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2020: A Year for Clarity

A few years ago, I brazenly gave up on resolutions and opted instead for a word that would be my guiding principle for the year. Coming up to 2020, I had initially chosen celebration as my word. But the longer I lived with it, the less I liked it. I know too many people whose experiences in 2019 made that word feel cheap and tone-deaf to the realities of our world today.

I struggled for a while. Then I heard myself tell someone that my word for 2020 was vision. I reflexively recoiled because it was trite and predictable. I immediately went back to the proverbial drawing board to reconsider what I would choose for 2020.

Nothing sounded right to me. I went through so many words that I can’t even recall all of them. I was putting pressure on myself to identify my guiding principle and feeling unsettled with how I would start the year. Then, it occurred to me that the searching was a key to my dilemma. And I finally saw it as plain as day:

Clarity

This year, I will invite, seek, and practice clarity. Not that I’ll be 100% successful – I’ve no such delusions about who I am. But I will think before I speak so I bring clarity to the conversation. I’ll ask questions rather than opining so I can hear what clarity others have to offer.

When I attempt to communicate and find myself failing, I will lean into clarity and ask the listener what I can do to make myself more clear to them. And hopefully I can do this by using empathy to put myself in their position for a moment.

When I hear myself becoming frustrated with someone else, I will step away from my impatience and ask questions that allow me to focus on creating shared meaning. That is, after all, the entire point of our communications with each other.

And when political discourse starts to take its inevitable destructive turn, I’ll remind myself that letting others speak with clarity is a critical part of understanding our differences.

But there’s more

What else is required of me if I’m in pursuit of clarity? I think it includes recognizing when I’m in a situation where I will not be heard and taking my leave from it. I think it includes letting go of the need to change an opinion of someone else. And I think it includes being present to the needs of the person or people I’m engaged with so that I respond to those needs in the moment.

As odd as it sounds, I think clarity isn’t always about being clear, myself. But it is also about giving other people the space to be clear for themselves. I’m really good at this as a coach, but don’t always make a habit of doing it outside of a coaching session.

A toast to 2020

Clarity. In 2020, I will seek clarity as often as I can. I hope your 2020 is filled with celebrations, moments of vision and clarity, and more love and laughter than you expect. Happy new year!

The Dignity of Human Nature

It is good to realize that if love and peace can prevail on earth, and if we can teach our children to honor nature’s gifts, the joys and beauties of the outdoors will be here forever.

Jimmy Carter

Earlier this month, Jimmy Carter celebrated his 95th birthday. I was a child when he served as 39th President of the United States, so I don’t remember much about his term in office. What I’ve since learned is how much wisdom he has imparts and what an excellent example of service to country he offers us, even at his advanced age. What I didn’t realize until I found this quote is how insightful he is about the survival of our natural world and the dignity of human nature.

Failure to notice nature

I think I frequently failed to notice the beauty of nature when I lived in a big city. It’s easy to do when you’re surrounded by tall buildings, endless concrete, and people rushing to their next scheduled appointment. Maybe it’s happened to you, too.

But since we moved to Palm Springs, I intentionally stand in awe of Mt. San Jacinto to the west every morning and evening when it’s time to walk the dogs. I make a point of looking up to the mountain to take in the beauty and grandeur of what nature has offered us. And I stop to think how grateful I am that San Jacinto is the protector of the valley I call home.

Imagine the consequences

But what if you never honor the wealth of nature around you? What if you fail to appreciate its beauty, vastness, or seemingly impossible stillness? Would you miss nature if it disappeared from view tomorrow?

What if you spend more than 8 hours each day sitting at your desk, not making time to look out the nearest window to take in the sky? What if your weekends are filled with errands and chores that render your free time void of any appreciation of the world around you? Would you miss nature if it disappeared from view tomorrow?

For a moment, imagine the impact of not teaching your children to honor the gifts of nature around them; the impact of teaching your children hatred and war. What kind of world would we hand the next generation?

The dignity of humans

Now substitute people for nature – what is the impact of failing to teach your children to notice and honor what people offer each other? What is the impact of promoting the idea that others are not important?

