Lessons from the First Quarter – Part 2: Being Yourself

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After Sunday’s Chiefs/Texans game a friend of mine sent me a video of quarterback Patrick Mahomes talking to his team.  You may remember that the first quarter of this game was a tough one for the Kansas City Chiefs.  My guess is that this interaction came near the end of that quarter.

“We do not have to do anything else other than being ourselves.  I truly believe that.  If we just be ourselves and trust in each other we will go down there and we can put points up.  We can do what we do.  Don’t try to go out here and do everything for yourself.  Believe in your teammate.  Believe in each other.  When we will get these opportunities we’ll go down and find a way to win the game.  Let’s do it right here, man.  Let’s go.  Let’s go.”*

There is a lot packed into that statement.  But, for now, I’d draw our attention to that first sentence.  “We do not have to do anything else other than be ourselves.”

Be ourselves.

Be ourselves?

In the Chief’s case I’m believing that Mahomes was referring to the skill, capacity and relationship of every player on the team.  These are the things that are defined largely by the hard work that happens between game times.  It happens with every review, meeting, play assignment, work out, practice route, coaching engagement, tough conversation, encouraging word, etc..  It is the targeted focus of that collective work that purposefully molds us in to who we say we want to be.  It’s not just a hope – it’s how we roll — it’s who we are.

Because of all that between game focus and work, Mahomes was able to pull on a clear visual of what it meant for them to “be themselves”… and they knew what that looked like.

So, what about us?  What does it mean for us to be ourselves?

At the risk of being over simplistic I think it emerges in the same way that it does for the Chiefs.  It comes through every review, meeting, play assignment, work out, practice route, coaching engagement, tough conversation, encouraging word, etc..  It is how we leverage each of these, and more, that give us the gift of clarifying and honing who we are.  Like the Chiefs, some of our most important plays will happen before the “game.”  Each one offers us a clearer picture of who we are and the opportunity to hone our best selves.

Keep going!

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*https://www.facebook.com/ESPN/videos/616548728882044/

Lessons from the First Quarter – Part 1: Slow it Down

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There is this scene near the end of the first Matrix movie where Neo (the protagonist) is having an action packed showdown with his nemesis (the Agent).  As the scene progresses several Agents have Neo in an untenable position.  Having multiple fire arms pointed in his direction the Agents launch a full on bullet assault in Neo’s direction creating what could safely be called a wall of bullets.  It looks like this is the end for Neo.

But no.  In the midst of the bullet barrage Neo intervenes.  He uses his power to slow time down.  Yes.  I said that Neo made time slow down.  As a result, the bullets themselves slowed to a crawl making them much easier to manage.  Neo, still living in the world at his natural speed, made the problem manageable by virtue of his power to slow it down.  As a result Neo was able to view the bullets in a much more tenable context.  They were no longer destructive, invisible pieces of lead seeking to destroy him.  They were merely slow, suspended objects that could be viewed and manipulated so as to accomplish his goals.

In Sundays Chiefs/Texans game the first quarter got away from the Chiefs.  In a very real sense it sped away from them – fast.  To use the example above, I’m betting it felt like a wall of bullets.  As a result, they doubled down on their effort to catch up.  And how do you catch up when you are so far behind?  You pick up the pace – right?  And pick up the pace they did.  Unfortunately the tragic byproduct of their faster pace was mistakes, mistakes and more mistakes.  The very thing that they thought they needed in order to fix the problem had actually become their undoing.  And the harder/faster they tried the more they found themselves ineffective.

So, what do you do at a moment like this?

In my opinion – it all starts with slowing it down!

What does that mean?  Run slower?  Pass slower?  Hit slower?

That doesn’t make any sense.

Let me clarify – I’m not referring to the physically slowing down.  I’m referring to mentally slowing down.  Slowing down our brains – our thinking.

Sound impossible?  It’s not.  But it does take effort.  Most of life’s greatest challenges are totally in our grasp to do exactly that.

Like Neo?

No, not exactly.

But here are just a couple of ideas on how to slow it down.

