Guest blogging for me today is Zara Lyttle MSW RSW.
Zara just completed her Master's in Social Work. I remember a time long ago (or so it seems) when I was working on my degree, working full time and raising my family. It was extremely difficult.
Many women want to make this journey. They don't want to decide between career, education and raising their family. They want to do it simultaneously and actually find the experience rewarding.
How do you do that though? in the face of overwhelm and the bombardment of doubts, how do you stick to the path?
Zara found a way and shares her story here. You will find some great lessons for anyone trying to live life to the fullest!
Starting the journey
As a mother of two young children working part-time as a professional in the social work field I encountered a unique opportunity when my son was a year old. It was the chance to take my Masters in Social Work near my home community in Northern Alberta. This was something I always wanted to do and my husband encouraged me to apply. I knew I would be embarking on something that would change my daily life and future direction. I also know myself and if I was accepted into the program, I would commit myself to completing it. Here I am 3 years later and I am proud to say I did it, I have my Masters in Social Work! I want to describe to the reader the process of how I was able to manage multiple roles which still ensuring I cared for myself and was “Present” as a mother, wife, friend, professional, and student.
Supportive employers help
When I started my program I knew I would have to continue work part-time. Luckily I had a flexible employer that let me do a great deal of my reporting work from home. This eased the pressure on my time for attending block week classes and doing my practicum three days per week. The support from my employer was just a piece of the puzzle that was my support system while I completed the two year masters program.
Build a large support network
The biggest support I had was my husband. He provided the encouragement when I doubted being able to juggle everything. He took time off work to care for our children while I was away and generally was just there, telling me how proud he was of me. It wasn’t easy as we didn’t always have a lot of time together, but we soon fell into a routine of “scheduling” time together as almost a reward for me completing schoolwork. It was a motivator for getting my work done.
Another huge support was my mother, who helped me get through a move partway through the program, also provided child care, and allowed me to complain about my workload while still reminding me that I “could always quit if I wanted to”. It was funny, that reminder that I was making a choice to do the coursework was a motivator for me. She kept me sane through the process.
Surround yourself with positive people
Altogether, I took support from friends and family when I needed it and was encouraged all along the way. One friend let me stay with her during my block classes and listened as I excitedly told her what I was learning. I encourage anyone wanting to go back to school for higher education to surround themselves with positive people who love you and will give you the support you need. You also have to be willing to accept that support, as that isn’t always easy either!
Be present each moment along the journey
Lastly, the most important piece of advice that I believe can help anyone attempting to juggle the multiple roles we all have in life is being “present” in the moment. My focus was that for each task, each role I was mentally and emotionally “present” for them. It wasn’t always easy when I had papers due, family commitments, and work reports upcoming. I had to commit myself to being present at all times. When I was with my children and husband I focused on them. When I was writing a paper I focused on that. When I was at practicum I focused on that. Well…you get the idea. Being present was a constant exercise in focus that I believe allowed me to accomplish what I needed to while still being a mother to my children (which was the most important thing to me in the whole process).
This was my visual cue I carried around with me during the two year program. Good luck to all those that embark on the journey of balancing roles and being “present”. It can be done, but not without support …
Do you run away when you are afraid?
If you have ever experienced fear; the drop in your gut, sweaty palms, shortness of breath or inability to speak, you probably pulled back. “Yikes” you said! “This is not a safe place for me.” You then probably retreated to your safety zone.
We've all experienced fear
Think of a time when you were put on the spot. A time when you had to speak in a new situation and maybe noticed your voice quaver a bit? Perhaps you were asked to address an issue with someone and you were scared of how they would respond. Maybe you were asked to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new.
Fear is a reaction to a thought
All of these things have a tendency to make your insides do the flip-flop. That is fear. Fear is a reaction to a thought. Fear is an emotion. The feeling, sweaty palms, shortness of breath or your stomach churning are body sensations that send messages to you.
What this video for more about moving through your fear, then keep reading.
