80 Percent Effective
Michael, a COO of a growing startup in Austin, Texas, is a great guy and a brilliant thinker. He’s been hired by a particular company to bring about a turnaround in management and inevitably the bottom line. The company has experienced a significant loss in revenue over the past few months and it’s now Michael’s job to turn things around. If he fails, the company will fold – end of story.
Michael is about to take the company in a direction that will transform its vision, culture and business structure. There’s no doubt he has what it takes to create this turnaround. However, he’s challenged and stopped with every step he takes. For instance, yesterday he received a memo from his CEO that states all unnecessary expenditures will be cut. There goes any actualization of executive team off-sites to thoroughly discuss and implement what’s required to make this company work.
Michael is stymied and feels like his hands are tied! He is out to rescue the company. That’s what he’s been hired to do. Since joining four months ago, he’s been exploring the underlying foundation upon which to rebuild. He doesn’t want to push too hard for change as the company and executive team is also quite new and pretty fragile. He fears resistance and pushback. Michael retreats from potential conflict or confrontation; unsure whether the executive team will follow his lead. Our coaching conversations lean into what might occur if he steps into his role to a larger degree.
I asked Michael to assess the degree of effectiveness that he brings with him to his job. He answers that he’s about 80% effective. For Michael’s personal and professional development and for the sake of the company, he’s going to have to stretch to 82-85% to fully engage the company in this campaign.
You expected me to say that Michael needs to stretch to 100%, didn’t you? Well, given that for Michael, 80% is within his comfort zone, to leap too far beyond the edge could create a backlash. And, as most of us have experienced, if we push ourselves too hard for change, we end up digging in our own heels, resisting and pushing back. Exploring out just a couple of degrees from the edge of Michael’s comfort zone allows him to experience various dimensions of reality that confront him, without leaving the comfort of his easy chair. From here, he can assess and evaluate any number of strategies that would initiate a greater degree of effectiveness. Though he initially leans out just a bit, he actually expands his comfort zone, engaging his fullest potential to explore and experiment with his capacity to make things happen.
It’s actually rare for leaders to operate at 100% effectiveness. And, my belief is that most companies aren’t even going to hire an individual who brings that degree of effectiveness to the workplace, because they are yet to be capable of that level of success themselves. They don’t yet know how to bring about that level of success. That makes sense!
Quite a few executive clients of mine back away from the edge of their comfort zone because it’s unfamiliar territory. They fear what may be revealed. More to the point, they fear experiencing the inadequacy within their humanity, which no doubt will devastate their egoic identity. Who are they without the suit of armor called ME?
The consequence of avoiding the edge may mean that employees and the company at large are unlikely to fulfill their vision. Executives are human beings, and like most of us, they may miss the point of digging through personal baggage and exposing vulnerabilities, along with the nuggets of GOLD! They play a big game, however more often than not they are unwilling to risk their own personal security in order to remain invulnerable.
Much of Michael’s conversation with me thus far has been how the company is resisting, ignoring or limiting his authority. As his thinking partner, my listening informs me that, on some unconscious level, the company is conspiring to bring Michael to the fullest expression of his essential nature and for him to lead from this place. They won’t budge until he brings more of his empowered self to the table. He is required to empower himself to make those shifts in order to empower others to do the same.
As Michael and I talk, he begins to get the lay of the land within himself and his company. He’s beginning to see how, in many ways, the company is waiting for him to step into the very practice he’s going to require of them. He sees now that he has to be the role model for change.
Regardless of how high up in the ranks of leadership one climbs, each individual is required to face their fears and risk vulnerability, only in service to their vision and life purpose. I love working with Michael because he is clearly aware of a larger vision for his company and he has a knowing that this is essential for the company to thrive, or even to survive.
The Dilemma for Michael: he can stay within his 80% effectiveness and capitulate to the company’s foot-dragging, while still maintaining his reputation as an effective leader. Or, he can amp up a few degrees of effectiveness, risking a loss of safety and security. He may be vulnerable to the possibility that people won’t like him, may confront him and perhaps drastically push back. Yet change is required to save the company. He’s considering his options.
