The Change Challenge!

Wow!  Hard to believe that 2011 has already begun!  And with a New Year, comes New Year resolutions.  New goals and challenges for the fresh year to come.. some to better ourselves, some to challenge ourselves, and some just to make ourselves feel better by acknowledging that a change needs to be made.  Many of us can’t be bothered with resolutions.  Why make a promise we have no intention of keeping?  So much easier to just ignore it.  For those who do make resolutions, how many of you actually stick to them?  And what is it that stops us from committing to these changes we set out to make?  AND what is it that prevents us from making those changes in our every day lives and requires a “new year” in order for us to challenge ourselves to make them?
Over the holidays, I started reading a fantastic book called “Immunity To Change”by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey.  It got me thinking about how we often forget to test our assumptions when wanting to make changes or setting new goals.  Often, we assume by just simply committing to the challenge or change that we will achieve it.  The most common New Year’s goal is to lose weight – eat less/ healthier and start exercising; a tried and true equation, right? Yet how come so many of us have a hard time just doing it?  What is it that makes it hard for us to change our eating habits and increase our daily activity?  What is it REALLY that stops us from changing our behavior and what assumptions are we not challenging in order to do so?
Normally when wanting to make changes or set new goals, we first identify the change.  Then we identify how we are going to make the change, achieve our goal and/ or identify new behaviors needed to achieve the goal, i.e. What we are and are not going to do (I am going to eat more carrots and less chocolate for example).  This is where we stop.  Now, we challenge you to take it a couple steps further.  Now that you have identified what you want and how you are going to do it, let’s now think about what’s stopping you from making this change or achieving this goal.  Why have you not done it?  What is getting in the way?  Once you have reflected on this, identify what assumptions you have around the change that you are trying to achieve.  Before we are truly able to make sustainable change, we must identify what behavior is preventing us from actually making this change.  When we become aware of what is standing in our way, what our assumptions are around the change that needs to happen, then and only then can true change actually happen.
For example:  I want to be more open and curious with my friends and family and less of a telling problem “solver”.
Let’s break it down:
1. Identify the change
I want to be more open and curious with my friends and family and less of a telling problem “solver”.  More about them, less about me.
2. Identify how you are going to make the change – what I am going to do/ not do.
In order to do that, I am going to listen more actively, ask more open questions, and be less focused on solving, more focused on listening and supporting.  I am not going to “tell” people what I think they want to hear to make them feel better about themselves, or what I want for them.  I will ask them what they want and support them in achieving itThis is about them, not me.
3. What is stopping me from actually making this change, why haven’t I already done it?
I like to feel needed by my friends and family and solving their problems or making them feel better about themselves makes them happy, making me happy.   If I am not telling them what to do, then what will they need me for?
4. What assumptions are you making around this change?
I am assuming that my friends and family want me to solve their problems and tell them what to do – it makes them happy.  I am also assuming that if I have nothing to tell them or solve for them, then I won’t be needed in their lives, and I like to feel needed.  I guess I like to feel like the one in control – the go to problem solver.
Now that the person above has a greater understanding of their need to be in control, be the problem solver and feel needed by friends and family, combined with greater understanding of their assumption that their friends and family want all of this from them, it is easier for them to understand and change their behavior in the moment.  How can they do this?  Test their assumptions, ask their friends and family what they want from them.  How often do they like it when someone tells them what to do, and what are they solving anyway?
    When looking at the 4 steps above, you will see that this behavior is more about them and what they want, rather then about their friends and family.
So, what challenges, goals, changes are you setting for 2011?  For you, what could get in the way that prevents you from achieving them?  What assumptions are you making?
We love to hear from you – what’s working, not working, and how your Change Challenge is unfolding for you.
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mary hartzell’s article on parenting