First, get some distance.  Is the challenge you are facing feeling close?  Does it have you emotionally charged up and triggered?  Do you feel like most of your actions are just responses to things that are being thrown at you?  Then step away.  No matter how sure you are that everything will crumble if you do – do it anyway.  Get some time to yourself.  Take some deep breaths.  If you do yoga or meditation – do some.  If you take walks…start walking.  Whatever it is you do – do it.  This is not about escape – this is about perspective.  Perspective is virtually impossible when we are not able to view our challenges from a distance.  Get some.

Next, ask deeper/more thoughtful questions and give yourself time to ponder them.  When time speeds up the seduction is to default to commands and proclamations.  “Do this!”  “Do that!” “Get this done!”  “Get that done!”  And yet each command often keeps us from wondering more deeply about what’s really going on? – What’s really needed? – What play feels important to run next? – What does my team need from me right now? – What do I need from my team?  The thoughtful pondering of these questions allows us to experiment in more thoughtful ways.  Ways that, once again, allow us to reapproach our challenge with perspective.

In closing – yes – some issues in life can be handled with a quick reaction.  But most of the hard ones – the really, really hard ones require that we to show up very differently.  Take my word for it, at times like these, it has never served me well to quickly respond, blurt out, swing wildly or run about.  Almost always the starting point is slowing it down.  Once I do that I can get the perspective I need to show up more effectively.

Less: “Too Much” — More: “Who You Are”

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I’m a Kansas City Chiefs football fan.  Especially today!

But – true confessions – at the close of the first quarter of today’s game I was not a true believer.  For those of you who may have missed it, let me attempt to bring you up to speed.  The Chiefs played the Houston Texans in the second round of the NFL AFC playoffs today.  Kansas City had earned a bye last week and they were playing today’s game at home.  They had everything going for them.  In many respects it was their game to lose.  But as the first quarter of today’s game came to a close it felt like they had done exactly that – lost it.

With multiple dropped passes, a blocked punt, a fumbled kick return – not to mention the Texans offensive game running roughshod over our defense – the Chiefs left me feeling like the game had started but they were nowhere to be found.  As score after score racked up for the Texans you could see the Chiefs frustration mount (and mine too).  In just a few minutes we had gotten so far behind that a return was beginning to feel insurmountable.  As the gap in the score widened each play felt like it had tremendous weight on it.  For the Chiefs, everything had to count.  Everything.   Unfortunately, the harder they tried the worse they looked.  It was a calamity of errors.  All this led to the Texans ending the first quarter with a 24-0 lead.  Ouch.

At the first quarter break I sat silently as the sports announcers gabbed.  In truth, they seemed as dumbfounded as I was.  What was happening?  Then, from the mouth of an announcer came these words, “The Chiefs need to stop trying to be too much and just be who they are.”  At that moment my wife looked over at me and said, “That sounds like some pretty good leadership advice doesn’t it?”  Still triggered I slowly responded, “Yes, but when it feels like the entire world is caving in around you, that can be very hard to do.”

Tough indeed.  I can’t even imagine the pressure the Chiefs must have been feeling as they, in the presence of a raucous and hopeful home crowd, put on a clinic for how to implode.  I’ll be honest, for me, the game felt like it was over and it was just the start of the second quarter.

But that second quarter…well…wow.  Just wow.  I think I can safely say that all who kept watching witnessed something truly amazing.  Play by play, pass by pass, run by run, kick by kick the Chiefs stopped trying to be too much and just started being who they were.  As a result, the second quarter found Kansas City not only getting back in the game but actually in the lead.  I can’t remember ever having seen something like it.  It was a powerful show of resilience and stamina in the midst of crushing pressure.  Truly amazing.

The Chiefs went on to win the game by 20 points and as the game ended I knew I needed to write about it.  My wife was so right, the announcer’s words were excellent advice.  But I’ll stick by my assessment, it can be extremely tough to “be who we are” (our best selves) when it feels like our world is caving in around us.

I’ve been there.  I bet you have too.  We’ve all found ourselves in moments when we deeply believe that we are giving our best selves to a “quarter” of life and it’s just not enough.  We’ve got expectations.  We’re giving it everything we’ve got – stretching ourselves for a big win – but we’re coming up short.  We’re convinced that with just a little more hard work we will be rewarded with the next big win, sale, job, or promotion.  We may even have the encouragement of our friends, family and colleagues.  But even then – it doesn’t happen.  We find ourselves vexed by the loss.  What is going on?  It can feel so painful.

