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The Hoshin Group

Leadership and Executive Coaching

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~Mark Twain

The Courage to be Curious

“Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” ~James Stephens

I am curious because, honest to God, I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. And I’m not even sure sometimes that I am asking the right questions.

Author S. Leonard Rubinstein is noted to have said, “Curiosity is a willing, a proud, an eager confession of ignorance.” Yes. And curiosity is also the engine of achievement. So I’ll add a powerful word to my earlier statements. Yet. I don’t have the answers YET.

To venture into the realm of curiosity requires both vulnerability and courage. By asking questions, we are admitting to the world that we don’t know. We are opening ourselves up to the possibility of cognitive dissonance, where new information painfully challenges and contradicts what we think we already know. We are also willingly walking towards what the most primitive parts of our brains perceive as danger, the unknown. We may be taken advantage of. That’s why it’s so easy for us to stay put for so long, stalled in discomfort, rather than driving forward towards what lead to a significantly better outcome. In some strange way, we’ve convinced ourselves that retreat and entrenchment is the safer option.

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” ~Albert Einstein

Embracing curiosity also requires commitment to seeking, relentlessly doing the work, and ultimately, to knowing. The loyalty is not not to ultimately to curiosity, itself – the means – but rather to what might be changed by the knowledge gained – the end. In some way, through the acquisition of new information, insights, and doing something differently, some part of our world might be changed for the better.

Where to start? In order to know what questions to ask, I need to have a pretty clear idea about where I’d like to end up. Again, easier said than done. Yet doable. Coming up with that clear vision of my desired tomorrow is the critical first step. Inviting and involving others in what will become a shared vision is the next. We rarely accomplish great things without help. If I chose instead to go it alone without a clear objective, I would likely find myself looping around as if lost in the woods, crossing over my old steps repeatedly, without making any perceivable forward progress. Exhausting.

My worldview is unique and personal, informed by my values, beliefs and prior experiences. So is yours. And so is everyone else’s. Our world is complicated and interconnected. Every issue has myriad stakeholders, each with their own life story, and each person has come to their own ideas and conclusions honestly. Some stakeholders I can easily identify and some, who may be greatly impacted by an issue, I cannot. To see anything clearly is to look at it holistically. This means there are many more questions to surface than I might have realized at first glance. And I can’t do it alone. Sigh…

Yes, being curious and committing to creating change takes work. But what might be gained? Perhaps it’s even more motivating to ask, “What is the opportunity cost of not figuring it out?” In a day, in a week, in a year, in choosing to do nothing, I would be in the same place as I am now – or worse. Ouch. Often, that is enough incentive to move me to take that first small step. To believe that change is possible. To fire up my curiosity. To commit to finding a way. If not today, when?

I surface and then sit with each question. I let one lead to the next. I write down both my questions and my thoughts about them, without pause or editing. I give myself the time and space to brainstorm myriad ideas, and hold back from leaping quickly into action with one of the first few feasible thoughts, which were likely old thoughts that informed my prior thinking and habits – the very things I’m seeking to change. Rather, I allow myself to create a messy, creative, comprehensive list of ideas. And when I think I’m done, I ask, “What else?” and write some more. I engage and share with others. I grow wiser in learning from their unique points of view. And more often than not, it’s the combination of a few crazy, disparate ideas, put together in a bold new way, which pave the way for true transformation.

We show the world by our actions what we are committed to. Mahatma Gandhi once wisely said, “All good thoughts and ideas mean nothing without action.” The world needs us. Not to root ourselves firmly in place and state ever more loudly our existing positions, but to step forward in community with others, embracing curiosity and working collaboratively towards a shared vision, leaving the world better than we found it.

What one small thing might you become curious about, today? About what might you become passionately curious? And what greatness could come from that? You’ve got what it takes to change the world, in small ways and large. Shine your light and see what happens. If nothing else, you’ll have marvelous adventures.

“Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures.” ~ Lovelle Drachman

Shine Your Light

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you. ~L.R. Knost

This world. This news. It just doesn’t stop.