I have just finished reading this week’s installment of GOOP’s DO from Gwenyth Paltrow.  She interviewed Mary Hartzell, who co wrote“Parenting from the Inside Out” with Daniel Siegel – a must read for every parent!  We love how Mary identifies communication as being at the core of effective parenting and creating a strong parent/ child relationship.
“Learning to communicate is at the core of effective 
parent/child relationships. Reflective dialogue supports the child in feeling understood and strengthens their core sense of selves. When we are able to listen with an open mind and open heart, our child feels understood even if they are not getting what they want. Respectful communication is very important to develop, because when we have 
children, one of the things that we’re doing is we’re essentially telling them who they are. We are giving them an image of themselves, and we want to give them an image of themselves as being confident, capable and lovable.”
Mary Hartzell, Goop January 20, 2011
One of the easiest ways to start a respectful dialogue with another person – child or adult – is to be open and curious.  This is a great time to ask instead of tell. Curious questions that begin with: what, who, how, when, are open questions that allow the other person to explain their situation or feelings without feeling judged.  Often questions beginning with “why” come across as judgmental/ I know better than you.  How many times have you said “not now, I am busy” to a child asking for something, or “stop crying” without knowing what they are crying about, or my favorite “because I said so”, classic parent deflection that just ends up making everyone miserable, angry and upset and never addresses the issue.  By keeping our dialogue open and curious, it allows for a respectful conversation enabling all parties to feel valued: seen, heard, and understood, and thus messaging to our children that we feel they are competent and capable.
Here is more of what Mary Hartzell had to say:
“When everyday routines aren’t working well, talk with your children about the problem and include them in a conversation about possible solutions. Ask them what they think would help solve the problem. When we include children in the process of making a plan they are more invested in its success because they have been given the respect of being part of a collaborative problem solving process. 
Here’s an example of how you might begin:
What do you think would help us get out of the house on time in the morning because we’ve been late the last three days. It’s just not working. It seems like every morning I’m getting mad and raising my voice and you probably don’t like that. Let’s make a plan so that we can have a pleasant morning and everyone can be ready to leave the house on time.  Inviting your child/children to offer some ideas of what they think could help, makes a significant difference. It helps to have an honest conversation with kids about what’s not working, rather than getting angry at the same thing over and over again every morning. Stop doing what isn’t working. Getting angry at our children in the morning is unlikely to have any positive results. When we’re angry at our children, they’ll often defend themselves by getting angry at us. Sometimes children get mad at us because they think we’re going to get angry at them. When both we and our children are defensive, communication breaks down.”  Mary Hartzell, Goop January 20, 2011
We love the ‘coaching culture’ communication style Mary describes above, asking your children how to solve the problem and allowing them to be apart of the solution, rather than telling them.
What are you doing with your kids that communicates that they are seen, hear, and understood?  How are you inviting them to be apart of solutions?   What tools are you using to help ensure your communication with your family doesn’t break down?  We want to hear from you.

Check out GOOP to read more of the Mary Hartzell article on Parenting.

Empower, Celebrate, Free

“To empower another, is to empower yourself.
To celebrate another, is to celebrate yourself.
And to free another, is to free yourself”
I get messages from TUT/The Universe every morning, and this was my message today.  It really resonated with me as it reminded me of Coaching Culture: being seen, heard and understood.   When one truly sees, hears, and understands another they do all of the above: empower, celebrate, and free.  How powerful is that?!  When was the last time you really saw someone, heard someone, and took the time to understand someone?  Your children?  Your spouse?  Your friends and colleagues?  And when was the last time you felt that way?  Feeling empowered, celebrated and free. What was that like for you?
How many times a day do your kids or spouse get upset about something because you are not truly listening to what they want?  You might be hearing what you think they want, but it’s not really listening to what they are actually saying or asking.  It get’s frustrating for all parties.  Kids or spouses get upset because they aren’t feeling heard and their needs aren’t being addressed.  You are getting upset because you can’t understand what the problem is. You know they are upset about something AND you know how best to fix it.  So, I ask -how often do we really take the time to ask, be curious about their frustration and dig deeper to find out what it is THEY want?  I found myself challenged by this just the other day…
It’s early morning, lunches are being made, breakfast is not being eaten, kids need to get to school, work needs to be done, meetings need to be taken..  Although I am still at home, my foot (and mind) is one foot out the door.  My 4 year old son is getting dressed for school and I can see he is about to melt down.  So, I ask what’s going on and he tells me he wants his black skinny jeans.  I tell him they are dirty and that they aren’t ready to be worn today, what other pair would he like to wear?  “No, I want my black skinny jeans”.  “I heard you,” I tell him.  “You want your black skinny jeans.  As I mentioned before, they are unfortunately dirty and so you can’t wear them today”  He is now getting visibly more upset, and says “No, I WAANNT them”.  And now I am getting upset because we are late, and I feel he isn’t listening to me and why can’t he just pick another pair of pants so we can all move on with our day?!  So I get down on his level, look him in the eye and tell him “I hear that you want your black jeans, and I feel like you aren’t hearing me.  They are dirty.  They can’t be worn today.”  And he freaks out “ I want them, I want them, I WANT them”.  Fine.  I get the jeans and I give them to him. “Wear the dirty jeans if it means that much to you”- not my proudest parenting moment.  He takes the jeans and from the pocket pulls out a toy, holds it in his hand and hands the jeans back to me.  OHHHH… you WANTED your jeans, just like you asked, so you could take out your toy.  I NEVER tested my assumptions and asked him WHAT he “wanted” his jeans for.  I just assumed he wanted to wear them. I immediately apologize for not REALLY listening to him and asked him what we can do next time so that this doesn’t happen again?  He looks me in the eye and says “You can ask me what I want them for”.  We hug.  He happily bounds off toy in hand, very satisfied and I smile to myself.. empowered, celebrated and free.
How often do you find yourself testing your assumptions?
What did you learn from it?
How did it change your outcome?
We want to hear from you!  Share your experience.. What worked? What didn’t?  and how would you do it differently?