Listen, let me be clear, I don’t believe that life is a game but I do wonder if the advice of the sports casters may have some relevance for us too.  If we find ourselves at the end of a tough first quarter, what if we tried a little less to “be too much and just (a little more to) be who we are”?

Maybe, just maybe, one play at a time, we’ve still got what it takes to change how this comes out.  Hey, this may not be the life we expected…but there’s still a lot of time left on the clock.

 

The Test Is The Same But The Answers Are Different

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In a recent TedTalk Paul Rulkens tells the following story.

In 1942 Albert Einstein was teaching at Oxford University.  One day he gave an exam to his Senior class of Physics students.  After the test he was walking across campus with his Assistant and the Assistant asked, “Dr. Einstein, the test you just gave to your Senior class of physics students – isn’t that exactly the same test you that gave to exactly the same class last year?”  Dr. Einstein responded, “Yes – it is exactly the same test.”  “But Dr. Einstein,” the Assistant responded, “How could you possibly do that?  “Well,” said Einstein, “the test is the same but answers have changed.”

The answers have changed.

Rulkens continues…

  • “Is it possible that what was true for the world of 1942 is also true for today?”
  • “Is it possible that we live in a world where the questions might be the same but the answers have changed?”
  • “Is it possible that what has gotten us here will no longer get us there?”
  • “Is it possible that if we want results that we’ve never had before we’re going to need to start doing things that we’ve never done before?”

Wait…what?  Is Rulkens saying that the answers to certain problems don’t remain the same?

This should be no surprise to us – right?  The temperature changes moment by moment.  Time changes constantly.  Tides ebb and flow.  Some things are constantly changing.  And that’s all good.  Or…it’s good when we are expecting it.

Where it gets crazy is when what we thought was not supposed to change – does.  And we not only didn’t know it – we find ourselves still acting as though it never did.

Imagine that.

Is that even possible?

An example that resonates with me these days is around the idea of companies that are trying to build strong teams of entry level employees.  In the past, it was assumed that entry level employees came with certain values and soft skills that allowed them to quickly become a productive part of any team.  They all wanted to show up on time, give their best effort, offer their best ideas and be respectful to authority.  As a result, HR departments merely had to post job openings and great employees were easily attainable.

Would it surprise any of you that among the most common complaints I hear among companies these days is that they can’t find good entry level workers anymore.  People don’t want to show up on time.  People don’t want to work hard.  People don’t feel the need to respect authority.  And on and on.

Frustrating?  You bet.  But there is an interesting, baked in, assumption that seems to run with so many that I talk with.  The assumption is that nothing has actually changed in any significant way.  All that’s required is just a little more effort.  A little tweak here or there.  Once we find that little formula the problem will be solved and all these great associates will just start lining up at their door.

And it has yet to happen.

Is it possible that the work of hiring and developing a high functioning entry level work force has fundamentally changed and we’re still trying to answer the same question in the same way we did last century, last decade or last year?

This is just one example.

For the sake of brevity — if you find this intriguing I offer you this…

  • Is it possible that the way we think about certain things has us disconnected from wondering if the answers have fundamentally changed around our issue?
  • What would we need to take one step away from our “supposed to be’s” and one step toward more curiosity about how the answers we seek may have fundamentally changed?

I’m Not Questioning Your Intent but I Am Questioning Your Effectiveness

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I just read the last words of Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness.  I so engaged with this book.  The idea of trust and vulnerability as a non-negotiable for more effective living and leading is fundamental to my worldview and values.  The way she articulates and expands the ideas around these terms I find personally relevant and encouraging.

But I had an epiphany as I was finishing up the book today.  Brown was talking about the importance of braving the wilderness, of standing alone for something you believe deeply in.  She was talking about the pain and loneliness that can come with such a decision.  But it felt like something was missing.  I’m talking about the tools to stand more effectively in this space.

