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Creating a Real, not a ‘Boutique’ Win in Your Relationships

Office Party0001Un-Game Principle: Challenging our own and others’ unexamined assumptions is not only a contribution, but a necessity so that important relationships can flourish.

To order a copy of The Un-Game Four-Play to Business as Unusual click here to purchase on Amazon or email coach@ingridmartine.com.

A win/win is an occurrence that two or more people consider positive; or it is a solution to a problem, which parties with differing stakes or points of view, can rally around.

Those of us admirably dedicated to creating a win/win between ourselves and another person (or group) usually buy into one of the definitions above. We work hard on satisfying the other person (or group members) so that we can claim being someone who rejects win/lose and lose/lose results. Yet don’t we sometimes wonder why we feel so let down, even irritated. You know, you and your partner agree after some discussion about a vacation destination, but he doesn’t seem genuinely supportive of the decision. Hmm. Might it be that your partner said ‘yes’ when s/he meant ‘no’? In that case that partner entered into a pretend win/win, and it’s actually a lose/lose situation.

Or do you sometimes try so hard to please the other that you end up noticing you didn’t dedicate yourself to creating a ‘win’ for you. The result is the same—either a vague dissatisfaction or outright irritation or anger (often at the other person) or, if you’re honest with yourself, a slowly seething irritation or anger at yourself. A lose/lose scenario?

It could be said that there really are no win/lose scenarios except in a domain like sports and politics. Of course we want winners and losers there. Or in books where we love to hate the ‘bad guy.’ In human relationships that matter to us, when one person loses, the other does too. So what we really want is a better understanding to guide us into creating a ‘win’ for all.

So in the example above, when one of the people notices the faux win/win, they must become the challenger. The challenger reopens the conversation with the intent to go for the real ‘win’. Most of us have a hard time challenging. Do you? We don’t have good models for challenging. We have good models for being in a role of oppressor/persecutor. This role was first identified in the 1950ties by Stephen Karpman and is labeled the drama triangle (More about the drama triangle and its 3 roles, oppressor, victim, and rescuer in the archives).

We have lots of practice playing in the dreaded drama triangle. It can be very subtle. For example, “You never say what you really want. How can we come up with something we both are happy about?” Familiar? I thought so. This is really an accusation, and the other feels victimized by you, the oppressor. You can tell that’s happening when the predictable result is that the so-called accused gets defensive.

A challenger does not accuse. A challenger is totally committed to creating a win/win. So the challenger is the great truth-teller. The challenger stays on his or her side of the street, tells what they see, and makes clear offers or requests.

“I’m sensing you aren’t really on board with our decision. If my perception is correct, I want to talk about this again. I’m unwilling to go on vacation without your full endorsement for our destination.”

Can you see this is a challenge? It offers a perception (You’re not on board…not couched as fact which gives the other some breathing room) which the other now has to speak to, particularly when they hear that their partner requests to talk about it again. It clearly states where the challenger stands (unwilling to go unless it’s a ‘win’ for both) and what the consequences would be, if they don’t have this conversation. It doesn’t in any way negatively characterize the person being challenged.

And yet, because people are so unpracticed being outside of the drama triangle, the act of challenging is, well, challenging! Why? Because the person being challenged may very well respond in an oppressor or a victim role (We easily move between roles in the drama triangle). The person who perceives himself accused and who is therefore defensive, even though you did a great job of challenging, quickly moves from victim role to oppressor. He might say a hundred things. Here’s just an example:

            “Here you go again. Never satisfied. I’m going. Isn’t that enough?”

The challenger must be clear that s/he won’t be pulled back into the drama triangle. The above comment is indeed the invitation to do just that. People are comfortable in the drama triangle roles. The roles are familiar even as those roles make us unhappy. We must resist the tendency to restore the equilibrium the person being challenged is trying to get to. We must challenge again. Darn!

“Actually, no it’s not enough for me. I don’t consider it a ‘win’ for us when you give me an unenthusiastic ‘yes’. I want to have a good time, and that’s impossible for me if you’re only going because you think it makes me happy. For the record, it doesn’t.”

We are not used to keeping up the challenge. I think back to my younger years when I taught high school. The administration often put out rules, and kept their fingers crossed that the tough kids, who really were the target of those rules, would obey those rules. Often when they didn’t, the administration looked the other way (felt they were the victims of the oppressing students). Or, if parents challenged a rule, the administration often abandoned the rule rather than dealing with the perceived oppression of the parents. A lose/lose scenario for everybody.

Here’s what people who are committed to creating a win/win must know that they often do not know, and that we haven’t yet talked about. A win/win is sometimes perceived as a win/lose by one of the parties (the tough kids considered the rules as a ‘lose.’). Another example, a two-year old wants to cross a busy street. She considers that a ‘win’. (I want what I want is normal and natural for a two-year old). Her mother or father, of course, will not let her cross the busy street at will. Despite kicking and screaming of their daughter, parents know what a win/win is in this situation. They restrain her.

As challengers we need to know when to stand strong, no matter the reaction of the other. It’s rarely as clear as in the above examples, but there are times when the challenger has superior knowledge: appropriate rules enhance safety or freedom. A challenger with superior knowledge is willing to take consequences that upset the other.

When the challenger is willing to take the consequences of a deliberate decision that affects him or her alone, he or she gets to decide what a win/win is. For example, my mother wants me to mow my lawn before the company comes. Let’s say it’s not important to me. Only my mother’s feelings are affected. While I like to please others, I consider it a lose/lose when I please them at my expense. I am in charge of my ‘yes’ or my ‘no’ (and sometimes I may choose to say ‘yes’ to my mother about the lawn, but if so, it’s my choice, not hers). I consider it a ‘win’ for my mother when I don’t enter into the drama triangle with her.

When we unconsciously get pulled into one or more of the roles in the dreaded drama triangle, creating a win/win becomes impossible. Why not challenge me on the content, intent, or spirit of this article? We may all learn something important about being the challenger and creating real, not faux ‘wins’ in our important relationships.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for individuals who want to be in charge of their lives, coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://courageousconversationswithcoachmartine.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

Would It Be Alright With You If Your Relationships Were Easier…And Sweeter?

220px-Cherry_Stella444Un-Game Principle: Being able to make distinctions allows us to be more productive and peaceful.

I’ve been called twice for jury duty in as many months. I found myself slightly irritated. But realizing that it was my expectation to not be called again so soon, I reflected on the ability of our expectations to cause suffering, especially in the domain of relationships. Relationships mean so much to us whether we admit it or not.

So why us it important to distinguish between Expectations and Expectancy? The dictionary doesn’t make a big distinction. They both mean, ‘to live in a state of expectation.’

It’s important because expectations, unless shared by each of the “relators,” cause breakdowns, distance, isolation, disappointment, regret. How are you experiencing your energy right now just confirming the last statement? Restricted around your heart region, right?

Expectancy on the other hand is different. Relationships blossom in the wake of expectancy. It loosens the grip of expectations. It brings both “relators” into the here and now. The relationship comes alive with possibility. Something mysterious and miraculous can emerge. Closeness, not distance or isolation, is the more likely experience. And this experience can be had at home and at work. In fact, it can be had in any setting.

How are you experiencing your energy around your heart region right now as you imagine such closeness? Go ahead, and check in with yourself. If you have a deep experience of it, you may live more in expectancy than expectations.

