easier. As time goes on, the pain becomes less and less. One day, the thought of that person finally takes a back seat in your mind, and you continue to move forward. It’s that way with relationships, but also with habits, responsibilities and hobbies as well.

So much of my work that I do involves writing in one capacity or another. I had always been one who needed to feel “inspired” to write. I needed a story to tell, or an anecdote to share, based on something I’d seen or experienced.

I neglected to look at writing – something I actually enjoy – as a discipline; not only as a discipline, but as an act of love performed in support of myself and others. Suddenly, when I look at it that way, it changes things for me. Writing is something that brings me release, peace, inspiration, comfort, understanding and joy. So why haven’t I been doing it?!?!

“Life,” I told myself.

“I’ll do it tomorrow,” myself told me.

Well, today is finally my tomorrow, and I’ve chosen to create a daily practice of writing for myself, so that I will have contributions for more regular articles. I have a desire to contribute to others. By not exploring things I’m curious about, I cheat myself out of my innate nature as a thought magnet and a purveyor of positivity; as a learner and a guide for others. So today I commit to sharing something here on at least a monthly basis … more often if the good stuff really keeps rising to the surface, which undoubtedly it will once I have that discipline of self-love and writing established. Ten minutes a day is all I’m asking of myself. It’s not much. What are you willing to give to yourself?

Taking a pause can be a healthy choice from an emotional perspective. Sometimes it may not even be a conscious choice. I don’t think it was for me. Rather, it may be something that just happens, and you start to notice its absence. Yet the more I noticed its absence, the more I resisted starting again, despite my love for it. I didn’t understand that.

What have you paused on recently? Do you know why you hit that pause button? Did the pause benefit you? What did you gain? What did you lose? What was missing for you once it was gone?

I think I hit pause on my writing for a variety of reasons – with so many other responsibilities, it seemed like an easy thing to give up or step away from … I think the divisiveness of these times have had us in an interesting energetic space, and somehow I’ve felt less motivated to write. Yet I know that, in the words of my beloved Foo Fighters, “It’s times like these you learn to live again. It’s times like these you give and give again. It’s times like these you learn to love again. It’s times like these time and time again.”

Now I realize that stepping away benefitted me by creating additional time, yet I also lost an outlet that sparks my creativity. I know that I am what I create myself to be, and I choose to bring more of myself to the world, not less.

We are all gifts. What gift of yourself are you keeping from the world? How would life look different for you if you were experiencing it more fully and sharing yourself with those around you?

Don’t think yourself into a corner. Just take some action … baby steps, if you must. Maybe it’s a new workout plan that you’ll pick up, or a new skill to try, or a new friendship to develop, or a conversation that’s long overdue that you’re finally ready to have. Find that something you paused on, and hit “play” again. See what happens.

Chances are the pause was worthwhile, but life isn’t meant to be on pause forever.

Valerie M. Sargent is a dynamic speaker, trainer, consultant and executive coach. A natural and engaging motivator, Valerie is a Level I and Level II TalentSmart Emotional Intelligence Certified Trainer and President of Yvette Poole & Associates. She helps individuals and organizations increase their EQ, managing emotions and relationships better on the job for maximum performance. Her signature message, “It’s in the Pause”® focuses on the need for Self-Management skills to preserve positive relationships in the workplace and beyond – follow her blog: https://itsinthepause.com/). For more information: http://ypooleandassoc.com/  or http://valeriemsargent.com/.

Why Are You Playing Small?

How to Stop Procrastination and Self-Sabotage When You’re on the Edge of Success

playing-small

Are you not reaching your full potential? Do you know you have so much more you can bring to the table, but you have something stopping you? And, come to find out, it’s YOU?!

Haven’t we all had that happen at times? Haven’t we all been capable of so much more, but then we do something to stunt our progress? Or we procrastinate? Or we sabotage our efforts? What’s that all about? Why do we do that?!

Don’t you deserve better than that? Doesn’t everyone deserve that better version of you?

