I am pleased to report, we’ve had some lovely sunny weather the past few days. It’s been beautiful, and has warmed up 10 or so degrees.
In this part of the United States, March is typically the month where the weather begins to shift. While we will still have much more rain to come in March and April, we will continue to get more sun as we all progress towards spring.
I’ll have some more about the weather and my activities related to sunny weather in a moment. First, let’s have a couple writing reflections for this week.
2 Writing Reflections
The poemA Reason occurred to me as I was reflecting upon my time at University. I went to school to pursue, at first, Sociology, and then later, Human Development and Family Studies. While my undergraduate degree, at 33 years old, was difficult, my graduate degree, starting at 38 and finishing at 42, was extremely difficult. The difference?
Why was graduate school so challenging? It all had to do with how I was thinking at that time. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had fallen into a very negative and cynical interior dialogue with myself, that I didn’t know how to escape.
In fact, I wouldn’t fully “escape” this negative self-talk until completing my degree and coming to work at the community college, which I’ve written a little about in other posts.
At the time my negative self-talk was at its pinnacle, I was always searching for a reason, yet I was all the while looking in the wrong direction. Focusing outside of myself, instead of within. It’s not a demerit, it happened just as it was supposed to, just like me typing this blog post right now.
Yet, at the time, I didn’t know how to be in touch with myself, and it would take me several years, slowly, to learn through the guidance of my life coach. The point?
We all have negative self-talk. It’s not who you are. Your thoughts and feelings are not who you are. And, when we search in the right place for a reason, we will find a well that never runs dry.
A Developmental Moment #6: Why Learning to Ask for Help is Necessary and Needed
I think this type of thinking is especially prevalent in the United States, where the concept of individualism is so ingrained into all aspects of the country’s social institutions. The issue?
The concept of individualism is just that; a concept. It is illusory, as I’ve written about in other posts. Whether we actually ask for help, or not, we are always being helped by others. At the grocery store, gas station, coffee shop, or wherever you like to go. There is always someone there serving. Being of service. And, we are able to get the things we need, or want, because people are serving. Simple.
We can all learn to ask for help. Like all things in life, it takes practice, which I write about in this post. Starting small, and building from there. Next time you are feeling stressed, and know you are in need of help, ask. Ask someone that is close to you to assist you. There’s no demerit in it, and we are not deficient when we ask for help.
It’s the opposite. Asking for help is courageous, a sign of strength, and very wise.
Alright, now that we are in March, it’s time to, if you garden, to get seeds and garden plots ready. Well, as I’ve mentioned before, I moved to the other side of Corvallis a year ago now, and there is a lovely community garden about a mile from my place. And?
Well, I called Parks and Recreation last week, which runs the garden, and they had a spot! It’s 10’x20′, which admittedly is a little more space than I was looking for, however, I took it, and am very excited. I’ve not participated in a community garden in about 4 years, and am looking forward to gardening, yes please, and am also looking forward to meeting some new people. Also, yes please.
I am already working on a new post about my gardening experience, which I will be publishing in the next week or two.
I’m going to leave you this week, with the Monday message going out to the team tomorrow. Sleep is so important, as is understanding that when our sleep patterns iterate, like all things in life tend to, to listen to our bodies, and know that nothing in this world stays the same, even when we think it does. Here is the message.
This past year, I’ve been reflecting upon and experiencing new sleeping patterns. I’ve typically been the person that likes to stay up late into the evening. Well, about two years ago, this pattern began to change, and then?
In the past year, my sleeping patterns have iterated a couple of times more. Beginning with, as I’ve mentioned to many of you, late afternoon, and early evening, at times, naps. And, now?
Now, the naps are not as present, yet going to bed at a much earlier hour is, as is getting up much earlier. The point?
There is no one way that sleeping occurs; and, actually, there is no one way anything occurs. Life iterates over time, and when we are present to new things, sleeping patterns, eating habits, whatever they may be for us, we have an opportunity, through new experiences, to learn more about who we are as human beings.
I invite you to always listen to your body, and when you are tired, to sleep; hungry, to eat. And, when not, well, to not.
Remember, there is no one way that life occurs on this planet. When we make sure to get our quiet time, as we’ve discussed the past couple of months, we can hear more, learn more, experience more, and be more.
An Exploration of 4 Years Inside A Non Credit Department at the Local Community College
As I continue to reflect upon the last 4 years in the position I hold at the College, I learn more about myself, and about being a human being on this planet.
It is funny to think that leading a team at a small community college in Albany, Oregon, would provide insights of this kind, and yet, they do. Why?
Because no matter where you lead, it’s you doing the leading, for one, and two, all contexts to some extent are the same. Yes, the challenges, people, systems, and structures, are different, yet you are there, and you are always getting to know, and developing yourself and other people. Same.
After spending time in leadership in the private sector, and now having done so in the public sector, there are several things that we will discuss in this new series that are similar; and, in some ways, mirror each other.
In this first installment in this new series, I will lay out a brief outline, if you will, of the posts to come. It will be a way to set the stage for the concepts we will discuss, unpack, and walk through together.
I’m going to frame this first entry, and the following entries, by year, which will provide us a base from which to work through the narrative to follow. Ready? Alright, here we go.
I remember well when the job description for the position I currently hold, Director of Extended Learning at Linn-Benton Community College, landed on my desk. I was working in a program at the college, which was struggling, and in threat of being eliminated. In fact, the program has been eliminated.