I resonate for the most part with what Matt Hohmeyer, a Baptist minister in Marble Falls, Texas, has to say about the difference in the experience. To his thinking, there is a great difference between them. Pastor Hohmeyer says:

“Most of us live our entire lives with expectations all around us.  We have expectations for ourselves.  We have expectations for others.  Others have expectations of us. We have expectations of our God and for our relationship with God.”

He continues. “I struggle with expectations.  I struggle under the weight of them.  I struggle to uphold them. We are bred under the weight of expectation. These may serve to motivate and drive us to some degree, but in the context of relationship expectations only serve to inhibit, constrict, and control that which is meant to be free and dynamic.

Expectations are set and specific in nature. Expectations lend themselves to static systems that are easily managed and defined.

But relationships are non-linear and dynamic in nature. They do not progress evenly along a given slope, but are living organisms that have life of their own and are not meant to be managed but lived.

This is where expectancy enters the equation. Relationships are made for expectancy. With expectancy there is freedom instead of law, there is fluidity instead of rigidity. There is an expectancy that should exist within our relationships. Whether we are together or apart, there is an expectancy of being together, of laughing, and talking and experiencing life with one another. That expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else.

If this expectancy is exchanged for expectations, then legislation enters the relationship.  For example we feel the need to set certain times and frequency of meeting.  We are expected to perform a certain way within relationship.  Living relationship deteriorates into a static formality with rules and requirements.

“My greatest hurt and disappointments in relationships (with humanity and with my God),” Hohmeyer continues, “have been a result of others not living up to my expectation for them and our relationship. My greatest joys and my healthiest relationships are those lived in expectancy. Expectancy allows those we are in relationship with to be fully themselves and to love us and invest in us in the fullness of what they have to give and we have the same freedom toward them.”

“How different would our relationship with God be if we did not limit our relationship with our expectations?  How different would it be if we stopped living under the weight of what we believe to be God’s expectations of us? What if we simply lived in a state of expectancy of God moving in our life and our responding as He leads? Can you imagine how that would free you to respond and how it would free God to move beyond any of our small, limited, constricting expectations? Such freedom, I fear, is rarely experience among believers.”

Hohmeyer goes on to imagine how different our relationships would be with one another if we dropped our expectations. This is where he and I part company. I suspect it’s not even possible to drop expectations. Furthermore, I claim that it could even be detrimental. I do accept Pastor Hoymeyer’s earlier claim that relationships should not be managed. They should be lived. Fair enough.

However, what is important is to manage expectations within a relationship! Make important-to-you expectations explicit. You do not have the right to have all of your expectations met. No one does. You do have the right to put your expectations out to another and then clarify, and if necessary negotiate them, to where both parties declare their commitments or move on with their plans separate from the other for this moment in time.

“I’ll come to visit if you’re able to have dinner with me or spend the afternoon with me.”

The explicit expectations exchange leaves room for some other conditions of satisfaction that haven’t even been mentioned to emerge.

“If you come on Saturday instead of Friday, we could spend the afternoon and have dinner.”

“Oh, great. I hadn’t thought of that.”

This scenario could not happen without the conversation that made the expectations visible. Making expectations visible doesn’t invalidate what Pastor Hohmeyer puts forward. We can still live with one another in a state of expectancy. Living in relationship expectantly is being open, receptive, kind, compassionate, curious. It’s coming from a permeating mind-set of “All is well. My good can’t be taken away from me. And your concern is my concern.”

Throw out the rigidity of silent expectations and you open yourself up for the delight and surprises of expectancy. Would it be alright with you if your relationships were easier…and sweeter?

Are Your Expectations Squeezing the Life out of You?

Picture 4

Photo by Keith Williams

Un-Game Principle: You don’t have your unexamined assumptions. Your unexamined assumptions have you.

Within a one week period, I spent 5 ½ hours in hazardous road conditions en route to an airport usually reached in two; I had a 3 hour delay at the airport; endured another 5 hour ride in unexpectedly hazardous weather conditions; suffered a 10 hour wait at the airport awaiting a return flight; spent an unexpected night stay in Chicago; and worried about hazardous Dallas road conditions which, thankfully, didn’t materialize.

I was not alone, of course, and what struck me is this:

  1. People everywhere on the roads drove carefully and courteously.
  2. People quietly accepted fates similar to mine, both at the airports and on the road.

What’s going on? It went against my expectations and prior experience. I’ve seen people tear their hair out for less, lean on their horn to scare you into moving over on the road, curse the airlines, etc. But none of that was happening. Hmm.

Could it be that when we recognize that something is out of our control (weather) and also out of others’ control (the airlines), that we just take a deep breath and let go of our usual expectations? Could it be that we intuitively recognize that Boston must have a higher level of effectiveness with snow than Dallas? Do we recognize that many rules that normally guide and support us get thrown out the window when circumstances clearly mandate otherwise (The speed limit announces 65mph but it’s icy.)?

It seemed to me that letting go of the rules was an unwritten agreement everyone on the road and at the weather-challenged airport accepted, and they did it with grace. I heard only two complaints, and one of those was rather cheerful.

So what’s my point? My point is really a wonderment. I wonder if we could envision letting go of our expectations even when we make the judgment “I see no reason why these expectations should not be met.”

Could we assume we don’t already know everything? Could we assume that there may be valid reasons for our expectations to not be fulfilled by others? Could we at least be curious about this? Could we envision not suffering when our expectations aren’t met?

These are good questions to engage with. I claim that it’s not our expectations that make us suffer, but our inflexibility at meeting foiled expectations in realms where we can’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be met! And those are plentiful, aren’t they?

Would it be worth your while to value resilience and actively seek to cultivate it?

When we have expectations, and it must turn out the way we picture it, we make ourselves vulnerable. We become fragile and brittle. And this is neither what we need nor what supports us in what’s important to us.

So here’s what you can do when it happens to you.

Notice when you are getting upset (tight muscles, constriction around your heart region, ready to fight with the person who you see responsible for your unmet expectations), and STOP. Take a deep breath. This is a point of power. If you don’t do this, the next actions will not be your own choice. You will not be in charge of yourself. Your expectations will have you, instead of you having your expectations!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be in that place. When I am, it makes me suffer. It squeezes me like a lemon and makes me sour.

Ask yourself this question when you notice you’re locked into your picture of what should happen: “Would I rather be right, or would I rather be happy?” Careful. Most people would rather be right, although they would assert otherwise. Right about what? “I should have this. I deserve it. I did everything I was supposed to. If these jerks would just do their job.” But it is what it is. Can you get to acceptance of that? Accepting ‘it is what it is’ doesn’t mean you are powerless in what’s next.

It’s not the same kind of acceptance you get to when you see you have no control or influence over the weather. It’s simply the acceptance of breakdown as in “My expectations have not been met. Can I be curious about that rather than trying to force obedience from people who didn’t meet my expectations?”

Could you assume you don’t already know everything? Could you assume that there may be valid reasons for your expectations to not be fulfilled by the person who you’re talking to? Could you simply declare there’s a breakdown and now seek what’s possible? How could this change-in-perspective alter what’s happening with the person in front of you or on the phone with you? Could you envision them as a partner rather than an adversary?

As with the weather, you cannot control another person. But unlike with the weather, you can influence another person. Who is more likely to have influence with another: a person locked into their expectations or someone who’s flexible, open, receptive, clear and willing to work in partnership with another to seek solutions?