I hear people say they don’t want to live in a world where they pay for the mistakes of others. I can understand the sentiment, but the truth is we already live in a world where we pay for the mistakes of others. Likewise, we benefit from the successes of others – although perhaps not always in monetary terms.

Jimmy Carter’s prescient observations about nature are staggering to consider. And if you consider that people are an offering of nature, how much more staggering is the impact of failing to heed his words?

Bradley K. Ward, ACC is a leadership and transformational coach at The Mission Coach, LLC in Palm Springs, CA. Contact Brad to learn how coaching can help you do what you do, better!

We Need More Love in Our World

We Need More Love in Our World

Jackie DeShannon made popular a song, “What the World Needs Now is Love” written and produced by Hal David and Burt Bacharach. The song conveyed a simple idea – that we’re surrounded by nature, light, and beauty, and yet, some people remain unloved. Sadly, the same could be said of our world today. Simply put, we need more love.

What’s the solution? Perhaps the question should be reworded. Maybe it should be a more personal, introspective idea that propels into action the love that lives within each of us. Try this: How will I show love today?

The traits of love

Whether you adhere to the teachings of the Bible or not, there you’ll find some qualities of love eloquently enumerated. It is patient and kind. It does not envy, boast, or dishonor others. It is not self-seeking nor easily angered. It doesn’t keep record of wrongs. It detests evil and resonates with truth.

It protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. And it never fails.

Pay it forward

Love exists within you. And because of that, you can show it to others, if you’re willing to put aside the things that thwart it. You aren’t going to experience romantic love for everyone you meet today, but you can be kind or patient. Or you can show someone a moment of honor or respect, even when they haven’t earned it. You can smile.

But perhaps the best news of all is that in addition to showing love to someone who may feel unloved, you will embody it and it will permeate your body, mind, and soul. And who doesn’t need that?

Bradley K. Ward, ACC is a leadership and transformational coach at The Mission Coach, LLC in Palm Springs, CA. Contact Brad to find out how coaching can help you do what you do, better!

Groovy New Location

Groovy New Location

Starting on September 1, 2018, find The Mission Coach at its new location in Kaptur Plaza. This stretch of buildings sat vacant and deteriorating for several years. But a small group of Palm Springs residents saved the building from demolition in 2015 because of its architectural value and its significance to the body of work of architect Hugh Kaptur. 

Find us at
650 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Suite 2
Palm Springs, CA 92262

I’m excited to be in a vibrant office space surrounded by people making Palm Springs a wonderful place to live, work, and play. See you soon!

Brad

MissionCoachLocation2
New Location of The Mission Coach, LLC
MissionCoachLocation3
Find The Mission Coach at 650 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Suite 2.

Bradley K. Ward, ACC is a leadership and transformational coach at The Mission Coach, LLC in Palm Springs, CA. Contact Brad to find out how coaching can help you do what you do, better!

Healing Grief: The Secret of Peonies

Paeonia lactiflora “Hermione” was easy to find in early June. The pink, fragrant flower is widely available and is an established cultivar of the peony family. It was the clear choice because peonies were my mom’s favorite flower. These proud, pink, showy blossoms were abundant at her funeral in 2004. I didn’t realize how much I would appreciate peonies until a few years later, when I discovered their power to heal grief.

Peonies no longer symbolize grief for me.
Peonies in Kay’s garden.

Each time I see a peony, I think about my mom, especially in May, when Mothers Day coincides with their early blooming season. They don’t grow in the desert where we now live, but my friends all over the country regularly post photos of them when they bloom. This year, my dear friend Kay posted her photos (shown here, with her permission) and my mind was again drawn to mom.

After 14 years, I don’t often become sad when I think of her, but I am reminded that healing from grief is slow and unpredictable. And in the aftermath of the death of someone close, grief can be overwhelming.