I looked over the position description, talked to my wife, friends, and family, and took a walk with a colleague, who asked me this question. Are you an operations man, Jeff? Whoa. Was I?
I was very unsure, and needed to think about it. Here are some of the considerations I made previous to applying to the position, which, I think, are quite generalizable.
Reflecting upon my work and academic career.
Reflecting upon what I would bring to the position.
Doing research about the position.
Having conversations with the hiring supervisor.
Having conversations with staff in the department.
There were more, bet you get the idea. It is important when making a life change to make all of the considerations and reflections we feel necessary. What happened? Well, I ended up saying this to my then wife.
If it was meant to be, we will know by getting the offer; and, if not, then not.
Of course, you know that I got the offer, and have been in the position for almost 4 years. And, what was the first year like? Hell and heaven all rolled into one. Kinda like life.
The first year, especially the first six months, was extremely painful. One of the most painful experiences of my life. Why? Because all day every day, I was outside of my comfort zone. I was also, at this time, not treating my mind and body very kindly.
Here is what the first year looked like.
Remembering who I am.
Development outside of the college.
Breakdown to breakthrough becomes a reality.
Relationship development, with myself, and the team.
I say often when talking about that first year, that that was the year of relationships. Yes, we did other things, which I’ve written about in other posts, yet the basis for almost every action that year was developing deeper relationships with ourselves and each other. Painful in many ways, yes, and beautiful in many more.
In the second year, things started to move. Meaning, we began to move, well, almost like a team. We were getting closer, and yet, had a lot more work to do.
Here is what the second year looked like.
Process and system improvement.
People in the right positions.
Vision, mission, goals.
Metrics and measurement.
As we then moved into year 3, the team became more aligned, and we began to get traction in all areas of our business. As a matter of fact, in the fall of 2019 we were on pace to grow our service to the local communities by another 10%. Amazingly fun.
Then, as we moved from fall to winter, we continued our alignment trajectory, and, of course, you all know what happened in early 2020. Yep. A pandemic.
Here is what that looked like.
Filled classes, growth, sustainability.
Creating 5 new business models.
Initially, we were wrestling with questions, such as could we deliver completely remote classes. At that time, we did not have remote offerings, so there were no processes or systems to draw upon. Yet, we ended up taking all 5 business models completely remote, and the community response was stellar.
As we entered year 4, all 5 programs were either creating and delivering remote classes and training, or would be by the fall of 2020. And, there was a lot of work to do to continue the momentum we created earlier that year.
Here is what that looked, and well, is like.
Creating all new processes and systems.
From disruption to sustainability.
Filled classes, growth, sustainability.
Engagement, relationships, conversion, process and priorities.
Planning for the future.
10 business models?
And for next year? Well, I’ve actually been reflecting upon this question quite a bit. Someone asked me recently, what do you see for our work as we, at some point, begin to offer in-person classes again. First, I think offering in-person classes again is still in the distant future, yet I do have some thoughts.
As we move into the second-half of the 2020-21 school year, we are offering new classes and training, and filling them up with local community members.
I see a 2 to 3 year slow progression from completely remote classes and training, to what I think will be a hybrid-model of both remote and in-person classes and training in the future.
What will the percent mix be of remote and in-person classes in the future? I don’t know. I do think, however, that, unlike when the pandemic started here locally, it will not be sudden. It will take time.
And, that’s okay. There is no rush. We will meet the community needs as they change. That’s part of what we do, and what we do well.
Alright, that completes the overview of the Leading From Within series. I look forward to future posts, where I can share, in more detail, how each of these years has impacted me as a leader, and, even more importantly, as a human being.
The Differences Between Internal and External Influence and Their Relationship to Service
As I was pondering the next developmental moment, and was considering influence as a topic, I had to stop, and reflect upon the past three years. What to say about influence?
Well, as with most things in my life today, an insight did occur, which will now come out through me and to you. Fun.
Alright, so influence is an important topic when you are leading teams; and, well, I do believe it is an important topic in everyone’s development, regardless of their iteration of self-development, or their interest in leadership. Why?
Because, we all will, at some point, apply for a job, need to grow our network, and, or, seek new areas of self-expression. And, to be fully self-expressed, or, rather, to self-express yourself fully, it is nice to understand the concept of influence. Let’s do just that then. Take a look at how I interpret the concept of influence.
Ready? Good. Here we go.
to have an effect on the way that someone behaves or thinks, especially by giving them an example to follow.
influence something, influence how, where, etc. to have an effect on a particular situation and the way that it develops.
Alright, so here’s what we have for influence; to have an effect on a particular situation and the way it develops, or the way that someone behaves or thinks, especially in regard to providing them an example to follow.
Now let’s discuss influence in two different ways. Let’s take a look at internal influence, and external influence. Both are important, and both are needed. Here we go.
When I write the phrase internal influence, I am referring to your influence within the business, organization, or institution in which you work.
Understanding influence as an opportunity to build cultural capital inside of the business, organization, or institution in which you work is important for a leader to consider. If your influence wanes, it may be hard, for example, to garner political support on a project your team is working on.
However, if your influence is strong, or even adequate, garnering support will be easier. Pretty simple.
What I’ve found to be most true about internal influence is that being who you really are is of utmost importance. Meaning, to be the authentic leader you know yourself to be.
Yes, we all have to make concessions at times, and, yet, we all have the creative power to effect change. And, this is true, even when our influence is bourgeoning.