For years, I looked away from the news, aware of the media bias to share negativity. I had enough chaos raging in my small corner of the world and I didn’t feel that I had the bandwidth to take in any more. As a student of neuroscience, I know that my brain (and yours) is wired to pay more attention to the bad than the good. Uncertainty means risk and risk means danger – like being eaten by a sabre tooth tiger. It’s an incredibly helpful design to ensure our continued existence. The news, real and fake, is a constant reminder that in spite of our attempts to plan our days and control our lives, shit happens. And sometimes that shit can be very, very bad.

The news. It’s powerful.

I’ve picked my head back up. Not knowing doesn’t change the fact that people are starving and dying of thirst, being abused and tortured, driven from their homes, and yes, children are dying at school in their classrooms. I need to constantly remind myself that what is happening to them is not, in fact, happening to me. I am an intuitive, empathetic and highly sensing person. Walking and staying on the right side of the line between compassion and empathy is not easy. I have taught myself to see others’ pain and suffering with a willingness to do something about it rather than taking it on, feeling it as if it were my own.

That is not to say that I do that automatically. I’m human too. There are some headlines that are so incredibly heinous that I feel as if I were just punched in the gut. There are headlines that are so scary and disturbing they bring me to my knees and I have cried and sobbed, my heart breaking at the unjust suffering and brokenness of the world. I have questioned it all, asking, “What is the point? How can what I do and what I fill my pedestrian life with matter when these horrible things are happening?” And then I get back up.

I’m blessed with friends and family who live on every continent. I am well educated and have traveled and as a result know and care about a lot of people and places. That also means there are an awful lot of headlines that catch my attention.

I’m also a caregiver and a helper. I’ve been bedside with people as they’ve breathed their last. I’ve been told I am a good chaplain and a wonderful nurse. Someone once even suggested that I should work for FEMA because I’m one of those people who shows up prepared for the unexpected and doesn’t lose it during an emergency. I don’t freeze. If something needs to be done, I act. And sometimes, there is absolutely nothing that I can do that will make a difference. My God, that hurts.

Recently, after reading yet another headline that shook me to my core, one where I again personally know people quite literally on the ground and in the line of fire (children, families, and first responders), I went through my routine. Denial, shock, sob, question, get back up. What they were dealing with, as close as it felt to me, was not mine to carry. But what could I do? And then it hit me like a bolt out of the blue. Shine my light. Shine it bright.

A dear childhood television friend of mine, Fred Rogers, has a wonderful point of view about how to choose to look at the brokenness of the world. He shares his own mother’s wisdom to him, “‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

This broken world is also full of beauty that grows with our nurturing. As a steward of humanity, I seek to make a positive difference, doing some small thing (and sometimes large things) to leave each day better than I found it. As a coach, helping people clarify their values, define their purpose, and to then live gallantly and confidently into that authentic expression of their inspired vision is, among other things, my gift to give.

My gift won’t ever make headlines the way others’ involvement in the world do. Regardless, it is important. I will not let go of my vision for a kinder, more tolerant and peaceful world and I will, by my words and by my actions, help others see it, too. I know that we get what we focus on. I will continue to look for and see the unique yet sometimes still small light in everyone I meet, to fan the flames, and to encourage connection with other shining souls in each of our communities. I am confident that through our coming together, love and light will ultimately win in the perpetual struggle of good over evil.

The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you. Find your gift and shine with me. We’ve got this.

Orienting Myself – On and Off the Water

Those who know me at all know that I love the water and I love to sail. This morning, on the way to a client meeting, I paused to listen to a halyard banging against the mast of a boat in the harbor. I was absolutely delighted to hear that lyrical sound. I could have instead tuned into a dozen other things… the train crossing the railroad bridge, the hum of the traffic on the interstate, the siren blaring from the police station two blocks away, or the honking horns of the cars that couldn’t exactly figure out who had right of way at the intersection I was about to cross.

We get what we focus on and when we focus on what we don’t want, we seem to find more of that. Walking into any meeting, I want to be clear headed and open, intentionally focused on a goal and achieving a mutually beneficial outcome. So, without exposing myself to undue risk, I tune out what could be negative distractors and instead focus on things that help me to see and appreciate the highest potential for my clients, the world, and myself.