The other day while scrolling through my Twitter feed, I came across a post by a guy that I follow named Keith Claridge, who says he is a truth seeker, coach and mentor. He had posted a tweet to a longer Facebook thought that was basically him journaling to himself. It struck a chord with me – you can read it here if you’d like. He said, “By playing small I’m not impacting the world. Playing small robs people of having the opportunity to work with me.”

Why Do We Do This?

Have you found yourself “playing small” as well? If we focus on our Self-Awareness, we have to really look inside to determine why this is happening. What is driving you toward a certain behavior? What benefit do you get by not reaching your highest level? Or if you do reach those high achievements, but they still don’t bring the feelings you thought you might experience long term, then what?

I recently watched the Netflix film on Tony Robbins entitled I Am Not Your Guru. The film documents one of his Date with Destiny events, showing the challenges, decisions and transformations people commit to after being part of the event. In the bonus material after the credits, dancer Derek Hough was talking about how he felt like he always had to achieve things in order to feel good; that he had to be first place and be the best. Then he found himself sitting at home after winning a TV show (Dancing with the Stars) three times, surrounded by his trophies and feeling like, “Well now what? Shoot! I thought this was going to bring me, just … long lasting joy.”

The winning didn’t make him feel the way he thought he would. Often, after the initial high once you’ve achieved your goal wears off, you come back to reality and wonder why that didn’t make you happy. Were you happy to begin with? There’s something to consider …

After someone who bought his books asked real estate investor Dean Graziosi why he would be at Date with Destiny, he said, “Are you kidding me? We all have our own stuff … Accomplishments don’t change who we are in here. We all need to fix that. How many successful people end their lives, or drink or do drugs ‘cause they can’t figure it out?”

Understanding why you do things can help you create more Self-Awareness. Knowing what success really looks like for you can help, too.

What’s Your “Stuff?”

Tony Robbins talks about how, ultimately, people usually want to change a behavior, or they want to change how they feel. Which is it for you? Maybe it’s both.

If you feel like you are playing small, why do you feel this way? Is it due to a fear of success? Is there anything traumatic in your past that made you feel like you didn’t get what you wanted? In Psychology Today, Susanne Babbel Ph.D. MFT wrote in her article “Fear of Success” that “… the physical reactions to stress and to excitement are very similar. So, when we experience a traumatic event—such as a car accident or a school bullying incident—our body associates the fear we experience with the same physiological feelings we get while excited. Once we have been through enough trauma, we start to avoid those types of situations that trigger memories of fear. For this reason, trauma victims can tend to avoid excitement, and that can lead them to avoid success.”

Have you had traumatic events in your past that you still hold on to? Most of us have experienced some sorts of trauma of varying degrees, and in truth it is often what makes us better and stronger human beings when we are able to move through and past it all and then serve others around us. What were the feelings that you held surrounding that trauma? How do those feelings play out in your life today, subconsciously or consciously?

Or perhaps you had something that you failed at previously. If you find yourself focusing on that (over and over again) and the reasons you may not succeed, that can also slow your progress. If you feel like you were a failure, you may think, “Why even bother? This won’t work.”

What are the behaviors you then engage in? Did you know that 20% of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators (Psychology Today’s “Why We Procrastinate”)? Procrastination is a Self-Management issue. When you are procrastinating, you are lacking the discipline to do what needs to be done; something that would likely ensure your success. With regard to one reason people procrastinate, Hara Estroff Marano writes, “They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions such as fear of failure.”

There may even be a scenario where you have a blind spot … you may think you’re doing everything you need to do, but perhaps you aren’t doing it all in ways that bring you the results you seek. How can you fix something when you don’t even know what isn’t working?

So How Do You Handle This?

