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The Hummingbird Attitude

What is it about the hummingbird that captures our attention? How do these tiny creatures stir up such joyous, youthful emotions and excitement in even the most hardened of people? They’re enigmatic creatures, symbolic of love, joy, happiness, life, energy, and more, but there must be something deeper that holds our attention on them. As I researched them for this article, it became clear they exhibit some of the attitudes we need in order to thrive. Let me explain…

They’re feisty

The calliope hummingbird is the smallest variety in North America measuring 3” in length, beak to tail. The most familiar variety in North America, the ruby-throated hummingbird has an average weight of 3 grams, less than a nickel. It would take more than 150 of them to weigh 1 pound.

Despite their small size, hummingbirds are among the most aggressive, territorial birds known to humans. They fearlessly attack jays and hawks, which are several times their size. And they guard their food source fiercely, flying directly at any creature that threatens their domain. The variety most common to our desert paradise is the black-chinned hummingbird (pictured in this post), which is characterized by its extremely loud buzzing sound as it flies. You know when they’re coming at you!

They’re adaptable

Hummingbirds are found only in North, Central, and South America. Despite their limited distribution, they’re familiar and fascinating to people world-wide. Currently, there are more than 330 species of hummingbirds and nearly 1/5 of them are endangered. Their existence is fragile because declines in their food sources and habitats have arisen from climate change, deforestation, and land development.

The threat is not an insurmountable obstacle; many of the varieties of this bird can reproduce with other varieties. They’re a living science lesson, evolving and changing, practically before our eyes. What’s more, the potential for new varieties as a result of their adaptive nature is staggering.MamaHummingbird

They’re determined

Some species of hummingbird migrate to the US each spring. But in order to do so, they must first store up half their body weight in fat. Wonder why? It’s because they make the 500+ mile journey across the Gulf of Mexico in a single flight lasting 20 hours or longer. What’s more, they make the migratory flight alone.

Hummingbirds hover, unlike any other bird species. This feat requires extraordinary energy, meaning their wings beat at anywhere from 720 to 5400 beats per minute. Additionally, they can maintain their sense of direction in flight during a rainstorm. They dispel water by shaking their heads at 132 shakes per second and a rotation of up to 202 degrees.

HummingbirdNestClutch

Why the fascination with hummingbirtds?

This. My husband came running excitedly into the house a couple of weeks ago to show me we have a hummingbird nest right outside our bedroom window. We’ve found ourselves fiercely guarding mama and her clutch of eggs, going so far as to stop the gardeners from trimming the orange tree where she’s nesting.

We’ve been watching eagerly to see when the new hummingbird babies hatch. And as we’ve watched, I’ve become increasingly focused on the symbolism alive in this enigmatic creature. But how can we use these attitudes so richly on display in the hummingbird in order to thrive?

Be feisty. If you’re creating change in your life, pick a goal for yourself that’s worth fighting for. If you’re working to build your emotional intelligence, remind yourself how you felt when you did something that made you proud. Hold onto it and let it permeate your thoughts as you take on your next challenge.

Be adaptable. Being adaptable doesn’t mean you give up on your dream or change direction every time the wind blows. It means you actively look for different ways of getting where you want to go. It means you explore options that allow you to reach your goal and enjoy a distraction or two along the way.

Be determined. To thrive, you must be determined. If your big goal is too overwhelming for you to think about, break up your journey to it into smaller pieces. Give yourself some interim milestones that allow you to stop and celebrate your successes along the way to your larger goal. Being determined sometimes means you have your eye on a big prize with small rewards along the way.

Harness the power of the hummingbird in your life. And let me know how it goes!


Hummingbird facts courtesy of UC Davis, Defenders of Wildlife, and hummingbirds.net.

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!

How to Change the World for the Better

Term: Spontaneous Collaborative Unanimity

Definition: a group of strangers suddenly acting from unanimous emotional intelligence to help another person.

Usage: I saw a beautiful act of spontaneous collaborative unanimity today when 3 people rushed to the side of a man having a seizure.

This morning, I read a post about such an act. A pregnant woman sobbing at a gate at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was traveling alone with her toddler, who was having a complete meltdown. Seven women from various spots around the gate approached, surrounded them, and offered what they had to calm the pair.