Michael didn’t get to be a COO by being a coward. He’s talented, highly effective and has what it takes to create this turnaround. He has no idea yet the fullest potential available to him just beyond that 80%. I’m happy to report that he sees this as an exciting adventure! Wha-hoo!
The “Guilt-Free” Diet
Okay, so I found the diet of all diets! Obviously, by the title you can imagine that it has something to do with being guilt-free while engaging in any number of diets. Are you wanting to lose weight, stop spending, exercise more, quit smoking, spend more time with your sweetie, more time away from electronic companions? I get it! A guilt-free diet may be the way to go!
Throughout my whole life, my body image has been really important to me – the ‘image’ part is one thing but also the health that comes as a consequence of eating well and exercising daily. I’m far less successful than I want to be, yet I’ve been able to maintain my weight within a five pound band-width for about twenty years. Not bad, eh?
Being sixty years old, there’s nothing that will stop my body from doing all those things bodies do as they age: the sagging, creeping and wrinkling – well there’s nothing to be done but to appreciate and value the degree of health and vitality that I have today, as well as continuing to eat well and exercise daily. I’m so grateful to have the stamina and strength that I do have.
However, I keep pushing to lose weight – it’s a constant conversation in my head. And, I realized the other day that for the majority of my sixty years I’ve laid an incessant barrage of guilt and shame upon myself. Guilting myself has been the primary strategy responsible for staying thin and fit. But I realize the price I’ve paid using this strategy over others.
I decided, as an experiment, that I would stop working toward a particular weight goal, which only served over time to solidify how inadequate I am in fulfilling commitments. I would also stop the barrage of “Shoulds and Shouldn’ts” regarding everything to do with food. And, I had an “OMG” (Oh, My God!) moment. A list of attack thoughts spewed out a mile long regarding the “I’m not enoughs” that I’ve been living with forever!
I listed a minimum of 10 statements of guilt and shame that were so automatic I didn’t even know they are there. “You’ll look like an old person; you’ll get plump; you won’t be beautiful anymore; your clothes won’t fit; you’ll be out of integrity with who you say you are, on and on and on. That’s when I decided I’d go on a Guilt-Free Diet!
I heard the wee voice in my head say “What will keep me from gaining tons of weight or being a lazy good-for-nothing if I give up guilting myself? I then asked myself if the harmful side-effects of the guilt may be worse than the extra pounds I might carry. Just another one of those darn dilemmas.
Guilting oneself is not uncommon. For many of us, we don’t know any other way to manage and control ourselves but through guilt. Once I realized how I use guilt regarding food and beverage consumption, I also saw how I use it regarding work, productivity, and my financial where-with-all. I use guilt to make things happen and not happen in every aspect of my life.
Is it possible to live a guilt-free life?
So, while on this guilt-free diet, my practice is to notice the thoughts that are embedded with guilt – notice for instance, when at lunch time, the voice in my head says: “You should have a salad.” That “You Should” is most likely laced with guilt. When I’m about to do something based on that guilt-filled thought, my practice is to say STOP! Then re-calibrate my choice based on what I really want. This requires me to think like a mature and wise adult, instead of that more adolescent part of me that constantly wants what I want when I want it.
Does guilt have to be the only source of motivation?
I’m now more aware of making choices based on integrity and accountability. My intention is to enjoy life and I certainly enjoy it more feeling good and looking good. It’s a fascinating process revealing those thoughts that control and manage my behavior but are harmful and actually create dis-ease, self-hatred and other behaviors to compensate for the guilt and shame. Brow-beating ourselves usually creates the desire to anesthetize that voice – so we choose to eat, drink, do retail therapy, sex, TV, Internet surfing – you get the idea. SHEEESH!
Is There Another Way?
