On Mediocrity and Conversations with Authors.

This week I have two reflections to share on otheresteem. The first comes from a response I had to a Facebook update by the always inspiring Dave Carpenter. He was talking about “creeping mediocrity” and how some of us come to lower expectations without even noticing. Provocative thought, as I have come to expect of him 😉 My response was:

“Creeping mediocrity, huh? I need only keep having high positive expectations of others and it rubs off on what I want from ME, too!”

 

I find this to be true and, as I explain in the book, it is one of the reasons I love working on the otheresteem practices, especially expectation that it comes full circle and ultimately boosts my self esteem. The truth is, if you can learn to value others, you will end up valuing yourself more. And if you make sure you don’t lower expectations but expect the very best from those around you, then how could you not offer to give the very best yourself?

The second reflection is about an book I just finished. Really good books bring up a bittersweet feeling for me. It’s nice to get something done, but it is also difficult to part with this nighttime companion; to end my imagined conversations with the author.  I feel empty, sad that it’s over. Like an old friend that I will miss. I find myself so attached to the ideas that I wish the book was longer. So, in saddened emptiness, I picked up the nearest book. It was not a new one. It was my own. I figured just a few words before drifting off to sleep. At first, I noticed everything I would now write differently, or correct (yeah, I do that). But upon letting go of the criticism – and remembering I am not so strict with other authors – I started really having that conversation with myself. How much have I been practicing? How can I deepen it? Am I still committed to these musings?

Would you like to know the answers? Not enough….By just doing it more…I am! Nice things to discover before drifting off to sleep. I think I’ll stick with this one, to the end. 😉

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Letting Things Pass

Sometimes expressing otheresteem is just about letting a few things pass. I keep reminding myself, when a person is significant to me, that “this too shall pass”. With that in mind, I begin to work on how I want our relationship to be when we get past this hurdle. How can I build on that? What do I want to continue valuing in this person, beyond what has occurred between us? These questions help me keep expectations positive, possibilites open and the future constructive.

Have you experienced this? What are YOUR ideas to help get past a rough patch in a significant relationship?

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The distance between you and me

Distance is such a relative concept! I can feel close to people halfway around the world or distant to the person right next to me. So what is it that draws you closer to others and what drives you away? We each have our preferences, but as my mentor, Will Schutz would say,

“It is NOT the differences between us that get us in trouble, but the rigidity with which we adhere to those differences.”

So how can we purposefully bridge those imaginary distances? How can we choose to come closer?

One way it the 4 practices of otheresteem, of course. Yet, to keep it even simpler, we can ask ourselves that very question in every action we take. Does this bring me closer to that person or does it- in my own mind – widen the distance?

Let’s explore three ways:

Being OPEN and HONEST brings you closer. Contrary to what you might think, if you allow yourself to be true and vulnerable you will create the possibility for closeness. It is about accepting yourself and understanding that your truth might not be theirs, yet you am acting from what you see. Authenticity is a great ally of closeness.

Accptance goes a long way. Stop yourself from playing the critic! Do it NOW. If you want to come closer to someone, make sure you suspend judgement. It’s not that you agree with them in everything. It’s the fact that you shift from judging to understanding that creates a possibility for more proximity. Being accepted, paradoxically, leads to less defensiveness and more willingness to change.

Recognition is a straightforward way to lessen the gap. Substitute the criticism you left behind, for open recognition of what you appreciate in the other. When you recognize openly and truthfully you make them want to come to you.

What OTHER ways do you use of coming closer to the people you want to be tighter with?

 

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Valuing Others: It’s an everyday thing!

I remember more than a year and a half ago when Lolly Daskal suggested #OtherEsteem Wednesdays on Twitter! (Thanks, Lolly!) She is a persuasive, vibrant, enthusiastic woman and she knew her Twitter much better than I. So, off I went and I created this blog, the Stream of Otheresteem tweets and the possibility for people to appreciate others more on that specific day each week. Yet, the most important thing it did was to keep me on the right track for otheresteem. To have me thinking every day of it. To sustain the effort for each of the 4 practices.

