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Tag: Life Lessons

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!

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!

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!

Mothers Day Revisited

A friend of mine shared a video of her sermon to her congregation on Mothers Day. She introduced the video with a brief disclaimer 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 ensure her story is never over.

She nurtured my need for independence.

The day I started kindergarten, my mother 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, she knew I would be fine. She then set about teaching me 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 her “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 dearly.

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. Her story is never over.

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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