The earth is spinning at an amazingly fast rate and as such, I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time orienting myself. To live a happy life is, in great part, appreciating what you have AND where you are. What I’ve found, for myself and the clients I’ve formally coached for the better part of the last two decades, is that few of us appreciate we are and fewer still have a clear understanding of where they would like to go. Knowing where you are starting from is a pretty important piece of information that clearly influences how and when you might get to where you’d like to go.

Blending my work as an executive coach with my passion for the sea and sailing, during last year’s off-season, with compass, dividers and parallel rules in hand, I learned how to confirm and chart my position on the water by myriad means. This winter, I’ve been learning the basics of navigation and am beginning to master both how to take sights with a sextant and the math required to convert that data to useful information, a confirmed position on Earth. If you had told the 20 year-old version of me (that struggled through college calculus) that in my fifth decade I would be willingly learning trigonometry and regularly contemplating spherical geometry, I would have never believed you. Developing these skills takes a significant amount of energy and focus. It’s a lot of work — and it’s incredibly rewarding.

Years ago when I chose a logo for the Hoshin Group, I chose a compass. Why? When you master that skill, you can use a compass over and over to take trips anywhere you could imagine. You can set off to exciting new places knowing that you’ll both be able to confidently find your destination and return home!

Coaching is kind of like that. It doesn’t matter if we start the conversation exploring your desired destination or with a clear assessment of where you are setting off from today, it’s about planning and taking a life-changing journey. Together, we’ll surface your very best thinking and put those ideas together, charting a course that excites you – one that stretches you and even scares you a little – that you know will change your life for the better. One of your greatest regrets at the end of your life would be NOT taking it.

I can’t say it any better than Mark Twain, whose immortal words continue to inspire me and grace the front page of my website (www.HoshinGroup.com); “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

But call me first. I’ll help you chart your course. Few of us succeed without a little bit of help and encouragement every now and again. It will be fun. I promise.

Tell Me, What Do You Want?

I’m about to put a song in your head. I’m doing it on purpose and I hope you’ll forgive me.

“Tell me what you want, what you really, really want.” The Spice Girls made those lyrics famous years ago and we’ve heard them so many times they’re burned into our conscious memory forever. But how many of us have actually thought about the question and can clearly articulate the answer? What DO you want?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re thinking about your life’s goals or what to have for dinner. I remember one time when I was having a huge food craving. I couldn’t focus on anything until I actually figured out what it was that I was longing for. Eventually, I did. Sadly, it was a Japanese delicacy that is not found in the US due to the way we process our food. But that wasn’t a problem. I was satisfied that I answered the question almost as if I had actually tasted the food itself. I stayed with the question and not only opened myself up to trying some delicious new things but also reflected on what about that dish I really valued and appreciated.

I thought about that food craving longer than most people reflect internally about many important life decisions. Often, we look outside for the answers. We take decisions by habit or worse yet, we make no decision at all, in effect creating an unavoidable outcome that is pretty unlikely to look anything like what we would have consciously created for ourselves.

So, what do you want? Think about it. Live with the question for a few days – or a lifetime. Over time, the answers will morph and that’s normal. Awareness and focus will help you get them.

Zigazig ha… J

Are You Wearing Any Shoes?

“The cobbler’s children go unshod.” It occurred to me recently that many of us are living our lives like that proverbial shoemaker. Sadly, this phenomenon isn’t limited to the family of the poor shoemaker. In fact, the English phrase is actually a translation from a Spanish proverb that says, “In the blacksmith’s house, the knives are wooden.” Sound familiar? I’m betting this is resonating with at least a few of you. How many of us have wonderful expertise in our craft that is highly sought after and in great demand, yet we don’t practice what we preach What does that say to others? “Spend money with me for my goods or services. Never mind that I don’t value them enough to use them myself.” Duplicity creates tension within us and gets in the way of creating authentic relationships in both life and in business.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a salesperson, a coach, a designer, or a CEO. We spend more time reflecting externally, spending time on new business pitches, reacting to client feedback, and focusing on what we think other people want and need that we are missing the big picture. If we want other people to say “Yes!” to us, we need to lead the charge by saying “Yes!” to ourselves. Focus on you for a change. We’ll be more attractive to others if we are attractive to and respect ourselves and our craft. And that can manifest itself in a myriad of ways: how we think; what we wear; what boundaries we set and hold; where we hang out; how we treat ourselves; how we allow ourselves to be treated. You are the greatest billboard for your personal brand and you’re broadcasting it loud and clear to the world every day. Take a step back and make sure that there is congruity between what you want people to think about you and what they’re likely taking away – not just from your traditional marketing materials but from all the channels you’re broadcasting.