How do you break these patterns when you find yourself playing small? Well, first you have to make some decisions. The first decision is that you are no longer going to accept that behavior or that feeling that is causing you to play small and not put your best self forward. You decide that you are tired of the results you are getting. From there you simply have to choose to do things differently, and you have to choose that daily. Yep … Every. Single. Day. This will come as you increase your Self-Awareness. Once you realize you are going down the rabbit hole again, you can stop and change what you are doing.

Don’t be afraid to ask someone for constructive feedback on your performance. It can be difficult to hear what we’re not doing well, but pick a trusted advisor to help guide you along the way and you will reap the rewards of their observations and care. When someone you trust can see things you can’t, you are able to incorporate their thoughts, make small adjustments, and then course correct to get yourself back on track.

Note the different feelings that are happening in your body, the physical cues, the habits you engage in, and the time wasters you allow. I encourage my coaching clients to keep a journal to note anytime something happens that takes them away from what they should be doing. Often they may catch it after the fact … you know, after they just spent forty minutes scrolling through Facebook when they should have been finishing an important report? Yeah, that kind of procrastinating. Figure out what your common distractions are and eliminate them.

If eliminating them is not possible, LIMIT them. Set a time limit on how long you will allow yourself to shift your attention to refocus. Consider how your brain performs most optimally. Travis Bradbury wrote an article called “The Perfect Amount of Time to Work Each Day.” In it he states, “The ideal work-to-break ratio was 52 minutes of work, followed by 17 minutes of rest. People who maintained this schedule had a unique level of focus in their work.”

He went on to say, “The brain naturally functions in spurts of high energy (roughly an hour) followed by spurts of low energy (15 to 20 minutes).”

Did you even know your brain works that way?! This was news to me, but it made so much sense when I started to think about some times I have gotten distracted or lost focus on a project. It usually happens about an hour in … interesting, right?

So look at structuring your day differently if you can, in hourly blocks with little breaks. When you take your break, separate yourself from your work so that you can refocus. As someone with many different aspects to her business, I can sometimes feel scattered because I have so many different tabs and email accounts open, and I try to tend to all by jumping from one to the next at times. Guess what? I am figuring out that doesn’t work well for me. When I shift and focus on just one at a time, it helps me to better manage everything.

Get up and walk away from your desk! Have you heard? “Sitting is the New Smoking.” Do you spend too much time on your caboose in front of the computer? When you take those focus breaks, ensure that you are getting up and moving your body, even if it is just for a quick stretch or a walk to get a glass of water. Are you getting enough exercise every week? That can kick your brain into action, too. If you change your physical state, you change your brain. Form new habits, and you will form new neural pathways in your brain. Create a new and better you!

I have not written this blog as regularly as I had planned. While I love to write, I often have to feel inspired to do so. It feels difficult to me to be “creative on demand.” I have always felt the need to be in a writing mood, and sometimes my brain is too full of other things to feel creative. Which stinks! Because my brain a great power tool full of creative energy … I shouldn’t keep it locked away!

I have been thinking lately that if I will make a practice of setting aside my time differently – I am currently working on scheduling and time blocking for different projects, learning, and tasks – I could create better and more regular habits around writing as well, in addition to some of my other work. Sometimes I feel I just have too much on my plate, which can lead to feeling overwhelmed at times. But then I step back and remember my QuantumThink mantra, “I have all the time in the world.”

Once I relax into that, my focus shifts and I can move forward. Usually. Except on those certain days when I also find myself playing small. Which is what brought us here today. I don’t want to do that! As Keith expressed, I don’t want to rob people of the opportunity to work with me, because my goal is always to impact change and make a difference. If I am playing small, I can’t do that. And neither can you!

Let’s stop. Right now. Together. Because I’m a pretty cool person, and so are you if you’re reading this. And cool people should never play small! Right?!

Find Your Purpose

In an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday on OWN, Oprah conducted an interview with Wes Moore. Wes is an entrepreneur, Rhodes Scholar, war veteran, former White House staffer, prior Wall Street investment banker and now a best-selling author of the books The Work and The Other Wes Moore. Yes, one could say he’s accomplished! He has a focus on pursuing passion and finding your calling, and has founded BridgeEdu to help students positively transition from high school to college in an effort to increase retention and graduation rates.