No surprise – I think that gap might be helped by the use of adaptive leadership tools – diagnosing situations, managing ourselves, intervening skillfully and energizing others.  These can all be a great help as we take seriously the call to stand more effectively in our wilderness.  These tools take our best intentions and make them more effective – and effectiveness matters.

Let me try to explain.

A few years ago at the KLC (Kansas Leadership Center, Wichita, KS) I was in a large group training session.  Using Brene Brown’s language – we were being invited to step toward the “wilderness.”  The purpose of our activity was to step out and speak up around a relevant issue and to use the adaptive tools (mentioned above) to show up there.

It wasn’t long until emotions entered the room.  Differing opinions emerged and tensions got high.  At moments, the discussion felt fierce – even angry.  For me, it was the kind of conversation that I’d usually prefer not to be a part of.  It felt heavy, confusing and even disorienting at times.

At the close of our discussion there was a debrief.  The facilitator checked back in with the group.  The debrief was not to evaluate the topic itself but to wonder about how we had effectively engaged the room around what we believed about the topic.  Everyone was invited to share – including those whose emotions had spilled out with greater vigor.  Based on the dialogue, the room had differing opinions around how the fierce emotions (in particular) had helped them make progress on the issue.  This wasn’t about questioning anyone’s intent.  It was simply about acknowledging that not all of us could navigate through the emotion in beneficial ways (ours or those of others).

At one particular moment, in the midst of our debrief, the facilitator looked at the room and said, “Our work today is not about questioning anyone’s intent.  I choose to believe that everyone’s intent was good around today’s topic.  What I am questioning is your effectiveness.”

Have you ever had one of those experiences where a concept explodes in your mind?  An experience where the idea you’re hearing not only feels brand new – it kind of pushes you back into your seat – a game changer.  This was one of those moments for me.  In the work of more effective leadership – intent matters – absolutely.  But intent only gets you so far.  You have to hone the tools of more effectively taking your best intentions and inviting others to stand with you because good intentions aren’t always enough.

Let me be clear.  This is not a critique.  I believe Brown’s ideas are solid.  I simply feel that there might be some other tools that could help in our more effective application of those ideas.  In many ways I believe her words should be considered the starting point of more effective leadership and learning.  Whether it’s in our friend, home, work or community relationships, if we are not able to acknowledge and stare down our own personal monsters – the monsters that drive the fear of our own inadequacies, we will struggle with more effective leadership.  I’m pretty dog gone sure of it.

But in the midst of this important work, the tools of applying more effective leadership have the ability to help us.  KLC has developed an entire curriculum around these tools – tools that are all about moving good intent toward greater effectiveness.  I actually use these tools in my own teaching and coaching on leadership.  For those who resonate with Brown’s invitation to the wilderness I would certainly recommend that you take her invitation to heart.  But in the midst of your journey I invite you to take seriously accumulating the tools that will help you be effective as you navigate the wilderness.

Remember, I’m not questioning our intent.  I’m merely wondering about our effectiveness.

A World of Hurt (Part 2): Faith Informing Worldview (In Not So Great Ways)

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The wounds of our globe feel so deep these days.  It feels that we are so schooled in the worldview of fighting and winning.  It only makes sense that those who don’t agree with us are our enemy.  Right?  Why wouldn’t our purpose be largely defined by aiding and abetting the destruction of our enemy?  If I can destroy “them and theirs” then “I and mine” will be happy.  “They” ARE the problem.

It is here that the worldview of my youth haunts me a bit.  I often see it systemically baked into this narrative.  I’m talking about conservative evangelicalism.

I grew up in conservative evangelicalism.  I was formally schooled in it.  In this worldview God is the holder of all truth and we are either on the side of truth or we are not.  As  youngster I loved Jesus’ proclamation in the Gospel book of Matthew. “He who is not with Me is against Me…”  I took great solace in believing that I was FOR Jesus – or, more importantly, I was FOR my Middle American, 1950’s, Southern Baptist, Conservative, Evangelical view of Jesus.

In the evangelical narrative of my youth there were clear definitions of what “truth” was.  Baked into these definitions was the assumption that based on my profession of faith in Jesus I not only stood on the side of “truth” – God had made me “righteous”.  As a result of that righteousness I had a corner on the “truth” and all who believed what I believed were my “righteous” family.  They were my people.