No one hesitated. No one spoke. No one coordinated. One woman had a toy, one a bottle of water for mom, and one an orange she peeled and offered the wailing toddler. The mom and child calmed down, collected themselves, and boarded the plane as the women dispersed.

The simple beauty of this moment moved me to tears. Questions raced through my mind, then quieted themselves. What matters in this story is the women observing the situation each was compelled to act, quickly found a way to be present, and went on their way. They didn’t need to be thanked, but I feel a need to thank them for exhibiting simple, beautiful intelligence and empathy.

It’s easy to avoid people in crisis, with good reason – we don’t know who they are, what their mental state is, or how they’ll react if we offer help.

Consider if it were you. You find yourself in crisis at the end of a terrible day. You’re in a public place, you’re alone, and are unable to do even the simplest task, like picking up your phone and dialing 9-1-1. If you experienced a visceral reaction by putting yourself in this spot, pay attention to that response.

We experience the world with our body, mind, and spirit.

You may prefer to say we experience it as our physical, mental, and emotional selves; in response to thoughts, beliefs, and actions; or because we are sensing, thinking, and feeling creatures. Regardless, each of these is a center of human intelligence to explore.

The women at LAX who acted in spontaneous collaborative unanimity used all three of their centers of intelligence, all of which were orchestrated by their brains. Their limbic system understood the situation and triggered a rescue response. Their cerebral cortex engaged and orchestrated a host of reactions, causing them to put their bodies on the level of the people in crisis and offer their physical presence and a reward. The mom’s and toddler’s mirror neurons picked up on the actions of the women and responded by moving from distress to calm.

We learn to suppress our limbic system responses, primarily because they’re emotional. But as we age, we often experience emotions more deeply than we did when we were younger. We’re often more free to express emotions rather than hiding or ignoring them as we did when we were younger.

Next time you see someone in need, give yourself the gift of dwelling on the choices that come into your mind so you are conscious of the range of ways to respond. We can allow ourselves to be empathetic or we can allow ourselves to be annoyed. When you practice the simple act of seeing your choices, you live mindfully and can respond thoughtfully.

In mindful responses, we have the power to change the world for the better. I’ll do it, will you?

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!

Turning the Page to 2018

December 31; the last day of our calendar year. Today is a great day to look back, reflect, smile, laugh, cry, or simply be present with what happened over the last year. It’s also a great time to give yourself some words of encouragement for the year ahead.

We’re each a bit wiser for the experiences of the last 365 days and, hopefully, a bit more tolerant of the humanity in ourselves and others. It’s possible one of those humans will  ask you tonight about your hopes and plans for the coming year.

Resolutions aren’t for everyone


If you’re not one to make a resolution (like me), then what will you do to keep your year moving in a direction that you intend? Consider an alternative, such as a word or action that will ground you in your purpose for the year. You don’t have to do anything cheesy or silly, unless that’s your thing, to keep yourself focused on your chosen word. But I think it’s important to find a way to keep that word present in your thoughts and actions if it’s to be a meaningful part of your year.

I’ve chosen a word to remind myself of what I intend to cultivate at home, among my clients, and in others.

My word for 2018 is THRIVE.

The last couple of months I’ve been planning 2018 and the word thrive kept showing up in my reflections. It came up too frequently to ignore, so after a few years of working on the foundation of my practice, I’ve decided it’s time to grow!

An appealing thing about thriving: it’s contagious. People who are thriving are easy to be around because their enthusiasm readily connects with the people they encounter. It inspires others to find their own sense of vitality and fulfillment. And so on, and so on.

Here’s to a 2018 filled with wonder, joy, and opportunity to be inspired and to inspire others. Happy New Year!

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!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you!

I grew up celebrating Christmas with my family. As a kid, I learned that giving is the purpose of the season. But it was as an adult that I came to realize what that means and how much I appreciate giving to and for others.

In the spirit of giving, I offer you this wish for the season and the coming year.