A quick aside. Influence, like most things in life, lives along a spectrum. Meaning, that influence is not binary. You gain influence over time; and, it takes time.
Maybe you’re asking yourself, okay, well, how do we create influence, and effect change. Here are a few important considerations for those interested in increasing their internal influence.
Relationships – as I’ve written many times, everything starts with relationships. The one we have with ourselves, yes, and then with everyone else. Being in a relationship means having easy and difficult conversations. Remembering this truth is important in leadership.
Questions – asking questions is always an important step in creating influence. Often, people shy away from asking the tough questions. Ask them. It is important to your own development, and that of your teams.
Creativity – being open, flexible, and innovative, is an important aspect of influencing the future. Without creativity, the past is the future, a stamped reproduction. Thus, being open to new ideas, those from your peers, and your team is essential.
Integrity – doing what we say we are going to do is important to all aspects of our lives, and there is no exception in creating influence. If we are unable to make it to a meeting, or are going to be late, communicate. Open communication ensures that we are always keeping everyone in the conversation, and keeping our integrity intact.
Authenticity – be who you are. You are just as you are supposed to be, so embrace your unique-self, and let that shine. There is only one you, which means there’s not another person on the planet that can create influence, or anything else for that matter, just like you. When we are authentic, people know, and respect our truth. And, if they don’t? Remember, that’s their issue. Not yours. Be who you are.
Alright, there are five examples, and considerations for you, on how to create influence within a business, organization, or institution. Remember, influence takes time to cultivate. It’s kind of like gardening. You must water your relationships, questions, creativity, integrity, and authenticity, and, when you do, you will see your influence grow.
External influence is similar to internal influence, and yet, also different. You can use the five considerations aforementioned with those clients, students, or customers, that are external to your business, organization, or institution. And?
There are a couple more strategies for you to consider. Here we go.
Engagement – being fully engaged at all times with those you serve is important. Meaning, that it is important to create an engagement system that you can rely upon, which will ensure your engagement is, well, like a drum beat. Your clients, students, or customers need to rely upon your engagement pattern. I write about developing my LinkedIn engagement system in the post, A Blogger’s Diary 12/27/20: On Writing, Goal-Setting, Systems, and the Holidays, which can serve as one of many examples to draw upon.
Consistency – a drum beat, or pattern, on which your clients, students, or customers can rely. Important. There are lots of ways to ensure you stay on track with your engagement. You can calendar your engagements, enter them into a project management software system, or keep them in a planner. The tool matters far less, than the output of making sure to engage regularly and consistently.
Reciprocity – relationships are built upon many things, and reciprocity is one. Being in relationships means sharing yourself with your clients, students, or customers. And doing so in a genuine way. Remember, people know when we are inauthentic. They can see, hear, and feel it. Just be who you are, and reciprocate.
Value – our clients, students, or customers want to know they are valued. They would like value, and to know they are valued. Both. Providing value comes in many forms, and it’s not always, actually rarely, monetary. It’s about being there for your clients, students, or customers. Taking care of them, treating them with kindness, and valuing their needs.
Service – in the end, it’s all about service. All of it. The service we give ourselves, and the service we give out to our clients, students, or customers. When we value our service, we are always looking for, and creating, new ways to serve. Whether that is through a new business model, a new product, or a new service. Really. Ultimately, it’s about understanding the need, reflecting on that need, and creating a bridge for that need.
Internal and external influence matter. It’s not about ego. We are leaving ego at the door. It’s about service. About taking care of people. Finding out what they need, and working with them to fill that need.
When we are in relationship with people, we are in a unique position to serve.
And, as we continue to serve, our influence grows. Influence grows as we grow and deepen our relationships. The relationships we have with those we serve. Ultimately, it’s our peers, teams, clients, students, and customers that let us know about our influence.
When we have movement in our relationships, we can see it and feel it; and, when we have traction, we know, because reciprocity flourishes as we enter into new relationships each day. And, as we enter into more relationships, our service grows; and, yes, we also grow. Fun.
6 Questions All Leaders Should Be Asking Themselves Right Now
As I continue to write the, well, second-and-a-half, installment of the Leadership Series: Why Developing The Self is Always The First Step in Leadership, another idea occurred to me. What occurred to me? Good question.
In fact, the idea lives inside of the first few installments of the Leadership Series, yet overviewing it in this article makes sense to me today, so here it is.
As we develop, there are six questions to ask ourselves, which can lead inward toward more awareness about who we are as a human being. And?
Well, as I’ve written about in other articles, the more we understand our own humanity, the more we can understand all humanity. Super helpful from a leadership perspective, and, well, a whole life perspective.
Without further ado, here are those six questions
1. What Do I Think?
Understanding yourself begins with getting a handle on how you think. What are your thoughts about the current reality, the state of your team, and the state of your life; a better question, maybe.
In order to lead teams effectively, we must first inquire into ourselves. When thoughts arise, it’s about letting go of the judgment we have about these thoughts, so we can understand them. When we can understand our thoughts, we are more effectively present to ourselves, and all of those around us.
2. How Do I Feel?
Emotions come and go. They are here, and then they are gone. However, human beings have a tendency to hold onto emotions, like thoughts, and carry them around throughout the day. This need not be the case.
We can learn to effectively have emotions, feel them, understand them, talk about them even, and then let them go, which is a large part of my own internal work today. And?