But anyone who didn’t stand with me was a problem.  We had a name for them.  They were called “non-believers”.  And there was only a couple of things to do with non-believers.  They must either be redeemed or left behind.  To be redeemed meant that they had to change their mind.  More specifically, they needed to believe as I believed.  Thus the “evangelical” call.  “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28).  Do it kindly if possible.  But if not, leave the naysayers in your dust (Matthew 10).  These people were not to be associated with.  They are the “sons of evil” (Matthew 13).

In this worldview there was little room for curiosity.  Proclamations ruled the day.  “God said it.  I believe it.  That settles it.”  This was more than a mantra.  This was actually a song that we sang/proclaimed in our worship.  I liked that song.  Once again, it fueled my sense of rightness/righteousness which fueled my gumption for declaring judgement on those who stood against my narrative of God and scripture.  In my opinion, I was doing the world a favor by declaring how wrong those who disagreed with me were.  After all, God is on my side and if God is for me, who can be against me?  Right?  (Romans 8:31)

It is my hope that many of the evangelical conservatives who read this are saying, “Dude, take a chill pill.  Not everyone sees it that way.”  Of course they don’t.  That’s the point.  There are many interpretations about what the scriptures mean.  Heck there are many interpretations regarding who and/or what God is at all?  But the faith of my youth did not see it that way.  Different interpretations were seen as unproductive and divisive.  Maybe even evil.  And the tools used to combat such interpretations were all about more robust proclamation and argument.  It felt much less about wonder and much more about being right.

Sound familiar?

It does to me.  Very familiar.

In my last post I shared a quote from Brene Brown out of her book Braving the Wilderness.  In it she wrote, “Cynicism and distrust have a stranglehold on our hearts.  And rather than continuing to move toward a vision of shared power among people, we’re witnessing a backslide to a vision of power that is the key to the autocrat’s power over people.”

Being right.  Power over people.  It’s indeed seductive isn’t it?

The conservative evangelicalism of my youth isn’t the only model for how to systemically leverage that narrative.

Who doesn’t want to feel that they have a corner on the truth?

Who doesn’t want to be surrounded by people who believe what they believe?

Who doesn’t want to simply declare the naysayers as the problem?

Who doesn’t want to leave those who don’t agree with you in their dust?

Surely this will bring the better world we all so greatly desire.

And yet…here we are.

A World of Hurt (Part 1)

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It feels powerful to me when outside words and a season in my life come together in a soul stirring way.  Every so often this happens when I’m reading a good book.  At a moment like this I wonder not only at the words of the author but in our common language.  I wonder at the “yes – that’s me too.  How did you know?”  I just read a passage like that in Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness book.  This is what it says…

The world feels high lonesome* and heartbroken to me right now.  We’ve sorted ourselves into factions based on our politics and ideology.  We’ve turned away from one another and toward blame and rage.  We’re lonely and untethered.  And scared.  So damn scared.

But rather than coming together and sharing our experiences through song and story, we’re screaming at one another from further and further away.  Rather than dancing and praying together, we’re running from one another.  Rather than pitching wild and innovative new ideas that could potentially change everything, we’re staying quiet and small in our bunkers and loud in our echo chambers. 

She continues…

Right now we are neither recognizing nor celebrating our inextricable connection.  We are divided from others in almost every area of our lives.  We’re not showing up with one another in a way that acknowledges our connection.  Cynicism and distrust have a stranglehold on our hearts.  And rather than continuing to move toward a vision of shared power among people, we’re witnessing a backslide to a vision of power that is the key to the autocrat’s power over people.**

Yes.

NOTE:  This passage stirred more thoughts in me around how the worldview of my youth might give insight into the systems informing this hurt.  It was too much to put in one blog post.  If you are curious, feel free to check out the next post (Part 2).  Thanks.

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*High lonesome refers to the sorrowful music style of Bill Monroe and Roscoe Holcomb.  Brown wonderfully unpacks this style of music as a descriptor at the beginning of chapter 3 of her book.

**Book excerpt from Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown, p. 44.

Artful Jazz and More Effective Community

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Imagine artful jazz as a metaphor for more effective community.  Sound crazy?  This morning I read from a book by Dwight Zscheile.*  I invite you to read along with me and wonder.