So let me share with you how I bring otheresteem into my daily routine and remain able to come back to it every Wednesday. I focus each day of the week on just ONE of the practices and cycle through them. So, on Mondays I make sure I accept people as they are. I observe how it plays out in my day. I write about it in my diary. I talk about it, explore, share. On Tuesdays I go into deep appreciation mode. For me, that means making some calls, writing some notes, finding some people that might not know I appreciate them. But also, making sure I appreciate even the people I find difficult to relate to. On Wednesdays I either write this post or wish I had. So I take Wednesdays to remember why I wrote that book in the first place! The sheer power of valuing others is reinforced by remembering to share it once a week. On Thurdays, I expect the best from the people around me and act accordingly. I start my day by setting intentions. This client will take my call. That associate will listen better. That friend will understand. And I go about my day making sure I act consistently with those beliefs I am creating about others. And on Friday, I am grateful for the relationships in my life. All of them. I meditate about gratitude. I go through an exercise my good friend Randall Krause taught me, imagining my inner circle and blessing them, then expanding bit by bit until I am grateful for my relationship to all mankind. It clears the slate. It gives me hope. It makes my interactions different that day.

So on the weekend, I get the opportunity to just be in the presence of those I love most. I rest from the awareness. Secure in the understanding that what I have practiced during the week is slowly but surely improving my already deep commitment to value those around me.

In my life, it has sometimes been hard to stick to some of my purposes. To sustain my efforts in time. I realize now that Lolly’s Wednesday suggestion, whether I have done it impeccably or not has become a great anchor for a lifelong learning adventure. And for that, I am ever grateful!

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Changing your mind might change the whole story.

We all write a story for ourselves. We put in the characters we meet along the way and we assign them a role to play. The more we treat them like we’ve written them, the more they seem to play their role. Sometimes they behave as expected, sometimes we need to stretch the storyline a bit. But once they are written in, it’s up to the original author to change who they are.  I know you, as I, have changed your mind about people. But, truthfully, not very often.

As you are the main character in the story of your life, you feel the need for antagonists. You want to know you are conquering truth and virtue and all that’s good. So sometimes, you feel you have to go up against someone. And you do. You write in the villians and expect them to behave accordingly. They are wrong, mean, bad, stupid, selfish, dorky, unreliable or all of the above. They make YOU look, by comparison, right, kind, good, smart, selfless, polished and reliable. Isn’t that nice?

Well, sometimes. The thing is, this a LONG story. And having someone be the villain all the time is not only boring, but suddenly not helpful to make you look good and, of course, FEEL good. Deep down you know you aren’t all of those things because of them, but actually, in spite of them or regardless of them. As you become aware of your contribution to the writing of the story, you understand that they can be exactly as you depict them, or someone else entirely.

So consider doing like a long-running soap opera. The characters shift around. Bad guys get knocked on the head and forget to be bad. Cynics fall in love and show good will. Choose a few characters you would like to befriend and rewrite their story. Give them space to move into a different way of being, to redeem themselves. Make that angry, abusive person the one who could use some appreciation. Make that bully the one who feels left out. Switch it around a bit.  Rewrite in a way that allows you to value them more.

I actually took to pen and paper to rewrite a few of my “character” descriptions. Changing theirs changed the relationship of my character to them. It made me act in different ways and expect a wider range of reactions. Try it out! Let’s see what this rethinking can do for you and how you value the people around you. You might discover some unexpected attributes in people you thought you knew. Positive ones that make YOU look and feel pretty good.  You could even write in a happier you! Expectation is a powerful ally for building otheresteem.

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Self-Care as Otheresteem

I know it is kind of a gender thing. But it can happen to anyone. You are so set on helping others, taking care of business, making the world a better place – and all that jazz – that you have little time for yourself. I know I have been there. And many of my friends and associates have too! So how can you take self-care seriously when there is so much to do for everyone else?

One day, I was picking my kids up from school and I was cheerfully singing along with them. One of those precious moments. My youngest boy looked up at me, beaming and said “Mommy, why are you in such a great mood?” I smiled back. I told him I was happy, but not about anything in particular. “Aren’t I always like this?” He rolled his eyes and looked over at his brothers. “No.” It dawned on me that I was always running everywhere and probably not so aware of my reactions. I was tired and stressed being super-mom and super-exec and super-friend and all that. It probably didn’t help them very much.

That night, I was meditating about the episode. Could it be that my kids deserved better? A better me? A calm, relaxed, well-fed, well-excercised mom? Yeah, it’s a self-esteem issue. If you like yourself enough you are supposed to make time for yourself. But in the midst of being there for others, it doesn’t always sink in. I believe I like myself reasonably well. I also like being super-everything. So I am. When I can. And I can, because I am also super-there-for-me.