Who will you be? Think about your answer as you reflect on “Are your expectations squeezing the life out of you?”

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

How Else Can I Look at This? – A Gateway to Creativity

doorwayUn-Game Principle: We are both more in charge and less in charge than we think.

I recently read one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever read: the first-hand account of the 16 year imprisonment of a friend’s mentor in China from 1963-1979, much of it in solitary confinement. Despite his experience Sidney Rittenberg was able to keep intact his sanity, his integrity, and his love for China. One reason for this was the question he asked himself : “How else can I look at this?”

In coaching “How else can you look at this?” is a question I frequently ask my clients. What I realized long ago is that our thinking is invisible to us. When bits and pieces of our thinking do become visible to us, it is our great leap across the chasm of disempowerment and despair. As soon as that which had been invisible to us is now in plain view, our natural ability to do something about what we’ve become aware of kicks in. We are magnificent in that way.

What’s behind the question “How else can I look at this?” is the fact that in western civilization our thinking is primarily binary thinking, that is, we think in either/or pictures. “Either I’m going to college, or I’m going to be a failure in life. Either I work 16 hours a day, or I won’t get ahead. Either I get that promotion or I will quit my job. Either we are for taxing the rich or against it.”

At the very base of this constrictive either/or thinking is the choice of being on the right or the wrong side of the thing in question. “I can either be right or wrong.” I don’t have to tell anybody which side we want to be on; after all, who wants to be on the wrong side of history?

Is there a third choice? Is there any other way we can think about this?

Yes there is. Anyone who’s a good problem-solver knows that in brain-storming

a) you must have more than two contributions to consider, and

b) you don’t stop to evaluate every contribution offered as it is being offered. In other words, we consciously get ourselves out of our limiting either/or thinking paradigm by requiring more than two choices, and we protect against arguing for and against (either/or) before we have freed our mind from its usual self-limitation.

There is something peculiar, baffling, and mysterious about this (What? Three choices again?!). Let’s assume only Americans are reading this. How come we have been able to successfully escape, albeit for a short time, our limiting thinking? One answer is that Americans are known to be excellent problem-solvers (I won’t offer at least two other reasons, even though I could. This answer suits my purpose.).

Americans are good problem-solvers. However, we need to ask a second and related question: “In what domain are Americans good problem-solvers?”

I won’t get an argument from anyone about Americans being great problem-solvers and therefore very creative in the domain of technical challenges. Silicon Valley is full of geniuses, individual and corporate, too numerous to mention. But there is a domain in which most Americans are not good problem-solvers, and that is the domain of human interaction in which the superb technical problem-solving mind and skill-sets are not nearly enough. In fact, in some instances those skills are totally counter-productive.

In human interactions, unlike in technical problem-solving, there’s a whole lot less we can control. What we can control is ourselves, and even that’s not easy because unbeknownst to ourselves we can be controlled by our either/or thinking.

If we are unaware of our thinking, then we don’t have our thinking; our thinking has us!

In part, what we need in order to change ourselves in a non-technical domain (aka the adaptive domain, which requires of us changes in how we act), influence others to change, and to change the situation we find ourselves in is to free ourselves from our either/or thinking trap and ask more and more often “How else can we look at this?” Let’s look at what that question assumes.

It assumes that there could be many good answers. It assumes no one of us is as smart as all of us. There is wisdom in a group. It assumes an answer of quality can be found which every group member can support. This is a good start. What this doesn’t guarantee, however, is that when we arrive at an answer everyone can support, that we won’t fall right back into the constrictive either/or paradigm. We’ve found a great answer. Yeah! But let’s not be so possessive of our answer that we now promote it as the only right answer!

To not fall back into the binary trap of either/or, right/wrong, them/us, win/lose is near impossible for those of us who’ve grown up in the western tradition. Near impossible but not always impossible. First it takes being willing to become aware of “the thinking that thinks us.” Second it takes being willing to observe our thinking and tell the truth about it. This is hard, because we dislike discovering we, too, are caught up in this mind trap that calls for some skills we have not been taught. Third it takes being willing to learn those skills that can release us, at least somewhat, from the thinking that, despite its immense and often catastrophic costs in productivity and suffering, continues inexorably to attract us like a magnet does nails.

We are both more in charge and less in charge than we think (more/less, there is that binary thinking again!). Our “thinking that thinks us” makes us less in charge than we think. Our being willing to become aware, to become observant of our thinking, and learning the skills to at least temporarily escape our self-limiting thinking makes us more in charge than we think. One welcome by-product of our temporary escape from binary thinking (“How else can we think about this?” is the opening of the cell door.) might just be an unexpected burst of creativity. How much do we wish that? Would that be a great relief? A soaring joy? Our poor, gripped-in-either/or thinking Congress comes to mind. How much I wish for their escape! Wouldn’t it be ours too? It’s not an either/or!

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

When Does Silence Speak Loudly?

ShhhUn-Game Principle: Authentic actions emerge naturally from clarity.

Women know this secret about jewelry: if it doesn’t add to the beauty of their physical presentation, it detracts. But do we, men and women alike, know the same thing about how we speak? Ok, forget about the private domain. Most of us while among our family and friends are seeking a refuge, not a training opportunity to be vigilant about our competency in communicating. But admit it, even in personal relationships, there are times we wish we could choose our words wisely. Or know when silence would be our best communication.

Here’s what I learned lately. During the holidays I didn’t blog. I wasn’t interested in writing about anything. I could launch into lengthy explanations, which, after looking at them, would all fit into the category of rationalization. OK, so let’s throw them out before they’re even uttered. Yes, silence beats explanations, rationalizations, and justifications. Have you ever noticed your own reactions to those?

If it doesn’t add it detracts.

If I had pushed myself to make something up, search for something, reach for something to blog about, I’m sure I could have come up with something. But my readers would not have been fooled. They, you, we, are as exquisite as bloodhounds hunting a suspect in locating inauthenticity and lack of passion.

Let’s let silence speak when speaking detracts.

What are some other times when silence can speak loudly? If you’re a manager, team leader, CEO (parents and teachers, you are in this group), and you have a meeting during which you direct an inquiry to the team (not a yes/no factual question), do you jump in as soon as you’ve decided enough time has elapsed to get some answers flowing? When IS that time? When you’re uncomfortable with the silence? Do you assess that no answers/comments are forthcoming? Would it be OK with you if you were wrong about that? A silence could reveal much, some of which revelations might surprise you.

Perhaps not everybody operates at your speed of thinking. Or in your particular “culture,” people expect others to lead in answering and engaging. Or they think you’re looking for particular answers. Or they know you will eventually give up and provide answers you’re looking for. There could be a host of reasons for the others’ silence. Find out. Wait twice as long as you usually wait.

If it doesn’t add, it detracts. The action of your silence may speak louder and more effectively than your words.

Silence is often not the preferred response to verbal attacks. Most of us feel obligated to defend ourselves, consider aborting a counter-attack unacceptable, or withdraw physically, emotionally, or both. Our body language, however, is not silent. We operate either under the duress of instinct or under the illusion that the best defense is a good offense. Maybe so. Maybe not. Why not find out? Each situation is different. Neutral silence may be our friend in response to a verbal assault that began perhaps with the un-winnable “You always….You never….What’s wrong with you that you are constantly…..?”