Healing from grief

What heals us from grief? It’s different for each person, but for me it was a combination of several things. I focused on four of her traits:

  • Gratitude – She modeled grateful and abundant living. Each time I do something I learned from my mom, I express thanks that she taught me how to live independently and with gratitude.
  • Courage – She took on situations with bravery and fortitude. I inherited her courage and think of her when I face tough situations.
  • Challenge – Beyond being brave, she seemed to have endless endurance for new and difficult tasks. It was in that spirit that I taught myself to sew last year, knowing she would be proud that I challenged myself with a new skill.
  • Joy – Laughter was one of my mom’s hallmark traits. Whenever my parents got together with their friends, contagious laughter filled the house and the people who occupied it.

Honoring memory

My mom was imperfect. But even in her imperfection, she seemed to draw strength from gratitude, courage, challenge, and joy. I still tell my favorite stories of her foibles and missteps – the same ones we laughed about together when she was alive. And I still feel her loss at times when I know she’d have an answer that I struggle to find.

But most of all, I know that I honor her memory by living fully, gratefully, bravely, stalwartly, and happily because that’s how she taught me to live.

Bradley K. Ward, ACC is a leadership and transformational coach at The Mission Coach, LLC in Palm Springs, CA. Contact Brad to find out how coaching can help you do what you do, better!

Related: Mothers Day Revisited

Communication: The Legacy of Words

Communication: The Legacy of Words

Carol Burnett
Lifetime Achievement Award Portrait – Carol Burnett;

Carol Burnett said, “Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own.” In contemporary terms, we might say, “Words, once they are tweeted, have a life of their own.” However we choose to do it, what we say, write, tweet, blog, text, or email, has the same root issue: communication without thought can become problematic.

We often think of communication as a simple human task using words. But communication is more than words – it’s five components that combine to create this complex thing that is often no more than a sentence.

Communication Loop

The source (or sender), using their own cultural and experiential filters, creates a message that is transmitted through some medium to the receiver, who uses their own cultural and experiential filters to interpret the message and create feedback – all of which is called a communication loop. Then the process starts all over again, originating with either party to create a series of loops that make up a conversation.

No wonder we sometimes fail to understand each other!

The bad news about this complex thing called communication is we all experience its frustrations. But the good news is we can improve our ability to communicate with some thoughtful preparation and practice.

Making Meaning

To start, consider that communication is simply the process of creating shared meaning. But as you can see in the Communication Loop description, both the sender and receiver(s) rely on their own experiences and background to write or interpret the message. Differences in culture, beliefs, or gender identity can get in the way of creating shared meaning.

Additionally, the medium or method used by the sender to transmit the message may have an impact on shared meaning. Email and text messages are poor ways to convey emotion compared to a phone call or face-to-face conversation.

How to Communicate Better

Here are some practical and simple ways to improve how you communicate.

  1. Slow down. If there’s no emergency, give yourself the luxury of a few minutes to collect your thoughts and sit with the information before you do anything.
  2. Think first. If you’re the sender, take a few minutes to recall what you know about the person or group receiving your message. If you don’t know them well or at all, think about what kind of first (or second) impression you want to make.
  3. Be direct. There’s no need to be flowery or obtuse. Add something friendly or courteous, but be sure your language is direct and clear. You can edit if the tone isn’t right, but don’t side-step the issue to be addressed.
  4. Show authenticity. Sometimes communication evokes emotions that we think we should hide. Rather than giving in to that idea, find a constructive way to express the emotion you’re experiencing.
  5. Be concise. It’s tempting to use more words than necessary to fully express what’s on your mind, but it seldom results in greater clarity. The same holds true for repeating yourself.
  6. Ask questions. Be sure you’re fully participating in creating shared meaning by asking questions to clarify anything that seems fuzzy or unclear. If there’s any lack of clarity, you may not be creating the same shared meaning as the other(s) in the conversation.

If Carol Burnett is correct, and I think she is, remember your words live on beyond the moment you express them. Improving your communication will leave a legacy of clarity, directness, and kindness others can learn from and follow.

Bradley K. Ward, ACC is a leadership and transformational coach at The Mission Coach, LLC in Palm Springs, CA. Contact Brad to find out how coaching can help you do what you do, better!

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