Jazz offers a better metaphor.  Jazz is less about executing a predetermined script than it is about improvisation, whose Latin root improvises means “not seen ahead of time.”  Jazz is about learning while doing, embracing imperfection, trying things out, and pushing boundaries—but all within shared structures and patterns.  It is about collaboration and accompaniment, freedom and innovation.

Jazz is built on shared expectations and commonalities: the basic structure of a melody, rhythm, or song.  These minimal structures provide the groundwork for improvisation.  Jazz is fundamentally social, a collaborative effort among several musicians, and in so doing it creates space for a certain amount of autonomy and self-expression.  Jazz only works when the musicians engage in “generous listening”—“an unselfish openness to what the other is offering and a willingness to help others be as brilliant as possible.”  Accompanying, or “comping” for short in the language of jazz, is about sharing together in an emerging future:

Organizational members have to make room for one another, suspend efforts to manipulate and control outcomes, relinquish investment in predetermined plans, and often surrender familiar protocols.  To agree to comp, in other words, is to accept an invitation of openness and wonderment to what unfolds.

This happens in part through the cycle of shared solos, where each member of a jazz ensemble takes turns improvising on themes while supported by others. 

Such improvisations often breaks expectations through pushing boundaries and making mistakes.  Miles Davis once said, “If you are not making a mistake, it is a mistake.”  Barrett urges dual aesthetics of imperfection and forgiveness that are grounded in an underlying confidence in the group.  Control simply doesn’t work in jazz.  Jazz is about acting and paying attention to what unfolds, while being willing to “court disaster” by surrendering to the music and its possibilities, even as this takes the players to places that disrupt expectations.  This requires trust in one another and in the music that is emerging. 

The words Zscheile uses to connect the concepts of artful jazz with more effective community are too numerous for me to recap in this short post.  But I invite you to take another look and wonder with me.  Here are a few questions around what I’m thinking about…

Questions:

  • What separates artful jazz from chaos? What separates artful community from chaos?
  • What are the “shared structures and patterns” of our community that inform how we might artfully (effectively) “accompany” one another?
  • How must we frame “mistakes” so that conscious experimentation around more effective community is given space for “imperfection”?
  • What are more effective jazz bands trusting their fellow musicians to bring to a performance? How is that trust built?  What are more effective communities trusting their fellow citizens to be bringing to the community experience?  How is that type of trust being noted and affirmed?

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*Dwight J. Zscheile, The Agile Church, Morehouse Publishing, 2014 (pp 107, 108).

Reframing – Standing In a New Place

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I invite you back in time to my first year of Junior High School.  In those days the Junior High journey started with seventh grade.  Being a seventh grader was a lot like being in first grade.  It was a new location and a new way of doing the day.  There were lots of new faces and it was the first year of changing classes every hour.  In a very real sense, we were all starting again – socially and academically.

Come with me to math class – maybe 1/3 of the way through the school year.  It was a tough day for me.  A math concept (probably fractions) had me perplexed.  I just didn’t understand it.  Based on what I know of myself now I feel quite confident that I was outwardly agitated.  I probably raised my hand a lot and intoned my questions and comments with a bit of sharpness.  I felt stupid and I didn’t know what to do with that.

Although I don’t remember every detail of our interaction I do remember one.  At a particular moment, in front of the class, when the tension was extra high, my teacher (I still remember her name) looked at me and declared out loud…

“You are either not listening or you are stupid!”

ouch.

Now, did I deserve that?  Actually, my math teacher might have said yes.  Me? Not so much.

Now, whatever you and I think about the nuances of that interaction I want to invite you to join me in wondering about this moment with me.  In the effort of full disclosure I want to make clear that since that day – and particularly as an adult – I have found myself countless times in the place of my math teacher.  Having someone in front of me that (I believe) just doesn’t get it.  I just want to call them “stupid” or “not listening” and be done with them.

So what am I to do at that moment?

A tool that has helped me in recent days is that of “reframing”.  It’s particularly helpful when the leadership work required is adaptive/generative.*  Generally speaking reframing invites us to be awake to where we are standing to view a given situation and consciously wonder about what it might look like to stand somewhere else.