Silence in such situations is not a weakness. It gives the assailant a chance to retreat, cool off, get back into their right mind. Without another response from you to fuel their fire, they may wonder just where you stand in the matter. And they may question whether they’ve done the right thing (something they didn’t question at the time of their assault). You can wait for them to break the silence, or you can come back at a later time to have your say. You will have a chance to reflect in peace just how you intend to approach the other. Chances are you will do this a lot more responsibly than how you were approached.

Some people will accuse the silent one of being manipulative. It may even be the accuser gathering more steam by making that assessment. Silence can be manipulative. And it can be strategic. Simply look to your own motivation for your silence. If you’re silent to irritate the other, then you have work to do. Your silence is designed to manipulate, that is, to set up a win/lose paradigm in which you intend to emerge the winner. If, on the other hand your silence is designed to keep a cool head on you and to give the other some space to do the same, then you’re simply being strategic. Keep going!

Silence can sometimes be amplified by a non-committal response. “Hmm,” you might say to a verbal attacker followed by a loud, expansive silence. “Hmm” can be interpreted in a number of ways. Why not leave the interpretation up to the other? You may find out in later conversation how that response was received. In the meantime, you don’t have to enter the conversation on the other’s terms.

Silence can and does speak loudly to the other. In case of the manager who truly wants participation from the team, silence says “I trust you have something to contribute. I respect your process. I need your input. You are a valued member of this team. We’re all in this together. Each of us is responsible for our success.”

Those messages add. Therefore they don’t detract.

In the case of a verbal attack, silence can say to the attacker: “I am neither your assessments nor your feelings. Your assessments may be grounded. They may be ungrounded. I am open to future conversation with you about this.”

Silence adds.

Except when it doesn’t. Our communication skills have reached a higher level of competence the moment we can assess when silence adds and when it detracts. And that clarity empowers authentic actions in ourselves and others. It might even empower us to ask and answer as we speak in important conversations: “Will what I am about to say add or detract?”

Speaking about adding and detracting, do you have a comment that would shed a light on this subject? If so, don’t be silent.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

When Is Surrender a Demonstration of Your Emotional Intelligence?

Un-Game Principle: Mindfulness is the gateway to making distinctions and using them as guides for acting with clarity, focus, and compassion.

1024px-White_FlagFor those of us who say we hate conflict, I have bad news. Conflict is unavoidable. Try to avoid inter-personal conflict, and conflict merely stays where it originated– in YOU! You experience intra-personal instead of inter-personal conflict. For most of us we get busy trying to get away from the inevitable discomfort. Rationalization, justification, blaming are among our favorite strategies.

Just how well is that working? How much of your energy is tied up in creating an uneasy peace with yourself? Would it be OK with you if this were easier? It can be when you are guided by empowering distinctions you can learn to make by being mindful.

For something to become distinct, it first has to be indistinct. Fuzzy. Foggy. In the fog we proceed with caution. The sunshine we would welcome with a sigh of relief comes from our ability to make something clear. When we see clearly, we can act. So here are two distinctions we should not collapse, even though the dictionary appears to do just that. I offer the distinctions of surrender and submission.

Surrender does not have to be submission. In submission we experience intra-personal conflict. Makes sense. To submit is defined as the act of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person. Yielding, capitulation, compliance. There’s superior and inferior, and we’re on the inferior side. It seems to be an involuntary act, or one motivated by the understanding or the fear of an outcome that is worse than if we didn’t submit. It goes against our natural yearning  which is to be the author of our own actions.

I found no definition of surrender that even implied a positive act. Some sources make it synonymous with submission. The most benign definition I found was ‘the act of giving up control of something.’ I can work with that in an empowering manner. How? Allow me a short detour to answering.

Have you met anyone (even been that someone from time to time) whose mind is not open? Who is not transparent? Not receptive? They can’t see any lessons they might be able to learn from a given situation, let’s say an inter-personal conflict they’re having with a colleague, boss, child, partner, parent? They experience the situation as one which begs them to rid themselves of it, not a situation from which they might learn something of value, for example, becoming more skilled and/or compassionate with others? They long to be in control, so they hang on for dear life to “life as they know it,” thinking that’s the way to stay in control?

Does anyone come to mind?

What would it mean to surrender in an empowering way in a conflict situation? Go ahead. Let’s say it’s you in an inter-personal conflict. Why not define surrender as simply saying YES? Not ‘yes’ to the other’s point of view, request, or demand, but simply ‘yes’ to the question “What is mine to learn here? What is my lesson?” To answer that question, you might request a time-out acknowledging you want to get some distance from any compelling and perhaps run-away feelings that come up for you. You know the old adage “When you’re in the midst of alligators it’s easy to forget your objective was to drain the swamp!” You can request a time-out and make a mutual promise to reconvene. What you’ve stopped is the train heading for derailment. Not shabby.

With the distance you’ve created for yourself, you have a chance to get back into your mind (Yes, in conflict many of us are ‘out of our mind’, that is, out of our pre-frontal cortex and into our amygdala where all reason is absent ). You can then explore, identify, and surrender a second time, this time to saying ‘yes’ to a lesson that’s uniquely yours to learn. A lesson which, if you learn it, is a contribution to yourself and your community.

Perhaps your inter-personal conflicts keep telling you a lesson that’s yours to learn is to be more curious about others’ point of view. Maybe your lesson is to learn to express more clearly what it is you want. Maybe it’s to learn to say ‘no’ without being aggressive about it. Perhaps it’s to not hide your thoughts or/and feelings. Do you manipulate? Placate? Is there a lesson in this to be more direct? There are hundreds of lessons any one of us can learn to be a more emotionally intelligent person.

Can you envision that it might be valuable to identify a lesson that’s yours to learn and apply in future similar situations? How would that serve you and others? How would that impact your relationships? What would continuous learning about yourself and your ever-increasing self-awareness do to your desire to be deeply connected rather than isolated and/or lonely? How would increasing satisfaction in relationships affect the quality of your life? Of the decisions you make?

It isn’t easy to step away from blazing or even smoldering emotions when all we want is to defend ourselves and be right. It isn’t easy to search for a lesson when we’re certain the other is ______ fill in the blank (manipulative, sneaky, selfish, stupid, uncaring…all of which are only assessments designed to make us right and the other wrong…in other words, not a contribution). Stepping away and asking the question are acts of surrender, of saying ‘yes’ to ourselves to being the author of our experience rather than having the experience be authored by our feelings (submit). When cooler heads prevail, there’s a chance to see a simple truth: The circumstances are what they are. People do what they do. You do what you do. Those are the facts. But what we make the facts mean is up to us! Is that yet another opportunity to make an important-to-living-a-good-life distinction? A distinction between Fact and Interpretation of the fact? Hmm. The facts are the facts; they are not what we, being only human, make those facts mean in the heat of the moment…

The opportunities for mindfulness are ripe, ours to harvest. When we resist our lessons, all we get is a barren field. Nothing changes.

If what we’d like to see change doesn’t, it could be that we’re looking in the wrong place for the trigger. Change doesn’t depend on those others changing; we have no control over them. Might it be wise to look to ourselves and ask ourselves if we are willing to surrender, willing to ‘say yes’ to learning the lessons that are ours to learn? Consider that this kind of surrender is an act of great personal power and one that simultaneously increases what we today call our emotional intelligence. It makes us the author of our experience, the designer of our life independent of our circumstances. In the domain of personal power (emotional intelligence), kings and paupers are equal; the pauper can be king, and the king can be the pauper. It all depends on our ability or dis-ability to surrender to our unique lessons and learning them, one by one by one.  Could you imagine this to be comforting?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

Whose Voice Should We Listen to as if Our Life Depended on It?

red telephoneUn-Game Principle: To meet the complexity of modern times, access to how and what we think is key to developing our more complex problem-solving mind.