Just like our thinking, when we understand our emotions, we are better equipped to understand our own emotional states, and what led us to those states, and ultimately we are better able to understand the emotional states of the people around us. Important.
3. How Do I Speak?
Several months ago I wrote the article, 4 Reasons Why Language is Power. And, it is true that language is very powerful. Therefore it is important to understand how we are speaking and what we are saying. This may sound simple, and, for some of you, this may be the case.
However, human beings have a tendency to use language as a currency without considering the replenishment of that currency, as if it is in a never-ending supply. And, whereas we can continue to create language as we like, we should question the necessity of the language and the communication that follows.
As I’ve written about many times, communication is key, as is the importance of making sure we are clear about our communication. It is far more important to communicate clearly than it is to communicate often.
4. What Do I Hear?
As we get clearer on how we think, feel, and speak, we will begin to hear things that we may not have been previously present to.
For instance, someone on your team, or close to you, may say they feel great and that all is well. Yet, you may hear things in their tone of voice that tells a different story. It first takes being clear on yourself, and then you can begin to pick up on inconsistencies in behavior, speech, and emotion. And, guess what?
It may be your own inconsistency that you pick up on first. Actually, this is very likely. And? It’s not a demerit when this happens. It’s okay.
It does mean that investigating, or inquiring, into the inconsistency between our behavior, speech, and emotion is needed. Understanding why there is ant inconsistency, to begin with. Important.
5. What Do I See?
One of my favorites. As I continue my own development, which includes my own personal inquiry, a life coach, and a super dynamic and inquisitive team, I see so much more. More about my own humanity, and that of the teams. It works that way.
And, when you can see more facets of the human being you are, you are in a position to effect more change. More change for yourself, for your team, and for your organization, institution, or business.
6. How Do I Act?
Being in action is so important. And, how we act tells us, and everyone around us, a lot about who we are as a human being. How we act will, in fact, tell people how we see, hear, speak, feel, and think. For, ultimately, it’s the actions we take that say the most about who we are as human beings.
For instance, we can create language about creating and effecting change, however, without action, the language is just language. Action is where concepts in language become reality. Simple.
And, when we are clear on our own actions, we are able to discern differences in how people talk about their work, and actually do their work. An important distinction and discovery.
Alright, that was a brief overview of 6 questions all leaders should be asking themselves right now. And, in fact, these are questions that anyone interested in personal or professional development can ask themselves.
It’s inside the questions we first ask ourselves, and the work we do on ourselves, where we develop as a person and a leader.
And, as we develop, we create the possibility of development for everyone around us.
As some of you know, I started practicing meditation about three years ago; taught to me by someone that spent 15 years in India. And it has been one of the most important developmental inquiries in my life. So, of course, when I read that title, I was like, wait, what?!
Of course I read it. And?
The writer completely missed the point of meditation. Further, the “expert” the writer draws examples from throughout the article is questionable, at best, as an authority on meditation.
Well, what followed then was an important distinction for writers that came as an insight of reading the article. The distinction? Yep, here we go.
I’ve written a couple times about the importance of making the distinction and understanding the difference between theory and practice. The distinction between the two is paramount in organizational development and education.
Yet, what I’ve been reflecting upon more this past week is just how important the distinction between theory and practice is for writers. Yep.
As I’ve been writing for years, I think I’ve always understood this distinction, yet it’s really only been the past three years that I’ve really known about it. Did you catch the distinction? Ah, if you did, excellent, if not, never fear.
Before we get into the discussion of theory and practice, let’s define our terms.
Very good. Now, what do you see? Yep, it’s pretty straight forward.
Theory is about idea generation. About trying to explain something to the best of one’s ability by rationalizing the knowledge one has about a subject through their intellect. Yep, that’s about it. Practice?
Different. Practice is about doing something. It is about understanding a subject through the practice of actually doing that subject; and, then explaining that subject through the practical knowledge now possessed.
Now, both are needed. Yep. We need both intellectual knowledge and practical knowledge. However, theoretical knowledge can never supersede practical knowledge. Why?
Because no matter how much we know about a subject, we can never really know about that subject until we engage in it. Example? Sure.
Let us say I want to create a new budget. One that will connect all of my daily spending to my bank accounts, which will then funnel back to a spreadsheet that I can track daily.
I can theorize about how a new budget system like this might work by reading about it, however, I will never really know if it will work for me until I try it. Simple, right? Yep.
Why, then, is this important to writers? Because when we write, and we are writing about something that we are theorizing about, we should own it.
We should let the reader know that the piece they are reading is a theoretical exploration, not a practical one. Why?
Alright, here are
3 Reasons Why Writers Should Know About the Distinction Between Theory and Practice
Being transparent about the subject matter we write about is important. It’s important to our own development, as writers, yes, and as human beings; and, it’s also important to the reader.
When we write about a topic that we know intellectually, that’s fine, write about it that way. Letting the reader know that you are conducting a theoretical exploration is just fine, and needed.
Have you ever heard the phrase theory informs practice, and practice informs theory? It’s true.
When we theorize about how something might work, we will only ever really know if that theory will hold true by conducting an experiment, yes, or by simply doing it. Yep.
And, when we do something, like create the budget from the aforementioned example, we will learn things we did not, could not, theorize about; and, we can then recreate the theory in light of this new information. Finished? Nope, not quite. Why?
Because someone else might conduct the same experiment with the budget system, let’s say, and get a completely different outcome, or experience. Yep.
