Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Do You Have a Winning Game Plan

My friend Julie is a sport psychologist who works with world class athletes and top business managers to improve their performance. Her book Performance Intelligence At Work gives readers tools that promise to increase their performance by defining their wins and following a winning game plan.

Julie's always being asked to speak to this group and travel to that state and meet with these athletes. She is, in short, in demand. Being a wife, mom and successful business owner has its downside. She constantly juggles her roles, and over coffee a few months ago, she explained to me how she makes decisions about how she spends her time. She defines and aligns.

I know. I like rhymes, too. And at first glance, I know what you think, "Uh-huh. Fine. Sounds good." Because she is important, and busy, and in demand, and after all, that's kind of her job. And you move on. But. But.

She asked me to try this exercise wherein I separated my life into all the main areas that were important to me. Then, under each category, I wrote down all the tasks or characteristics that applied to that area. After doing this, I would, in theory be able to define the main "purpose" or strength in my life and thereby align all my activities with that purpose.

Sounds easy, right? Well, that was about four months ago, and I just figured out the overriding character, or strength, and was finally willing to commit this to paper. (To me putting something on paper is the equivalent of swearing a blood oath.)

I'm one of those people who rebels against categories, and types, and personality quizzes. My mind fights the idea that people can be quantified and qualified by their parts, rather than the sum. I change my mind a lot, and I like to have my hands busy with numerous and varied projects.

It took me a few days to even start the assignment. Even doing it, I kept thinking of other things I needed to do. I designed a cute little chart on which to do the job. I abandoned that to pen and paper. I got a fresh cup of coffee. After completing the breakdown, I was paralyzed. I DID NOT want to claim that character, or quality. In fact, I set it aside for months.

I wanted to do all the things I was doing, and I was afraid. I was afraid that I would discover I need to abandon all of those completely rewarding activities and become, like, a banker or something.

I told Julie this and she said, "Finish the assignment. You will gain more than you will give up."

And because even though I hate being told what to do I also like rules, I did finish. I've defined. Now, I'm on to the next step, aligning all my activities with this definition. If it doesn't fall under this then I walk away from it, guilt-free. How cool is that? After that, I'm going to work on my winning game plan.

There is a certain freedom in categories and pigeonholes. You know where you belong. You know where home is. There is rest in knowledge, there is rest at home. And I can always change my mind.

If you want to define and align, Julie is coming to Tulsa February 12 and 13 for a two day workshop. She is a fun speaker with tons of energy and a great sense of humor. You will leave with a plan of action. Moms, teachers, small business owners, dads, coaches, her work applies to all areas. You can be my guest by leaving a comment or sending an email. I'd love you to join me.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What I leared from Twitter (and Jesus)

Bah. Kids returned to school today after the two week holiday hiatus. I made a strict, concerted effort to not think about school over those two weeks. It had been a rough semester for one of our precious angels and I just wanted to give her (and us, her parents) a break. So then, I thought we were all set to return yesterday. We had some preparatory conversations about how we planned to approach this semester and I thought we were set.

You know how a dog with a bone will take the bone to a special place in the house and gnaw on it? When he's done, he'll tuck the bone away for later. He'll return to the bone, find a quiet spot and gnaw some more. He'll smack his lips. He'll drop the bone and grasp a better spot and worry that one a little bit. He'll carry it into a patch of sun and gnaw some more. Yeah. That was me, last night. I clicked off my reading lamp after lulling my mind into submission with a book (Bel Canto if you're wondering). I had, oh, maybe five minutes of sort of sleep and then, my mind awoke with a furious and probably neurotic frenzy of worry.

I started writing mental letters to the school, listing all the ways they'd fallen short. I thought of different tools we could implement to help her get and stay organized. I berated myself for not making some helpful phone calls over break, and for being a goofy mom who was out of touch. My mind raced with anxiety. I could feel my pulse quickening under my skin, and all I really wanted, what I knew I really needed, was sleep.

So, I resorted to techniques I used when pregnant. Deep breathing, mental imagery, praying, reciting Scripture. Nothing helped. My mind circled back again and again to what was wrong and how we'd fix it. I started counting out my breaths. Then I started counting backward from 100. Finally, I turned to my only source of solace at 3:33 am; twitter. Well, first I went to, but as the Steelers had just missed out on the playoffs, that did little to help. I opened my twitter feed.

What I saw there in those wee-hours tweets was sadness. And longing. And a reaching out, a begging for help. None of the tweets were obviously desperate, but there was an aching in them. Many of the tweets were basic calls for more business, or to lose some pounds, or for a spouse to get home, or other mundane every day worries. Some were deep cries for friendship or help or advice.

What I did then taught me something I already knew and forgot. I started praying for these people and their hearts and their hurts. I know some of them personally, some I'll never, ever meet. Turning my heart outward changed my situation and how I approached it. It also let me flex my compassion muscle and do something real for strangers. In shifting my focus outward, I came to realize that all this junk I was gnawing on could be handled in the bright light of day. I hid the bone and started to pray. Hope I don't forget next time.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Be Kind to Yourself

Hello, my lovelies,

In lieu of writing about my soul-searching holidays, my new leaf resolutions or any other navel gazing, I present three tools to help you reconnect, play and learn this year.

Try joining a flock to learn about spirituality, relationships, and ritual.

This e-course, called Inside Out looks fun for us creative types who still like to play with crayons and glue.

This blog is pure delight: Kind over Matter.

Be well.