So if whoever “yourself” is has a soft, soft voice, listen to the voice of others. They deserve the best you there is. And that’s just not possible without consistent self-care.  So now, I can spend time on the treadmill and at the beauty parlor, and reading and meditating. Not a lot of time, mind you, but good quality time. And, lo and behold, I do think I like my self a little more now.

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Finding new things in old friends.

Love is a curious thing. It moves the world. It creates momentum for most everything we do. And, sometimes, it moves us away from truly valuing who a person is. Just because you love someone – even if you tell them every day like Bruno Mars does 😉 – doesn’t mean you are valuing who they are, what they are becoming, how they are evolving. So here’s an otheresteem tip to practice acceptance and appreciation really close to home. Remember we are building a practice so every opportunity helps.

Today, make it a point to LOOK CLOSER. Look into that person’s eyes and see what you routinely miss when you look at that particular person. Really listen. Notice what they say. What they do and how they do it. Allow your awareness to take you where you haven’t been before. To find new things in old friends. Smile as you do this. Make a mental or actual note of what it is you hadn’t noticed before and marvel in it. Deepen your acceptance practice and if you can, even allow yourself to discover what made you miss that before.

Next, move to the second practice: appreciation. Of everything you now noticed, what stands out as something you enjoyed discovering? Make sure you share that tidbit. Just being noticed enough is an exercise in appreciation. Let the sweetness shine through. Stretch. Acknowledge. Smile together.

And give yourself extra credit for practicing otheresteem where it really counts!

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Make room for those who’ve let you down.

Chances are, you have a collection of those! If you’ve lived long enough, some people will have let you down in one way or another. Not that they mean to, but unless you have absolutely NO expectations for the people around you (A rare thing in the people I’ve come across in my lifetime!), you know exactly what I am talking about here.

Take my client this morning. She was complaining that one of the individuals on her team – exactly her nominee for “most likely to succeed” – just acted in a dishonest way that made her question what was going on. She felt hurt and “took it to heart”, she said. Feeling let down, she was considering never trusting this particular colleague again. So much for her hopes for the future of this person’s carreer! It was a dumb move to make and an awkward subject for both of them to discuss.  In a way, it seemed she might be covering up for someone else. It reminded me of the incident in Scent of a Woman (see my post at LeadChange Group later this week for more on that) and how I was unsure if the kid’s sense of loyalty was well placed. Still, he was acting according to what he thought was right, and just. He was simply being the kind of person he wanted to be in the first place. You have to respect that.

Otheresteem is all about acceptance. About moving past incidents where things are not exactly as they should be. How can this be done? For all the heartache and anger and fear that people bring out in each of us when they let us down, we still have a choice. We can accept what is. Protect ourselves only of what we need to and not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Is there no place for appreciation of someone who has proved less than perfect? Someone who did not live up to what we had expected?

Make room for those who have let you down. Be generous, if you may. Be kind, if you need to distance yourself from them. But always learn a lesson. Understand why that particular thing was so important to you. And if you can move beyond the fear, talk about it.

I told my client this morning that if she wanted to move forward and continue to build her collaborator’s potential as she had originally intended, she needed to do a few things.

First, set the record straight. Tell your truth. Listen to hers. Get the facts in line and the feelings on the table. Explain why this is important to you and tell her how you feel.

Then, lay out the groundwork for a different future. It can be something like: “This is NOT the way I want us to relate.” or “I really want this to work.” or “I will do everything I can to get this relationship back on track, and I would like you to do the same.”. There are many creative ways to set great expectations. The fallout is a wonderful time to practice the third aspect of otheresteem.

And last but not least, remember: Trust is yours to give. It is always an act of generosity and a risk to take. There is payoff for giving it as there is for retaining it. Choose wisely, but don’t fool yourself into believing that it is up to them to earn your trust. In the end, it’s about losing your own fear that things will go terribly wrong.

 

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The Joy of Not Having to Be Right

 

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It’s so liberating and empowering! When I feel myself struggling to explain my view and wanting so bad to be right, I remember I still need to practice acceptance. So I switch to understanding mode.

I consider that, as Billy Joel would say: “I may be right.”, but then again, “I may be Crazy.”

Take Twitter for example. Many of you know I am a Twitter (and other Social Media, for that matter) enthusiast. I wasn’t always that way, though. Once I was more of the Mr. Becky opinion, thinking Twitter was a definite waste of precious time. I had tried it briefly and hated it, deciding I had much better things to do with my already scarce time available. But then one day, as I was reading about the millions of people on Twitter and listening to some people on LinkedIN that I had learned to respect, talk of it’s wonders, it dawned on me:

Was I right about this and millions of people, wrong (or just plain stupid)?

