Category: Self-Improvement

Any Road Will Take You There

George Harrison, famous guitar player for the Beatles, had his last single released on May 12, 2003 – less than two years after he died. The song, titled “Any Road,” has much more history than the date of its release implies. Harrison publicly performed the song once during an interview on VH1 in 1997, nine years after he wrote it in 1988. But that’s not where its story began.

Beatles fans may be able to trace its roots to “Revolution 9,” the avant-garde sound collage made up of various sound loops, vocal excerpts, musical riffs, and spoken ramblings included in its final release on the Beatles White Album. The words, “any road” are spoken by both John Lennon and George Harrison on the track, mingled among the many spoken and sung excerpts that make up “Revolution 9.”

Inspiration from fantasy

But before any of those things came to the minds of their creators, there was a conversation between a young girl and a mischievous, illusive cat.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“—so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Carroll, L. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

The exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Chapter 6 of Lewis Carroll’s famous book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is said to be the inspiration for Harrison’s song. Maybe you’ve seen a similar reference on my About page. If you’ve started down the road of change or improvement, you also may have stopped yourself along the way. Fear, fatigue, or distraction can get in the way of progress.

Any road won’t take me there?

No, Alice, it won’t. The only sure way to know what road to take (or which ones will lead you there), it’s critical to identify a destination. You can take a detour, take a break from your progress, or change your route at any time. Without one, you’re simply wandering. The destination or goal can be a change in attitude or behavior, or it can be a small step on your way to a big transformation. The key is that it be meaningful to you.

If you decide to take on change without anchoring it to something meaningful, you’ll likely run low on energy. Sure, it’s great to have a desire to improve, but if that desire is linked only to itself, it may not sustain you through the duration of the change. What if it were linked to something vital, like your purpose for being on earth? How would it change for you?

Maybe you’re still searching for your purpose. Some people are, and some people have already discovered why they’re here. If you’re still searching, maybe now is the time to commit to finding that purpose. Try this 10-lesson course on finding and connecting to your life’s purpose on Lifevise at https://lifevise.com/finding-your-life-purpose/. Maybe it will help you choose the road that will take you to your destination.

George Harrison knew that walking without a destination will lead you to no place in particular. And he reminded us over and over in the chorus of “Any Road” of that very thing…

But if you don’t know where you’re going
Any road will take you there.

Harrison, G. “Any Road”

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!

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!

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!

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!

Things our dogs taught me: options and goals

MissionCoachDogs
Baxter and Samson are inseparable.

We have 3 dogs, meaning the canines outnumber the humans in our household. We adopted them from our local dog shelter in 2009 and 2010. They’re roughly the same age and have sorted out among themselves the hierarchy of the pack. For the most part, it’s a peaceable kingdom.

It takes only one dog’s bark at something for the other two to join in. At times, it’s beneficial, like when someone enters the front gate. At other times, it’s a problem, like when our insecure dog spies other canines while I’m walking them. That’s where the value of options has shown itself.

The importance of options

I generally keep our morning walk short in the summer because I want to get them and me home before the pavement heats up. And I have a route that I typically follow because it keeps the dogs in a consistent routine and me on schedule to start my day no later than 8:30.
I’ve learned that the best way to keep our insecure dog in a happy state is to constantly scan the area for other dogs and be ready to take any one of several alternate routes home so he can remain calm. I don’t like changing paths on short notice because it sometimes means more walking time or changing paths again and again to return the pack home in the same happy state they were in when we left. But I find it’s worth the extra effort because it also keeps me in a calm, happy state if I’m not wrangling three excited dogs before I’ve had a sip of coffee.

The value of options

MissionCoachDog2
Lola snuggled in her bed.

I love learning about new goals and new ideas they want to realize. I ask how we’re going to get there to hear what they have in mind for our path forward. When I hear very detailed and thorough responses, I nod and get excited with them. What I keep to myself is that this very detailed path will likely need an alternate route. Or two, or three.

To use a travel metaphor, I consider myself my clients’ navigator. I hear where they want to go and what route they want to take, and I immediately look at our journey from a very high perspective to see what obstacles, road construction, traffic, or weather might have an impact on our travel. I begin to identify alternate routes for us to consider in the event of the unexpected, which I expect to occur.

Options don’t mean failure

Knowing there likely will be changes to our route doesn’t bother me, but it sometimes troubles a client. Our natural, human response to difficulty is negative talk about ourselves, others, or situations that helps us soothe the burn of what we perceive as failure. When the difficult things occur, I am the calm voice to counter the destructive dialogue going on in my client’s head. The magic happens when my clients see the options that get us to our destination and we resume our journey.
At the time we adopted our dogs, I didn’t know they would be excellent teachers about humans. What I knew then was that we wanted to have the unbridled happiness of a dog in our home, and we have it, times 3. They’ve also allowed us to learn something of great value: alternate routes lead us to the same place as the planned routes do.

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!

Gone Fishin’: Wisdom from my Grandfather

My grandparents showing off my grandfather’s fishing haul.

Summer reminds me of my grandfather because it was his favorite time to go fishing. He liked to wake up early so we could be on the lake by sunrise and home before the relentless Texas heat bore down on us. Our fishing trips included lots of conversation, which is probably better described as me talking and my grandfather listening. More importantly, they gave him a chance to impart his wisdom to me.