I once had an instructor that would say, show me any theory, and I can show you a mitigating variable for that theory. Meaning another idea that would change the outcome of the experiment, or experience.
Therefore, it is very important when writing to elaborate on the knowledge that we currently have, both intellectually and practically. It helps readers know where the limits of our knowledge is, and where they can pick up from, if they choose, and move that knowledge forward.
In owning the limitations of our own knowledge, whether it is intellectual or practical, we are being thoughtful. I love reading an article or a book about a topic where the author has been intentional in communicating the limits of their knowledge.
As a reader, this kind of commitment from a writer garners a whole different level of trust from me. And, I am more likely to read more of their work.
Being thoughtful about our own limitations is an important thing to do; though, it will probably feel awkward and scary. Human beings don’t usually like to own their own limitations.
Yet, I would argue that owning our limitations is not, in and of itself a limitation. Rather, owning our limitations is a starting point, a strength.
A place from where we can grow and develop. Learn more, both intellectually and practically.
And, in that growth, guess what? We learn more, which means we can do more, and be more. We can write more. More about what we know about. Both intellectually and practically. Fun.
Of course. When we stand in our truth, we get back way more. Though owning a limitation feels scary, it is the only way we can ever grow and develop. If you have no limitations, or rather, areas to grow yourself, then there is nothing to ever read, or really do.
Life inside of that world, where we know all there is to know, is finite. That world is the limited one.
However, when we are truthful about our own developmental opportunities, we immediately become unlimited. Why?
Because we have now taken a stand to learn more, to develop more, and to possibly transform the person we are today into a whole new iteration. A new self that stands in the reality, or truth, about themselves. That is powerful. A paradox?
Yes, and no. The whole world is full of paradoxes like this one.
We are fearful of the exact thing that, when embraced, is the key to relinquishing that exact fear. That is life as a human being on this planet.
Alright, so there are 3 Reasons Why Writers Should Know About the Distinction Between Theory and Practice. And, to be clear, this distinction is important for every human being. Really.
It is important in all aspects of our lives. When we are clear on the areas we want to develop and grow, we can engage with people in meaningful conversations and create contexts to move those aspects of ourselves forward.
We can learn more, become more, and then, yep, do more.
It has occured to me in writing this post that I can do a better job of letting readers know about the limits of my intellectual and practical knowledge.
Though the focus of my writing is, and will continue to be, on both my intellectual and practical knowledge, writing this post has brought a new awareness of this topic to the fore of my consciousness; and, for that I am grateful.
Who are you, and what do you do? How much do you enjoy a typical exchange like this with another human being? Oh, hello, my name is, insert any name you like here, who are you; or, what do you do? Sound familiar?
We get these types of questions all the time. And, did you know that how you answer this question is, well, rather powerful? Why?
Because when we describe ourselves in language, we are, in effect, solidifying our identity as the person we are today.
Yet, what you may or may not know, or have only general cursory knowledge about, is that your identity, my identity, all identities are socially constructed.
Meaning that they are a product of socialization; they are productions caught in a particular time and place. Bound, if you will, in language to ideas we have about who we believe we are, about who we were told, and or are told we are.
Yet, because identities, like all things, are constructed in language, and are embedded in particular geographic, cultural, and societal contexts, they are not fixed. Again, they are not fixed.
They are, rather, fluid, and understanding this fact is important to everyone’s development, and, yes, to our lives as well. Why? Well, many reasons, however, for now, let’s take a look at
7 Reasons Why Understanding Your Identity as A Social Construction is Important to Your Life
Empowered – when we understand that our identities, like all of life and the world, are socially constructed, we are immediately empowered. Empowered to let go of preconceived notions of who we were told we are, are told we are, or think we are. When we subscribe to a fixed identity, instead of one that is socially constructed, we are limited. And, limitation is stressful. However, when we subscribe to the idea that our identities are socially constructed, we are unlimited, able to create the identity and person we dream to be.
Engaged – when we let go of our previously conceived ideas about who we are, we also let go of the types of people that we are “supposed” to engage with, be friends with, and partner with. Also limited. Yet, when we let go of those limitations, we free ourselves to engage with anyone that sparks our interest. Anyone.
Unlimited – when we get clear on our identity, both the identity we were handed, and the one that we created around that identity, we break the limitations that were handed to us, and the ones that we’ve created for ourselves. The only limitations we have are the ones we continue to believe in and the ones we continue to create for ourselves.
Reality – reality becomes more clear. We can see where social institutions, like the family, government, and educational system, have placed limitations on our lives. And, we can make choices to break free from these pre imposed limitations. How? By creating a new life, a new way to conceive of the human being we are today, and the one that we want to become.
Freed – when we can clearly see the limitations we’ve been living within, bound by stories we have about who we are as a human being, we can make different choices. Make different choices to free ourselves from those stories. When we are free from these stories, we can act in new ways, and become new. Seriously. We become a new iteration of the human being we’ve always been, living free from the constraints we were given, or created.
Energized – when we let go of the ideas we have about who we are, we can create a more energized life. A life that is present to all that we have, and want to create. In this kind of life, you will be more often tired, yet, overall, you will have more energy, and feel more regularly energized.
Loved – when we realize that we are not the human being someone has always told us we must be, we are free to love ourselves for the human being we are right now, and the human being we are going to become. And, guess what? When we begin to love ourselves more deeply, we can love others more deeply. We get deeper connections with those we choose to have in our lives. Pretty special.