Recently someone told me “You write with conviction and consistent, accessible wisdom about living a large life. Please make your voice more widely heard,” she urged, steadfastly insisting I make it an intention to write a recurring column in Oprah magazine.

The compliment was energizing. Who doesn’t respond to “I see you and like what I see a whole lot.”? It got me to thinking what makes a voice worth listening to for people who recognize, however dimly, that maybe, just maybe, we 21st century Americans are mostly in over our heads when it comes to meeting the challenges put before us by 21st century modern life. What makes a voice worth listening to among the clamoring of never-resting voices now trying relentlessly to get a foothold on our fragile attention?

The question might lead us to smart phones for answers. “What?” you ask with a slight edge in your voice. But think about it. Smart phones capture our imagination. They surface and fill a need we never even knew we had. The smart phone is all about us, and without it most of us could hardly imagine life anymore. The innocent-looking device keeps us endlessly engaged, instantly connected to what we care about, and unquestioningly committed to learning. “What all can this sucker do?” we wonder. And as we find answers to our questions, we discover a wider world that even our wildest dreams hadn’t been able to contain…up until now. It’s irresistible.

A voice worthy of being listened to will have many of the offerings of the smart phone. It’s  a voice that can lead you to the most incredible place on the face of the planet— your inner world, a world you do not know once and for all! How could you not be fascinated with the evolving you? Are you willing to pay as much attention to your inner world as to the wide outer world the smart phone offers you?

The voice you will listen to will capture your imagination with the fierce urgency of ‘now.’ You will instinctively conclude it has something you want, something that will enrich your life. The voice, ripe with promise and possibility, will keep you engaged because, contrary to conventional wisdom, you long to learn.

What do we long to learn in this era of tumultuous change? I suggest we long to learn how to have the roots to ground our life and the wings to fly it. If we are not consumed by the necessity of surviving, we are consciously or unconsciously on the lookout for friendly, compassionate support for this awe-inspiring task.

The voice we will passionately engage with, then, is one we trust will help liberate us from limits we presently cannot imagine extending all on our own. We want partners on our journey into the larger future that lies beyond the limits we may not, as of yet, have identified as the limits of our present thinking. It’s too hard to do this alone.

Yes, hard. And that could make learning about ourselves less attractive than learning the wide world of smart phone magic (I’m probably not up to the challenge of making “getting beyond the limits of our present thinking” accessible and irresistible, compliment of the admirer of my writing not-withstanding.). Still, I invite you to read on.

The greatest learning challenge we have in the midst of the technological revolution and its fallout is to achieve the mental complexity that would be sufficient to the complex demands of our time. Fernando Flores, (responsible for seeding the Newfield Network, the first ontological coaching program in the US. www.newfieldnetwork.com) addressed this challenge almost 25 years ago. He said:

“We live in an extraordinary time. Our thinking styles are severing us from our families, our religions, our ideologies, and nature. We are caught up in a pace of social and technological change that makes our work, businesses, and education sources of anxiety and unfulfillment. At the same time, thinking about our thinking and observing our observations can bring us a new world in which work becomes a place for innovation, and in which peace, wisdom, friendship, companionship, and community can exist. Let us design this work together.”

Clearly, Fernando Flores was prescient in inviting us into the possibility and the need to develop a higher complexity of mind. If we pretend to hover over American life in 2014, few would counter the assertion “Most of us are in over our heads.” Fernando’s assertion is more relevant than ever.

The clear and present danger of the dilemma of being ‘in over our heads’ makes for soil in which advice-givers grow vigorously. But it’s not advice we need. There is no one way to live in a heterogeneous American society. Gone forever (it only existed in homogeneous cultures anyway) are the days where the source of order, vision, and direction could simply be ‘breathed in’ by being with the people in the community who had gone before us. It may be sobering, exciting, and frightening, but tasks like…

  1. setting limits
  2. regulating relationships
  3. facilitating personal development
  4. taking stands
  5. exercising executive leadership
  6. maintaining boundaries
  7. creating and preserving the roles we play

…all those task today necessitate that we find the authority and support within ourselves!

Don’t misunderstand. It doesn’t mean we can’t ever look to outside authority for good models to accomplish the tasks above. However, we do need to develop our capacity to author and design our life. Today’s greater complexity has catapulted us into near chaos from which the old order can’t rescue us.

Why a higher mind-complexity to live modern life is ours to develop might be illuminated through this analogy: the difference between driving a car with an automatic transmission versus a manual transmission. In the former the driver is not responsible for shifting gears. In the latter the driver must. As long as there are plenty of cars with automatic transmissions, it isn’t necessary to drive a stick shift. But for the level of life-complexity our mind needs to deal with, we can no longer count on the effectiveness of the automatic. Counter-intuitive as this sounds, we must know how to drive a stick shift. Someone who can drive a stick shift will be able to drive an automatic. The reverse, however, is not true. And what we surely would want to avoid at all cost is a driver skilled only in driving an automatic transmission behind the wheel of a stick shift school bus full of children!

A higher mind-complexity to live modern life is ours to develop.

One example where a higher complexity of mind is now necessary is hidden in the question “What should we be responsible for (not an issue at all in homogeneous closed societies where continuity is prized)?” Do we make erroneous claims of responsibilities? Do we take on those that aren’t ours, and do we assign to others responsibilities that aren’t theirs? Do we not revisit what responsibility means in the first place in a massively changed and changing world?

If we can’t sort out our responsibilities (If you’re experiencing unresolved inner and inter-personal conflict anywhere, it’s possible that an erroneous claim of responsibility is at cause.), we cannot meet the culture’s demand to be good communicators, both in intimate as well as public life, especially the world at work.

So the voice that will command our rapt attention is not the voice of any advice-giver. It is the voice, like Fernando Flores’ and Robert Kegan’s (In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life and www.mindsatwork.com ) that identifies the tasks our mind must be able to do and the supports it needs in order to accomplish those tasks. It’s as simple and as complex as that. And while this is an invitation, not advice (lest I contradict myself which, of course, I’ve done a time or three!), you might consider a competent mind-set coach to become more highly skilled in observing your thinking. More and more we are discovering that we can only change our life when we can change our mind.

Our life may even depend on it.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

Only Business As Unusual Will Overcome Your Immunity to Change (Part 2)

Un-Game principleUnexamined assumptions have US. We don’t have THEM.

Photo by Mark Hesseltine, Flickr.

Photo by Mark Hesseltine, Flickr.

To be human is to have an immune system that works brilliantly to prevent us from bringing about some change we’re genuinely committed to. That sounds familiar to you if you took the 3 steps (featured in Part 1 and developed by Drs. Kegan and Lahey of Harvard and www.mindsatwork.com) that showed you exactly why, despite your best efforts, you cannot produce the desired change. The results are both unnerving and exciting. Unnerving because we see clearly that we’ve come up against the limits of our present thinking; exciting because a blind spot has been revealed which now empowers us enormously to get to the goal that has continued to elude us…up until now.