We make up stories in our head about what is going on
When you get that physical sensation, red cheeks for example, you make up a story about what that physical sensation means. “My stomach is tight, that means something is wrong. I'm in a bad situation.” And so you run away. If your face burns red, you tell yourself what you just said was “silly” and so “I am embarrassed.”
You tell yourself you are afraid
Your face turning red is a physical experience. You then have a thought about your face turning red. You might think that what you just said was foolish. You might tell yourself that it was an inappropriate comment for the situation. You might tell yourself you shared too much information! It is then, only after you make up a story, after you think something about the event that you experience the feeling of being embarrassed.
Why aren't we all afraid about the same things?
Not everyone is afraid of heights, not everyone is scared of mice and not everyone fears public speaking. Those that do tell themselves it is a scary experience. Then they feel the fear.
Fear is an emotion, after a thought, that you had about something that happened.
Question your thoughts
If you want to really develop yourself and your skills and you want to grow, you will need to question the truth behind your thoughts.
Widen the gap between what happens and what you do
First you need to slow down enough and realize there was a thought that created the fear in the first place! You need to practice mindfulness. You will then widen the gap between what happens and your response to it!
We've all wished for more. Many of us want more time, more peace, a higher income or more quiet times in our day. Some times it is an ache for that feeling of more just a few more hours of sleep. If you've been trying to figure out how to adjust your schedule to suit your needs better, try these three tips
1) Vision what you really want
In order to create a new schedule, it's helpful to know specifically what you are looking for.
You don't go to the car dealer and say I want a new car. You go with some specifics in mind. You might want a two door or four door. You may actually want a SUV. If your like me you probably even know what colour your looking for. You've probably been visioning your new car for a while.
Take a moment to vision your new schedule. Close your eyes for and imagine it's already happened. Imagine 6 months from now you've figured out how to adjust your schedule and it is working beautifully. What does it look like?
Look closely at things and get the details down.
2) Write it out
We all have different definitions of what more relaxed looks like. Your idea of a calm day may be very different than mine. When you say you want more time to yourself does that mean 10 minutes a day or 1 full day a month?
Grab a piece of paper or a journal and write out "a day with my new schedule". Detail what would happen and when. Be as specific as you can.
3. Revisit it often (daily is best)
It's important to be clear when you create the vision. and here is why ... what you think about you create in your reality.
Lets say for example you want to exercise more. Yet you keep seeing all the interuptions that get in the way of your ability to exercise. That's what your thinking about, so that's what you get... more interruptions.
Instead imagine, vision, create in your minds eye, what it would look like if you did find time. Imagine finding the time to go for a 10 minute walk at lunch. See yourself heading to the gym in the mornings. Visualize yourself attending a yoga class. Watch a vision of you doing some ab exercises while lying on the floor with your children. See exercise fitting into your day.
When you review your vision every day, you will suddenly see it happening!
I’ve had a number of conversations with individuals lately that either don’t get true supervision or don’t know what it is. I believe supervision is vital to growth and development of any employee and so I figured it’s time to write about it.
Supervision is one-to-one time between an employee and supervisor. It is regularly scheduled, not just in response to a crisis or problem. This time is proactive rather than reactive. Supervision provides the opportunity to talk about things that don’t often get attention during the day-to-day operations. Yes, we find time to ask questions, problem solve and put out fires. What I am talking however is conscious time to look at employee growth. The key to great supervision is that the individual receiving supervision comes out feeling lifted, inspired and engaged in their work. Hint, if they come out feeling like a kid leaving the principles office it was definitely not supervision!
Following are five things you should cover during a scheduled supervision time.
How often should you schedule supervision with your employees? It all depends on the type of work you are doing and your organization. Ultimately monthly would be lovely but we all know that in the real world that may not be able to happen for a variety of reasons. In that case, minimally every three months would be best.
Place this time as a priority. As much as it’s tempting to reschedule when a crisis comes up or to cut the meeting time a little short because there are other pressing issues, I urge you not to. One of your primary roles as a leader is to grow the talent in those that follow you. Your best way to do this, is to focus on growing them. Step by step!