My grandfather was always interested to hear what I had to say, no matter what it was. I remember feeling like he truly listened to me because he could remember details about the conversations long after they were over. And I can see now he was also giving me tools to strengthen my emotional intelligence.

I don’t know that I understood some of it as a kid, but as I got older, the richness and depth of his wisdom became more apparent to me.

Nothing is one-sided

The first nugget of wisdom I remember came when I was in junior high school. I was telling a story about something that had happened that I felt was terribly unfair. His words were simple, but they spoke volumes about his understanding of me and the world around him. “Even a thin coin has two sides,” he told me.

Later I asked him what he meant by it. He told me that every situation can be viewed through at least two perspectives – mine and the perspective of the other person or people. It hadn’t dawned on my young mind that there could be another side to the story. He was a genius!

Worry is its own reward

A few years later, I had made it through my junior year of high school and was applying to colleges. I was anxiously waiting to hear where I would spend the next four years. While I was fretting over the wait, I talked with him about some of the other things I was planning once I was enrolled in college. I was worried about making friends, fitting in – the usual pre-college jitters. “Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow,” he suggested.

He knew I tended to get ahead of myself and was able to use a simple idea to get me to stop the worry. He didn’t have to explain this one to me. Its simplicity and clarity spoke volumes to me. I share his words with clients when I see the wheels of worry start to spin out of control during a coaching session. I suspect he’d like that I use his words regularly.

Be yourself

My favorite piece of his wisdom, however, caught me completely by surprise. A few years after college, I was at my grandparents’ house visiting with them. As I stood up to leave, my grandmother asked me when I was going to bring home a nice girl and get married. I made an excuse as I said good-bye. My grandfather walked with me to the car, put his hand on my shoulder, and stared directly into my eyes. “Don’t you worry about your grandmother,” he said. “You just love who you love.”

I hugged him and got in my car to go home. I had to pull over because I was crying – not because I was sad, but because I was relieved. Even though I was still coming to grips with being gay, my grandfather already knew and had made peace with it. And he had let me know I should make peace with it as well.

He died a few short years after that. Despite the passage of time, I still hear his voice in my mind when I repeat his words of wisdom, clarity, acceptance, and love.

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!

Mothers Day Revisited

A friend of mine shared a video of a sermon she preached in her congregation on Mothers Day. She introduced the video with a brief note stating that she wasn’t sure if her mother would approve of her sharing some of the parts of her life. My friend’s mother was a teacher, so I suspect she would be proud of her daughter’s keen insight and love of laughter as well as her ability to turn everyday situations into real learning opportunities for her congregation.

What struck me most about her words was her closing statement: “Live. And I mean really live because your story is never over.”

I’ve not celebrated Mothers Day with my mom since 2004, the year she died. Instead, I spend time reflecting on all the things she was and is in my life. There are some significant things that come back year after year for me that keep her story going.

She nurtured my independent streak.

This is my favorite story about myself from childhood. As my mother told it, the day I started kindergarten, she drove me to school. When she stopped the car, I opened the door and got out. And when she turned off the car, I looked at her and asked in a very startled tone, “Where are you going?” She told me very calmly that she would walk me to my classroom and I responded by saying, “I know where it is. Bye!” I closed the car door and ran off toward the school doors. She burst into tears as she drove to her office, but then what brought her from sadness to joy was her realization that no matter what life threw my way, I’d be fine. She then made sure I learned how to function in the world.

She taught me the importance of laughter.

Erma Bombeck was my mother’s favorite writer. She read every word Ms. Bombeck ever published and played “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits?” LP every year as we started decorating our house for Christmas. By the time I was 10, I had every line from that record memorized. And what I came to realize quickly was that finding the laughter in life’s foibles was her chief coping mechanism. I use that same coping mechanism almost daily.

She was the original reigning monarch of the list and used lists for everything.

As a kid, I didn’t always appreciate the crushing burden of a list. But as an adult, there is no greater piece of wisdom my mom could have passed on to me than, “use a list so you get it all done.” Whether it’s grocery shopping, weekend projects, or managing my day, I take great joy in crossing items off my list when they are completed. Disclaimer: sometimes I put things on my list that I’ve already completed only for the delight of crossing them off. This is especially effective on days I don’t feel productive.

She never shied away from showing her emotions.

Growing up a gay young man, I hid a lot of things in an attempt to be like the other boys my age. As I grew up and grew into myself, I stopped hiding things from people with one exception: my emotions. I fought the need to express the full range of my emotions until I was well into my 40s. When I finally gave myself permission to experience all the emotions I was actually feeling, my world changed. I became more empathetic with people. I actually felt joy when they shared good news with me and felt piercing pain when they shared something sad. I’ve even cried with clients during coaching sessions when their experience moved me to the point of tears. I didn’t realize what a gift connecting with people at an emotional level could be, but now I cherish that connection daily.

Each time I connect to the things my mom taught me, I re-energize her story in my life. I also use this metaphor in my coaching practice. Almost every person I coach has experienced the loss of someone close and we visit grief, loss, and moving on. When we talk about ways to honor that person, I see the impact and feel the great joy my clients experience. And we then connect on a deep level that makes me appreciate the gifts my mom gave me even more.

How will your story live on beyond your lifetime? Let’s find out together!

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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