I wish you abundance.
I wish you joy, peace, and prosperity to sustain your soul.
I wish you laughter and good company to lighten your spirit.
I wish you motivation and intent to eat well and stay active.
I wish you disruption and discomfort to urge you into action to change the world for the better.
And mostly, I wish you love and compassion to share with those you encounter.
Merry Christmas to you and those with whom you share the world!

Brad

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!

Redefining Gratitude

There’s no shortage of social media posts about gratitude – it’s that time of year. Gratitude comes easy in November, but what about February or August – how do you sustain it all year long?

I’m a word nerd, so I did some quick internet research on the origins of the word gratitude. The GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English (GCIDE) entry includes a handful of definitions and suggests Latin or French origin. The second definition, “warm and friendly feeling toward a benefactor,” is what I think of this time of year. It conveys a sense of awe for the force or deity that works on our behalf.

That was the kind of gratitude I grew up with and was reinforced by parents who told me it was important to be grateful in all things. That was a heavy burden for a young child. Maybe it would have felt less burdensome if I’d learned to recategorize it in my mind as the third definition from GCIDE: “kindness awakened by a favor received.” (Reference)

It’s much like the distinction I make between happiness and contentment. Happiness is something I initiate, but contentment comes from simply being present to the people and experiences that make my life full. Thinking about it in similar terms, gratitude is something I initiate, but kindness awakens in response to something I’ve received.

Living in gratitude takes practice. I still have bad days, as you likely do. I encounter people who behave badly and I sometimes behave badly in response. Then I find myself feeling far less than grateful. I used to let those bad experiences define my day, but I’ve learned to do something in service to someone or something when I get frustrated. It’s an instant mood lift for me when I’m doing something to awaken kindness in someone else.

I’ve given you two of my secrets about gratitude – redefine it when it starts to become work and reconnect to it after having a bad experience. But there’s one more thing you can do to allow more space in your life for being grateful, and that’s to practice forgiveness. Nothing gets in the way of gratitude like resentment. When you start to notice it creeping into your head, pay attention. You may need to forgive yourself or someone else in order to experience full-on gratitude. It might even make your Thanksgiving Day meal more pleasant.

So, please join me in redefining gratitude this November. Let kindness be awakened in you by virtue of a favor you received. And let kindness sustain you all year long!

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!

Social Media: In Pursuit of the Greater Good

You’ve noticed how easily you become distressed by the volatility in social media posts. What starts as sincere conviction about a topic quickly digresses into personal insults or worse. Your humanity is both cause and cure for the way your conversations do harm or good. And you have emotional intelligence tools to manage yourself so you don’t get dragged into the fray of destructive arguments.

Give yourself some social media rules

You can keep engaged in social media and feel good about doing so. It takes time to find the right combination, but here are some suggestions to help you find the combination for you.

    • Enter consciously

      Before you log onto a social media site, remind yourself that you are entering a danger zone, of sorts. As you enter, you carry your closely-held beliefs and opinions and are among people with like and differing closely-held beliefs and opinions. Assume good intent on the part of others, as you do for yourself.

    • Read to learn

      Much like listening in a conversation, use your listening skills as you read what’s on the screen. You don’t have to do anything except take in information. Let your brain process what you read without writing anything initially. If and/or when you feel convicted to engage, do what’s next.

    • Respond, don’t react

      Social media posts cannot convey tone or sincerity the same way conversation does. That said, you’ve already let your brain process what you read, so now you can take time to distill the information into a response. If you have a differing opinion, build empathy with the person posting by saying something supportive. Then, offer your view with clear, concise wording.

    • Don’t talk to strangers

      You’ve probably failed at this one, like almost everyone has. What you can do to keep yourself away from this trap is simply not respond. You can reinforce your opinion by liking, thanking, or applauding the contributions of others who share that point of view. When you engage with people you don’t actually know, first ask if you can share your differing perspective. If they respond, do your best to express empathy and then share your ideas. Avoid baiting, confrontational language, and personal attacks. Remind yourself that this is an optional and difficult way of engaging.

    • Do something good

      When you’ve reached your social media limit, walk away from the screen and engage with others. Maybe it’s a visit with a friend who is ill or a hand-written note to someone to acknowledge a good deed. Or maybe it’s a phone call with someone in your family or making plans for dinner with your spouse. Perhaps you sit down on the floor to play with your dogs. The point is to return to a state of gratitude and service by engaging with the people or creatures in your life.