Finally, make sure that you have supervision time for yourself as well. Ask your boss for scheduled time. Bring an agenda. Carve out the time you need to grow yourself!
I’ve attached a sample supervision form for you to use or be inspired by!
Caught in a spider's web
Today I watched a dragonfly caught in a spider's web. I stood there captivated as he struggled to get free. Again and again he would try to fly away only to be drawn back by the silky web attached to the small branches. I watched as a large spider, only inches away, also watched. He observed his prey wrestling to free himself. The spider would come forward, closer to the dragonfly and then quickly pull back when the dragonfly struggled to no avail to get free. It was as if the spider knew it wasn't quite time to attack and so he waited. Patiently he watched as again and again the dragonfly tried to free himself.
It is hard not to interfere
As much as I wanted to, I did not interfere. I watched and waited, fascinated by nature. To take the time to observe nature I know offers many powerful lessons. Unfortunately my lesson came in a different form.
Are we setting others free?
Another walker came by, curious about what I was so intrigued with. When he seen the trapped dragonfly, he grabbed a twig and broke the spider's web setting the dragonfly free before I could even blink or suggest he just let it be. The spider, the walker said, could find himself another victim.
What might happen if we slow down and connect first?
I walked away disappointed. The other walker wasn't interested in slowing down long enough to really connect with what was happening. He chose not to pause, to connect or to observe. He swooped in solving the "problem" and moved on his way. Was there really a problem? Is this not natures way? How many times do we solve problems in others lives before really figuring out what the issue is?
What do people learn from solving their own problems?
Maybe the dragonfly was just about to get away on his own, learning his own strength when he stays determined. Or, what if the spider had finally figured out the "right" way to catch a dragonfly? Those lessons were just taken away, suddenly by someone who failed to slow down and connect.
Are we being efficient by running around solving problems all day?
We are a world of problem solvers. Give us a problem and we will fix it. We will make everything “all better” so we can move on. We don’t have time to let things sort themselves out or to really get a better handle on it. We look more efficient if we move through our day solving problems quickly. But is this really the efficient way?
Slowing down allows us to learn from problems
Slowing down like this is not something I've always done or even do as much as I would like to now. Yet when I do, I realize the power of it and it connects me more to my purpose.
In order for me to teach that to others, I must first learn to do it myself. I must first learn to slow down, to connect to what is really going on. Then I teach that and I live that so that others may learn too. I do this so that individuals slow down, organizations slow down and the world slows down. In doing so, in slowing down, rather than fixing other’s problems, we learn with them. We provide the space for them to learn how take the best course of action or make the best decision rather than doing it for them.
Lessons learned from a spiders and a dragonfly
The lesson for me was in seeing how hard it is for the world to slow down. It was a great reminder for me that I need to continue with the work I do!
Coming this fall...
An on-line 7 week session for individuals going through change in their workplace or life.
Sept. 16 - November 4, 2013
Find out more here about this exciting course starting in September! It might be just what you need!
This picture was taken just a few days before my dog Angel was attacked. Thankfully, the attack by three boxers left me more emotionally shaken than my dog was physically hurt. In my reflections back, I’ve been able to see the many lessons the incident taught me. And I keep coming back to the main one around our need to be able to surrender.
Do you struggle to give in to things?
I like many of you, struggle to give in to things. I struggle to let go of something that isn’t working, not serving me or something I want so badly to happen, but isn’t. Let me give you an example. I continue to do my own book keeping for my company. I can do it. I am ok with figuring it out to a degree. It is however extremely time consuming, just a wee bit stressful and I know there is no way I do it anywhere as good as a competent bookkeeper might. Yet I continue to fight through it and resist hiring it out.
Nature can teach us lessons about surrendering
My dog taught me surrendering could actually be a good thing. That day, I went for a walk as I often do, completing a loop through the neighbourhood that takes me about 20 minutes. It’s a break in my day, an opportunity to connect with nature and a much needed exercise opportunity for both Angel and I. That particular day my Mother-in-law was visiting with her dog and decided to also come for the walk with me.