I want to be in alignment with my highest truth and my highest good. I know that spewing guilt thoughts at myself, and at others, for that matter, isn’t in alignment with my highest truth or good. I want health and well-being, and I also want to enjoy freedom and flexibility, which may be in direct conflict to well-being.
It’s interesting just to notice what happens when I take guilt out of the equation – not try to replace it with something else, not try to fix or heal the source of the guilt; just stop the guilt. I consider being a parent to myself and speaking without guilt – only loving thoughts – not manipulative, candy –sweet, but just love and care. It’s just an investigation, an experiment. I’m not trying to loose weight or fix my behavior in any way – I’m just exploring what IS without guilt.
Little by little, so far in this experiment, I’m realizing a greater degree of peace and relaxation – something I’ve not experienced for a very long time. I realize too, the degree to which the incessant pressure to be productive, effective, appropriate, worthy, attractive and desirable, never, never stops. It doesn’t take a vacation, and neither do I.
An invaluable resource that grows with aging is wisdom. Inevitably, we come to discover that who and what we think we are isn’t actually who and what we are at all! What matters to me more than anything else now, is that I compassionately reveal and dismantle self-loathing thoughts that impede my capacity to be the fullest expression of my essential self. How can I be anything but fit and attractive if I follow this advice?
I enjoy the adventure that comes with being curious about myself – how I’ve come to this reality I live within, in this current moment. I have no idea what will unfold from this exploration and practice. I do know that my experience thus far is that it’s contributing to a greater degree of well-being that’s guilt -free!
The Inside of Grief
My dog, Gracie has quite a few jobs on our 10 acre parcel of land on Orcas Island. One, in particular, is to chase the rabbits away and keep them from eating all the flowers and plants around the property. Sometimes this also means that she digs into nests and pulls out little baby rabbits and kills them. This certainly keeps the bunny population down. And, it causes me incredible grief to see dead baby rabbits strewn across the yard. I’ve come to justify this as our – mine and Gracie’s contribution to the circle of life. I take the lifeless bunnies down the road to the field where eagles, owls, hawks and vultures can find them and have an easy meal. It’s just what happens when living in the country.
This past weekend, Gracie proudly brought home a one week old bunny that was barely alive. It was so helpless and innocent, my heart instantly wrenched in, as I took in its sweet presence, while at the same time feeling the agony that would erupt with the impending moment of its death; most likely within the next day or two. I didn’t need nor want to be emotionally pummeled by the presence of such a beast as this week old bunny; but there is was. God: Give me peace!
My three year old friend, Zoe, who was visiting for the weekend, of course was delighted by the presence of this tiny little creature. For Zoe’s sake, her mom found a box and some soft towels and made a little nest for the little guy. We assumed the bunny wouldn’t last more than a few hours.
I didn’t really want any part of this little bunny’s life, as I somehow knew that inevitably I’d be responsible for it when it died. As fate would have it, it didn’t die over the weekend, and Zoe, her mom and dad packed up their belongings and left for the ferry leaving the rabbit for me to deal with. They didn’t want to traumatize Zoe.
Having done a google search on how to care for a wild orphaned bunny, the information left me with a dilemma. The bunny had a very low chance of survival in captivity, especially with Gracie so close by. To place it back in the wild, where its mother could possibly find it (and so could Gracie) – well, what would the chances be for its survival, cold, alone with no nourishment. I had to choose. If only it had died!
I chose not to keep the bunny. Choosing not to keep the bunny meant that I had to take it up the hill to the rabbit warren and do something with it. My hope was that the nest would be easily visible, especially since Gracie had dug it out. No such luck. I could have wandered for hours and never come across anything that looked like a rabbit’s nest.
I began to cry. And then I sobbed; and while still holding the bunny carefully in my cupped hands, I wailed in anguish and despair. There was no hope. Well, let me put it another way; It would be silly to hope that this rabbit would be rescued by its mother or some other bighearted bunny. It would also be silly to hope that this little guy would survive on its own. I felt an enormous amount of guilt for bringing about the end of this innocent being’s life. I was beside myself with grief.