“Just what’s next once I have a diagnostic of my immunity to change?” you might ask.

Does it interest you to learn what keeps this immune system in place? What sustains it? And how to disrupt it? I imagine your answer is “Yes.” So what’s next is completing the 4th step (Column 4) of your 5 column immunity to change mind map. It has the heading ‘The Big Assumption.”

To get to our BIG Assumption(s) we ask: “What must a person who has the hidden, competing commitments (Column 3) be assuming that generates those commitments that work against their improvement goal (Column 1)?” So the person who is committed to taking better care of herself (C1), who doesn’t say ‘no’ enough (C2 behaviors against C1 goal), who’s committed to being completely available all the time (C3 competing commitment to C1 commitment), might have the BIG Assumption “If I’m not always available, then I won’t be the go-to person.”

BIG Assumptions keep the competing C3 commitments in place. They have a BIG BAD emotional component for its holder, namely you and me. For us this BIG BAD thing would happen if we were to discard the behaviors in C2 in favor of their opposites. “If I did say ‘no,’ then I assume I won’t be the go-to person,” says the woman with the C1 improvement goal to take better care of herself, be more relaxed, exercise more. So it makes perfect sense for her to keep the behaviors that actually work against her improvement goal (C2 not say ‘no’ enough) because those behaviors are the servants of the C3 competing commitments (to always be available).

I know you might be saying “Well, it’s obvious that this assumption doesn’t have to be true.” You’re right. It doesn’t. However, if the holder regards it as true, or even if we KNOW the assumption is not true but it FEELS as if it’s true or we’re unsure (“Part of me thinks it’s true. Another part isn’t so sure.”), we will be captive of the BIG Assumption. The BIG Assumption will have us; we will not have it!

Do not expect your BIG Assumptions to make rational sense to you. Once we remember the large emotional component that keeps us from changing when change is “dangerous”, we won’t insist that this make rational sense. Never mind that it makes no rational sense. Just notice that you cannot talk people (especially yourself) out of acting in alignment with the assumption.

Try it out for yourself. Follow the process for Columns 1-3 first, then, for Column 4, generate 1 to 3 BIG Assumptions you must be having to keep this system in place: one foot on the accelerator (C1) and one on the brakes (C3) on a goal that’s near and dear to your heart. What a bind, eh? Yes, AND there’s genuine hope for resolution. But before we get to the last column of our immunity to change mind map, let’s summarize.

If the 4 columns of the immunity to change mind map were told as a story, it would sound like this: “In the beginning there was the BIG Assumption…which gave birth to the hidden-to-me commitments…that generated the brilliant behaviors that guaranteed that the things I worry about…would never happen. There was just one downside to this brilliant, exquisite system. It guaranteed I would never score the goal and thus I would be denied the pure, unadulterated joy of reaching it.”

It may sound strange, but seeing the BIG assumption that is the foundation of your immunity to change gives you a chance to disrupt it!

The 5th and final column of the ITC mind-map is the biggest lever for overcoming your immunity to change. Like all the columns, the 5th column is also not business as usual. Business as usual would be to have a goal followed by an improvement plan. But that’s not what you’ve done. What you’ve done is revealed your immunity to change and identified the assumption(s) that ensures you stay stuck. Yet you now have something precious of which Einstein would approve. You have a “good problem to solve.”

So do we now finally do a new and improved improvement plan? No. Sorry. But we have a better idea. Column 5’s heading should be ‘Test of my BIG Assumption.” That’s exactly what we’ll do. We want to design, run, and evaluate tests of our BIG Assumption to see whether it’s accurate or distorted.

Spoiler alert. Only if you find evidence over time that your BIG Assumption is distorted, will you reconsider any of your competing commitments in C3 and the behaviors in C2 that serve your competing commitments so well. Without reconsidering, you will not make a change! So first choose an assumption to test (I suggested you come up with several, but there could be many. So don’t be shy to surface them.). Ask this: “If I could change any single BIG Assumption that presently makes achievement of my improvement goal impossible, which one would make the biggest, most positive difference in my life?”

Assuming you have an Assumption to test, how do you do it?

Here is a familiar acronym, but it won’t mean what you think it means. Yes, we design a S.M.A.R.T. test. Here is what it stands for.

Your test must be SAFE and MODEST. What can you risk doing or resist doing, on a small scale that might be inadvisable if you held your BIG Assumption (BA) to be true? Pick a behavior change that would give you good information about the accuracy of your BA. Yes, you must put yourself at some risk, that is, do something, not just put yourself in a position in which you feel uncomfortable.

RESEARCH-STANCE and a TEST, not an improvement plan. The purpose of the test is to collect data. Is the BA accurate or distorted? If you like the outcome of the test, that is, your behavior didn’t produce the catastrophe you had always envisioned, that’s a secondary gain. It’s nice to have, but the primary aim is to get data. And one test is only one test. You need to keep testing to get good data.

OK, the rubber is hitting the road. Where do you look for behaviors to test? Here are some choices. You are willing, aren’t you? Even if you don’t want to? And you’re very unlikely to want to. It’s so much more comforting to avoid the discomfort. Or is it?

You can look in Column 2 and alter one of the behaviors you’ve listed there. Or you can go to Column 3 and perform an action that runs counter to a C3 commitment. Or, you can start directly with your BIG Assumption in C4 (remember, you’re only testing 1 assumption for now). You ask: “What experiment would tell me whether the IF/THEN sequence built into the BA is valid?”

But here’s what I recommend first, and this is about getting your feet wet and being gentle with yourself. Remember that you’re doing something very strange and very courageous. Simply be alert and observe. “Don’t just do something, sit there!” is the maxim I start with whenever I create a new map (new improvement goal=new map). Where does your BA come up most frequently? Observe. Notice your internal chatter. Expect your immune system to be tricky. It wants above all to sustain itself. So think about how you could be assuring you will fail!

Yes, you heard right. Watch out for how you could set yourself up to guarantee that your BA is accurate. If, for example, your goal is to ask more directly for support when you really need it, and you’re testing the assumption “People won’t help me when I really need help,” you could guarantee the accuracy of that BA by asking a person who generally doesn’t help anybody very much, and you could be asking him at a time when he’s got 3 project deadlines the next day!

See what I mean?

Two more things. First, you are not only designing, running, and evaluating one test. Your BA won’t budge after one test. It’s best to do this over twelve weeks devoting thirty minutes a week to your testing. You should see some progress toward your C1 improvement goal in that time. Yes, that’s right. Good testing of your BA over time will have you start taking your glued-to-the-brakes foot off the brakes almost effortlessly. You’ll notice you’re finally accelerating toward your previously elusive goal.

Second, here’s a recommendation I experienced as very helpful. Write a biography of your BA. When did you first become aware of it? Under what circumstances? I remember very well the time and the circumstances when I made the decision (since revoked) to never ask anyone for help again. You guessed it. It was deeply emotional for me. So my BA “People won’t help me when I really need it” and its relationship to my immunity to change make perfect sense to me.

To anchor this, you could get yourself supported in many ways, for example through coaching. You could also do what you probably know how to do well. Define your first steps forward. (Tweak all columns of your map is a great example of first steps forward.) Define what significant progress would look like. Do it in terms of behaviors, of course. And define ultimate success. Commit this in writing. If someone else you know is seriously creating a mind map, buddy up with them. Give and receive feedback on each others’ plans and the quality of your tests.