Phew, that went quick. Obviously, there are many more to add to this list, yet those are some of the most powerful reasons why understanding that your identity is socially constructed is important to your life.
You may be asking, okay, now what?
Well, you can, right now, begin to get clear on the fact that everything you know to be true about the world has been handed to you.
Handed to you by the various social institutions that make up any society or culture, such as parents, educators, friends, churches, healthcare, and the government, to name a few.
When we understand that all knowledge, thus all identities, are socially constructed, we have the power to let go, and create, learn, and recreate.
Let go of ideas and concepts that don’t help move us forward as human beings, and create, learn, and recreate new ideas and concepts that do move us forward as human beings. Fun.
Hard work? Yep, for sure.
Letting go of ideas and concepts we’ve held onto for years is extremely difficult. Yet, know that the reason it is so hard is that we, as humans, like habit, like patterns. We are comfortable with the known.
And, what we know, is how we think, and then act. Yet, when we act from a space of outdated ideas and concepts that no longer serve us, it is time to let go. And, guess what?
Though it is difficult, it does get easier. And, after time, you will wonder why you hadn’t made the choice to let go of those stories, ideas, and concepts much earlier.
Hm. At this moment, I’m actually quite surprised about how similar these definitions are. More similar than I would have even predicted.
Do you see it? Either way, it’s okay, let’s take a deeper look at both courage and humility and see what we get.
7 Things You Can do to Develop Courage and Humility
As I’ve written about previously, people often mistakenly believe that there are people that have courage and there are people that don’t. Like it is a developmental trait that some have and others don’t.
However, courage is like any other skill set. Meaning that it can be developed. Yep, it’s true. And, guess what? As you develop courage, you also develop humility. Yep, also true.
Here, then, are 7 ways you can develop courage.
Develop a growth mindset – meaning, be available and open to learning all there is to learn. When you have a growth mindset you realize that there is much more to learn than is known, and you are eager to learn. The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset. Meaning unavailable and closed to learning. Think flexible versus rigid. When we are flexible, we go with the flow, receive what others have to give us, and then we give what we have back to them. When we are eager to develop a growth mindset, courage follows because contexts where growth mindsets flourish are about development and transformation.
Grow your comfort zone – continuing to practice getting outside of your comfort zone is important. Important to your development, and to the development of courage. When we are outside of our comfort zone, in that moment, we are doing and modeling courage.
Embrace and practice vulnerability – I’ve written several articles recently about vulnerability. Like your comfort zone, when you embrace your own vulnerability and practice being vulnerable, you are immediately being courageous. And, guess what? The more you practice vulnerability, the more courageous you become.
Practice collaboration – collaborative contexts are naturally vulnerable contexts as they are about being open and flexible, learning, and development. When you are collaborating, really collaborating, you are practicing courage; and, the more collaborative contexts you engage in, the more courageous you will become.
Create innovation – innovation and courage go hand in hand. They have to, because innovative contexts are imbued with vulnerability, growth, collaboration, and transformation. Innovative contexts are courageous in nature. The more innovation you create, the more you are being courageous, and the more your courage will grow.
Take risks – though humans like predictability and habit, risk-taking is needed and necessary. Taking risks ensures you develop into the iteration of yourself where you can give the most back to the world. Really. Because humans like predictability and habit, risk-taking feels scary, so when you take risks you will develop courage. The more risk, the more courage will develop.
Face your fears – every human on this planet is afraid. Yes, there is a continuum of fearfulness, yet know that you are not alone in being fearful of things. Fear is a natural part of being a human. However, when you face your fears, you develop courage. And, like risk-taking, or any of the others on this list, the more you face your fears, the more courageous you will become.
Alright, there we have 7 ways you can develop courage. Now, let’s make the connection to humility, shall we.
Here then are
7 Reasons Why Developing Courage Will Also Develop Your humility
Growth mindset – as you develop a growth mindset, you will become more present to just how little humans really know; and, conversely, just how much there is to learn. It is vast, and humbling.
Comfort zones – getting outside of your comfort zone is hard work. Really. At times, very hard. As you get outside of your comfort zone, you will realize how tiring and depleting it can be. Rewarding absolutely, and very, very tiring, and humbling.
Vulnerability – being vulnerable is extremely hard. Of all the items on this list, maybe the hardest. Oftentimes, just being vulnerable once in a different way will cause you to experience great humility.
Collaboration – connecting with other human beings through true collaboration is lovely, and is also an experience where you get to see other humans in action, being vulnerable, developing themselves in new ways, being courageous, taking risks, and transforming. It is a wondrous sight, and very humbling.
Innovation – any and all innovation is humbling. Just the idea of creating something new is a humbling experience. When I created the first iteration of this site, which took a long time, and was totally out of my range of expertise, I was tremendously humbled by the experience.
Risk-taking – like being vulnerable, taking risks is scary. And, if you take risks often, especially while working alongside others, you will experience a whole new level of humbleness.
Fears – facing our fears is extremely difficult; and, when you face them often, you become more humble. You sort of wake up to the reality that facing fears is hard for everyone, so when you witness someone do it, it can actually bring tears to your eyes. Shared humanity.
Alright, there are 7 ways you can develop courage, and 7 reasons why developing courage will also result in more humility.
In the event you’ve been wondering, I picked the introduction picture intentionally. Why?