So, if you’re a branding expert, put your own company and persona through your own rigorous and proven process and see what comes out on the other side. I’ll bet it’s more remarkable than what you’ve got today. If you’re a CEO, set aside the excuse that you are too busy to plan and spend as much time or more on your own strategic direction as you would for your most important client engagement. If you’re a coach, ask yourself, “What am I letting myself get away with that I wouldn’t let my clients get away with?” And if you’re a shoemaker, make yourself a fantastic pair of new shoes and walk tall!

It’s All About Them–Not YOU!

You researched the company, polished your resume, practiced your pitch, pre­pared stellar Power Point slides, put on your best suit, arrived early, distributed quality printed docs, and talked, talked, talked about how wonderful you and your company are and what you can do for the prospect. You noticed the prospect has a signed Mets baseball; you pat yourself on the back for weaving your love of the game into the conversation. You feel you aced the meeting, start to pull out the contract and are shocked when the client says “Thank you, we’ll be in touch.” You know the phone won’t be ringing.

What went wrong? Your focus was off. You pitched the client. A successful sales presentation is not an advertise­ment delivered in person—it’s a conver­sation all about them, helping to draw out their problems and wants so you can address them. Ideally, the client should be talking 80% of the time.

LISTEN FIRST. Get your customers talk­ing, and you’ll learn the best ways to meet their needs. Active listening is the most valuable tool in a successful salesperson’s toolbox, including subtle signals like body language. A good way to bring everyone’s voice into the room at the beginning of a meeting is to ask each person to give a one minute introduction including tenure with the company, their title and their role in this project. This information will help you identify the influencers and the decision makers and to appropriately direct your questions in the meeting. At this stage, simply share a 10 second overview of your company and a succinct and relevant 50 second story on how you’ve successfully helped another client with a similar issue.

Focus on the big picture. Next, talk about them—their company, its vision, strategic objectives, 5-year plan, and how this project fits into these goals. Ideally, you would have gotten some of this information prior to the meeting, helping you to begin to understand their true needs and business objectives. If this is the case, listen to the client and clarify what you think you already know.

Sometimes a client will start a meeting by saying “show me what you’ve got.” Don’t let this undermine your focus to learn about them. An effective response is “I’ve been in the industry for a long time and have many success stories. That said, I think you will find informa­tion that is pertinent to this project more useful. Can we speak about your specific challenges?” During the conversation, confirm your understanding by periodi­cally repeating back information they’ve shared (e.g., “So you’re telling me that you’re goal is to increase sales by 20% and you need tools to help you do that. Do I have that right?”) This shows the client that you are listening to them and seek­ing to understand their needs.

Get Specific! Often what the client ini­tially thinks they need may not be what will actually drive their success. To really get to the root of the issue, it’s important to ask open-ended questions both about the current challenge and how they’ve handled similar situations in the past. The information you learn here will help you to understand their expectations and formulate a customized solution using language that resonates with the client. Steer clear of questions that can be an­swered by a simple yes or no.

Now it’s Your Turn. Now that you have a good idea of the client’s “prob­lem”, it’s your turn to talk – your 20%. Now is the time to discuss why and how your product or service is the best solution. This is a good time to repeat the client’s “problem” – in fact, take it a step fur­ther and re-frame it more positively, as a quantifiable business “opportunity.” You might also share another very brief success story of how you’ve helped a client overcome a similar challenge. Re­member, every client’s “opportunity” is going to be unique, so you don’t need to share an example of how you’ve solved that exact problem – just how you’ve handled similar situations and handled them well. The stories and illustrations you share will help your client to connect to you and understand what it might be like to work with you. Just make sure you are able to share your stories succinctly and in language that resonates with your target client!