I realized that was a pretty smug and righteous position to take.  There was clearly something about the phenomenon that I still didn’t understand. Why were people drawn to it? Was it really important what someone was doing now, or having for breakfast? What was the allure? Just a mind-numbing experience or a breathrough game-changer?

A little fueled by my interest in being included and a little by the curiosity the previous questions brought up for me, I decided to give it one more go with a different perspective. One of the practices I was including in my upcoming book, Otheresteem was acceptance and this seemed like a good chance to walk my talk. In this case, it meant moving to understanding why others enjoy this. Seeking to understand. Supposing that not ALL of the millions were stupid, and some may even be smarter than I! 😀

So I put myself on a Twitter “diet” just as I had previously done on LinkedIN (though, being so very “professional” and “down to business” I admit I loved the ANSWERS section and GROUPs there almost immediately)

The diet consisted of daily doses of 15 minutes every day on Twitter, to experience it. Whether I enjoyed it or not. Thus began my journey every morning. I tweeted interesting links. Followed as many people as I could keep up with (I figured at the time, 10 was about it) and hated most of it. Then, I started asking about all the stuff I didn’t understand (What’s a RT?, Why #FF?, What’s interesting about repeating what someone else says?, Why did you thank me?, What made you want to follow me? and many others that came up each day) So with my newfound knowledge, I created a stricter diet:

  • 5 minutes of looking at the full timeline with more and more interesting people in it (following anyone who’s tweets looked like something I wanted to be reading)
  • 5 minutes of connecting, conversing, addressing others
  • 5 minutes of sharing my message, ideas, information of value.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Now I am a Twitter enthusiast. I currently follow 4114 people and am followed by 5407 if you count both my Twitter accounts (@monedays to tweet in English and @monediaz in Spanish). I love every minute I spend there, though it’s not always 15 a day and I finally understand what I am doing on Twitter and why so many people rave about it.

If you know me at all, you know that I am not always in agreement with the crowd and I am kind of weird that way. So, I may have decided it wasn’t for me once I understood why others enjoy it, like so many other tastes I just don’t share with the mainstream. But, boy, am I glad I tried this one out! I was definitely not right about it. And I now have actual friends to add to my life (contrary to popular belief I already had a rich social life before Social Media 😉 ), business ventures, idea sharing, an upcoming book written with wonderful women and many, many more things to be thankful for.

And one of them is the sheer joy of not having to be right!

If you are on Twitter, remember this and every Wednesday to tweet about valuing others more. You can join the Stream of Otheresteem by using the hashtag #OtherEsteem. Raise awareness. Create Momentum. Build your otheresteem “muscle”!

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The Grateful Living

Gratitude is such an all-encompassing experience!

I know when I allow myself to fully acknowledge my own, it has a calming and focusing effect. Moreso when it is about the relationships I have with others. As one of the otheresteem practices, it is truly powerful. It can be done on your own and allowed to seep through your interaction with that person you are working on valuing more.

So, take a minute to center yourself. Breathe. Be. And now, direct your attention and energies to feeling grateful for having that person in your life. Like a meditation, if you find yourself focusing on the difficult aspects of your relationship, don’t fight it. Just move right back to gratitude. It helps for me to write a list on a piece of paper of all the things I am grateful for about this particular person and me interacting. You can do the same, or otherwise record the general feeling associated with this excercise. Draw, sculpt, sing. Art might be the only way to grasp the feeling. The point is, turn it into some token reminder. When I write the list, I make sure I carry it with me that day to revisit a few times more as the hours progress.

There is nothing you need to do at this point. Just be grateful for the relationship you hold together and see how this affects you and your view of the situation. Do you notice anything? Have you acted in consequence, by being kinder, perhaps or more understanding? Was the experience hard to hold on to, or pervasive as time went on?  The point is: be mindful of the effects.

Remember that, as the others, this form of gratitude is a practice. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t find it easy or effective at first. Keep at it and it will become effortless and natural in time.

If you are on Twitter, remember this and every Wednesday to tweet about valuing others more. You can join the Stream of Otheresteem by using the hashtag #OtherEsteem. Raise awareness. Create Momentum. Build your otheresteem “muscle”!

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