Because developing courage by doing any of the 7 listed above is about being in action, doing things, living your life the best way you know how by giving your all every day.
Sometimes people conflate courage with iconic pictures of the hero saving the day, which is very dramatic. Yet, I want to offer you a different way to think about courage.
Courage is about being human. Recognizing our fears, the current limits of our knowledge, and doing something to face them, and grow ourselves. When we recognize where we have opportunities to develop, we can then take the necessary actions to create opportunities for ourselves to grow.
And, yes, if you like, to even transform. What does it take?
A willingness to set aside the ego, a little at a time, one step at a time, and take a different action. Take an action you’ve never taken before, and see what you get back. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
I originally conceived of this topic and the associated article as one for business. An article about how to create deep connections with the people we work with, and the people we’d like to work with.
However, after reflecting upon it throughout the day, it occurred to me that this topic is applicable to everyone. Why?
Well, relationships are the cornerstone of life. Really. Think about all of the people in your life. You have people that are very close to you, friends and family, work associates and colleagues, and, maybe a little further from you, aquantinaces, clients, and neighbors, to name a few.
And, connecting, really connecting with these people, all of them, requires understanding ourselves.
Understanding why we do the things we do, why we feel the way we do, and think the way we think. Knowing ourselves. Why?
Because in order to connect deeply with another human being we must know ourselves first. Then, we can know them; and, know them as deeply as we know ourselves. If, however, we only know ourselves on the surface, we will only ever know them in the same way. Not a deep connection then.
Alright, let’s take a look at three things you can do to build deeper connections with the people that are currently in your life, and the ones that will show up in the future. Ready? Let’s go.
1. Know Your Why
Remember being little where everything we saw, thought, and felt was done with a sense of wonder and amazement? Yep, me too. Well, does life still feel that way to you? If not, don’t worry, it’s not a demerit; and, you are not alone.
As we grow older, we lose some of that wonder and amazement. Yet, we can intentionally create opportunities to get it back. How?
First, we must get back in touch with the things that drive us. You know, the reasons that get us up in the morning. And, I’m not talking about intellectual reasons. Nope.
I’m talking about those things deep within us that make us the person we are today. Can you feel them? If not, don’t worry. They are there, and you can get back in touch with them.
It’s important to connect deeply with that why, or to reconnect with it if it’s been a while. When we reconnect with the why of why we do what we do, we are actually reconnecting with the vision we have of ourselves as human beings. And, in that moment, we create new possibilities. Really.
When we know who we are, what we are up to in life, we can share that with others. We can touch someone else with the passion we have for life. Just like when we were little.
The reason people connect with children, watch them, smile at them, want to be around them, is that, to them, everything is a wonder.
They are a wonder. Everything is amazing. And, reconnecting with your why can move you in that direction.
Further, when you reconnect with yourself on that level, you can now connect with someone else at that level. Sharing something of yourself that, in some cases, as it was for me for a long time, was buried underneath other intellectual ideas, concepts, and pursuits.
Remember one thing. People are not moved by their intellect, or by their head, they are moved by their emotional-center, or ther heart.
Now, you may be wondering, alright, I’ve got my why, then what? Well, now you can create a statement about your why. Something that you can share with those close to you and those that are further removed from you. Anyone really.
2. Create Your Personal Mission Statement
A personal mission statement is something you can create, which declares why you are doing what you are doing; it will also give the people you are connecting with a sense of who you are as a human being. Example? Sure.
Here is my why.
To increase access to higher education for everyone.
Right, yet there is more to it. Yep. Here, then, is also part of my why.
Develop leaders, inspire creativity, and assist with personal transformation.
Okay, so now lets fashion a personal mission statement. Ready? Okay, here we go.
To increase access to higher education for everyone, and to develop leaders, inspire creativity, and assist with personal transformation.
Hm, that’s not quite right. It has the components, yet is not really getting at the crux of the why. Let’s try again. Here we go.
To increase access to higher education for everyone, while also working with students and clients to develop their leadership skills, expand their creative potential, and assist in their personal transformation.
Closer. The point? That there is no one way to create a why, or a personal mission statement. They are yours, and should be created by you for you to share with others when you choose, and how you choose. Simple.
You must simply create from within you. Important. If you don’t, and it is something that you don’t really believe in, well, you will know, and so will everyone else. Believe me. They will know if it is not sincere.
And, really, the point is to deepen your connection with yourself, first, and then with other people. You want it to be real. Real from your heat to the hearts of others.
Alright, you’ve got your why and you’ve created a personal mission statement, now what? A reminder.
3. Understand that Relationships are Everything
In the post, Creating and Maintaining Relationships: What else is there?, I write about understanding that every relationship in our life is important. All of them. That, in fact, everything we do, everything, is about the relationship we have with ourselves, first, and then with everyone else.
Remember the relationships system? Looks like this.
There we go. Alright, so as you can see from the above system, everything we do starts with us. Everything. And, then as you move from the center circle, out to each corresponding circle, all that we do, goes out to those closest to us, first, and then to those that are further from us.
And, what do they get from you? From me for a time, they got cynicism. Yep. Not a judgement, just the reality as it was, not as it is today. Today?
They get everything I can give them, just as I do for myself, including the why of what I do each and every day.
The coolest thing about sharing your why, your passion, purpose, whatever you want to call it, with others is that they then get to know you on a level that will inspire them. Really.
Think about the people in your life that inspire you. What do they do? I bet they are up to all kinds of cool things, creating change, transforming themselves, working at changing the world. One step at a time.