Success Defined. Success starts with you. Ask yourself, what does “wild suc­cess” at the end of this meeting look like? How do I want the client to feel and what do I want them to know, believe and do at the end of the meeting? Have a clear vision of your desired outcome be­fore you even set the meeting; this way, every action you take along the way will be aligned with your goal, setting you up to close the deal. For an initial sales meet­ing, some elements of success might an­swer the questions, “Did I …?”:

  • establish a rapport with the client with them talking more of the time
  • show up as a solution
  • discuss any foreseen challenges to meet those objectives
  • interject in a conversational style stories about how I’ve helped other clients accomplish similar goals
  • discuss the project time-line, determine their budget, and confirm next steps, including accountability and timing

Above all, have fun! Be authentic and passionate about your work and the value you bring to businesses like your client’s. If you believe in yourself, it will make it a lot easier for them to believe in you as well. And remember, it’s not about you. Show up as a true business partner, appealing to the client’s sense of enlight­ened self interest, helping them to see that you CARE about them and are fo­cused on their needs. If you care, they’ll care. And that will be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

My Reinvention

I have to be honest. I’ve not actually reinvented myself. Not yet, anyway. My outstanding accomplishment is that I’ve consciously invented myself for the very first time.

What does that mean? For me, it means that I am a person first. I’m a mom, best friend, sister, coach, teacher, entrepreneur, business advisor, avid networker, recovered accountant, athlete and volunteer. I’m living a full and rich life. No longer a ‘nice to have,’ I’ve placed a high value on happiness. What I do is no longer more important than who I am. I’ve begun to hear my own inner wisdom. I’ve reconnected with my common sense. My own answers were within me – I just had to listen.

To get to this place, I’ve had to leave a few things behind. That sounds like I’m denying myself – scarcity thinking. Let me reframe that, because it’s actually a positive thing, rooted in abundant thinking. I’ve released and let go of thoughts and behaviors – and even people – that were draining me of energy rather than fueling my fire and helping me to achieve my potential and the happiness I both desire and deserve. I’ve learned to focus my time and attention on what I want, not on what I don’t want. Funny how so many of us are clear about the former but have no real idea regarding what success might look like, let alone wild success.

So where did I come from and where am I now? I’ve already told you that I am a recovered accountant. Funny, when I was in high school, I wanted to be either a florist or a psychologist. How the heck did I wind up a business major working in public accounting? I followed the crowd. I let other people do the thinking for me. I suppressed my own passions and measured my success by a scorecard that had little meaning to me and instead which focused on external measures – keeping up with the Jones’, as the saying goes. Rather than asking myself “how can I?” I spent my time focusing on “why not.” I let the scarcity thinking drown out abundance.

What started me on the path to my first conscious invention? Like so many others, I was caught up in a restructuring. Funnily, the program was called, “Project Rapid Growth” and that restructuring actually did spur my own rapid growth. While at the time my world was rocked by not having a fancy title and a business card for the first time in my adult life, without it I might not have stopped to smell the roses.

I had help in getting here. When I was let go, I asked a lot of people “If I weren’t doing this, what would you see me doing? ”It was one of my mentees in the company that I was leaving who first said, “You should be a coach” to which I replied, “I’m athletic, but what sport? ”While I knew about business coaches, that role was so far out of the box that I had drawn for myself that I couldn’t even see myself in it! Until I started to listen. Then it all made sense. How could I have missed it?

Before beginning to retool and train as a coach, I actually hired a coach. Let me tell you, it’s a heck of a lot easier to be a coach than it is to do a client. Fast forward a number of years… I still have a coach (we’re all works in progress!) but now I have my own business, The Hoshin Group (www. hoshingroup. com), a thriving coaching practice, I’m an adjunct member of the faculty in the coaching program at New York University and I’ve got balance in my life to spend with my three year old son. Most importantly, I’m happy.

I am still learning and evolving. A question that I hold near and dear is, “What am I letting myself get away with that I wouldn’t let one of my clients get away with?” I hold myself accountable to set clear goals and to stay the course, consulting my own compass as I progress and proactively making course adjustments and corrections along the way. The compass is a tool which anyone, with focus and a bit of training, can use anytime, anywhere, to get someplace new. Not coincidentally, Hoshin (hō’ shin) is a Japanese word which, loosely translated, means compass. The compass is a tool which anyone, with focus and a bit of training, can use anytime, anywhere, to get someplace new.