I hope you will faithfully work on your ITC map. It can be a profoundly powerful and liberating process. Consider an undisputed fact. You are worth investing in. Could you picture yourself on your hero’s journey, creating a path through the deep dark woods where none has been? What if your hero’s journey is the successful negotiation between your desire to live a large, precious life and the immunity to change which would relegate you to live in just a few rooms of the mansion of your life?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

Only Business As UNusual Will Overcome Your Immunity to Change

change-ahead-sign-goal-settingUn-Game Principle: Unexamined assumptions have US. We don’t have THEM.

You won’t get an argument from me. Change can be hard, especially a change we deeply desire that has consistently eluded us.

This is an equal opportunity problem. It affects people and organizations at all levels everywhere. To be human is to have an immune system that works brilliantly to keep some change we desire from occurring. But let’s keep it simple and focus on you!

Perhaps you’d like to say ‘no’ more often. Or you’d like to take better care of yourself, have more fun, be more relaxed, less stressed and exercise more. Maybe you’d like to be more straightforward. Perhaps as a leader you’d like to delegate more often, handle conflict better. Look and see what YOUR change or improvement goal is.

One way to find out is to ask “What’s my one big thing? What’s the one thing I could improve upon that would make the biggest difference in the quality of my life?” Or if you dare, simply ask “Where is my pain?”

Can you tell that this kind of change goal has a large emotional component? It does, and we aren’t all that practiced in factoring our emotions into our problem-solving. We try to solve our problems from the shoulders up. But that’s a mistake. We must look with our whole body. Or at least with our head and our heart. This is not a technical problem you’re trying to solve. If it were, you would have solved it long ago. Technical problems have road maps. How to solve them is known territory. To become a pilot is a technical challenge.

To solve a problem that keeps recurring for us is an adaptive challenge. It means that we have to think about it differently than we ever have before. We need to think from a more complex level of thinking which then sheds light on new behaviors not possible from the old thinking. In other words, to solve an adaptive challenge we have to understand, at a whole body level, Einstein’s assertion “You can’t solve a problem with the level of thinking that created the problem in the first place.”

We have to feel stuck. Stumped. We have to feel we’ve come to the limits of our thinking.

To move to a more complex thinking starts with seeing your present thinking vis-à-vis an adaptive challenge you have not solved. Fortunately, you can solve the problem whose solution has eluded you again and again.

There’s support out there. One of my go-to models is Bob Kegan and Lisa Lahey’s exquisite Immunity to Change mind-mapping process. Check it out at www.mindsatwork.com. Or contact me, coach@ingridmartine.com. Here are the first 3 steps you can take to get to the bottom of why you haven’t solved the problem that keeps coming up to drain your energy yet another day. Do this on scratch paper but later write it on the map you can download or contact me for.

Column 1 has the heading: MY IMPROVEMENT GOAL. One goal. Not 2. Not 3. One! Write yours in the column. Make sure it’s not a technical problem. You see you have room for improvement. It’s your deal, not Aunt Mary’s. It feels true for you. In fact, don’t count on yourself for your one big thing. You’re human and therefore you, like the rest of us, fool yourself. Ask others, like spouse, boss, colleague, direct report. You’ll get a higher quality entry. If your goal is not at least a 4 (important), forget it. It doesn’t belong in column 1. Preferably it should be a 5 (very important).

Careful. Now it’s time to be very alert. Your mind will NOT want to go where we’re going next: Column 2. Its heading is DOING/NOT DOING.

I know. I know. You want to set out with all the things you do or have done to ACCOMPLISH your goal. No! You’ve already done that, and what you’ve done was perfectly designed to get you where you are now! Still in search of a solution. Sigh. So forget that and do something that would seem very odd if you were working on an improvement plan. The point is you’re NOT working on an improvement plan at all. That would be a different map. You’re working on revealing the real problem, namely why it makes perfect sense that you haven’t solved that problem yet.

In Column 2 then, list 3 things you do and don’t do that UNDERMINE your Column 1 goal. In other words, what are you and aren’t you doing that works against achieving your sweet but maddeningly elusive goal? For example, the person who wants to take better care of herself, relax more, have less stress, exercise more…what she doesn’t do is say ‘no’ often enough. She says ‘yes’ without thinking it through, and makes appointments to go to the gym that she doesn’t keep.

Be sure you put in behaviors, not tendencies, dispositions, or feelings. Not ‘I’m bored”, but “I text and make task lists while I’m talking to my wife. This person’s improvement goal is to be a better listener–can you see that his behavior clearly works against his Column 1 commitment?

So what about you? Fill in 3 entries in column 2. (You can tweak your map later and add more. Keeping it to 3 for now will keep things clearer. Trust me on that one.).

Column 3 is where the rubber hits the road. It reveals our immunity to change. Its heading is HIDDEN COMPETING COMMITMENTS.

Column 3 takes 2 steps to complete, and it challenges our present thinking the most. So dial your willingness to be alert way up. Remember, you’re NOT on a problem-solving mission. You are a detective putting the puzzle pieces together to answer the question “Why haven’t I been able to solve this problem?” By the way, it’s probably not for the reasons you think, and I bet you have a boatload of reasons.

Step 1 for Column 3 is to list 3 worries. But not just any worries. List the 3 worries that plague you when you picture yourself doing the opposite of the 3 behaviors you listed in Column 2. Take each behavior separately and attach a worry to it. Remember you can add more behaviors in Column 2 and more worries in Column 3 later to make a more powerful map.

The woman who wants to take better care of herself (C1), and who doesn’t say ‘no’ enough (C2), worries (C3) if she did say no, she would no longer be indispensable. The man who wants to be a better listener (C1), who texts and makes task lists while talking to his wife (C2), worries that if he didn’t text and make task lists, but listened attentively instead, he wouldn’t be able to give her a solution to a problem he might not even understand (C3).

What are your 3 worries when you picture yourself doing the opposite of your Column 2 entries? Go ahead. Make your worry entries now.

Courage! Yes, these steps take courage to complete. Our mind wants to go to familiar ground: Problem-solving. But admit it, Einstein has a point. Having a good problem to solve is as important as seeing a solution. What you’re after here is a good grasp of the real problem of why you haven’t been able to reach your improvement goal despite good intentions and very hard work. I repeat, you are not solving the problem. You are en route to defining the real problem.

Step 2 in Column 3 is a total whack on the side of the head. A bomb shell.

Consider something that seems very odd at first, namely that worries are not passive. Not yours, not mine, not anybody’s. Most of us have never given a thought to this. We know worries drain our energies, but we don’t think of them in the way I’m going to ask you to consider them now.

Worries are actually very active (yes, not passive) commitments to assure that whatever we worry about will never ever come to pass!

Wow. Go ahead, re-read that last sentence. So for the woman who worries if she did say ‘no’ she would no longer be indispensable, her commitment is: “I’m committed to being indispensable.” Or, “I’m committed to not being perceived as dispensable.”

The man who worries about not having a solution to his wife’s problem, which he also worries about not understanding in the first place, has these commitments: “I’m committed to having a solution to my wife’s problems.” Or/and, “I’m committed to not revealing when I don’t understand my wife’s problem.”

We can have many worries, each of which can be restated as an active commitment.