Submit to what is and stop resisting
About three quarters of the way through our walk we were enjoying the sun, our conversation and the dogs were trotting along beside us nicely. Suddenly my mother-in-law screams! Coming barreling out of nowhere these three dogs come chasing Angel and I down. One is clearly the aggressor and within seconds, he has Angel by the neck and despite my screams and my own aggressive kicks to this dog’s head, he refused to let go. In slow motion it seems, I watched my dog start to die in front of my eyes. She submits and stops resisting. I feel helpless. I can’t stop the attack and I can’t change what is happening in front of my eyes.
The consequence of submitting - everything is ok
My own screams eventually encourage my mother-in-law to go to the house and get the owner who runs out and using her own hands unclenches her dog’s mouth from Angel’s neck. My only thought then is to get out of there and fast! With the owner chasing me down to see if Angel is ok, Angel myself, my mother-in-law and her dog frantically head for home. Yes, Angel is ok, breathing fine and walking with me.
Although not entirely unscathed, a trip to the vet, some meds and time proved that Angel faired quite well from what could have been a much worse event. I was amazed and relieved!
Be wise to know when you are fighting a loosing battle
I believe what made the difference was that Angel didn’t resist. After initially trying to defend herself, she was wise enough to know that she couldn’t take on three boxers. She knew that if she tried to resist, she wouldn’t get very far and in fact might have been significantly hurt. Although I thought she was dying and she may have been, in actuality she was probably laying there saying “Will someone please get these dogs off me so I can finish my walk!”
Place your trust in what you know to be true
I believe Angel trusted me. She knew I would figure it out. I’ve always been there with her. Or maybe she trusted the laws of nature. Think of how many times do animals do this. They play dead or stop resisting so they can get out of the situation they are in. They surrender to what is happening.
Notice what you are resisting
We all resist things. I have seen many people stay in a job they hate. Their resistance only, causes havoc. Many times they are only making the situation worse for themselves and others. I have witness time and time again, people pushing themselves to the max when their bodies say stop! Take a break. Rest. Yet they don’t and cause themselves much more harm than is necessary. I myself, and know others, resist feeling certain emotions that are present. I fight to push emotion down. My anger, hurt or sadness gets covered with indifference or busyness. Yet we all know, repressed emotions come out sooner or later. And those buried feelings only fester and come out stronger, inappropriately or at the completely wrong time.
Surrender to what is happening
Surrendering to what is happening is a way of being conscious and present. If something is happening that you really don’t have the ability to change or impact, or honestly aren’t invested in anymore, get out. If you are sad, mad or glad, be sad, mad or glad. Don’t pretend you are feeling something you are not. Surrender to your body’s request for sleep, food or renewal.
Demonstrate your strength by surrendering
And yes, as Angel and three aggressive boxers taught me; me surrender to stronger more powerful forces. Let the storms pass. Know you are safe. When the time is right, come out and continue on your way knowing you really are stronger because you can surrender.
In Leadership roles we have big projects, big responsibilities and big challenges. Yet ultimately, a Leader’s greatest task is to manage the little things. Below are 10 little things Leaders should place high priority on each and every day.
These tiny moments of time add up to big changes in your Leadership. So next time you grumble that you don’t have enough time, consider what you can accomplish in only a moment or two or ten, if you choose to intentionally design that time.
I am currently reading “The Pause Principle: Step Back to Lead Forward” by Kevin Cashman, who also authored “Leadership From the Inside Out”. Cashman is a brilliant man and one of our thought leaders on the topic of true leadership. In my reading last night I came across his concept of the difference between hesitation and pause. I had never considered the difference between the two words. Hesitation is a warning, almost the alarm bell that we need to pause, reflect and consider before moving on. I am intrigued by the difference.
Leaders are pushed to make decisions quickly
As leaders, there is constant pressure to make decisions quickly. Time is of the essence and people are relying on us to make good decisions, communicate them and move forward. I can think back many times and even just in this week alone where I have been hesitant to make a decision, yet feeling the pressure to do so. Cashman insists, that hesitation is a message.