Do you sometimes feel like you’re faking it? In response to the thought of when you are feeling like an imposter or that you aren’t good enough to be in a room, Wes said, “We are never in a room that we don’t belong in.”

Remember that. Whatever insecurities you may be having, wherever you may be falling short, stop playing small and feeling like you don’t belong or that you don’t deserve the success you’re headed toward. Are you worried about what other people think of you or what they will say about you? Pause … let it go. Move on already. Wes has a great thought that everyone should incorporate: “Don’t let people that don’t matter too much matter too much.”

Why are you giving those people any real estate in your head? Release those people and things that do not have you performing at your highest potential. Sometimes that also means letting go of that little voice inside your head that holds you back. For some, this is the biggest culprit in self-sabotage. Negative thinking must be eliminated, along with negative self-talk, if you want to reach the next level. When you catch yourself listening to that little voice in your head and you don’t like what it’s saying, change the soundtrack and focus on the possibilities ahead instead.

As we all search for meaningful ways we can serve in this life and put forth our best efforts, don’t let fear or the act of playing small stop you from bringing everything amazing about YOU to the world. We are all here for a reason. What is yours?

I will close this with a final thought from Wes Moore: “I would rather flirt with failure than never dance with my joy.”

There you have it. Now stop reading. Go dance!

 

Valerie M. Sargent is a dynamic speaker, trainer, consultant and executive coach. A natural and engaging motivator, Valerie is a Level I and Level II TalentSmart Emotional Intelligence Certified Trainer and President of Yvette Poole & Associates. She helps individuals and organizations increase their EQ, managing emotions and relationships better on the job for maximum performance. Her signature message, “It’s in the Pause”® focuses on the need for Self-Management skills to preserve positive relationships in the workplace and beyond – follow her blog: https://itsinthepause.com/). For more information: http://ypooleandassoc.com/  or http://valeriemsargent.com/.

Photo Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/137169575@N04/25072344705">Adorable Handsome Black Boy Child in Baggy Business Suit laughing and walking over white background.</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>

Pause … to Understand Your Reactions

Do You Ever Wonder WHY You Reacted That Way?!

It’s funny how often I get asked the question, “What IS Emotional Intelligence?” when I tell people I’m a certified trainer in Emotional Intelligence (EQ). This tells me how necessary it is for people and organizations to make learning more about their EQ a priority, especially in the workplace. There are dysfunctional teams everywhere, and a focus on enhancing EQ helps companies and employees take their performance to new heights.

Emotional Intelligence was brought to light in the workplace in 1995 by Daniel Goleman, who based his research on affective neuroscience. According to Drs. Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, the authors of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (also the research and thought leaders behind the EQ programs I teach), Emotional Intelligence is: “Your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and your relationships.”

There are four components to Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management. Okay, great, that all sounds important, but what does it really mean? Essentially, it is saying that the better you know yourself and how you respond to others and to situations, the more you can grow your EQ and the more successful you will be in life. You will have better relationships with people, both on and off the job, which will lead to a more productive and happier life.

Like it or not, every time you head to work, you take that head full of thoughts with you, and those thoughts (yes, we have tens of thousands per day – some say upward amounts are 70,000 or more!) are tied directly to your emotions and emotional patterns you have carried around with you for years. YEARS, I say! This causes you to respond to people in habitual ways with thoughts, judgments, assumptions, offenses, etc. It’s bad enough when we do this at home with our loved ones, who may or may not easily forgive our transgressions, but when we bring habitual negative emotions and patterns into the office it can damage work relationships and lead to productivity problems for your company.