Notice from the examples that these are not noble commitments. Each is not a commitment that solves the problem we want to solve in Column 1. In fact, it’s a commitment very contrary to our Column 1 goal. It’s a commitment to self-protection! We are making absolutely sure that what we worry about will never happen.

There’s only one problem.

The problem is this: the commitments to self-protection that we have in Column 3 neutralize forward motion on our Column 1 commitment! We have 1 foot on the gas (C1) and one foot on the brake (C3). That should make it shockingly clear why you haven’t made any progress on your improvement goal. You are looking the immunity-to-change in the eye the very first time. And therein you can find a power you’ve not had before.

Because you can see them, you now have hidden competing commitments. When they were invisible to you, they had you! Gigantic difference. You no longer have to be subjected to them. You can objectively examine this phenomenon. You can be the wind rather than the feather in the wind. Try it out.

Go ahead and restate YOUR Column 3 worries as active commitments. If you’re not up to it yet, because this ignoble commitment business has you unsettled (after all, this is not the YOU you’re most proud of), consider this when you take another look at the examples. What you should be seeing about the woman with the self-care goal and her hidden commitment to being indispensable is this: Her Column 2 behaviors (not saying ‘no’ enough), now that we see her commitment ‘to be indispensable’, make perfect sense!!! They are brilliant behaviors necessary for honoring her hidden commitments.

That is the immunity to change in all its messy glory! This woman’s immune system (and yours and mine) works perfectly. AND, it reveals the real problem. Having one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brakes won’t have her going anywhere despite her best intentions and her very hard work. She’s stuck and understands for the first time why she’s stuck.

When you translate your Column 3 worries into active commitments, your immunity to change on this one goal that’s so important to you will also be revealed. You shouldn’t feel that you’ve solved anything. You’re likely to feel unsettled. That’s natural. But what you DO have now is a “good problem to solve.”

The remaining two steps to overcoming your immunity to change are also unusual and very powerful. Stay tuned and/or go visit www.mindsatwork.com for further information. You can overcome your immunity to change. What it takes to see significant progress on your improvement goal is the courage and commitment to complete your map (all 5 steps), allow 30 minutes per week for about 12 weeks. It’s true. You can’t do it by “doing business as usual,” but you are worth investing in, are you not?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.

What Alternative Is There to “Just Do It”?

512px-Girl_Sitting_in_ChairUn-Game Principle: Don’t just do something. Sit there.

Blah. I don’t want to write this blog today. If I listen to the voice in my head I hear, “But you should. You promised yourself to do it every two weeks.” Predictably, the next thing I hear is “Why don’t you just do it? Get on with it.”

Does that ever happen to you? You’ve committed to something, and then comes that moment when you just don’t want to. If it’s a soft deadline you find a hundred other things to do. You’re cranky or low energy. When you push through, and I know you can and even do (often), the result you create is, well, sometimes pretty ordinary. You stare at it, and your internal conversation isn’t pretty. “Phew, it’s done, but who’d want to read this?” Or, “I bet Joe (the boss) is gonna have a bunch of crappy things to say about this.” Or, “I’ll never get this right. What’s wrong with me?”

And on and on.

Would it be alright with you if life were easier? Would it be alright with you if you didn’t act so much out of obligation? Yeah, me too. So here’s an alternative scenario to “just do it.”

Don’t just do something. Sit there! That’s right. You heard it correctly.

Let’s assume you have a soft or a self-imposed deadline, a work presentation you have to give in 30 days. On a day when you simply don’t want to do anything to start, why not simply notice that and choose consciously to not engage with it. Worrying about it drains energy. Consciously choosing to put it aside gives you energy. Don’t just do something. Sit there.

Try it with something as mundane as cleaning house. “You aren’t on the agenda today,” you say to the house. When you consciously choose to ‘sit there,’ rather than do the thing you don’t want to do, then worry about that thing won’t choose you! When you don’t consciously choose, however, worry is very likely to creep in.

Choosing consciously, even when you later decide it was a poor choice, is an exercise of power—the power to be in charge of your life through your decisions.

A few more days pass. Each day you consciously choose to not do the thing you don’t want to do. Of course you do other things—things you have energy for. After a while the day comes where you’re more energetic about starting the presentation (or the house cleaning, the blog or whatever). Noticing this rise in energy, be gentle and generous with yourself. Ask yourself what you want to do? What’s a low-hanging fruit? Ask “What do I want to accomplish before I move on to something else?”

Maybe you just want to come up with a list of the intended results for your presentation. That’s ‘conditioning the project’. You’re warming up. Maybe you just want to clean the small bathroom. Whatever it is, use your energy for what calls most to you about what you’re now willing to start. Make it small and finish that small thing.

What do you notice once that small task is done?

You’re right, of course. Completion energizes. More importantly, defining completion for ourselves energizes us even more. In the above scenario, the list of 3 intended results is completion. The small bathroom in the hall is completion.

“What?” you say. “How do you call this completion?!?  Simple. You said so! You’re in charge. You’ve got the power. Your boss might tell you what to do, but you get to decide how you do it. You’ve got the power. Let nothing distract you from that awesome fact. You’ll take the next step toward final completion of your project with more energy as your energy reservoir is filling up.

In 2014 we have a dizzying array of distractions as well as more and more expectations imposed by self or others at work or where we volunteer our heart-felt commitment, time and treasure. No wonder so many of us experience ourselves on a virtual, roller coaster ride that’s hard to stop. We may long for less outer-imposed structure and for more control. We may yearn for things to unfold more naturally rather than slogging through a long to-do list that brings no pleasant surprises. We want to stop and smell the…pick your favorite scent!

The alternative to obligation proposed here is to wait for inspiration when you can. You might say, “There are times when that’s not realistic,” and pushing through your internal “I don’t wanna” conversation seems like the only thing to do. Well, do it. If you’re a little like me, you already know how. Self-discipline is a great muscle to exercise. It would be imprudent to let it become flabby. But before I end this blog post which I’m finally inspired to write (!), perhaps you’d like to consider a practice which makes exercising self-discipline easier. After all, obligation and self-discipline are not easy friends.

Here’s a simple and profoundly powerful practice that may shift your inner experience from obligation to inspiration. It involves a little more of “Don’t just do something. Sit there”.

Look at why the presentation is important to you. What higher purpose would doing it with respect and care serve? (Not getting fired from your job is not a higher purpose.) Is it that you long to be an effective manager or team member? An inspiring leader? Find a purpose that resonates and write it down. Keep it in front of you. Picture your longing to be an effective team member fulfilled. What do you see yourself doing? Whose voices do you hear saying things that make you happy or satisfied in your role as manager or leader?

Keeping your higher purpose front and center can lead to inspiration. Obligation puts the reasons for doing the presentation outside of yourself. Being in touch with your higher purpose keeps the reasons where they belong, namely inside yourself.

Think you can’t get in touch with a higher purpose for house cleaning? Perhaps you long to be a creator of beauty. A clean house may be an expression of that for you. Or perhaps you yearn to be a loving family member/friend/partner and having a clean, organized home is a small demonstration of that longing.

To get back in touch with the ‘why’ of the thing that you don’t want to do but which is nonetheless important to you is intensely personal. And it is inspiring. It fills you with spirit. And spirit trumps obligation every time. Try it and see. But first, just sit there.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:  http://www.yourleadersedge.com, or connect with Ingrid at:  www.Twitter.com/ingrid_martine and www.facebook.com/coachmartine.