Let’s face it. All of our lives are filled to the brim…. Overflowing, even. To allow something new in, we’ve got to create space by releasing thoughts or behaviors that no longer serve us. If you don’t purposefully create that space, you might not be pleased with what splashes out. You are brilliant and resourceful and you have your answers – no one else does! You just may not be listening.

Finally, I didn’t get here alone. I owe others thanks and acknowledgment for helping to find my calling and to stay on my chosen path. In addition to my coach, I’ve had wonderful friends and mentors who’ve cheered me on and who have candidly called me out and held me accountable when I’ve gotten in my own way. That’s no mistake either. While hard, I had to take a look around and ask myself the question, “Who really has my back?” I learned to focus on what I want rather than what I don’t want. Keith Ferrazzi, author of Who’s Got Your Back, and David Rock, author of The Brain at Work, have also become friends and mentors, ever encouraging continued self reflection and growth. If you’re not familiar with their work, check them out. The wonderful and empowering ideas that they teach inspired me to reach farther and take some scary leaps.

As far as reinvention goes, stay tuned. That’s coming. But not for awhile. I’m really enjoying where I am. And while I have no idea what that next phase of my life will look like, I know that it’s going to be amazing.

2020 Vision

I have to be honest. I’ve not actually reinvented myself. Not yet, anyway. My outstanding accomplishment is that I’ve consciously invented myself for the very first time.

What does that mean? For me, it means that I am a person first. I’m a mom, best friend, sister, coach, teacher, entrepreneur, business advisor, avid networker, recovered accountant, athlete and volunteer. I’m living a full and rich life. No longer a ‘nice to have,’ I’ve placed a high value on happiness. What I do is no longer more important than who I am. I’ve begun to hear my own inner wisdom. I’ve reconnected with my common sense. My own answers were within me – I just had to listen.

To get to this place, I’ve had to leave a few things behind. That sounds like I’m denying myself – scarcity thinking. Let me reframe that, because it’s actually a positive thing, rooted in abundant thinking. I’ve released and let go of thoughts and behaviors – and even people – that were draining me of energy rather than fueling my fire and helping me to achieve my potential and the happiness I both desire and deserve. I’ve learned to focus my time and attention on what I want, not on what I don’t want. Funny how so many of us are clear about the former but have no real idea regarding what success might look like, let alone wild success.

So where did I come from and where am I now? I’ve already told you that I am a recovered accountant. Funny, when I was in high school, I wanted to be either a florist or a psychologist. How the heck did I wind up a business major working in public accounting? I followed the crowd. I let other people do the thinking for me. I suppressed my own passions and measured my success by a scorecard that had little meaning to me and instead which focused on external measures – keeping up with the Jones’, as the saying goes. Rather than asking myself “how can I?” I spent my time focusing on “why not. ” I let the scarcity thinking drown out abundance.

What started me on the path to my first conscious invention? Like so many others, I was caught up in a restructuring. Funnily, the program was called, “Project Rapid Growth” and that restructuring actually did spur my own rapid growth. While at the time my world was rocked by not having a fancy title and a business card for the first time in my adult life, without it I might not have stopped to smell the roses.

I had help in getting here. When I was let go, I asked a lot of people “If I weren’t doing this, what would you see me doing? ”It was one of my mentees in the company that I was leaving who first said, “You should be a coach” to which I replied, “I’m athletic, but what sport? ”While I knew about business coaches, that role was so far out of the box that I had drawn for myself that I couldn’t even see myself in it! Until I started to listen. Then it all made sense. How could I have missed it?

Before beginning to retool and train as a coach, I actually hired a coach. Let me tell you, it’s a heck of a lot easier to be a coach than it is to do a client. Fast forward a number of years… I still have a coach (we’re all works in progress!) but now I have my own business, The Hoshin Group (www. hoshingroup. com), a thriving coaching practice, I’m an adjunct member of the faculty in the coaching program at New York University and I’ve got balance in my life to spend with my three year old son. Most importantly, I’m happy.