One aspect of living in a rural setting that I so appreciate, most of the time, is being much more connected with nature. It’s impossible to ignore my place in the food chain and the consequences of my choices. I get mice in the trailer and I have to choose to kill them with a trap, then feed them to the birds; poison them, which means they’ll suffer, die and then potentially get eaten by Gracie; or to ask them not to come into the trailer where they can find food and warm. I’ve tried them all!
I planted some beautiful hosta’s in my little garden. Well the slugs love hostas, so if I want hostas I have to poison the slugs. Though my friend Ron thinks I’m silly, I don’t think I want to kill slugs – the big Banana Slugs – like the one’s in California. I’d rather not grow hostas. There are plenty of other plants I can grow, which doesn’t require the killing of God’s earthly creatures.
And, now, the bunny. Generation after generation of people have had to kill animals they didn’t want to kill. I have no doubt that quite often, they too felt deep grief and guilt for having done what needed to be done.
But, I think this story goes deeper than that – though I’m not quite sure yet where this is leading. As I explore all the many facets of being human, I’ve found the bottom of the barrel in regard to the inside of grief. Sadness, anger, numbness, depression … how far down the rabbit hole are you willing to go (No pun intended)? Powerless, helpless, undeniably excruciating emotional and physical pain – deeper and deeper, raw and almost unbearable. Something presses on me to move forward through the ever darkening and unknowable depths of my human being.
I found myself in despair in the presence of hopelessness and in anguish in the presence of no hope – somehow, in my investigation there is a difference between these two that feel different. Despair happens when I’m holding onto hope when there is none. Anguish occurs in the presence of no hope. I realize, too, that hope does not exist within a state of enlightenment. That was interesting to experience for one fragment of a moment.
I’m wrung out. There’s nothing left of me. There’s nothing left of my arrogant righteousness. I’m completely humbled by an experience that happens in nature millions of times within one moment, every moment, all over the planet. Death happens.
My choices cannot always bring about a sense of “I did the right thing and boy, don’t I feel good about it.” I’ll never forget the rawness of that moment when I laid the little bunny down just inside a small opening in the Earth. Perhaps he’d find safety there, but my grief could not allow any imagining further than that. I had to let go of the idea that my hope would have any impact here, or that it would be a salve for my bruised sense of self – as if it would somehow give me a sense of control over the outcome and make me feel better. In that moment there was nothing.
I could have avoided this whole messy business by sneaking the box with rabbit in the car with Zoe and her mom and dad; or toughed it out by attempting to nurse the little guy into maturity. Avoiding what was mine to do – well, I’ve lived too much of my life that way.
The choices I’ve made throughout my life have led to a great deal of messiness, much of which has gone ungrieved. The simple presence of something like the innocence of a baby rabbit unleashed the deepest, most raw and despairing moments in my life. Urban dwellers along with rural dwellers cannot escape their humanity – those places where the ego-self is annihilated. Living with death of any kind, always obliterates pride, vanity, and leaves one humbled in one rapturous heap of humanity. It really can’t be any other way.
Being Successful at Living Someone Elses Illusion
One of the fundamental truths I’ve been living with in my life is that I’m simply not enough and will never be enough. I can never do enough because I can never be enough – you get the picture.
Every day, I fail to bring about the magical miracle outcome that I hope will happen through completing ordinary tasks. The hope is unfulfilled. I’ve come to resist doing anything, or completing anything, because the evidence is that I will face the emptiness of unfulfilled expectations,… and I hate that feeling.
Empty of magic; empty of miracles; death of a dream; incessant hope that is unfulfilled, I watch as I despair with the perpetual emptiness that greets me at the end of every trip to town, every email session, every completion of a blog. The wish for success – work and prosperity – is attached to the belief that something is lacking. And all fingers are pointing at me – there’s something lacking in me.