TalentSmart, the organization that provided my EQ certification, reports that, “After supervisors received training in emotional competencies such as how to listen better and help employees resolve problems, lost-time accidents were reduced by 50%, formal grievances were reduced from an average of 15 per year to 3 per year, and the plant exceeded productivity goals by $250,000 (Pesuric & Byham, 1996). In another manufacturing plant where supervisors received similar training, production increased 17%. There was no such increase in production for supervisors who were not trained. (Porras & Anderson, 1981).” Those are some pretty powerful numbers. Think about what enhanced EQ could do for your organization.

Dive Under Your Personal Microscope When You Have a Strong Reaction

I had the joy of attending a Google Hangout with Glenn and Marian Head with Lisa Engles on “Revolutionary Agreements – 12 Practical Ways To Be All We Desire, Dream and Deserve.” Marian is a dear friend of mine and the author of a lovely book called Revolutionary Agreements. My favorite agreement has always been, “I agree to look within when I react.” I love it because it is the foundation of Self-Awareness, which is the most important competency of Emotional Intelligence. Without Self-Awareness, the other three are much more difficult to explore.

If you find yourself reacting to something that someone has said or done – you feel angry, annoyed, upset, jealous, misunderstood – do yourself a favor: just pause. Try to separate any action that has happened from the person. Take a look inside yourself and attempt to take your ego out of the situation. Breathe. Think. Chill.

Ask yourself things like, “Why am I feeling this way?” and “Have I felt this way before?” Whatever words you are inflicting onto that other person inside your mind, turn them around and aim them toward yourself instead. The hardest thing to do is to ask yourself, “Is there a part of me I don’t want to acknowledge that is like this?” For instance, if you think someone is insincere, rude, selfish, etc., try to think of times when someone would perhaps have thought the same thing of you or in what moments have you behaved in the same ways. Ask yourself what you are holding onto: Resentment? Hurt? Loss? Jealousy? Anger? Blame? Feeling not enough? Are these feelings driving your reaction?

Our egos are very powerful, persnickety creatures, and they can play tricks on us. Our attention hungry egos make us look at things from only our own perspective, which can cast others into an enemy role. In his book A New Earth, EckhartToll Tolle says, “The particular egoic patterns that you react to more strongly in others and misperceive as their identity tend to be the same patterns that are also in you, but that you are unable or unwilling to detect within yourself … It has nothing to do with who that person is, nor has it anything to do with who you are.”

If you find that you have reacted this way before, chances are it could be a deeply ingrained pattern of response in your brain. Once you recognize what your body does in these times (for instance, I found that I hold my breath if I am feeling upset; others may have their chest tighten, break out in a sweat, etc.), you can pause and identify what’s really happening. Instead of hurling a negative emotion toward someone, get curious and try to figure out WHY you are reacting in that way. Think, “Hmmm … this is interesting.” Consider couples who fight a lot … it is primarily a habit. So is withdrawing, running away, blaming … they are all coping mechanisms we have learned to use through the years. And if someone at works reminds us of someone we habitually fight with, well, you can imagine how that could play out if we practice those same reactions in the workplace …

So I urge you to really stop and think when you find yourself reacting to something. Look inside. Find the root source. That simple act of presence and observation where you step outside yourself to look at things more objectively can save a relationship with a co-worker, a customer, or a loved one. Pause to stay in the moment. Don’t let the moment run away with you. With time and practice, thanks to the amazing neuroplasticity of your brain, you can develop your EQ and choose better responses. And that, my friends, is Emotional Intelligence.

Valerie M. Sargent is a dynamic speaker, trainer, consultant and executive coach. A natural and engaging motivator, Valerie is a Level I and Level II TalentSmart Emotional Intelligence Certified Trainer and President of Yvette Poole & Associates. She helps individuals and organizations increase their EQ, managing emotions and relationships better on the job for maximum performance. Her signature message, “It’s in the Pause”® focuses on the need for Self-Management skills to preserve positive relationships in the workplace and beyond – follow her blog: https://itsinthepause.com/). For more information: http://ypooleandassoc.com/  or http://valeriemsargent.com/.