And, you know the second coolest thing about sharing your why with someone else? You get to learn about their why. Yep. You get to know them on a level that might not have been previously available.
These deep connections are what drive people together. Actually the more appropriate language here, would be that they pull people together. Pulled by inspiring ideas, yes, and by inspiring actions.
Inspiring people to be all they can be is a pretty cool thing; and, guess what? You can be a part of that kind of connection anytime. You can create it. Yep. How? Well, as I’ve mentioned it all starts with you.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase color inside the lines. Maybe you were even told to do so. Well, consider that all socialization is about living inside the lines. The issue? Well, being socialized to live inside the lines means that living outside the lines, while possible, is hard to create.
Yet, it is possible. Yep. Let’s take a look at 3 things you can do to start coloring your life outside the lines.
3 Things You Can Do To Start Coloring Your Life Outside The Lines
Before we get too deep into our discussion, let’s define socialization. It’s topical to this conversation, and important.
noun /ˌsəʊʃəlaɪˈzeɪʃn/ /ˌsəʊʃələˈzeɪʃn/(British English also socialisation)[uncountable] (formal)
the process by which somebody, especially a child, learns to behave in a way that is acceptable in their society.
Now, what does coloring inside the lines have to do with socialization? Well, socialization is the process of ensuring that children obey and act in accordance with particular expectations.
And, it is inside of these expectations where people learn to limit themselves again and again. How?
Well, as we mature we continue to repeat these acceptable behaviors into adulthood. And, often, in fact, probably more often than not, these behaviors actually work. We’ve learned how to make them work for us. Yet, they are still limiting.
Know that I am not arguing that socialization is a problem. Not entirely. I am arguing that socialization limits our creative potential. It keeps us inside of a very narrowly defined box (inside the lines) of what other people have determined is possible in this life, our life.
However, when we become aware of this fact, which can occur many different ways, we have the opportunity to learn to color outside of the lines. How, you ask. Alright, let’s look at a few.
1. Ask Questions
One of the powers of language is the ability to ask questions. To question what we know, what we think, and what we are told. Socrates said something about asking questions. Hm. Let me see. Ah, actually it’s about knowing, and is still applicable. Here you go.
“The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.“ – Socrates
Now, here is a great quote about asking questions.
“The best scientists and explorers have the attributes of kids! They ask questions and have a sense of wonder. They have curiosity. ‘Who, what, where, why, when and how!’ They never stop asking questions, and I never stop asking questions, just like a five year old.” – Sylvia Earle
Now, you may be thinking, well, I’m not a scientist, or an explorer, so? Fear not. Everyone has the right to question. And, here is an invitation. Consider yourself an explorer, and your life an exploration. Fun.
2. Embrace Vulnerability
I’ve written a lot about vulnerability of late. Am very present to it, in fact. Why? Well, it was something that I avoided, or resisted, for a time, and now? I am embracing it more and more every day.
Here is a quote I adore about vulnerability.
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” -BRENÉ BROWN
Learning how to embrace vulnerability is a necessity to develop and grow. It is. When you are vulnerable, you openly admit that you don’t know everything, that there is much to learn from everyone around you.
You also intentionally wade into uncomfortable developmentally appropriate contexts and conversations. Why? Because you are interested in growing, in developing.
Though uncomfortable, you realize that being in that context, in that conversation, is the way to increase your own resilience, and at the same time? Yep, grow your tolerance for engaging in vulnerable situations.
You also show that you know yourself enough to know that growing, stretching, and developing is something that you take a stand for; and, in many ways when you do this, you get back, yes, and? So, does everyone else. Really. You are modeling growth and development. Inspiring.
3. Ask For Help
Right now, you may be thinking, wait, what? What in the world does asking for help have to do with my development? I understand. Stay with me.
Asking for help has to do with modeling humility. And, humility is a developmentally important concept. Let’s define it shall we?
noun /hjuːˈmɪləti/ /hjuːˈmɪləti/[uncountable]
the quality of not thinking that you are better than other people; the quality of being humble
There we go. Humility is important. When we show humility, we model the unknown. And, what have we learned about the known and the unknown? Well, factually there is much more to learn, than any one person, or even a collective of people know.
When we model the unknown, we model our support for development and growth. We show that we understand both with our head and our heart that we are just one part in the overall system of life on this planet.
We provide people around us with the knowledge that we are open, always actively seeking more information, more ideas, and more experiences that will help us grow and develop. And?
When we take action in this manner, we will get back way more from those around us. See, when we are open, people can see it, hear it, and feel it. Important. We create safety. Safety for them to be the human being they are. To share themselves with us; and, then we get to reciprocate.
We learn more. We become more. Fun.
Alright, there are 3 things you can do to start coloring your life outside the lines. Fun.
Remember, take it one action at a time. Meaning, when we are interested in coloring our life outside the lines, interested in developing and growing, in creating intentionally contexts to do so, it can sometimes be overwhelming.
Take your time. Take it one action at a time. Example? Sure.
If you usually don’t ask questions, next time ask one. Just one. Start from there. If you usually avoid vulnerable situations, next time you are faced with one, venture out and into that situation. See what you get back.
And, if you don’t ask for help, which is something I work at all the time, next time you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for help. Just try it once.
Developmental growth is a process, not a light switch. It takes doing things differently, creating that intention, and then acting upon it. One day at a time, one action at a time.