Spiritually, I know that I’m Divine Presence incarnate and if that’s true then I have no doubt that I’m worthy of my desire for work that fulfills me and brings prosperity. This isn’t currently present in my life, which means something is wrong – again, all fingers point to me. My job is to uncover and unconceal a belief pattern that is juxtaposed to the truth of my Divine Presence.
Through muscle testing I’m able to converse with my self. I recover the logic and reason a three year old child used to understand her reality. Given the dysfunctional environment she was raised in, she came to believe she will never be enough and that she can never do enough because she can’t ever be enough. She is powerless to bring about a change in the circumstance in her environment. She is destined to repeat this pattern for decades.
Having the wisdom, experience and the knowledge to have this conversation with myself today, obviously reveals that as an adult I am enough and can do enough to bring about amazing outcomes; however …
If I find my emotional self continually avoiding tasks and projects as ordinary as going to town and back so as to avoid what I’ll be facing upon my return, I then have to take this expedition into emptiness to find the belief I made to be true, but which continually sabotages and thwarts the fullest expression of my essential self. So I take the journey.
The emptiness the three year old could not fill through her own presence of being is still here, experienced yet unfulfilled. For her whole life, she’s looked to others to fill that emptiness. She/I now know that has never worked in the past, nor will it ever work.
In this exploration, I touch on all that I’ve shared above. I see how I came to create the level of success I now allow and understand that this three year old child’s essential belief about herself is still embedded deep within my psyche. There is no capacity for greater fulfillment as long as this belief – that I will never be enough, is in place. I will continue to fail to bring about a different outcome because I can never do enough because I will never be enough.
I have no doubt that in past lives – my own or my ancestor’s, that I failed to survive. I died because I couldn’t do enough to save myself and perhaps others. So, again I came to decide that I must not be enough if I can’t do enough.
Anyone who understands the power of the energy held within beliefs, like the ones I’m sharing with you, gets that I need to detach from these beliefs and past life experiences in order to liberate myself from the inevitable outcome from proceeding as usual.
So, now what?
On page 8 of A Course in Miracles (1985), stands this passage:
“The Escape from darkness [illusion] involves two stages: First, the recognition that darkness [illusion] cannot hide. This step usually entails fear. Second, the recognition that there is nothing you want to hide, even if you could. This step brings escape from fear. When you’ve become willing to hide nothing, you will not only be willing to enter into communion but will also understand peach and joy.”
I’m grateful that I’m well into stage two, and no longer wish to hide, distract myself from, ignore or avoid thoughts that precipitate fear – to any degree. Everything is up for a look-see and a toss out.
As many of you know, I dowse to uncover and clear thought patterns that no longer serve my highest good or my highest truth. I highly recommend this practice to everyone in service to your fullest expression of your essential self.
After a session such as the one I’ve just described, I need to allow time for my body to release the cellular memory that has been within my system, perhaps for lifetimes. Rest, water, walk in nature, perhaps a good cry, all support an energetic detox. It could takes an hour or two, a day, week or years … no one knows how the unfolding of this process will proceed. I will know where I am in the process by the sense of peace and joy that I experience. In this moment, though, I feel liberated from the incessant feeling of emptiness and despair, and, I feel gratitude, which I’ve come to realize is part and parcel to being peace and joy.
Gurdjieff said: “Conscious faith is freedom. Emotional faith is slavery. Mechanical faith is foolishness.”
In moments like these, I practice conscious faith – though sometimes it’s really difficult. Given the choice though, to truly practice what I preach, there is no other choice to make. It all becomes a no-brainer. Not fun, not easy, but just what there is to do.
Blessings on your journey!
5 Steps to Presencing (Being Present)
Presence: It seems like a no brainer; aren’t we always present wherever we go? Actually, it’s rare that we are present, in the moment, with our full attention on the individual, the group or task in front of us. Opportunities to have distractions pop up and take our attention away from what we are intending to be attending to.