MissionCoachBeaconOne closing thought: give yourself a beacon. There is power in a physical object that reminds you to return to your higher self. This small compass on my desk compels me return to my course of being a better human. I hope it inspires you!

Living in the world of technology means you are constantly bombarded with information. It gives you a way to learn about others, but requires some responsibility to apply what you learn to serve the greater good.

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!

Making Good from Bad

Natural disasters, human-made disasters, and cancer. These are the things that you find yourself in the midst of recently through no intention of your own. It sucks. It hurts. And the events seem to pile on relentlessly. Even in the midst of these tragedies playing out in my life, you can find inspiration.

With a constant barrage of news and updates on the conditions of the people who have been harmed, it would be easy for you to focus on the bad. Instead, listen to the quiet, still voice that speaks to your soul so you can use these harsh situations to restore your optimism and hope.

How to be a healing presence

  1. You have limited opportunities to tell people you love them. Don’t miss one.
  2. You are stronger than you think you are. Be strong for someone in need and be in gratitude when someone else needs you to be strong for them.
  3. There is no manual that tells you how to live or how to die. It’s OK to make the rules up as you go, as long as you learn from your mistakes.
  4. You are connected to other people by virtue of your humanity. Respect and kindness are contagious, as are their opposites, so choose wisely.
  5. You’ll never understand the cause of all terrible things. But by supporting others in those hard times you bring inspiration and healing to their world.

Please, be present with the people and creatures you love. They’ll be better for the experience and so will you.

This piece first appeared on the author’s YourTango Expert Blog. It is reprinted here with the author’s permission.

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

The Resolve to Be Better

The Resolve to Be Better

Steve, Brad, Sanj

My friend Steve stands out in a crowd. Partly because he’s 6’4”, but mostly because he’s gregarious and has an energy that attracts people. For all the years I’ve known him, he’s been a symbol to me of a thriving, healthy person. So it was difficult to read he has cancer. And it was even more difficult to read that it has spread to his lungs.

My initial response to his news was shock. How could this happen to him? He’s vibrant and active, and enjoys the full life he’s earned after retirement.

Then I remembered: life is uncertain.

Steve is clear in his thinking right now. He’s taking steps to ensure his pets have a home to live in, he’s sharing news about his will, and he’s pacing himself so he spares his energy for the things that need his attention. None of this surprises me about him.

Maybe it’s not coincidence that his news came during the Jewish High Holy Days.

According to the Interfaith Family website (www.interfaithfamily.com) the four main activities of the High Holy Days are (1) to perform a moral self-assessment, (2) to seek forgiveness from those we’ve harmed, (3) to make amends as needed, and (4) to resolve to do better in the future. Steve has been to me a living demonstration of the fourth component.

Rosh Hashanah, the first of the ten-day holiday, is the beginning of the new Jewish year. It’s a celebration of what’s to come mixed with a reflection on what has already occurred. The final day of the High Holy Days celebration is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which includes atoning for past mistakes, seeking forgiveness, and starting fresh. Yom Kippur is often celebrated with others as a community experience.

The word “Teshuvah” is used to encompass the activities of the High Holy Days. Because I like to translate things into easy-to-remember ideas, I might call it Reflect, Repair, Resolve, and Reform, the 4 Rs of new beginnings. I can think of no better tradition, regardless of what religious views you may hold, than to take on this challenge each year.

Power to transform

Teshuvah is also a reminder that we have the power to transform ourselves at will. Our lives and affairs are mutable and we hold the power to change the things in our control. I do not suggest transformation is easy. Often it’s quite difficult and time consuming. But I know no one who regrets challenging themselves to become something greater than they once were.

I’ll be spending a few hours each week with Steve. I cherish the times I’ve had with him in the last 12+ years and want to be present with him now. Fortunately, I’ve no reason to atone for any misdeed with Steve, but I certainly can be a better friend to him and to all those I call friends.

I invite you to join me in this tradition. Challenge yourself to be and do better. And while you’re at it, be present with the ones you love. You never know what life has in store for you or them.

Bradley K. Ward, ACC 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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