Category: Empowerment

The Future is Uncertain, Exactly as It ‘s Always Been

If you find yourself concerned about the uncertainty of the future, you’re not alone. But there’s an open secret that may surprise you: the future has always been uncertain.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, you may have felt like you knew what was ahead. Certainly there are flashes of the future you can predict or envision, but much of what happens is out of your control. If nothing else, the pandemic has made that truth more clear. And it leaves you with a choice to make about how you approach planning for the future: should you make plans or not?

I hope you’ll decide to make plans. To choose otherwise suggests you could lack optimism or may have a fatalistic attitude about the future. But you’ve chosen to make plans, so that’s a great sign!

Give yourself options

Since you’re looking ahead with optimism, consider all the possibilities that are ahead of you. One of those could be retirement. If you think you’ll retire from your job or career in the future, you can choose to save money. Setting aside even a small amount of money from each paycheck will give you a degree of certainty in your own financial independence.

Another opportunity for you to consider is contingency planning. If you have a career you really love and want to stay in it, consider what ways you can be more flexible. Maybe it’s weighing the implications of being in a long lease versus a shorter one. Or how you can make your services more inclusive to attract a wider audience. What language or languages should you consider learning? Moreover, how much of this can you do without diluting your impact?

While you’re considering contingencies, you may entertain the idea of constricting rather than expanding. What if you need to go deeper into your niche so you have a narrower specialty? What services do you need to discontinue so you can focus on the ones that deliver the most value for your clients? Which parts of your job are most rewarding to you? Which parts can you contract out so you can spend more time on the elements that are profitable?

Options can give you certainty

Contingency planning gives you options to reach your goals or desired outcome. A contingency plan doesn’t necessarily mean you’re giving up on your goal or that your pursuit is not purely in the direction you intend, but it can mean that you’ve given thought to the impact of things outside your control. And you’ve given yourself some options that will produce the outcomes you desire. Or even an outcome better than the one you envisioned.

So, now that you have peered into the unknown future, what do you see? I hope you see something as bright and hopeful as the future you envisioned before the pandemic hit. And I hope you see how giving yourself options will lead you to the goals you have so carefully crafted, even if it means taking a detour along the way.

Uncertainty and change are the constants in life. But you don’t have to fear them when you can empower yourself with flexibility to mange them.

Bradley K. Ward, PCC, 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!

Crisis Management is a Time for Reflection

How are you managing the rapidly changing environment created by the COVID-19 crisis? Maybe you’re overwhelmed, or maybe you’re feeling hopeless. I spent Monday and Tuesday in a deep funk, at times breaking into tears with the thoughts of uncertainty that pervaded my days.

Whether it’s grief or paralyzing fear, your experience is valid. What you’re going through is real. You’re not going through it alone – we’re all on a parallel journey through this mine field of reality that is our existence today. I encourage you to give yourself permission to feel the emotions that come along with a crisis like the one we’re living through. It may be unpleasant, but it could also turn into an opportunity to step into the next iteration of yourself.

The price of possibility is sometimes very high

You may be questioning everything right now, like I am. And you should – you should allow yourself to delve head-first into an existential review of who you are in order to emerge from the crisis with a degree of resilience and optimism about your future. In fact, it’s sometimes the only way you can create the future you want. But the price you’re paying right now feels extraordinarily high. That’s because it is. This period of questioning, discomfort, and loss (or even grief) is the human experience of crises like this one.

What you may not be able to see today is how this experience will turn into something positive. And here’s what I offer you to ruminate on: it will be OK because you’re going to make it OK.

If you’re struggling with how to make it OK, allow me to share what I’m doing in this very uncertain time: I’m borrowing from Burning Man. You read that correctly – Burning Man. More precisely, I’m using the Ten Principles of Burning Man to realign my practice with my core values. I’m also giving myself some guidance about how to remain emotionally healthy during this crisis.

The price of not changing may be even higher

Where the Ten Principles are a reflection of the event’s ethos and culture, you can use this time to reflect on your own ethos. Where they call on attendees to be inclusive, authentic, responsible, and immersive in their participation, you can use this time to consider what limitations you want to challenge, what assumptions aren’t serving you well, and where you’re taking short-cuts that keep you from growth.

You can do all of this if you commit about a half-hour a day to reflection and creating change amid crisis. Or you can emerge from this time of isolation unchanged. But what will you regret tomorrow if you choose to do nothing?

A model for reflection

If you need a model, borrow mine. I’ve listed the Ten Principles along with some of the questions I plan to use on this inward journey:

  • Radical Inclusion – What alliances can I consider to grow my practice post-crisis? Who have I avoided before and how can I be more inclusive in the future?
  • Gifting – Who needs my support now? What can I offer those around me as we manage this crisis together? How will my gift change when we resume life again?
  • Decommodification – What relationships have I over-valued? How can I better align them so they fit more appropriately into my values structure?
  • Radical Self-Reliance – What limits have I imposed on myself? How can I challenge those limits to break through their bonds?
  • Radical Self-Expression – How have I stopped myself from taking risks or acting boldly? What do I want to be known for and how will I make it happen?
  • Communal Effort – Who is my professional tribe? How can I build community in that group? How do I fulfill my professional obligations to them? What do I appreciate about them?
  • Civic Responsibility – How can I be a bigger contributor to my community? What changes will I see in myself as a result of contributing more?
  • Leaving No Trace – Where am I wasting resources? How can I be a better steward of the shared resources around me? What relationships do I need to repair and nurture?
  • Participation – Where am I not authentically participating in my life or practice? What changes will I commit to in order to rectify this?
  • Immediacy – Where am I participating in my life or practice at a purely surface level? What is getting in my way? What can I give up to be more immersed in growing my practice and my life?

A crisis can become an opportunity

Hopefully, you won’t be in this position again in your lifetime. It’s a crisis that no one wanted, but one that gives you an opportunity to focus on who you want to be tomorrow, whenever that day arrives. If you find yourself stuck on any of these areas or on a question of your choosing, please email or respond here and I’ll do what I can to support you through it. Now is a time to pull together so we re-enter our lives better for having gone through this hell.

Stay safe. Practice physical distancing. Care for those around you. May we all emerge from this crisis with greater clarity about what matters.

Bradley K. Ward, PCC is a transformational and leadership 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!

What Hummingbirds Can Teach Humans About Resilience

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 attributes of resilience we need in order to thrive.

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.

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.

Why the fascination with hummingbirds?

My husband came running excitedly into the house a couple of weeks ago to tell 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 learn resilience from the hummingbird?

Lessons in resilience

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 resilience, 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 be resilient, it helps to be determined. If your big goal is too overwhelming for you to think about, break 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 resilient 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!

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