Cell phones, emails, texts, phones, people passing by our office or cubicle – these are the some of the external distractions; what about the thoughts, emotions and body sensations that also pull us off course; the emotions, stress, anger and fatigue; or worries about money, partners, friends and family; hunger – isn’t it time for a snack break?
Choice-making is occurring – we are choosing to choose what to be present to. So, what has us choose to choose what we choose? We can be present when we want to be – like when playing a video game, or to the quick perky tune that lets us know someone has just texted; in a sense we are present to our distractions – always alert to their call. What are we committed to that allows for our presence to be usurped by distractions? Maybe it would be more helpful if we turn the question around and ask it this way: What allows us to be so present to distractions? What is so compelling about the sound of a text coming in or the footsteps of a passerby? What are we committed to that has us so available to distractions?
My curiosity has me explore some possibilities:
- When someone calls me or wants my attention, I feel important, wanted and needed.
- There’s something missing that distractions provide.
- Sometimes I’m stuck or challenged and frustrated with the task at hand. I want a distraction to take me out of my misery.
- If I’m fully present in the moment I might miss out on something.
- I don’t like what I’m doing, I don’t care what I’m doing and I’d rather be doing anything else but this!
If we choose to interpret our work or work environment as boring and lacks stimulation, or if we enjoy the tiny but mighty shots of adrenaline that arrives with each text, email or phone call, or if we are overstressed by what’s in front of us, most likely we will allow ourselves to invite in what is otherwise missing. We are then committed to relieving stress, boredom and the mundaneness of our environment.
I believe, generally speaking that we think that the state of presence occurs only in the physical world we call reality; but the fact is that presence has an energetic component that fuels, inspires, propels and provides momentum to relationship, connection and fulfillment of our intended outcome. By not presencing ourselves we are not maximizing the fullest expression of our intention to make a difference.
Consider a Practice of Presencing
What’s required of you to be fully present? I suggest we do it all the time – selectively choose to be present to what we choose to be present to.
Here are 5 steps to practice presencing:
- Intention: The intention to be present has to be in place.
- Focus: The practice of focusing is required.
- Willingness: The willingness to exercise the muscles that distinguish to what you bring your focus and attention.
- Noticing: The ability to notice or witness what is occurring while you are practicing presence; what’s showing up? What feelings, thoughts and body sensations arise while practicing? By noticing, you become aware of what generally pulls away from being present.
- Mindfulness: Assessing what’s valuable and available through the practice of presencing. There is a degree of mindfulness that is required in any practice such as this. A practice in mindfulness is in itself a practice of presencing.
Presencing is a discipline to be practiced, first as an experiment and then perhaps because there is actual fulfillment experienced by being present. What’s it like when you are fully present – what’s the quality of the experience? What is available to you when you are fully present, as opposed to answering texts while listening to your direct reports talk about the challenges they face?
My work as a life and business coach requires 100% attention to every word and action taken by my client. I cannot afford to be present to anything that distracts me from fulfilling my intention to empower them. In a matter of seconds, my work can become sloppy and haphazard when out of the state of presence. I miss something and my effectiveness goes down the toilet; I’m not committed to that!
The question then is, what would have to be here, now that is compelling enough to turn off cell phones, emails, internet – everything that isn’t serving this moment and being present? I ask you to seriously consider asking the question for yourself, for most likely the degree to which you bring presence to your work is the same degree to which you presence yourself with your partner, your children, and to any other aspect of your life.
My client, Jeremy, when home from work would continually be distracted by emails and texts from his boss. He was constantly on alert to his boss’s every need. Through our conversations he realized that his concern and worry about what his boss thought of him was a priority over what his wife and children thought about him and a priority over his own enjoyment of his personal time. He realized too he couldn’t allow himself to be present and enjoy his family as long as his sense of value and importance was coming from outside himself. He began to practice being present at work and at home and found a whole new perspective from which to be most aligned with his highest truth, his integrity and his vision as a human being. A small practice with a gigantic benefit.