Hesitation is a warning signal
Hesitation is a reaction. It is your body and mind encouraging you to think twice. Pause is the conscious decision to reflect and to be mindful of the decision we are making. Consciously rather than reactively we take the time to look at all of the information we have, the emotions surrounding the decision and the implications of the choices available.
Use hesitation as a gift
I will be using this insightful gift now. I will pause when I feel the hesitation. Welcoming that as a reminder, I am reminded that great leaders reflect, are mindful and take the time to, in Cashman’s words again, “step back to lead forward”.
Yes, it is summer and don’t forget, you (and a few others) are still working. You are still in the office. Despite that already everyone is thinking about how so much won’t get done now until fall. Meetings are being put on hiatus until September. Plans for projects are taking in consideration everyone’s holidays. It is almost like we leap forward two and half months wiping out the calendar for the summer. And really, it stretches into three months because we start writing things off in mid June and then also acknowledge, “Nothing will happen in the first week of September”! Whoa! Stop the horses! This is the perfect time to keep on track.
We talk about being mindful when in a meeting or when we are in a conversation with someone else. Mindfulness is about being in the moment and aware of what is going on. Consciously we focus on the task at hand and the person we are with. Mindfulness in June is kind of similar. What is the task at hand? Who are you working with? Put the effort in to staying present at work during the summer rather than jumping forward too fast.
It is different in summer
Yes, there tends to be a leaner staffing component over the summer months. People are at the lake, relaxing in the sun and having BBQ’s with their friends. And so they should be! It is summer! They are also working. At least most people are putting in at least a few weeks of work over the summer. Make the most of that time when people are actually at work.
Make good use of what is available to you now
If you are working on a project, I encourage you to think twice before putting it on hold over the summer. Granted although you may not have all of the participants at every planning meeting, it is a great opportunity to take advantage of the natural fun and slowed down pace of summer. Use that to your benefit. Let the mellowness flow into the project. Allow creativity in both your planning and in the project itself.
Don't throw away 3 months of the year
Rather than throwing away three months of the year (oh and another 1-2 months at Christmas) consider how you can keep on track over summer. There is a lot of work going on in organizations and there is a shortage of resources. Making best use of your time resource over summer will help keep the projects on track and provide you access to creativity, fun and an opportunity to build relationships.
Have you seen this?
It's not too late to sign up for my FREE Summer Virtual Book Club - Find out more here!
Great Leaders are readers. Great Leaders realize that leadership isn’t about a title. Leadership is the essence of who we are. To be a great leader we need to know who we are. With those concepts in mind, I am excited to be having a FREE virtual book club this summer to review Robin Sharma’s book The Leader Who Had No Title. I love Sharma’s ideas that leadership comes from who we are, what we believe in and how we show up. Sharma gives valuable and practical ways of stepping into leadership in all areas of our lives, regardless of our title. He packages the messages into a story about a guy who has returned from war in Iraq and takes on a job in a bookstore, because he not quite sure what to do with his life now. Do you want to read it with me?
Imagine a staff meeting. The boss is sharing information about budget restraints and they indicate there is no money for training in the next six months and likely the entire budget year. Person “A” leaves the meeting discouraged. There was a course they wanted to sign up for. They head out to smokers corner or the coffee room and join in the venting session with their co-workers. They lay blame (i.e. play victim) on the government for cutbacks, their agency for not advocating for them harder and the world for being in a downward spiral. They complain about the price of gas and food, potholes in the streets and of course, they grumble about the weather.
Does this sound a bit unbelievable? What if it wasn’t? In the FREE virtual book club this summer we will explore how leadership comes from all levels and how we can, as Robin Sharma says ,learn “Transformational leadership lessons to transform a company”. Click here to find out more details. or sign up below! Then join your colleagues and myself in exploring ways to bring out the leadership in everyone, including yourself.
I lead a full life full of love, adventure and growth. Check out my latest thoughts here.
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