I am still learning and evolving. A question that I hold near and dear is, “What am I letting myself get away with that I wouldn’t let one of my clients get away with? ”I hold myself accountable to set clear goals and to stay the course, consulting my own compass as I progress and proactively making course adjustments and corrections along the way. The compass is a tool which anyone, with focus and a bit of training, can use anytime, anywhere, to get someplace new. Not coincidentally, Hoshin (hō’ shin) is a Japanese word which, loosely translated, means compass. The compass is a tool which anyone, with focus and a bit of training, can use anytime, anywhere, to get someplace new.

Let’s face it. All of our lives are filled to the brim…. Overflowing, even. To allow something new in, we’ve got to create space by releasing thoughts or behaviors that no longer serve us. If you don’t purposefully create that space, you might not be pleased with what splashes out. You are brilliant and resourceful and you have your answers – no one else does! You just may not be listening.

Finally, I didn’t get here alone.  I owe others thanks and acknowledgment for helping to find my calling and to stay on my chosen path. In addition to my coach, I’ve had wonderful friends and mentors who’ve cheered me on and who have candidly called me out and held me accountable when I’ve gotten in my own way. That’s no mistake either. While hard, I had to take a look around and ask myself the question, “Who really has my back? ”I learned to focus on what I want rather than what I don’t want. Keith Ferrazzi, author of Who’s Got Your Back, and David Rock, author of The Brain at Work, have also become friends and mentors, ever encouraging continued self reflection and growth. If you’re not familiar with their work, check them out. The wonderful and empowering ideas that they teach inspired me to reach farther and take some scary leaps.

As far as reinvention goes, stay tuned. That’s coming. But not for awhile. I’m really enjoying where I am. And while I have no idea what that next phase of my life will look like, I know that it’s going to be amazing.

What’s your intention?

What’s your intention? That’s the famous question that the movie or TV dad asks the daughter’s nervous suitor at the front door as the kids are on their way out for their first date. (And why I always tried to meet my dates out…) It’s a great question. What does it actually mean? Simply, it asks, what are you going to do?

The dictionary defines intention as: 1) a course of action that one intends to follow; 2) an aim that guides action; an objective; 3) purpose with respect to marriage. Medically, intention refers to the process by which or the manner in which a wound heals. Course of action. Aim. Purpose. Process. Those seem to be missing today for many of us.

When we ask our friends, colleagues and loved ones how they are doing, they generally start with what’s not going well. The focus of our thinking is on the negative rather than on the positive and there are certainly a lot of wounds out there that need healing. We seem to be pretty clear about what we don’t want, what we don’t like or approve of and where we don’t want to be or go. We are so much less clear about what we do want and where we’d like to go. What does success look like, anyway? That’s another really good question.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. This quote by Winston Churchill is a nice reminder for us to check our thinking. Are we focusing on the opportunity or the difficulty? What we don’t want or what we do want? You might remember hearing about the book, The Secret, and its author, Rhonda Byrne, who made the talk show circuit a few years ago. While some people loved it and some didn’t (overall, I was in the latter group), there were some key pieces of information that really resonated with me, most notably, The Law of Attraction. The Law states that whether people realize it or not, their thoughts, both conscious and unconscious, dictate the reality of their lives. (Note: If you want to learn more about The Law of Attraction or some of the tools and ideas mentioned later, check out Wikipedia. org or Google. com, both good places to go on the web to begin to understand a new idea.)

From a coaching perspective, I’ve found this to be true. We get what we focus on. If you want to lose that last five pounds, you need to stop focusing on your weight. Instead, focus on how great you’ll look in that red dress for your class reunion or how much more energy you’ll have so you’ll be able play a full set of tennis with your teenager or to complete that marathon that you’ve always wanted to do. And let’s not forget, if you aren’t exercising and you start, muscle mass is actually heavier than fat so it’s possible that your clothes will fit better and you’ll and feel look younger when you’ve not actually shed a single pound – or odder still, you find that you’re even heavier. When we get right down to it, it’s really not about what the scale says. It makes it hard to achieve the real goal if you don’t even know what it is.