So, in the case of my math teacher, my guess is that her frame was informed largely by a touchy 7th grade boy who didn’t get a simple math concept and was responding in ways that were (quite possibly) challenging her skill and authority in a room filled with other seventh graders.  How dare he behave this way.  I will make him pay.  And, she did.

So, what might a reframe look like?

Reframing is always helped by more thoughtful questions.  Questions like:  What if my teacher had wondered more about what she didn’t know about this situation than what she felt she did?  What if the focus was less about responding to her feelings and more about wondering where this frustration was coming from (hers and mine)?  What if this moment really wasn’t about math?  What if this moment was about a young boy who actually DID feel stupid in front of his peers didn’t have the tools to know how to handle that?  How might those questions alone have invited my teacher to stand at a new place as she assessed what was needed at that moment with me and the class?

Again, lest I come off as a bitter adult who was emotionally bruised by his seventh grade math teacher, let me clarify.  I have, multiple times, been my seventh grade teacher in moments like these.  The question I’m offering us today isn’t about blame…it’s about what each of us do when we are standing where my teacher stood.  God knows, given enough time, all of us will stand there?

Personally, honing the skill of reframing has helped me here.  Let me offer some ideas that have gotten me started on honing that skill.

  1. Reframing starts with acknowledging my emotions and (at the same moment) work around them.

Showing up more effectively starts with realizing where we are emotionally and acknowledging our feelings.  Your feelings are important.  They are telling you something.  But they shouldn’t be the only voice that informs how we respond – in particularly when the challenges we are facing are adaptive.*

Do you feel angry?  Do you feel frustrated?  Do you feel attacked?  Acknowledge that to yourself.  This is you.  This informs where you are at right now.

  1. Reframing requires a clear sense of my affirmed values and purpose.

The next step is to take hold of your feelings and set them to the side for a moment.  Don’t get rid of them or deny them.  Just set them to the side.  Now, as you stand with them, clarify your purpose in that moment.

Is your purpose to:                                       be right?

look important or smart?

invite others to wonder with you?

encourage?

something else?

A critical piece of reframing effectively is to clarify your purpose and then inform and hold your feelings accountable to responding more appropriately based on that affirmed purpose.

As a parent, when my child frustrates me, is my purpose to show them who is boss?  OR is my purpose to invite/challenge them to mature in their behavior?  Hey, there may be times when the purpose may legitimately be to clarify who’s boss.  I get it.  But that’s my decision (as parent) to make.  But remember, if that’s the only message that informs how I show up at every moment as a parent, that frame is going to impact my effectiveness.  And my child and I will both be impacted by that limited frame over the long haul.

Here’s an insight.  We can be totally frustrated and still be effective in not letting our feelings control us in a given moment.  Yes – it’s true.  But it’s really hard and it takes learning, focus and practice.  It begins with acknowledging our feelings and holding those feelings accountable to our clarified purpose.

There is so much more that we could say about reframing but I offer you the preceding as a starting point.  Wherever you stand on this I invite you to wonder more about your “go-to” frames these days.

How are your current frames helping you (and those around you) to make progress?

How are they affirming your values and purpose?

Where might you experiment with standing in a different frame?

Who might you trust enough to have a hard conversation about frames they see you using that you may not be awake to?

One more thing.  To my seventh grade math teacher.  I get it.  I was probably being a jerk.  I probably needed an attitude adjustment.  God knows, you may have been having a tough day yourself.  What if you were?  What if I just happened to be the one giving you grief when you just didn’t need any more?  What if there were things going on in your life (that were none of my business) that had you on your edge?  I wonder how that reframe might have helped me…and you.  I invite you to join me in wondering about all of it.  Not to be right…but to be more effective the next time…and the next…and the next…

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* When a patient comes to a surgeon, the surgeon’s default setting is to say, you’ve got a problem, I’ll take the problem off your shoulders and I’ll deliver back to you a solution [technical work]. In psychiatry, when a person comes to you with a problem, it’s not your job actually to solve their problem. It’s your job to develop their capacity to solve their own problem [ADAPTIVE work].  Ron Heifetz.  Brackets added.