The idea that if we can change our thoughts, we can change our results actually does have roots in psychotherapeutic science, specifically Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I won’t bore you with the details, but simply said, our thoughts impact our feelings which impact our actions which impact our results. The funny thing is, we’re moving so fast through our lives that we sometimes aren’t even aware of our thoughts. (I’ve heard a variety of statistics – we think at some unwieldy number as 600 words per minute and we can speak only about 100.)

Thoughts. Feelings. Actions. Results. You might now be saying, “No thanks, I don’t (want to) buy in to this. ”It’s a bit scary when someone first hears about this because of the implication that we are truly accountable for our results. We are in fact living our lives perfectly as we’ve designed them. Let me clarify that there are some things that we can’t control – a plane crash, a baby born with a genetic disorder, whether it rains on our wedding day – but we can control what we think about those things.

We’re living our lives according to never ending to do lists and pretty oblivious to how we’re showing up for life and the impact that has on our future. So let’s get back to my original question, “what’s your intention?” and take a look at some of your goals. I want to get out of this miserable job. I want my kids to stop being so self centered. I want my husband to show me a little more intimacy. What do you want, really? What does that look like? What will be different in your life when you have that?

If you’re having a hard time getting started, start a list. Get the ideas out of your head and onto paper. Try a simple brainstorm. Let the ideas come and don’t edit them. If you’re a more visual person, try a mind map. Easier said than done in a time when creative play is frowned upon because it doesn’t generate measurable results. And who has time for this, anyway? The opportunity cost of not becoming clear with what you want is high, though. If you don’t change up your thinking, you’re inviting more of the same into your life. I’m a big fan of Albert Einstein’s famous quote, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

If you are starting with what you don’t want, not a problem. Write it down and keep going. Don’t judge yourself. You’ve got some strong thinking habits and they’re not going to change in five minutes. Later you’ll be able to look at the list and start designing the life you want by identifying those negatives you’re willing to give up and replacing them with what you do want to invite into your life. This is another important point: our lives are full – overflowing, even – so to invite something new in, we have to be willing to give something else up.

What are you willing to give up to get what you want? If you’re hanging onto the thought that your father will always see you as a little girl and doesn’t respect you, let go of it. Until you do, you’re not making room for that respect to show up in your life – you won’t be able to see it. (You’ll probably always be his “little girl” – now that I have a child of my own I get that.) It’s therefore a good idea to take a look at how you’re showing up to life. Are you letting what you want in? Are you inviting it? Do you see the potential for success? If your goal involves another person, have you actually told them what you need or want? It’s possible but not so easy for someone to “pass” if you don’t tell them what’s actually on the test.

The funny thing is, often times, what we’re looking for is already present in our lives– it just doesn’t look exactly like we thought it would. Perhaps it’s not as prevalent as we’d like though through beginning to recognize and acknowledge it, we’ll reinforce it and invite more in. No psychobabble here – this is proven through contemporary neuroscience. People, when acknowledged, will repeat the behavior and create new habits. It’s so much more powerful to changing behaviors than criticism.

Live intentionally. If you’re looking for a new job, know what you want so when someone in your network asks, “How can I help?” you can actually tell them what you’re looking for. Most people out there today tell a story about what they’ve done and hope that the other person can figure out what to do with them. That’s not terribly intentional. If you’d like to improve a relationship, get clear about what that looks like and start with yourself – how do you need to show up to make that possible? Then communicate what you’d like to accomplish with the other person, including your commitment to both the goal and what you’re willing to do. Don’t forget to ask them what they need – without their buy in, you might need to adjust your own expectations.

This intentional thinking follows the “if you build it, they will come” thinking from the movie, Field of Dreams. Essentially, if you really want something and truly believe it’s possible, you’ll get it. On the flip side, putting a lot of attention and thought onto something you don’t want means you’ll probably get that too.

It’s your choice. You are resourceful and you are full of potential. What’s your intention? Chart your course – you’re the captain of your ship. Design the life you want and invite it in. And remember what Helen Keller said so brilliantly, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow.” It doesn’t mean that we ignore the shadow. We can simply choose not to sit in it.

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